Friday, September 25, 2009

Music time continued

Yep, I am in a list mood. So now were are going to look at the best rock and roll albums of all time. I am going to give brief explanations of the top 10 and my rationale for it. Then move on from there.

1) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
Is it their best album? No. It has it's weak moments, but flat out, there has been no album that so radically changed the course of musical history than this one. It allowed rock musicians to become rock artists.
2) Abbey Road - The Beatles
The last album recorded by the greatest group of all time, this album has some sterling moments, and was the true coming out party for George Harrison. With "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something," Harrison penned the best songs on a Beatles album for the first time.
3) Pet Sound - The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys were trying desperately to counter The Beatles, and this is what came of it, a flat out genius record. With classics like "Sloop John B." and the immortal "God Only Knows," it has ascended to a place of royalty.
4) Revolver - The Beatles
If Sgt. Pepper was the culmination of The Beatles and their efforts to become artists, Revolver was a major step in that direction. No artist had put songs like this together, combing pop ("Here, There, and Everywhere"), rock ("Taxman," "Got to get you into my Life") and psychedelia ("Tomorrow Never Knows"), The Beatles showed they were no longer the lovable mop tops.
5) Let it Bleed - The Rolling Stones
Featuring the ferocious "Gimme Shelter" as the lead track, the Stones showed they were willing to go toe-to-toe with any band. The culmination of Mick Jagger's and Keith Richards' considerable writing skills, this album also featured "You can't Always get what you Want" and "Street Fighting Man."
6) Rubber Soul - The Beatles
If it seems like there are a lot of Beatles albums in the top 10, well there are. And they deserve to be. This was the album that inspired Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys and showed a maturation of the Fab Four. "You won't see Me," "In my Life," "Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)," and "I'm Looking Through You" all showed that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were no longer content to write songs like "She Loves You."
7) Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Before this album came out, rock and roll was in a rut. It had no leader, no one to carry the torch. The Boss stepped up and said "All right, I will handle all this," and unleashed this classic. Written by a working man for the working man, Springsteen wrote songs about the forgotten masses.
8) Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
By 1965, Bob Dylan had embraced the ways of the electric guitar. This album remains his magnum opus. Anchored by one of the greatest songs ever written, "Like a Rolling Stone," it also featured "Ballad of a Thin Man," "Tombstone Blues," and the ferocious rocker "From a Buck 6."
9) What's the Story (Morning Glory)? - Oasis
The second album by the boys from Manchester, this album vaulted them to the top, and they knew it. Noel Gallagher showed his chops with classics like "Champagne Supernova," "Hey Now," "Morning Glory," "Some Might Say," and the legendary "Wonderwall." In 1996, Oasis was everywhere, ushering in a new British invasion.
10) A Hard Day's Night - The Beatles
Chock full of hits, this song is notable for other reasons as well. The Beatles, especially John Lennon and Paul McCartney, were not content with covering other people's music, especially since they both knew no one out there could do it better. This album was the first comprised of only Lennon/McCartney songs. Does it have some misses? Sure. "Tell Me Why" stands out. But it also has the title track, "Can't Buy me Love," "Things we Said Today," "I'll be Back," and "I Should Have Know Better," all pop rock masterpieces.
11) The Beatles (White Album) - The Beatles
12) Who's Next - The Who
13) The Joshua Tree - U2
14) Nevermind - Nirvana
15) Blond on Blond - Bob Dylan
16) Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
17) Beggar's Banquet- The Rolling Stones
18) Goodbye Yellowbrick Road - Elton John
19) The Stranger - Billy Joel
20) London Calling - The Clash
21) Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles
22) All Things Must Pass - George Harrison
23) Achtung Baby - U2
24) The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle - Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band
25) Disraeli Gears - Cream
26) Imagine - John Lennon
27) Deja Vu - Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
28) Back in Black - AC/DC
29) 1984 - Van Halen
30) Appetite for Destruction - Guns 'n' Roses
31) A Night at the Opera - Queen
32) Exile on Main Street - The Rolling Stones
33) Band on the Run - Wings
34) Layla and Other Love Songs - Derek and the Dominoes
35) Tommy - The Who
36) The Wall - Pink Floyd
37) Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
38) Hotel California - The Eagles
39) The Sun Sessions - Elvis Presley
40) Thriller - Michael Jackson
41) What's Going On? - Marvin Gaye
42) The Great 28 - Chuch Berry
43) ZoSo/IV - Led Zeppelin
44) The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - David Bowie
45) Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - The Sex Pistols
46) The Band - The Band
47) Tapestry - Carole King
48) The Sound of Silence - Simon and Garfunkle
49) War - U2
50) Run Devil Run - Paul McCartney
51) The Who Sell Out - The Who
52) Please Please Me - The Beatles
53) Sticky Fingers - The Rolling Stones
54) Here's Little Richard - Little Richard
55) Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder
56) Are you Experienced? - Jimi Hendrix
57) After the Gold Rush - Neil Young
58) Damn the Torpedoes - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
59) Get a Grip - Aerosmith
60) Retrospective - Buffalo Springfield
61) Daylight Again - Crosby, Stills, and Nash
62) Cosmo's Factory - Creedence Clearwater Revival
63) Graceland - Paul Simon
64) Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane
65) Lady Soul - Aretha Franklin
66) Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
67) Everybody Knows this is Nowhere - Neil Young
68) Ten - Pearl Jam
69) Madman Across the Water - Elton John
70) Nylon Curtain - Billy Joel
71) Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin
72) Help! - The Beatles
73) Double Fantasy - John Lennon
74) Full Moon Fever - Tom Petty
75) Bringin' it All Back Home - Bob Dylan
76) Let it Be - The Beatles
77) Metallica (The Black Album) - Metallica
78) Wish you were Here - Pink Floyd
79) Songs from the Big Chair - Tears for Fears
80) Fresh Cream - Cream
81) Sweet Baby James - James Taylor
82) Loaded - The Velvet Underground
83) Sweetheart of the Rodeo - The Byrds
84) Beatles for Sale - The Beatles
85) Into the Great Wide Open - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
86) Unplugged in New York - Nirvana
87) Harvest - Neil Young
88) Be Here Now - Oasis
89) Synchronicity - The Police
90) Bringing Down the Horse - The Wallflowers
91) Don't Believe the Truth - Oasis
92) All That you Can't Leave Behind - U2
93) Ten Summoner's Tales - Sting
94) Brainwashed - George Harrison
95) The Division Bell - Pink Floyd
96) Darkness on the Edge of Town - Bruce Springsteen
97) Live at the Regal - B.B. King
98) Paranoid - Black Sabbath
99) There is Nothing Left to Lose - The Foo Fighters
100) Definitely Maybe - Oasis

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Music time

OK, so I haven't really written about music in my blog, and I decided that time has come. I am going to compile my list of greatest rock and roll songs of all time. Some of you (you know who you are) will undoubtedly disagree with my list. But that is the fun in these lists isn't it? So feel free to disagree and argue!

1) A Day in the Life - The Beatles
2) Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones
3) Layla - Derek and the Dominoes
4) Baba O'Riley - The Who
5) For What it's Worth - Buffalo Springfield
6) Imagine - John Lennon
7) All Around the World - Oasis
8) Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
9) Hey Jude - The Beatles
10) Dream On - Aerosmith
11) Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
12) Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
13) Won't get Fooled Again - The Who
14) Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
15) Somebody to Love - Queen
16) Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley
17) Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry
18) Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones
19) Let it Be - The Beatles
20) Jumpin' Jack Flash - The Rolling Stones
21) Tutti Fruiti - Little Richard
22) American Girl - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
23) One - U2
24) Oh, Pretty Woman - Roy Orbison
25) Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen
26) Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney
27) God Only Know - The Beach Boys
28) In My Life - The Beatles
29) Back in Black - AC/DC
30) Running with the Devil - Van Halen
31) Son of a Preacher Man - Dusty Springfield
32) Think - Aretha Franklin
32) War - Edwin Starr
33) What is Life - George Harrison
34) You Really got Me - The Kinks
35) White Room - Cream
36) Southern Man - Neil Young
37) Carry On - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
38) Time - Pink Floyd
39) Please Please Me - The Beatles
40) The Hurricane - Bob Dylan
41) Message in a Bottle - The Police
42) In the Air Tonight - Phil Collins
43) Don't be Cruel - Elvis Presley
44) Blue Suede Shoes - Carl Perkins
45) Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
46) Fool in the Rain - Led Zeppelin
47) Join Together - The Who
48) Woodstock - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
49) Pride (In the Name of Love) - U2
50) Jeremy - Pearl Jam
51) Letters from the Wasteland - The Wallflowers
52) Feelin' Alright - Traffic
53) The Story in your Eyes - The Moody Blues
54) Bloody Well Right - Supertramp
55) Wonderwall - Oasis
56) I am the Walrus - The Beatles
57) La Grange - ZZ Topp
58) Paint it, Black - The Rolling Stones
59) Lola - The Kinks
60) It Don't Come Easy - Ringo Starr
61) Rosalita (Come out Tonight) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
62) Free Fallin' - Tom Petty
63) In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
64) Turn it on Again - Genesis
65) Karnevil 9: Second Impression - Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
66) Blitzkrieg Bop - The Ramones
67) A Hard Rains Gonna Fall - Bob Dylan
68) Sowing the Seeds of Love - Tears for Fears
69) Rain on the Scarecrow - John Mellencamp
70) Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
71) Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles
72) All Shook Up - Elvis Presley
73) You can't Always get what you Want - The Rolling Stones
74) Wish you were Here - Pink Floyd
75) Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
76) Welcome to the Jungle - Guns 'n' Roses
77) Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2
78) Beat It - Michael Jackson
79) Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles
80) Heart Shaped Box - Nirvana
81) Learning to Fly - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
82) Falling Down - Oasis
83) Maybe I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney
84) Rock and Roll Music - Chuck Berry
85) Steam - Peter Gabriel
86) My Generation - The Who
87) Train in Vain - The Clash
88) What's Going On? - Marvin Gaye
89) Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon
90) Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles
91) Instant Karma! - John Lennon
92) Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
93) Lyla - Oasis
94) Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley
95) Enter Sandman - Metallica
96) Street Fighting Man - The Rolling Stones
97) Walk This Way - Aerosmith
98) Rock and Roll - Led Zeppelin
99) Down by the River - Neil Young
100) Touch Me - The Doors

There it is. My completely unscientific list of what I consider the 100 greatest songs in rock and roll history. Feel free to disagree!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Consequence of Inaction

As those constant readers know, I have been engaged in attempting to donate my kidney.
A couple days ago, I met with the surgeon, a good guy who knows his stuff. At that point we had decided to do the surgery within a month. Then I got the bad news.
In order to donate an organ, hospitals have to to run something called a crossmatch. They did one at the beginning of the process and one in July. They were fine. They did one last week and it tested positive for antibodies. Bad news. What's worse is, it didn't need to happen.
I am reluctant to name the hospital responsible for this, suffice it to say, it has University in the name, as well as the name of the city in which I live. You can do the math.
What do I mean when I say it didn't have to happen? Due to terrible communication and organization, the hospital waited too long. Way too long. This process began in May. I find out in September that a problem has arisen. Five and a half months.
Every piece of information I have received, I forced it out of that facility. At least with my first two coordinators were terrible with communication. Terrible. And the consequences are, they were playing with a man's life.
Now, we aren't dead in the water yet. The surgeons are coming up with possible solutions, including plasmapherisis. But, people need to learn the consequences of their actions, or inactions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Are we all together?

I have avoided talking much in the way about politics on this blog. Mostly because there are what seem like billions of political blogs already out there in cyberspace. But, I feel like I have to say something about the health care debate.
I have not hidden my views on this. If you don't know, I am stridently for a universal health care system in these United States of America.
Here we are, the United States, the great beacon, the shining city on a hill as Ronald Reagan once put it, yet we turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends, our loved ones and strangers.
What do I mean? Simply this. There are 47 million uninsured Americans at this point, of which I am one. 47 million people who live in fear everyday. And it doesn't take much to instill that fear. Even something so simple as a cut on the arm or finger, nothing too serious in the regular course of things, can induce fear. "What if that get's infected?" people think. I know because, as I said, I am one of them. Or the fear of stepping wrong, falling and breaking an ankle. How much does that cost with no coverage? Or, let's talk worst case scenario, because that is what this is really all about. The worst case. What if, in November, I start feeling kind of crummy. And don't get any better, rather get worse. Finally, I force myself, despite the cost, to go to the doctor. He runs some tests and calls a few days later. I am a writer, so let's do a short play.

Doctor: Jason, this is Dr. Berwald, I have the results of your tests.
Me: OK, I hope it's not too terribly bad.
Doctor: Well, I wish I could say it was good news, but it's not. You had better sit down for this, Jason. You have testicular cancer.
Me: Oh...well...that really sucks.
Doctor: We need to discuss treatment options for you, Jason.
Me: Ummm. I don't have any insurance.

That is probably how the conversation would end. No insurance means no treatment. No treatment equals a death sentence pronounced and carried out, because our country has no universal health care. Now, I am a college graduate, and am reasonably intelligent, so it stands to reason that I will find employment again, and will be provided benefits.
However, what about the people in this country who weren't afforded the same opportunities as me?
People work at places that don't offer health insurance, and aren't paid enough to buy it privately. So the same scenario above applies to them. Your neighbor down the street gets laid off and cannot afford the COBRA payments, so he is in the same boat.
I do not view this as a debate of capitalism versus socialism. I view it as a moral question. Do we, as a nation, condemn these people to death? Granted, not all of the 47 million will get cancer. But if one does, how can we stand by and let that person die? Since when did that become an acceptable proposition in this country? As it stands, 15,000 people die each year in the United States because they have no coverage.
There has been so many lies and misinformation spread about universal coverage, I would like to try and dispel some of them.
The first is that under a universal plan, our overall health care would suffer. That we would wait months to see the doctor and our nation would become less healthy as a result.
Well, that is false. Under our current system, the United States ranks 37th in the world in health care, just behind Costa Rica and just above Slovenia according to the World Health Organization. The country rated the highest? France, and it's evil, socialistic plan. Other countries demonized in this debate include Canada, England, and Sweden. Where do they rank? England is 18th, Sweden is 23rd, Canada is 30th, all significantly higher than the United States.
For all this talk of our great system by fellas like Sean Hannity, and how it is the best in the world, the United States ranks 24th in average healthy life expectancy, again according to the WHO.
Another misconception is that this plan will cover illegal immigrants. That is a lie, despite what Joe Wilson thinks. There is specific language in the bill that states that illegal immigrants will not be covered.
I wish I had the wherewithal to address the near psychotic ravings of Sarah Palin and her ideas that there will be death panels under this plan. But I just don't have the energy, and I really don't think her marginalized views are worth repeating.
Basically, I view this as our chance to get something right. To become something bigger than we actually are. In the western world, the United States is the only country without some form of universal health care. Looking outside the so called first world, countries like Cuba, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago have some form of universal coverage.
The time has come for the United States to get with the program. That this debate has been hijacked by Hannity, Palin, Glen Beck and others is sickening. We need to refocus the debate and say we won't sit back and rest on our laurels, whatever laurels we have in this regard. The time has come for us to once again say we will look out for our neighbors, our friends, our countrymen. The time has come for us to say, "We will not allow our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors and strangers eight states away to die because of inaction."
Because otherwise, if you and I don't do something, everyone that dies because they have no health coverage, their blood is on our hands. And that is a stain that never washes away.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I will not talk about Kanye West

And I mean it.
Tonight, I want to talk about the virtue of a good night's sleep.
For years now, I have been an on again/off again insomniac. It comes in cycles. Right now, I am in the midst of one of the worst cycles I have ever had.
My insomnia comes in two forms. Either I cannot stay asleep, or I cannot fall asleep. Right now, it's the latter.
In the past two weeks, I have been falling asleep around 6 a.m. Yesterday, I fell asleep at about 8:30 in the morning. It was the start of a lovely day. I know, I saw it happen.
I slept for about four hours then forced myself to wake up in the hopes that by the evening, I would be so exhausted, I could not help but fall asleep at a halfway decent hour. Well, clock on the wall say 3:37 a.m. and I am not feeling too terribly tired at the moment.
It's amazing what sleep can do for us. It resets everything. It gives us peace of mind and refreshes the batteries.
When that is taken away from us, for whatever reason, things go hazy real quick like. What do I mean by this? Well, we've all pulled all nighters in college, studying for some big exam. We've all had projects for work that kept us up all night. Think back to those nights, when all is quiet and it's just you there alone. Your mind starts playing tricks on you. Your body begins to get weary. No amount of coffee or soda or Red Bull (I think that stuff sucks by the way) can change that. In the dead of that night, you could easily picture yourself going crazy. You even begin to wonder if it has already started.
I am in the middle of about 12 of those nights in a row. It begins to take it's toll. I find myself less able to focus and react. My reflexes are down and my mind feels slightly foggy. It short, it sucks.
I miss a good night's sleep. I need one, desperately. The only solace I take is that I know eventually the cycle will break. Eventually one night around 10:30 or 11:oo in the evening my body will say, "OK. Let's go to sleep." And I will sleep through the night. And that is all it takes. One night can completely make up for weeks of insomnia. I wake up the next morning feeling refreshed, feeling awake and aware.
Hopefully that day will happen soon. In the meantime, I hope all of you out there, wherever you are, sleep well tonight.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Letters from the wasteland

The title of this post comes from my favorite Wallflowers song of the same title. I used it, because I want to talk about something I really feel. And that is alone.
Now, I don't want this to come off like I am having a self-pity fest '09. That isn't my goal. My goal is to express how lucky some people truly are.
If you are reading my blog for the first time, let me elucidate. I was married at 25, divorced by 26. A marriage that lasted a grand total of 8 months. It was not a divorce of my choosing.
Now, since then, I have dated. And many of those women I have dated have been wonderful, great people. And in their own ways, I loved most of them. I am also happy to say that I love them more now, than I did then, as I have remained friends with the bulk of them.
But, and this is a huge but (that sounds funny. Everyone get in a chuckle, I can wait), the simple fact of the matter is, at night, I go to sleep alone. In the morning I wake up alone. And that is my dominant thought throughout the day. I am alone.
I think about an episode of Scrubs that really addresses this. Here is a link to the penultimate moment of the show that I feel really locks this down:
Go ahead and watch it, I'll be here.
Get it? Good. Dr. John Dorian is right. Nothing does suck more than feeling all alone when there are plenty of people around. If I could be so bold as to explain. I have the greatest family and friends on Earth. Seriously, in that regard I am one damned lucky man. And while I wouldn't trade any of them for anything, you and I and the guy down the street and some dude living in Outer Mongolia all know it's not the same thing.
I'd say about 98 percent of my friends are either married, engaged, or in a relationship. This makes hanging out with them quite awkward. I am either the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, whatever, wheel. And there is that ever present feeling of jealousy. I look at them, remembering what I thought I had with my ex-wife, what I've had with a couple other women, and it stings. Because I want that. I want it again.
Each day that passes, each second that ticks by, I feel some of my life's goals slipping away. I feel like time is mocking my attempts at building some sort of life, like my attempts at rebuilding are feeble. And I have to be honest with you, I am growing tired of people telling me I have time. Time, despite what the Rolling Stones may say, is not on my side. Time is far from on my side. People say, "Well 30, you are still young! You have plenty of time." No. I get that they are trying to make me feel better. But no. I am a fairly intelligent individual, and I get how all of this works.
So then the question become, where do I meet someone? Thirty seems a might long in the tooth to be hitting the bars. So you say, "Jason, what about the interwebs?" OK. We'll give that a go. Mega successful so far. Naught and not. I am half convinced I am just going to have to wander the streets with a sign around my neck that says, "Single man here!!" But then, I'd probably just get chucked in the mental institution. I could work the old charm on Nurse Ratchet.
People say, "Well, men don't have a biological clock like women do." You know what I say to that? Bullshit. I want to be a father. Really, I do. And here is the thing. I'd like to be able to enjoy my kids. I don't want to be the father who can't play with his kids because he is too damn old. I want to coach baseball or football or hockey.
I have a sort of calculation here, using previous relationships as a sort of guide. Say I meet someone tomorrow and we really hit it off. Goody. That would be great. And say you need around a year or so to really determine if this is the way to go. The one you love, the one to spend your life with. Takes me to 31. So we get engaged. Then there is wedding planning. A year? Year and a half? About right. 32, or a little more. And unless the woman I meet is willing to start having kids like, on the honeymoon, could I be looking at 34, 35, 36 when I have my first child? Perhaps. Could some time be shaved off of that? Sure. But it's more likely to be added.
Here is the worst part. Every now and again, someone comes wandering into your life, and you think, "Hey now. There could be something here. Something special. Something worth exploring." And you grab it.
Then something occurs that you didn't foresee but should have. The light that is shone into your life by that person is ever so brief. Like a match in a dark room, and gutters out. And there is that realization that you have failed again. And it's like a sucker punch to the gut. It knocks all the wind out of you and sends you reeling, looking for that light once more. You are left with a sense of bewilderment, of confusion, of disappointment.
Here is what I would say about that. It's not desperation. It's not obsession or fascination. It's the hope of salvation. And I mean salvation in every sense of the word. I firmly believe that when two people meet and connect and are in love, there is a sense of salvation there, of each person saving the other's life. John Steinbeck once said, "A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ." He is right. He could have used lonely in place of sad and it would've worked just as well.
I know I am far from being alone in this regard. But sometimes I can't help but feel like a man adrift on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific. No hope in sight. There's land out there somewhere, a lot of it, but it's certainly not on the horizon.
This is starting to sound like a pity party and I hate that. I am not one for self pity. So let me try and turn this on the right track.
To those of you out there, my friends and family who have that person in your life that completes you, I say congratulations. From the bottom of my heart, I mean it. Don't take it for granted. Remember just how lucky you are. Because you truly are.

Tales of the kidney donor

This won't be a long post, because I still haven't donated my kidney yet.
But, I thought I would update everyone. All three of my followers. HA!
September 18th, I go in for some more blood work. If everything looks good, they are talking about having the surgery two weeks later. So feasibly, I could be spending my 30th birthday in the hospital.
Now, I have no problem spending my 30th in the hospital, and I'll tell you why. I told the recipient's wife, "I could get no greater present on my birthday than to give your husband a kidney." And I mean it.
Darrel, the recipient, is a good man, a good father, a good husband. It's the least I can do to help him continue doing those things. Sometimes it seems the world has precious few.
So, despite all the inconvenience, I am committed to see this through.
I will keep everyone posted as the surgery nears. Thanks!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9/11 Revisited

I think every generation has a "where were you when," moment. For my grandparents, it was Pearl Harbor. For my parents, it was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Or Martin Luther King Jr. Or Robert Kennedy. For the early generation Xers, like mny Aunt Tricia, I think it was probably the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
Now, of course, my grandparents will remember where they were when the Kennedys and King were assassinated, as well as where they were when the Challenger exploded. Indeed, I remember where I was that day.
But I was too young then to appreciate what happened. But all of these events represent a loss of innocence. An episode in life that changed everything. Like Martin Scorcese put it once, "a national car crash."
For my generation, for me and my friends, the day that changed everything was of course, September 11, 2001.
I debated blogging about this, and I'll tell you why. I think if we dwell on things too long, they become dangerous. When I was editor in chief of The Current at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, I debated whether or not to do any coverage of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the year 2003. It was only a scant two years later, and indeed there were memorials and other services planned both in the city of St. Louis and on campus. In the end I decided against covering these events, aside from where they ran as general announcements. I made a purely emotional decision that with time, must come healing.
I still believe that is true. The eighth anniversary of that dark day just passed two hours and twenty three minutes ago. I saw that a couple channels were showing special programming dedicated to the attacks. I didn't want to watch them, but inevitably I did end up turning one of them on, on MSNBC. It took me back to that day.
I was at Southeast Missouri State University. I was sharing an apartment with three other guys, and we had a television set up in the living room. I was doing some last second studying for a chemistry test, when one of my roommates, Landon, knocked on the door and told me there had been an accident in New York.
"What kind of accident," I asked.
"A plane just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers," he replied.
All thoughts of chemistry vanished. I set it aside and joined the other three in the living room with a cup of coffee that was soon forgotten.
We stared in shock as reports came in of smoke and fire and destruction.
My roommate Greg wondered aloud how many people work in the Twin Towers.
I said, "Tens of thousands I am sure. Those things are like 1600 feet tall."
How, we wondered, could someone have made an error like that? Who fell asleep at the switch?
We were still safely living in the idea that this was accidental. ABout 15 minutes or so after I joined my roommates, something caught our eye at the edge of the screen.
My roommate Aaron caught it first.
" that another plane?" he asked. The shock was evident in his voice.
We watched in horror as the plane collided with the second tower, and a fire ball billowed from the opposite side of impact.
We were stunned, speechless. Seconds seemed to spin into hours.
And then I said, "This was no accident. We are under attack." This was around, oh 9:05 or so in the morning. We kept watching in shocked horror.
Then reports came in that the Pentagon had been hit. The Pentagon. This hit me harder than the WTC. And I'll tell you why. I had known from a documentary on the Pentagon that it was supposed to be well nigh impervious. Missles buried in the ground. Persistent anti-attack measures. They were, apparently, worthless against a 747.
I had to get up to leave. I had a class. Old Testament Literature it was called. I had to force myself away. My class was at 10.
I got in the car and drove to campus, with Cape Girardeau's local news station, which was patched in to a New York station, on the radio. As I was listening, I heard the reporter say that one of the towers had just collapsed.
I couldn't believe it. I kind of zombie-walked into class. I was the last one there. It was around 10:05. No one else knew the tower had collapsed. My professor saw me and asked what had happened. I said, "One of the towers just collapsed."
He stopped for a second, looked around at everyone, and said, "Go home." He knew we wouldn't be able to focus on Dacvid and Bathsheba that day.
I turned around and left, walking to my car on numb feet, driving home, thinking of how many hundreds, if not thousands are hurt. By then, the rampant speculation had begun. 10,000 dead? 30,000?
Right around 10:30 that morning, pretty much right after I walked through the door, the second tower collapsed. But this point we were almost numb. It was then that we got an email from the school saying classes were cancelled for that day and the next. There was no fear of a terrorist attack at SEMO, they said, but out of respect for those lost, the school would close.
I was a member of the SEMO paper then, and had to go to work, as it were. We put together pretty much the same type of newspaper people were putting together across the globe.
Then I had to go to work at Schnucks. I was a checker. Ask me how many people were in there that night. I checked out, maybe, three people in a six hour shift. It was so slow that the manager on duty consented to bringing down the television in the break room so we could see President Bush's remarks about the day.
For many of us in my age group, this represented a loss of innocence. Things would never be the same, and indeed they haven't. But on a purely psychological level (and I say this even though I detest psychology), there was a massive shift. We could no longer look at the oceans as a deterent. For so long, the Pacific and the Atlantic were viewed as the greatest natural deterents. No more. We had been hit on the mainland. We had been hit in our hearts, our minds, our souls.

I don't like to relive the events of that day. I don't particularly enjoy replaying them in my mind. It hurts too much. But, I have those memories forever. They are etched into my mind like no other national event. But, I think the time has come for us to start backing away from these things. It's been eight years. Let us know start the healing in earnest. I feel it has taken too long. This will be the last time I ever write out the events of that day as I remember them. It is my effort to let those old wounds heal.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My grandfather

I talked to my grandfather today. It was the usual conversation we have, lasting about two or two and a half minutes. "How are you? How's the book? How's the weather? Anything new and exciting?"
I go through my usual rigmarole with him, and there is usually not much to say.
But sometimes I think about my grandpa, and how he is really the only man I have ever admired.
My grandfather is a product of the Great Depression, and the Second World War.
My grandfather was a lieutenant in the Army during WWII, and he fought bravely. But he never really recovered from the War. I don't mean he went through PTSD, but rather he could never really reconcile what he did and what he witnessed.
He doesn't really like to talk about the war, other than little snippets. I asked him once about it, and he said to me, and it still breaks my heart, "Jason, I pray to God for forgiveness everyday for what I did in the war." See, he made decisions that got men killed, and killed men, lots of them. And that is something he hasn't been able to accept, all these years later.
Despite his experiences in the last necessary war, my grandfather was determined to live a good life.
And that is exactly what he did. He went to college, Washington University to be exact, and became a mechanical engineer. He made good money his entire working life in an effort to provide his wife and three children, (my mother, uncle and aunt) with a comfortable life. He worked hard for decades to make sure they had what they wanted, but never living to excess.
With the fact that my father missed some of the most important years of my formative life, I looked to my grandfather for guidance. And he did not let me down. He showed me, patently, how to be a man. How to take care of those you love.
My grandfather is the finest man walking this earth, in my opinion. One of the great things about him, despite all he has seen in his 85 years, he retains an amazing sense of humor. He is one damned funny man! And he certainly enjoys finding humor in me, and some of the silly things I say.
I owe my grandfather more than I could ever express. I am grateful to him for showing me what it takes to be a man.

My first blog!

Well folks, if you are reading this, it is my first real attempt at a blog. I won't pigeonhole it as a political, cultural, religious, or whatever blog, rather as my attempt to talk about what's going on in the world.
There is much I could say right now about the world. Bad news, controversy, ignorance, intolerance, etc. However, I think I'll start out with something good.
I find it amazing the little twists and turns life takes. Sometimes old connections are refreshed and a friend you always fondly remembered but never stayed in contact with comes ambling back into your life, with unexpected benefits.
For me, that friend was a dude named Adam Bodendieck. A great guy to be sure, and we had some good times together in college. But after he graduated and I got married (granted for a scant eight months), we drifted apart.
Through the miracles of facebook, we reconnected. And, you will all find this shocking, I am sure, Adam had changed. I am glad to say, for the better. Not that Adam was a bad dude before mind you, but the difference in him staggered me. Now, at this point it had been well nigh 6 years since we had last spoken. In that time a change I could never have anticipated took place in Adam. See, when we were in college, I think it is fair to say that Adam was at the very least agnostic, and probably would have told you then he was a full fledged atheist. Here, six years later, Adam is a card carrying (OK, I've never seen a card) Christian. And I am thrilled for him.
When Adam and I reconnected, I was in a very dark place in my life. It seemed to me that life had become one large trash heep and I was buried at the bottom. Now, before all of you get your panties in a twist and say this sounds like a love letter (which Adam will say it does. To flash back, "I hate you, Adam"), I am just saying that, for me, his unabashed faith showed me that there is some good in this world.
It also allowed me to shine a light on my own faith. I will be honest and say at that point, it was at a very low point. You must understand, I have always believed in God. But that doesn't mean I have always had faith in Him. At that point, my faith was nearing all-time low levels. I had begun to believe that God, while real, could really give a damn about me. I started thinking to myself, "I believe in God, but that doesn't mean I have to like him." It was becoming beyond a mantra, evolving into a philosophy of life. There was a song I listened to a lot (still do, truth be told, but it's a good song, so there!) by Oasis (again, be quiet Adam) called "Falling Down." In it, there was a line that goes, "I tried to talk with God to no avail/Calling Him in and out of nowhere/Said if you won't save me please don't waste my time." I swore by that line. It became like a Psalm, a scripture, a way of life.
I have been reading Adam and his lovely wife Heather's blog, and that has helped a lot. And while I won't say my relationship with God is 100 percent perfect and healed from the low levels it was last year, I will say that it has gotten better. And for those of you who know me, that is a huge thing. I doubt I would/could ever get to the point where I said I was atheist. I know better. But it was not beyond the realm of possibility that I would have gotten to the point that I said, "I hate God." We all feel that way from time to time, I am sure. But the darkness I felt was threatening to drag me down to a point of no return in that regard.
Adam and his wife Heather through their wonderful blog, helped me realize that the problems I faced, the anger that pervaded my life, was not of God's making. Those were byproducts of man's world, and byproducts of my own making. Am I ready to say that I am perfectly grooving on God right now? No. I am just being honest. But, I think God gets that I have my own stuff to work through. And here is something great that Adam and Heather have helped show me via their blog: God has infinite patience for us (he has to, otherwise, there would be a different dominant specie on this planet), and that God truly loves us, and he gets it. He gets that people have their stuff they have to work through on a day to day basis.
Here's the funny thing, Adam and Heather probably don't even know that they helped me as much as they have. So consider this your thank you, folks! Maybe one day I'll take you up on your offer to see what your church is like. But you'll have to be patient. Churches and I have never really gotten along very well. ;)