Category Archives: Personal musings

Save us, David Lee Roth! Only YOU can Make America Fun Again.

Lean in, Millenials and the Next Named Generation – I’d like to tell you about a magical period known as “The Mid to Late 80s.”

I’ve been thinking about this glorious time for weeks, but it was really hammered home to me yesterday, when my tiny Connecticut town hit a new low for March – 3 degrees with a negative-teen windchill. And what did my Google Play decide to thrust into its shuffle?

“Goin’ Crazy” by David Lee Roth. A song about quitting your job to run off to tropical locales. A song about joyous hedonism. A song about being warm.

dlrbeach

This is not fair.

When I got over crying, I got inspired. So now I have to share the Good News of Van Halen and David Lee Roth.  Gather ’round!

For the young or uninformed, or shall I say “yoUNgInformed”: David Lee Roth is a retired magician, capable of lightening any mood — that’s his skill. He was sometimes referred to as a “rock star.”

People like DLR and his magician’s assistants/other members of Van Halen are rare nowadays. You see, somewhere in the gothy, nevermind-whatever-I’m too cool for this-90s, we lost track of these people, and they nearly went extinct, we thought.

Turns out, they just went underground. DLR is still very much alive, and you can even see him sing his little songs and incantations on stages sometimes, and often with is former friends in Van Halen, when they’re not in some sort of recovery. (Kidding EVH – I’m proud of you for getting clean!)

So I want to help our yoUNgInformed, who say things like “I wasn’t born when that came out so how could I ever know it” even though they’re the first generation to have lifetime WiFi and Google privileges. That excuse is so tired, I can tell you don’t even believe it. You just weren’t raised right. Let me help.

You, too, can learn to point your browser back to the 80s – back to when MTV ruled the world with these little five-minute masterpieces known as “music videos.” The name itself almost conjures up that crackly, standard-definition plagued TV sound that came out of just two little speakers and no surround sound, much less a Bose soundbar or other high-falutin’ accouterments.

Some of the TVs were still black and white. Did you young’ns know color didn’t exist until the 50s, like AT ALL? Pepperidge Farm remembers…

Yes, there were these little mini-TV programs that used to occupy all our time while we waited for iPhones to be invented and for your brilliance to fill us with so much hope that we finally feel complete! (Just kidding, we’re Gen X. That’ll never happen.)

But among the most notable was David Lee Roth’s magical epoch – roughly 1983 to 1988. It was a time filled with scandal, outrage, old-ass presidents and rich people being paraded about like circus animals that we were supposed to want to be like.

It was a greedy time, and it led to a lot of assholes wandering the earth. But you can’t blame my beautiful Gen X for that one. That was the boomers. We Xers were just trying to find a quiet place to get away from those jerks. Hence our saturation of the world in flannel and emo in our first act as Ruling Generation. Which sort of set the whole fun 80s thing back forever. So yeah, it’s my duty as a proxy from the Fun Killing 90s to inform you of the fun time before it.

Sorry we killed your mojo, DLR. The 90s would like to formally apologize.

Sorry we killed your mojo, DLR. The 90s would like to formally apologize.

In that time, before we’d gone sour on the whole world and lost trust in everyone and everything, we believed rock n’ roll could save our mortal souls. And the Bible didn’t tell us that, but we didn’t care. For the first time, kids had access to SCANDALOUS stuff on TV. Women in bikinis, scrambled satellite feeds where you could almost make out nipples if you stayed on the channel long enough, and music videos.

David Lee Roth’s “California Girls” helped to establish some body shame for me, but it also made me happy. Goddamn. It was just FUN.

Fun for everyone. I watched that video no fewer than 357 times and I still marvel at its greatness. Somehow he made a bunch of beautiful women stand so still that at the end, I believed they weren’t real. Until that woman’s hand moved when DLR took the sunglasses out of it. Don’t act like you don’t remember. I’m remembering this, BTW, without having seen the video in 10 or more years.

But that was just the beginning for DLR. He went on to do the video for “Just a Gigolo,” which still makes me laugh. I quote it all the time and if people get it, I make them swear to be my best friend forever. (The sheepish looks of agreement are worth it.)

I remember this most: “YOU’VE GOT CHARASMA!”

Which leads me to the song that inspired these words: “Goin’ Crazy.” I don’t know if Google Play is trying to make me enjoy winter more or what – but it’s played a TON during The Cold Times. I heard it yesterday morning when my heater was struggling so hard to keep up, the house was still only 62 degrees. I laughed aloud. DLR, you did it again, you brilliant bastard. (Codpiece aside.) (No, not like that.)

“Well, here I’m rollin’ down another sunny highway,

Been in the sun too long.

I’m goin’ coconuts but least I’m goin’ my way,

I’ll prob’bly be here when that sun goes down.

I want to live it up, want to quit my job,

Tell the boss to go to hell.

I ain’t complainin’, you do the best with what you got.

I know you’re laughin’ ’cause it’s easy to tell

I’m goin’ crazy,

Goin’ crazy,

Oo, from the heat…”

Get a load of that shit. It’s easy-peasy perfection. No women-hating, no violence, no threats, no demons, no promises of wealth—just “Hey guys let’s party.”

That’s an attitude we could ALL embrace. And even you Baptists.

I don’t mean let’s all watch Miami Vice and do lines of coke off each other. I just mean – let’s lighten the hell up a bit. Oh, I’m sorry Baptists – let it henceforth be knowneth that youeth should lighteneth the Effith Uppith.

(I was raised a bit Baptist, Episcopalian, Catholic and Evangelical but I also listened to Slayer. Pardon my jokes. I don’t mean them. God said it was cool.)

But it dawned on me yesterday morning that I take myself way too seriously sometimes too. My stressful job, which I’m grateful to have every single day, shouldn’t be treated like medical science. I help make sports TV, not do rocket surgery.

But David Lee Roth, and by extension Van Halen, have been on to something for decades. What started with “Running With the Devil” by VH – a song that sounds ominous but includes a slide whistle – turned into “Unchained” and “Atomic Punk,” then the ubiquitous “Jump,” followed by DLR’s only mopey love song, “I’ll Wait” (which is funny in its own way – such good photography!) and then my favorite, “Panama.” Then the masterpiece, if you ask 80s kids – “Hot for Teacher.”

togo-rothDLR went solo shortly after all that. I remember hating that but loving all the DLR videos. How could you be mad? I mean, until Sammy Hagar came into the picture. But that’s another Van Halen blog that’s been written to death. (He was better than Gary Cherone but I digress.)

From “Goin’ Crazy” EP and then “Eat ‘Em and Smile,” we got “Yankee Rose” (“WELL LEMME ROLL UP TO THE SIDEWALK AND TAKE A LOOK HERE”… WOAH!) and “That’s Life” and DLR’s nearly-flawless version of “Tobacco Road.”

When was the last time an album that wasn’t by They Might Be Giants that FUN?

It’s been a good long minute. And DLR, we could use some of your charm now. You influenced so many bands in the late 80s – Poison, Ratt, all the sappy glam acts – but no one had your… well, CHARASMA. It’s time David Lee Roth comes out of retirement and makes a great solo album, or appoints a successor.

We somehow killed the fun out of the late 80s. Of course it probably had something to do with all that hatred, racism, anti-gay rhetoric, pearl-clutching, hypocrisy, woman-hating, war, poverty, neglect – all that shit. Stuff we’re wading head first into now. We’ve got wiretaps and Russians and presidential chaos – oh my – just like in the 80s. We need a resurgence of “I JUST NEED TO HAVE SOME FUN AND LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH YOU” music. We need DLR.

Come on, DLR. Didn’t you have some kids or something? Get a band back together. Save us, David Lee Roth. You’re our only hope.

Unless you think maybe Eddie Van Halen should do it instead… (See, if I start a band fight, maybe they’ll have a public meltdown and then a very public get-back-together moment that could bring us a new version of “Hot for Teacher” or something… “Hot for Seniors” or something.)

Just, someone please make some good music. Someone, make a musical salve that can chill us all out and make us shut up and listen for a few minutes. Please. I beg of you, in the good name of Van Halen and other bands of their ilk. Save us from ourselves.

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Filed under Fun!, General Nonsense, Music, Personal musings, Politics?, TV

2016: A Spaced Elegy

So many low points.

So many illnesses, deaths, heartaches, heartbreaks and stabs to my soul. So many slaps across the face, tears in their wake, shouts thrown into the night. A few bad decisions, a few good ones that turned out to be bad, and a few too many days alone… that was 2016.

Eff off, 2016.

Eff off, 2016.

But I don’t want to talk about those, as I’m not even close to alone on that. Most people appear to have had a shite 2016. Most people were so glad that the calendar turned to 2017 that they expected some sort of magic moment on Jan. 1, like they’d turn on their phones and all the pains and woes of the world would have been eradicated by Prince and David Bowie, who came back to fix the world aboard the Resurrectium Falcon piloted by Carrie Fisher with Leon Russell riding shotgun.

They expected Donald Trump to tweet something benevolent on New Year’s Day. WRONG.

They expected all 25 pounds they’ve gained to just magically shake off Sunday morning.

They expected their wishes — people to grow a soul and do the right thing – would come true.

Reminds me of that horrible phrase my stepdad used (may he rest in peace… thanks 2016) – “wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up fastest.”

So yeah, let’s leave the wishes in the dust. Let’s leave 2016 in the dust too, but first, the miracles of 2016… yes, they were there, just fewer and far between.

mountaopI climbed this mountain this year. My heart was broken, wrung out, on the 60-day DL for repeated fractures. I wanted to see Dr. James Andrews and have him put me on the exempt list. (Sports humor, y’all…)

It was the first warmish day of an incredibly long, warm , beautiful Connecticut summer, and I climbed this mountain. Me, who used to weigh 315 pounds. Me, who had never shown much interest in hiking before… me, who found that it was life-saving.

Me, who a few months before was in “the best relationship of my life” only to have it disappear in a few short months. Me, who had it “all together.” I was not OK on that mountain that day, not on the inside.

But I was much better when I left. After I had gotten to the top, laid down and spaced out for an hour or so, listening to the world teach me lesson after lesson, dripping with the time-honed wisdom of the trees and breeze.

I had a staredown with a buck, keeping my quiet while he and a fawn behind him traipsed through low underbrush.

buckstaredownI watched as tender new June leaves danced in the intense mountaintop wind, and as the sun beat down on glittering quartz-filled rocks. I heard crows everywhere – Connecticut is home to enormous, beautiful crows – and the warblers were out at every treetop. Mountain laurel was blooming and the forest floor carpeted with moss and new grass. But the higher I got up the mountain, the quieter it got and the flora and fauna more scarce. It also got more peaceful. A peace I’d never really felt.

I lay on that mountainside and felt the elements underneath me and around me. I felt the heat of the rocks below me. I gazed into the abyss and realized how close I could be to violent death should I amble too far and tumble off. I nearly fell asleep in the peace, though my heart was racing. I looked up at the brilliant sky and I cried out at the top of my lungs, saying aloud to everything that could hear: “THANK YOU.” I meant it. I still do.

ontopofoldsmokyThe mountaintop brings gratefulness. I had to climb it to find that out. And though I’m not anywhere near fitness perfection, I’ve climbed two mountains in my short hiking career, and multiple trails have welcomed me for their miles of glory. I have come to find solace and strength in the quiet brilliance of a mountain trail, and I don’t question anymore why that is – especially after that day.

I was broken. Broken by a man who I still don’t understand, and probably never will. Broken by life and its many foibles. Broken by death, grief and misunderstanding. I was fixed when I came down the mountain. I’d be dinged again later, but at that moment, I was OK. I spent the weekend camping and the rest of the summer planning to do what would make me happy.

Maddie. My heart.

Maddie. My heart.

Part of that happiness, I didn’t realize, would be adding to my family in the form of Maddie, my senior citizen Golden Retriever who makes me so very happy. Going to get her was an adventure – a first date (and there would be no second) in the car to gather her up from Maryland. Once she was in the car, it’s like the guy didn’t exist. Kevin Durant left the Thunder the next day and all I could think about was the joyful red girl lying on my living room floor. She’s been about the best thing to happen to me in a long time. And her owners wanted her to be put down. How lucky can I be?

So a few months later, I moved to a place that’s not far from the mountain I hiked that day – Washington, Ct. – to be closer to nature and the people who appreciate it. I am a mile from hiking now, living in a tiny village with real people who do real things and make real memories.  There are family farms out here that are 300 years old. There are places I can walk in, pick up fresh produce and leave cash in an “honesty basket” without ever seeing the farmers. There are memories to be made here by the boatload, and I will make them, I can tell. It was a whim that I moved here, but it was rooted in a need to be where the peace is. I felt something, and I don’t think I’ll be leaving here anytime soon.

I went to LA to hang with Renae for her 40th birthday. We also went to the first Rams preseason game... or should I say, the first DAK PRESCOTT GAME!

I went to LA to hang with Renae for her 40th birthday. We also went to the first Rams preseason game… or should I say, the first DAK PRESCOTT GAME!

I traveled a ton this year as well… and realized that city life is just what I have to tolerate when I travel. I spent a few days in Nashville (sick) to cover the SEC Tournament in March, and then spent several at Disney World (sick) with people I love. I took two trips to Oklahoma and Texas (sick), went to Los Angeles (healthy, but exhausted) to celebrate my BFF’s birthday, and finally moved out to where I really wanted to be (and got sick almost immediately. For two weeks.) Since I’ve moved out here, traveling is about the last thing I want to do. Long weekends at home are spent, with me hardly ever leaving, and not feeling like I’ve missed out.

I spent quality time with family and friends, and have already had my parental figures, one sister and one brother over to the new house. Considering I live far away from everyone, that’s a big thing. This year, I’ll spend more time with friends, if I can pull myself away from my haven out here.

Oh, and I should mention — my career, bracing for all the change of the coming wave of technology — is ever-changing, as usual,but still one of the most important things ever for me. I’m just glad that I now have something that can shut off the work voice on my way home — my new scenery. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still count my lucky stars and pinch myself every now and again. FIVE YEARS AT ESPN. What the hell.

So yeah, the year that started off beautifully quickly landed in a heap on the ground — wings broken off, smoke and ash blocking the fresh air and taking hunks of my humanity with it. But I rebounded. I made some mistakes along the way, I said some things I shouldn’t have, and I spent a few months in a dark place. But it went away. And now there is light. There may be no answers for why it went the way it did, but I’m not going to worry about that anymore. Not everything has a reason. Sometimes, life is just bullshit.

But you gotta find a trail to get over the mountain of bullshit to get to the mountain of peace. It’s there. Just look.

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Filed under Birds!, Connecticut, Hiking, Kevin Durant, Love, Moving, NBA, Personal musings, Politics?, Relationships, Sports, Thunder, Women

My new happy home: (Slowly) sowing on the mountain

It is Oct. 1, and I live in New England.

That means the tapestry is unfolding – red and yellow leaves dot my new surroundings, still a minority to the green, and that’s good. I want this to move slowly.

Something within me has slowed down these last few months. Not in an unhealthy, geriatric sort of way – I turned 42 last week, not 92 – but I’ve felt myself walking slower, moving slower, being more deliberate, thinking more. I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but I like it.

So many things have changed in the last year. Hell, so many things have changed in the last five years, but the last year has been a doozy. There are days I don’t understand how I got here. After a long week of the routine of work (which has changed a ton too), adding in my new commute (42 minutes on a normal day, closer to 50 when following behind an ever-present farm or trash truck), my weekends are spent in my house, puttering around at my own pace, feeling out the place, getting used to it. Driving to “town” for groceries. Working in the yard. Walking Miss Maddie. It’s new, but it oddly feels more like home than I’ve felt since I moved to New England.

Home, of course, is Muskogee, Oklahoma. Also Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where I spent a decade of some of the best times of my life. But this place… how did I get here? It’s heaven, it’s soul-satisfying, and it feels like forever. I drive with the windows down even when it’s cold because it smells like rural Oklahoma mixed with the damp, autumnal glory of Connecticut. This place where I’ve only lived a month but can’t wait to come home to each night? This place where my dear, dear stepmother said, “It’s like you’re on vacation every weekend.” How did I get here?

Well, here’s the short answer. I had my heart broken earlier this year and I kind of went on a “finding myself again” mission. How did I allow this to happen? Why did I react so meanly when it abruptly ended? Why was I missing him when I knew he wasn’t right for me? Why did it take so long for me to recover? Why was he so awful to me and how did I let that happen in the first place?

I sought out answers by going on a few dates. And again, I found nothing. I was interested in a guy who, again, said all the right things, but disappointed me. I also met a nice guy who wanted to change me – No. I don’t think so. Rather than wallow and wish for the best, I cut it all short. I wasn’t heartbroken at all, just frustrated and glad I hadn’t formed any real connections. Dating sucks, and as it turns out, I wasn’t lonely. Just in need of a change. I had to remember that I am fine single – that romance, while desired and lovely, isn’t what made me who I am.

So I redeployed the “finding myself” mission, but in overdrive. I very quickly evaluated my life and the one thing I was missing in this super-blessed, super-fruitful life of mine was tranquility. I had been seeking serenity on the weekends, leaving behind bustling Bristol for mountainous Western CT, where I would hike, drive or just daydream about living there. I realized I wanted to return to something like where I grew up, in rural Muskogee. Somewhere where, as my mom used to say, “You don’t have to put on a prom dress to get the mail.” Somewhere I could start over. Again.

The timing was there. My brother and his now-fiancee were moving back to Oklahoma, so one day, tired of all the bullshit and seeking some sort of break, I looked at Craigslist for rent houses in the area where I like to hike. It’s pretty fancy out here, so I wasn’t optimistic about finding a rental.

But I did. I found a house about 15 minutes from the hiking routes that gave me solace and comfort when I was getting over a heartbreak coupled with the death of a family member. A place where I could lie on my back after climbing a mountain and forget all the pain, all the questions, all the regrets. Somehow, I got the place. And in a matter of weeks, I was on the road to my new home.

Turns out this house is also less than five minutes from some pretty great hiking grounds, and it’s a town that has a community of people who seem to like each other and appreciate life. I will make new memories. I will hike new grounds. Ones where, hopefully, I won’t have to go to get over sadness, but where I can go to feel the sun on my face, listen to the birds and overcome obstacles just for fun, like when I first started hiking. A place I can memorize and forget, a place that will always be new and magical.

This is such a far cry from where I was when I moved to Connecticut from Oklahoma. I don’t bemoan anything from my past, and I have few regrets, but I just don’t understand how I was basically an indoors person who became an outdoors person. The lack of Oklahoma heat has a lot to do with it, I’m sure. But that joy I feel when I go outside – that “The hills are alive with the sound of music” moment I experience every time I’m in the woods—where did it come from?

I’ve also been living differently since I moved here. I go to bed early and get up early, which, for those who know me well, is SHOCKING. I get my chores done. I am more organized, while still living by the seat of my pants. I cook dinner nearly every night and take my lunch every day. Fast food dinners are a thing of the past, though I do enjoy a good Taco Bell run every once in a while.

I don’t know where this all is coming from, and I’m not going to question it anymore. I’m just going to enjoy it. I also am no longer questioning why my past romances have failed, why I haven’t met “the one” yet and why I am still alone. I used to say I wouldn’t do this or that until I was in a good relationship, because I wanted someone to share it with. That seems so silly to me now. I am no longer waiting for something to happen. I will go it alone – and maybe that’s the plan that was picked for me. Maybe I should just really live a day at a time, and if I meet someone, great. If not, I’m still happy.

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.

In the meantime, I’ve got the best golden retriever on the planet, the best job a person could ask for – with bosses and co-workers who (mostly) get me — a wonderful house surrounded by a community of interesting people, and all of life’s necessities. I have family and friends who I cannot believe put up with me. I have satisfaction in my soul, a smile on my face, food in my belly and a joy I didn’t know I could find.

I am happy. I could have saved a lot of words and led with that, but that’s not my writing style. I am moving more slowly – not because of age or pain, but because I don’t want to miss anything. I don’t feel like I’m running to something anymore.

I feel like I’m here.

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