Let the Triangle sing (or rather, don’t)

I had it in my head tonight that I wanted to listen to the MDNA Tour tonight, mostly because I’m trying to figure out what to do with the MDNA Tour poster now that my Rebel Heart Tour poster is framed and ready to be put on the wall. While Confessions Tour is still my favorite of all her tours that I’ve seen live, MDNA holds a special spot in my heart just because I was so fucking close to Madonna.

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I doubt that I will ever be in that close of proximity to her Madgesty ever again, and to say the experience was thrilling is putting it mildly. So you can imagine why I look back on that tour rather fondly. It was a perfect culmination of nearly 30 years of Madonna fandom with my friend Jeff who is and always will be my Madonna partner-in-crime extraordinaire.

The trouble with Madonna’s live performances is that she is not the greatest live singer in the world. Fans know this and don’t give a shit. I remember asking Jeff once if he felt cheated because she does lip sync to prerecorded backing tracks more now than she used to – although I felt that Rebel Heart Tour was lighter on the prerecorded vocals than previous tours  – and his immediate response was “NO! I pay her to be entertained and she always entertains me.”

Listening to this particular recording of MDNA Tour, there are a few songs that are very NOT live – “Vogue” and “Girl Gone Wild” are the obvious ones, but the vocals on more songs than not are imperfect and decidedly live. Now, don’t kid yourself, they sweetened the vocals for the DVD and CD, but they sound much more live than the dreaded Sticky & Sweet Tour DVD where I might as well just get out the CD and listen to the album versions.  The fact that her pristine live vocals are contrasted with her haggard, exhausted speaking voice makes it just that much worse.  Soundboard recordings of Sticky & Sweet tell the true story – she was lucky to hit the notes a lot of nights, but I don’t recall her vocals being god-awful the night we saw her.

Ultimately, Jeff is right. We’re paying for the whole package, not just the vocals. Anyone going to a Madonna show for a pitch-perfect vocal performance is going for all the wrong reasons.  They would be better off going to a Celine Dion show.

Still, the most unlistenable track from MDNA is without a doubt, “Like A Prayer.” In the live version of this song, she encourages all the people in the Triangle – her “Triangle bitches” – to sing along. The off-key singing of the Triangle bitches is just horrible, so much so that it makes the song completely unlistenable.  Don’t believe me? See how long you can last.

Madonna’s vocals, on the other hand, while not perfect, are decidedly live. I just want the bros to shut the hell up.

I get why she lip syncs. It’s not easy to sing like that night after night, especially when you’re dancing. But there is something oddly endearing about her less-than-stellar live voice. What she lacks in vocal prowess, she more than makes up for in stage presence. The thing I remember the most from that night is how TINY she is in person, yet she manages to exude this incredible amount of charisma, something that is really shining through on later tours as she realizes that she’s still around 33 years later because of the fans. All the impromptu adds to the Rebel Heart Tour set list are, in my opinion, a gift to long time fans who have stuck by her through all the shit. She really gets that now, where in years past, she has seemed stubbornly obtuse to that fact.

I’ve been a Madonna fan since almost the beginning and I don’t see that changing, regardless of whether or not I like what she’s currently doing. She soundtracked my entire life and when she does shuffle off the mortal coil, I will probably have to call in sick to work. However, at the rate she’s going, she’ll outlive all of us.

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An unintentional break

I never meant to take 3 months off. I was doing so well – I had renewed fervor for blogging, had ideas for things I wanted to write about, and then life happened.

The last post I did was the day before we got our taxes done, and the funny part is that we didn’t even actually get them done that day.  We showed up an hour past our scheduled appointment time because we had written down the wrong time. Amazingly, they had an appointment time the next day so we got in then.  It took us about three weeks to find out that between state and federal, we owed $14,000.

So to say that the last three months have been without incident would be lying.  2016 has been a pretty rough road so far, but I refuse to surrender. When I’m tempted to list off the litany of things that have happened this year, I think to myself “well, that’s just living.” It doesn’t always help, but it’s something at least.

But as you might imagine, it hasn’t been all bad. I went back to therapy after stopping abruptly in December. I have dropped 18 pounds since the first of the year. And even at my advanced age, I’ve made a couple new friends – Lord knows I can always use more of those. So the bad is balanced by the good.

You’re not going to have to wait three months for the next post – that is, if there’s still anyone reading, but more importantly, I won’t have to wait three months before I write something again. I found that writing in the early months of the year was pretty therapeutic and was helping me keep my anxiety at bay. I’m hoping that I can do that again. The temptation to start a brand new blog is very high, but I imagine I’ll just keep trucking along on this one. It’s served me well for so many years.

Here’s to more writing. And a lot more follow-through.

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Taxes and pizza

I’m up at the crack of dawn today because I am achy and don’t feel good – it’s kind of my new MO, waking up well before my alarm needing to take ibuprofen and feeling flu-ish. As soon as I’m up, it starts to fade, but it kind of sucks. I can’t decide if this is a second viral illness hot on the heels of the one I kicked last week or the same one. Really, it doesn’t matter. I just want to start feeling better soon.
taxes-412-274.jpgI’m also up early today because we’re having our taxes done at 9AM and honestly, I’m a little bit apprehensive. I really don’t have any reason to be, but ever since we had them done 2 years ago and owed more than $10,000 but less than $20,000, I will always approach the tax appointment with a little bit of anxiety. Now, I know how to handle anxiety and really, I’ve done everything I possibly can to guard against a surprise tax bill, but it still bugs me a little bit. And then there was last year, when we went to file, actually got a refund, but then got a call from H&R Block saying that my social security number had been compromised and someone had already filed using it. This started the whole process of reporting identity theft to the IRS and, while nothing untoward seemed to come from it, I guess you might see why taxes leave me a little bit uneasy.

No matter how they turn out, Heidi and I are going to lunch at Gusto’s Pizza in Des Moines afterward. If that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is. I don’t even care how many calories are in it, but the Buffalo Springfield pizza is mine today.

(incidentally, today I am officially 10 pounds down from my highest weight ever. Not that the pizza will help me on that quest, but hey, I’m pretty proud of that.)

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Ctrl-“ALT”-Delete

hipster-liver (1).jpgSo I had my yearly physical last week, replete with all the labs that are required of men in their 40s. This included a fasting lipid panel, hemoglobin, fasting blood sugar and a liver enzyme known as alanine aminotransferase, ALT for short. The good news is that pretty much everything came back within normal limits. My fasting blood sugar is normal, but higher than I would like it to be, and all my cholesterol markers are well within the normal range. Statins really turned that around for me after years of false starts with diet and exercise.  ALT gets checked because in some cases, statins can cause liver damage as can Effexor, the med that I use to chronically manage my anxiety.  Sadly, my ALT came back mildly elevated. The reference range for ALT is 12-78 units/L.  Mine is 93 units/L.

The last time I had it checked was in January of 2014, prior to starting on Lipitor, is was 92 units/L.  The doctor ran a full hepatic panel at the time and it was the only liver enzyme even remotely out of whack.  Because it was still elevated two years later, he ran another hepatic panel and my AST (aspartate aminotransferase) is one point over the normal range.

Those of you that know me know that while I waited for the results of the hepatic panel yesterday, I was convinced that I had one of two things – hepatitis or liver cancer. Even though I joked about it being from too many jumbo margaritas, the little anxious voice in the back of my head wouldn’t shut off no matter how many logical conclusions I gave it. One of my strategies for dealing with those kinds of anxious thoughts is to say them out loud to other people, just so that I can hear myself say them and realize just how silly they sound. It worked for the most part.

So with the latest results, the doctor is going to run some hepatitis labs (unlikely to be that as I’ve been vaccinated against Hep B and I really don’t have any risk factors for hepatitis) as well as get an ultrasound of my liver. He is suspecting that what he’ll find is what’s known as fatty liver.  It’s not an uncommon diagnosis, and that’s something for which I definitely have some risk factors. I’m overweight (not by much, but my BMI is 30.7 which is technically obese.) I also think that my fasting blood glucose, while normal, is still concerning, which can also lead to fatty liver disease.  I do drink alcohol, but not to excess and alcoholic fatty liver disease would show up with an AST about double what my ALT is, so I’m pretty sure it’s not that.  Regardless, cutting back on alcohol never hurt anyone, so I’ll probably be doing that. Heidi said that we need to stop having Bota Boxes around because I can’t say no to the Bota Box, but I guess that’s just a good chance for me to try to practice my will power.

Ultimately, I think the culprit is sugar. Fructose is currently public enemy number one as far as diets go. I think the data is really there to support it. There’s lots of stuff online that you can read about the deleterious effects of fructose on the human body, but the bottom line is that your liver is the only organ in your body that can metabolize it.  Give it too much and it acts like alcohol and can damage your liver.  Could this be the problem?  Hard to say because I also found a meta-analysis that demonstrated that excessive calorie consumption and not fructose specifically, was more likely to cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. But meta-analyses are not how we make recommendations and I couldn’t read the entire study so your mileage may vary.

So I guess I’m not dead yet, like the some of the plague victims in Monty Python & The Holy Grail. But that’s not an excuse. I guess I get to try again at tracking calories and increasing activity.  It was something I was going to do here very soon anyway. I guess now I just have a good reason to do it.

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A lonely introvert?

As an introvert, I REALLY enjoy my quiet time. I get irritated when people sit down with me at lunch, ignoring the fact that I have headphones in my ears. I truly enjoy walking to work as it gives me the solitude that I crave and rarely get with a full family life and hectic job. But there are times that, even as an introvert, I really crave interaction. Now would be one of those times. And it never fails, that when I’m feeling this way, I can’t quite scratch that itch of interaction, no matter how hard I try.

Those are the times that I feel loneliness. I’ve always been a little bit of a weird amalgam of introvert and someone who wants and needs interaction with other people. Part of the problem is that I train people to give me my space, and then, when that space gets too big for my comfort, I reap what I sow and find myself alone.  It’s so weird, I can’t really articulate it. Maybe I am the introvert that people look at by himself and say “he must be lonely” and are actually right, even though I don’t want to admit it.

The message in this post is getting garbled, as I suspected it would.  This post is actually part of a bigger post that I’m working on and may or may not ever publish. That particular post hitting a little too close to home for me right now. Suffice to say that right now, I’m reaching out to people a lot more than I usually do which is not easy for me because it requires me putting myself out there for public evisceration.

All those posts on Facebook about introverts say that if an introvert lets you in, feel honored because they don’t let just anyone in. That’s the God’s honest truth. I spend most of my life keeping people at arm’s length because even at my advanced age, I am worried about rejection and people’s judgment of me. As Madonna says in Truth or Dare before performing in front of a hometown crowd in Detroit, “even though it’s not supposed to matter, it does matter what they think.”  I’d like to think that IDGAF most of the time, but the truth is, I do.

I guess the point of this post is to vocalize that I’m feeling lonely a lot these days, even though introverts are supposed to be energized by solitude.  The loneliness is not because I lack friends or interaction, but because I’m really not doing a very good job of taking care of myself.  My balance is off, I can feel it in just about every aspect of my life. Writing this post is kind of a way of making sure that I start taking better care of myself so that I can be a better version of myself.

It also probably means I need to go sing karaoke.

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Weather report

How often is it that you can remember what the weather was doing even a couple weeks ago, let alone a year ago or 20 years ago?  Honestly, it’s probably easier in the Internet age than it’s ever been, but I still think the weather is generally not something that most people will give a second thought once they’re through it.  There are exceptions to the rule, of course – most New Orleans residents will remember the weather in late August of 2005 and I think that most New Yorkers will remember the weekend of January 23rd/24th for quite a few years to come. But 99% of the time, I don’t remember those kinds of things. Too many song lyrics taking up valuable brain space, I guess.

So when I read this in the newsletter at work, I could only shake my head, because I remembered this very vividly, even 20 years later.

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Reading that, it sounds like a cold spell to remember, regardless, right?  But there’s another reason I remember this frigid cold so well.

January of 1996 was when Heidi and I truly began dating, however tentatively. This stretch of cold weather occurred right around the time she was introduced by a friend at my brother’s 21st birthday party as “Dan’s girlfriend.”  I still remember how we kind of looked at each other as if we were stunned by the revelation.  I also didn’t have a car then, and so Heidi drove on all of our dates. She had a yellow Buick that we affectionately referred to as “the banana” and let me tell you, I remember so well how often we sat in that car after a movie or a dinner out and shivered from head to toe because it was so cold.

When I saw that little blurb this week, I had to smile a little bit.  I’m rapidly approaching the point in my life at which I will have been with Heidi longer than I have not been with her (for those wondering, it’ll be 2018 when I turn 46.)  We were out to dinner tonight and saw an elderly couple come in to the restaurant and I said to her “that’ll be us some day, if we’re lucky.” And her response was that at this point in our lives, being old is real enough that we are very nice to old people, hoping that 40somethings will be nice to us when we’re in our 70s.

These are the kinds of details make a life, and I’m sure glad I can still remember them.

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Tamed & wild

The_Things_That_We_Are_Made_Of_DIGITAL_DOWNLOAD__32452.1454452910.1280.1280.jpgFound out today that Mary Chapin Carpenter has a new album coming out in May. This is good news, as long time readers and those that know me well know that Mary Chapin Carpenter had a profound and lasting effect on college Dan. Even though her last album of new material left me a little bit cold because it was ballad after ballad after ballad, I still was filled with the old feeling of anticipation, thinking that perhaps this time, she will not take herself too seriously.  Turns out that the opening track, “Something Tamed Something Wild” is streaming at Rolling Stone, and while it’s not the barn-burner that “On With The Song” was, it’s a plucky little song that is decidedly in second gear.  If I could embed it here, I totally would, but I guess Rolling Stone gets dibs.

This is a huge relief for me. It killed me to not really like Carpenter’s last album.  I saw her live last year and I have to say, it was the only concert I saw last year that left me a little bit disappointed.  When I initially saw the set list, I was super excited because it was filled with all of her best known songs, along with some great album tracks. The problem was, it was an acoustic set and pretty much every song was done in a slowed-down version. Even a great upbeat track like “Passionate Kisses” was turned into a dirge. I took my daughter to that show, and it was kind of her introduction to Carpenter. I’m so sad that she’ll always think of Carpenter as the woman who “put on that boring concert” than the talented singer-songwriter that she is.  While I was felt honored to be in the presence of a woman whose music has touched my life so deeply, it was hard to not want a little bit more pep in the performance.

I understand why she has been introspective and somber – her last album was written in the aftermath of surviving a pulmonary embolism and a divorce – but for the first time in my long relationship with her music, I just didn’t connect.  I’ve always loved her introspection, but she has this uncanny ability to marry that introspection with a killer hook. I’m not saying she makes it fun to feel sad, but she makes looking inward not the chore that it might otherwise be. That’s what drew me to her music in the first place, and thankfully, with “Something Tamed Something Wild” she’s managed to accomplish just that once again.

Carpenter soundtracked those lonely, depressed, and anxious years like no other artist – perhaps because she gave them a voice when I was unable to do so. No artist takes me back to that time in quite the same way that Carpenter does. You’d think someone so closely associated with feeling lousy would be someone I would never want to hear again, but you’d be wrong. Her songs were probably the only thing that kept me sane.

Which is why I took the plunge and preordered the album on vinyl. Of course, I would have done that anyway, but I splurged and ordered an autographed copy. The price is steep, but that’s not even close to the most I’ve spent on a record.

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It’ll ship on June 1, 2016 and should arrive just in time for my birthday. I’m calling it my birthday present to myself. It feels appropriate.

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