Monthly Archives: August 2010

“Walk On” – U2


Walk On – (For Chuck)
U2

…And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on, walk on…
Stay safe tonight

You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen
You could have flown away
A singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom

Walk on, walk on
What you’ve got they can’t deny it
Can’t sell it, or buy it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Home… hard to know what it is if you’ve never had one
Home… I can’t say where it is but I know I’m going home
That’s where the heart is

and I know it aches
How your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Leave it behind
You got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you feel
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress-up
All that you scheme…

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Prayers Needed For Chuck Graham

I’d like to dedicate today’s blog entry to one of the greatest guys I’ve ever been fortunate enough to meet in my 50 years on the planet. His name is Chuck Graham and, as I type this tonight, he’s battling for his life in a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chuck is my beautiful fiancee Janet’s brother and he’s battling from brain cancer. He was admitted to the hospital last week because of pneumonia. He’s a very sick man, but miracles do happen. It’s a crying, awful shame that he’s suffering so much in his long and valiant fight with cancer, but all we can you – all anyone can do, is to pray.

Chuck is an engineer and owns his own multi-million dollar company in North Carolina. He’s hands down the smartest guy I’ve ever met, not just when it comes to engineering which is mostly over my head, but simply when it comes to life. He is smart and sharp about everyday things and could figure out in minutes things that would take you and I much longer to decipher. For example, last Christmas he assembled a magnificent model railroad village in his living room, while entertaining his guests, cooking, attending to the needs of his family which included a wife and two beautiful girls, on in high school and the other in college. I watched him multi-task and marveled at the genius of a great mind that he possesses.

Chuck was born and raised in the sleepy, Dayton area community of Centerville, Ohio. It was a wonderful place to grow up with it’s myriad of similar aged children, always friends to find and things to do. And Chuck, with his charisma and charm, always had plenty of friends. Even the neighbors thought he was the greatest.

I was amazed by this the very first time I met Chuck. It was on Christmas Day of 2008 and Janet had invited me to Chuck’s home outside Charlotte, North Carolina to celebrate Christmas. That night he had what was billed as a “small gathering.” In no time, his house was filled with nearly a hundred friends and neighbors, along with the warm glow that always comes when you are surrounded by the ones you love and who love you. Everybody always wanted to talk to Chuck and Chuck tried his best to oblige, mingling with the Christmas visitors.

Chuck is like a magnet who attracts attention and light. He always has an interesting story and a great sense of humor to go with it. He’s just plain fun to be around. Even then Chuck is not feeling well from his treatments you’d never know it. I never once heard him complain. Complaining and belly-aching is not in Chuck’s nature. Living is.

When it came time for college, Chuck chose the school that dominates his home state, Ohio State. And once, Chuck became an Ohio State Buckeye through and through. As recently as last season he was excited about attending Ohio State football games and typically he’d bring along his wife and parents, Charlie and Evelyn. When he couldn’t be there in person, Chuck will also watch the games at home, hanging on every point scored. His brilliant mind knows all the players on both sides of the field and all their statistics. Just another example of his genius.

I can’t remember the first time that Janet told me that Chuck is battling cancer, but it’s been several years. It first metastasized in his throat, and facial glands. This always made for great discomfort for Chuck. But this wonderful, loving man continues to fight like a prize-fighter. Through countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, leaving Chuck with vicious, blinding, head-pounding headaches and other side effects, his wit and friendliness remains. Chuck has taken everything he’s been given with great bravery and courage.

A short time ago, Chuck lost his hair, a common side effect and continued having a difficult time eating. I would send Chuck emails trying to try to cheer him up. But in recent months, I noticed that his responses were growing briefer. I’m certain it was all he could do to go through his email.

Here’s a picture of Chuck and his family last Christmas.

Last week, Janet and I got word that Chuck was in the hospital with pneumonia. His lovely daughter Kelly posted a one word message on her Facebook account. It said: “Pray.”

And that’s what I’m asking all of you to do. Janet and her family are being incredibly strong in the face of all of this. I am doing my best to be strong and to help Janet through this incredibly hard time. All we can do is pray for Chuck. Pray for a miracle. Pray that he’s not suffering too much. Pray that God will show some mercy and help Chuck.

As my father used to say, when he was dying, it ain’t over till they throw roses on you. So let’s pray for a miracle, for they do happen and I’ve seen living proof.

Please pray that Chuck isn’t suffering and that the doctors are keeping him comfortable. Pray that the doctors can make him better again. Just please pray…pray…pray.

On behalf of Janet, her family and Chuck’s family, I thank you.

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Filed under Health, My Stories, Profiles

Paris Hilton – Eye Candy Arrested For Nose Candy

It is a sad and somber day today for Paris Hilton Nation.

The vapid 29-year-old celebutante was busted last night in Sin City itself – Las Vegas, Nevada, for possession of “the White Lady,” “the Devil’s Dandruff,” “Bolivian Marching Powder,” or just plain old cocaine. According to Associated Press reports, Paris Hilton was riding down the main Las Vegas Strip in a black Cadillac Escalade driven by boyfriend and nightclub mogul Cy Waits, when a motorcycle cop smelled marijuana “wafting out of the car” and pulled the vehicle over. Police say they found a yet to be reported amount of the white stuff in Hilton’s purse, a place usually reserved for one of her dogs.

Paris Hilton was arrested for felony cocaine possession, while Cy Waits was busted for misdemeanor suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A crowd quickly formed around police and the not-too-happy couple late on The Strip and Hilton was escorted by police into the hotel “to keep her safe” during the initial investigation, said police Lt. Wayne Holman. Later, the scene queen and her 34-year-old boyfriend were taken to taken to Clark County jail where they were booked and then released without bail around 2:45 this morning.

In a bizarre twist, the starlets Tweeter account was updated after her arrest to indicate that she was in bed and watching “The Family Guy” and then she would be going to sleep. It’s unclear whether the tweet came from her or some other “party.”

If convicted, Paris would probably face probation, which if violated, would send her to the Nevada State Prison for between one and four years, which has none of the amenities to which Ms. Hilton is probably used to. It’s probably far too early to even speculate what would happen to any of her pets.

2010 has not been a good year for Paris. She was arrested this summer after the Brazil vs. Netherlands World Cup match in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on suspicion of possession of marijuana. That case was quickly dropped. Earlier this week, there was a frightening incident when police say a 31-year-old man wielding two large knives tried to break into Hilton’s Los Angeles home. The suspect was arrested and faces burglary charges.

These last two incidents involving partying and suspected drug use might come as a surprise to some, after Hilton was sent to the clink for 45 days after she pleased no-contest in 2007 to alcohol-related reckless driving. After spending 23 days behind bars, Hilton appeared on television with talk show host Larry King and said that experience had caused her to re-evaluate the role that partying played in her life. She said at the time that she wanted “to help raise money for kids and for breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.”

But the temptations are very strong when you’re a multibillionaire starlet, especially in Las Vegas, a place where the house always wins.

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Filed under Celebrities, Humor, Profiles

Have You Heard The News? Springsteen Darkness Box Set Announced

Its like Chrismas morning in late August for fans of Bruce Springsteen.

After more than a year of delays, rumors, speculation and more delays, details of a Darkness On The Edge Of Town box set have finally been announced today. Springsteen and his record company, Sony, will release in November an enormous 6 CD and DVD collection containing just about everything a Springsteen fan had hoped for.

The Darkness Box Set will include (are you ready for this?): A CD featuring a digitally remastered version of the original album, PLUS two other CDs packed with outtakes from the Darkness sessions. But that’s not all. The package will also include three DVDs; one a full length documentary on the making of the album which will feature never-before-seen footage:

Plus a second DVD of the band then and now featuring various songs performed live between 1976 and 1978 along side with the modern day band performing the album start to finish at an empty Paramount Theater last fall, and a third DVD featuring a full concert from Houston in 1978. Holy Guacamole!

And to add to this embarrassment of riches, we also get pages and pages of Bruce’s notebook that he kept during the making of the album, full of lyrical re-workings, possible album and song titles and other doodling. In short this is a feast of plenty that is sure to delight both the hardcore Springsteen fan and casual fans alike.

It’s a plethora of sound, video, photos and handwriting from the Darkness On The Edge of Tour recording sessions and subsequent tour, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this news has me, a self-admitted Bruce fanatic, breathless. The set won’t be available until mid-November with a price tag of about $115.00 dollars , but I believe despite the cost this box set will be a huge seller.

For one things the bright marketing folks working for Springsteen are offering the elements of this set in various incarnations. For example, one can just buy the outtakes on vinyl or CD by themselves without the DVDs. And it’s perfectly timed for the Christmas gift buying season.

Springsteen’s official web site, http://www.BruceSpringsteen.net is already doing a fine job promoting the set with a brief video clip from the “making of documentary,” as well as an audio clip of one of the outtakes. The Darkness documentary is set to be premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, with Springsteen himself scheduled to appear and take part in a question and answer with actor/huge Springsteen fan Edward Norton. Try getting a ticket to that session in Toronto. Here’s a sneak peak of the documentary.

Regardless of how you look at it, unless you hate the guy, this news today is major and long awaited. As many Springsteen fans have commented, this is “the holy grail” that so many have been hoping and praying for, literally for years. As somebody who considers “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” my “coming of age” album, I couldn’t be more excited.

So save your pennies and let the countdown to November 16 begin!

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Filed under Films, Music, Uncategorized

New Solar System Discovered and I’m In Charge

European astronomers have this week announced the discovery of another solar system, consisting of a bright star similar to our sun along with at least 5 planets, one very similar to Earth. This discovery is said to be the biggest astronomical discovery in more than 15 years, and possibly the biggest news since the George Foreman Grill.

Seriously! This is huge news in the “scientific community,” of which I was expelled after flunking “Physics For Football Players” in college. It is believed that the newly discovered star, which has the completely forgettable name HD 10180 (can’t we just call it Sun II?) is located a mere 127 light years away from Earth, just a little bit longer than a circular trip on the Detroit People Mover.

The new solar system is said to exist in the southern constellation of Hydrus, which is just below the Big Dipper. Scientists say it took them six years to find the new solar system (what took so long?), using the most sophisticated instruments such as a spectrograph as well as a telescope that a kid named Samantha made all by herself.

Now the first order of business, in my opinion, is that we come up with a name for this new solar system. Our solar system is, of course, called The Milky Way.

So I propose that we stay with the candy theme and name this new one “The Reese’s Cup.”

Since we’re on the topic of names, I’d like to propose to the International Scientific Committee on this World Wide Web today that the new planet which resembles Earth be named Planet John. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

Since the planet is going to be named after me, I guess that also means that I should be installed as Grand Excellency. And since I’m in charge there are some things that I am going to demand and decree. For one, every living thing on the planet will have free health care, no matter how many heads they have.

Also, people will be allowed to roam freely on my planet. I don’t want any stupid immigration laws or restrictions. All people will be citizens of our new planet. This will eliminate the need for any insipid border patrol agents, who ask irrelevant questions like “How do you like your job.” There will be no more of that nonsense.

I think we should also eliminate the monetary system and introduce the old system of barter. If you have two goats you should be able to trade them for seven sacks of rice. Or if you have a really cool car, you could trade that for a boat or a house. I don’t think wife-swapping is a good idea though, as evidenced by that dumb television series.

And haggling will definitely be encouraged. Lots of haggling.

Finally and most importantly, there will be no more wars or fighting. Guns and rifles and automatic weapons and any other thing that can kill somebody or get blood on your shirt will be strictly prohibited. If there’s a disagreement, all inhabitants will go before either Judge Judy or Dr. Phil depending on the disagreement. If you can’t work things out, you’ll have to leave.

So get ready to come along to our new home, because we’ve gone and spoiled Planet Earth completely.

I’ll personally make sure we don’t screw things up again!

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Filed under Humor, My Stories

Lone Wolf

When I lived in Boston it was not at all unusual to bump into rock and roll legend Peter Wolf.

The former late night DJ and the longtime front man of the J. Geils Band lives in Boston and often walks its streets. Whether meandering down the famed, exclusive Newbury Street or perusing additions to his vast music collection in Boston’s few remaining used record stores, the man was, to put it simply, not hard to miss. Dressed always in his ubiquitous black, from head to toe, and never without a chapeau of some sort, the slight and perennially pale Peter Wolf pretty much kept to himself. Pity the poor soul who chanced to approach him. The result was inevitably a disappointingly brief conversation consisting of a few brief words. So people would most usually leave him alone. He may have been the wild man of Borneo on stage or a mad gabber jabber on alternative radio all those years ago (“Wolfa Goofa Mama Toffa” was his nickname), but out in public and away from the spotlight, Peter Wolf is a man of very few words.

It’s really no wonder. The man born Peter W. Blankfield seems tailor-made to keeping his thoughts to himself. His own musical cohorts and influences, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, both make it a habit to speak in riddles and rhymes when they speak at all. The Chicago and Delta blues men who Wolf holds in the highest of esteem were men who spoke little and let the music do the talking.

Wolf’s history is a fascinating one. Once arrived in Boston in the 1960’s to attend art school, he was scooped up by recently acquired “progressive rock” radio station WBCN. Wolf said in a recent interview on NPR that he was offered half ownership in BCN for just $10,000. But Wolf, at the time was barely eking out an existence and says he barely had ten dollars. What Wolf did have was an incredible musical library, both LPs as well as an incredible variety of his beloved 45’s or singles. And so BCN, hoping to get their hands on all that music, offered him the overnight shift on the air. Wolf was on from Midnight until 7:00 a.m. and in addition to playing his own favorite mix of rock, blues and rhythm and blues, he also played requests. The program was a huge underground sensation and Wolf found a comfortable place behind the microphone where he discovered he had, well, the gift of gab.

But Wolf was not long for that vampire radio shift, which brings many men and women to their knees, and in 1966 Peter Wolf became part of a popular Boston-based band, The Hallucinations. A year later he went to see a performance by the J. Geils Band and quickly joined that group, becoming the hopscotching, fast on his feet, charismatic front man. That band lasted from 1967 to 1983. They played both blues standards and originals and they had a legendary live show, captured on three different live albums, all recorded in Detroit Rock City. Geils, as they were sometimes called, were soon one of the hottest rock bands in the country, playing to packed theaters, auditoriums and arenas from coast to coast and even garnering the coveted cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

I had a chance to see Wolf at his most outrageous, two times and both in Syracuse, New York. The first time was at the cozy Landmark Theater, where Wolf and the rest of the J. Geils band nearly blew the roof off the place. At one point during the climax of the show, Wolf left the stage and danced and weaved his way up and down the aisles of the theater “high fiving” with his fervent fans. The second time I saw him, he looked like a different man in 1982 when the band was on top with huge hits like “Centerfold” and “Freeze-Frame.” Wolf had shed his long locks of hair and streamlined his stage show. But behind the scenes the band was, unknown to many, ready to implode because of “artistic differences” between Wolf and keyboard player and fellow songwriter, Seth Justman.

I worked at a rather large local college radio station I remember foolishly going backstage after the show. “Oh Jesus,” I remember thinking in the middle of the clumsy introductions, “what in God’s name am I doing here.” Wolf politely shook our hands staring blindly into the distance, barely even there. He seemed ten million miles away. And I felt bad for his discomfort.

With the band no longer a going concern, Wolf was left to retreat into the blackness of the Boston night, showing up here and there at bars and occasionally joining in to jam. I remember seeing him take the stage many nights in Boston with his pal Bruce Springsteen, but he never seemed comfortable in the guest spot, especially at larger gigs. He used to rule that city and now he seemed a drifter and a stranger in a strange land. Wolf eventually teamed up with some local musicians and made a series of solo records, none of which seemed to click until he finally found his way on 2002’s excellent solo album, “Sleepless.” It was ranked on Rolling Stone Magazines, “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.” Meanwhile, with rumors all the time of a J. Geils reunion, Wolf stayed silent on that subject, instead seeming comfortable to perform with his own group of new musicians and living off royalties.

During the 1990’s and into the new Millennium, Wolf continues to be seen around town. I would often be surprised when I got to a show early, only to see Wolf already seated, by himself, and waiting for the show to begin. I began to feel bad for him. Was this a chosen land of exile or did it reveal some deep loneliness. Nobody knew but Wolf and he wasn’t talkin’.

One night I went to see Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. I bought a ticket from some guy about ten minutes before the show and it was in the very last row of the theater. During the opening acts, I was scouting an empty seat closer to the stage and out of the corner of my eye I spied one next to the soundboard. I asked a very attractive young lady if the empty seat was taken, she said no and invited me to sit down. It wasn’t until after I had taken off my coat that I realized that I was two seats away from Peter Wolf and the attractive young woman was his date.

During intermission, I introduced myself to this woman and to Peter Wolf and he greeted me with a thin smile and handshake. I had just happened to have finished reading a book about rock and roll called “Mansion On The Hill,” in which he was quoted extensively. So I asked Wolf about his impressions of that book. Speaking softly he told me he thought it was “just okay.” Conversation over? Not quite. Wolf actually surprised me by asking me what I thought about it. I told him I believed the author was too critical of Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau, who Wolf knew from days long ago in Boston. Wolf responded saying he thought it was too critical of a lot of people, including his friend Bruce. Then he got up and went backstage alone, ostensibly to say hello to Dylan, leaving me to have the most pleasant conversation with his knockout beautiful date.

I stayed and watched Dylan’s entire set sitting next to Wolf, looking over occasionally to see a man deep into the music. I left the theater, with the nice buzz that comes after a great show. But I was also happy to see that Wolf was not alone on this particular night.

After all, one can’t remain a lone wolf forever.

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Summertime Slippin’ Away

Lazy and slow days and hot fun in the summertime. Things are moving slowly here in the Detroit Rock City.

Time for long days and sensational sunsets around 8:30 in the evening. Some of them are absolutely breathtaking out of the window of my 21st floor apartment overlooking the Detroit River.

There are a couple of fairly large “party boats” that cruise up and down the Detroit River at night. When they are all lit up they look like a piece of the city, brighter than the real city, has broken off and is drifting down river. There’s a walkway along the river and sometimes Janet and I walk along while the humid summer air is cut by a pleasant river breeze. We hold hands and try to enjoy our days in Detroit.

Meanwhile, life rolls by in the Motor City.

Every year they have a weeklong event just outside Detroit called the Woodward Dream Cruise. Literally millions of people gather, many of them camped alongside this long stretch of road called Woodward Avene which runs from Detroit far out into the suburbs. The other night we got caught up in a bit of the traffic from this automobile parade, with every imaginable form of vehicle from the Model T to modern day race cars in the slowest imaginable progression up and down both sides of Woodward. It’s a great symbol of pride for this section of the country where the automobile was, for so long, dominant.

We found ourselves among the car enthusiasts on our way home from the film, “Inception.” We don’t usually go to see these big Hollywood, multi-million dollar blockbusters, preferring instead to see whatever Independent film stops by at one of the two nearby film art houses. But since there was no great alternative there, we laid our $10.50 apiece down to see “Inception.” Please don’t ask me to review it or even attempt to summarize what it is about. Let’s just say it had a lot to do with folks who go around trying to implant ideas into other people’s heads while they are asleep. Which, interestingly enough, is basically how films get made in Hollywood these days.

Most of all these are the dog days of summer, these final days of August when vacations begin to come to an end and people grab at what remains of their summer days. Personally I look forward to autumn, with memories of the indescribably beauty of the changing of the colors of leaves and the cooler days fall brings.

Most of all the changing leaves brings a reminder that cooler days are coming, and it is almost time for the Detroit Red Wings to lace ’em up again here in HockeyTown, USA.

And that, my friends, is always a good thing.

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Filed under Life In Detroit, My Stories, Sports