Musical Theatre

I’ve always thought of musical theatre as being a bit ridiculous. “Need to explain something or resolve some plot element? I know what we’ll do! We’ll SING!” That doesn’t mean that I don’t like any musicals. I just have disengage the part of my brain that tells me a song and dance isn’t the normal human reaction to dealing with issues.

Recently I’ve really come to respect one aspect of musicals above most others, and that is the stage management. We saw Les Misérables last month, and it amazed me how they could have about 25 people on stage singing a big chorus set in a tavern, two bars of music later there were only two people left on stage singing, and two bars after that the set had entirely changed to a city street. The amount of rehearsal and coordination to get all of that to work that quickly and in time with the music is really impressive.

As talented as the actors are, and as good as the music, singing, and dancing can be, sometimes it can be rewarding to just watch how people control the lights and move the furniture.

Posted in thoughts
2018: The Calm Before The Storm

Another year in the books. Like last year it’s been a mixed bag where things have been great (knock on wood) on a personal level while the world continues to get dumber. I’d wish for a better 2019 but I suspect things will get worse before they get better.

The major downside was losing my Kitty, who had been with me through thick and thin for 18 years. There is still no cat in the house, which is odd for me.

This year’s highlight just wrapped up a week ago, when we returned from our trip to California. I’ll create a post on this one once I go through the 1500+ photos I’ve just imported. When I turned 40 I wanted to be on an adventure, so on my birthday I woke up and looked out at the Grand Canyon. This year, I woke up and looked up at Yosemite Falls. This was my third trip to California but I feel that it was my first trip where I really got to experience some things instead of drive past them. Unfortunately it was the first time that I wasn’t able to visit with my friends Jason and Serena, so it’s another reminder that we are all temporary.

I had two or three people tell me this year that they live vicariously through me, and that I’m always doing something. Looking back at the event schedule for the year I count 32 events, some of which lasted multiple days, so guess it’s true that we keep ourselves busy.

Some of the highlights were:

  • Henry Rollins at the Capitol Theatre
  • NHL All-Star Game
  • Soul Rebels at the Ale & Witch
  • Nightwish at Jannus Live
  • Got to see the Lightning eliminate both the Devils and the Bruins from the playoffs.
  • Frank Turner at HOB Orlando
  • Probably the last Slayer show I will get to see, along with Lamb of God, Anthrax, Testament, and Behemoth.
  • Watched the launch of the Parker Solar Probe.
  • David Byrne & the Tune-Yards at Mahaffey Theater
  • The Play That Goes Wrong at the Straz Center
  • Eddie Izzard at Ruth Eckerd Hall
  • Ghost at Ruth Eckerd Hall

So here’s to hoping we all have a good 2019. Try to be nice to one another.

Posted in thoughts
Gracefully or Not, Here I Come

I’m approaching one of those big milestone birthdays that serves as a moment of reflection. There are some things about getting older that suck, but overall I highly recommend it and I hope to continue aging for a good long while (knock on wood). As I get older, I get more leeway to sit and tell stories (It’s in the rules. Look it up) so here we go…

In high school I wrote a story that involved a person who traveled through time to see a younger version of himself, only to realize that the younger him wouldn’t grow unless he had to learn some lessons the hard way. My teacher wanted to put the story into the school literary paper, and I refused. Nothing at that time terrified me more than the idea of making myself a target in school. I lost the story and never could capture the essence of it again, but I regret not having put it into the paper.

In that spirit, here are a few things I wish that my younger self knew, as well as something I’m glad I didn’t know.

Embrace change. My Mom taught me that “the only constant in life is change” but I didn’t internalize that lesson until later. I went to about six different high schools and had been through three divorces by the time I was 16. I hated it. I couldn’t wait until I was an (alleged) adult and would never have to move or say goodbye to my friends again. When I got older I learned that the world doesn’t work that way. No way in hell would I want to go back to being a kid again, but I wish the younger me knew how valuable it was to learn how to adapt to changes.

Nothing lasts forever. Even the Sun will be gone someday. I wish the youger me understood this. At first I thought of this as a curse, as I tried to hold on to people that I cherished. Over time I came to see it as one of life’s greatest blessings. Are things going well? Take time to appreciate it, because it won’t last forever. Are things lousy? Just keep working, because it won’t last forever. Always keep in mind that “This too, shall pass.”

The First Heartbreak is probably not your worst, it’s just the one that you’re least equipped to deal with. I was truly pathetic after my first hard breakup. I’m glad that I DIDN’T have someone to tell me “don’t worry, it gets much worse than this.” It really does get worse. What makes that first one so difficult though is that you really don’t know how to deal with it. Later in life when dealing with a much larger heartbreak I had the perspective and confidence to say “I know how to deal with this, and I will keep moving forward.”

“Someday I’ll…” be dead. When I was younger I remember a lot of hard work and no money to show for it. We were always trying to get the bills paid, struggling to keep up, and looking forward to the magical time when everything was “done” and we could enjoy ourselves. Many things were put off, saying “someday we’ll do this” or “someday we’ll go there” but you never really reach a place where things are “done” until you’re gone. One true epiphany I had in this life happened on my first trip to California. I had never been west of Houston, but I flew out to San Francisco to meet up with a friend. After lunch we headed out to the Marin Headlands to look down on the Golden Gate Bridge. The instant I crested the hill and looked down on the bridge I understood that I’d wanted to stand in that spot and see it with my own eyes for almost my entire life. Here I was at age 35 seeing it for the first time and thinking “it cost me $350 to get here, how in the hell did it take me 35 years?” I’ve traveled a bunch since, and hope I can continue to do so for a long time. Don’t keep putting things off for a day that may never come. A cousin of mine kept a journal, and the last entry in it before he died was “I never made it to Texas.” Something so simple, that would have meant so much to him, and yet he never did it. Grab a hold of opportunities when you can.
Golden Gate Bridge

20 years from now, you will reflect on how dumb you were at this moment right now. Eddie Murphy made a joke about 18-year olds being bad at sex. That offended the 18-year old me. I assumed he was talking about someone else. He wasn’t. Thing is, he talked about how much better people are at 22, and I’m sure he looks back on that now and understands that people in their 30’s and 40’s were laughing more at his naiveté than his insight on that one. Of course this one will probably still hold true for me 20 years from now. The dumb part, not the sex part. C’est la vie.

We’re all just making it up as we go along. At some point you learn that the people around you who you look up to don’t generally have some great insight or knowledge that you will one day acquire. There won’t be a day when they let you into the club and teach you how to adult. The only way you’re going to figure out what to do is by doing the work, making the choices, and accepting the consequences. Find your own path.

Enjoy life. Sure it has it’s down turns, but it pisses me off that I’m not immortal, and that I will have to give this all up at some point. Nothing lasts forever, myself included.

So that’s it. Maybe in another 50 years I’ll have figured out some more things that I will wish my 50-year old me had known. I hope you buy me a beer that day.

1 Comment Posted in thoughts
I’ll See You Tomorrow

There was a time in my life that I thought about killing myself. Don’t go calling 911, it was a long time ago. I haven’t felt that way since I was about 12-14 years old, but it was there. I’m glad we didn’t have a gun in the house at the time, because one of the things that stopped me was the lack of a quick way to do it.

The other major thing that stopped me was procrastination, of a sort. I would keep coming up with excuses to put it off. A common excuse was that I wanted to see who won the next Islanders game in a couple of days. Fortunately, this was the early 80’s when the Islanders were dominant. I always had something to look forward to, even if it was as inconsequential as a hockey game.

That’s the trick though. I was in a bad place, wanting to do something stupid and irreversible, so I would put it off until tomorrow. When tomorrow came, I’d put it off again. Day by day, I eventually got to the point where I forgot to put “suicide” on my daily to-do list.

I’ve never felt that way since, but I still remember how it felt. I remember the feeling that everything was horrible, would always be horrible, and that there would never be an escape.

I had a cousin that killed himself when I was in high school. I had a friend who killed himself almost ten years ago. In each case it came as a shock to me. In both cases, I just wish I could have talked to them.

What would I have done if either of them had called me? Hell, I don’t know. Seeing someone in pain can make you feel helpless. I can’t always cheer someone up. I can’t cure depression. I know what it feels like when you want to help, but there’s nothing you can really DO to make things better. What I do know is that when I had some hard times, having someone to talk to helped. The discussion didn’t have to be about whatever had me down at the time. Just having someone to talk to always made the day easier.

When you’re depressed, reaching out seems impossible. Still, try to do it. All I can say is that for those people living and dead who kept their struggles hidden, I wish they had been able to reach out. If you’re struggling and you’re thinking that there’s no good way out or through, know that people do care. I want you to see tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will tell you the same. If you think you can’t get there, talk to someone. Call a friend or family. It doesn’t even have to be about whatever’s got you down. It just has to get you through the next day.

If all else fails, these people want to see you succeed also:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Posted in thoughts
Story of my life: Songs

Random brain-dump of songs that remind me of people, places, and events. In some cases this is just a single song representative of an entire album. In every case, the song holds some connection for me.

3 Doors Down, Kryptonite
Ani Difranco, Parameters
Ani Difranco, Untouchable Face
Ani Difranco, Welcome To
Arlo Guthrie, Motorcycle Song
Bob Marley, 3 Little Birds
Carpenters, Top of the World
Chvrches, We Sink
Concrete Blonde, Joey
Dido, See the Sun
Divinyls, Touch Me
Dream Theater, The Spirit Carries On
Elton John, Crocodile Rock
Evanescence, Bring Me to Life
Foreigner, Jukebox Hero
Frank Turner, Love Ire & Song
Iron Maiden, Wasted Years
Jeff Beck, Where Were You?
Joe Satriani, Flying in a Blue Dream
Kiss, Beth
Kosheen, Catch
Metallica, Enter Sandman
Metallica, Ride the Lightning
Nine Inch Nails, Something I Can Never Have
Nine Inch Nails, Hurt
Oasis, Stop Crying Your Heart Out
Queensryche, Silent Lucidity
Rush, Show Don’t Tell
Skid Row, I Remember You
Stevie Ray Vaughn, The House Is Rockin
U2, One
Violent Femmes, Blister in the Sun

Posted in music, Uncategorized
My Friend Is Gone

This is Kitty.

She used to have a different name, but I always just called her “Kitty” and so we eventually changed her name to that. My friend Chad brought her to us on the very first full day that we spent in our new house. For about a year she was an only cat. Soon, she became the oldest of the four cats that I had acquired. For a while it was just four cats and myself against the world. As the other cats passed on, Kitty was the only one left, and for the last five years she was once again an only cat.

Kitty died two days ago on Friday, March 9th, 2018.

The sense of loss that I feel from her absence is immense. After 18 years I have spent more time with this cat than with any other living being. More than with my Dad, more than with my Mom, more than anyone. I used to joke that it was because she couldn’t operate doorknobs. In truth, this cat adored me and followed me everywhere. Like the picture above, she was almost always in contact with me if she could be. When I was home she was almost always at least within my sight. She’s been with me through the best parts of my life and the worst. There have been days when I have collapsed in tears as soon as I got in the door, and within minutes Kitty would be there licking the tears from my cheeks.

Sue and I sat with her for about eight hours on Friday, comforting her as best as we could as she faded away.
The last weak meow she made, and the last lucid movements she made, were to get us to continue giving her belly rubs as we were shifting positions. She never seemed to be in pain. She just got continually weaker until she was gone.

It leaves a scar on my soul to have to dig a grave for my closest friend, carry her to it, and bury her forever. The scar will heal with time, but as with all such scars, part of it will always be there. I was so lucky to have her in my life for as long as I did.

This house has always had a cat in it, until now. There were other cats, but Kitty was the one constant. It was her house, and she was it’s cat. It is less of a home without her.

I miss you my friend. I miss you terribly.

I've Lost My Friend

Posted in Uncategorized
2017: Making 2016 Look Like the Golden Age

2017 has been a Jekyll-and-Hyde kind of year. In the larger sense it often feels like I’m living through some of my history books that were dedicated to illustrating where great societies chose to fail, written with the optimism that having learned the lesson, we would be smart enough to avoid such mistakes in the future. Whether we have learned those lessons yet or not still remains to be seen. Personally, it was a good year. There is tension in that disconnect, but all I can do is try not to focus on the things that are out of my control.

The first big event of the year was trading in my one Mazda for a different Mazda. Driving the Speed 3 was the most fun I’ve had while wearing pants. It was the most reliable car I’ve ever owned, so I’m hoping for a good long life out of the new MX-5. It’s also a ton of fun to drive around.

The highlight of the year was the two vacations that we were able to take in August. The first was a trip up to Tennessee in hopes of seeing a total solar eclipse. When I found out that a total solar eclipse would pass over Nashville, I immediately booked hotel rooms for that weekend. At worst, I would get to visit friends up there. Good thing we booked ahead of time. As the date approached it became impossible to find a room anywhere near the totality. The next decision was trying to figure out where we wanted to view it from. I was thinking about Centennial Park or downtown Nashville, but ended up settling (at the last moment) on Edgar Evins State Park which would have a slightly longer totality. Another lucky choice as much of downtown Nashville got clouded over at the crucial moment. We had perfectly clear skies, and it was AMAZING! I definitely plan on going to see the next one if we can.

Next up was a trip to France. I had never been there, and it was just a fantastic trip from beginning to end. I am very fortunate to have been able to make the trip.
Eiffel Tower

It’s starting to sink in that not only are my mosh pit days behind me, but it’s getting more difficult to commit to standing for 4-7 hours for a show. As a result, I find myself getting more choosy about which shows I go to see. With that in mind, there were still a lot of top-notch shows in 2017.

For non-concert events, we got to see John Cleese, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Henry Rollins, and the USA women’s hockey team.

Concerts included Ghost, Iron Maiden, U2, Lady Gaga, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Muse.

There were others, including some that I got to see for the first time, but the top concert for the year had to be seeing Frank Turner at the Sanibel Writer’s Conference. This was a weird one since it wasn’t a traditional concert venue and we found out about it from a social media post just about a week before it happened. We were not attending the conference, but they said that the evening events were free and open to the public, assuming that there was still space after the conference attendees were seated. We went to Sanibel for a night (about a three hour drive) Not knowing if we’d be able to get in. In the end we managed to see Frank Turner for free from about 10 feet away in a room with only about 100 people in it. It wasn’t strictly free considering it took a tank of gas and a hotel room, and we did make a contribution to the conference for hosting the whole thing, but it was worth it. What a memorable show.

And with that, as 2017 draws to a close, I’ll keep my fingers crossed in the hopes that things better in the coming year.

Posted in Uncategorized
The Alligator Picture

I’ve said before that once a person gets a camera in their hands, they will do some crazy things to “get the shot” that they would never do if the camera was not there.

I am no exception to that rule.

Clyde Butcher is a photographer who is mostly known for his nature photography of the Sunshine State. He’s a nice guy and a Florida treasure. Back in the innocent days of 2010, I took a trip to go camping in the Everglades. On my way down I stopped at Clyde’s Big Cypress Gallery.

As I pulled into the parking area I saw a gator sunning himself by the entrance, just chilling out, so of course I walked over there with my camera. He wasn’t a big guy. I’d guess between six and eight feet in length.

Gator story, pt 1

Gators are common in Florida. We joke (with some basis in reality) that any pool of water large enough to contain an alligator will, at some point, contain an alligator. Usually what we see is just the nose and eyes sticking up out of the water. To see a gator sunning himself (herself?) is not strange, but it’s not quite as common if you live in a suburban area like I do.

So I was moving around the gator and trying to get a better angle for a picture. He saw me, and he wasn’t showing any signs of aggression such as opening his mouth or hissing. I moved in front of the alligator.

Gator story, pt 2

Don’t try this at home. From this point on I will freely admit that I was being an idiot. As awkward as gators look on land, they are fast. As kids in school they teach you to zig-zag away from gators because they can outrun you in a straight line but they don’t corner very well. Chill as this guy looks, I was now taking a risk. Most people reading this will think that I’m crazy or that I have a deathwish.

And yet, I know that some photographer out there is thinking “c’mon, you can do better than that!” Hell, it’s what I was thinking, so I wanted to find a better angle. Like I said, without the camera I would never have been in that position, six feet in front of an alligator’s toothy grin.

I wanted to get lower, but there was an obstacle in my way. In the first picture you can see a guardrail reflected in the water. That guardrail is on the side of US-41, a.k.a. Tamiami Trail. The second picture was taken while holding the camera on top of the guardrail. The only way I could get a lower angle and stay out of arm’s reach was to shoot UNDER the guardrail. After a few attempts at putting the camera on the ground, it was apparent that the only way I could properly frame the picture was to get down there with the camera. This shows you where I was, on the small piece of dry land between the parking area and the water.

I waited for a break in the traffic, took a step out onto the highway, and I got down on my stomach to get a quick picture. I was trying to look left and right down the highway to make sure I didn’t get flattened by a truck, all while keeping an eye on the gator to make sure he stayed put, and trying to frame a picture and operate the camera at the same time.

I was probably on the ground for less than 20 seconds. During that time, no traffic snuck up on me and the gator stayed put. I checked the camera, decided I’d had enough adventure for the time being and went to tour the gallery.

On my way into the gallery, a lady got out of her car with her young daughter and I told her there was a gator over by the entrance sign if she was interested. We were probably a hundred feet from it at this point, and the lady rushed her daughter inside the gallery and away from the gator before I could draw my next breath, as if the gator would rocket across the parking lot.

Ten years ago when I bought my camera, camera displays weren’t as bright as they are now. When I checked the picture I could see that it was crooked but the gator was in the frame, and I didn’t bother to go peeking at individual pixels.

Maybe I should have. I didn’t really see the picture until I got home a few days later. I don’t think I’ve ever posted this before, but here is the shot where I risked getting pancaked by a truck and/or eaten by an alligator so that I could get a picture that is focused on some nice grass that is next to an out-of-focus alligator.

Gator story, pt 3

Sometimes you just don’t get the shot. I occasionally wonder, if I’d known at the time that the picture was out-of-focus, if I’d have gotten down on my stomach and tried again.

We’ll never know.

Posted in Florida Life, outdoors, photography, Uncategorized
Random Thoughts from France

I finally finished processing the pictures from France. Already it seems like it was so long ago. Here are some random thoughts from the trip.

  • Several Paris Metro stations are artistically themed. Arts et Métiers is done in a Jules Verne theme that makes it look like a steampunk station. Louvre-Rivoli has copies of some of the statues in the Louvre.
  • When pulling into a Metro station, the recorded voice will announce the station name twice. The inflection on the first one makes it sound like a question, while the second one is a statement. Tuileries? Tuileries.
  • Sue’s French was good enough that some people didn’t seem to know we were American until I opened my mouth.
  • As Hurricane Irma was approaching Florida, when people asked where we were from, and we said Florida, their faces would light up, they would smile, and then they would immediately drop the smile as they made the connection to the news about the storm and asked us how we were doing.
  • Some of the French food we got was fantastic. Most of it wasn’t very good.
  • Almost all of the other ethnic food we got was excellent. While in Paris we were able to find Senegalese and Tibetan restaurants.
  • Most ethnic food was simple to order since the name was simply a different transliteration than English, but the pronounciation was essentially the same.
        Pho = Pho
        Hummus = Hoummus
        Tagine = Tajine
  • Drivers in Paris will cram as many cars into an intersection as the laws of physics will allow, regardless of lanes or directions, on the assumption that they will figure it all out by the time they exit the intersection. They generally do.
  • Highway entrance ramps actually have signs for no left turn (if entering the highway) or no right turn (if already on the highway) to discourage people from going the wrong way. It seems a bit extreme, but then see the previous point about drivers putting a car any darn place they can.
  • In the older part of Tours, roads were so narrow that I’m surprised we didn’t damage the door making some turns.
  • After driving the narrow streets in Tours, we then noticed that almost every single car had damage to it’s side from not making a corner properly.
  • Sitting at a street-side cafe in Tours, corners were so tight that the guy at the table next to us had to pull his foot in when a car came around the corner.
  • There is almost no concept of take-out coffee.
  • We never saw a single speed trap, other than automated ones that are clearly marked ahead of time. They essentially had signs a few hundred meters before them warning you not to speed past the camera.
  • France has an odd (to me) “Priority to the Right” rule which means cars come barreling into the road from side streets without really looking and it’s your responsibility to make way for them.
  • Once again, roundabouts are fantastic!
  • Proper signalling in a roundabout is incredibly helpful.
  • Drivers will typically use their left turn signal when they pull left to pass someone, but they will leave the signal on while passing.
  • White shirts with blue horizontal stripes really are the national outfit.
  • Dogs and cats are everywhere, as though it’s just accepted that pets are part of peoples lives and will be in public places.
  • Dinner hours are limited. Many restaurants are only open from 7-10. If you miss out on their hours, good luck finding food.
  • Not only are the hours limited, but expect dinner to take at least 2-3 hours. They do not rely on turning tables like American restaurants so they are not quick about it, and if you get a table, it’s probably yours for the night.
  • It seems like absolutely everyone gets bread every day. We watched steady streams of people leaving bakeries with a fresh baguette on their way home.
  • Within a week we were both getting social media ads in French.
  • Two and a half hours is not enough time to clear customs and make a connecting flight in Atlanta.
Posted in travel
Blade Runner 2049

We went to see the new Blade Runner sequel over the weekend. After giving this some thought, I think I like many of the individual bits more than I liked the movie as a whole.

The setting and the music are top-notch. The photography is very good. While most of the characters are pretty good, one or two are fairly pointless. There are a lot of memorable parts to it. There is the seed of a compelling story in there, but it’s never given a chance to take root. Without giving spoilers, it just seems that there was so much of an emphasis on getting Harrison Ford into the movie that they didn’t really know what to do with him. Once he shows up, all of the plot points that seemed interesting get set aside (for future sequels?) in order to focus on him. That portion of the film seems haphazard and rushed, as if this was the 17th attempt at writing something terrific, some parts has already been filmed, and they just had to go with what they had at that point.

There’s a lot to like in it. I just don’t think it fits together as well as it could have.

Posted in movies, Uncategorized