Holiday Party Jams

Shoot back to my Christmas Spirit Jam too and Happy Holidays!

I hate Christmas this year.  I didn’t always hate Christmas and I suspect I will not forever hate it, but right now, I am Scrooge. It’s not a misanthropic thing so much as a reaction to where I think I should be in life right now and the fact that the holidays seem to make mourning my father a thousand times more difficult. The latter reason also propels my mother to handle it by going ape-shit on the Christmas decorations and buying a very expensive tree which was three feet to big for the palatial home to handle.

But, please keep reading, I am not going to continue the negativity.

I miss my old man who also always hated the season because his father passed away in an extremely traumatic way during the holidays several decades ago. I also know the old man would not want me to wallow in sadness and he would be cracking jokes as best he could. Luckily for the case of being positive, because I bartend and because I know so many people locally, I have gone to several holiday parties and had some pretty hilarious experiences  I am slowly feeling festive and I invite you to learn why.

No, I also have never heard “Aqualung” at a holiday party and it is actually in reference to a generally but slightly creepy DJ at the banquet hall where I tend bar.  You will notice a theme of non-seasonal musical choices here although do not fret; there will be choice cuts along the way like my boy Derek Trucks doing “Greensleeves” which I know is kind of a Christmas song right? Anyway, I digress as usual and am missing the point of this paragraph which is to say the creepy DJ is only creepy in that he is quite a bit older than the most of us at the banquet center and is always hitting on girls that could easily be his daughters and who also are not interested. Gotta hand it to him for trying.

He played this song many times at the holiday party for a local car dealership. Those ones are interesting because you have everyone from the secretary to the owner to the salesmen attending so it really makes for a strange mix of people who usually do not hang out socially. I made a million white Russians, as well as cheap vodka tonics by the score while the tips got higher and the peeps got drunker. Afterwards, for the first time ever, I decided to go out with some of my fellow employees to a Buffalo Wild Wings for a beer before last call. I’m not prejudiced against the people I work with, I just live farther away than most of them and often have other plans for after work. And, I tried to just go to Wendy’s and get a cheeseburger because I was starving, but it was closed so I really had no choice because I was famished. Open late, my ass.

When I got to Wild Wings, the creepy DJ was there and bought all ten of us a drink which was very nice of him. He also got some appetizers which I attacked with gusto as I had been denied my artery clogging two dollar Junior Bacon and Cheese minutes earlier. I’m sure the tall IPA and artichoke dip I sucked down weren’t great for me either, but again I stray from the point. The DJ, while everyone is talking to each other loudly, leans over and points at this bartender named Kathy and whispers “Is she single?”

What I heard was “is she cool” like does she smoke pot a la Dazed and Confused to which I replied “Yeah, I think she’s cool man”. When he used the restroom, Kathy left saying he kept hitting on her and all I could think of was “Slowride” by Foghat. I appreciate the free drink and I respect the enthusiasm of a DJ to hit on a girl so much younger and out of his reach. Happy holidays and good luck to you sir!

The next two parties I’d like to talk about are ones I attended. My dive bar had it’s company party the night after my trip to Wild Wings and I ended up getting out early because some idiot executive had hired a science experiment exhibition crew instead of a band, DJ, or even a magician. Granted, the science shit was cool but this group, also a car dealership, was mostly mechanics who just wanted the free vittles and the possibility of winning a raffle or impressing someone higher up with their witty conversation. So I got to the bar before ten with a green Santa hat on and I soon had a Wild Turkey on the rocks in hand and was shooting pool with my lead singer‘s father, a local pro. I was feeling good.

Then the shit hit the fan and it had to do with my lead singer and two separate crazy woman. The first approached me and asked me if I was seeing anybody and because this girl has a serious local reputation and I was not attracted to her, I quickly suggested she should seek the attention of another related friend who I knew liked her. She then decided to rip into my lead singer for taking some friend of hers home three weeks before who also used to date her brother.  He had told me about it and that nothing had happened and I related this information to the girl. Yeah, it barely made sense to me too and neither did the next incident two minutes later outside when one of the local bartenders and known hellion starts literally yelling at the lead singer because he didn’t call her father back in relation to some logging job.

As with the girl before, I jumped to the defense of my boy saying “You know it’s the freakin holidays, can’t we all just have a good time?” This was met with a scowl and a few beautiful moments of silence before she just started swearing again. Unfortunately  the drawback of smalltown-living is everyone is in everyone else’s shit out of lack of stimulation. This was turning into a very not jolly holiday so we did what we would normally do when things got weird at the bar which is take the back door when the two crazy girls went to pee. The holidays seem to rile other people up too.

I don’t like this song but it’s an apt choice here and is on the jukebox at the dive bar far more than anyone should have to withstand. Maybe finding a new bar or even not going to bars anymore is a choice for the new year?

For my last holiday party that is worth mentioning, I was invited for the second year to a very swanky restaurant’s holiday party, located down on a peninsula in a very popular coastal town where two former presidents are sometimes in attendance. I had a great time last year except I abused the privilege of the very nice open bar and drank all of the high end bourbons from Maker’s Mark to Booker’s, each one more potent than the next. Needless to say, I don’t remember much and this year I intended to network which really means talk to as many women as possible and invite them all to come see our band on New Year’s Eve. I was pretty successful at this without being obnoxious, at least in my humble opinion.

The downstairs bar of this place had a little dock where people smoked cigarettes and a vicious wind came off the water. I was demonstrating  the type of dancing I’d maybe do at a music festival to some younger folks and set my whiskey on a metal table. Like two minutes later, it slid right off the table and bounced off the ground, not shattering but certainly emptying. It had frozen up around the bottom and become a serious hazard and spilled all my whiskey.

Luckily, a very pretty girl offered to make me a margarita shot which is an offer I took up. It seems some dishwasher was dancing up on her on the pumping dance floor upstairs and she wanted to know if I’d help deflect. In my altered state of mind, I assumed she wanted me so I said I’d meet her up there post haste. The very young DJ played this song numerous times. Catchy once, annoying more than that.

The dancing with my tequila girl was not to be. I had attended the party with the head bartender and her husband, the General from my dive bar days, as well as another bartender whom we picked up on the way. This other bartender was three years younger than me and owned her own house paid for by tending bar. She also rode horses. I have a thing for equestrians and I know it’s a little weird so we don’t have to get into it too much. Needless to say, I was instantly attracted to her but she seemed to be more concerned with slamming Bud Light and talking to the elderly patrons who also came to the party. I went up from my shot to find the General and tell him we had to stay a while longer so I could dance when I saw my horse girl falling off the front porch of the bar. She apparently cannot handle her booze at all and we had to quickly leave. So much for Christmas love.

Is there a theme here? I think, at heart, everyone wants to be happy for Christmas and we can find that through relationships with other people, whether ones we have or ones we’d like to create. I know a big part of my own disillusionment with the holidays is that it will largely just be my mom and I this year and would probably be better if I had a significant other whom I really liked or maybe even a family as this is really what the holidays are about.

I was talking to an old dishwasher soon before I spilled my whiskey about finding love in the modern age and he said “You know man, you probably got so many women who like you and you don’t even know it.” He looked vaguely like Jerry Garcia so I took his advice to heart. If you got loved ones, tell them you love them and if you don’t, I firmly believe you will find them if you are supposed to.

O,k so one more song and it is in fact Christmas flavored but it made me laugh so hard that I can’t not include it. UH HUH! Happy Holidays!

Christmas Jams: Where’s that Spirit at?

Bootsy Collins of James Brown and the  JB’s and Parliament Funkadelic fame can make anything funky and nails this yuletide jam right on the head. How have I lived 28 years and missed that this album was created? Lucky for me,  I have a cool new friend who teaches science where I work and he illuminated me after lunch one day last week.

As much as I tell everyone who will listen that I hate Christmas music, this year I have spent more time than ever seeking out holiday jams I can endure in a season I really don’t like in general. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been a time I wish I could avoid completely since the passing on of my father three years ago this January.  The few Christmases after college and my post college break-up spent with just my parents  (while my siblings lived too far away), left me with some great memories.

My father hated Christmas and always acted like a jerk because his own father died decades ago in the winter time under some very traumatic circumstances. I don’t think that mourning ever really left him during those months and I now know exactly why he was so evil on Christmas mornings. Oddly enough, I actually look back at some of his temper tantrums about the trash caused by opening presents with a laugh because it was such absurd behavior. He’d circle with his giant black garbage bag wearing a frown/grimace hurrying us to unwrap presents so he could take away the leavings.  We all handle grief different ways and the loss of his Grinch imitation is polarized every Christmas morning.

I picked this record up at  a Goodwill when I first moved home and wanted my parents to embrace my record player and all the space it took up in their dining room. This makes a classic song really sing with the crisp lazy sounds of the slide, adding a blues feel to what is for many a very depressing time of year. This one works the opposite for me though, perking me up each time I play it. He was a legendary neo-classical guitar player who actually signed Leo Kottke to his first record deal. 

I’m thankful my brother and his family came home for Thanksgiving and my sister’s family also made the trek, but it looks like both will not be making the trip back for Christmas for a myriad of logistical reasons that are a bummer but a reality of the adult lives we have chosen. So that also makes the holidays a little worse to bear as well, with the further fact that this time of year always makes you take stock of where you are in life.

I should be ecstatic because I have come a long way this year, finding a job I love that is going well, a band that continues to improve and a wide circle of friends whose holiday gatherings I can crash without feeling like a third wheel to anyone’s family time. But I seem to focus on another Christmas missing my father and wondering why I haven’t settled down and had kids like so many around me have. My general malaise probably has as much to do with lack of Vitamin D as anything else. So, in an attempt to change my mindset, I have thrown myself into decorating for Christmas and discovering new holiday jams.

This is like a sure-fire smile right here. I’ve spun this record an endless amount of times at this point, predominantly while doing Christmas activities ranging from trimming to the tree to making cookies to having an eggnog with friends. I love the vibraphone in this. Most of the album’s tracks sound similar and that’s not a bad thing.

After going out with some fellow teachers Friday night, I picked up a six-pack of local beer and went home to spend the next several hours decorating my house with my mother. For two years now, I’ve stalled putting up such things until it was almost too late but this year I was inspired to get everyone in the mood for this holiday season. Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass band really gets everyone upbeat and a beer or two doesn’t hurt. I was so enthusiastic that the next day, I decided to walk through the woods where we grew up in Maine and cut my own Christmas tree down. We never did this as children, but I really liked the idea and I know my Dad would have as long as he didn’t have to do anything.

Buck Owens did Christmas songs? This is great, you can put pedal steel guitar on anything and I’ll like it. Also, the whole blue Christmas thing is a vibe I know far too well and this is cathartic to hear.

We had to hike almost a mile into the woods to find anything remotely acceptable because it comes to find out that Christmas trees are actually pruned in a specific way to foster that appearance and it rarely occurs naturally in the wild. We ended up cutting down a 40 foot balsam fir halfway down with a buck saw and then cutting 8 feet of the top of that piece. It still took both of us to bring it the whole way out and not have it become covered in mud and it only took a minute to realize the stand we put it into had a giant leak which soaked my carpet.

We got a new stand and put it up and no tree has given me as much happiness as this tree. Sure, its funny looking and closer to Charlie Brown than Martha Stewart, but I cut that tree and lugged it in. I need to focus on a steady girlfriend first, but if I ever have kids, we are doing it the old fashioned way because it feels a whole lot better every time you lay eyes on it.

Also very cathartic for those moments when you just wish the entire Christmas season never existed. 

The house is looking pretty Christmassy and I have made come cool plans for Christmas day beyond the regular viewing of Die Hard which we have had in place for some time. I have got a few Christmas presents, one of which is the promise to my 90 year-old Grandma that I will shave my horrendous mustache prior to the Christmas Eve church service, and this is also improving my spirits. We have tried to make a family rule of no one buying presents for each other this year so we can all save money so I hope everyone is actually doing that because I sure am.

As difficult as this time of year is for me and for so many else out there in the world, I know I feel better after trying to get into that Christmas spirit.  Whenever life gets hard for me, I find that baring down and working through it is the best solution. It’s always best to try to focus on the positive no matter how down you get which is often way harder than it sounds.  Holidays are really a minor thing and what you really want is a whole year of quality family, friend and life experiences. I know I’m getting closer to that every year so from the bottom of my heart, have a great holiday and a happy new year!

I cheated on this one and googled “funky Christmas songs” and wound up with this gem. I could not think of a better funk name than The Jive Turkeys, what a score!  I will for sure be dancing around the tree to this for many years to come.  I sure hope my nieces and nephews like funk music when they grow up!

What I’m Thankful For

I’m gonna be cheesey and repost an old blog from last year which reading gave me a real perspective on where I’m at. My brother and his family just landed in Boston after some weather worries so I will be able to see my much bigger nieces and nephew. My new job is going great and the second annual biggest show of the year is in three short days. It looks to be bigger than the last one with a lot more people involved from promotion to musicians and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. Now if I can just spend more time on the blog in the coming months so my brother doesn’t hate me, all will be well in the world. Happy Thanksgiving from the Brothers J to all of you!

It’s that time of year again, when the turkeys and lame sweaters come out for a few weeks and everyone seems to generally get along better. It may be a facade but it feels alright and there’s nothing wrong with a little general happiness even if it is kind of fake and doesn’t last too long. I understand everyone has always walked around touting what they’re thankful and now with the onset of social networking, literally you can’t get on the internet without discovering what everyone you know is thankful for. I know it’s annoying but fuck it, I’m going to do it one more time. Here is what I am thankful for this holiday season. Please feel free comment on what you are thankful for or write it on your own blog.

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Waiting is the Hardest part

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I thought this connected well to my brother’s post about “November Rain”. Guns and Roses are great, but this song is far better in my book now then the former. I did love Slash‘s guitar solo in the desert in the “November Rain” video though and the cinematic sequences were cool.

We have written on this blog before about the love we have for our pets and how much of this love comes from our father who seemed to have gotten along better with creatures of the four legged variety.  We have always had pets and when our father passed away, I inherited both his cat and dog, Henry and Remy respectively. Last Sunday, Henry the cat disappeared and has not been seen or heard from since. Using his past behavior as a clue, my gut feeling is that he has gone on to the great big litter box in the sky by way of a coyote, fisher cat or some other critter. He’s not one to wander off for days at a time and I just get the feeling he’s not coming back.

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New Niece Playlist

About a month ago, my sister gave birth to her first child, a little girl. She came very early, about six weeks before she was supposed to, so apparently she shares our family’s complete lack of patience. It was a little scary at first because they had to perform emergency surgery due to complications but everyone is doing fine and she seems to be progressing well. I was able to go down and see her just two days after she was born and it was a very cool experience. The Elder J lives on the other side of the country, thus I was not able to see either of his kids in their first few days of their lives which only made this experience more significant.

As I said in my New Nephew Playlist, my siblings having kids polarized the loss of my father. I don’t want to belabor the point but I wish he had been able to see more of his grandkids and something my brother in law said led me to believe he might just be seeing them anyway. When the baby was born, he said he felt a hand on his shoulder. This could be a multitude of things; however, it is known that my father was not a toucher. I can’t ever remember him hugging me until the last year he was alive and even then he was weird about it. Some people don’t show their love that way. He never hugged his son-in-law and in fact, the only time he even touched him was at their wedding. He put his hand on my brother in law’s shoulder and said something, the specifics of which I do not know. Who knows what is real and what is not but I know that I am confident he’s looking on from somewhere. So what music does this make me think of?

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New Nephew Playlist

Note: The following was originally written in December

So I am an uncle again. My brother’s wife gave birth to my new nephew just this morning and I am filled with emotions both good and bad. Good, in that I am happy to have a new family member and am always impressed by the miracle of life. Bad, because my father is not here to see his first grandson and because my poor little nephew is being born into one of the most fucked-up times in human history. Maybe sad is the preferred adjective here, because I also wish I could have been there but he is across the country and multiple factors kept me in the northland.

My dad would be happy as shit I am sure, so for that one I feel ok. As for the current state of the world, who knows? The world is supposed to end this next year, but people have been saying that since time started so that shouldn’t be a real issue. I guess I mean specifically the way people treat each other, from backstabbing to shit-talking to just looking the either way when someone needs help. Everyone is guilty of this at some point but it’s the amount of people I’ve seen as of late who don’t seem to ever realize they’re doing it and amend their behavior.

I feel the same way about the state of the world as I do dub step music, a current craze amongst the younger generation. It sounds bad, I can’t dance to it and it confuses me.  If you don’t know about it, it’s like this drum and bass thing that occasionally has vocals and what sounds to me like electronic mosquitoes buzzing around. I am sure it has its merits but I just don’t get it. Am I getting old? Will all music be weird to me by the time my new nephew is old enough to appreciate it?

  1. “All things must pass”-George Harrison

I don’t know if my dad was ever into the solo work of the Beatles but I am sure he would have loved this song both for its music and lyrics. I think it is my favorite solo song by George and maybe even of any songs he’s written period, although “Something” is pretty damned good. I really love the first couplet which is “The sunrise doesn’t last all morning / A cloudburst doesn’t last all day”. To me, it says everything is fleeting and we have to grab at what we can when we can. It is clearly some type of Tao rephrasing but like any song, I think its content allows for multiple interpretations. You have a seemingly happy delivery of a dour realization, that shit happens and that is the way it is.

I find this song uplifting. The connotation of good or bad is something we ourselves add to whatever situation we are in. Keeping a positive outlook on all things, even death and loss, is easy to say and a bitch to actually do. However, it is very much worthwhile if you can. Check out the new documentary on Harrison on HBO, its killer.

 

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The Sister Speaks (for Dad)

I am not a writer or a blogger and I really have nothing to do with this aside from reading my brothers’ entries with the hope that every day NKOTB will be mentioned. However, the first anniversary of our father’s unexpected passing is about to fall upon us, so my brothers invited me to join them in discussing some songs for our father. I was not part of the original conversation about “funeral songs”, etc., but there are definitely songs that come to mind whenever I think of my father.

For a man who was almost 100% deaf, our father loved music. He attended countless musicals, high school band and chorus concerts, dance recitals and performances of my older brother’s rock/alternative/not-sure-how-to-describe-it band. Before it was me performing, and we’d go to see my older brother’s shows, my dad would frequently ask me questions about what was going on. One particular incident that comes to mind is a concert we attended where my brother’s woman du jour was playing the flute, and he asked me, “what the hell is that girl doing?” He couldn’t hear the high-pitched sounds of the woodwind instrument and thought she was just dancing around holding a metal stick to her face.

Another memory that reminds me of his love of music is when he asked me to get him some classical music for Christmas. He didn’t specify a composer or concerto, he just said “classical music.” Since he was difficult to buy gifts for, I was happy for the inspiration and bought him a CD of a random compilation of music from a variety of composers.

Even though he couldn’t hear most music, whenever my father would drive into the driveway, no matter where I was standing, whether it was indoors or outdoors, I could almost always hear his car before I could see it—he would turn up the Oldies station incredibly loudly so that he could try to hear or at the very least feel the music while he was driving. When he got an iPod a few years ago, he asked my brothers and me to fill it with music, and we gave him everything from the Beatles to Bob Marley.

One Beatles song that he wanted to ensure was on his iPod was “Hey Jude.” The Younger specified that song as one that he remembers when thinking about my dad, but I will note at this point that the song plays a big role in my thoughts of my father—though these days, I can’t seem to listen to the whole song without crying. But I digress—onto my songs.

“Silent Night”

This is obviously an old and traditional Christmas carol, one that my father sang as a child, with his father singing it before him  and so on and so forth.  At the church where he walked me down the aisle the day I got married, (the same church where we celebrated his life with a packed service of family, friends and distant acquaintances) they saing “Silent Night” as the second-to-last hymn every Christmas Eve. While the song plays, the members of the congregation all hold small candles to light each other’s candles, until everyone in the church is holding a lit candle.

When we attended Christmas Eve service at this church, my father always sang along for at least part of “Silent Night” and it’s the one Christmas carol that really got me this year. My husband and I attended a service at a local Lutheran church in our small western Colorado town this year; and this congregation also shared candlelight during “Silent Night.” It was difficult to handle emotionally, but I felt as if somehow, during that song, on that evening, my father was with me.

“Cotton Fields”

No idea who originally sang it, but it was covered by greats such as Johnny Cash, Creeence Clearwater Revival, the Beach Boys, and Elton John.  The first time I ever heard it was on a cold Christmas morning in the back woods of Maine. That year I had received the African-American American Girl doll named Addy, and upon unwrapping the gift, my father immediately grabbed her away from me and began bouncing her on his knee, singing “When I was a little bitty baby my momma rocked me in the cradle…” (My father didn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body; but he was far from politically correct.) I was confused, mortified and probably launched into one of my famous fits from that era. However, his actions that morning set the stage for a world of giggles for myself, my family and a childhood friend, Brittany, who I still consider to be a family member.

“Summer in the City”—The Lovin’ Spoonful

When I was a young child, my family spent a lot more time together as a family than we did as my brothers and I slowly grew older. We would travel by car to places like Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, or Boston. Sometimes we would not spend the extra night in a hotel and we’d drive home with the Oldies station playing on the car radio. I remember hearing “Summer in the City” several times on the radio on those car trips, especially during the night and I remember a specific instance of it playing while we rolled through a toll booth. Hearing the song reminds me of the “good times”, before my brothers and I really knew that there was stress and negativity in life, before we realized that our family wouldn’t always be together as one unit.

“Spirit in the Sky”—Norman Greenbaum

This is one song I wish had been played during the church service on the day we gathered to remember my father’s life.  Not only does it “fit” a funeral situation, but it reminds me a lot of my father. Particularly, it reminds me of my trips back and forth from Maine to Vermont during my college years, but I also remember him listening to the song when I was young. A college friend made me a mixed CD during the winter of 2003, back when mixed CDs were really something special, and “Spirit in the Sky” was one of the songs on that CD. My father and I listened to that particular CD and the song Spirit in the Sky several times during our travels. Because my father enjoyed church and read daily scriptures, he especially enjoyed the line from the song, “Gotta have a friend in Jesus” and always managed to sing that line with an extra decibel of volume.  Whether he could hear the music or hear himself sing, my father always enjoyed that particular song.

Songs for Dad

Note: Our father passed away unexpectedly a year ago. We wrote about him as part of developing the idea of this blog. He is responsible in no small part for both of us and everything we do. We miss him greatly.

Long before my Dad actually died, when we first came up for the idea of a doing a music blog as two brothers, one of our first topics was songs we’d play at our father’s funeral. It was supposed to be a joke as my father, the Elder, and I have always shared a morbid sense of humor.

Examples include: my father making us promise that we’d suffocate him with a pillow if he ever became what he called a “vegetable”; Dad daring my sister to touch our deceased step-grandfather at his wake; asking us to stuff his beloved golden retriever so he’d always be there with him. The retriever, now mine by default, is staring at me as I write this and I can assure you it would be funny, albeit very creepy.

My father died probably exactly the way he wanted except far too soon–but I’d imagine that’s the same for everyone. He didn’t suffer long. He was never a “vegetable” and there wasn’t a huge fuss over him because no one had any clue how sick he was until it was too late.

This is turning too much into a eulogy and I have already done that. Let’s shift to the actual topic of the day, songs for my father. I want to talk about songs I remember him really liking as well as some songs that were actually used at his funeral and his wake which was really more of a party (what he wanted when he died).

Before I launch into the songs and why, I need to emphasize that the man was deaf from a young age–so deaf at the end that there was no existing technology to improve his hearing. They somehow fucked up in the incubator and pumped in too much oxygen and it blew one of his ears out and left the other severely damaged. I had a friend who sells hearing aids test him last fall and he was 90% deaf at 61. Many people didn’t realize how deaf he was because he was crazy skilled at reading lips; talking with him one on one seemed no different from conversing with anyone else.

I was lucky to have a best friend for a father and this was hard fought.  It wasn’t until circumstances dropped me in the parents’ house after grad school that we really solidified our relationship. I wouldn’t trade the last year and a half I got to spend with him for anything and I hope in some way this piece of writing will spurn people to get to know their parents if they don’t already.. Lastly and most selfishly, I need to write this as I am still having great trouble dealing with the loss and although I am crying as I write, I think it will be cathartic in the long run.

He once told me of seeing Jimi Hendrix during his opening slot for the Monkees in the Midwest sometime in the late 1960’s. Even with a head full of acid, he described the music to me as “a bunch of monkeys banging on trash cans in the jungle”. He couldn’t hear anything above the distortion.

Needless to say, he wasn’t into the jam like I was. He liked tight song structure and succinct lyrics like all of the folk songs he loved . That being said, I think one will see the amusement in some of the songs he enjoyed as it was very unlikely he ever had any idea what the lyrics were saying. He never explained why he liked songs the way the Elder and I will spend endless hours discussing minute details of long dead musical artists and this is one of the many small parts that made him who he was. He liked stuff and the reasons why either didn’t exist or not for us to know.

1. “What a Friend we have in Jesus/ Swing low Sweet Chariot”-Traditional

Christian Hymns: Both of these songs were played at the services for my father and for good reason. He loved the old spirituals and would always tell people that he and I had a Sunday morning choir group, followed by an off key hum before launching into either one of these tunes in his perceptably terrible singing voice. The man was very good at a lot of things but singing was never one of them. Hell, he was almost completely deaf, cut him a break. I sometimes sang with him because he found great amusement in it even if no one else did; other times, I just laughed because it never ceased to be funny to me.

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A Year Ago this Week, The Sister

Note: We introduce, the Sister

This is a post about remembering the week in my life to date that has been the worst. It’s 3am on January 30, 2012, and I am unable to sleep. Maybe it’s the fact that the 24-week old baby in my belly likes to be the most active in the middle of the night, maybe it’s because my husband is out of town and the only warmth I have at night comes from a 22 pound beagle. Those are probably just excuses, I know the real reason I cannot sleep—exactly one year ago, around 2 in the morning Mountain time, I got the phone call that I never believed would come so soon.

Several hours before I received this call, I spoke to my younger brother on the phone. I was riding a train back from Denver to the small cowboy town in western Colorado where we currently live. I had just spent the week in a mandatory, rigorous training for my job known as “boot camp.” I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and was riding the Amtrak in the middle of a stretch of 28 tunnels in the middle of the Rockies. I was listening to the conductor point out the natural beauty on the outside of the train and had no cell reception.

As the train rumbled toward civilization, somewhere around Vail, Colorado, my cell phone indicated that there was a voicemail. It was from my younger brother, and he sounded frantic. I called him back and he was angry that he hadn’t been able to get in touch with anyone, not with me, nor my older brother. He informed me that my father was very sick and had been hospitalized. When I listened to the symptoms and assessed the situation, I tried to be the stronger older sibling and assured him, “the doctors will take care of him, they’ll pump him full of antibiotics and he’ll be fine—don’t worry.” I didn’t hear from my brother again for about 12 hours.

Now what’s funny is I find myself having a ridiculous music memory about this time. On the train that day, I was listening to the soundtrack from Mamma Mia, a musical created solely to display the idiotic music of Abba in a “Story.” I think listening to that soundtrack at the time is excused based on the fact that throughout that week, I’d been beaten into a mental submission and worked harder and for more hours than any young lawyer should ever have to.

After I spoke to my brother that day, I told him to call my husband to keep him posted as I wasn’t sure how well my phone would work during the rest of the train trip. When I arrived home, I remember my husband and I went grocery shopping and I spent the evening reading cookbooks. I received word from my mother and brother that they were leaving the hospital, and that my father would be fine, and that he wanted them to bring him his laptop and some newspapers when they returned the next morning.

 

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Our Entries This Week

Note: There is very little about music in this entry; it is about memory

How do you measure the passing of a year? (No, this is not a Rent allusion)

In the past year, I became a father. I made countless ER visits. I made hundreds of phone calls. I send thundreds of emails. I know I drove 20,000 miles or more because odometers can’t lie. I ate at least 2500 calories a day. I ran 25-30 miles a week and slept less and less each month.

This year I became a father to a son; I watched my daughter learn to crawl, to walk and to say her first words. And I did it all one man short. This year I became a father and lost one.

Before my brother and I started this blog, but after we started planning it, our father died suddenly. His death, far too soon and completely unexpected, has brought our family to its knees. We have all dealt with it in different ways and the law of unintended consequences has reigned—my sister will have a child this spring; my wife and I had a second child sooner than we would have, my brother has sacrificed his life to be the good son and companion to our mom.

And we have all found ourselves losing it in different ways. I got the call from the Younger J at 3 AM. We had spoken the day before, I knew my father was sick, but we all thought it was minor, that he would be fine. When I woke my wife and told her, her sobs were the first thing that made me feel anything at all. She redefined grief-stricken for me; so wracked with emotion was she, that when she called her mother, she feared something had happened to me or our daughter.

I did not cry for 11 hours. My brother, sister and mother suspect that I am something of a robot, that I do not feel like normal men. The obverse is true: I have spent so much of my life fighting off tears that I have become a master of sublimation. At 3:01 AM I went into mission mode. I had to buy plane tickets, pack sufficient diapers, cancel classes, notify my wife’s employer and arrange for family members to come in from around the country.

I did not cry until I was 25,000 feet above the ground. The night before, we had been in the Emergency Room for one of my daughter’s many ear infections. (Yes, granddaughter and grandfather were in the hospital on the same night, 3000 miles apart.) My wife fell asleep as soon as we were seated on the plane, exhausted from grief. I rocked our daughter to sleep and put on my iPod. I pressed play. Jose Gonzalez’s album Veneer had been paused the day before. The stupid machine started at “Heartbeats”; I made it, maybe, 30 seconds into the song.

 

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