Saturday school

OK, students, get out your notebooks and write down this bit of wisdom from Gaping Void, because it will be on the test:

We may not be rich, we may not be pretty, but as long as we’re learning, as long as we’re determined to keep it this way, our lives are truly incredible things. So bear that in mind, and Godspeed to you.

https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2019/07/08/why-you-should-never-stop-learning/

R.I.P. Johnny Clegg

Below is a post that originally ran in November of 2017… reposting today after hearing the news about Johnny Clegg passing away. He will be missed. 

Johnny B. Good. Very good.

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

“Hello, I’m Johnny Clegg.”

No doubt you’ve heard of (and heard the music of) the former. Chances are, you’re not familiar with the latter. But Johnny Cash is to country music as Johnny Clegg is to South African music. A pioneer, a trailblazer, a true icon. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call him the Nelson Mandela of music. Back in the Apartheid era, teenage Johnny crossed color lines to learn music and dancing from Zulu men in Johannesburg, and eventually brought it to the world.

“They knew something about being a man, which they could communicate physically in the way that they danced and carried themselves. And I wanted to be able to do the same thing. Basically, I wanted to become a Zulu warrior. And in a very deep sense, it offered me an African identity. It was like a homecoming for me; I don’t know why, but I felt that.”

When he formed an integrated band – Juluka – with Sipho Mchunu, they couldn’t even play in public at first.  Eventually they landed a record deal and toured the world.

When Sipho got homesick and left for his Zululand home, Johnny formed a new band called Savuka, which means “We Have Risen” in Zulu. His songs were at the forefront of the fight for equality in South Africa.

“You could not ignore what was going on. The entire Savuka project was based in the South African experience and the fight for a better quality of life and freedom for all.”

One of the best concerts I’ve ever seen was Johnny Clegg & Savuka at a club in Cincinnati, circa 1993. For some strange, mystical reason, I too wanted to become a Zulu warrior that night. And I can’t dance worth a damn. The passion, the energy, the “goodness” emanating from Johnny and his band was palpable, and the tsunami of positive vibes swept up the whole crowd. “I don’t know why, but I felt that.”

Johnny Cash is gone. Johnny Clegg will be gone soon – he’s battling pancreatic cancer. He just wrapped up a brief U.S. tour and has headed home to South Africa, with one more gig in Cape Town lined up for this year.

NPR has a nice profile of Johnny’s career. (The quotes in this post are from that piece.) Please check it out.

Thank you Johnny, for sharing your music and your love with the world. Don’t stop dancing.

Extra salt, please

We got back from our beach vacation a week ago. I’ve been missing it ever since. Mostly, I miss this:

The gloaming is the best time of day on the beach. It’s quiet, other than the waves (which rank right up there with Buffalo Tom and Superchunk songs on my list of favorite sounds). Peaceful. Relaxing. Gorgeous.

If I’m lucky, I get a couple weeks of beach time every year. That’s not enough. Every day, I hear the ocean calling my name, like the sirens drawing in Jason and the Argonauts. It’s my happy place. What’s not to love about kayaking, bodysurfing, swimming (or just floating), walking along the shore and generally just chilling?

Of course, if I’m at the beach with my wife’s extended family, there’s usually some sort of elaborate planning for our latest opportunity to “go viral.” It never happens, but that doesn’t stop them from scheming. In past years, it was a flash mob and a choregraphed video. This year, it was a drone shot of human letters for the US Women’s National Soccer Team.

We chose the font called “Crooked”

We didn’t make Ellen (yet again), but it’s fun to dream.

One of my co-workers is one of those adult Disney freaks. (I’m sure you know one… stage an intervention if you can.) She bought a condo just outside Disneyworld, and works from there several weeks each winter. I’d be happy to follow her lead and work from a condo near the ocean… any volunteers to buy it for me? You can visit any time….and the first piña colada is on the house.

The XU crew

It all started with this photo:

My college buddy Mike O’Maley used to recreate this scene by hanging upside down from his dorm loft and saying the famous line from Sixteen Candles:

Mike had the “parted down the middle” hairstyle that was popular in the early 80s, and he was the spitting image of Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles. That’s how Mike earned his nickname “The Donger”… which we still call him to this day. (Of course, he also used to spring this trick on unsuspecting folks who were visiting his dorm room in the wee hours to hear his roommate play the full-sized piano that they snuck into the dorms, but that’s a story for another day.)

In May, Mike texted this photo to several of “the old gang” from our Xavier days, which created quite a bit of chatter (yes, old people DO text!) and eventually our friend Tom suggested that we all try to get together. Which, miracle of miracles, actually happened last night. Tom drove up from Louisville, Donger and his wife Missy (a.k.a. “Mister Mister”) drove over from Indy, and a few of the locals showed up as well. We had a nice dinner, then went to the old (and pretty much only) Xavier watering hole, Dana Gardens.

A good time was had by all. Sure, we’ve changed a bit over the past… (gulp)… 37 years since we first set foot on campus. But getting together reminded me of this passage from a blog post from Gaping Void back in April:

It’s a bit like college. You remember it so fondly, not because anything you did was that special or unique (study, go to class, sit around talking, go to parties, try to find a mate, i.e. the same as millions and millions of other students), but who you did it with (i.e. your lifelong, best friends).

That’s so true. The friends I made in college are some of my favorite people in the entire universe, and I truly treasure our friendship. We may not get together as often as we’d like, but we’ll always be super-connected.

16 going on 26

My precious, darling daughter is 16 today! Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be sappy and saccharine, because that doesn’t mesh with Leah’s personality. It’ll be sassy instead, because that’s how she rolls.

My wife and I actually remembered her birthday, so she’s already one up on Samantha.

Blur = Bleep.

But there have been a few years when we were heading to vacation on her birthday… there’s nothing quite as festive as spending your special day stuck in a car for 12 hours. I’m glad she’s in Cincinnati for this one. She’ll probably be celebrating by sleeping until noon. Or 1 p.m.

Facts!

Leah’s turning 16 today, but she’s an old soul. She’s great at carrying on polite conversations with adults (present company excluded usually).

She’s very empathetic, kind, caring… wait, this is turning sappy, isn’t it?

The scary D is just ahead: Driving. I signed her up for an online driver’s ed course yesterday. How do they go from bumper cars to real cars so quickly? And more importantly, where was an app for driver’s ed when I was a kid? (Answer: 40 years in the future.)

Here’s the most recent photo I have of Leah, at Peter’s high school graduation. (I don’t follow her on Insta… I’m sure there’s something more current there.)

She isn’t always smiling, but when she is, it lights up our universe.

Leah is also the kid that shares my love of indie rock. She’s bummed that she’ll have to miss the Beck/Cage the Elephant/Spoon concert because she’ll be working as a camp counselor. But there will be other times, other shows. I’m sure that at those shows, I’ll be told to stay far away while she hangs out with her friends. But that’s OK. I’ll still be there with her. And I’ll always be there for her.

So now, instead of some sappy song, here’s a tune that Leah loves.

Another winner from Nadal

Yesterday, Rafael Nadal beat Dominic Thiem in the French Open final, becoming the first player to win the same Grand Slam 12 times. He’s clearly the “King of Clay” but he has 18 Grand Slam titles overall, so he’s not a one-trick pony.

As great as he is, “Rafa” has spent most of his career living in the shadow of Roger Federer. It would be easy to be a tad bit jealous. But now, at age 33, Nadal could conceivably catch or even surpass the 20 Grand Slam titles of the 37-year-old Federer. When he was asked about that possibility, his response was beautiful:

“I am not very worried about this stuff, no?
You can’t be frustrated all the time because the neighbor has a bigger house than you or a bigger TV or better garden. That’s not the way that I see life.”

On the court or off, that’s a winner!

Good news: new is good

Here’s a nice “glass half full” editorial from Michael Long in USA Today. Actually, it’s less like a glass and more like a well. And it isn’t just half full, it’s overflowing with goodness. We don’t truly appreciate how good we’ve got it very often. Here’s an excerpt:

Since the founding of this country, life expectancy has more than doubled, with nearly all of the increase coming since the outset of the 20th century. We can traverse the continent in less than the duration of a workday, a workday considerably shorter than it was a century ago. We can speak with and see anyone, anywhere and in real time, on the black mirror in our pocket. We have temperature-controlled homes, private and protected and our very own, with reliable indoor plumbing, light to extend productivity into the dark, and entertainment at our command to amuse us with worlds we would otherwise never see, or that exist solely in imagination. We work only five of seven days, eight of 24 hours, 50 of 52 weeks. Sometimes not even that.

It’s easy to focus on the negative. Looking on the bright side takes a bit more work. But if you pause for a moment and look around, you’ll realize how good we’ve got it.

And speaking of good news, two of my favorite singer-songwriters have teamed up for a new album! Lucinda Williams is producing the upcoming release from Jesse Malin.

Photo credit: John Sciulli/WireImage

Here’s the first track from the LP.

Have a great day… and remember, chances are pretty good that it’s already great even if something “great” doesn’t happen. That’s the modern world for you.

The crew

Most families from my generation have photo albums where their most precious pictures are stored. I have a photograph of a photograph, sent via text.

That’s me and my squad, my crew… my mom and siblings. Looks like we were checking out a parade, perhaps? I’m the one striking a cool yet casual pose on the railing, resplendent in my turtleneck and double-breasted overcoat. (Eat your heart out, Zoolander!)

There may be other photographs of my mom with all four of her kids, but not many. She died not long after this photo was taken.

Yesterday was the birthday of my dad. He passed away in 2010… would’ve been 88. I cannot fathom what life must’ve been like for the 41 years when he was still around, but my mom was out of the picture.

I feel like we kids cut him some slack when he was raising us, at least subconsciously, because we knew he was working double duty. But still, it was no easy task.

Here’s to you Herb… rest in peace, after a job well done.

The Graduate Part II

Our son Peter graduated from high school Thursday. Not just any high school, either, but one of the best public high schools in the country. Walnut Hills High School recently made the news when 17 of their students got a perfect score on the ACT. Of course, on the heels of the college admissions scandal, folks like Jimmy Fallon made light of it:

Peter wasn’t one of the kids who aced the test (where’s Felicity Huffman when you need her?), but he did just fine. Better than fine, actually. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, perhaps in plastics.

In just a few short months, he’ll be attending Ohio University, the oldest university in Ohio (and 8th oldest public university in the U.S.). It’s about two and a half hours east of Cincinnati. Which means he’ll be our first kid to leave town to go to college. That’s not surprising… Peter is quite independent. Some kids march to the beat of a different drummer… Peter has a complete band playing in his head.

He’s a fitness fanatic with a super-healthy diet, has a sly sense of humor and never got in trouble during his high school years. Well, other than that silly senior prank involving Silly String.

He got busted and had to stay after school on his 18th birthday… adulting is hard!

I know Peter’s ready to leave the nest, but I don’t think we’re ready for it.

By August, we’ll have two kids out of the house and two left. It’s hard to believe… and even harder to let them go.

Frightened Rabbit forever

One year ago, we lost Scott.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by RMV/REX/Shutterstock (9646726aw) Frightened Rabbit – Scott Hutchison Handmade Festival, Leicester, UK – 30 Apr 2018

Lead singer and chief songwriter of Frightened Rabbit, a brilliant band from Scotland. He battled depression for years, and ultimately couldn’t break free of its grip.

There are no casual Frightened Rabbit fans. You either love them or you’ve never heard of them. (The latter can be rectified, btw.) There was a sadness to Scott’s lyrics — that’s what drew us in. We are all damaged… lost souls in need of a friend… lonely hearts wanting love.

The sadness that drew us in also stole him away. Depression is a liar and a thief.

It’s been a year and I’m still torn up about it. I try to get through by focusing not on the darkness, but rather on the light. I think about the joy he brought to the world, rather than dwelling on his sad exit.

Mostly, I think of my friends who are also fans… Dale, Michael, Ric, Deuce, Sara, Reid, Maggie… We’re still here. And we can pay heed to Scott’s lyrics:

While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth.

Scott’s family just announced that they’ve founded a charity to raise awareness about children’s mental health issues.

When it’s all gone… something carries on