Aug 22

Settle in, there’s a lot of ground to cover here

My goal with my bike commute is to make the entire trip without having to put my foot on the ground. I had to unclip four times this morning, but only twice this evening. Had I been just a tad more daring I could have gotten that down to one, but that doesn’t really seem the point. Otherwise, the highlight was this little strip of road here.

They paved this in August/September of 2018 — I have photos — and again this week. The scrapped up the 2018 work on Monday, and it was a nice new ribbon today. How long does asphalt last around here?

Or, put another way, this little stretch of road fronts a Civil War era house. At this rate, it must have seen … carry the two … 36 coats of asphalt over the years.

I’m sure they had asphalt around here then. And I’m sure they treated it about the same way in those old winters as they do now: poorly.

I will not, I will not fall down the rabbit hole on this and read the entire history of asphalt, but just know I skimmed it to see how outlandish that joke was. Asphalt has been around since the Babylonians, and it was first used in the U.S. for roads in the 1870s, so not impossible, but not hardly likely for the tucked away place this was in the 19th century.

An interstate finally passed through here in 2015 or so.

But enough about construction, let’s see some destruction! I have for you, if you peer closely, an action shot of the grout removal going on at the Poplars Building. And by grout removal I mean the Poplars Building.

That’s some 60 years of stone and dust and carpet and dust and dreams falling out of that building just now. You’ll note they’ve got that screen held in place by the second crane. It comes and it goes, that screen. Seems to be protecting the parking deck. Protect the parking deck at all costs!

Sometimes they spray water on the rubble as it falls down. Some sort of safety measure, no doubt. I wonder what determines when they do and when they don’t spray.

I figure by Monday they’ll get to that protruding shaft — possibly the elevator system, I don’t know, I’ve never been in that building and it doesn’t seem safe to go exploring at this late date. If that’s what it is, I bet it comes down quickly.

The weather has been in the delightfully enjoyable 80s the last few days, which means the evenings have been a nice time to sit outside. We even had dinner outside this evening, because why not?

We were rewarded with a nice view.

We ordered Chinese. There were no fortunes in the fortune cookies.

They were just … cookies.

Let’s get back to the music! Last week I decided to start working my way through all of my old CDs when I’m in the car. Good way to mix it up. I did this a few years ago and enjoyed it, but figured, this time, that I could write about some of it. These aren’t reviews, except when they are. Mostly they’re just memories and good times.

I’m not doing this alphabetically, and not autobiographically — so I can’t tell you how I got from Deep Purple to Howling Wolf in 25 moves. And if I want to find the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac I have to remember that it’s in the I Never Bought It Pile. Because Fleetwood Mac was old when I was young, and people always seemed to have it on the radio, somehow. I’m doing this chronologically. Yes, I know the order in which I bought all of these things — which, apparently, impresses people. Now let’s see how many of them I’m willing to tell.

The collection crosses genres and periods in a haphazard way and there’s no large theme. It is, as I said the other day, whimsy.

Recently I finished Memory Dean’s second album, which was self-titled, but people called it the “In My Father’s House” record because of the cover art. If that sentence is a mystery, don’t worry. They’re a regional band from Georgia. A good live act. A good college band back in the day. Probably quite popular in bars. I only saw them at festivals.

A college buddy of mine basically grew up not far from them, and had followed them for some time. He gave me this record, which is a curious mix of studio and live tracks. And, if you’ll notice on the Discogs site, they refer to it as the track side and the live side. Because this was a cassette first.

In the live portion they even talk about how they’ll have tapes on sell in the back after the show! This was released in 1993 and let’s say it was produced that same year.

I found this great piece from Rick Koster, writing for the Dallas Observer, that references Memory Dean:

Rather, Memory Dean’s music is an intriguing collision of spring-break choruses, beer-fueled rhythm, and a lightly twisted lyrical sense–all of which bring to mind Flannery O’Connor and Brian Wilson harmonizing on a cypress-cloaked veranda over their morning grits.

Within that Deep South context, it’s hard to pigeonhole Memory Dean’s sound. More than just snappy choruses–there are millions of those floating around, seeking to light in listeners’ brains–the band’s songs are, on first listen, anchored in the instinctively unique vocal harmonies of co-founding guitarist-singer-songwriters Jay Memory and Bubba Dean. With naturally occurring parts that recall the low harmonies and counter-melodies of the Indigo Girls or, perhaps, Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon after a night of tequila, the fluent vocal blend lures you in just long enough for the words to hit you over the head.


Originally rivals in street-corner minstrelsy, they hooked up and began writing the sort of songs borne of two things: 1) the innate tradition of a town that gave birth to REM, the B-52s, and several other seminal ’80s “modern rock” bands, and 2) the sure knowledge that through music came liquor and sorority girls.

Koster, who wrote that in 1998 and is still working, these days at The Day, in Connecticut, overdid it — by a lot — with the Flannery O’Connor reference. And I think you sense that in the second album, even more so than Koster found it in the third album. And I think people try to sound like they overthink Flannery O’Connor because they think it makes them sound smart.

It doesn’t.

Otherwise, that piece feels spot on. Re-listening to their eponymous record, trying to figure out what it means all these decades later, I had two thoughts. First, there’s an obvious mix of bawdy lyrics that feel too clever to the authors, mixed with some surprisingly deeper material. And when Koster quotes them, they’re pointing out “Yeah, we started writing in college. We’re 30 now.”

At any rate, these days Jay Memory and Bubba Dean are a lot older than 30, and they’re still doing it a bit. There don’t seem to be an album cuts from this record online (you can’t even buy this on Amazon!) but there are a few live performances from recent years with some of these tracks.

Which brings to mind the second thing I thought. Memory Dean is the musical college companion of the entitled annoying guy with the annoying boat on Lake Lanier. Not the one that loved college, but the one that still loves it too much. He’s a little too loud. A little too tipsy. A little too much. He rents that boat. And I’d bet this crowd, with its dedicated fanbase, had examples of that guy, and his “WOOOOOOOOO” wife.

This is misnamed on YouTube. The actual song title is “Beowulf, Captain Hook & The Albatross.” See? College kids wrote that.

And while the lyrics are a little muddled in that recording, the chorus pops pretty well, and this is important. The band is at their best when they’re doing harmony. My friend said that around Georgia people called them the Indigo Boys, which naturally intrigued me.

This is “Peach State of Mind” which is a song about Georgia. This is recorded in Athens, Georgia. There will be barking from the crowd.

For some reason they sped up the tempo of the song there, compared to the record. It probably fits the bar scene better, or maybe they’re just sick of it, but that one change takes away the lament and soul of the song, which is important when you’re talking about being homesick.

I know of which I’m talking here.

This is the funniest song on the record, the crowd participation song, and one of my least favorite. I’ve sometimes wondered, when this came to mind, if they would freshen up the lyrics if they had the chance. Now I know. Yes they do. And they always pick the best low hanging fruit. They say “Rap Music Sucks,” but you don’t get here without an appreciation of the genre. And they reference “Rapper’s Delight” in an important way. It doesn’t get twisted. They don’t point out, as they do when they send up Sir Mix-A-Lot, that this is actually a good song. They just do a variation on “Rapper’s Delight.” As if, even in 1993 they were already saying that the pop version of rap is not all that it could be.

Which, for some white guys from Georgia in 1993, probably seemed prescient.

In our next installment of musical nonsense, we’re going to hear from post-peak Def Leppard. It’ll be a treat.

Aug 22

Let’s listen to old music

I did this some time back as a change of pace, and figured it might be time to do it again. But this time, these four years later, I figured I would write a little something about some of it. Who knows how this will work out, where it lead, how extensive we’ll get or even when I’ll just forget about this on one end or the other. The general idea is that I am working through all of my CDs in chronological order.

Yes, I know the order in which I bought all of these things. Somehow that impresses people. I know it, more or less, anyway. There’s a brief period of time where it’s just a guess, but none of that matters. Not that any of this matters. The collection crosses genres and periods in a haphazard way and there’s no real large theme. There’s too much from the popular catalog for that anyway. It’s not an evolution or path of discovery, it is whimsy.

So let’s be whimsical and listen to old music.

The first CD I bought — and this one is obviously important because it was really considered … not just another record, but an entire format change, and I had a lot of important-to-me cassettes to replace! — was late to the format. And it meant adding hardware. So I bought one of those tape-to-CD chunks of plastic. Plug the tape into my car stereo, run the little cable out of the tape converter to the little lap player. Even then these were growing more scarce.

This was the spring of 1996. It was Tracy Chapman’s newest record, which came out in November of 1995. I bought it that next spring, because the person I was dating owned it and I heard the whole thing and I liked it, and I liked her, and I had always enjoyed Chapman’s music, and so the decision was made.

Chapman won a Grammy, her fourth, off this, an award given for Best Rock Song to “Give Me One Reason,” an incredible popular blues song. She, and that record, were nominated for four other Grammy Awards (her 13th nomination). All told, she shipped north of five million copies domestically, a few more globally, and who knows how many digital plays she’s counted. “New Beginning” was a great record.

None of this is a review, and we won’t be spending a lot of time unpacking philosophy or chord changes, but you should go buy this, if you somehow don’t have it already.

Here’s the title track, number two if you’re playing along. I didn’t know until just now that she plays the didgeridoo here, and that this was controversial for some. The use of a didgeridoo by women, Wikipedia tells me, is taboo in many aboriginal nations. To me, in this song, it just wrapped all of us together for the message. And it really accentuated the rhythm section.

The third track is “Smoke and Ashes,” and it is still one of my favorite Chapman songs, and still feels so sonically perfect. I concentrate on the backing vocals of Adam Levy, Andy Stoller, Glenys Rogers and Rock Deadrick. All these years and spins later, the shift through to the bridge is so gentle and severe and evocative I can’t help but marvel at it. “Only smoke and ashes babe, baby” kills me every time.

The fifth track lays it out, right from the title, “At This Point In My Life.” Chapman was 31 when she produced this. I wonder how it feels to her now.

On “The Promise” the strings almost get lost in the lyrics. Or the lyrics get supplanted by the strings. I can never say. It is such a character-driven song, and it’s gift is that it lets you put the particulars of the character in place yourself.

Here’s the big hit from the record. Again, the vocal work that Chapman can bring are so rich, and so perfectly complemented here. Also, there’s one little moment that always sends me back to the Gulf Coast and a little circular dance of the hand that I re-enact each time I hear this song. It’s a delight of memory and the blues.

“I’m Ready,” is the last named track on the record. Plenty of songs are laments. I’m not sure how many of them are better than this. It gets more potent with each play.

And most crucially to me, the hidden track. Plenty of writers can wax on about music and anyone that knows more about music than I do can do it at great length, with greatly envied success. That’s not what any of this simple exercise, here on my personal site is about. All of this is to just enjoy some of the things I enjoy, and share them with people who might also enjoy them, and to tell you this remains one of the most powerful 100 seconds of audio ever produced.

You get the sense Tracy Chapman just wanted to be a singer-songwriter, maybe in a cafe or whatever, and then that famous Nelson Mandela show that launched her into the stratosphere happened, and then she had some monstrous hits, and maybe, hopefully, she’s just enjoying the regular day-to-day life. She released eight studio records, her last in 2008, and released a greatest hits collection in 2015. She toured through the oughts, at least. She’s been involved in a variety of causes* important to her for probably her whole life, and generally, you would think, just values her privacy.

I don’t think she’s online much, so she’ll never see this. But if she does, or we ever have seats next to one another on a plane, I promise to not make a deal about it. I would absolutely pull out a notebook and ask her for advice on a line or two. It is a big treat to say this verb was suggested by someone whose work you admire.

*My first job was working for one of my teachers. The teacher was moonlighting in the summer doing some landscaping. I was the extra pair of hands. One day she was telling me at great length about how Chapman’s first record, the eponymously named debut album, the one with “Fast Car” on it. Everyone listening to a radio or watching a television in 1988 knew “Fast Car” and “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution” and “Baby Can I Hold You.” And something in there, she said inspired her and her friends to join the Peace Corps. But we’ll get to all of that, and that duet with Luciano Pavarotti, eventually. We have a lot of other records to get through first. Up next, something you’ve never heard of — unless you live, or go to a lot of live shows, in Georgia.

Jul 22

2Γ—π‘šΓ—π‘£2 + π‘šΓ—π‘”Γ—β„Ž = What, exactly?

I had four meetings today. The first was scheduled for me in advance. The second was scheduled for me while I was in the first meeting. Everyone knew about it, it seems, except for me. (Everyone knows more about me than me.) The third and fourth were spontaneous meetings of opportunity.

I was in no condition for any of these meetings, I think. So if my charm or humor or good answers or input were off by six percent, I apologize. I apologize and I blame the big tour I gave yesterday, an event from which I am still recovering.

Not sure how I became the tour guy, but I’m the tour guy.

I saw this bunny this morning. He is perfectly evolved to blend in with the cement. That’s an amazing summer coat, if you ask me.

The bunnies have the most curious sense of personal space. You’re fine in their eyes until you get about 18 inches away, and only then do they do the rabbit thing. Makes you wonder about how that comes to be learned. I bet each one has an experience, learning when to hop away. It’s a valuable lesson. One learned, I hope, in a not-too-painful way.2Γ—π‘šΓ—π‘£2

I looked through some old books today. There’s often a table of books someone is willing to donate. You can pick your way through them and, if for nothing else, it is a nice momentary diversion to read the spines. I picked up one for my lovely bride, and grabbed one or two for me, as well. Not this one. There are only so many writing handbooks I can process.

But this one fits in your pocket!

Does it? Which pocket?

Or maybe your hand!

Well, sure. Most books these days do come with the ability to be manually manipulated.

And we sprung for the spiral binding!

That’s not the selling point you think it is.

Sure it is! You can distinguish it in your bookcase!

I can’t read the non-existent spine, to see if it is the book I need to pull.

But it has this wire spiral! Easy to find!

What if someone already has that in a book.

Who would have another book like that?

I have nine of them in my office bookcase alone.

Oh? Wow. Well, this one is a writing style guide!

Seven of the nine I have in my bookcase have to do with writing or style.

And you still write like this?

Look, fictional book seller —

Fictional book giver-awayer.

Fine, whatever. You’re not really making a strong case here.

I was able to make a 2010 joke this evening, which meant I needed a 2010 photo.

Turns out the specific photo was from 2011, but it fit the point perfectly. My confusion of the date of the particular photo gave me an excuse to spend a few minutes clicking through old photos of happy times, so that was a nice part of the evening.

Also tonight, we discovered the joys of grilled wings, with nothing more than a simple salt and pepper seasoning. We bought a lot of wings, recently, and we’ll probably be returning to this style. I mention it because they were good, and you should know, and we can all want some more wings together.

Jul 22

The turf and surf menagerie

Last evening, during a walk, we saw a deer.

We saw two deer, in fact. Who knows how many more were just out of sight, watching us.

We also spotted three rabbits and two squirrels.

The highlight was surely the stray cat that came into our back yard. Poseidon noticed it, and was most emphatic that the interloper be removed. After a time The Yankee went out to check on the cat, and decided it looked like one posted on the local Next Door community. She called the number. We kept the kitty — spooked but healthy and hungry — in our yard until they arrived.

They were nice people. The woman is desperate to find their pet. Last weekend they drove 80 miles one-way to see if a cat was theirs. It was not their cat, but they adopted it anyway. So they are nice and passionate people, and perhaps cat thieves. Who can tell with these things?

And then they … wouldn’t leave. So they were nice, passionate, perhaps cat thieves who did not pick up on the social cues. Who can tell with these things? But they’d come over from a few miles away and it was a break from yard work or research or whatever they were doing. They also offered to take this other cat.

So definitely cat thieves, then.

Somewhere during all of this our neighbors came out to visit and we found ourselves having a party in the side yard.

None of this sounds like much, but they stayed on the porch for a good long while, and it was otherwise a evening, so take this elderberry and be happy with it.

If that’s not enough, congratulate me on completing the Cozumel diving social media project. Since March, I have been uploading daily clips of our diving to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Tens of people, perhaps, have seen them. But if you missed all of that somehow, just click the Twitter link and you can see them all threaded together.

Or revisit with me those videos in the longer form on YouTube, where dozens of people have watched. I edited them each day of the dives.

I am very popular on the world wide web.

Jul 22

Down the painful memory lane

Oh, why not? TL;DR: Wear your helmet, kids.

Ten years ago, tomorrow.

Because, 10 years ago, earlier this week.

That’s my left collarbone, in several pieces. Bike crash. Hit something I didn’t see and went over at about 18 miles per hour, landing directly on the point of my shoulder and head.

I’m told this could come out at any time, but I still wear this.

I stayed off the bike, except for the trainer, until January of 2013. Everything hurt too bad and I was foggy, besides. Almost a year later, to the day, I noticed, for the first time, that my shoulder and collarbone weren’t hurting. It was fleeting, but wonderful. I was snorkeling in Bermuda. Guess who was the last person back on the boat that day? As soon as I pulled myself out of the water, though …

I saw a second set of specialists six months after I crashed, because everyone agreed I shouldn’t still be complaining about these things. That doctor was concerned about my neck. He ruled out any damage with an X-ray, but I could have told him that in his exam room. I willed my neck to be fine because, and I was quite adamant about this, there was no way I’d walked around with a broken neck for six months.

A third surgical consult the next year, in August 2013, helped get me sorted out. Things I wrote down about that initial visit:

“Tell me everything. Start at the beginning.”

So we talked about the last year. He tested for nerve damage and said there was none. He tested for rotator cuff problems and said there were none. He touched my hardware and I decided I’m going to pinch, hard, the next person that does that.

He looked at my X-ray and said things look good there.


Also, this doctor, who is apparently nationally renowned for shoulder surgeries, says I should have been in a sling for six to eight weeks. Had him repeat that.

My surgeon had me out of my immobilizer in a week. (I had to ask. I couldn’t remember. I don’t remember a lot.)

I told the third ortho that if he had a magic wand, but it could only fix one of my problems, I’d ask him to address my shoulder. So after he verified the problems weren’t skeletal he sent me for another long round of specific physical therapy, at a different facility from the first place, and that magic wand worked pretty well.

All told, it took about 18 months, I think.

Ultimately the conclusion was that the surgery was good, but the initial recovery was poorly managed. Now my shoulder rarely bothers me, but my collarbone usually offers me a dull reminder.

This is the helmet I was wearing the day I crashed.

This is the back of the helmet, as seen from above. You’d be wearing this and facing the top of the frame. Note the chunk that the road sheared off, part of that is resting beside the helmet.


I wonder why I picked up that little piece from the road after I crashed.

Again the back, from straight on. See how the upper left and center of the back was ground away? Note the small cracking at the base of the helmet’s back and that crack on the left side.


Here’s that left-side damage. Hardly a hairline crack.


This is a little farther up the side, but still on the left. As you’re wearing the helmet this crack would be directly over the left ear. The fracturing only stops at the air vent. From these pictures we surmise that, without the helmet, the crown of my head over to my ear would have been heavily damaged.


Finally, looking up into the helmet. That’s one-piece, molded crash foam. Look how much it separated.


This is probably why there are patches of 2012 that I don’t recall all that well.

Update: Went on a long ride on Saturday. Didn’t think about any of this.