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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Blossom’s arrival

I’ve managed to have some major vinyl scores in the last month or so. Not counting the amazing haul that Heidi bought me for Christmas, I’ve managed to finally add R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People and Annie Lennox’s Diva to my ever expanding vinyl collection. Today I received another, and this might be my favorite rare find yet.

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For those that don’t know, this is a 1981 reissue of jazz great Blossom Dearie’s debut album for Verve, which was originally released in 1956. The original pressing is rare as shit and when you do find it, it’s beyond pricey. So when I saw this reissue for $35, I didn’t even think twice.

Blossom is one of those artists that you would never expect me to like. I can remember the first time I heard a Blossom Dearie song – it was in the few months of my job and the hospital where I work had jazz music as the telephone hold music. One day, while on hold, I heard a clever little song from a baby-voiced singer about states in the USA, mostly talking about how Rhode Island was famous for you.

I wrote the lyrics down on my hand so I could look them up later – how 2004 of me! I eventually found my way to Blossom Dearie and bought the song on iTunes, probably with one of the winning Pepsi caps that people were giving me by the boatload because they didn’t know how to download music. Again, how 2004.

blossom.jpgI checked her debut album out from the library and was hooked immediately. I’m not a big jazz fan by any stretch, but this really appealed to me for some reason. I think it’s the voice, a voice that one critic described as “scarcely able to reach the second story of a doll house.” I eventually bought the CD of Blossom Dearie: The Diva Series and I spent most of the summer listening to her music – music that had been recorded 50 years prior.

Blossom died in 2009 at the age of 84. Amazingly, up until 2006, she was performing regularly at Danny’s Skylight Room in New York City, a venue that is now closed. Who wouldn’t want to go to a place called Danny’s Skylight Room? She never lost her girlish voice. I’m not sure when this was recorded, but it’s amazing.

 

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31 days in

31.jpgSo I’m 31 days in to the year, and I’m already ahead of last year’s blogging. January of 2015 saw only 5 posts, but counting this post, January of 2016 will have 10 posts, just north of 25% of the posts I need to beat last year’s total of 39 posts.  I haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to in January, but hey, I feel like I’m doing ok.  My goal with blogging this year is to try to take care of myself, giving myself the space to write more about the things I love, the things that scare me and, well, just the way that life is unfurling for me lately.

This morning I was looking at the “Facebook Memories” thing and apparently on this day in 2009, I did the “25 Random Things About Me” thing that was so popular back then. I read my contribution. But I thought I would, on this last day of January, revisit this list and see how much of it is still held true.  Most of it does, with the notable exception of having been to two more Madonna tours and I watch a  lot more hour long dramas now. Here’s the list, courtesy of 2009 Dan.


1) I hate Easter candy. Yes, I know it’s the same candy just colored in pastels or shaped into bunnies but I still hate it. I think it is probably related to too many years of too much Easter candy prior to the 6AM church service and then being very ill from all of it. That having been said, the Easter version of SweeTarts (Chicks, Ducks and Bunnies) are very cute and completely irresistible.

2) I played Santa Claus in the 6th grade music program. I was the skinniest Santa ever. There was also a scene in which I was supposed to be on the phone with someone and I put the microphone up to my ear. I couldn’t watch that part when we watched the videotape of it.

3) I have been to four of Madonna’s eight world tours. They have all been since 2001 and so far, my favorite is still The Confessions Tour. The next time she tours, I will hem and haw and say that I don’t need to go and end up going anyway. You heard it here first.

4) I didn’t drink my first beer until I was 20. It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and I was with a couple friends of mine at Diamond Dave’s in the mall in Iowa City and I had green beer. Ever since then, it’s a bit of a tradition to have green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, although admittedly, it doesn’t happen every year.

5) While I enjoy my job and am very good at it, I refuse to have the majority of my personality defined by it. There is so much more to me than being a pharmacist. Also, pharmacists who have their identity all wrapped up in being a pharmacist annoy the living hell out of me.

6) I’m not much for hour-long TV dramas. They are too much of a time sink and I do not really have that much time to spend on them. That having been said, two of my all time favorite programs are hour-long dramas: The X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

7) The first time I watched The Exorcist it was on network television and edited all to hell. I was in 5th grade, but It still scared the shit out of me. I remember being under a blanket and having to close my ears because it was so scary. Even today, it’s one of the few movies that really scares me. I can’t watch it after dark and really would rather not watch it by myself. The scariest scene for me is still the scene in which Father Karras’ mother is sitting on the bed where the demon-possessed Regan had just been. I am, to this day, not able to watch that scene.

8) The first book that I was supposed to read for a class that I never finished was The Grapes of Wrath. I have still not read that book, nor do I intend to.

9) I don’t have very good memories of high school. I was not a social pariah and had plenty of friends, but it was just not a very pleasant time period in general. Being an adult is so much more fun!

10) There are only three movies that I can think of that I saw four times in the theater: Titanic, Evita, and Jurassic Park.

11) Sometimes I really wish that there would be a real zombie outbreak. While I know that the outcome would inevitably be zombie hordes swarming the planet, a part of me can’t help but be fascinated by that.

12) I am very VERY attached to my morning ritual of being on my computer for 30-40 minutes before work. During that time, I read the blogs, surf the news, read my e-mail and generally get my brain on. It is, as someone pointed out to me recently, the modern day equivalent of coffee and the paper. If I were not so attached to this, I could sleep a lot later.

13) One of my favorite things to read about is late 20th century history. It is my firm belief that we should spend more time teaching recent history to our high school students rather than spending so damn much time on stuff that happened 500 years ago. While that stuff is important, I think the knowledge gap that so many people have about the events of the last 50 years is horrible.

14) I’ve had stitches on three separate occasions. The first was when I was four and I walked into a display of address numbers at a local store, cutting my eye. The second was when my lung collapsed and they had to put a chest tube in me. The third was when a glass pipette broke in my hand when I was putting the bulb on it, gouging the broken end into my thumb. None of those instances were very much fun.

15) My lung collapse experience is still one of the more surreal experiences of my life. Most times a pneumothorax results from trauma like a stab wound or gunshot wound, but I woke up with mine. I walked around with vague chest pain all day and finally decided to go to student health to get checked out. They sent me to the hospital. I spent the weekend in the hospital. Three weeks later, I was sitting in class and felt the exact same pain, only fifty times worse. I tried to walk across campus to student health, but couldn’t make it. I had to flag down a total stranger to get me some help. The ambulance came to central campus and they put me on the gurney. I wanted them to put the sheet over me because I may as well have been dead at that point. I have stayed fully inflated ever since.

16) The only birthday party I had as a kid was when I was 7. I remember it was my 7th birthday because my mom was pregnant with my sister for it.

17) I tend to be fiercely loyal to those I consider friends.

18) I married what can pretty easily be considered my first “serious” girlfriend. That is not to say I didn’t date others, but when you know, you know.

19) My favorite book is Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. I read it on pretty much an annual basis. It is not great literature but the story is so compelling and the way it is told (second-person narrative) just sucks me in every single time.

20) I take great comfort in the doing of dishes. I jokingly refer to it as Zen and the Art of Dishwashing. When the meal is done, we gather up all the dishes and I pretty much do them on my own. This is not something that has been forced on me, but rather it is by my own design. Frequently, I’ll put my iPod on while doing the dishes and before I know it, they are all done and you have a spotless kitchen to enjoy. Inevitably though, someone comes and puts a dirty dish at the edge of the sink just as I finish up. That’s where the Zen part comes in.

21) I really do want to believe in all the paranormal things for which there is no hard evidence. A part of me does.

22) The first 45rpm single I bought was Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” That was 1981. 24 years later, in 2005, I finally saw ONJ in concert in Cedar Rapids. I went with my sister and we hit a deer on the way home. We were not hurt, but the car was totalled.

23) I have been offered chewing tobacco twice in my lifetime, once by my preceptor on a pharmacy rotation at Osco Drug in Iowa City (while at work!) and once while riding home from Tama in a tow truck pulling my sister’s totalled car after its collision with the deer. I declined both times. It’s a disgusting habit.

24) When I was in college, I thought I was going to leave Iowa immediately after graduation. It just goes to show that you can’t take the boy out of Iowa or the Iowa out of the boy.

25) I am not tagging Heidi for this – she is not interested in this meme!

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Just do it

Those of you that know me know that I don’t do the outdoors very well. I don’t camp. It’s my biggest failing as a husband but it’s cancelled out by the fact that Heidi doesn’t watch horror films. In any kind of survival situation, I would probably not survive (so much for the zombie apocalypse.)

So why was I so attracted to this guy’s trip from Washington State to Chile on a sailboat?  Believe me, you want to click on that link.  He had an amazing trip full of the stuff that living is made of.

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I’m almost always amazed by people that quit their jobs and do shit like this. Maybe it’s because it’s so NOT something that I can do. When you hit my age, you have responsibilities and obligations. I have a family that depends on my income and benefits. We have appointments and school events and all the mundane things that make a life. And, let’s face it, even if I were in the position to do something like that, I never would. For one, I’m not in good enough shape to do that, not to mention the fact that I don’t like fish enough to be able to live off of what I can catch (i.e. nothing) for the duration of such a trip. In the end, I’m way too risk averse to do something like that.

Yet there is something about his trip that is fascinating to me. What would it be like to sell everything and do something crazy like that? I don’t think for a minute that I would ever be able to do it – I mean, is there WiFi in the middle of the Pacific Ocean so I can stream music from Spotify? But a part of me is very envious of someone that leaves behind the trappings of Western society and just does stuff. He is, to paraphrase Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, living and living now, something that I’ve been striving to do since that song entered my life. I’ve had varying degrees of success with that over the last 25 years.

I think the thing that I have to remember is that the photos in that Imgur photo set highlighted the best parts of the trip (hurricane notwithstanding.)  Much like people’s carefully curated Facebook profiles, it presents the best of the best.  It is curiously lacking in pictures of him sailing the boat in a rainstorm or being hungry because there’s nothing to catch to eat. One of the things my 40s have taught me so far is that it’s time to stop dallying and just do it. I am, for all intents and purposes, half way through my life – more than half way if I live to the average life expectancy of American males.  Now before anyone thinks I’m having a midlife crisis, I can assure you I am not. I actually hate that term because it’s loaded with a stereotype of guys driving convertibles and trading in their 40 year old wives for two 20 year olds. But what’s wrong with evaluating where you are in your life, taking stock of what you’ve done and what you haven’t done and making sure that you acknowledge that time is a-wasting? Nothing. It’s normal, and if that’s a midlife crisis, well I guess so be it. It’s taken me a lot of years of therapy to realize that wanting what you don’t have isn’t a rejection of what you do have.

I wouldn’t make it on a sailboat in the Pacific. Visions of doldrums and the subsequent cannibalism that follows make it a non-starter for me. But I’m happy for this guy, whoever he is. And while I won’t ever do that, who’s to say that I can’t do my equivalent of it?  I don’t even know what that equivalent is to be honest. But that’s ok. Because even though I’m half way through my life, it’s never too late.

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It’s a miracle

My friend Jess’ birthday is coming up soon which means there will inevitably be karaoke, probably at AJs in Des Moines. I’ve written lots of posts about karaoke and how I really took to it despite the fact that it flies in the face of my introverted nature. For me, you just have to push past the hesitation and put yourself out there. There’s a crazy freedom in that, even if there’s a 50/50 chance that I’ll suck beyond belief.

So I’ve been thinking about trying a new song the next time I go to karaoke. I’ve tried something new each time I’ve gone out, sometimes being amazing, sometimes not. It’s a crap shoot, really. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, singing songs you’ve sung a million times with the original artist is harder than you would expect when the artist is no longer singing with you. It’s why it pays to practice a little bit – the car is the best place for that, especially if you’re self conscious. The last time around, I tried “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” and I really nailed it but that was thanks in large part to singing along to the song in the car and singing it like I would at karaoke. Doing that resulted in knowing exactly where I needed to sing from.

This time around, I’m itching to try some Barry Manilow. Specifically, “It’s A Miracle.”

(When I watched this, there was a Ted Cruz ad before the video which I found extremely strange coupled with a Barry Manilow video.)

bmiam45.jpeg“It’s A Miracle” is probably my favorite Barry Manilow song.  But I think it might be deceptively harder to sing than it appears to be. I suppose I could go with something like “Mandy” (Angel’s go-to karaoke song) or even “Can’t Smile Without You” but I loved “It’s A Miracle” so much as a kid that I would search for it on the 8-track of Barry Manilow II that my mom had, and anyone who has ever searched for a song on an 8-track knows just how difficult that can be. It’s really a song that you can’t help but smile, even if you’re singing it and you suck.

So we’ll see. It might very well be a miracle if I can pull that song off, and who knows, I may just fall back on “Escape” or “Mama Tried” which I know I can do. But that really does take the fun out of it.

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Tiled

Most people who know me know that I cannot keep track of anything to save my life. I misplace my keys with astonishing frequency. Once I lost my wallet so well that I cancelled all my credit cards only for Heidi to find it by picking up a pair of pants on the floor. It’s not a Monday morning if I am not frantically searching for my badge and my keys prior to leaving for work. I’ve tried all sorts of methods to keep me from losing them – usually a variation on putting them in the same place every time – but for some reason, I can’t stick to it.

Toward the end of last year, I couldn’t find my keys anywhere. It was so bad that I had to borrow Heidi’s keys to go to work. I concocted all these worst-case scenarios in my head for where they were. Did they fall out of my pocket when I was snowblowing? In that case, will they stay lost till spring? Did I drop them somewhere at work? I honestly had no idea. It was right then and there that Heidi ordered me a Tile for my keys, so that this kind of thing could be avoided once and for all.  For the record, I found my keys that afternoon, underneath the pair of gloves that I had worn the day before.

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Tile uses Bluetooth and GPS technology to make sure you never lose your stuff. And so far, I have to say it’s pretty amazing. You download the Tile app to your phone, and sync your Tile to it. Tile gives you a range of about 100 feet and if you move out of that range, it’ll tell you where your stuff was the last time you were in range so that you know where to start looking. Once they are in range, you can push a button on your phone and it plays a loud melody. Figure out where the music is coming from and you found your stuff. For me, I can see that it’s going to be used primarily as a way to defuse the worst-case scenarios (do they make this for other worst-case scenarios I generate?) because I’ll know that my keys are in the house SOMEWHERE and not laying on the ground in the grocery store or in the parking ramp at work.

There are, however, a few hangups I’ve found with it so far. There have been times I have had my keys right next to my phone and the app can’t find them. Also, I’ve found that if my keys are in my coat in the closet, Tile kind of loses its mind and can’t find them.  The other thing I really wish is that they made a Tile that was thinner to put in my wallet, which is second only to my keys on my list of misplaced stuff.

It’s not going to cure my chronic absent-mindedness – nothing is that powerful – but it is a handy tool for helping me keep track of my stuff. Frankly, I need all the help I can get.

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