Neil was the real deal

This is devastating news to music nerds and nerdy musicians everywhere. Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush, passed away this week. He redefined rock drumming, but he didn’t let drumming define him. A voracious reader, an author of seven books, an avid cyclist and motorcyclist, a lifelong learner… just an all-around interesting dude. Check out his website for more of his musings.

“The Professor”… photo from NeilPeart.net

The first concert I ever saw was in 1982: Rush at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, Arkansas. The band I’ve seen in concert more than any other band? Rush! They absolutely crushed it live for 40+ years.

Despite an iconoclastic nature, Peart found musical, and personal, brotherhood with bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. The trio’s bond came alive during performances, which were immersive musical marathons that doubled as communal, spiritual experiences. Shows — of course — featured an extended Peart drum solo, performed with the precision of a surgeon and the creative freedom of a surrealist. But while highly technical, Peart’s playing was always joyous: As any Rush fan will share, air-drumming to 1981’s “Tom Sawyer” can be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

From this NPR tribute by Annie Zaleski

Neil wasn’t just the best rock drummer ever, he also was Rush’s lyricist. Lots of obituaries for him are latching onto the Ayn Rand/sci-fi angle. That’s not a complete picture. Yes, Neil did dedicate Rush’s 2112 album “to the genius of Ayn Rand” but he later said that he’d outgrown that influence. And yes, many of Rush’s song lyrics read like science fiction. But tunes like “Losing It” and “Red Sector A” were a nod to Neil’s love of literature and history. Songs like “Entre Nous” and “Afterimage” have nothing to do with dystopian societies, and everything to do with personal connections and the human condition.

While his drumming spoke volumes, he rarely gave interviews, preferring to let his work stand on its own. As a shy high schooler, Neil’s lyrics spoke to me. As a bookish old man, they still speak to me.

“He was in many ways like an outsider — the guy who was often different from everyone else,” Halper says. “But that was okay with him. He didn’t want to be like everyone else. He just wanted to be Neil.”

From this NPR tribute by Annie Zaleski

Rush’s final studio album was a concept album (no shock there… they had a few). The lyrics on the final song “The Garden” are Neil’s parting words to us.

R.I.P. Neil. Much love and respect.

Good news in the new year

I stumbled across this list-icle a few weeks ago and figured it was worth sharing as we enter 2020. It’s a quick read — a bunch of factoids with good news for the planet we share. One example is below.

Here’s hoping for more good things this year.

Thankful all year long

Seth Godin just plain gets it. First of all, the dude writes a blog post every day. Yes, that’s right. Every. Single. Day. Neither rain, nor snow, nor authoring books nor hosting workshops nor speaking at conferences, will keep Mr. Godin from his appointed rounds — sharing pearls of wisdom with folks like you… and fanboys like me.

Here’s Seth’s post from earlier this week:

If every day were Thanksgiving

It’s my favorite holiday for a good reason: It doesn’t matter what country, what culture or what background you come from…

Gratitude works.

Gratitude scales.

Gratitude creates a positive cycle of more gratitude.

When in doubt, default to gratitude.

Brief and brilliant. Words to live by. Not just today. Every. Single. Day!

[I’m extremely grateful for Seth’s “write a blog post a day for a week” challenge a few years ago — it kickstarted my blogging habit. I’m also grateful for you — thanks for reading!]

Not all heroes wear capes. Not all champions get trophies.

Morgan Hentz is an all-universe volleyball player. Two-time All-American, and two-time NCAA champion with Stanford.

I worked with Morgan’s dad Mike at an ad agency eons ago. We still get together for the occasional happy hour, but those are few and far between, for reasons that will become patently obvious when you read this wonderful article about Morgan and the Hentz family on the Stanford Athletics website.

Morgan’s younger brother Louie had a cancerous brain tumor at age one. Louie and his mom, Kerin, spent a year at St. Jude’s in Memphis… yes, a full year… while Mike mostly stayed home with Morgan and her sister. Wrap your head around that for a moment: a mom separated from her young daughters, a father 500 miles away while his infant son was fighting for his life.

Then the other shoe dropped: at age 3, Louie was diagnosed with autism.

Louie does not interact through spoken language – other than simple wants and needs. He’s 16 and weighs 300 pounds because of his meds, and can be difficult to control physically. His life has been one of appointments and therapists. His development has been slow — hopeful on a good day. He is repeating some lines from familiar movies and videos, creating some optimism about brain development. But there’s no way to know.

Morgan is a superstar, but so is the rest of her family.

photo from GoStanford.com article. ISIPhotos

Long ago, Kerin and Mike learned to sacrifice things that other couples take for granted – nights and weekends away, dinners out, and even time with their other children. Instead, they’ve learned to roll with whatever happens and be prepared for whatever comes next.

Every day is a new challenge. Mike and Kerin have been playing at the highest level for 16 years. They’re world champs in the game that matters most.

“I feel like I would never wish what Louie had on anyone, but I think that because of my family and being able to make the most of the situation, I’ve learned a lot from him and my parents. They are the biggest role models in my life — the sacrifices they have made for our family. They have always put us kids first.”

photo from GoStanford.com article

Please read the article by David Kiefer. It’s a beautiful profile of a beautiful family.

Rictile unleashed

About a month ago, my old radio pal Ric “The Rictile” Cengeri was unceremoniously dumped from his Vermont Public Radio gig, after 12 years of faithful service.

Full story is here.

I worked with Ric for three years at 97X. We were roommates for much of that time, and morning show co-hosts for a year. So we spent a ton of time together. You won’t find a nicer guy, or one more passionate about creating great radio programs.

His energy was off the charts. His sense of humor was keen. His joie de vivre was contagious. His ability to remember listeners’ names was Rain Man-like. The way he mentored our college co-ops was admirable.

You could drop Rictile onto an uncharted desert isle (not Gilligan’s Island) and come back in three weeks to find a full blown party with hundreds of people. (He earned his Dirty Mayor nickname from his local pub, where he made so many fast friends that they called him “the Mayor.” He even has a cider named in his honor.)

After such a shock, Ric could’ve chosen to wallow in self-pity. But that’s not the Way of the Rictile. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done. Going to concerts, to museums, to sporting events, to restaurants, to the symphony, to poetry readings, to the pub, to farmer’s markets, and volunteering in the community… The Man stole his livelihood, but he’s not going to mess up his life.

The Facebook post below from a former co-worker — and Ric’s reply — speak volumes about the kind of person he is.

Ric’s VPR job ended on a sour note, but the Dirty Mayor’s life is a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to hear about his next adventure.

California is fired

Last Thursday morning, my lovely bride and I boarded a plane bound for San Francisco. We were supposed to run in a 12-person Ragnar relay race covering 200+ miles from San Francisco to Napa. One of my co-workers organized the team, just as he had done in 2017. That year, raging wildfires caused the cancellation of the race about a week in advance.

Shortly after we arrived, it was, as Yogi Berra would say “Deja vu all over again.” We received notice that this year’s race also was cancelled due to raging wildfires in Sonoma.

It was a bummer, dude, but we managed to make some lemonade out of the lemons we were given. The entire team met at the starting line at Golden Gate Park on Friday morning, when the race was supposed to begin, and we ran to (and across) the Golden Gate Bridge.

Then we had lunch on the bay in Sausalito. Then Muir Woods. And sunset back at Golden Gate Park’s beach. And we still did the winery tours that we had scheduled for Sunday. So don’t cry for us.

Nice shirt…

But do cry for California, which has been devastated by wildfires over the past few years. It’s a beautiful piece of the globe, but idyllic has turned dystopian. Infernos are the new normal.

Source: CBS News 11/1/19 at 9 a.m.

And cry for the residents who have lost their loved ones, their homes, their businesses, their power… their way of life. (Check out this NPR article for more.)

Photo credit: Lesley McClurg/KQED from this NPR article

The Golden State has lost its luster. Climate change is real. Now it’s up to us to change.

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