Oct
20
2014

I was working outside and decided to give the gift of music a chance. I wanted to wait until all the noise died down a bit before I gave the new U2 album a listen. I enjoyed it. Especially “Iris (Hold Me Close)” about Bono and his mother. It was an emotional trip, partly because I knew before I listened that I was hearing the sound of failure. It’s a shame that a gimmick and a PR move will taint this release forever. The band has not sounded this inspired and relevant for years, I’m talking probably since Pop broke. For everyone who couldn’t wait to get the music of some old Irish dudes out of their iTunes forever, you’re missing out on something. I admit, if I didn’t like the band or their particular style, and was not an aging rock star apologist, I wouldn’t want it, either. But it’s too bad something so vibrant and alive and forceful had to be dead on arrival.

I have no music on my iPhone, except this freebie and a four song sampler from the Beatles solo albums. As soon as Songs of Innocence faded out, John Lennon’s “Love” began. It was a transition I couldn’t have planned if I tried. It reminded me of the days of dubbing CDs from my friends onto whatever available cassette tapes I had lying around. Or when my wife was running on the treadmilll and listening to iTunes radio and calling out to me, “Do you know this song by Milky Chance? Have you ever heard of Hozier? I kind of like this new Fall Out Boy tune. I think it samples something else you like.” Sometimes the greatest examples of the power of music are the happy accidents that occur when songs are juxtaposed and forced to butt up against each other. It’s like when you hit random on your music library and the songs sound like they’re being played just for you, right out of your collection and into your head. Or when you find an album you don’t particularly like, but then you play it on shuffle one day, and all the songs sound new and different. I’ve pulled some albums from the wreckage of the discard pile that way, and let them breathe anew.

The Beatles sampler closes with a recent Ringo Starr track, “Walk With You” which features vocals from Paul McCartney. The two surviving Beatles, singing together. It was such a perfect, poignant ending and I couldn’t help but feel the sad nostalgia from a time that existed years before I was born, but that had a profound effect on me nonetheless, let alone the arena of popular music. Maybe if I didn’t give the old guys a break, the guys who shaped the past, and have managed to stick around, and burn out or fade away, I wouldn’t care. But I have a soft spot for the U2s of the world, the David Bowies, the Paul McCartneys and Ringo Starrs, and even R.E.M., who claimed the Beatles had virtually no influence on them. They quit long after they needed to, but before they could implode. The mark has been made, on me and on music. History won’t be rewritten, but some stars give off light long after they die out.

Oct
18
2014

No, I didn’t want to work on the woodpile, anyway.

No, I didn’t want to work on the woodpile, anyway.

Oct
17
2014

feeling it

So I got talked into being in another play. Which is kinda great, since I didn’t have to audition. The director was in the play I was in this time last year, and when I mentioned I was interested, she just gave me the part. I’ll be Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka. I’m excited for several reasons. They modified all the parts so I don’t have to sing, which is great for everyone. And unlike last year, we won’t have a dress rehearsal on Halloween Night, which makes my kids happy. And also unlike last year, I don’t have to dye my beard to look younger. I’ll have to add more gray instead of more brown, which I better get used to, I guess.

I had to write my bio for the play program, and I just couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t boring and straightforward. I wrote the safe version, and then I wrote:  Benjamin has never been on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He likes having rehearsals because otherwise he’d just go home and drink beer all night. He enjoys football and porno and books about war. He joined the Open Stage because the Closed Stage was closed. Then I sent the safe version.

The kid playing Charlie and I have become very close. He’s gonna be my grandson, after all. He looks like a little, round, bouncy version of Jim Carrey. He has really studied up on his character. He took me aside one day and told me that Roald Dahl put a reference to snozzberries in the script because it was really a euphemism for something else. He wouldn’t tell me what it was, but he wrote it down in his script and showed me: P-E-N-I-S.

Fin has been sick all week so my wife took him to the doctor for the third time this week. They changed the antibiotic he was taking and upped his vent pressures and gave him steroids. It has been a rough week. I sat at home with the girls and their friends. They picked out a movie to watch, Wish Upon a Star with Katherine Heigl, an early role. It was like an 80s movie, but geared to young girls, except the woeful yearning line from the younger sister wondering if Katherine and her boyfriend “do it.” One of the girls shot me a look. I know she knows, but I wasn’t about to have the talk with all the kids. Dad didn’t hear it, let’s move on.

A friend just told me she got VIP tickets to some concert. She wasn’t sure who it was, but she knew a few of his songs. Somebody and the Something Something Band, and somebody was opening for him. It was a sold out concert. I heard it on the radio this morning, she’s going to go see Bob Friggin’ Seger, with J. Geils opening for him. For free. I’ve been trying to win tickets all week. Kids today, I tell you. I’ll be over here with my Dan Fogelberg and my old Doors cassette tapes. Seger mullet forever!

Oct
16
2014

A long time ago, I used to be pretty good looking and young.

A long time ago, I used to be pretty good looking and young.

Oct
10
2014

are you listening?

A friend called me the other day on the way home from work. I didn’t pick up the phone and say hello. The radio was in the middle of a Triple Play Thursday, so I answered the phone, “This better be important, I’m listening to a triple shot of Eddie Money.” No one calls me much.

My phone died on the way to work and Fin is sick so my wife tried to call me and couldn’t reach me. As soon as I got to work, I plugged in the charger and all the messages and missed calls flooded in. While I was trying to talk to my wife, I could hear my coworker going on and on about my voicemail and I must not have it activated and it should still work if my battery was dead and I must not have it set up right. Then I got another text message and the notification tone blared because I forgot to set my phone to vibrate and the coworker made a little, “oh” sound, so obviously snotty and disapproving that it made my blood boil. I guess I’m saying please don’t be a phone snob. Mind your own business. Get offa my cloud.

My parents called when they heard Fin was sick and wanted to know what was going on. We said he was fine, he just has a cold. They said they were in the emergency room all day. My father has diverticulitis! He went in because of some serious back pain and it turned out to be something else entirely. When I was talking about it this morning, I could hear the coworker mumbling that this was not good. I know it’s not good! Thank you for the clarification! I’m worried enough as it is.

The night nurse was the same way. I was talking about my father and his condition and she had to correct me and go down the list of things that happened and how it affected the body. You know how they tell you not to Google your symptoms? Don’t talk to a third party about your or someone else’s medical information unless you want the information skewed. Consult your doctor to see if sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong is right for you.

I’m aware that by telling you all this, I’m making you the Third Party. Thanks for listening.

Speaking of listening, the IT guy at work started following me on Spotify. It kind of weirds me out. He sits downstairs, right below me. I picture him sitting down there, watching his screen, knowing what I’m playing, ready with some comment if I should walk by, like, “hey, been listening to The Police again? Nice. Love that Sting!” He probably has better things to do, right? I shouldn’t worry that his Facebook status the other day was how a little Tone-Loc makes everything better, right?

Someone’s always listening.

Oct
7
2014

call and response

I need time and distance between the thing that happens and how I respond to it. Simply reacting makes me an animal. When I get home from work, and all the kids are crazy, and the dogs are barking and my head, which has been largely full of its own sounds and notions, begins to ache. I get snippy. I know it’s partially because I haven’t been around that kind of insanity all day. And mostly because I’m hungry. Knowing this doesn’t help. I eat something anyway, and it gets better for everyone.

I would say that for every book I’ve picked up, there’s a story I’ve started to write. Nothing makes me want to write more than reading. Now if I could finish the ideas the way I finish reading the novels, then I might be onto something.

For every pile of unfinished ideas in my data banks, there’s a project in the house I’ve never completed. Or probably never started. There’s something that goes off in my brain, a voice that says not to worry about it. It’s almost like a get out of jail free card. I think, man, I really ought to scrape and paint the eaves, or tear up that old carpet, or paint the bedroom. But the voice in the back of my head says, no, you can’t. You need to finish writing that story. Where were your characters when you last left them? Are they okay? Will they be okay while you do your chores? No? What are you waiting for?

All the unfinished projects weigh on me. I end up doing nothing. I just do what I have to do. And the more of that I do, the more I realize that this is my life. At some point, the stuff I know I have to do and will get to eventually and the stuff I’ve always wanted to do but will probably never do are eclipsed by the stuff I do every day. The two extremes get further apart. Time and distance, no response.

So I find things to preoccupy me even more. When I’m busy enough, I almost lose sight of my to-do list. I have a whole new arsenal of excuses… I just started playing this new game with the kids. The Voice is on in half an hour. We’re supposed to be meeting friends for dinner. I got a role in another play. Everything else will have to wait. I need time to think. Eventually, time will run out, and I won’t be able to do anything about it, no matter how carefully-worded my retort may be.

Oct
3
2014

bring something back

that beat
It’s weird being old school as a Gen-Xer. Just because we were the last generation raised without internet during our childhood doesn’t mean we are completely out to lunch as adults. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I was talking with a friend of mine this week about office work and what it takes to do a job in today’s world. We talked about how it would be to go back in time and work in an office environment, pre-internet. There’s s a great story there, I think. I don’t know if I could possibly write it without causing serious damage to my work ethic and day-to-day mentality.

sexy
A girl at work keeps her iPod rolling all day long with Pandora playing some seriously good tunes. I find myself coming up with every excuse in the book to walk by her desk and hear what she’s listening to at any given time. Last time I moseyed laconically past, it was The Mountain Goats. She probably thinks I’m creepy, but I linger. Funny how good music can endear an entire person to you.

booty
I went home the other night and no one was there, so I decided to scroll the internet and have a beer. I opened the fridge, and there was the good stuff, my usual favorites. I closed the drawer, got back in my car, and drove to the gas station to buy Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s five bucks for a six pack. I could buy a lot of it at that price, and keep my beer fridge stocked. I came back with my treasure and the night nurse just shook her head at me. I felt like I did something wrong, crossed some line, committed some sin, and I think the beer tasted the better for it.

glamour
My eldest is the fashionista of the house. She picks out everyone’s clothes every day. I have no idea what it takes to be fashionable. I’m just glad most of my clothes still fit and aren’t so stained or threadbare and faded that they need replacing. The other day, I wore my old bowling shirt to work, the red and white polyester one emblazoned with the name “Tony” and got more compliments on it than anything I’ve worn in ages.

sunshine
I’m loving this weather. October has always been my favorite month. As my parents said back in the day, what are you doing, sitting there, staring at that screen? Get outside and enjoy the crisp autumn day! They were right. It’s beautiful out there.

Oct
2
2014

School, meetings, teachers, principals, special education, nurses. It’s an endless line of people to see, calls to make, details to explain. They have their ideas, we have the things we’d like to do, and we sit back when we can and watch what happens, hoping against hope that reason and sense figure into their budget and their plan somehow.

There are milestones they’d like to see my son hit, and we know it’s hard for him, and them. He needs constant supervision, both educational and medical. He doesn’t have much of an attention span. He’s always tired. They ask, can we give him a break? There’s a separate room he can rest in, if he needs to relax for a while. And he doesn’t apply enough pressure when he puts pencil to paper. Can we work on that?

The words are head-spinning, mind-numbing, and often cold. We rip through the red tape as much as we can. We do what’s best for Fin, not what’s best for the school. He’s not a distraction in class. He’s not distracted by the other kids. Of course, on the first day, everyone came up to him and wanted to know about all his equipment. What’s that tube? Why does this machine beep sometimes? No, you can’t press those buttons. It helps him breathe. He’s fine, he’s just different.

He’s making friends and making strides. He works hard, and some days are better than others. He recognizes more words, he can write his name. He’s picking up on rhyming and other repetitive concepts. He gets rewarded for good behavior and gets to play the iPad if he completes his assignments. He doesn’t know it, but the games he’s allowed to play fit their curriculum, so he’s doing work even if he’s having fun. And I think that’s what kindergarten is like for every kid.

The mornings are hectic, and everyone helps everyone else get ready. We make sandwiches, fill water bottles, get snacks for the girls. We always get Fin a snack, even though he doesn’t eat. He can at least have a cheese stick or some animal crackers on the table when everyone else has snack time. It’s only fair, right? He’s fine, he’s just different.

School pictures were the other day, and as my oldest daughter was leaving the house, she turned around. She pointed to Fin and said to us, “When he has his picture taken, don’t let them hide the trach like they did last year.” We didn’t. It wasn’t part of the plan back then, and it’s not now.

Sep
29
2014

cover yourself

It’s morning and time for a shower. I stand under the stream of water and try to wake up. I lather shampoo into my hair and then turn to face the water again. My eyelids are closed but I suddenly realize that more light than before is now streaming into the shower. I cover myself with my hands and open my eyes and sure enough, there’s my son, holding back the curtain and letting water spray everywhere and the world in on my shower.

He laughs and runs away. I finish my shower and grab my towel. I dry off in a hurry and head upstairs to get my clothes. There, in the bedroom, are my cats. They are soaking up the first rays of morning sun that have fallen through the skylight. They look at me demurely for a moment and then go back to licking themselves. I’m glad they have no interest in me. I stop and think back to Mad Magazine for a moment.

Don Martin was one of my favorite artists. There was this great cartoon he did of a man jumping out of a window naked. A woman is in bed and another man is confronting her, saying he knows the guy is here, he saw his car, his clothes, he couldn’t just disappear. The man in question is hanging off a ledge by his fingertips, his bare butt sticking out for the viewer and the world to see, but in front of him, there’s a window to the apartment below. A kitten is sitting on the sill, his sharp little claws reaching out for the dangly plaything that has suddenly appeared before him.

I turn my back to the cats and get dressed quickly, still thinking about Mad Magazine. I read it religiously as a kid, first with my best friend, behind my parents’ back. Then when they found out, they bought me a subscription. I loved the fold-in covers and cartoons and movie parodies and read each issue cover to cover. There was one time, though, when I was in K-Mart and I saw a special issue I didn’t have and I picked it up and carried it with me to the front counter. My father saw it, and told me I couldn’t buy it. He said it was inappropriate and pointed to the cover. There was a model with a tooth blacked out like Alfred E. Neuman, and a headline that read Sports Titillated. I don’t think my father got the joke. He saw tit in the title and I had to put the magazine back.

I think Mad Magazine probably skewed my sense of humor. And I probably saw my fair share of actual swimsuit issues, among other magazines. As a parent, you can do your best to protect and censor, but it’s funny what sticks with you. I guess you can’t explain your deviancy to anyone.

Sep
24
2014

my daughter does not have a boyfriend

At the end of the school year, she was asked out. A boy told a friend who told another friend that he liked my daughter. She liked the sound of this. She told the friend to tell another friend to tell the boy that she liked him. It got back to her the same way that he wanted to be her boyfriend. She agreed, and the grapevine held up, and just like that, they were fourth grade sweethearts.

My daughter told her mother that she needed to talk to me about it. She wanted to make sure it was okay with me first. Aside from the initial shock that my daughter was dabbling around with the hearts of boys, this was the first prick of my parental hackles. Such sweetness. Such innocence. I half expected to see the boy show up on the porch, a rose or two in his nervous and trembling fist, and ask the permission of dear old dad. This was the image I had in my head. It wasn’t too far off. I had heard good things about the boy. He was a nice boy.

Summer rolled around and the nice boy came to my daughter’s birthday party. He wasn’t sure he was invited. He had to find out through the chain of friends if he could indeed come, and then the telephone game continued when he wanted to know if his little brother could come, too. His mother called and asked, and we said of course. Such a nice boy. He came to the party and I watched as he and my daughter did not interact at all. Not one bit. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was like watching a scene from my own youth.

I was a nice boy. I had a fourth grade crush who would eventually become my fifth grade girlfriend. I did my best not to talk to her, either. I was shy, she was uninterested, and I tried madly to secure my future position with her through a series of desperate conversations with friends. Did she still like me? What was she doing this weekend? Could I call her? I might be able to talk to her over the phone. I tried it a few times. It was easier. If I froze up, she could fill in the gaps in the conversation and not see me sweating and stammering. I called the radio station and dedicated a song to her. That was easier.

Summer did its damage, as it has a way of doing, or undoing, in the affairs of young love. I asked my daughter when school started this year if she still had a boyfriend. She shrugged and said she guessed so. My little father’s heart was pricked again. All of a sudden, I was eleven years old, waiting in vain while my maybe-girlfriend spent the summer with relatives in Massachusetts. I remembered baseball practice with a buddy, cramming watermelon Bubble Yum in our cheeks, sitting on the bench and spitting on the ground as we pined away for our far-off loves.

As the kids settled into school and activities were planned and time slots filled with this and that, the word came down. My daughter did not want him to be her boyfriend anymore. She told a friend, who told a friend, and well, the rest fell in line. His mother called my wife, and she wanted to know what he could have done differently, and my daughter was not unkind, she said she just didn’t want a boyfriend. It was simple and clear cut. The nice boy doesn’t have to wonder anymore.

Sep
5
2014

If I could tell you five things…

Everything changes.

There are always perfectly good excuses.

I’m sorry I mistook a point of view for the wisdom of experience.

At some point, dissecting the life you live doesn’t seem as important as living it.

I’m glad a lot more people than ever have before took the chance on reading the words I put together. That will last me a while, and I’m grateful.

Aug
29
2014

Ah, why not? It’s Friday.

Ah, why not? It’s Friday.

Aug
29
2014

Reblogged from houseofjules2 :

houseofjules2:

Guys? Guys! Ben(retracingben)’s monthly mix tape is out today! Click here for his I Just August 14 picks!
Best Friday of a holiday weekend ever or best Friday of a holiday weekend ever?! (yes and yes)
Thanks, Ben!

I always send my mixes to Jules first because I know she’s going to post them, and that makes me happy. But anyone is welcome to listen. There’s nothing like a good mixtape, even if it’s virtual, and I own none of the songs, and not everyone can listen to them. Wait, you know what, maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s still fun, and I enjoy making them. I do one every month.

houseofjules2:

Guys? Guys! Ben(retracingben)’s monthly mix tape is out today! Click here for his I Just August 14 picks!

Best Friday of a holiday weekend ever or best Friday of a holiday weekend ever?! (yes and yes)

Thanks, Ben!

I always send my mixes to Jules first because I know she’s going to post them, and that makes me happy. But anyone is welcome to listen. There’s nothing like a good mixtape, even if it’s virtual, and I own none of the songs, and not everyone can listen to them. Wait, you know what, maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s still fun, and I enjoy making them. I do one every month.

Aug
29
2014

we’re all just as unique as the next guy

I just ate half a bagel, not toasted, with nothing on it, and nothing to drink. I think it’s stuck in my system somewhere. Unlike last night’s burritos. I apologized to my wife this morning because I kept walking away from her while she was talking to me, but I told her I had to leave the burrito cloud that was surrounding me. She said she was wondering what that smell was. And, yawning, she told me there was egg salad in the fridge.

The egg salad was not from our chickens. Store bought eggs are easier to peel. They sit longer and release a gas that loosens the inner membrane. Gross, right? You wish you had chickens now.

I read today that we are all in our own biological cloud of germs, and it’s as unique as our fingerprints. It keeps us healthy. So we’re all Pig-Pen from the Charlie Brown comics, and that’s a good thing.

The IT guy at work just asked me if I had a spare Mac lying around. It just so happened that my old computer was sitting on the floor under my desk on an old phone book (two old things no one uses anymore) and I brought it down to him and he fired it right up. It still had my old Big Lebowski wallpaper on it. See, it’s good to keep old things around. You never know when you might need a barely-functioning G4 Mac from 2001.

My son is officially a kindergartener now. The first day was rough, I thought it might be. He was tired just walking up to his classroom. But he’s so well-known and so well-liked in school, it’s really cool to see. The nurse said it’s like following a rock star around just to get him from place to place. At the end of the day, his teacher sent us an email and said he was an absolute treasure. And his second day was even better. He woke up this morning and when we told him he didn’t have school for three more days, he was upset. He couldn’t wait to go back today.

Aug
29
2014

Reblogged from lochguinessmonster :

matthewrblanco:

kimmy-creepers:

imtyrion:

Guy Ritchie : Snatch

Love that movie

But what do know about diamonds? Don’t they come from Antwerp?

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