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Back To The Blog

Well, friends and amigos, it’s time to get back to the blog; back to trying to record in words the world I see as I make my way and back to sharing with you (my readers) the things that make this journey so full of bliss.

It’s been several months so I won’t attempt to fill in the blanks.  Rather, it is my intention to pick up beginning this evening with some thoughts about what life is like NOW.  Along with that I’ll probably tell you about a few of the films I’ve seen, books I’ve read, friends I’ve met, hills I’ve climbed and challenges that lie ahead.  My aim is to inspire you to search out your own experience and find your own bliss, and then share that with your readers and friends.  I wish to become a link in that never-ending chain of life and love and experience.  My desire is to more consistently provide you with some glimpses of the road I travel and the people I meet.  The road is long and the people are always friendly and fascinating and I hope that if I can muster the discipline and you keep coming back then we will both revel in godliness of the details and the lights of the city up on ahead.

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RIP – Alex Chilton of the Box Tops, Age 59.

My first memory of hearing the song “The Letter,” is from when I was quite young and musically unsophisticated, to say the least. But I remember hearing that voice and basic melody out of the tiny, tinny speakers of my transistor radio.  And as I sit and think back today, as bad as it must have sounded, to my young ears song sounded like heaven to me.

There were those first few syncopated drum taps…tap…tap…tap, and then the first couple of guitar chords and right into those urgent sounding words….

Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane,
Ain’t got time to take a fast train.
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home,
‘Cause my baby just a-wrote me a letter.

Oh, how I loved that pop music when I was just a kid. Oh, yeah.  It was pop music, but the vocals by a man who’s name I didn’t know, but now know was Alex Chilton, had a sort of sloppy desperation. How could that be. A pop song with desperation. This was something new. And I sure liked it. It was a paradoxical way of communicating that I still love today.

But this song…”The Letter,” well, it had the hooks and the melody that were essential to me for a song to be truly great song.  And this is a song with a killer bridge…well, actually kind of a double bridge.  In just four lines Alex Chilton gave you all the background you needed to know to understand why he needed to hit the road so fast, so bad…

Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no mo’.
Listen mister can’t you see I got to get back
To my baby once a-mo’–anyway…

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there was something about the way Chilton pleaded out the word, anyway…, man, you just knew that this was all the info the character in the song needed to hear to get him on that plane.

It was all there.  All there in that letter.

Alex Chilton would go on to write a ton of other great songs…going from simply pop to power pop, in the same tradition as The Raspberries.

Chilton said when asked one time that he didn’t seek or savor fame and fortune.  He was one of those frontmen who simply had a ton of soul and a love for playing.  That was more than enough.

Thanks Alex


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Memories of my Aunt Joan

My Aunt Joan passed away last week and, although I couldn’t make it to her funeral, I wrote out some memories of her from younger days for her family and friends.  

If I close my eyes, I can still see her face, her radiant smile, her loving eyes. Always those loving eyes and arms wide open. The way the lines curved around her mouth to form a kind of parenthesis when she laughed. Inside those parenthesis was an inner knowledge.  And that knowledge was all you ever had to know.

If I close my eyes,  I can go back to my childhood.  Those lazy days on Old Cape Cod.  I would look forward each year to the arrival of the Munnis clan on Cape Cod.  Time to be entertained by Uncle John; time to hang out with John Jr. and Liz and Jeannie Munnis.  And time to spend in the comfort of the cottage which always felt so welcome because of Aunt Joan.

Aunt Joan had one thing that I admired so much and, to be honest, was a bit in awe of.  She had uncommon grace. It must have come from deep inside her.  Every movement she made seemed graceful.  Every word she said or question she asked (and she always has plenty of questions) were imbued with a quality of grace. To borrow a word from a favorite card trick of Uncle John’s,  I can tell you that Aunt Joan has grace in spades.  Or was it clubs?

And then there was that special laugh.  As a family we were lucky to have such great laughers.  If laughing were an Olympic competition, Nana would always win the gold.  But Aunt Joan would be a very close second, and might even challenge her with her full-throated, rumble of a laugh that was always so contagious.  If Nana and Aunt Joan were both laughing at once, neighbors might wonder exactly what was going on.  It was a thrill to hear and before you knew if, you’d be laughing too.  What had a second earlier been a quiet discussion would erupt into a quake of merriment that might register fairly high on the Richter scale.

I was always fascinated by Aunt Joan’s sheer joy of simply enjoying a moment.  She seemed to love the simplicity of being with her family and friends.  Her personality would bloom whenever the cottage on the Cape was filled to the brim with family and friends.  She didn’t require any special entertainment or attention.  She just loved sitting (or more likely serving) her loved ones and talking.  She was a great talker.  And that is saying something considering the fact she was frequently surrounded by the greatest talkers of all, her husband John and brother-in-law Joe.

Sadly, we grew apart as the years passed us by, but this is the nature of life itself.  It was always a delight whenever we’d have a family reunion.  The one in Loveland was the most special of all.  Aunt Joan hosted the entire Munnis/Bishop/Kelly clan.  And not even the noisy cicadas could drown out her sweet voice. Yes, I loved her voice.  I even loved the cadence with which she would say my name.

There was something truly amazing about how Aunt Joan would make each of the cousins feel special in their own way.  She would show true and legitimate interest in our achievements, regardless of how important or trivial they might have been.  On a personal note, I have my Aunt Joan to thank to the consolation that she provided when I’d return from an afternoon down on the beach Jetty, without a single fish to show for my efforts.  That was the thing about Aunt Joan.  She loved you whether you caught the fish or didn’t.  It was pure, true, and unconditional love and I’ll never, ever forget it.

She may have passed from this sometimes troubled world of ours to wait for us in the next one.  She is now with Nana, Aunt Jean and my sister Elizabeth and all of our other relatives who have made the passage.  And even though I love and cherish each day that God provides, I can’t wait to see her again.  I can’t wait to witness again that remarkable grace.  I can’t wait to be held in her loving arms.  And I can’t wait to hear her wonderful, contagious laugh.   I loved every minute I was around my Aunt Joan.

So close your own eyes for a second and allow those wonderful memories to rush in of Joan Frances Munnis.  Allow yourself to be comforted with those memories filled with wonder and joy. Memories filled with the graceful elegance and warm embrace that we all felt when we were in the her arms.
May God bless her and keep her forever.

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Little Steven – Forever

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Lost – Running To Stand Still

I’m in the process of trying to catch up with past seasons and respective episodes of the award-winning television drama, “Lost,”  and all I’ve got to say is, “Holy Cow!!!”  This television series has to be one of the most suspenseful and entertaining series in the history of the vacuum tube. But guess what. The joke is on me. Everybody already knows this. It’s me that has been lost. Or living in a cave somewhere. Which kinda fits in with the plot of the show in the first place. Ha!

What can I say about it that hasn’t already been said.  The acting is superb.  The videography is sublime.  The writing is tremendous. And then there’s the story line, with more twists and tangles and ironies and confluences and “Gee whiz” moments than one could ever believe.

I am currently at the end of the third season and I am no closer to understanding who these characters really are and what they are doing on the island than I was during the historic pilot to the series when the plane crashes and only a few survive. I am starting to believe that the island is a kind of “other world”…a place where spirits go after they have passed from one life to the next, but if pressed my arguments probably wouldn’t hold up for long. 

So I just continue to watch, often times with my mouth wide agape.  Waiting for the next “Holy Cow” moment.  Waiting for more clues. Trying not to be so damned lost.

And praying that it never, ever ends.

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Stevie Wonder – My Cherie Amour

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Tonight I get to write about one of my favorite topics, the woman who is the love of my life, my significant other and better half – my fiancee and soon-to-be wife, Janet.  I officially introduced myself to my sweetheart and salvation at 1:06 in the morning on October 6th, 2008. 

See, the original idea was this.  I had seen Janet post on a that she was going to be attending an upcoming (actually the next day) event at which Bruce Springsteeen, for whom we all congregate at BTX to sing his praises (it’s a fan site discussion board).  And the one thing I wanted more than anything else in the entire, wide world…was a t-shirt with an image of both Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama.  My two favorite public figures and the only two men who I had any faith in to restore this nation to it’s original greatness.

Janet would be going to the campaign appearance by Bruce, and so I thought, despite the fact that she didn’t know me from a kick in the pants, that she might be willing to buy be a t-shirt at this event the next day in Ypsilanti.  And I of course would pay her back.  Which I did recently on the anniversary of that day when we went back to Ypsilanti.  So with the knowledge of the extreme generosity of fellow Springsteen fans toward each other, I sent the PM and then went off to bed.  Janet was to my extreme delight still awake and private messaged me that she would “look for them” and call me the next day to let me know how she made out.

Well, you can imagine my excitement when I saw a Michigan caller ID on my phone the next day, picked it up, said hello….and everything changed.  Not only did Janet make my day/week/month by letting me know she got not one t-shirt for me, but TWO.  But I was even more ecstatic to hear her sweet sounding voice, the cadence of her slight mid-western accent and most significantly, the content of her words.    This was a complete stranger who I felt an instant kinship with.  To borrow a Springsteen line…”we liked the same music…we liked the same books” and everything else.

I’m not sure how long that first conversation lasted, but it was just the beginning of a series of very long and intense phone calls between Boston and Detroit.  We spoke to each other till five in the morning.  When had I last done that?  We called each other to wake each other up.  We couldn’t go more than a work shift without sharing what had transpired over the last several hours.  In short, we were destined to be together.  And after half a century for both of us, destiny had arrived.  Our ship had come in.

I wish I knew the exact number of hours that we talked on the phone before we first met up in New York City, another story for another day, but I know it was in the thousands.  We both ended up owing T-Mobile about that amount of money in phone charges (thanks in part to their wonderful customer service operation and how they failed to properly explain how to set up you “five favorites.”

We didn’t know it then, but we were building a foundation during those phone calls that sustains our relationship to this very day.  To fast forward, we met each other several more times, passed the family tests and decided that it made the most sense for me to move to Detroit, since Janet was working and I wasn’t.

This past November Janet and I went to dinner in a high rise and equally high priced restaurant in a building that literally sits overlooking the Canadian Horse Shoe Falls at Niagara Falls.  And it was during that dinner that I read a short poem by a South American author, got down on bended knee and humbly asked for Janet to marry me. It wasn’t a total surprise for her, but it was dramatic enough to elicit a slight hyperventilation and a round of applause when she said YES!   Of all the yeses I’ve ever heard, I believe that remains my favorite.

So the moral of the story, for every story likes to have one, is that you don’t go looking for love, it comes looking for you in the most unusual places.  And as I sit here tonight closing out this Valentine’s Day/Birthday weekend, I think of how extremely lucky I am to have chanced upon this wonderful woman.  I think of the places I’ve been and all the places that we, Janet and I, will now go together as this adventure called life continues.

No, this may not go down in history as Janet’s most favorite birthdays, and I hope and pray that in future years we will spend our February 15th’s in places with names like Paris, Rome, London or Dublin.

Or perhaps I look forward to spending our future significant events together in my hometown of Boston, where we both long so much to live.   So tonight I raise a proverbial glass in the air to new chances that we’ll take and experiences that we’ll live out.  Together.  Always.

Happy Birthday my sweet girl. I’ll love you forever!

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Bruce Springsteen At Kitchen Table 1973

Celery On the table

Here’s a photo of Bruce Springsteen I’ve definitely never seen before.  Looks like it’s 1973.  And is that celery being served in that bowl???   Now that’s definitely a first!!!

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Tricksters and magic

Many of us in a certain Internet discussion community are still reeling from the cruel and idiotic hoax that was perputated on us by a person who we beleived to be our friend. Yeah, this dude actually tried to fake his own death on the Internet, presumably to see what people would say. Can you say, mentally ill?

Many people have learned many different lessons.  Some have vowed to spend much, much less time online. Some have promised themselves to be more careful about who we trust and about the people we consider to be our “friends.”  Some simply feel betrayed, confused, conflicted and angry.

For me, it’s just another example of the number of “tricksters” in this world, who care more about gratifying their own sense of ego and empowerment, than they do about having meaningful social interactions with others. 

The Internet is never going away.  In fact, it is a pandora’s box from which the Gini has been let loose and it will be many years before we even begin to have an understanding of it. 

But we must not let our hearts be hardened by those who are truly cynical and who get turned on by either creating or watching other people be affected by betrayal and deceit. 

The following song was written about the Bush administration but it is as true about society today as it was the day it was written. 

This IS what will be.

Magic by Bruce Springsteen

I got a coin in my palm
I can make it disappear
I got a card up my sleeve
Name it and I’ll pull it out your ear
I got a rabbit in my hat
If you want to come and see
This is what will be, this is what will be

I got shackles on my wrist
Soon I’ll slip ’em and be gone
Chain me in a box in the river
And I’ll rise singin’ this song
Trust none of what you hear
And less of what you see
This is what will be, this is what will be

I got a shiny saw blade
All I needs’ a volunteer
I’ll cut you in half
While you’re smiling ear to ear
And the freedom that you sought’s
Driftin’ like a ghost amongst the trees
This is what will be, this is what will be

Now there’s a fire down below
But it’s comin’ up here
So leave everything you know
And carry only what you fear
On the road the sun is sinkin’ low
There’s bodies hangin’ in the trees
This is what will be, this is what will be

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Mary J. Blige- Hard Times Come Again No More

One of the few covers I enjoy more than the one done by Bruce.

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