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New Jersey, United States

Friday, April 28, 2017

Eating Badly, Sleeping Late, Cranking Every Tune

It's up to you to decide how to define long term relationship when answering this: What sticks out in your mind as something you did frequently prior to getting into your current long term relationship that you no longer - or rarely - do? And no malarkey about this being a hard question. I wager I've got to rewind more years than many of you but I can still easily come up with three to get us started.

Before my partnership with my wife began I routinely made poor eating choices. Her love has helped me in many ways but this is something that springs to the front of mind, especially on those occasions when I regress to the bad diet Pat had at twenty eight years old.

Although it might have shifted anyway - given my regular working hours moved from nocturnal to more conventional soon after we met - these days I rarely stay in bed past 9:00 a.m., no matter how late I retire the night before. My wife comes from a family of morning people and though my late night stamina remains strong, I'm still up just a few hours after she is most mornings because my time with her is valuable.

The final item is aimed at rescuing this post from unremitting mushiness and it gives you free rein to bitch when you comment. Prior to April 1978, I frequently listened to music in my home at volumes that made the paint peel. My only opportunity to do damage to my hearing now is when I'm alone or ... hypocrite that she can be ... if I'm playing "Candy's Room". Just one song I can crank to eleven? Not fair, you know?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mom And Dad By My Side

If either or both of your parents are gone, what reliable way have you discovered to bring them back?

Regular readers might recall several posts I've published over the years about my folks - sometimes on their birthdays. Each of those posts has been squarely aimed at keeping them close to me. But last Wednesday and again earlier today, I re-discovered how music is a surefire method to get Mom and Dad by my side.

Last week I ended day one of my current music class - entitled "Not Quite Jazz 101" - with Benny Goodman's 1937 classic "Sing, Sing, Sing". As people were leaving the room an odd sensation came over me listening to that 8:00 of unmitigated energy. I couldn't get my then nineteen year old Dad or seventeen year old Mom out of my head. The passion, drive, and excitement in that music must have ignited my teenage parents as surely as "Ain't too Proud To Beg" did to me. I walked out of that classroom on fire and played "Sing, Sing, Sing" all the way home in my car.

Then, today I opened day two by playing the same song. As Gene Krupa pounded his intro, I saw my Father playing the ukulele as my Mother sang. When the horns burst in with the first theme, I could picture my folks as teenagers and tried imagining the way they looked at one another falling in love. During Benny's 16 bar solo, I saw Mom and Dad dancing. The song kept playing. My voice caught as I began riffing to the class on the vivid sense I had that my parents were a presence in that room.

What shakes you to your core like music does to me? Discovering another gift music has bestowed on me - i.e. helping my parents feel tangibly at my side, however briefly - is not at all surprising. After all, music has given me a life. Now, it's also going to be bit easier for me to call back the folks that literally gave me life. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Continuing A Media Fast


My pledge from five years ago today to go on periodic "media fasts" was primarily aimed at limiting the amount of celebrity information routinely jammed down our throats. Though it's too early to declare complete victory, I do feel I've re-claimed some valuable hours by remaining mindful of that pledge. What strategies do you use to avoid knowing too much about the rich and famous?

Those were the good old days - celebrity overkill as my biggest beef with the media; so quaint, really. Who could have predicted in March 2012 the garbage that would be foisted on us a few years later, with the media having the temerity to call it "news"? It's pathetic what is delivered to us as intelligent political discourse in 2017. How do we remain intelligently informed with "alternative facts" being reported as though they mattered?

So, continuing my periodic media fasts has now become an important component for my mental health. I'll think myself fortunate if I'm able to re-claim still more hours over the next five years by not swallowing the swill the media has been serving since Twitter became a newsworthy source. Let me know if you plan to join me.

Monday, April 24, 2017

No Sweat, Mr. Id

It's rare for Mr. Id to try distracting himself with TV. But when the battery on his I-pod flaked recently during a workout at the gym, the crank succumbed. It took just one commercial - with Mark Wahlberg shilling for ATT - before Mr. Id shut off the tube. But that was enough to set off the coot on a toot.

What was ATT Wahlberg promoting? More underwear, you say? No, a TV in every room + and another on your phone for just $25.00 per month!! Now here's something our modern world needs, every home turned into a sports bar. Although Wahlberg has done some good film work, on the basis of this pernicious ad alone, Mr. Id has decided to boycott Markie-Mark. No doubt, Mr. Id's decision will have far reaching impact on Wahlberg's significant bank balance. But the meaninglessness of Mr. Id's gesture aside, is anyone besides the crusty curmudgeon just a tiny bit triggered by this latest crassly commercial attempt at further shortening the ever-dwindling attention span of the human race?

Philosopher William James is often credited with the notion that we are each capable of developing a new habit if we commit to practice the discipline for twenty eight days without fail. Mr. Id's own life has several successful examples that demonstrate how this twenty eight day formula works to help  establish mundane as well as transformative new habits. But how can what James posited in the early 20th century appeal to people as saturated by TV as we are in the early 21st? The crab behind the curtain has started wondering if twenty eight hours will soon be all that people can manage in the Twitter era if they want to establish a new habit. And don't you shudder when imagining the rant another twenty eight minutes of TV watching would have induced in Mr. Id? What a grouch.   

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Metrics And The Blogger

Being fond of metrics has - like most things - advantages and disadvantages. But if you've ever found yourself - as I sometimes am - a bit pre-occupied with measuring progress in a domain of your life, I'd welcome hearing your strategies for re-gaining perspective.

Goals are said to be most useful when they're specific and measurable, e.g. "Six months from now, I'll be ten pounds lighter" or "In one year, I'll be able to pedal a bike for forty five minutes without any break." This makes metrics an important component in the life of a goal-driven person like me.

Over six years of blogging, I've gone from weekly to monthly to quarterly check-ins on the metrics BlogSpot provides. I found this a useful way to measure progress toward my goals, while at the same time, steadily decrease my pre-occupation with numbers. After deciding last fall to prolong my check-in to semi-annually as 2017 began, January's check-in showed a dramatic increase in my view numbers, a trend that started in late November. Although this made the metrics part of me happy, it sadly came with a predictable side effect - I reverted back to being as mentally pre-occupied with these numbers as I was in 2011. It took a lot of effort for me to wait three months to check in again.

The story doesn't have a happy ending, metrics-wise; the early April check-in showed the upward trend peaked in late January. So, I'm now back to my six month plan. If there is another spike, I won't know until around my 68th birthday. Getting a boost like that as a birthday gift would be cool, right?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Words That Can Haunt Me, Part 15: Repentance

repentance: remorse or contrition for a sin, wrongdoing, or the like; compunction. 

Because sin is frequently included in the definition, until recently I rejected using repentance as a word for this series. Sin reminds me way too much of excruciating childhood time spent sitting in a curtained booth waiting for a panel to slide open as I tried to remember how many times I'd taken the Lord's name in vain over the past several weeks.

But Nadia Bolz-Weber's profane 2013 theological memoir "Pastrix", has helped repentance earn a spot alongside legacy, risk, and humility as a concept with the capacity to haunt me. When Weber speaks of her repentance, she describes "...thinking differently..." after realizing how one of her actions or attitudes has harmed someone. And though I'm not mired in remorse for my wrongdoings - be they insensitive words or stupid, selfish actions - it's also difficult for me to forgive myself my trespasses at times. If you couple this difficulty with my good memory, you can probably see how repentance - at least in Weber's formulation - could be troublesome. How about you? How frequently do you find yourself repenting?

"It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself - to forgive. Forgive everybody." Maya Angelou's wisdom crossed my radar the same day I finished the clearly not-for-every-taste "Pastrix". That sent me down a different rabbit hole - How to balance the amount of "thinking differently afterwards" that Weber suggests is central to true repentance with the self-forgiveness advocated by Angelou? Insights, anyone?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Guilt-Free, Gleeful & Sweet Schadenfreude

Except for my arrest in 2011, all my other acts of bad behavior - many just short of felonious - have gone undetected by the law.  There have more than a few of these in my lifetime. How much stuff have you gotten away with that, in retrospect, you know was close to or over that lawful line?

So, because I'm no innocent and been mostly lucky escaping detection, you would be fair calling me a hypocrite for the moment of guilt-free schadenfreude I enjoyed while driving the other day. But first listen to the story, then consider your own past driving misdeeds, and then you are free to judge me.

After nearly side swiping my car, I watched as an unbridled lunatic cut off several other drivers, almost climbing into a few trunks in the process. I couldn't recall the last time I'd witnessed such a dangerous display of road aggression.  Tell the truth now: Have you never wished a convenient police cruiser was nearby in these circumstances? Well dreams do come true. A mile or so down the road, up went my gleeful thumb as I passed a police car, lights flashing, sitting directly behind the maniac. How did I know for sure it was the same driver?

Because the political banner prominently affixed to the back windshield of his car - easily visible as I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting him when he passed me on the right and then lurched in front of me - was likely what put me at the wishing well to start. And though his later driving tantrums were even more reckless, I will not claim the happy ending to this story would have been just as sweet if this reprobate who got just what he deserved had politics more closely aligned with mine. After all, you already have me on hypocrisy so I won't add dishonesty to my list of sins today. I was thrilled - make that ecstatic - this cretin got caught. His politics just made the schadenfreude sweeter.