Tag Archives: Winwood

Puzzle shrouded in mystery wrapped in enigma

I got home last night, after a very long meeting at the kids’ school and feeling more than a little stressed out.  Homework, food, lunches, breakfasts, all of that were put on hold for the few hours the meetings at school lasted.  Abbi had practice for her play . . . it’s “hell week” and they are scheduled to rehearse from 4pm to 9pm.  That means, of course, she gets home around 11pm since they never end on time.

We finished at the school around 8:10pm and I knew I was already in for a longer bedtime routine.  You see, with Abbi at practice and the meeting for Hannah, my 13-year-old, the twins had to come with us.  These meetings always have a plethora of candy, cookies, lemonade . . . and Sam is a sugar magnet.
“One glass of lemonade, Sam, that’s all.”
“Okay, Daddy.”

But as I sat at the work table for Hannah’s first project I saw Sam go to the lemonade dispenser 3 times.

“One time.  That’s all you go up to the table to get a treat, Sam. One.  One treat.”
“Okay, Daddy.”

But from same said work table . . . Sam did indeed go to the table once.  He came back with the most colorful fall-like assortment of candy and cookie treats.  He knew that I couldn’t get up . . . I was rooted to the spot.

Understand, where sugar makes most kids hyper, for Sam it’s like you’ve hit Bruce Banner with gamma rays all over again.  One bought cookie and he’s nuts.  A plate full?  I have to peel him off of the ceiling.  He was already walking in circles for no reason other than it made him dizzy.  He was bouncing off the walls.  He couldn’t even focus long enough to play his videogame . . . which is attention deficit incarnate.

So imagine my surprise when I got home, exhausted, thoroughly disgusted with my kids’ behavior (Even Hannah, during instructions for the night was telling jokes and talking back to the teachers – because her friends were there with her) when I spotted a brown tube lying on the front porch.  I picked it up and tried to open the lock – an impossibility because every time I moved Sam moved in front of the light so I could see the lock.  It was like Groucho Marx had walked up behind me and was intent on driving me to the asylum.

Getting inside I assumed it was a simple little thing Abbi had ordered or something.  But it was addressed to me.  No return address other than the company it came from: “Who Merch.”

Opening the tube inside was a reproduction of a concert poster from 1973.  From my favorite Who album, Quadrophenia.

The Quadrophenia Tour Poster
This is the third time in about a year someone mysterious has affected my life so positively.

Now, keep in mind, this isn’t just a gift.  I know, it’s a concert poster, very teenage years kind of thing.  But it’s not the gift itself, it’s the thought process behind it.

Let me go back . . . the gift before this?  A box set of the complete remasters of Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.”  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is my favorite album of all time.  Slowhand, Duane Allman, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle . . . it’s musical perfection with a Persian love story at its center.  How could I not?

But before that?  I received, again anonymously, a deluxe edition of Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die.  Other than my brothers, few people knew how much I love this record, and Winwood’s annoyingly amazing talent for lyric, melody and performance.  Anyone could have sent Layla though it was really expensive.  But this?  This was . . . touching.  In the middle of when I needed to be touched.

So tonight . . . when I have so clearly indicated how we’ve transitioned in our lives – after all the emotional pitfalls and my head trying to translate all its feelings – this shows up.

You might see this as a silly little concert poster.  But then you have to look deeper.

While Layla was an emotional tie for me, The Who’s Quadrophenia was terribly easy for me to relate.  The opening salvo going to Pete Townshend’s The Real Me immediately touched a chord with me.
Can you see the real me, can ya’

A simple line, a musical shout, but when you feel like you don’t look at the world the same as others . . . that’s very powerful.  From the misunderstood kid at the beginning to the pleading close of Love Reign O’er Me I connected with Quadrophenia nearly as much as to Layla.  I can easily put on an act for those around me in my day job, or in my sphere of influence.  I have friends, but dear friends – those whom you trust with everything – those are few.  Very few.  My brothers.  I can think of one friend from grade and high school – whom I hold very dear.

None of them sent this.  None of them sent any of the three musical ties to my emotions.

The journalist in me is dying to find out who sent it.  But the transition into this change of seasons – the change in our lives again, this new story . . . has taught me that it’s okay to have a bit of the mystery.  Three anonymously given, heartfelt and well thought gifts . . . someone knows me all too well.  Hannah called it my secret Santa.  I call them my “mysterious benefactor.”

It’s always good, once in awhile, to have a little bit of a puzzle, shrouded in mystery and wrapped in an enigma.


Still juggling . . .

I’m Not Drowning by Steve Winwood from the album Nine Lives

You’d think with a lack of children and the inability to take time off to go visit them that I’d be in the catbird seat, wouldn’t you?  The reality is I’ve managed to put myself in a position where I’m juggling more things that I’d probably have done if I wasn’t sans-children.

The first, obviously, is work.  I still have my daily grind and everything.  I have a July sweeps calendar.  I have a couple specials I’m helping a colleague with.

Then there’s the musician in me.  I let a touring musician stay at my house.  I started writing more of my songs that were weighing on me and I’d not taken the serious time to work hard on them.  Then – and this one cracks me up – I volunteered to help play guitar in a band for a fundraiser and awareness day for the Human Concerns Coalition.  Not that it’s a bad thing, I was really excited.

But being the worry wart I am I looked at the set list . . . then volunteered to sing several songs . . . then realized that I’ve played maybe 1/3 of the songs on the list.  Country.  Rock.  Hair band stuff.  None of that had I come to before.

So yesterday and today I was recording, playing, writing and trying to learn all these songs and – in Ringo’s words – I GOT BLISTERS ON ME FINGERS!!!!!”

That being said, I have a hard time saying no and I wanted to do it.  I’m singing Long Train Runnin‘ by the Doobies.  I get Take It Easy by the Eagles . . . and my biggest worry is Wonderful Tonight by Clapton.

I’ve posted last year how there are a lot of things that I brought to my relationship with my wife that we began to enjoy together.  Music was one of those things.  The song that Andrea loved the most – one we had at our wedding and listened to over and over again – was Wonderful Tonight.  I have practiced it – over and over – and finally gotten to the point where I can sing it without my voice cracking in the middle.  There isn’t an eighth note of that song that doesn’t remind me of her.

And it angers me.

It’s like a thief walked into my life and took seminal points and stole away with them.  Clapton.  Hendrix.  Miles.  Bird.  Every genre has some kind of reference for our lives together.  Some I can listen with wistful memories.  Others have me a gelatinous mess reaching for the turntable to get away from them as quickly as possible.

So the weekend approaches and I’m going to take my brother’s method of locking myself in the house and learning – over and over again – and hope I can keep up with the rest of the people.

But I sound so much like I’m complaining.  I’m not.

It’s an opportunity.  I’m still juggling, but I’m not dropping the balls.  I’m pushing myself to add more to the group.  Now, as long as I don’t add flaming swords and chainsaws I’ll be happy.

I’m Not Drowning . . .

The new family - I'm a bit skinnier now - a bit.

It happened this weekend.  The transition, that is.

Just about everything we’ve done over the last 8 1/2 months has had the influence, feel and presence of my wife swirling around it.  When I make breakfast for the kids, I take out the kid plates, these day-glo plastic rhomboids made by Ikea.  Andrea picked those out.  They seemed easier and less breakable for the boys in particular.  When we moved here and bought them at the massive Swedish testament to vanilla modernity across the river in West Sacramento.

I tuck in the kids and they all have sheets, bedspreads, dressers, beds . . . all of it picked out (with my “approval” meaning sure, I’m asking you what you think, but it’s the bed we’re going to buy anyway, it just makes you feel better) by Andrea.

Hell, my clothing, haircut, all of it are influenced by her amazing spark of creativity and style.  It’s not that I don’t want it, I loved it, every minute of it.  But the problem is, these pieces are the only things left.  When the plastic starts to thin, the clothing frays, the bedspreads and sheets stain . . . what then?

Well, we move on.  I didn’t want to, and it’s so hard to do it because she’s been the driving force behind my transition in to normalcy.  I was an angry, gangly, annoyingly stubborn kid with a horrible haircut, no sense of style and less than zero self-confidence.  It isn’t a shallow thing to say that this amazing woman changed that – changed me.  With her gone, where do I go from here?  Will I change with the times the way I should, or will I sit here, pining over the loss, will I stagnate and remain the same?

It’s easy to understand how I could do this.  There is something that’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t suffered this kind of loss.  I still feel her presence, the physical, tangible, tactile feeling.  There’s the thought she’s in the bed next to me in the twilight of sleep.  There’s the gut reaction to turn and tell her something amazing happened or to vent when the bad did.  But she’s not there, and it’s horrible to realize it because for a fleeting moment you relive the months leading up to that moment all over again.

And you like it.

Yes, you heard me right, I hate the pain and I revel in it as well.  The part people don’t realize is that you are so tied to this amazing person, you love her so much, that you live in and relish the pain that comes with missing her because that’s the only thing you have left.  There’s a part of me, however crazy, that feels like the less the pain hits, the less of her that stays behind.  I want her there.  I am a better man for having met her, so will I keep being that man now that she’s gone?

It would be so easy to fall into place.  I’ve already started.  I’ve been listening to old LP’s, living in the memories of our early dating and marriage.  I pine for the woman who drew me in.  I reminisce on the seductive nature of the woman who just hypnotized me with her smiling eyes.  I have watched John Hughes movies.  I subjected myself to Sleepless in Seattle because it was her favorite movie.  I listen to crappy ’80s/’90s stations because they remind me of her and of that time and I hurt, I tear up and I love it.  I’m inclined to just let the flood hit, drown in the memories.

It would be so easy to stay there.

But there are four little people who don’t.  That’s what pulls me out of the past and pushes me forward.  Andrea strove for perfection, in all things.  If she got less than an “A” in a class, even in Pharmacy School, which she attended after our oldest was born, she was motivated by that perfection.  She rubbed off on me to a degree, but there’s something she just didn’t realize, something that caused arguments; something that I have come to both realize and embrace.

It’s the imperfections that make it perfect.

Our house is now a mish-mash of Christmas decorations.  The perfect stockings on the fireplace, the combination of homemade ones on the banister.  We have two trees, most of the decorations homemade.  I put up my stereo even though Andrea hated it because it was old and clunky and was “obvious” in how it sat in the living room.  I have guitars hanging up and sitting out because they are part of me.  There’s the perfection, too, the decorations, the paintings, the artwork, the sconces, all of it an amazing tribute to this beautiful woman.

Then this weekend we did it.  Something she’d never have bought, something with no connection.  I was buying Christmas presents and needed a piece for our decorations at the hardware store.  They had a little metal fire pit, like a Chimera, for sale and I bought one.  We needed something to just have fun and there’s something about a fire, be it in the fireplace or the back yard.

I lit the fire, we put chairs around, got out the marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers.  I got the skewers from inside the house and we made S’Mores.  They were messy, crazy, hot, silly . . . and it was just us.  Andrea wouldn’t have wanted that fire.  She would have done the food, but not the fire pit.  It wasn’t her.

The thing is, to survive, to help these kids move on, we have to make our own memories, not live in the past ones.  Not keep doing the same old routine or the same traditions.  They’re gone.  Don’t take this too far.  I’m not erasing her, she’s far too special and far too amazing, and every day, I have reason to feel the hurt and let it wash over me in enjoyment.  The kids need to know it’s OK to have an amazing and happy time without her, though.  Not everything has to touch on her.

So we’ve re-done the decorations.  We added more lights, though she’d have hated that.  I’ve bought the Christmas presents by myself.  We’ll open the presents on Christmas Eve instead of Day, because that’s how MY family did, and now that’ show OUR family will do it.

It’s high time I broke out the pen and started writing the story for real.  We’ve had enough flashback, enough recap of our last writing.  It’s just that the hardest part is putting the pen to the page and writing because it makes it real.  She’s actually gone.

But when I look and my daughter posts on her Facebook page for all to see: “Roasting marshmallows in the backyard, making s’mores and going to bed smelling like a chimney…life is good,” I realized we’ve started writing without even knowing it.

I guess, in the end, it can’t happen because today I’m not drowning.

01 I’m Not Drowning by Steve Winwood from the LP Nine Lives