Music to my ears Part Deux

I’d made a point of explaining my major musical influences in my last post, but forgot to get back to that of my father’s love for Jazz and Classical.

My appreciation for these genres didn’t really develop until later in life. As a kid, music didn’t speak (or sing!) to me the way it does now. For one, I needed something with words. To me, a piece of music without words was a like a book without pictures: also something I didn’t come to appreciate until later in life. The Monkees were the only band I listened to in childhood, as I’d mentioned back in part one, and think it’s largely because their lyrics were easy to remember, (although I did realize somewhere down the line that most of the lyrics I thought I knew, were wrong…) and they had a show! And it was funny!

Now, as I said before, my father was intolerant of anything but Jazz or Classical. He’d endure Reggae but only for bout two minutes.I remember one trip to pick up my cousin who used to visit on the weekends, and after picking him up, he asked my father why he always listened to the Loony Toons sound track. A brother of mine recently told me that he’d come home one day to find our father playing some Aerosmith records, and sitting at the table with a grimace. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was trying to build up a tolerance.

I can’t remember the year, but at some point my father’s mother who was a terrific piano player, moved from her apartment into my aunt’s house, and needed to do something with her upright piano. It ended up coming to my house, and I’d poke around a bit. I managed to teach myself bits and pieces of this or that, including:




(Try to ignore the fact that I was trying to play these on a piano, when the first is violins, and the second is a guitar… At least their all stringed instruments!)

The very idea that I was producing even a watered-down, poorly-tempo-ed version of a masterpiece like these, having no formal training whatsoever gave me a feeling of pride that I had never felt before. Classical music thus began to speak to me and tug at the chords of my being. My father was happy to see I had some talent, and we talked from time to time about lessons to develop the skill. Unfortunately, reality being what it is, it has yet to happen.

My introduction to Jazz was of course Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang. Still love that sound track. I even have A Charlie Brown Christmas. I didn’t notice the appreciation I had for it at the time, but that’s where the seeds were sewn.

One morning, he and I had a discussion about who his favorite composer was. He said that if he had to choose one composer to listen to for the rest of his days, it’d probably be J.S. Back.

My father died at the age of 52 in February of ’94 of cancer of the throat. (Forty years of smoking’ll do that to ya.) As per my discussion with him, He was buried to Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by J. S. Bach.

It was a very long time before I could hear that piece again. Eventually, it began to represent something a little more than simply the pain of his death, although that’s a prominent pang. Now, looking back and having followed his footsteps into fatherhood, the piece also conjures feelings of tranquility. I feel like it’s a piece through which he and I connected, and even though he didn’t write it, and I do not own it, it feels like something that he left behind for me.

My brothers, who got to know him not only as a father, but also a friend (a privilege I was denied, as I was 14 when he passed) tell me that I do things very much the way he did. Truth be told, he died half my life ago, and really, I didn’t even start to get to know him until I was at least six or seven. I don’t remember much about the way he operated, but I take comfort in the fact that if I didn’t learn it from observation, there’s gotta be a pretty large part of me that I share with who he was. It’s almost like I can feel that because I approve of myself, he would (or does) too. It makes me wonder if the feelings I get when listening to pieces like those above, are the same feelings he got.

Anyway, I work in IT, and a lot of my job is Help desk. Troubleshooting problems can be a really frustrating thing, especially if the user is frustrated and unreasonable. I find that a good dose of classical music calming.

That pretty sufficiently explains my affinity for Classical music.

Unfortunately for you, I’m not done writing yet. I thought I’d stray a bit from the overall theme of why I like Classical music, and go into a quick story about how music has since touched my life. Be sure, it has touched my life many times over the years, so I’ve just chosen the most prominent.

Fast forward nine years, you arrive at my wedding. Rather, OUR wedding, as it was at least half my wife’s as well…Perhaps more than half. It was almost “Traditional” in style, although we had some fairly non-standard aspects. For one, we got married at an Italian Restaurant, Vinny T’s in Dedham MA. They have a function hall, and it was already decorated for Christmas (Wedding was December 13th, 2003). At the start of the wedding, as is standard, I stood in front of the JP looking goofy, as I’m so apt to do. I figured it was OK, no one was looking at me anyway. As my wife entered, we played Canon in D Major.

I don’t mind telling you that my heart caught in my throat as she approached, and I got a bit misty eyed. Once again, I took solace in the fact that she was the only person in the room looking at me. To this day, if I’m in a wistful frame of mind, that piece catches me the same way. I hear it and a gentle peace descends on me, as if I’d made the right decision.

The ceremony itself lasted all of ten minutes, and that was even with the lighting of the unity candle. The wedding party retreated to the downstairs for pictures, and we returned an hour or so later. We set the mood lighter for the re-entry. The wedding party entered one at a time introduced by the DJ to a funky bluesy sort of guitar background music.

Once they were in, the DJ Queued “Welcome to the Jungle”. If you don’t know the song, pause now and watch the video, or at least the first 20 seconds of it… I’ll wait…

You Back? OK, so the DJ started that, and after the first few notes, he began the monster-truck-rally-style introduction. Ladies and gentlemen *pause* Please give a warm welcome *pause* to MR *pause* and MRS *pause* MATTHEW *pause* J. *pause* CONLON!” and we entered just as the introduction build of the song finished, we walked faster part.

It was awesome.


Leftovers, The Color Orange, and Eye Pain

Like I said a day or two ago, we recently had a big cookout for the kids’ birthdays, and we were left with an exceptional amount of food and drink. Tonight is the last night I will consider eating meats that were cooked for the party, as it’s now 6 days ago, and some might argue I’ve pushing the envelope even still. Tell you what, if I die of old meat tonight, you can say “I told you so”.

One of the items that I have in surplus is soda of many kinds. I don’t usually drink regular soda anymore, I don’t want my kids drinking it, and my wife’s diabetic, so she can’t anyway. Still, I hate to pack it all up and give it away; it cost me money, dang it! So I’ve been indulging a little. I have rediscovered a long-forgotten love for orange soda, but I almost choked when I saw 50g of sugar per can. No wonder I was up so late last night… I thought I was safe since it is caffiene free…

Pretty much the only food thing left, aside from a little pile of cold slaw and a small baggie of pasta salad was a sizable tray of buffalo wings. 1 of 2 declared only just this afternoon that she loved buffalo wings. “Well good,” I said. “Now I know what dinner will be.” 2 of 2 however, would not have eaten them. I set her up with a sippy cup of milk, and an orange that I peeled and made little bits out of. Happy was she.

The three of us settled in to eat our foods and watch “Toy Story” on tube. Which… doesn’t actually HAVE a tube… but anyway, I realized halfway through dinner, 2 of 2 was having more fun painting her extremities with bits of orange rather than eating them. Fortunately she stopped and ate, and everything went fine from there, but we could have had some Ben Stiller caliber shenanigans there… Had she gotten orange in her eyes, things would have gotten quickly stressful, as my hands were covered in buffalo sauce…

I get nervous when eyeballs are concerned. Such a delicate thing, the eye. If given the choice, I’d probably choose to lose a limb than an eye. Here’s hoping I never have to choose!

I’ve had things in my eyes at various times in my life… I get eye lashes in there sometimes, that bury themselves in some remote corner of my skull so obscure that I can’t get them out. All I can do is wait until it stops hurting some forty minutes later. My eye is always swollen, red and running for a day or so after that.

One of the worst things I’ve had in my eyes was sunblock. What a nightmare that was, cause you close your eyes to let the tears wash it out, but when you open them, it’s so bright it hurts your eyes, and if you didn’t properly clean your face, the junk goes right back in. That debacle probably took me a good hour to rectify.

When I was a kid, I was given a nice tool set… and I mean young, like 5. I remember sitting on the picnic table in our yard, trying to pry pebbles out from between the planks with my metal file, only to triumphantly dislodge the pebble and jam the file in my eye. I scratched my cornea and wore an eye patch for a few days, if I recall correctly.

I can’t handle tooth pain, and while I’m waiting for attention from the dentist, when I got tooth pain, I use the clove oil that you dip the cotton balls in, which you then jam into the cavity. That is not something you want in your eye.

I once tried a new aerosol deodorant. I sprayed it into the cover, and sniffed the cover to sample the scent. There was something like dust or some sort of particle in the cap, and I inhaled it , resulting in a short gust of exhale… which blew into the cap, and sent some of the residue left by the deodorant into my eye… I called the poison control number on the back of the can while my high school buddies watched in hysteria. “What are the symptoms?” the woman asked. “What ar… my eye hurts!” I shouted, sending my “friends” into explosive laughter.

But without doubt, the worst eyeball pain I’ve ever endured was inflicted upon me by a friend as a prank. I was perhaps twelve, and a smart-ass-and-a-half. I’m sure I provoked it, possibly by throwing his cigarettes into the local swimming pool (I did that to him bi-weekly). He’d just bought a 20oz Coke, and was hanging out with my cousin and I talking. He opened the coke bottle, and in one quick motion he thrust it at my face and squeezed. I felt the ice cold Coke rush in, under my eye lids and past my eyes, like carbonated hellfire. Never before, and not since, have I experienced pain from foreign agents in my eyes. I don’t recommend it. I did get him back, I snapped him with a wet towel so well, it actually drew blood. I still thing I got the worst of that exchange though.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever gotten in your eyes, or put in your “friend’s” eyes?

Sunday Breakfast, a Visit With my (Late) Father

It’s Sunday. The kids are in the tub, the wife’s sleeping off her 11pm – 7am shift at the assisted living place, and I’m in the mood to type.

I woke this morning to my 7 year old requesting a cooked breakfast on behalf of my wife who had just gotten home from her night shift of cleaning old people. I slept poorly, as I frequently do when I’m alone in the bed, but dragged myself downstairs regardless.

I defrosted the bacon, put the sausages in a pan to cook, mixed up some eggs in a giant bowl, and some pancake batter in another. we recently replaced our old dented frying pans with some new ones we picked up cheaple. You get what you pay for… brand new, these things were already warped, which wouldn’t be quite so bad on a gas stove, but on a flat electric cooktop, the spin due to the misshapen bottom. They also burn stuff very quickly.

I flip bacon with two forks, one in each hand. A method I’d learned from watching my father cook Sunday breakfast. I can’t cook bacon without thinking of him. He taught me how to cook breakfast.

He told me about how you know the pancake is ready to flip when you see the bubbles popping on the top, and the rim around the edge turns yellow.

About how you know the toast is ready when you hear the seeds popping, but that is only true for oatmeal bread.

About how the butter needs to flow at a certain fluidity before you know the pan is the right temp.

About how if you’re making poached eggs, you want the water to be hot first, and then you stir it with a spoon, so that it’s swirling when you put the egg in. That way the egg flows to the middle of the pan and stays together long enough to cook to the point where it solidifies.

About how canned hash takes forever to crisp up.

All these thoughts and more flickered through my head as I cooked. After breakfast he’d sit at the table, reading his newspaper. He liked his food on the left, with the paper on the right. (I can’t function that way, if I’m eating while reading, the food has to be on the right.) He’d remind me to eat the eggs before they get cold, cause cold eggs are yucky. (another point upon which we differ, I have no problem with cold eggs, but still that phrase stuck with me.)

He’d sit and put his legs up on the corner of the table, something which I’d get in trouble for. He was always careful to make sure his shoes were not touching the table though, carefully hanging off the other edge. My legs were not long enough. He’d sit, reading his paper, smoking a cigarette.

That’s the end of that particular memory, most likely because I was five or six, and was off to do something else before he was done with the paper…

It occurred to me shortly after breakfast that tomorrow is his birthday. (Actually, it occurred to me that his birthday was some time at the end of July, but I never really remembered when, so I asked my mother… It’s tomorrow, July 30th, 1942). He’d have been 70 this year.

Makes me wonder how much of their childhood my kids will remember, and what specific parts about me. Makes me wonder what they’ll remember me for doing, and if those things were things I remember about my father? Makes me wonder if the things I remember about my father, were things he remembered about his? (His father was dead before I was born).

At the end of the day, I still feel like a kid learning from the things I remember my father doing. I learned a lot from my mother as well, but she was more of a “tell you what to do” sort. My father would just go about his business… more of a lead by example sort, I guess? Which works better for me, because I’m a learn by example sort…

What sorts of things that you do, remind you of someone else? Have you ever thought about where you got the habits / routines you have? Any weekend meal memories you want to share?

Nothing in particular – A to Z Blog Challge

When I was a kid I used to watch the show Nature on PBS, and I always thought it was funny at the end when they’d tell you “Nature has been made possible by – insert sponsor name – .” Well that was nice of them, to make nature possible. How omnipotent.

Nails on a chalk board never bothered me as a kid, and I always boggled about the fact that it could bring some folks to their knees the way it does. I am no longer unbothered by it. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between fourth grade and now, I’ve grown to hate the sound.

Whenever we get food somewhere that you can help yourself to the utensils and condiments, I always forget to grab napkins, and I always end up needing them. It’s even worse now that I have kids, but still, I always forget.

I have given NASCAR a fair shot several times over the course of my life, and I just can’t get into. “Here they come! They’re turning left! There they go! They’re turning left! Here they come! They’re turning left! There they go! They’re turning left!” Sometimes there’s a crash, and that can be interesting, but sometimes people get injuries or serious bodily death, and that’s no fun.

Nolnoc is Conlon backwards.

Nine multiplied by any single digit number other than 0 or 1  will give you a two digit number, and the two digits of that number, when added together will give you 9.

Nine of out ten experts agree, the tenth guy’s an idiot.

Neckties have got to be the most pointless part of a man’s (or a womans) wardrobe. Don’t get me wrong, I LIKE them, and I USED to wear them all the time. I have tons of them, but my boss at my current job told me not to wear them, cause if I wore them, then he’d have to wear them. Or fire me. But seriously, it’s just a piece of cloth hanging from your neck. It serves no purpose whatsoever. It’s not functional, it’s not comfortable… It just hangs there…

Navy blue doesn’t make sense to me, they don’t wear blue. And Naval operations have nothing to do with belly-button surgeries.

Have you ever had a nose whistle that just wont go away? I think I must have oddly shaped nostrils, cause practically every day, I will go through a short period of time where every time I breath out through my nose, it goes “TWEEEEeeeeeeee!” Believe me when I say, no nose knows nose notes like mine.

“Nature’s Blood” is what I like to call water.

Nonsense can sometimes explain a lot, ironically.

Nothing else comes to mind, so here’s a bunch of N tongue twisters I just stole off of the internet. Try saying them quickly a few times.

  • Nick knits Nixon’s knickers.
  • Nine nice night nymphs.
  • Nine nimble noblemen nibbled nuts
  • Norse myths.
  • A noisy noise annoys an oyster.
  • Nat the bat swat at Matt the gnat.
  • National Sheepshire Sheep Association
  • Near an ear, a nearer ear, a nearly eerie ear.
  • Never trouble about trouble until trouble troubles you!
  • Nine nice night nurses nursing nicely.
  • No need to light a night light on a light night like tonight.
  • Nothing is worth thousands of deaths.

Wanted: One Happy Hour

I think I need a happy hour, a thought courtesy of Buck over in Exile.

For the last four to six weeks or so I’ve been dieting. I’ve cut meal portions own to about a quarter what they were, and I’m not snacking constantly anymore, save for a 3pm somethingorother. In that short 6 week stretch, I’ve managed to lose about fourteen pounds, and I feel pretty darn good. After the fourth week the hunger pains really went away. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you’re of a similar mind, it’s going to suck for about four weeks.

Anyway, part of the whole thing is staying mostly away from carbs. Those are my downfall, I’m a carb junkie. I still have a couple things, perhaps half a bagel for breakfast and maybe a glass of milk or something with dinner…

Unfortunately avoiding carbs means avoiding beer. One of these days, very soon, I’ll lift the sanction and partake.

They Might Be Giants said it best: Beer is liquid bread, it’s good for you!

Yellow Submarine – A to Z Blog Challenge #atozchallenge

I was born to a family of music loving folks. When I was a kid my mother would watch Solid Gold with me all the time. Fortunately it didn’t do any lasting damage, I think. 

My mother introduced me to the Grateful Dead, and The Rolling Stones, and Queen.

I don’t remember whether I had a record of it, or I’d heard it a few times here or there or what, but for years I thought the song went “In the town, where I was born, there lived a man, his name was Steve.” I guess I’d heard it wrong once and it stuck, most likely because I have a brother named Steve… But it wasn’t until probably the age of 20 or so that I actually found out I was wrong. 
Incorrect lyrics are a reoccuring theme in my life. I get a huge kick out of it when I realize I’ve been singing it wrong, and even more when I can change the lyrics to suit my mood or get a smile out of someone. The following is an old post I did, I thought I’d repost the meat and potatoes of it here for your convenience:
Disclaimer: I apologize if I ruin any of these songs for anyone, cause chance are once you’re looking for the wrong lyric, you’ll hear it every time.

Of course, there’s the class Jimi Hendrix song, Purple Haze
The Lyric: “S’cuse me while I kiss the sky!”
My Version: “S’cuse me while I kiss this guy!”
Elton John’s Tiny Dancer had a couple…
The Lyric: “Hold me closer, tiny dancer.”
My Version: “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”
The Lyric: “Count the head lights on the highway.”
My Version: “Count the head lice on the highway.”
Allanis Morrisette’s man-hater song You Oughta Know
The Lyric: “It’s not fair to deny me the cross I bear that you gave to me”
My Version: “It’s not fair to deny me the cross eyed bear that you gave to me”. 

Not sure what I thought there, I figured the guy gave her a teddy bear and it was cross eyed, but he took it when he left?? /shrug
Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’
They Lyric: “And I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart.”
My Version: “And I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her arm.”
The Police Spirits In The Material World
The Lyric: “We are spirits, in the material world.”
My Version: “We’re asparagus, in the material world.”
The Police’s Message In A Bottle
The Lyric: “A year has passed since I wrote my note.”
My Version: “A year has passed since I broke my nose”
The Verve Pipe Freshmen
The Lyric: “For the life of me, I could not believe we’d ever die for these sins, we were merely freshmen.”
My Version: “For the life of me, I could not believe we’d ever die forty cents, we were merely freshmen.”