A New Year’s Reflection

Each year as the holidays roll around, I find myself thinking about a friend who, just before Christmas, marks the anniversary of his teenage son’s death in an auto accident. I remember with great clarity sitting in his office one afternoon while he told me the entire story. I hadn’t asked for the details, had only again told him that I hoped he was doing well. But, without introduction, he began, and I listened in that uncomfortable way that enfolds you when faced with someone’s intense grief and pain.

His son and his best friend had spent the night at the home of another family. They left in their cars at the same time in the morning, traveling together until one turned left and the other turned right. Shortly after turning, his son lost control of his car, ran off the road, hit a tree and was killed instantly. Moments later, the best friend also wrecked, was knocked unconscious and trapped in his overturned truck, which began to burn. However, when others arrived on the scene, he was found away from the truck, still unconscious and critically injured. But he was alive, and survived. He doesn’t know how he got out of the truck, and emergency personnel couldn’t explain how he could have escaped due to his injuries.

This still grieving father is convinced that his son, who had died just an instant before, saved his friend as a final act of compassion. He believes this deeply and takes comfort in this fact. And I have no reason to dispute him because I have come to believe there are things in this world that defy rational explanation.

As I rose to leave, he came from behind his desk and hugged me, which was surprising since we had only known each other a short time and mainly in a business setting. He told me the most important thing he had learned from his son’s death is that there is nothing certain in this life, and that each day we should hug the people close to us and tell them that we love them. Because, as he learned in the most horrible way possible, the day may come when you cannot do it. Continue reading

In Quotes, Truth Often Lurks

Quotations: We find them at odd times in odd places, and are struck by a truth or insight. Or we seek them out to help us express ourselves better by using someone else’s words when failed by our own. They can be found in handy collections for easy access, or happened upon and saved—torn from a page or jotted in a notebook, or even copied and pasted in electronic form. Sometimes we commit them to memory, waiting for the right moment to utilize them.

Somehow they help us make sense of things, or offer a better way to explain something, or add something concrete to something felt, or imagined. “Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean,” wrote Theodore Dreiser. “Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.”

See what I just did? Enlisted a quote from a respected writer to help make my case, pulled from an ever-expanding collection that resides in a laptop file labeled simply, “Quotes.” Continue reading

Earworm #247: “Tell Her No” by The Zombies

For some reason, or maybe no reason, I woke up with zombies and an earworm. Okay, let’s make it clear quickly that these were The Zombies, not those amalgamations of decimated flesh now creeping constantly across your television screen. Nah, what was rattling around in my head was that British Invasion band and that great song, “Tell Her No.” If you’re a Gen B member, bet you can sing a few bars of that hit (and if you don’t know the truth about earworms, get the scoop).

There was a certain minor-key inflection to the song that set it apart from some of the perky pop of the early-to-mid 1960s. And a maturity to the lyrics as a guy admonishes a friend to stay away from a girl he loves, opening, “And if she should tell you come closer / And if she tempts you with her charms / tell her no, no, no…” Continue reading

The Forgotten Force of Moderation

Those of us who count ourselves among the Boomer Generation probably recall that once upon a time in American politics there was a thing called a “moderate.” These were elected representatives, both Democratic and Republican, who gravitated toward the middle of the political spectrum, who could be counted upon to consider all sides of a situation and then serve as the “moderating” force that resulted in bills being debated, adjusted and ultimately passed. All this was done in the spirit intended by the founding fathers of elected officials representing the best interests of their constituents while coming together collectively for the good of all.

Today, this seems like ancient history, even myth—those long-ago days when the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate sat down together, with allies and aides, and hammered out legislation, with compromise often the necessary ingredient for progress. In those mythical times, it wasn’t about winning politically—or not losing—but about responding to the will of the electorate, and doing what was best for constituents and the country. Now, however, moderation has been replaced by polarization that has the system frozen.
Continue reading

Coming to Terms with “Someday”

The other day, for no apparent reason, I was struck by the concept encompassed within the word “someday.” The dictionary makes it short and sweet, defining it as “at some future time,” and noting such synonyms as “eventually” and “sooner or later.” Though it was “finally” that perhaps was closer to my own thoughts.

I believe what triggered this unexpected examination was thinking about a place I find wonderfully alluring—Big Sur in California—and telling myself, “I’d like to live there someday.” Then I suddenly recognized that now, much closer to the end than the beginning, my “somedays” are limited. What would have been at age 25 a reasonable fantasy that could realistically be translated into a reality, now must be tempered by a true expectation of how many days remain.

“Someday” is a word that defines itself differently depending on age and perspective. It roots itself in the concept of time, that relentless ticking of the clock and the cold fact that life makes no promises, offers no guarantees. Which leads to either willing acceptance of the inevitable end, or blind denial based in fear of the unalterable fact of death.someday01 Continue reading

Neil Young’s Candid Memoir Reveals the Heart & Soul of a Renaissance Man

I can’t recall with certainty when or how I heard Neil Young for the first time. It was probably through Buffalo Springfield, a short-lived yet influential group that still stands up well. I definitely recall Neil’s first solo effort in 1969, but it was the next two–“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and “After the Gold Rush”—that firmly implanted his voice and guitar into my soul. I distinctly remember Neil’s singular company while driving fast and hard through rural North Carolina late one night to visit a girl whose well-heeled parents had little interest in a long-haired kid in ragged jeans stopping by: “I was lying in a burned out basement with the full moon in my eyes…” Continue reading

“Blues for Two” — Sometimes You Just Let the Music Flow

Accompanied by a robust gin & tonic, I retired the other evening to a quiet spot in front of the fire to ponder the fate of the universe and perhaps consider my own as well. It was deepening twilight, or, as the Scots would so sweetly term it, in the gloaming. It’s always useful to peace of mind to find a moment for reflection, or to think your way through whatever’s tumbling around in your head—or at least try.

And I did make a valiant attempt to wrangle disparate thoughts whirling around like a Hendrix solo. But I found myself succumbing more and more to the music I’d clicked on, without real consideration—just what was already in the box.

Continue reading