Monday, December 23, 2019

The Gift

[Christmas, 1965 or thereabout]

The boy was very young; perhaps 7 or 8 years old. He loved everything about Christmas - the lights, the music, Santa Claus, the trees covered in tinsel and shiny ornaments - but especially the snow. For as long as he could remember (which wasn't very long, but it was a lifetime) there was always snow at Christmas. The whole thing was magical.

He walked down the street, on his way to a store near his home, and it was beginning to snow again. There was already an inch or two on the ground from yesterday and it was shiny, bright, white, and made everything it covered pretty. He opened his mouth and turned his face to the sky, trying to catch a couple of snowflakes on his tongue. He thought he succeeded, but it was hard to tell because snow melted as soon as it hit your tongue, so you couldn't collect a mouthful of it to prove that you caught some. He jingled a couple of nickels in his pocket, sliding his green rubber boots along in the snow as he walked with his face to the sky.

He was on his way to the store to buy a gift. He enjoyed receiving presents, of course; what child doesn't? However, he also very much enjoyed giving them to others. He loved to see people's faces when they opened their gifts. It was another magical thing about this time of year. He rarely saw anyone unhappy around Christmas and he never saw anyone unhappy when they opened a present.

Being very young, the boy didn't have much money. He received an allowance, but only one dollar. He had already bought presents for his mother and father. For his mother, it was some cheap perfume. For his father, it was some cheap cigars.

(Realize that when I say "cheap", I don't mean to imply that the boy had gone out of his way to buy inexpensive and shoddy presents. He hadn't. He had lovingly picked them out, albeit within his modest budget. The cigars and perfume were cheap, though. Being a young boy, he had no appreciation of perfume and thought they all smelled pretty much alike - stinky. He also had no idea that some cigars, when lit, smell like innertubes burning. However, these had come in a package with a big white owl on the front, and he did know that his dad liked owls.)

He had ten cents left over from his original dollar, which will give you an idea of the value of the cigars and perfume. In any case, he now wanted to buy a present for his aunt.

His aunt was the older relative closest in age to the boy. She was around 19 or 20. She had lived with the boy and his parents for a short while when the boy was much younger. They had grown very close during this time. She was close enough in age to have been the boy's older sister and, in some ways, that's what the boy thought of her as.

The boy reached the main street. The store was on the other side, so he pressed the button that made the light red to stop the traffic. He loved how even the traffic lights joined in with the season, flashing red and green and yellow just like the lights on a Christmas tree. He looked both ways and then crossed the street.

He walked through the parking lot of the store, again noticing how people were so much happier this time of year. Everybody had a cheery "Hello!" for the people they met. As he entered the store through the automatic door (how did it know?) he heard Christmas music playing over the store's speakers.

He felt great. He was in love with the world.

Now he had to find a present for his aunt. He hadn't really given thought about this part of the task. He just assumed that he'd be able to find something nice. After all, a dime would buy a comic book, or two candy bars, or even twenty of those 2-for-1 Mint Julep candies. Certainly he'd be able to find something his aunt would love.

What sorts of thoughts go through the mind of a small boy? Many and varied, of course, but some are unfathomable. As he was walking down one of the aisles, he spotted something very colorful and pretty. He had always liked how these things looked. They were useful, too. And, when he checked the price, it was ten cents - just right! This is what he would get his aunt for Christmas.

He brought the gift up to the checkout and paid for it. Now there was nothing to jingle in his pockets, but that was OK. His Christmas shopping was done.

He made his way back home, enjoying the big colored lights that were on just about every house in the neighborhood, again catching (or trying to catch) snowflakes in his mouth.


When he got home, he took off his boots (which was always troublesome – he always seemed to leave one sock inside of a boot) and then ran upstairs to his room, to wrap this newest gift.

He was an only child. He spent many hours by himself, in his room, and he very much enjoyed that privacy. He didn’t dislike other people - far from it, in fact - but he did enjoy dreaming and using his imagination. He discovered early on that it’s almost impossible to dream when someone else is in your room. Someone else almost always wants to talk, and you can’t carry on a decent conversation with someone else and dream at the same time. Anyway, as a result of spending much time alone, he became fairly self-sufficient.

(Whenever anyone asked him if he wouldn’t rather have a brother or sister, he would firmly say, “No!” and he hoped that the people asking him these questions would see to it that the proper authorities – whoever was in charge of bringing brothers and sisters – did not make any deliveries to his house.)

Being such a self-sufficient boy, he mostly wrapped his own presents. He had already wrapped all of his other gifts for family. Many of his relatives got handmade gifts of one sort or another. For instance, every year since he was able to handle crayons, he had made his grandfather a hand-drawn calendar, which his grandfather treasured receiving. Now, he wrapped the gift for his aunt in colorful paper, once again admiring how colorful the gift was, too.


That night, Christmas Eve, he did what many Christian boys and girls try to do. Almost immediately after dinner, he went to bed. He tried to go to sleep at an abnormally early hour, hoping to thus wake up sooner and make Christmas come quicker. Before going to bed, he hung his stocking on his bedroom door (since there was no chimney or fireplace in his house.) He turned on the little transistor radio he had received as a gift on his last birthday and searched out a station playing Christmas music. In those days of his youth, it seemed the only time they ever played Christmas music on the radio was starting on Christmas Eve and he loved hearing all of the songs he heard (and loved) a year ago. His favorite was “Silver Bells”, and they played it not long after he lay down, much to his delight. Slowly, to the strains of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, he drifted off to sleep.

(A curious thing about being a boy is that sometimes you can will yourself to dream what you want to dream. Not always, of course, but sometimes. You might think it an odd thing to dream, but the boy had dreamed of Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound every Christmas Eve [that is, every one in the memory of his short life] and he hoped that he’d have that same dream again this night, as it was great fun running around with cartoon characters. He did.)


Since he had gone to bed so early, he awoke at 3 am. He got up to go to the bathroom, but when he opened his door, he felt the heaviness of a full stocking on the other side of it, so thoughts of peeing suddenly took a backseat to seeing what Santa had left. He gently took out the tack that was holding the stocking to the door, making doubly sure he had a firm grip on the stocking and it wouldn’t fall on the hall floor (in case there was anything in it that might break) and he took it back to his bed, flipping on the bedroom light switch as he did so.

He wasn’t a greedy sort of a boy and so he didn’t just dump everything out on the bed in one fell swoop. Instead, he took the items out one at a time and carefully, lovingly, examined them. There were candy cigarettes with little bits of red food coloring on the ends to simulate their being lit; a set of jacks with a small rubber ball; a wind-up dog that did backflips until there wasn’t enough wind-up left (so then it landed on its head); a pinkie ball (great for three-flies-out on the front steps); one of those puzzles that you have to move around the pieces until you get it to read 1 through 15 in order; and a pencil with his very own name engraved on it! He attempted to solve the puzzle for a little bit, but then he remembered that he had to pee, so he did.

(He went to the bathroom to do so.)

After washing his hands and brushing his teeth, he went downstairs and plugged in the Christmas tree. He considered a Christmas tree the most beautiful thing on earth, and this one was filled with enormous colored lights, ornaments of all shapes and sizes, big handfuls of tinsel on every branch, and a long garland of popcorn (which he and his mother had strung one evening last week.) Topping it off was a white star with a red bulb inside it. He sat down on the floor and just stared at the tree for ten minutes, bathing in its warmth, both real (from the gigantic lights) and metaphysical.

He probably would have stared at it a bit longer, but his cat came along and started playing with one of the low-hanging ornaments and that broke him out of his reverie.

He loved the cat very much and he loved watching her play - even more than he liked looking at the tree. After she failed to defeat the ornament - it still hung on the branch and she now wriggled on her back, enjoying the pine needles that had fallen - he went out to the kitchen and opened a can of cat food. Hearing the opener whirr, she came running like a shot - for a cat will take food over ornaments, every time (thus proving, once again, their innate intelligence.)

The boy poured himself a glass of milk and added some chocolate to it. He then took this back upstairs, drank it while eating a candy cigarette, and went back to sleep, listening to “The Little Drummer Boy” and imagining himself a poor boy playing drums for Jesus. The cat came upstairs and joined him in sleep, though what she dreamed of remains a mystery.


When he awoke again, it was 7am and his mother and father were also awake. They all went downstairs and opened presents, enjoying some cocoa while they did so. The boy received wonderful presents of games and toys, as well as a couple of shirts and such that he knew he should be more thankful for than he was. The cat received a catnip mouse (from Sandy Claws) and was very thankful for it. The parents exchanged gifts with each other and were thankful for those, and they received the stinky perfume and the smelly cigars with warmth at the thought behind them.

Now it was time for mass, after which the family would head over to the aunt’s to exchange gifts, before heading off to the house of the boy's grandparents.

Mass was as mass usually is – something which cats are thankful not to have to attend. It wasn’t that the boy didn’t want to wish Jesus a happy birthday and all – he really loved the bible stories very much, and he admired to no end someone who would lay down his own life for that of his friends – but the priest saying the mass this morning just went on and on and on and on. Even though he had slept close to ten hours, the boy could feel his eyes drooping as the interminable homily crept, s-l-o-w-l-y, towards a conclusion that had stopped being meaningful to all but the most die-hard some ten minutes before. Finally, after the homily died its excruciating death and communion was served, and after everyone had sung a rousing “Joy To The World”, it was time to get on the road and go exchange presents with other family members.

After a 15-minute drive, the boy and his parents arrived at the aunt’s house. They went inside to a warm welcome from the aunt and the rest of her family gathered there, which included a few other adults and a couple of infants, the boy's cousins. After a few minutes of small talk (mostly complaints from the boy’s father concerning the length of the homily at mass) it was time to open presents.

The boy watched with delight as everybody opened packages and smiled. Here was the magic again. Everyone went "Ooh!" and "Ah!" in the appropriate places as they received the presents that others had purchased for them. And now, his aunt had his gift in her hands and she carefully removed the wrapping paper, revealing the gift for all to see.

There were some smiles. Not that the boy noticed, but there were also a couple of glances exchanged by the grown-ups with some muffled laughter included. The aunt looked at her gift, then looked lovingly at the boy. He looked back at her with love in his heart.

She said, “Oh, Jimmy, they’re just what I needed! Thank you, darling!”

She reached over and kissed him. He blushed and said, “You’re welcome.”

Never before had a package of red and green kitchen sponges brought such joy to two people.


True story.

My Auntie Ba could have laughed at such a ridiculous gift. Some of the other adults might have joined in and then I would have been mortified. Instead, she gave me a marvelous gift that Christmas and she did so just by being her wonderful loving self. I don't even remember what her store-bought present to me was that year. What I remember is her giving me the knowledge that there is no such thing as a bad gift so long as there is love behind the giving of it.

May the gifts you give, whether large or small or precious or ludicrous (like sponges) be received as lovingly. And please receive with love every gift given you. You never know how profoundly your love might affect someone.

My Auntie Ba is gone now, and I miss her, but her spirit lives on with me every Christmas because of the gift she gave me.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Back In The Saddle

Recently, I was asked to do some professional voice-over work. Since I hadn't done any in (mumble, mumble) years, it was a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, I did it and here is the result. The intro and closing credits are read by me.

It's fun stuff. If anyone else has work for me, drop me a line at

My thanks to Planet Carnival for using me.

Soon, with more better stuff (maybe).

Monday, September 23, 2019


I just went through all of the comments on this site that needed me to either OK them or delete them as garbage. Of the 491 made since my last posting, four of them were actual comments from people who cared. So, to help those people, here is my latest health update.

I'm fine. I'm through every horrible thing imaginable and now feel  much better. Thank you for your concern!

I have health issues - you don't get a quadruple bypass just for the fun of it - but with medication, exercise, a better diet and (most important, I think) no cigarettes for the past eight months, I feel at least as good as I did when I was 50.

(I'm 62, in case you were wondering.)

I have little desire to write now, however, so I doubt you'll see too much more here. There may be something if I get really ticked off or there is a horrendous life change, but I wouldn't waste too much time coming here.

To the many people who have made my days by leaving their kind comments, I thank you from the bottom of my (repaired) heart. God bless you.

The following is doubtful...

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Cabbage, part 2

Part One detailed my medical concerns from the end of January through the beginning of March. Now we hit the major operation (or at least what I remember about it.)


Surgery was scheduled for March 5th. Donna and I were relaxing at home, watching Jeopardy I think, when my eyes started going blurry again. I thought, "Oh, no... I want to enjoy my final night home, but am I having another stroke?"

Rather than taking a chance, I told Donna what was happening. She immediately phoned for an ambulance and I was carted off to Mount Auburn again. So much for a final restful night.

By the time we arrived, my vision was normal again. The guess was it was a TIA or Transient Ischemic Attack - a mini-stroke. I was glad it was gone but now I had to spend another night in the hospital. Folks were good. They made up a nice bed for Donna so she could stay with me and they gave me drugs to sleep.


Here's where things get fuzzy. I honestly remember very little about the day of the operation.

They must have given me very relaxing drugs. I recall a visit from the hospital chaplain, which MY WIFE arranged at my request. She was a nice woman, but that's all I remember. I think I remember being taken to the operating room, but I'm truly not sure. Many hours later, I awoke in my room in intensive care. From there, it just gets blurrier.

I recall MY WIFE visiting me and me saying "Go away..." to her because I LOVE HER and I saw no reason for her to be hanging around with me in no shape to converse or anything else useful. MY MOM and my stepsister Diane visited. I spoke to them both for about three minutes but fell asleep. MY WIFE visited again even though I apparently told the nurses not to let her in. I wanted no one, not even her, to see me in such a weak state.

Understand, this all takes place in one 24-hour period. However, I truly thought over a week had passed, at least, and maybe 10 days. My sense of time was destroyed by my waking and falling back asleep so often. I'm sure the morphine or dilaudid or other pain meds had an effect. When I finally asked someone how long it had been since the operation, I expected to hear "10 days" or even more.  When the answer came back, "Yesterday", I didn't believe it at first. I honestly thought it was a joke.


Big blur of bad sleep (always being interrupted by a nurse for some test so thus never more than 30 minutes at a pop.) Lots of medications, lots of pain. Trying to cough up phleghm under doctor's orders, painful as hell. They give you a pillow to hold against your chest to absorb some of the pain, but it still hurts like absolute Hell. When you do get some up, it's generally foul - green, gray, yellow, nasty - but you feel like you accomplished something!

I was hooked up to two or three different IVs at all times, plus oxygen. and had a hospital jonny that covered three-quarters of me. It sucked trying to get comfortable enough to sleep. Usually, I ended up just the least uncomfortable I could manage (and this despite wonderful pain killers.)

I had a huge scar; top of my chest running down to a few inches above my belly button. I wouldn't look at it unless I was forced to do so (change of clothes, sponge bath). My bones were cut through, of course, now held together by wire and tape. Coughing was incredibly painful. They knew the pain was brutal, so I was given the strongest opioid drugs available - dilaudid, morphine, oxy.

The two worst nights of my life were as follows:

1 - I had to spend one whole evening and night with no liquid whatsoever. I'm still not sure why. It was torture. My mouth and tongue and lips were swollen and cracked and I couldn't sleep more than a few minutes all night without being woken up by my dry throat and mouth and lips. When they finally allowed me some cracked ice, it was heaven

2 - The other night of torture was when they put something in my gut to try to suck up extra air/gas in there. I never saw the instrument but I think it was the size of a small ballpoint pen. It was inserted into my nose and I was told to make like I was swallowing to get it to go down into my belly. Totally unnatural and uncomfortable.

I probably came close to killing myself because of that thing. I was groggy after a few hours of it and I decided I'd had enough. I removed it myself. It was attached by some sort of cord or tube. I pulled it up and out of my stomach, then out of my mouth. When the nurse came in a few minutes later she was amazed. She scolded me for doing something so stupid. She said I could have died if it became disconnected and floated around my gut (or something like that.) I was happy as hell to be rid of it, though. That was the worst treatment I was awake for.

Everything else was just normal torture.

Did I mention that I had a catheter the whole time in ICU? Well, I did. It was fine, in that I didn't have to think about peeing, but it was creepy because I had never had one before in my life. On March 9, when I was transferred to a stepdown unit, I asked for it to be taken out. They did so and I resumed my normal life peeing.

Previous to that day, I had the most humiliating moment of my entire life. There's no easy way to say it, so... I shit myself.

I was in bed and I felt it coming. I tried to get to the toilet but I wasn't able to move fast enough (I was still only taking a few steps at a time.) It just dropped out of me onto the floor, soft and smelly. Some got on me. I was physically unable to clean it up myself - I couldn't bend down and so forth without passing out - so I had to ring for the nurse.When she came, I had to say, "I'm so ashamed. I shit myself and I need to be cleaned up."

The nurses were all magnificent and caring and NEVER made me feel belittled  no matter what I asked of them. She cleaned it up, then undressed me and sponged me down, gave me a fresh jonny and never said a word that would have made me feel bad.


I was finally moved from ICU into a regular room. Not too much had changed. I was still only taking very short walks down the corridor and back. The pain wasn't significantly less at first, though it ebbed a bit with each day. My overwhelming desire was to get the hell out of the hospital. As nice as everyone was, I wanted to be home where I could sleep hours and hours without somebody waking me up to take blood, have an x-ray, test me for other vital signs, etc.

Finally, we were told I was going to be released.  After receiving voluminous instructions on how to handle myself, what drgug to get and take daily (sometimes twice daily), follow-up tests at the hospital and other places, I got dressed (which was much more of a chore than I imagined - took me ten minutes with help from MY WIFE) was put in a wheelchair and taken downstairs. We waited for a cab, having no able driver among us.

(Home, next, in a few days. Thanks for reading.)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Chronology of Cabbage*

*CABG (pronounced "cabbage") is medical shorthand for my heart operation. I like the vegetable and resent having to think of my operation every time March 17 rolls  around.

This is the timeline, with some details, of my open heart surgery. If I leave anything out that you want to know about, just ask.

JANUARY 30 (?)

I believe this was the day I had a minor stroke that robbed me of much of my peripheral vision on the left side.

I did not think I had a stroke. Everything I heard about strokes told me to check my face, hands, lips, limb strength, etc., and not a single word about vision. So, I went about my business expecting this would clear up (I had a previous experience a couple of years earlier when something like this had happened and taking a nap allowed me to wake up refreshed and 100%. This time, I woke up still blurry on one side.)

Since I still had no idea it was a stroke, I called and made an eye appointment. I was thoroughly checked by my eye doctor and  no eye problems found (except for loss of peripheral vision in the left eye, of course) and she suggested I contact a regular doctor.


Made an emergency appointment with a doctor. MY WIFE, of course, helped with all of this since I am helpless with doctors, not having seen one for anything in at least 20 years. Doctor examined me and scheduled me for MRI on Saturday following.

Later that night, after we got home, call came from doctor re-scheduling MRI for next day instead of Saturday (which was two days away, so now I knew they thought it was serious.)


Had MRIs, which is scary. You're slid inside this tube that is very close fitting, told to lie very still and have horrible sounds bombard you for 45 minutes. First time they slid me in, I immediately rang the panic buzzer for them to slide me out. I asked them to call MY WIFE. They did. She came and put a hand on my ankle for the duration, giving me a lifeline. Thanks to her, I got through the rest of it OK.

Turns out I had a stroke. The MRI photos showed I had two of them - one recently and another a few years back possibly. Also I was shown to have had two heart attacks I was unaware of.


I was sent, by ambulance, to Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge (near Watertown) to stay overnight and have tests.


So I spent four nights in the hospital being tested and given all sorts of new meds. Since I had never been prescribed ANYTHING before, every drug they gave me was new. Lower cholesterol, regulate heartbeat, thin blood, anti-anxiety (I enjoyed that), and about five others. I went from 0 drugs to 8 or 9 overnight.

Every test anyone gave me in person - press my fingers, follow this flashlight with your eyes, smile, whistle, whatever to do with stroke symptoms - I passed magnificently. Every time, following one of these testings, I fully expected to be released the next day and sent home to live normally. However, every one of these tests was followed by CT Scan, MRI, other mechanical testing, x-rays, whatever, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE CAME BACK WITH THE WORST POSSIBLE RESULT.

I'm generally an optimist, but I knew without a doubt where this was headed. I had dreaded the possibility of open heart surgery ever since My Dad had it in the late 80s. At the time, I had been the only one to take care of him (only child, he was divorced) and it was miserable. Before and after that operation, he was two entirely different people. Before: Robust, totally self-assured, unafraid of almost anything. After: Tired, not wanting to do anything, no desire for most things.

As it turned out, I was right. As each test came back, the doctors spoke about operations until finally they said I should have open heart bypass surgery as soon as possible. I was devastated. It was my biggest fear become reality.


Released from the hospital, which was nice. I was given some fuzzy idea of when the surgery would take place. As it turned out, it was a month away, March 5. They wanted to do it as soon as possibile, since they thought I was in danger of dying, but they also wanted to be sure I wouldn't have another stroke during the operation so they had to wait.


Had some further scattered tests, kept up on new medications, tried my best to compartmentalize my life and ignore what was coming. Best thing to come of it was quitting smoking after 48 years. I did so in January and have kept it up, Thank God. I can't even imagine how horrible this would have been if I was still smoking.

(Continued with the operation itself, soon. Thanks for listening.)


Saturday, April 06, 2019

I'm Alive

Where it happened... Good folks.

The operation, so I am told, was a success. I was going to have a double coronary bypass but they liked the looks of things so much whne they got in there, they decided to make it a quadruple.


Worst thing I've ever been through, so far. If there's worse coming, I'd rather just check out.

Anyway, I'm getting better - S-L-O-W-L-Y - and maybe I'll feel normal (or better?) by May.

I could talk about all the horrible things - truly nightmarish things - that went down in hospital, but I won't for now. It was all for my good; I know that. Just wanted everyone to know I m still alive and expecting to get better. I won't be writing much - no desire at the moment.

Love all of your cards and letters and e-mails and little gifts and pleasant jokes and flowers. Hate the typos I have to go back and correct in every sentence, so I'm done for now.

Love you. God bless.


Friday, March 01, 2019

Final Pre-Operation Blog

Surgery is now firmly scheduled for Tuesday, March 5th.

My birthday is Saturday, March 2nd, and it's one of those odd birthdays in that I was actually born on a Saturday, sometime around 9:30 in the morning as I recall reading someplace.

In any case, it was nice of the surgeons to let me actually turn 62 before cutting me open. My Father was 62 when he died and even though my general habits of health haven't been tremendously better than his, I do believe my having played sports for about 20 years longer and carrying about 20 pounds less around my middle should have been worth something in longevity. We'll see.

Barring anything of an amazing nature, this will be the last blog post before the operation and quite possibly the last one after it for quite some time. If you want any updates, try Facebook.

I expect MY WIFE will post as needed.

Love you all. Thanks for the prayers.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Latest News

Had a visit with my cardiologist today. All is pretty much the same.

I left some of you with an incorrect impression last time. I thought today - the 25th - was my time for surgery. It was not. I am still not operated upon. My apologies for misleading you.

The surgery should come sometime in March. I still don't know the date. My guess would be around the 12th but it could be earlier and it could be later. My cardiologist, the very nice Dr. Maggs, would do the surgery now if he had more confidence in my not stroking out while under the knife. Therefore, I will continue with my Holter monitor, get the results from that sometime in early to mid-March, meanwhile taking a much higher dosage of high blood pressure meds than I was started on (since my HBP is still H).

I have also been given a slightly higher scrip for anxiety, thank you.

That's about it. As soon as I find out the date for sure, I'll tell you.


Thursday, February 07, 2019

The Coxswain Says...

Stroke! Stroke!

That's my not very clever way of telling you I suffered a stroke last week (or, as it was said of my Aunt Anna back in the day of weird medical terminology, I took a shock.)

I awoke one day last week to find that my vision was compromised. I had (and still have) a blur of everything to my lower left side.

I found it odd but not "OH MY GOD!!!" alarming. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago, wherein I had what I would call "fragmented" vision in my left eye. At that time, I felt a little tired and I attributed it to that. I took a nap and awoke with it having returned to normal. Not so much this time. It did not go away after a couple of hours but I still was not horribly worried. I had none of the other things I associated with having had a stroke. No weakness in limbs, no facial distortion, I could smile, whistle, move everything just fine, had no trouble understanding language or speaking. Therefore, I assumed it was just something wrong with my eye. I went to see my eye doctor. I suspected it might somehow be a detached retina.

She performed every test available and there was nothing wrong with my eyes physically. The only test that came back with less than good result was one for peripheral vision acuity. That showed what I already knew - I now had a big blind spot on my left side, lower quadrant. All other vision was OK.

To make a long story short, I followed up - a day later - with a visit to a regular doctor. He ran a few tests and scheduled me for a series of MRIs on Saturday (two days later). However, his ofice called back to our home and said he wanted me to get the MRIs done more quickly, the next day. And so I did. The results showed that I had suffered a stroke. In addition, I apparently had also had a stroke some time earlier in my life, perhaps associated with that other vision incident.

I was taken by ambulance from the MRI site to Mount Auburn Hospital in Watertown, checked in, and spent the next four days undergoing various tests. They started me on five different medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol reduction, blood thinning, etc.

During the days in the hospital, I was continually tested by nurses and doctors to see of I had any additional stroke symptoms. I had none whatsoever. With each test, I expected my good showings to result in my being released and my being able to resume a normal sort of life (albeit with a partial vision loss that wasn't going away.) However, every time an additional testing via equipment was run, it always came back with the worst possible result. I was told, "Well, it might be this good thing...", but it never was. Every single test that had to be studied for results came back with bad news. It was all very disheartening.

Ultrasound, x-ray and CT scan testing revealed that I had also suffered a couple of heart attacks in my life and that my heart was working at about 27% capacity. This was not a pleasant surprise, but by the time the final results were in, I wasn't AT ALL surprised as I by then expected the worst. Something I had feared my entire life was broached. I was told I needed a coronary bypass operation, and soon.

I am now scheduled for same on the 25th.

My Dad had that surgery around the time he was 56. He died at age 62. My 62nd birthday is coming on March 2nd. Woo-Hoo.

That's the short story of it. There are more details, of course, but I don't feel like talking about them - the more I do, the more I'm reminded of the upcoming unpleasantness - nor do I want to bore anyone by being one of those people who goes on and on about his/her medical traumas.

I do need to say - want to say - that I am blessed beyond measure to have MY WIFE. She has been absolutely solid throughout. To say that I love her is, of course, an understatement.

I have no desire to bring pain or worries to any of my other relatives and friends. That's pretty much my greatest disappointment in this. My Mom, among others of course, is worried. I hate to be the bringer of that.

Once I'm past the operation I'll be fine mentally, barring the totally expected sort of depression one is supposed to have. Thinking about it now, though, scares the shit out of me. If I had the ability to be totally oblivious from now until then, I'd take it. However, no one is willing to prescribe me enough happy pills for that. This is the one thing that pisses me off more than any other. I don't give a flying fuck about the possibility of addiction. I have a problem NOW that I want to handle; I'll handle that other problem later, thanks. And it wouldn't be a problem, believe me. I've now been off cigarettes for six days and if I can do that, I can do anything.

OK, that's all for now. Just felt I should let the folks who still visit here know the story.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Are You Ready To Boogie?

Well, get down off your chair. This isn't a rock concert. It's just a post about rock concerts. As a matter of fact, it's mostly an OLD post about rock concerts (but updated since first published in 2011.)

I got to thinking about some of the best concerts I've ever attended. Then I tried compiling a list of ALL the concerts I've attended during my life. This is the result.

[Note: I've seen quite a few more musical congregations than those listed below. However, I'm only counting those seen in a "concert" setting; I'll say at least 300 seats available. Clubs, therefore, would generally not count. For instance, I saw wonderful musicians in New Orleans when I was there. They played in small clubs, though, so not on this list.]

My tastes tend toward heavy metal and hard rock, so those dominate, but you'll notice early on that they aren't all rock concerts. I decided to include everybody I've seen perform, some of whom are the type of acts you might have thought were not my cup of tea. Hey, what can I say? I'm eclectic.

When I was a teen, I - and all of my friends - were voracious concertgoers. This was, in no small part, due to most of us also being voracious drug users. Everybody, whatever other drugs we used, smoked pot regularly. And I can honestly say that my use of pot directly led to a lifelong love of music. That statement is in no way an exaggeration.

Prior to my smoking grass, I was indifferent to music. I liked it but I wasn't a fanatic. I could take it or leave it. My tastes ran to music in comedy more than anything else; Tom Lehrer, for instance, or maybe the Smothers Brothers or Allan Sherman. After getting high, I began to truly FEEL the music. I could immerse myself in it and find textures I had never before noticed. I would liken it to a colorblind person suddenly seeing colors for the first time. It was truly a mind-opening experience for me. I not only became enamored with music performance but I also became a musician who played in five different groups that were paid for performing.

[Yes, that's me with the long orange hair, on stage with a band called Live Wire circa 1981. To put my own "career" in perspective, I played perhaps four or five gigs that could have qualified for this list by the "300 or more seats" rule. The biggest was about 2000, as I recall.]

Anyway, the point of a list like that which follows is to jog your memory and perhaps get you to tell a tale or two of your own, so please do so here or at your own place. I'd love to read your lists/stories.

(The numbers in brackets indicate acts I've seen more than once. The stories following any of the names will indicate, in all likelihood, that I'm a long-winded bastard willing to spout off far too much concerning past drug usage.)

AC/DC [4]

The first time I saw these guys goes down in history as the best audience participation I was ever involved in. My good buddy, Fast Freddy Goodman, had scored us tickets for the second row. In the audience, to our right, were... ah, hell, it's a long story, but a good one. Better if you go read it HERE. You'll be rewarded with cheap thrills concerning sex, if that helps.

The last time I saw these guys was also in the company of Fast Freddy and also resulted in a story to tell (as is often the case with any time spent with Fast Freddy.) Read all about Hell's Parking Lot.

Aerosmith [3]
Alice Cooper
The Allman Brothers Band
The Beach Boys

Saw them as the opening act for Chicago, in Foxboro Stadium (the then-home of the New England Patriots.) It marked the first time I ever tried brownies made with pot.

One of the guys I went to the concert with - there were six of us, as I recall - lived in Foxboro, so we went to his place before the show, armed with a righteously-sized bag of dope and a box of Betty Crocker. We mixed the brownie batter and dumped the dope in, stirred well, and baked, both literally and figuratively. I don't believe I have ever been as stoned since and I know for sure that I had never been that stoned before.

The problem, though, was that we hadn't considered the best way to incorporate a bag of dope into some brownies. Sure, we crushed it up somewhat, but what we should have done was grind it fine before adding it to the brownie mix. About an hour after eating the things, and just as we were really peaking, we had some of the worst cramps in history. And, about midway through Chicago's set, my intestines rebelled with passion against the digestion of such stuff as seeds and twigs. Color my world brown, thank you. I was on the can that night until about 25 or 6 to 4.

Tony Bennett
Black Oak Arkansas [2]
Black Sabbath [6]

This count does NOT include separate concerts of Ozzy Osbourne listed later.

The first time I saw Black Sabbath marked the first time I ever took a drug I wasn't intending to take. While grooving to Into The Void, the guy next to me passed me a joint. Or, at least, I thought it was a joint. I thanked him and took a mighty haul on it. I then realized, by the unmistakable taste of plastic in my mouth, that it was Angel Dust. Oh, well. It wasn't as though I had never done the stuff before. I knew what I was in for, so I relaxed and enjoyed it.

[Disclaimer: Angel Dust is the only drug I've ever done that I would never in a million years recommend to anybody, even if I hated them. If I knew then what I know now, about how quickly you could die from that shit, I'd never have touched it the first time. Enough said, I hope.]

Blue Oyster Cult [2]

Quite possibly the record for furthest time between seeing an act twice - 1975 and 2009. The first time, they opened for Black Sabbath. The second time, they opened for Deep Purple.

The Boston Pops [8]
The Boston Symphony Orchestra
Well, I'm from Boston, after all.

David Bowie (Sort of - see Iggy Pop)

Harry Chapin

Lovely man. He gave a free concert at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River, with a hat passed and donations going to some charity or another. This was hardly a one-off deal for him. He was known for his charitable endeavors. Shortly after I saw this concert, he died. Such a shame.

Chicago [2]
Perry Como

Funny story. I had made plans to see Mr. Como with MY WIFE. I had made plans to see Ozzie Osbourne with Fast Freddy. These concerts were supposed to take place during the same week.

When Fred and I went to see Ozzie, we arrived at the venue only to find out that Ozzie was sick and had canceled. A couple of days later, MY WIFE and I saw Mr. Como in concert. He was about 87 at the time, and made his way to the stage with a cane and two assistants. And then he proceeded to perform a marvelous show for about two-and-a-half hours, leaving the stage afterward with the cane and the two assistants.

MY WIFE has never stopped kidding me about how Perry Como was as good as his word, despite his advanced age and infirmities, while Ozzie Osbourne probably canceled because he had a bad cold.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

First real rock concert I ever went to, thanks to my Uncle Jim. He scored the tickets for me and my friends. He had some seriously good connections in those days, so he got us into the second row at Boston Garden. Midway through the show, we lit up a pipe full of grass and were passing it back and forth. David Crosby eyed us from the stage and gave us a thumbs up. We lived on that for weeks.

Deep Purple [9]

My favorite band, so you'd think I'd have many stories to tell. The best, I suppose, was the last one wherein Fast Freddy and I (along with Steve Alimo) got to meet the band backstage.

 [That's me in the yellow hat, flanked by Purple drummer Ian Paice and Fast Freddy]

Steve Morse, the current guitarist - next to Fast Freddy in the photo - is probably the single musician I've seen more often than any other (eight times with DP, once as a member of Dixie Dregs, once with his own Steve Morse Band.)

Ronnie James Dio
The Dixie Dregs
Duke & The Drivers
Ernie & The Automatics
Maynard Ferguson [2]

The only real concerts I ever attended with My Father, outside of the Boston Pops gigs, were the two times I saw Maynard Ferguson. My Dad was a Ferguson freak. He had some 16 or 17 vinyl long-players of Maynard, so I heard him often and came to enjoy him greatly myself. I still have most of those records as well as some old 78's of him with Stan Kenton's band. The man sure could reach some dog-whistle highs on that horn of his.

Peter Frampton

Just prior to him breaking huge as a solo act, I saw him open for Aerosmith in Providence, Rhode Island. At the time, not too many people knew what in hell a talkbox for a guitar was, so we were totally freaked when he made his guitar "speak".

Gentle Giant
Grand Funk Railroad
The Grass Roots
Golden Earring

We've got a thing that's called Radar Love... 

With the possible exception of Highway Star, by Deep Purple, the best driving song ever.

Herman’s Hermits
Huun-Huur Tu & Angelite

The former were a Tuvan throat singing aggregation, the latter a Hungarian female vocal group touring with them. Amazingly good combination. If you've never heard Tuvan throat singing, you should. It may or may not be your favorite experience. Personally, I think it's a wonderfully entertaining freakish way to vocalize.

The J. Geils Band [3]
David Johansen [2]

This man just ate stages whole; swallowed them in big bites. Probably the best showman I've ever seen. If you don't recognize the name, he fronted The New York Dolls prior to his solo career and later adopted the persona of Buster Poindexter for some gigs on Saturday Night Live.

Tom Jones

Saw him in Vegas, baby. And the man has a spectacular set of pipes. If you've only heard his poppish hits, you might not know that he has one of the best blues voices ever. Well, he does. And he uses it tremendously well. Blew me away.

The Monkees

Yup. Three-quarters of them, anyway. Michael Nesmith was not part of the aggregation.

The Moody Blues
The Steve Morse Band

NOT Mott The Hoople. This was the band Overend Watts fronted after Mott The Hoople dissolved. It contained three of the original members, but not Ian Hunter.

Wayne Newton

Saw Mr. Newton in Las Vegas, also. Great showman, to be certain, but his voice is shot to hell.

Ozzie Osbourne [2]

He didn't eat any bats (or puppies, as MY WIFE thinks he does.)

Poco [2]

Very odd. Saw them twice, but never expected to. They were the opening act on two different bills, and a pleasant surprise both times.

Iggy Pop

Post-Stooges, with David Bowie playing keyboards (which I'm not sure half the audience even noticed, as he kept very much to the shadows and was never introduced.)

Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
The Ramones [4]
Kenny Rogers

Ended up seeing him for a very odd reason. MY WIFE and I decided we'd broaden our horizons randomly, so we asked My Mom to buy tickets for a show at The South Shore Music Circus on a specified random date. We assiduously avoided looking at the tickets or any advertisements for the place; we only knew when we were supposed to go there. It wasn't until we were there that we knew who we were seeing. It was a fine show, too. If I could remember the name of the female country singer who opened for him, she'd also be on this list. She was good. Wish I could recall her name.

Joe Satriani
The Scorpions
Ruby Starr & Grey Ghost

An amazingly underrated and forgotten singer. Strong voice, in-your-face sexuality permeating her stage presence, she should have been huge. She died young and relatively unknown considering the scope of her talents. If you've heard Black Oak Arkansas's version of Jim Dandy, she's the featured female voice. 

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Livingston Taylor
Tuff Darts
Andy Williams (again, Las Vegas)
The Who [3]

Could be two times, not three; depends upon how you count. The first time I saw them, Keith Moon collapsed on his drum kit halfway into the second song. The show was canceled. Saw the return engagement, then another after that with Kenny Jones on the skins.

Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention
ZZ Top [2]

And this could be 1 and 1/2, depending upon how you count. The second time I saw them, some douchebag threw a beer bottle at the stage. The band left and didn't return.


And that's it. I'm sure I'll remember three more bands and five more stories as soon as I publish this.

Rock on.

Soon, with more better stuff.