Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Seven Day War…With Comcast

“It’s a long way down

And I feel alright” – Ryan Adams

Over the last week, I’ve been contacted by hundreds….no, thousands (actually zero) friends wondering, “John, where in the heck have you been.”

Excellent question!

There have been many spurious rumors. Many believed that I have been in deep meditation over how many pounds per square inch I prefer have in my own balls. (They call me “The Inflator”)

Others have postulated that I mistakenly Super-Glued myself to my couch.

And still others believe I was kidnapped by members of of The Church of Scientology and forced to spend my days saluting Tom Cruise, John Travolta and, our grand leader L. Ron Hubbard. Some . I am here to tell you that all of these theories are probably not true.

The truth is that for the last week, I have been waging a war with my Internet provider, Comcast.

As I write this, I’m totally worn out.

But I been to war and lived to tell the tale of my ultimate victory over these evil forces.

It has not been a traditional “boots on the ground”-type war. It has not been waged with bullets or bombs or napalm. No, that would have been easy.

Instead, my war has been waged, for the most part over the telephone, speaking with Comcast representatives in all four or five corners of the world, from Kentucky to India to Parts Unknown. It began when I started to have Internet connectivity issues which made it impossible for me to access Facebook, Twitter, and the hundreds of other social media networks where I am in great demand by at least two or three people, including members of my own family.

They say War is Hell and “they” are correct.

What follows is my journey into the eight (or is it nine?)  circles of Dante’s Inferno. My hope is that this will either give you hope or convince you that I am now ready for the nuthouse. As Jack Nicholson famously said, “Here’s Johnny.”


Day One – Friday, May 8, 2015 – 11:00 a.m.

I call Comcast to inform them that for the last several months, I have had issues with what I shall refer to as “Internet connectivity.” I speak to a man in South Carolina who spends more than an hour telling me about how he is a “computer expert” and will be able to resolve my problem today.” This individual, Con Man, says he has four jobs and has learned everything he knows about computers from books. Con Man also claims to have built several computers from scratch, using only a hard drive, a motherboard, airplane glue and a small toothbrush. I speak with him for more than four hours, until he gives up and says in an hopeless tone that he is going to have to “dispatch a truck” to come to my condo.

I am told there is nothing more he can do and transfers me to dispatch, which is a department somewhere in Indochina. I am assured, after verifying my address, phone number and mother’s maiden name that a Comcast worker will be dispatched to my house sometime between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.  I am filled with hope.

Me filled with hope

Day 1, Friday May 8, 2015 – 9:00 p.m.

I am distraught and somewhat suicidal. I have been sitting in my living room, unable to move, waiting for the Comcast representative to knock on my door. There has been no knock.  Desperate, I call Comcast and speak to someone who I think is in South Korea. This woman, who I shall call “Kim,” asks me in broken English to confirm my Comcast account with my address, phone number and last four digits of my mother’s Social Security number.

Kim asks “How I may help you Mr. John?” I explain my earlier conversation and tell Kim that I have been waiting all day for a Comcast technician. She puts me on hold for at least 20 minutes.

Kim returns to the phone and tells me that a Comcast representative has been to my Condo complex (not to be confused with Herpes-Complex A, B or C), and has completed his task. I argue that this is impossible since I have been waiting all day without any visit. I ask to speak to Kim’s supervisor. I am put back on hold for a very long time. Finally, I file a formal complaint and am told by another South Korean representative that my case will be expedited and that a Comcast representative will come be dispatched “tomorrow”….meaning Saturday. I am too tired to feel any emotions.

I call it a day.

Day Two – Saturday, May 9, 2015 – 8:15 a.m.

My fiancee and I are awoken by a phone call from an man who says he works for Comcast. He has a foreign accent. He tells me that unfortunately there are no Comcast dispatchers available to help me today. He tells me that I will have to call the main number for Comcast again and schedule another “service call.”  I hang up and try to fall back asleep.

Day Three – Sunday, May 10, 2015

It’s Sunday.,The Lord’s Day, apparently.

Also, evidently Comcast representatives observe The Lord’s Day and do not make house calls on Sunday. I call the main number and have to confirm my account by giving my address, phone number and current height and weight. I also have to answer several “secret questions,” including the name of my first dog (Ernie) and where my parents met (I guess at this one). I am assured that a Comcast representative will “definitely” arrive at my condo between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.  I am filled with doubt and apprehension. I pray for a miracle!

Day Four – Monday, May 11, 2015 –  11:00 a.m.

A Comcast Truck arrives outside my Condo building. The driver seems lost. I rush downstairs to meet him, fearing that he will leave without coming inside my home.  I introduce myself to a man, whom I shall call Carl (his real name). I explain the situation which takes about 45 minutes.  He checks the Internet connection coming into the condo, which he says is “Strong, man.”  Carl then pontificates on the sad state of Democracy in America, discusses several conspiracy theories, the idea of becoming “Sovereign” from the government and his work coaching young kids in a Police football league. I try to seem like I care. Carl tells me he will switch the modem/router. Having done this he says the problem has been resolved. I still cannot connect to the Internet. Carl mutters something about a intermittent cable issue, shrugs and leaves.

I consider jumping of the nearby Ambassador Bridge into the Detroit River.

Day Five – Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I have lost the will to live..

Finally, I call Comcast.  I actually speak to someone who speaks proper English and is located somewhere in the contiguous 48 states. He seems, oddly, to know what he’s doing. After confirming my Comcast account, etc. he tells me to do a total system reboot by sticking a paper clip into the back of the Modem/Router and holding if for 15 seconds (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, etc.) This does not yield any satisfactory result. He transfers me to someone in The Philipines. Someone tells me they will try to get a service representative out to my condo in the next two days.

I vow to never call Comcast again.

Day Six – Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nothing happens.  I consider placing a bag over my head and suffocating myself.

Day 7 – Thursday, May 15, 2015 – 9:00 a.m.

I awake soaked in sweat after a fever dream in which I was fighting a giant serpent with eight heads.

At approximately 3:32 p.m., another Comcast Van appears. I rush down 21 floors so that this person does not flee.  He doesn’t tell me his name. He is all business. He asks me, “Why you got such a long cable.” At first I think this is a personal question.  I say I have no idea. He says, “You got too much cable, man.”  I apologize profusely.

After shortening my cable, and again switching my Modem/Router(second time), we wait. He stands. I sit. Fifteen minutes go by. I offer him a shot of whiskey.  He declines. I drink..

Finally, he asks me to enter the new password and check my connection.

Lordy, lordy, lord.  I have a great connection. We do a speed test for wireless connection. And although we are supposed to be getting at least 50 Gbps, I get 7 or 8. Which is better than none, right.

I declare victory and begin bowing and offering gifts to this kind man. He just laughs and leaves.

It has taken a week. I am thoroughly exhausted.  I have spoken to more than a dozen Comcast representatives in at least that many different countries.

But I feel victorious! I am back able to go back on line. Huzzah!

I can work again.  I can continue to write and post on the Internet.

God is good.  Comcast…..not so much.

Life lesson: Never give up.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Remembering Our Brother Richard And The Lessons He Taught Us

Richard’s baby photoRichard as an infant Letter from Detroit on the occasion of a “Celebration Of Life,”  for our brother Richard. Dearly assembled – First, please accept my deepest regret and apology for not being able to be with you today. But although I am not there in person, please know I am with each and every one of you in spirit. Since I couldn’t make it back home to bid my beautiful little brother Richard farewell for now, I thought I might relay a few positive and pleasant thoughts about my memories of my brother Richard F. Kelly was born at South Shore Hospital on December 18, 1964 with Down Syndrome.  I remember how my father would always tell me that, “Richard is an angel sent from Heaven.” At times I struggled with that notion because of some of the frustrations he faced, but today I can honestly say I finally understand exactly what he meant.   Because through my brother’s astoundingly happy, unique and caring ways, he taught us the importance of compassion and caring for one another. What a wonderful legacy to leave behind! The angel with a sparkle in his eyeRichard in the sink As a young boy, Richard was simply incredible. He was a happy, precocious, and often, an extremely funny little boy.  I can still see him acting footloose and fancy free, pedaling joyously up and down our driveway on Springvale Circle in Weymouth on his “Big Wheels” tri-cycle, his dirty blond hair flying in the wind, holding on firm to the handle and bars flashing the sweetest, angelic smile I’ve ever seen. In that moment, my brother was the picture of pure joy. I also remember how much Richard loved toys and games…all sorts! I will never forget his favorite security blanket of sorts, the ubiquitous Raggedy Ann doll which he love to carry around. And when he wasn’t having his own fun, he would constantly be trying to entertain us. My brother loved to laugh and got equal pleasure from making us laugh too! Here’s my favorite memory of Richard: One day while he was living at the Perkins School in Leominster, the school held an open house, complete with a talent show featuring music and an actual play. Richard was cast, appropriately, in the role of “The Jester,” and his role was to come out disguised in a hilarious Jester costume and run as fast as he could in a large circle of other members of the cast. It was a stellar, four-star, hysterical performance with Richard once again so happy just making us laugh. Richard had a lust for life that would give you goose bumps. His great love of music was astounding. He had an uncanny ability to remember lyrics to his favorite songs, whether it was from “Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music,” and “The Wizard of Oz” or simply any catchy hit playing on the radio. He loved music so much it became part of his identity and I believe Richard taught many of us about the power and magic of music. What a wonderful gift, indeed! Richard with his sister MaureenRichard with Mo But it is vital to remember Richard was also an extremely caring and sensitive person, especially to anyone injured or in pain. One great example was Richard’s sensitivity and concern he displayed when he was with our sister Elizabeth, after she was paralyzed after being hit by a drunk driver in 1981. Whenever Richard would see Liz in her wheelchair, he would be so compassionate, gentle and concerned. I remember him asking her “Wha’ Happened?” and telling her she would “Get Better Soon.”  We may not have been fully aware of it, but I believe Richard was teaching us the vital importance of caring for each other always. To borrow a quote from another man with a special needs brother, “(Richard) was the Jesus of our family.” He taught us lessons every moment of the time he was with us, just as Jesus Christ did, about compassion, caring and love for all. So on this bittersweet day, as we honor and pay tribute to our brother and friend, let us re-examine our own lives and re-dedicate ourselves to always following his example. May we forever strive to love one another in Richard’s memory. May God bless Richard F. Kelly and may he rest in peace. Richard and his family.Kelly Family


Filed under Uncategorized

This One’s For The Brokenhearted

Sometime tomorrow night around 6:30, after all the hype, commentary, commercials and trash-talking, the New England Patriots will take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. The game is a big-time rematch between the two teams, who battled each other in the Super Bowl in January of 2007, a nightmarish affair for New England fans hoping the Patriots could complete a “Perfect Season.” Now the Patriots will have an opportunity to exact revenge for that devastating loss. The experts are predicting a close game. They say if there is an advantage, it should go to the Giants. Most of Patriots Nation is hoping those predictions are wrong. I happen to know that they are wrong.

A win tomorrow by New England will further cement their reputation as a legitimate football dynasty and smash all kinds of team and individual records. A win will also bring The New England Patriots their fourth Super Bowl victory in just over a decade, no easy feat in the NFL in the age of free agency. But for many, including Patriot team owner Bob Kraft, who probably saved the franchise and kept a professional football team in New England when he took over the reigns and ownership in 1995, the Patriots will be playing this Super Bowl to honor the memory of Bob Kraft’s “sweetheart” Myra.

Myra H. Kraft, passed away from cancer last July after 48 years as Bob Kraft’s wife, business partner and best friend in the whole world. Her death at the age of 68, left Bob Kraft and the millions of others who both loved and admired her, truly brokenhearted.

The New England Patriots dedicated this entire season to the memory of the beloved Myra Kraft, and have helped keep her memory alive by wearing a patch with her initials, MHK, right above their hearts on their uniform, all season long.

Bob Kraft, who’s been all over the television and radio airwaves talking about this years Super Bowl for the past two weeks, has broken down in a swirl of emotion countless times this week talking about the memory of his wife and how badly he wishes she could be here to see it. For many, in fact, she is looking down from the heavens on the Patriots and may have played a role in the strange gust of wind that drove a last minute Baltimore field goal attempt, wide left, in their AFC Championship game. Regardless of how you feel about “divine intervention,” you can bet the New England Patriots will have Myra on their minds when they go head to head with the Giants in the Super Bowl.

Yup, Wes, Danny, Gronk, Aaron, Deion and the mighty, mighty, Vince Wilfork will all have a giant reason to beat New York tomorrow for Myra Kraft; for the millions of New England fans of all ages; for every underdog and every brokenhearted member of Patriots Nation. Plus, they’ll have the greatest quarterback ever to play in Tom Brady, along with a game plan designed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a true football genius.

And if that isn’t enough to inspire this Patriots team, there’s always the story of the oil painting. Earlier this season, the Patriots players presented Bob Kraft with an oil painting of the team huddled together under the initials MHK(see above), a gesture that meant more than you could imagine to the brokenhearted team owner.

Bob Kraft said during an interview this week that after the Patriots gave up 21 unanswered points earlier in the season, he had somebody place the painting in the Patriots locker room. The Patriots say it at half time and ended up winning that game.

So count on that very same painting being inside the locker room in Indianapolis tomorrow night. You can also count on a very hungry and inspired Patriots team winning Super Bowl XLVI.

And if that happens, you can expect to see the Patriots owner Bob Kraft shed a tear or two for his “sweetheart” Myra, when he accepts the Vince Lombardi trophy on the field tomorrow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Wild, The Angry and The E Street Shuffle

Bruce Springsteen, that modern-day Rock and Roll warrior and long-time advocate for hope and human rights, is about to release tommorow from his forthcoming album the first single, titled, “We Take Care Of Our Own,” which will not only have people talking, but also give his fans a long-awaited glimpse of what The Man has been up to for the past year or more.

For months there have been rumors and rumblings about Springsteen’s 17th album, which follows more than a year’s rest for the singer, after almost three years of touring. Most of those lucky enough to get a preview of the new album have come away impressed and moved. Just about anybody who has heard it is calling it his “angriest” album yet (including Springsteen himself) and say it addresses many of the problems (ie: social, economic and political) that continue to plagued America. Today, was reporting on the new release, calling it “sonically experimental” and quoting Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau, who says it is a “big-picture piece of work.” “It’s a rock record,” according to Springsteen longtime manager, “that combines elements of Bruce’s classic sound, and his Seeger Sessions experience, with new textures and styles.”

Its probably no coincidence that Springsteen’s latest musical endeavor is being launched the same week that people around the world observe Martin Luther King Juniors birthday and the same week that Republican candidates for president bicker and feud on their way to a primary in South Carolina. Bruce Springsteen has never been afraid to take on the same issues that affect the people he’s been writing for and about for his whole life. His lyrics have long been topical, and often controversial. The New Jersey native’s voice has always been the voice of the people, from Main Street to Wall Street and all the avenues that lie in between. Springsteen has publicly said over and over that he’s most interested in the problems and concerns that confront the people that he has always written about or as fellow musician Bob Dylan once wrote, “the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones and worse.” Whether he’s been speaking out in his songs about human rights around the world or here in America, or campaigning in support of Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and Barack Obama, Springsteen’s music reflects mainly very populist views and ideals. To many who admire him, Springsteen is a modern day Woody Guthrie or as the New York Times once described him, “John Steinbeck in leather.”

The new album is a departure in a number of ways for Bruce Springsteen. For the past decade plus, Springsteen has worked in the studio either on his own at his home or with producer Brendan O’Brien in Atlanta. But on this new album, Springsteen has collaborated with producer Ron Aniello, who’s worked in the past with such bands as Candlebox and Jars of Clay, as well as with his wife, singer-songwriter Patti Scialfa. According to the post the new record features members of Springsteen’s E Street Band, as well as “a variety of outside musicians, including Tom Morello and possibly former Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain” to name just a few.

So far there has been nothing confirmed as far as song titles, other than the one track that will be available tomorrow on, “We Take Care Of Our Own.” But you can expect lots of different styles of music on this record and that’s always fun. Rocker Bob Seger got a preview several weeks ago and told reporters that it this LP is unlike anything Springsteen has ever done before. According to another source in the Hollywood Reporter, we can look forward to songs with “unexpected textures – loops, electronic percussion…influences and rhythms from hip-hop to Irish folk rhythms.” Hip-hop and Irish folk rythms!!! That may surprise some, but not anyone who’s paid attention to the broad spectrum of music that Springsteen laid out both in the studio and in concert over the last decade. In fact, it’s long been rumored that Springsteen once worked on a entire “hip-hop record,” so now we’ll finally get to hear what that record might have sounded like.

One thing is for sure. This new release by the 61-year old Springsteen will be plenty controversial. According to that same source in the Hollywood Reporter, Springsteen “gets into economic justice quite a bit.” And in addition to being angry, Jon Laudau also says that the new album has a “very pronounced spiritual dimension.” But none of this should truly surprise anyone who has followed the path that Bruce Springsteen has taken on his records over the last 40 years.
Even Springsteen’s first LP, “Greetings From Asbury Park” featured social and political elements on songs like “Lost In The Flood” amd “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City.”

While some say that Springsteen shouldn’t have anything to be angry about, with the wealth that he’s accumlated, fans of Springsteen scoff at that and say that what is in this man’s bank account is not about to stop him from speaking out about the issues that matter for this father of three. For many, the album comes just in the knick of time, as the “Occupy Wall Street” protests start to lose some steam. Springsteen has always had a fresh and, for most fans, inspiring take on the wicked ways of the world and he’s never been afraid of expressing how he feels in his music. Even the artwork for the song, “We Take Care Of Our Own” has a DIY/Punk look to it.

Just the other day Springsteen was on the streets of Asbury Park, filming a new video to accompany the new album:

So on the eve of the release of the first round or salvo from an “angry” Bruce Springsteen, I say bring it on. Music has always been an essential part of radicalis and revolutionaries. And if we need a revolution to fix this broken country, then let’s join together and start today.

And…um….I don’t know about you, but I could use a little angry rock and roll right about now.

So bring…it….on!!!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What Makes You Happy?

Here’s a partial list from me: A sunset over the ocean. A smile on a loved ones face. An ice cream on a hot summer day. Or a Popsicle. A friendly dog that doesn’t bark or bite. Watching “The Office.” Reading a really fantastic book. Going to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. Spring after a long winter. The Boston Red Sox (when they’re winning). I could go on and on.

But in these ever changing rapid fire days in which employers are asking employees to do more and more and with an increasing number of people feeling isolated and alone, its important to stop for a second and ask yourself what makes you happy. And then do it.

According to a web site called these are ten of the most common things that people say when asked “What makes you happy?”

1. Watching a sunrise
2. Feeling the sun on my face
3. A comment from a reader saying I have inspired them
4. The sound of children playing
5. Seeing a pelican each morning on the way back from the beach ( most mornings)
6. The magic I feel when I see a rainbow forming
7. Walking on the beach to start the day. Just this morning this lifted my vibes.
8. The magic of the love I share with Des
9. Meeting an old friend and feeling like it was yesterday.
10. Memories of childhood holidays

Some people say the life is not supposed to be about being happy all the time. They say we’re supposed to suffer a little bit. (Where did that idea come from. Wait, I know. Religion.)

But doctors have been saying since before the beginning of history (Spinal Tap reference) that being happy keeps a person healthy and extends that persons life.

Look around. You can tell just by looking at people whether they’ve spent the majority of their lives smiling or frowning. Talk to people and you’ll find our pretty fast.

But here’s a small secret that I’ve learned in my 50 years on the planet and which I will share with you today. Ready? Here goes….

We all want the same thing. We all want to have good health. We all want our friends and family to be healthy and happy. We all want to watch our favorite program on the television. We all want to eat delicious foods. And none of us want to die.

Well, my mother always told me that there only two things in life that are definite. We gotta pay the government taxes. And we’re all going to die.

So we might as well be happy while we’re alive. That’s my message for today.

This is kind of a lousy time of the year. Old man winter is still hanging on here in the northern part of the United States. Its almost April and its freezing out. There’s devastation in Japan and suffering and revolution in Libya. People are struggling to make ends meet. Being happy ain’t as easy as you might think.

But just for a few moments think a good thought. Or maybe call a friend. Or do something nice for somebody in need. It will make at least two people happy for a spell

Only another few billion to go and we’ll be so happy we could burst.


Filed under Uncategorized

Some Ways To Improve The Academy Awards

The reviews of the 2011 Academy Awards have been out for a day or two and they are not favorable.

According to those who really care about these things, the 2011 Academy Awards were among the worst ever of the modern televised age. Words like dull, boring, tiresome, tedious, overwrought, inane, unfunny, contrived and trivial are being tossed around and those are just being used to describe the first five minutes.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway (wasn’t she the secretary on the Beverly Hillbillies…oops, wrong Hathaway) were apparently brought in to try and attract a younger demographic. Tragically, Franco and Hathaway seemed young enough to be the grandchildren of most of the people in the audience. Ratings were reportedly the lowest in many years.

Something must be done. The Academy Awards presentation is an institution and is typically the most important of all the myriad of awards presentations that are rolled out each new year. And the changes must be as revolutionary as the protests in the streets that brought a changing of the guard to Egypt.

So I’ve come up with a few ideas, with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, of how to revitalize and resuscitate the Oscars. Some of you may scoff at my ideas and think they are too radical. I say major changes are needed or the Academy Awards may be replaced in the television line-up next year with “Skating With The Stars” or some other insulting form of “entertainment.”

1. Most importantly the Oscars must be shortened to no longer than an hour and a half. My better half, the lovely Janet, believes two hours would be more appropriate. I believe that in this age of A.D.D, two hours seems to most television viewers a lifetime. So I will compromise on my suggestion, in the name of love and harmony and say, one hour and forty-five minutes. Tops. Not a single second longer. And I have the perfect popular personality to keep track of time next year.

The one and only Flav-O-Flav.

2. The program must be switched from the networks to cable and be shown on HBO or Showtime, so as to allow for a fair amount of vulgarity and nudity. Every year people act shocked when an Oscar recipient curses and the network attempts to bleep out the “dirty word.” What a joke! Everyone knows what the person has said and if you can’t make it out or read lips it your own damned fault. And wouldn’t it be much more interesting to see our most beloved stars parade out to center stage wearing nothing more than their birthday suit. Complete nudity would most certainly make for a more entertaining Red Carpet.

If an actor or actress feels too embarrassed to bare all, they can only enter the auditorium in an egg. If it was good enough for Lady Gaga at the Grammys, it’s good enough for anybody else.

3. The Red Carpet must move. Similar to those people movers we see at airports. People are spending far too long hanging out on the Red Carpet. This year I saw funny guy Russell Brand dragging his poor Mum all over the Red Carpet so that he could be interviewed by at least 5 different people. Let’s get things moving. How many photographs do we need of Harrison Ford and his date anyway?

Personally, I’d be much more interested to see him come dressed in full Indiana Jones costume regalia. And who knows, that whip could really come in handy.

4. The Televised Winning Categories Must Be Limited To the following: Best Film, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film.

Can you honestly tell me that you were on the edge of your seat when they awarded the Oscar for Best Lighting In A Film? Not me. And I especially don’t care about the best animation for anything.

Let the children who enjoy those films have their own awards ceremony.

5. And finally for now…Bring Back Billy Crystal. He was the best host ever. Hands down. Hands up too. Pay him whatever he wants. Fly him in on the Concorde. Let him do his old bit with the throat lozenge. Whatever. Billy Crystal was the best thing about the Academy Awards for a long, long time. Bring him back.

And whatever you do, no more songs. Music has its own awards show. Stick to the good old flicks.

Good luck.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


I haven’t blogged for some time now and my apologies to those who have checked in and not seen anything new. I’ve been working on a couple of projects which have required my time and attention, and I’ve also been dealing with some major league dental problems. So I thought I’d get back in the groove a little bit by telling you about my experiences with the dentist.

Let me start by saying that I like my dentist a great deal. He’s experiences, competent, confident and serious. He’s also a heck of a nice guy. I put my total trust in him every time I sit down in that dentist chair, which happens to be where I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately.

Just over one week ago I had an appointment to have a couple of broken back teeth extracted. I was most certainly not looking forward to it, and put it off as long as I could. But eventually there comes a time when one must tend to one’s health, and that time had come. So I went in, and my dentist pulled out what needed to be pulled out. I should mention now that I have been both blessed and cursed genetically. And one of those curses is that I have extremely long and curvy roots on my teeth – especially my molars. So the few other times I’ve had extractions, they’ve been very painful. This experience wasn’t any different.

And this time, like the other times I’ve had extractions, I ended up with not one, but two “dry sockets.” I don’t know if you’ve ever had a dry socket from a dental procedure, or have even heard of them, but they are what my Dad used to call “a bugger.” I won’t go into detail (google “dry sockets” if you really care), but basically it means that you experience about five times to usual pain. And once you get one (or in my case two), you have to visit the dentist every couple of days so that he can treat the hole in your mouth with medicated gauze, which ostensibly is supposed to take away the pain.

So my fiancee and I (thank you baby, for your tender loving care) have been shuttling back and forth to the dentist for a week now to try to get these holes in my mouth to heal. It’s been an extremely long and very painful experience. You know, the kind you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Luckily, my dentist has been very compassionate and has written a number of prescriptions for pain killers, antibiotics and now, steroids to get this damn situation under control.

So I’ve had a lot of time spent on my back, trying to take it easy, watching old episodes of the “Sopranos,” reading and thinking about pain. And I’ve come to a couple of conclusions about pain that I thought I would share with you. Maybe they’ll come in handy some day.

First of all, I’ve come to understand that there is really no way for another person to gauge your pain. The problem is that everyone has different “pain thresholds” or amounts of pain they are able to tolerate. One person’s tolerable throbbing ache is another person’s unbearable sensation. I know there have been a lot of studies on pain. Some claim that woman can tolerate a great deal more than men and, well, as everybody likes to say, “That’s why women have the babies.” Could be true.

But I believe there is still so much that we don’t understand about pain. When you go to the hospital after you sliced your finger or suffered some other injury they often ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever had. But is it really possible to do that? What do those ratings mean? And how is it possible to be rational about rating pain when there’s blood all over the place.

I think the one thing that I’ve learned in this latest experience with Pain (capitol P intended) is that it is important to try and focus on other things, if possible. But the person experiencing pain should and must always be treated with great empathy and care and above all must be taken seriously. Only you know exactly how you feel. Nobody else can come close to experiencing it including the doctors. There seems to be a trend in America lately to err on the side of caution when it comes to giving out pain medication. I say to doctors: Stop that. We all know the risks of becoming dependent.

When people are dying, doctors don’t worry too much about the risks of their patients becoming dependent on drugs. They say, “We feel its important to keep the patient comfortable.” And usually a dying man or woman is in a boatload of pain. But so are so many others.

We claim to be an evolved bunch of chimps walking around. We just entered a new and interesting Millennium. People should not have to suffer from pain. Ever. Let’s try to be a little more empathetic and a little less concerned about the Federal Drug Authority monitoring records.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe it is time for more pain medication. May you never suffer a dry socket.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Promise: The Making of Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” Album

It might have seemed, to the casual observer, that Bruce Springsteen was on Easy Street after the completion of his masterpiece, best-selling album “Born To Run. But Bruce Springsteen was, in fact, a deeply troubled man. And he was pretty much on his own again, trying to find his way back home.

As the HBO documentary “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town” by Thom Zimny illustrates so beautifully and personally, Bruce was 27 years old and was a superstar. But as he admits in the documentary, he may have been a rock and roll superstar, but he was still haunted by some hardcore ghosts. For one, he was trying to deal with his newfound success and adulation, while at the same time attempting to untangle his own personal and business relationship with manager Mike Appel.

Although he was on the cover of Time and Newsweek with the release of “Born To Run,” Springsteen was still broke, along with every other member of his band. He was at odds with Appel, with whom he had begun a creative split during the making of BTR. In an effort to bring fresh ideas into the mix to try and rescue both BTR and his record contract, Springsteen brought in Jon Landau and Bruce and Jon became fast friends. Appel, enraged over being cut out of his partnership with Springsteen just as the fruit was about to bloom, slapped a lawsuit on Springsteen that barred Bruce from going into the studio with any other manager/producer without the approval of Appel. Talk about locks and chains.

Springsteen also states in the beginning of “The Promise” that he felt he was, in fact, letting down his friends and band mates. In short, he was a man carrying a major league-sized albatross around his neck. Springsteen says these and many other issues led to the inner turmoil which precipitated the writing of countless of songs (nobody knows quite how many were written but an estimate of 80 to 100 would be a safe estimate) during the Darkness recording sessions.

Springsteen says he always writes in an attempt to answer the questions that plague him. On “The Promise,” Springsteen says he was trying to figure out how to come to a reckoning with the “a life of limitations and compromises” or as he also puts it, “the adult world.”

“Well, the dogs on Main Street howl cause they understand,
If I could take this moment into my hand
Mr., I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man
And I believe in the Promised Land”
– “The Promised Land”

“The Promise” is a documentary that picks up where “Wings For Wheels,” the making of “Born To Run” leaves off and it’s helpful to see the latter if you want to understand the former.

“The success with had with “Born To Run” made me ask, well (laughs), what’s that all about,” says Springsteen at the outset of “The Promise.” Springsteen says the success of “Born To Run” also might have meant that he would have to surrounder all that was his very core, the relationships he had with those closest to him. He admits that more than anything else he wanted to be “great!” And he says that he believed it was the obsessive, selfish quest for greatness that led so many other of music’s “greats” down a dead-end road.

“We all thought we had made it, that we had finally achieved greatness and everything was going good”, says E Street band guitarist Little Steven, along with the other members of the band. “We thought we got it made, we’re gonna make it,” says the Big Man Clarence Clemons, Springsteen’s sax player and onstage foil. “And then everything just went….STOP!”

“The Promise” explains that the other major cloud hanging over the future of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band was the end of Springsteen’s relationship with his manager and good friend Mike Appel. Appel still maintains to this day that he was only trying to protect Bruce Springsteen with his original publishing deal. “You gotta take a stand. How are you getting out of your contracts if you wanna get control,” Appel argues.

Springsteen calls the contracts “not evil, but naive.” “It wasn’t a lawsuit about money,” Springsteen continues, “it was about control. The bottom line was, it was gonna be my ass on the line and I was gonna control where it went and how things went down. If that meant I didn’t go into the studio, then I wasn’t gonna go into the studio.”

Springsteen says they tried to make a living playing live, but eventually things got extremely tough on everyone in the band and the organization financially. But Springsteen says in retrospect it was worth standing his ground against Appel.

“You know,” says Springsteen. “You can lose the rights to your music, you can lose the ability to record, you can lose the ownership of your songs, but you can’t lose “that thing”. That thing that’s in you.”

“Tonight I’ll be on that hill cause I can’t still
I’ll be on that hill withe everything that I’ve got
Where lives are on the line
Where dreams are found and lost”
– “Darkness On The Edge of Town

“Not being able to return to the studio after the “Born To Run” record was truly heartbreaking,” remembers keyboardist Roy Bittan. So banned from the studio, the band rehearsed every single day at Bruce’s house in New Jersey. All day and into all hours of the night.

That footage of Bruce singing at home, shot by the essential chronologist Barry Rebo, with Bruce in many scenes sans shirt is bound to have women viewers who fantasize about Springsteen in dreamland. But for the band, it may not have been as fun as some scenes make it look. Bruce was writing like a banshee, churning out new ideas and new songs every day. Song after song after song. “My sense of his reaction to this roadblock,” says the mighty drummer Max Weinberg all these years 30 years or more later, is that his desire, that will, that determination to do things his way got even stronger. Maybe his way of working it all out,” says Weinberg, “was writing all those songs.”

“While this was a time of pain because I was trying to sort out what had happened with Mike,” says Springsteen, “there was also a time of refinding myself and freedom. The freedom of finding out where I belonged”

During Springsteen’s narrative we see incredible behind-the-scenes home studio footage of Bruce sporting his Italian-Afro (as he calls it). A half-naked Springsteen is seen working out the words to one of the most several songs on “Darkness on the Edge of Town,”

“And I take her out easy looking for a place where the world is right
And then I go tearing into something in the night.”
– Early Version of “Something In The Night

We even get to see Bruce perform the rarely performed alternate lyrics..

“Well, I picked this girl up hitching, she stuck her head out the window and she screamed
She was looking for a place to die or redeemed”

This reviewers only minor disappointment with “The Promise” is that we’re not treated to enough to this kind of footage, but nobody really knows how much more of it they have. My guess is that this wealth of information contributes to a lack of cogent, linear presentation and that they could only allocate so much time to home practicing and studio recording scenes. At times, it is difficult for the viewer to follow the highs and lows, ups and downs of Bruce’s recording experience.

Springsteen says that because of changes in the music business, the three years that went by in between records may have seemed longer back then than it would now. He says he started to see pieces in the press asking, “Whatever happened to Bruce Springsteen?” And Bruce says that the time stretched out so long, he started wondering that himself. As time continued to pass, the pressure grew and grew. And so did the number of pages in Springsteen’s notebook of songs.

“You didn’t know if you were going to get another chance,” says Springsteen. “So everything I had inside me, I had to get out.”

Good news came in the summer of 1976 with the resolution of the lawsuits between Appel and Springsteen. “I was happy that it was over because I would have fought to the death…because that’s what this was all about.” In the end, amends were made, and the band went back into a professionally equipped studio with Jon Landau and mixer Jimmy Iovine at the helms.

“The Promise” shows a band with renewed vigor as they try to get this project finished. But Landau recounts that it was strange that nobody really had a clear idea of what kind of record they wanted “Darkness” to be. As things evolved, all anybody could agree on was that they wanted a sound that was very basic or as Landau puts it, “coffee black”. While Springsteen wanted Darkness to be very specific in its focus, he also wanted it to be “relentless.”

This long stretch of writing and working on songs in the studio is displayed in wonderful black and white super 8 film shot by Barry Rebo. Of Bruce and Steve at the piano working out “Sherry Darling” and “Talk To Me,” neither of which would made the “Darkness” album. “It’s tragic in a way,” says Little Steven with his usual love and admiration for his old buddy, “because he would have been one of the great composers of all the time.” Thus, the prolific, nonstop song machine named Springsteen. “The Promise” also tells the great story of how Bruce gave away his brilliant song, “Because The Night” to punker Patti Smith, who was also recording with genius engineer Jimmy Iovine in another studio. Springsteen says he didn’t feel comfortable with writing that love song, so he graciously gave it over to Smith, for whom it was her biggest hit ever.

At one point, it was decided that there wasn’t enough saxaphone on “Darkness.” So it was back to work. “It was always like a giant junkyard that were were working in. So if one part wasn’t working, we’d pull another one out of another car and see how that car runs.” And Bruce just continued to write. And write. And write some more. Bruce continued to work on new songs in his growing notebook of what one band member calls the “magical notebook.”

And so they pressed forward with a number of what Max Weinberg calls a “freewheeling” approach, as opposed to a more conservative and stubborn manner in which BTR was recorded. Looking for a live sound, Springsteen ate up precious studio hours hammering out songs as he went along. He refused to allow the band to rehearse many of the tunes. He wanted them real and he wanted them raw. Springsteen also spend hours or days trying to find a certain drum sound and ambiance. And suddenly they looked around, and the boys were stuck again.

After a while, Bruce, Jon, Jimmy and the band needed somebody outside the band. And a not-so-local hero rode into town in the form of Chuck Plotkin came riding into town with a fresh outlook. All band members agree that Plotkin somehow found a way to take the songs they had and give them a theme, meaning and structure. Chuck Plotkin, according to Bruce, is one of the true heroes of the Darkness recording sessions.

“‘Darkness on the Edge of Town” is a meditation,” says Springsteen, “on where your going to stand, it’s a meditation on with who and where your going to stand. These are basic, essential questions that need to be addressed.”

“The obsessive-compulsive part of my personality came through because I found that I could try to drive you crazy….JUST BECAUSE I COULD,” laughs Springsteen. “The band had to find lots of different wants to get out from under my oppressive grip,” he says.

Springsteen and others address the greatness of the song “The Promise.” “It could have gone on the record it we had finished it,” says Springsteen. “It’s about fighting and not winning. But I felt to close to it at the time” So “The Promise” didn’t make it. Along with a lot of other gorgeous, moving songs. But this is a documentary about the album that was made. And that has been with us for more than 30 years and has helped us on our journey as we ask ourselved the same question.

“Darkness On The Edge Of Town” will always be for so many of us our own coming of age album. And in a way it’s Bruce Springsteen’s coming of age album, as well. It’s an album that raises more questions that it answers, but isn’t that how all great art works? This may not be the masterpiece that Born To Run is, but it’s a major victory of Springsteen’s spirit. To continue to believe in the dream and not be unswayed. Played start to finish it is passionate howl issued into that deep, dark night; a man wrestling with the ache the comes from growing into a man.

As the dogs on main streets howl. And howl. And howl


Filed under Music, Profiles, Uncategorized

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, 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!


Filed under Films, Music, Uncategorized

James Taylor – “Still Crazy After All These Years”

On this Sunday I thought you might enjoy being serenaded by good old sweet baby James Taylor covering a song by Paul Simon.

Enjoy and Love y’all,


Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Uncategorized, Video