Saturday, December 22, 2007



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Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Five

I got an e-mail from my friend Will Briarwood today.

“Yo K –

This week’s Friday Five is a list of reasons why I haven’t had a Friday Five for a few weeks.

Too many holiday cookies, which means too much sugar crashing.

It’s the holidays. I still have piles of shopping to do.

A couple of minor adventures with the cats – The Queen is still crying at night, and the Little Guy has a little scrape on his belly. We took them both to the vet, and he suggested something called Feliway for The Queen, and Panalog for the Little Guy.

I left work early a few Fridays ago, and Mary and I took my mother to the annual holiday bazaar at the Animal Care League.

Can I repeat #1? I really wish I had stayed out of the sweets. I had my annual physical last week, and I’m sure that my numbers (cholesterol, triglycerides, weight, etc.) would have been a lot better before Thanksgiving.

Et vous?”

Thanks, Will. Five somewhat feeble reasons I have not blogged lately.

General procrastination.

The holidays, of course – I really wish I had started shopping a bit sooner.

Fairly busy at work this time of year.

A couple trips to the dentist, a couple of office parties.

Rampaging ennui.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Friday Five -- GoogleJerking

I got an e-mail from my friend Will Briarwood this morning.

“Yo K –

I’ll be working around the house this holiday weekend, so I thought I would do the Friday Five a couple days early.

You’ve seen plenty of articles or columns where the writer uses Google to make a point. Like writing about the prices at Starbucks, and pointing out that if you google “starbucks overpriced”, you get about 286,000 results. I don’t know if there is a name for this, so I will call it ‘googlejerking.’ At least until we think of a better word.

Here are my five examples of googlejerking:

(I was thinking about Dave Marsh and his biographies of Bruce Springsteen…) Marsh springsteen hagiography gives about 223 results

”Ann Coulter” skank gives about 49,600 results

Reagan senile has about 133,000 results

(This morning in the car, I was listening to a live recording of the Arcade Fire from 2005…) “Arcade fire” “joyful noise” has about 1,610 results

(And then I was listening to Nick Drake on the computer at work…) “Nick drake” tragic has about 55,800 results

Et vous?”

Thanks, Will. This is fun.

“deer hunter” small penis about 34,300 results

tofurky delicious about 545,000 results

"chicago cubs" "wait till next year" about 12,300 results

mtv crap about 1,820,000 results

”battlestar galactica" emmy about 1,390,000 results

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Five -- Shuffle

I got another e-mail from my friend Will Briarwood a little while ago.

“Yo K –

Sorry, not much in the way of interesting ideas for the Friday Five this week. So I just did an iPod shuffle, and added some comments, like the rock stars do in interviews:

Tangerine Dream / “Improvisation 1” / Live! Improvised!

A live recording that I downloaded from dime recently. Reims Cathedral – in France, I think? – from 1974. The artwork says Oh Boy on the spine, so this would appear to be a liberated bootleg.

Pink Floyd / “A Spanish Piece” / More soundtrack

I was a big Pink Floyd fan in high school, and in college – I remember playing “Echoes” at two in the morning, many times. But I didn’t get into some of their earlier stuff until later. This is a brief instrumental.

Pink Floyd / ? / Syncopated Pandemonium

Something else that I got from dime. I don’t think I know the source of this track – it’s a weird voiceover, with what I assume is Pink Floyd’s music.

Guru Guru / “Stone In” / UFO

More krautrock. I bought this cd, and many others, per the recommendations of Julian Cope in his great book Krautrocksampler.

Merle Haggard / “You Take Me For Granted” / Down Every Road 1962-1994

From the big four disc box set, which I probably got pretty cheap from BMG. My brother got a kitten recently and named him Merle.

Et vous?


I do not have an iPod, so I just hit the random option on the Windows Media Player on the computer.

Romeo Void / “Nothing For Me” / It’s a Condition / Strange Language

Recent, and long overdue, reissue of the first Romeo Void album, along with Debora’s solo record. I was a big fan back in the new wave days, and this was my favorite of their records. And this was near the top of my wanted list of lp’s that were not on cd.

Loretta Lynn / “The Other Woman” / Honky Tonk Girl: The Collection

People think that Merle is a rightwinger because of “Okie From Muskogee,” but I do not think that he is – Loretta is long-time Republican and Bush supporter. Saw her live in 2000, and she made sure to include a “vote for Bush” speech during her show.

Waterboys / “Carolan’s Welcome” / Fisherman’s Blues

This is from the second disc of the recent deluxe edition. One of my favorite – maybe my number one – records of the 1980’s.

Kim Richey / “Drift” / Chinese Boxes

I think I might have discovered Kim through the p2 mailing list, or maybe it was hearing her on Mountain Stage or E-Town. Her new disc is really good – wish I had bought it sooner.

Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler / “All the Roadrunning” / All the Roadrunning

This was one of my favorite discs of last year, and I think covivant said it was her favorite. I have been an Emmylou fan since Wrecking Ball and I was a big Dire Straits fan for their first few albums. I went out and bought some old Dire Straits cd’s after hearing this, and downloaded some of his solo stuff.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sinead O'Connor, Symphony Center

I got an e-mail from my friend Will Briarwood earlier today. He sent me a concert review...

I keep meaning to tell you about some of the shows I’ve seen recently – I’ll try to send my reviews when I get around to writing them…

Who / When / Where: Sinead O’Connor / Sunday, September 23, 2007 / I think it’s called Symphony Center, at Orchestra Hall

Notes: They had problems with their sound all evening – I don’t know if it was their equipment, or the sound guys, or what.

Good show. Good mix of old songs and new songs (see setlist below). A bunch of songs from her second record.

Her first husband still plays drums with her, after all these years.

She still has most of that amazing voice. I am concerned that if she keeps smoking as much as I’ve heard she does, that she’s going to end up like Joni Mitchell.

Went by myself – Mary wasn’t interested in going.

Highlights: “In This Heart” was great. So was “Black Boys On Mopeds.”

I Wish She Had Played: “Jackie.”

Moron Factor: There was this young couple next to me, who showed up right as Sinead’s set started, and talked on and off all through it. It sounded like he had an accent, maybe Russian – I don’t generally confront talkers during a show, especially if they might be Russian drug dealers… Other than that, the crowd was pretty well behaved.

Opening Act: Damien Dempsey. Sort of a Damien Rice on steroids. He was quite good, and I saw that he was selling a lot of cd’s in the lobby after his set.

Reviews: Daily Herald, Concert Live Wire.

Setlist / Recording:

At dime. Downloaded it, have not burned to cd and listened yet. Setlist, per the taper:




Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Five -- TV On Strike

I got an e-mail from my friend Will Briarwood this morning.

“Yo K –

Let’s bring back the Friday Five. I’ll start – which five tv shows will you miss the most if the writers strike lasts a while? My five would be:

Battlestar Galactica
Ugly Betty
30 Rock

Et vous?”

I would agree with a couple of Will’s choices, but I will list five different shows:

Bionic Woman
Jericho (but I did read that CBS’ seven episode mini-season will probably not be affected by the strike)

And my list would assume that shows that are not due back till next summer (Mad Men, The 4400, Eureka) would not be affected.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

And Then There Were Two...

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood earlier today. I had not talked to him for a few weeks.

“Sorry I haven’t been in touch. It’s been a tough few months.”

I know. How are the cats doing?

“OK, I think. It’s just the queen and the little guy, now – it’s been about nine years since we only had two cats. They get along pretty well, but she is twice as old as he is, and doesn’t have much patience for him sometimes. And some nights she will start walking around the house, crying – we’re not sure if she’s just getting old, or if she misses the other cats, or if she’s hungry, or all of the above. She passed her most recent exam, so I think we’ll just keep an eye on her for now.”

You and Mary doing ok?

“Aside from feeling terrible about the old girl and the big guy, I guess so. You know, a lot has happened this year, and I suppose at some time I have to start thinking about other things.”

In good time.

“I mean, Al Gore won a Nobel. The Cubs were in the playoffs for a few days, the White Sox were terrible, and it doesn’t look like the Bears are going back to the Super Bowl any time soon. The tv writers are on strike. There’s all kinds of problems with the economy – and Mary’s daughter’s fiancé just got laid off.”

Hillary Clinton could be the next president. Or Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani.

“Assuming the country survives twelve more months of Shrub and Cheney.”

I was looking at my 401k a week ago, and it looked great. And then the stock markets starting dropping.

“We’re not retiring for what, fourteen years? Keep saving, and don’t mess with what you have.”

I will keep that in mind.

“And we’ll talk further about concerts, and tv and stuff.”

Ten four.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Farewell, Big Guy

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood last night. Unfortunately, he again had bad news about his cat…

“We had to put the big guy to sleep on Monday.”

I am sorry, Will.

“Thanks. He was doing ok last week, but then one of his tumors started bleeding on Sunday – the vet counted a total of six little tumors when we were in there last week -- and we noticed the big guy was breathing a bit harder, and I don’t think he was eating as much – Mary said she did not want him to suffer, that was his time to go.”

You had said his quality of life was pretty good last week, all things considered – it went downhill, then.

“Yeah. We knew his life was not going to get any better.”

You guys doing ok?

“Not really. I mean, we’ll be ok, but this is just as hard on us as when the old girl died back in August. In some ways, this was even harder – the old girl was ready to go at the end, but the big guy still had some energy left. And the old girl was almost fifteen years old, but the big guy was only nine. The worst part was when he would look at me like he did not understand what was going on, and like he did not want to go…”

I am sure you made your decision out of compassion for him.

“I know we did. But that does not stop me from feeling guilty, and does not stop me from missing him.”

How are the other cats doing?

“OK, I think. The old girl sometimes starts meowing in the middle of the night, but she’s been doing that for a while, it’s just part of her getting older. And the little guy, sometimes I see him looking around the house, like maybe he’s looking for the big guy. I think they both know that things have changed, again.”

You should not feel guilty – you and Mary gave him a good life.

“We tried our best. And I did try to come up with a list of ten things to be thankful for, like I did when the old girl died.”


“Well, there are some of the same things I had last time – like us going fifteen years since any of our pets died. And being very thankful for everything our vet did for us. But let’s start with this – the big guy survived over a year after his first cancer surgery, and he did pretty well on three legs.”

That was last October, right?

“Yeah. And although he had to go the vet one last time, his final moments were peaceful, Mary and I were both with him. And he did not suffer too much in his final days, like the old girl did.”

As I said, compassion.

“And it was Sunday when we noticed he was bleeding, so we got to spend his last day with him. And Mary said he slept next to her all that last night. And that leads me to the most important thing – it was Mary and her love for him that gave him a good life. He was a wild young cat, and I think his bond with her really calmed him down as he got older.”

I think that is about six things.

“And I got to spend a lot of time with him the last few weeks – we would sit together on the chair on the porch during the evening. And we took a bunch of great pictures of him during his last day.”

I think I know your last two things.

“Our other two cats. Without the queen and the little guy, our lives would just be too empty. They are there for us, and we will be giving them a lot of attention in the coming weeks.”

You and Mary take care.

“Thanks. Say hi to covivant for us.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hang In There, Big Guy

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood last night. He gave me an update about his cat, who has cancer.

“Well, the good news is that the big guy is still acting like his old self. His appetite is good, and he doesn’t seem to be in pain.”


“The bad news is that he has a couple more bumps on his side, and they are ugly and red – I don’t know if they broke through his skin, or if he licked the fur off them – I’m hoping that they’re something other than more cancer, but I’m not optimistic. He goes to the vet Thursday morning.”

You said that he also has cancer in his lungs – is he breathing ok?

“Well, he breathes fast sometimes, but he’s not panting or gasping. He does seem to lie down more than he used to – I mean, he used to sit around, now he seems to lie around.”

How are you and Mary doing with all this?

“Some days we’re ok, some days we’re not. I was really worried about the big guy last week, but today, I don’t feel quite so bad, I don’t know if I’m denial or if I’m accepting the inevitable. I mean, the vet gave us a four-month supply of prednisone, and then I bought a big bag of cat food, which should last us a couple months. But Mary is worried that he’s not going to last till her vacation at the end of the month.”

Her vacation? Not yours and hers?

“She’s going to see a friend of hers in Arizona. I’ll stay home and catsit. Just like I did when she want to San Francisco on business last month.”

The cats do ok when she is gone?

“Pretty much. I try to take at least one day off work when she’s out of town, so the cats don’t feel like we’re both gone.”

Good luck at the vet tomorrow, and good luck to you and Mary with all this.

“Thanks. Hey, we have to talk about the fall tv shows some time, and I need to tell you about Sinead, and Anoushka, and Christine Kane…”

Will do. Talk to you later, Will.

Monday, September 24, 2007

It Is the Evening of the Day

I talked to my friend Will Briarwood earlier today. Unfortunately, he had more bad news about his cat.

“The big guy’s x-rays showed some shading in both of his lungs, which is probably cancer. And he has two lumps that we know are cancer, and we just noticed two more lumps which we figure are probably cancer. Surgery is not really the answer for him, so we are just giving him anti-inflammatory pills and hoping he can hang on for a while.”

We seem to be having this conversation too often, Will. I am sorry.

“Thanks. The good news is that he does still have his appetite. And although he does not seem to have as much energy, he does still get around ok. I’m just worried that his lungs will stop working enough, like what happened to the old girl. His quality of life is pretty good now, but I’m afraid I don’t know how long it will last.”

Did the vet have any suggestions or ideas?

“The vet says that the big guy’s cancer is very unusual – he doesn’t think he’s ever seen a case where a cat had so many tumors of this type. He said he has seen cats live for up to a year with lung cancer – but they did not have the external tumors that the big guy has.”

I am sure you and Mary will give him the best care possible.

“We try. I mean, he has survived almost a year since losing his leg to cancer. Hey, on the other hand, Mary’s daughter and her fiancé got a new kitten, and so did my brother and his girlfriend. So life goes on, and all that.”

I know that you and Mary will have many more cats in the years to come.

“Well, the big guy would not be happy with any changes to his environment at this time, so we won’t be bringing home any new cats any time soon. And Mary has talked about fostering kittens instead of getting any new cats for ourselves.”

And I am sure that Mary would never keep any kittens for herself…

“No, never. Hey, I have to get back to work, but let me tell you a quick story.”


“I was sitting out on our porch the other evening. Reading my vampire novel, and the big guy was curled up in the chair next to me. I look out the window, and watch the wind in the trees, and I start thinking that it’s evening, and it’s fall, so it’s getting late in more ways than one. And this book – it’s called The Historian – there’s just this sense of dread in the story, and I’m looking down at the big guy, and thinking that it’s getting late for him, and, well, it was like Melancholy was a capital M.”

As tears go by…

“Yeah. I gotta go -- remind me to tell you about the Sinead O’Connor show last night.”

And do not forget that Heroes is back tonight.

“That’s right. Talk to you later.”

Take care, Will.

Friday, September 07, 2007

I'm All Lost

I was walking around the mall during lunch yesterday, and I heard “Lost In the Supermarket” by The Clash, over the music system.

“Im all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer
A guaranteed personality”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Get Well, Big Guy – Again

My friend Will Briarwood called me earlier today. Unfortunately, he and his wife just got more bad news about one of their cats.

“I think I mentioned that the big guy had some sort of shadow on his lung on an x-ray last month.”

I think you did.

“A week ago, I noticed a little bump on his chest. We took him to the vet on Friday, and the vet found a second little bump. Well, today the lab results came back, and he has cancer again, for the third time.”

I am sorry, Will.

“Thanks. The vet said they’re fibro sarcomas, like he had the last two times. He also said this is very unusual, that there is some unknown factor with the big guy, maybe it’s something environmental – but none of the other cats had anything like this – or maybe it’s something genetic.”

So does this mean another surgery for him?

“Don’t know yet. He goes in for to get his chest x-rays again this Saturday. The vet said if his lung looks better, then we could remove the sarcomas. But if his lung looks worse…”

Is he still coughing?

“No, the good news is that we haven’t heard him cough for a week or two. But the bad news is that he’s been throwing up his breakfast every other day.”

Is this all related? The cancer, the coughing, and the vomiting?

“Not that we know of. I mean, if he has cancer in his lung, then it could be caused by whatever causes the sarcomas. But we think it might be the antibiotics he's been taking for several weeks, or maybe he has some sort of food allergy, that is making him throw up.”

Do you know what he might be allergic to?

“We thought it was turkey. But the dry food he eats all the time has turkey as its main ingredient. He was eating the same moist food as the queen, but that food has been out of stock everywhere for the last few weeks. So we’re trying to find foods that the queen will eat, but won’t make the big guy throw up.”

It has been a tough year for you and the cats.

“Tell me about it. I try to keep positive, for the cats’ sake, and for Mary’s sake.”

For your sake too, you know.

“Yeah, I know. Did you read the latest issue of MOJO?”

Umm – as in the music magazine? I think so.

“The article about Def Leppard?”

I did read that. But I do not recall that it mentioned anything about cats…

“You know, I’m not a fan. I mean, I think I still have their first album on vinyl somewhere, and I did actually see them many years ago, they were opening for Ted Nugent.”

Is there a segue here somewhere?

Rick Allen, the drummer, talked about the accident where he lost his arm. I wish I had the exact quote here – but he said that, looking back over everything that happened to him, that it’s important to try to stay in a place of gratitude.”

Ahh. You are referring to you and your cats.

“I read that, and it made sense to me, but then I thought, well, I am grateful that we had healthy cats for many years, so why do I still feel so bad about the old girl’s death, and about the big guy having cancer again. And I realized that I am not in a place of gratitude – you know, I think that’s the phrase he used – that my first thought about the old girl is how much I miss her, and how bad it felt when she was sick and dying. I try to remind myself of all the happy times we had together, and make that my place of gratitude. Hey, sorry to get all long-winded on you.”

Not a problem. I hope everything works out.

“We’ll know more on Saturday. I’ll keep you posted.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Can We Live Through August?

I was talking with my friend TS Elmwood the other day. She called to make sure we were ok after last week’s storms.

“I was reading Tom Skilling’s weather blog. Looks like things were pretty bad in some places.”

We actually spent about twenty minutes down on the first floor of our office building that afternoon, because there was a tornado warning for the city.

“Everything ok?”

The building is fine. A street about half mile north is closed, and there are some trees down. I walked around by the river today, and there is some flooding on the bikepaths, and the small bridges are closed. And there is some more serious flooding on the Fox River, farther north.

“And your house is ok?”

Much to our relief, it is. We just had a bit of water in the basement. The tree out back lost a bunch of small branches. One of the houses across the street lost a huge old tree.

“When I was kid growing up out that way in the suburbs, the power would always go out during storms.”

It does go out more than I thought it would out here. Ours was out most of the day Friday – I figure ComEd may have shut things down while they were picking up power lines.

“Was there a lot of damage in your area?”

Not right around our house, but it turns out that a tornado touched down a couple miles north of us. Lots of trees down, power lines down – I drove home that way on Thursday, so I must have gone through there only about an hour after the tornado did.

“I’m glad you’re all ok. I saw some scary looking pictures in the news.”

We’re all ok. I was home most of Friday -- with the power out, I spent several hours sitting by the window, catching on my reading, and catching up on petting cats.

“Awww. Hey, how is Will’s cat doing?”

Unfortunately, she died a few weeks ago.

“Oh no, that’s too bad. How are he and Mary doing?”

OK, I think, but I know Will is pretty down. They had that cat for like fourteen years. And one of their other cats had cancer last year, and now they are afraid that his cancer is back.

“That’s so sad.”

I know. Driving home from work last Thursday, during the storms, I kept worrying about our cats, because I knew they would be scared of the thunder of lightning. And they would have been really scared if the tree in our backyard had ended up in our kitchen.

“You know, it is even worse with kids. Worries, I mean.”

I know.

“Take care of yourself, K. And take care of covivant, and take care of those cats.”

Thanks. You take care of your family as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Farewell, Old Girl

I talked to my friend Will Briarwood last night – he called to pass along the sad news that one of their cats had died.

“The old girl died a week and a half ago.”

I am sorry, Will.


How is everyone doing?

“Well, Mary and I miss her terribly. Everything we do at home feels different, and the house feels empty, and every time I hear mention of a cat somewhere, I think of her... anyway, I try to not be too down about it -- so I came up with ten things that I’m thankful for.”


“It’s been fifteen years since any of our pets died. We’re thankful for that.”

Considering all the health problems you and your cats have dealt with over the years, that is pretty amazing.

“As hard as it is for us to deal with her death, it would have been very hard for her if Mary and I had died first.”

That is true – covivant and I should really come up with some sort of plans for our animals in case something happens to us.

“And the old girl was very close to the queen –- for many years, it was just the two of them -- the queen has seemed a bit depressed the past couple weeks, but I think it would have been really hard on the old girl if the queen had died first.”

What else?

“The old girl was in pretty good health for most of her almost fifteen-year life, and I think we did the right thing, letting go of her at the right time.”

I am sure that you and Mary made the right decisions, and you made them out of compassion.

“And I called in sick to work for a couple days, so I was at home during the old girl’s last day. And she did die at home, without having to go to the vet one last time.”

I am sure that she appreciated you being with her, Will.

“And we were once again thankful for having a great veterinarian – everyone there was very kind to us.”

I think you are up to about seven in your lists of things to be thankful for.

“Well, of course, the last three things are the most important – Mary and I could not get through any of this without having three more cats at home, who need us.”

You mentioned that the queen might be a little depressed – how are the guys?

“I think they can tell that something is different, and they probably react to Mary and I being down. And, unfortunately, the big guy is having more health problems.”

Again, I am sorry, Will. Not more cancer, I hope.

“We don’t know yet. He has been coughing a bit, and the vet did a chest x-ray and found a shadow on his lung. It could be a tumor, it could be some sort of abscess or infection, or something benign – we’re giving him antibiotics and hoping it clears up.”

Can they do more tests to figure out what it is?

“Well, that’s what the one vet suggested, that we should take him in for a ct scan and a needle biopsy. But Mary talked to the other vet, and we decided that would be adding too much unnecessary stress to the big guy’s life – and it’s not like we could do anything for him if his cancer is back.”

I guess they cannot do lung cancer surgery on a cat.

“No, I don’t think so. But anyway, I’m trying to think about those things I’m thankful for, and hoping I don’t have to go through all this again with the big guy any time soon.”

Good luck, Will.

“Thanks. I’ll keep you posted…”

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Further On Up the Road

I was talking to my friend TS Elmwood earlier today. I was telling her about Will’s cat being very ill.

“That’s so sad. I feel so bad for him and Mary – you’ve told me how much they love their animals.”

He said that they are worried that their old girl is near the end.

“Our dog died last year. During her last weeks, I found myself trying to come up with ways to express what I was feeling. Metaphors, analogies, whatever, for the experience.”

For instance?

“I would think about walking with her, along a path near a cliff, and being scared to death that she was going to fall off the cliff. I realized that wasn’t quite right – she was old and sick, she wasn’t going to fall off a cliff. Then I would think about fog.”


“I would think about walking through a thick fog with her, and she would be by my side, then she would walk a little farther away from me, and it would be harder to see her in the fog, and again, I was scared that she would walk away from me, and disappear into the fog, and she would be gone.”

Will was telling me that one night he saw their cat sitting in the doorway to their bedroom, and then the cat walked away and disappeared around the corner.

“Poor Will. That does come close to describing how I felt about our dog. So along with cliffs and fog, I also thought about different paths – that is, paths or roads, with forks or branches.”


“When I realized that our dog did not have long to live, I realized that we were on the path to her death. Day by day, I would think about the path ahead, and my impressions of how long or short the path might be – when she had a good couple of days, I would think that the path had changed, and we still might have a ways to go. But then her symptoms would get worse, and I would feel that we had taken a different path, one that would be shorter.”

Will was saying that he hopes to get her to her next birthday in a month.

“And we had hoped to get our dog through the holidays. She made it, and then we had to let her go.”

This is probably a stupid question, but do you believe any of that rainbow bridge stuff?

“I don’t know. Have you heard the story about the man, his dog, and the path to heaven?”

Not that I recall.

“Let me try to adapt it to a man with cats. Ummm…“

So a man is out walking. He feels as if he is just waking from a dream, and he is just becoming aware of his surroundings. He looks around, and he sees that a number of cats are walking with him.

He remembers that these cats were his, through various times in his life, and that they all died before he did. And he realizes that he too, had died.

He and the cats walk for a ways, and they come to a big, fancy gate. There is a man sitting on a chair in front of the gate – he sees the man, and smiles, and the gate opens.

“Come in,” says the man at the gate. “We’ve been expecting you.”

The man with the cats looks through the gate, and sees a beautiful village, with many beautiful buildings and beautiful people. He asks the man at the gate, “What is this place?”

“This is Heaven,” is the answer. “Come in and join us.”

The man with the cats starts to walk through the gate. But the other man stops him, and says, “Wait,” and points to the cats, “they’re not allowed here.”

The man with the cats looks at the beautiful village behind the gate. He looks at his cats, and they look at him. He turns to the man at the gate, and says, “No thanks.”

So the man and the cats walk a ways further. They come to another gate – this is a simple wooden gate. Behind the gate he can see what looks like another village. An ordinary-looking village, with ordinary people. And the people are walking with dogs, and cats, and horses, and lots of other animals.

There is an old couple standing at the gate, next to an old pump. They smile at the man with the cats, and they put out several bowls of water, from which the cats drink eagerly.

“What is this place?” asks the man with the cats.

“This is Heaven,” says the old man.

“Come in, we’ve been expecting you,” says the old woman, and she motions to the cats – “all of you.” And the gate opens.

As the man and the cats all walk through the gate, the man turns to the old couple and says, “You know, there’s another place up the road, and they say that they’re Heaven.”

The old man nods. “They would say that, wouldn’t they.”

“Doesn’t that bother you?” asks the man with the cats.

“Nope,” says the old woman. “The people who really want to get to here – they always find their way here.”

The Old Girl's Story

I had not heard from my friend Will Briarwood for a while, so I sent him an e-mail and asked him how the cats were doing. He called me back.

“It looks like we’re getting near the end for the old girl.”

I am sorry to hear that, Will.

“Yeah. We took her to the vet yesterday – she was already scheduled to get her blood work rechecked, but then she suddenly stopped eating a couple days ago, and she’s been really weak and lethargic. The vet took a chest x-ray, and said her lungs are in worse shape than we thought.”

Is she still coughing?

“No, actually, she was coughing a lot a week ago, then she stopped. And she was eating ok, so we thought she was doing pretty well. But now…”

We can talk about this some other time, if you prefer…

“Well, let me give you the situation, and let me tell you a quick story. We were at the vet for like ninety minutes yesterday, and I’m trying to process everything he’s telling us. And not only am I trying to understand the old girl’s health – Mary compared it to when her grandmother died, after having pneumonia several times, her lungs were just worn out – not only that, but Mary was also asking the vet about putting her to sleep, and I’m trying to take this all one step at a time…”

You and Mary will know what step to take when, Will.

“I know. Mary already talked to a vet who does house calls, so when the time comes, we can let the old girl go without having to stress her out with one final trip to the vet…”

Can we do anything for you?

“No, I think we’re ok. If only the old girl would get her appetite back, then maybe we would have a bit more time – I really wanted to get her to her birthday in a month.”

How old will she be?

“She would be – will be – could be… she was born on September 2, 1992, so her fifteenth birthday is coming up.”

If I remember correctly, that would make her about seventy-five in human years.

“Seventy-six on the chart we use. Let me tell you a quick story, then I gotta go.”


“True story, unless I was dreaming. I’ve mentioned that all of the cats sleep in our bed with us.”

You have.

“And they come and go during the night – sometimes I wake up, and they’re all there, sometimes it’s a couple of them, sometimes they’re all somewhere else.”

Go on.

“Week or two back, I woke up early one morning. Mary was asleep, and all four cats were in the bed with us. After a few minutes, the old girl gets up, climbs out of bed, and walks to the bedroom doorway. She sits there for a moment, and, half awake, I call her name. She looks over her shoulder for a few seconds, then she walks out into the hallway, turns the corner, and she’s gone. And I’m lying there, completely… what’s the word I want…”


“No, that would imply something scary, or evil. Unsettled, maybe? Lying there in bed, me and Mary, with only three cats. And the image of the old girl, sitting in the doorway, on her way to… somewhere…”

That would be unsettling.

“And you know how it is, when we’re stressed by things like this, sometimes we try to read too much into a normal occurrence.”

Like this was a premonition?

“Or a message from the old girl, that she wanted me to know that she would be leaving soon…”

Are you sure there is nothing that covivant and I can do for you?

“We’ll be ok. One way or another. I’ll let you know how things go.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stuart and Dave, Peter and Abby

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood earlier today.

“Do you know who Peter Walsh is?”

The name sounds familiar…

“He’s a professional organizer, he used to be on Clean Sweep.”

I remember – covivant and I watched that show for a while.

“We saw him on Oprah recently, talking about his new book, and getting all philosophical.”

They did not get into that Secret stuff, did they?

“No, not that kind of philosophy. Peter helps people get rid of the clutter in their lives, and he said that people generally have two kinds of clutter.”

Which are…

“Stuff that they associate with memories, and stuff that they think they might need one day. So half of their stuff is from the past, and half is for the future, so they’re not living for today. Or something like that.”

That makes sense. I know I have lots of stuff in each of those categories.

“Well, as usual, it got me thinking about other stuff, and people.”

Is this about stuff that you are saving, that has memories of family, or people you knew?

“Not physical stuff, no.”

Umm – what are we talking about here, Will?

“Let me tell you whom I was thinking about – Stuart Adamson, and the Hoodoo Gurus, and my friend Abby from college.”


“Stuart Adamson was the singer / guitarist / songwriter for Big Country. I bought their first couple records, and then kind of lost interest in them. I bought their last record after he died, and found myself feeling guilty that I had not followed his career.”


“Not the right word, maybe. But I felt like I should have stayed with them longer, that I had missed out on something.”

Same for the Hoodoo Gurus?

“Yeah. Except that Dave Faulkner – the singer / guitarist / songwriter – is still alive. I bought their first few records, and again, lost interest.”

Ummm – you do know that, as a fan, you are not really obligated to keep buying their music forever?

“I know, I know. Mary says I’m – what’s the word, transferring? I’m transferring my feelings about something, or someone else to the music I listen to.”

You mentioned your friend, Abby?

“Yeah. Let me say first, that I had a bunch of good friends back in college, and kept in touch with them for many years, but eventually I stopped seeing them, then we stopped calling, and now I think we just get one Christmas card from that group of people. So it’s not just Abby.”

Who was she?

“I met her through another friend in college – I think she was someone’s roommate. I’m not sure of the last time I saw her – maybe like fifteen years ago, a few years after she got married.”


“…and she died a couple years ago.”


“She was forty-nine, I think. I read her name in the alumni newsletter, in the ‘Deaths’ column. Then I went and found her obituary in the Tribune.”

People do go on different paths, and lose touch over the years.

“I know, I know. It was just a shock to see her obituary – I think she was the first friend of mine that died. And then it was kind of an unhappy realization that none of my other friends from back then had let me know that she died, or that she was sick – the obituary mentioned a ‘battle with cancer.’”

Maybe they had lost touch with her, too.

“Maybe. I guess. So anyway, I was thinking about what Peter Walsh said, and I started looking at the stuff I have in our basement, and started thinking about things that I’m keeping for the memories – cd’s from bands that I stopped listening to, or junk from college days.”

Umm… I think we are just touching lightly on a heavy subject, Will.

“I know. Peter Walsh also has lots to say about the reasons that people save clutter. And that it’s one thing to go through your old lp’s, or cd’s, or through your closet, or basement, and attic, and then the garage…”

But it is another thing…

“It’s two other things. One is to address the reasons that we need to hang onto so much stuff – physical clutter, I mean. And it’s another thing to deal with friends who are gone. Or who are still around, but just not in our lives.”

So which are you going to do first?

“I think I’m going to play an old Big Country record, and then an old Hoodoo Gurus record or two.”


“And then, what I’m going to do, is throw out some stuff that I really don’t need any more.”

What about the old friends? Going to give someone a call, or maybe an e-mail or a letter?

“Still working through that.”

Well, good luck with that.

“Thanks. Leave us with a Big Country lyric, won’t you?”

“I dreamed I heard that you were dead
I dreamed I searched an empty bed
For a sign of you”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Read About It

Stuff I read online recently…

Amy Rigby aka Little Fugitive In France tells about hearing “Every song you never wanted to hear again played as badly as possible without shame.”

Calculated Risk writes about “Those Wacky NAR Forecasts.”

Cocktail Party Physics writes about Al Gore III and his Prius, and many other things.

Jim DeRo talks to Yoko Ono.

And the BBC writes about organic food.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good Life, With Cats

As I was saying, I talked to my friend Will Briarwood the other day. He was giving me the latest on his cats…

“We took the old girl to the vet a week-and-a-half ago, and we took the boys in the next day.”


“Well, we have good news for now, and we have pretty good news, and we have some good and some not good.”


“The big guy, who has had two cancer surgeries, he got a clean bill of health. The vet said if he can stay healthy for another few months, then we can worry less about recurrence.”

That does sound good.

“For now. After his first surgery, he got two more tumors about five or six months later. So we will keep checking him. I feel bad sometimes, when I go to pet him, and I hesitate because I’m worried about finding another lump.”

I think I read somewhere that cats can, in some way, sense that you are worrying about them. So it is important to keep a positive attitude, to avoid stressing your cat. And yourself.

“I try, but it’s hard. Anyway, the big guy also lost about a pound in the last three months. I told the vet it was probably because the little guy eats special food, and we put it up on the kitchen counter where the big guy can’t get it. So the big guy is eating less than he used to.”

Was the vet concerned about the weight loss?

“Yeah, but I think that’s one of those things that always catches their attention. A weight loss, or a weight gain, those are numbers that are easy to notice. He said another pound might be a concern, if it’s too sudden.”

And how is the little guy?

“He got the pretty good news. He’s all healed after his surgery two months ago. The vet was a bit concerned about the concentration of his urine – we have to get him to eat more of his moist food. Or try adding water to his dry food.”

And how is the old girl?

“Let me take a deep breath here… the vet had us increase her prednisone, which brought her appetite back, which is good, but she’s still coughing, which is not good, and she’s also slightly anemic, which is not good, and we are giving her iron supplements, which we worry could make her constipated. But her kidney functions were good, and she acts normal, meaning that she’s not hiding, and she’s not lethargic, which is good.”

And let’s not forget the queen.

“She’s sixteen years old – we figure she’s about eighty-one in human years – and she also got a clean bill of health last month.”

And how are you and Mary doing with all this?

“It’s a strain. Emotionally and financially. I would be lost – and so would the cats – without Mary.”

You know, you have complained to me that you are the one who is always paying the vet bills, and the pet store bills, and cleaning the catboxes, and…

“Yeah, I know. But she loves those cats so much, and they love her so much – that connection is so important for their health.”

You have given those cats good lives, Will.

“And they have given us a good life.”

Monday, July 09, 2007


I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood yesterday. He called to let me know how his cats were doing.

“First, though, you said you wanted to thank some people.”

I did say that. So thank you, Amy Rigby, for all those great cd’s of yours, and for your kind words in your comment on this blog the other day.

“I hope she’s happy with Eric in France, and I hope that domestic bliss doesn’t make her next record boring.”

Thanks, Will. I think.

“Who else?”

Two people, neither of whom I ever met in person, both of whom I knew online.

“As well as one can know someone online, you mean.”

Right. So, thank you, Chet Kresiak, for your encouragement about fifteen years ago, when I first got online via the old Prodigy , and we met on the Springsteen boards. And thank you, Dave Purcell, as you were the first person to encourage me to post more on Postcard2, like ten years ago.

“I’d like to thank my wife, Mary, for taking care of our cats.”

Hold that thought for the next post…

Friday, July 06, 2007

Summertime and the Blogging Is Easy

I got an e-mail from my friend TS Elmwood earlier today. TS is into The Weather.

She wanted to make sure I was reading the Tom Skilling weather blog. I do read it, and I had seen the story she mentioned in her e-mail, about how hot and dry it was out west. I called her to discuss.

“Weren’t those great numbers? A hundred and ten degrees, with a dew point below zero, and like one percent humidity.”

It was fairly dry here the other day, but for us that means a dew point down in the forties.

“I hope you got out and enjoyed it.”

I mowed the lawn, front and back.

“That’s not what I mean. Are you still walking?”

Not as much as I should. I got a pedometer recently, but I do not think I have gotten past about five thousand steps in a day.

“I told you that moving out to the suburbs would do that to you.”

I know. When I lived in the city, and did not own a car, I would walk everywhere.

“Now you sit inside and blog.”

Are you saying that I should get a long cable, and take my computer outside?

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, you dope. How is the blog going?”

OK. I did get my first comment the other day, and it was from one of my favorite people.

“And that would be…”

Amy Rigby. She’s a singer / songwriter, and I have all of her cd’s. I left a comment on her blog, and she returned the favor with a nice, encouraging comment on mine.

“It is nice to get encouragement, isn’t it.”

It is.

TS had to go out with her kids, so we said goodbye.

But before I forget, let me repeat, it is nice to get encouragement. So in my next post, I want to thank some people…

9-1-1 On 7/4

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood yesterday. I asked him how his Fourth was.

“Not too bad. But I did call 9-1-1 last night.”

Neighbors with late night fireworks again?

“No, those morons were a lot quieter this year. And besides, I don’t think the police ever showed up when we called them a couple years ago to complain. This year I called them about Monica.”


“About seven o’clock, the doorbell rang. I answered it, and it was a young woman, maybe college-age. She said she was a foreign exchange student – she did have a slight accent – and she was selling children’s books.”

Umm – that sounds pretty dangerous. Did you call Homeland Security, too?

“Ha. Let me continue the story. So she said to me that my children were probably older and moved out. She kept talking, and I cut her off and said I was sorry, but we would not be interested.”

Again, sounds pretty dangerous.

“Then she started asking about which of our neighbors had young children – and she pulls out this map she had drawn of our street, checking off different houses. She said she had knocked on one door twice by mistake, and that she wanted to keep track of which houses she had been to.”

OK, that does sound a bit weird.

“So I told her I did not feel comfortable giving out that sort of information, and she apologized, and went over to the house next door. Mary and I talked about her for a few minutes – we figured it was probably a ninety-five percent chance that she was just some kid selling books.”

And that other five percent?

“Well, there have been a few burglaries around our side of town, over the past few weeks, daytime burglaries. And the stories in the local papers, they always quote the police as saying that citizens should report any suspicious activity.”

So you reported.

“I called the non-emergency number. The woman there said I should call 9-1-1, and they could send a car. I called 9-1-1 – I told the dispatcher about her, and he said they would check her out.”


“Well, I made one mistake, I think – when the guy at 9-1-1 asked if I wanted the officer to come talk to us after he talked to the woman, I said no, that was not necessary. So I don’t know what happened.”

You never saw the police?

“Well, when I was talking to 9-1-1, I could see Monica – did I mention that she said her name was Monica? I could see her at one of the houses at the other end of the block. Then I saw her walk to the corner, turn north, and that’s the last I saw of her.”

Maybe the police saw her on the next block and talked to her.

“Maybe. I mean, I felt bad for this woman, because she probably was just someone selling books. But she was out on a holiday, and she was asking weird questions.”

You do not think that any of your neighbors would call the police?

“I don’t think many of them were home last night. But before Monica left, when I saw her talking to the neighbor at the end of the block, I could see the neighbor pointing to several of the houses down there, like she was telling Monica which houses to go to.”

If Monica was working with burglars, I guess knowing which houses had young children would mean it would be more likely that those houses would have someone home during the day, right?

“Yeah, I wish I had thought of something to tell her, like that Mary worked at home, or that she was out walking our big vicious dog and would be right back.”

Another story with no ending, Will…

“Write one for me. Like, ‘Police Crack Burglary Ring Thanks To Vigilant Citizen.’”

Or ‘Exchange Student Goes Back Home After Police Harassment.’

“Ha. Remind me to give you an update on the cats, next time I talk to you.”

Will do.

“What ever happened I apologize
so dry your tears and baby
walk outside, it's the Fourth of July

Thursday, June 28, 2007

All I Ever Wanted

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood this afternoon. He mentioned he would be taking a few days off work.

“Yeah, it’s vacation time. I’ll be out Friday through Wednesday.”

Big plans?

“Yes and no. Yes, I have lots to do around the house, but no, I don’t think we’re leaving town.”

I suppose you would not want to leave the cats for too long.

“Exactly. You know, I don’t think Mary and I have been out of town together for more than one night since… 2001, maybe? So, the old girl – not Mary, the cat -- is going back in to the vet tomorrow. She was due for a pedicure…”


“She’s getting her nails trimmed, because we’re tired of trying to cut them at home. Mary calls it her pedicure. And while she’s there, we want the doctor to check her weight and her hydration – we’re worried that her appetite is down again. And we’re worried that all the meds she takes are just wearing her down.”

As we have discussed, it is hard watching the pets get old.

“And then on Saturday, both the boys go in. Big guy for a checkup – it’s been three months since his second cancer surgery. And little guy needs to get his urine re-checked, after his surgery two months ago.”

Aside from going to the vet, got anything fun planned?

“I’d like to go to the FitzGerald’s American Music Festival, but I never seem to have the time or energy to back there since we moved out west.”

Who is playing this year?

Marcia Ball, Jon Dee Graham, the Wacos, Tony Joe White – if I do go this year, it will be to see him. Who else… Robbie Fulks, Beausoleil, Bill Kirchen, Anna Fermin. Maybe Mary and I will go to a movie. Most likely, I’ll just screw around at home for six days.”

You usually take a longer vacation this time of year, don’t you?

“I used up most of my vacation days with taking care of the cats. These two days were all I had left.”

Two days -- I thought you said you were off till Thursday…

“Tomorrow is summer hours – our office gives us alternate Fridays off during the summer. And Wednesday is a holiday.”

Got it. So what’s on the To Do List at home?

“Jeez, let me think – I want to clean out the office in the basement. And the usual stuff like mowing the lawn, and cleaning catboxes, fun stuff like that.”

Looks like you might get some nice weather for the next few days.

“Yeah, it sure was nice to turn the AC off and open the house up this morning.”

What movie are you thinking of seeing?

“Well, Mary wants to see Pirates again. I was thinking of Sicko. And I heard good things about Waitress.”

Have a good vacation, whatever you do. And good luck with the cats.

“Thanks. I feel like singing that Go-Go’s song.”

Go for it.

All I ever wanted
Had to get away
Meant to be spent alone”

Monday, June 25, 2007

Talking To the Old Town School

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood earlier today. He was not in a good mood.

“You know, I love the Old Town School of Folk Music.”

You have mentioned that.

“Mary and I have been members for a number of years, and we’ve increased our annual donation the past couple years.”


“They piss me off sometimes.”

You have said that the Old Town School is a great place to see a show, and they have well-behaved audiences, and the people there are great…

“Yes, all true. But I have four complaints.”


“First, their phone system. When they put tickets on sale to members, I usually go there, to the Lincoln Avenue location, and buy them in person.”

You have mentioned that you have gotten some great seats.

“We usually get seats in the first row. But the other day, tickets went on sale for The Swell Season, and there wasn’t a pre-sale for members, and I didn’t feel like taking the morning off work and driving into the city just to buy tickets for one show, and I ended up with tickets in the balcony.”

I have been to the Old Town School, and balcony tickets are still pretty close to the stage.

“I know, I know. It will still be a great show, and yes, we’ve gotten spoiled after sitting in the front row for most shows. But I had to call like ten times, and wait on hold – so I wish they would either upgrade their phone system, or bring in more people to answer their damn phones.”

You said you had four complaints…

“Well, let me think, I guess the second and third complaints lead to the fourth complaint. The second complaint is Al, and third complaint is Robbie.”

Who are…

“Al is the guy who introduces the shows, and reads all the announcements, and explains the rules…”


“Rules for smoking outside, but not taking your drinks outside, and turning off cell phones, and not trying to sneak in a recording device, and not using the noisy doors during the show, et cetera, et cetera. And he thanks the show’s sponsors, and the school’s volunteers, and he thanks the members, and he thanks the media…”

That must take a while.

“And that’s my complaint. If it’s a seven pm show, and Al starts his intro at a few minutes after seven, then the show starts at seven fifteen, if we’re lucky.”

That doesn’t sound too bad.

“Hang on. My third complaint is Robbie. Robbie Fulks, that is.”

I thought you were a fan of his.

“I am, of his music. He is the host of a series of country music shows at the Old Town School. At each of these shows, Robbie interviews the performers.”

Again, doesn’t sound too bad.

“Sometimes he interviews them for like almost an hour.”

Oh. So with Al and Robbie…

“The shows start later than they should, and they run late. And that is my final complaint – and before you say that isn’t so bad, sometimes they have two shows scheduled for one evening. If the early show starts late, then sometimes the performer has to cut their set a bit short.”

Got it. I think.

“I should point out that on nights when Robbie hosts a show, they don’t have a late show. So his long interviews do make the evening a bit longer, but they don’t cut into the sets.”


“I know, I’m running on here. Let me give you two examples. Sometimes, with popular artistes, the school will schedule a 7pm show and 10pm show. If Al doesn’t get off stage till seven fifteen, and the opening acts ends at eight or so, and the main act comes on at like eight fifteen, then they play a shorter set so they don’t delay the late show.”

Got it.

“Second example – we saw Tift Merritt and Anna Fermin at the Old Town School last weekend. Al got off stage at about seven fifteen, Robbie interviewed them till about eight, Anna played about forty-five minutes, and Tift didn’t finish till like ten thirty. I know, that’s not so bad, but it was a Sunday night, and we’ve been to shows that ran past eleven, which would have ended earlier if Robbie had yakked less.”

Will and I both had work to do, and we finished that conversation. He called me back a bit later that same day.

“OK, so now I’m less pissed off.”

At the Old Town School, you mean.

“Yeah. I sent a couple of e-mails to their website, and I already got two nice e-mails back from Gary – he’s the membership director – thanking me for my past support, explaining that with some shows they don’t have time for a members pre-sale before tickets go on sale to the general public, and saying that the Swell Season show was a lot more popular than they expected. And he asked me to clarify my phone problems, so I gave him all the details.”

I’m not sure I know Swell Season, by the way…

“It’s the actor-musicians from the new movie, Once. Great movie, great songs.”

You did not complain to Gary about Al or Robbie?

“Mary says she’s thinking of doing that. I should probably e-mail Gary to warn him.”

Monday, June 11, 2007

Who Wants the World?

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood a little while ago – he gave me a quick call to make sure I had seen a news story about our least favorite music venue.

“Did you see that story in the Tribune, that the World is for sale?”

You must mean the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, formerly the Tweeter Center, formerly the World Music Something-or-other -- I saw the story in Greg Kot’s blog.

“I think he called it ‘under-performing amphitheater.’”

I think he also said that the concert industry in general has had some performance anxieties lately.

“Heh heh – he said ‘performance anxieties.’”

I think the worst sound I ever experienced at an arena show was one of the Lilith Fair shows that covivant and I saw there. It was muddy, and it was boomy – just terrible.

“And I assume that Sarah and company didn’t have the sound cranked up that high.”

Not really.

“We’ve discussed this before – if you were in the middle of the seats, rather than the left or the right side, then the sound was not quite as bad.”

I don’t think I’ve been there for years, thankfully.

“I saw the Springsteen show there last year.”

Kot mentioned that show in his article, didn’t he. Let me find what he said, here it is:

“The nadir came last year when Bruce Springsteen, who normally packs stadiums, attracted only a few thousand fans to the amphitheater for a concert devoted to his folk-oriented 2006 album ‘We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.’

Springsteen fans, among the most devoted in rock, stayed away because, many of them said, they didn’t want to fight midweek rush-hour expressway traffic and shell out $92 for a ticket at a charmless venue.”

“I was down near the front that night – it was a great show, by the way -- and I think there were more than just a few thousand fans there. But yes, it was a pain-in-the-butt to get there on a weeknight.”

I think my worst ever traffic experience also involved the World – I think it might have been my first time there, it took us three hours to get there from Oak Park.

“The article also said that it’s Live Nation who is trying to sell the place – didn’t Jam used to own it?”

I think so.

“I seem to recall an interview Kot did years ago, with those two mopes at Jam, and they acted like they were offended when he brought up the awful sound of the place.”

Maybe it will sound better when it’s a subdivision in a few years.

“Imagine living in a house, on property where Bruce Springsteen, or Neil Young, or U2 once stood.”

Maybe they’ll call it the Midwest Tweeter World subdivision.

“How about the Springsteen Young Bono Estates. Start printing those sales brochures now.”

Friday, June 08, 2007


I talked to my friend Mary Briarwood last night. She’s married to my friend Will Briarwood.

“He’s out running errands – I think he was going to the birds store, to the pet store, the hardware store…”

Sounds like fun.

“As he long as he doesn’t get into any fights tonight.”

Will? Fighting?

“Just verbally. He went to get his hair cut last night, where we always go –“

Some guys get into bar fights – Will got into a fight at the salon?

“Let me tell the story, please. So, he’s talking with the woman who cuts our hair -- in previous conversations, she has referred to herself as a moderate Republican.”

Doesn’t sound like the kind of person that Will would get into a fight with.

“He didn’t, not with her. He said they were having a fairly polite discussion, speculating about next year’s elections, when the guy who was her next appointment somehow got into their conversation.”


“What was the term Will used – I think he referred to the guy as a ‘typical Republican dick.’”

I suppose there are still plenty of them around. I trust no one was injured.

“No, no injuries. Will said that this guy was just obnoxious. You know how some people just can’t discuss anything without making you mad?”

You mean, like typical Republican dicks.

“And you know that he and I don’t generally get into fights with people who vote Republican – I mean, I love his mother, and she has been voting that way for fifty-five years.”

And in all fairness, I’ve encountered plenty of people who vote against the Republicans, and who are pretty obnoxious when discussing politics.

“That’s true. I work with a woman who is a hundred-and-ten percent pro-choice, and she gets semi-hysterical with anyone who raises the slightest disagreement with her.”

So what did Mr. Dick say to get Will in a fightin’ mood?

“I think Will said that it started when the guy heard Will mention Hillary, and the guy said he was moving to Canada if she wins blah blah blah, and then the guy trotted out the old dogma about all of President Clinton’s accomplishments being just the finishing touches on everything Reagan and Bush did.”

I don’t mind talking with people who disagree with me, but come on, show me that you’re thinking before talking. Not just repeating talking points, or dogma.

“And the guy said he would never vote for – what’s his name, the actor – Fred Thompson?”

Yeah, just what the country needs, another Republican actor running for President.

“The guy said he could never vote for him because he voted against impeaching Clinton.”

An ideologue, sounds like.

“Lots of those out there. It’s going to be a long seventeen months.”

Well, tell Will to stay out of trouble, and ask him to call me when he has some time.

“OK. Say hi to covivant for me.”

Monday, June 04, 2007

All the people we used to know...

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood yesterday. I reminded him that he was going to tell me (again) why he likes their veterinarian.

“Because he went with his instincts, and saved our old girl a lot of stress, and saved me the cost of some fairly expensive tests.”

This is the cat who had some sort of lung problems?

“Yeah. We took her in for tests, but the doctor thought that the anesthesia would put too much stress on her kidneys, and he thought that maybe an anti-inflammatory would help her.”

So what is wrong with her?

“He called it a consolidation in the lung lobe. He described it as mucus or debris collecting there. He put her on an anti-inflammatory, and it was like throwing a switch – she stopped coughing, and started eating everything in sight.”

Does he still want to do those tests at some point?

“I think so – we’re taking her back in at the end of the month for evaluation.”

And the other cats are doing well?

“Far as we can tell. The other old girl is going in for a checkup a week from Saturday – she’s sixteen now, so the vet said it would be good to check her at least every six months. And we’re going to take the big guy in, to make sure he’s doing ok after that last cancer surgery.”

It is tough to watch our animals get old, isn’t it.

“Yeah. Which brings me around, sort of, to my theme for this weekend.”

Animals getting older?

“All of us getting older. I ran into someone I knew in high school, last time I was visiting my mom. She and her husband were in the grocery store, and we made small talk for a few minutes, and she asked what I did for a living, and I told her, and she said something to her husband like ‘back in high school, we all thought that Will would be a famous scientist or something, he was always the smartest kid around.’”

Your point is…

“I never did become a famous scientist or something. I just do insurance.”


“Sometimes I think that I did not do all that I could have with my life.”

Will, you’re only fifty. It’s not like your life is over.

“I know. I was just thinking about some people, like – ready for my list? – Graham Parker and Jon Langford, and Loyd Auerbach, and the Cosmic Psychos.”

Umm – I know the first two you mentioned…

“I saw GP and Jonboy at the Old Town School Saturday night. Good show. Langford was the opening act, and let me think here, during his set he mentioned Barbara Manning, Kevin Coyne, Grant McLennan, and aboriginal country music.”

Go on.

“I’ve gotten the impression before that Jon is disappointed that some of his favorites have never had the success that he thinks they deserve. He introduced one song as something he wrote for Barbara Manning, and like one or two people applauded her name.”

And Kevin Coyne?

“Jon did one of his songs, and again, like one or two people applauded at the mention of his name. I had heard the story that the last time Coyne played in the US – he died a few years ago, I think – he played to a very small crowd at the Old Town School. Supposedly Langford was calling up everyone he knew, to get them to go to the show.”

Grant McLennan also died recently, didn’t he.

“Jon said he died right before a party, that was being thrown to celebrate his engagement.”

All kinds of happy stories there, Will.

“And Jon talked about playing some festival in Australia, and how most Australian country music is pretty bad, but aboriginal country music is pretty great. He played a song by an aboriginal singer – I wish I had written down the guy’s name, or the song title – it was really good.”

So to sum up so far, we’ve got you and your concerns about your life, and Barbara Manning, who never really sold many records, and Kevin Coyne –

“—who was fairly successful in parts of Europe, I think, but never sold anything over here in the U.S.”

And Grant McLennan, who I have heard of, with The Go-Betweens.

“On the other hand, you have Graham Parker, who has had a long career, but doesn’t sell nearly as many records as Elvis Costello, to whom he used to be compared.”

And Jon Langford, who has also had a long career, with The Mekons, and the Waco Brothers, and his solo stuff, and his artwork -- but has never sold a lot either.

“And I’m trying to get to the happier part of the stories here – both GP and Jonboy, they just keep on keepin’ on. They’re still making good music, and they’re not pretending that they’re still in their twenties – I hate to use the phrase ‘growing old gracefully,’ but they are growing old without compromising the qualities that made them worth listening to in the first place.”

Who else did you mention earlier – Lloyd somebody?

“I’ll get to him in a minute. I was listening to a live cd in the car this morning, something I downloaded online, by an Australian band called The Cosmic Psychos. I was reading the notes that I got with the music, and it said that the guitarist died recently.”

Another happy story.

“You know that I really like a lot of Australian bands – The Church, Celibate Rifles, Hoodoo Gurus…”

The Hummingbirds, Midnight Oil, Kasey Chambers

“...and aside from Midnight Oil, and maybe The Church, those bands never really had a lot of success.”

But they kept on keepin’ on, as you said. Is that our moral to our story today?

“Could be. Then there’s Loyd Auerbach.”

Who is…

“I knew him back in college. Weird dude, really into comics, and science fiction. I saw his name in the latest alumni newsletter. He is a parapsychologist.”

You’re kidding. A real Ghostbuster?

“He writes books, too. I was reading his Wikipedia profile – which I suspect he wrote – and it says he’s been on Oprah, and Letterman.”

How does he fit in to our stories here?

“I don’t know. I just wanted to make the point that, back in college, we all kind of laughed at his career plans – he was going to do graduate work at some school in California –“

In parapsychology?

“You know, I think it actually was in parapsychology. Anyway, the point is, that most of us got out of college with no idea of what we wanted to do. Loyd had a plan, and he stuck to it, and now it’s almost thirty years later, and he’s still doing what he wanted to do.”

You mentioned that he has written books.

“I also checked Amazon. I think three of his books are in print, and the rest – like four or five, maybe – are out of print. The book that’s selling the best is ranked number 432,745 at Amazon.”

So you’re acknowledging that you’re kind of happy for Loyd, that he’s doing what he wants to do…

“And I’m acknowledging that I’m kind of happy that he’s not selling a ton of books.”

Didn’t you tell me awhile back that someone else you knew in college was an author?

Sharon Shinn – she writes fantasy novels. I have seen her books at Borders, so I think she probably sells a lot more than Loyd does.”

Can I add one more person to your stories here?

“Go for it.”

Brian Rosinski.

“Singer or author?”

Baseball player. When I was working and living in Evanston years ago, I knew people who went to high school with him. Supposedly, he was the best high school baseball player in the area in many years, and people thought he would be a big star.

“I’ve never heard of him, so I’m guessing that he was not a big star.”

He was drafted by the Cubs in the first round, like the fourth player overall, but he never made the majors.

“Couldn’t hit the curve ball?”

I think he got hurt in the minors.

“Your point?”

Ummm… sometimes we don’t have the career that we expect, or that we think we deserve, sometimes we get hurt or sick, or our cats get sick.

“There was a nice moment during Jonboy’s set, when he talked about listening to Graham Parker’s first record, and being blown away by it, and how great it is that Graham is still around, making good music.”

Can I say “keep on keepin’ on” again?

"Go ahead."

“The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew…

All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter's wives.
Don't know how it all got started,
I don't know what they're doin' with their lives.”