The southside yin to my northside yang.
Happy birthday to my old friend and two-time classmate David J. Casper.
May we live long enough to see the Cubs and Sox play each other in October.
I wanted to have a blog for a long time before I started this one, four years ago today. What held me back? I have no idea. But now that I’ve spent four years–and who knows how many hours sitting in front of a keyboard–throwing my thoughts and images out into the world, I can hardly remember what the delay was.
I often say that if Hemingway had a blog, it would make for quite an amazing read. But since he couldn’t have one, the rest of us have a chance to pick up the slack. I’m not Hemingway and never will be, but I do have opportunities that he and thousands of other writers over the centuries never did. And I don’t intend to let that go to waste.
4 years can be a long time–when you want to get on with your life–or they can be the bat of an eye, when you’re in a good place and hoping it can last and last. I’ve been in both places, sometimes within the very same day. But the world keeps on spinning, and I’ll be along for the ride over an as-yet-undetermined length of time. I may as well keep rollin’ along in this space, too.
Another birthday has come and gone, and I’m finally at the age where every birthday seems like a blessing. I’m not religious (thanks to 13 years of Catholic school), but something or someone has been looking out for me to allow me to live this long. I haven’t done very much to help it along, either. Between bad dieting, little to no exercising, and a taste for booze that went on for way to long, I’m fortunate to be here in the first place.
So why is this post titled “Doing something right”? It seems that as a new year starts for me, I can realize that years from here on need to be earned. The booze is out of my life–fortunately–but the cheeseburger and fries and all of their poisonous ilk still remain. And physical exertion was no problem when I was 12, but at my new age it had better come back to me, and soon. And that’s my birthday present to myself.
Something Roger Ebert wrote a few years ago has stuck with me. He said that it’s better to learn something late in life than to never learn it at all. So I’ll act on this in the year to come, and we’ll see where it leads. It doesn’t mean that I won’t get run over by a bus one day, but it does mean I’ll be smarter than I have been to this point.
In the midst of trying to kill my blog a few days ago, I neglected to point out the two year anniversary of this blog on June 11. And I’m going to tie that in with my own birthday, which is coming up in just a couple of hours. Think of this as a 2-for-1 post.
How many more years have I got in me? We’ll find out in due time but for now, I’m enjoying life and looking forward to whatever comes my way. May each coming year find me this cheerful.
I spent my birthday on the road yesterday. I woke up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio and, by the time the day was finished, I had made my way to Cape Cod. A week at the Cape usually relaxes me to a degree that nothing else can, and this year I’ll be here even longer than that. But to get here in the first place, I had to earn it. Road equity, if you will.
As we were driving a stretch on the New York Thruway yesterday, there was the unending task of finding something good on the radio. And at one point, I was met by the opening notes for the Little River Band’s hit single Reminiscing. I told my teenage daughter how it was the first record that I ever bought with my own money. I was ten years old at the time, and probably had earned the money from my first job, delivering a local ad paper at a penny per house. Everybody starts off somewhere, don’t they?
My daughter, a thoroughly modern teenager who treats the lack of a WiFi signal as something approaching a catastrophe, can’t know what buying a record is like. She buys music, all right, but it’s downloads from iTunes, and maybe a CD here and there. She won’t know what it’s like to put a needle on a record, and for some that’s progress. But she could at least hear the song on the radio, and it offered a view into what her ten-year old father-to-be listened to once. We gave it a listen, at least until the static claimed the final bits of trumpeting and fade-out. And then it was on to looking for something else to listen to.
It struck me that reminiscing is a lot of what I do in this space. I’m always telling tales about life as it once was, or at least how I remember it being. My accuracy with details is not always above reproach, but my love and/or respect for the subject matter being written about is always present.
Through reflecting, and remembering, and even reminiscing from time to time, I’m trying to bring bits and pieces from the past into the digital age. The world marches by, and things like owning a record, or making a penny by delivering an ad paper to someone’s house, will inevitably get swallowed up in the process. But sitting at a computer and opening up my life helps to bring these things back, if only for a brief and widely-ignored moment. It’s all I can do, and I certainly enjoy doing it.
If I had to put a date on the picture above, I would say it was taken in about 2001, or a decade ago, at least. My younger brother (actually older younger brother, since I have two of them) has a big part of my life from the earliest memories I have. Our exploits as kids live in the recesses of my memories, and they even get a new airing from time to time when my daughters want to hear a bedtime story about somebody other than me. The time when he wrote the f-word on one of his tennis shoes never fails to get a good laugh, from them and from me.
Today I sent him a birthday greeting on Facebook, which seems to have supplanted the annual ritual of a birthday card or a telephone call. The instant gratification of it is much better than picking out a card, finding his address wherever I have it written down, and sending in the mail a few days early to make sure it arrives on time. I could probably count on one hand how many times I was able to pull all of these off on or before his birthday. More often than not, I probably skipped it, and I regret doing that. I’m taking the time to write this to make up for some of the times I did this.
Birthdays were a funny thing when we were kids. We got to choose what we had for dinner at home that evening, and that made the day seem special. Since he, my sister and I all have June birthdays, we never got to bring anything in for our classmates at school. Only my youngest brother got to do that, since he was born in April. Lucky him.
After dinner, my grandparents would come over to our house, or sometimes we would go over to their house, for cake and ice cream. And my mother had a strange custom of putting three candles on out cake, regardless of how old we actually were. Something about the past and the present and the future. But it resulted in cake and ice cream, and how it was presented wasn’t really that important.
Birthdays haven’t been like that for us in a long time. He has his life now, and I have mine, and I see him a couple times a year if I’m lucky. But he and my sister and my other brother are with me all the time in my memories, and I’m grateful for that. So even if it’s late in the day, I still wish him a happy birthday, in the hope that the two of us will have some more of them in the years still to come.