A Brief Check In

Saturday, July 3, 2021

 Hello all. Apologies for the long gap since my last post. 

This has been a difficult stretch. I've been feeling very down the past 4-6 weeks, for reasons I won't go into here. The one exception that I will discuss is my nephew's illness, which has, unfortunately, come back with a vengeance. He has had a very hard four years, and the path forward will be equally challenging. I can't go into details, but any positive thoughts you can send his way would be most appreciated. Thank you.

I've been willing myself into writing again on a daily basis, even if it's usually only for a minute or two. Anyone who has issues with mental health can understand that there are days when that minute or two represents a major victory over the darkness. It's an ongoing battle, but one I can't afford to lose. And I won't.

Again, my apologies for the somber nature of this post. I'll end with the one song I can think of that feels appropriate: Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," taken from the 9/11 broadcast honoring the frontline workers at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. While the video quality is a bit iffy, his seething, defiant delivery comes through loud and clear and says what needs to be said.

Take care, everyone, and be good to yourselves. And to others. We can use lots more of that these days.


The Write Stuff

Saturday, May 22, 2021

 Hello all. Just a brief post this time. 

The different/unique post I'd mentioned in my last post for this week... will actually be appearing *next* week. (Sorry!) But it's because it's expanded in scope - in a good way - not because I'm stuck. So, I'm going with the flow, as I try to do when inspiriration strikes like this. Hopefully you'll feel it was worth the extra wait. :c) Keep an eye peeled on this space!

***

I've been digging into Bryan Ferry's solo discography quite a bit the past few weeks, and have been thoroughly enjoying it. While I've always been a Roxy Music fan, the only solo work I was familiar with were his two 1980s solo efforts, Boys & Girls (1985) and Bete Noire (1988). Both were excellent; in fact, I borrowed the title of this post from a track off Bete Noire:

That's a very young Johnny Marr on guitar, incidentally. I could be mistaken, but I think he co-wrote this with Ferry.

The next track is the title track from Ferry's 1976 album Let's Stick Together

Only someone who is Bryan Ferry-level cool could get away with not only pulling off a white suit but looking effortlessly stylish as well. (Having Jerry Hall in a catsuit draped all over you while wearing it doesn't hurt, I suppose. ;D) Not sure about that mustache though...

Here's another track from the same album, and one of my favorites from his solo catalog: "Chance Meeting." Roxy Music did a terrific version of it on their 1972 debut album, but I think he actually manages to top that powerful version with the stark, deeply personal version on Let's Stick Together. Here's a great live version from 1999:

I'll end up with one more from 1988's Bete Noire album. This is "Kiss and Tell," which also features Johnny Marr on guitar (on the studio version, not this live version).

That's going to do it for this post. 'Til next time, have a great weekend...


This & That: Vaccine 1, Cass 0

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Hello all. A very brief post, for reasons which I think are explained by the title. 

I received my second shot yesterday (Pfizer), and woke up today feeling as if a truck ran me over. Achy, sore, and very, very tired. From what I gather it's short-lived, so I just took it easy today. I even fell asleep for a half-hour, which I only do during the day when I'm not feeling well.

Needless to say, I didn't do much writing today, but I do have the longer posts I've mentioned in the pipeline. Moving took up a lot of my free time, but I got back on track the last few weeks, so keep an eye peeled.

That will do it for this post. Have a good week, everyone!

***

I've had two songs running through my head all day, so I thought I would share them with you. 

First is a track from the final Dire Straits album, On Every Street (1991). It has several excellent songs, including the title track, "When It Comes To You" (which was covered by John Anderson, who had a big hit with it on the country charts), and this one: "The Bug." Here's a terrific live version from 1996, with some smokin' guitar from Mark Knofpler:

Completely unrelated to that is the other song: "Feets Don't Fail Me Now," from Utopia's self-titled 1982 album. This song, written by Utopia front man Todd Rundgren, is insanely catchy, even by his standards, and the video is utterly charming in an early-MTV way. (I think Rundgren also directed the video, but I could be mistaken.) I guarantee that a) you won't be able to get this one out of your head once you've heard it, and b) you won't mind at all. :c)

That will do it for this week. 'Til next time...






This & That: The Difference

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Well, the different, actually, as this isn't the post I alluded to last week that I was working on. That's still in progress, but it's somewhat time-sensitive, so I'll polish and post it the week after next. Hopefully you'll think it was worth the wait! This post, however, is just a post to keep the regular posts on track, even if it's not earth-shatteringly important. 

I'm more or less settled into the new apartment, other than a few minor repairs needed here and there (a cracked window pane, a balky storm window lock, and an issue with the garbage disposal). None of them are a big deal, and fortunately my landlord B has responded immediately when I've called with a problem.

The most pressing issue has been with the outside door, more specifically the lock, which for some reason took a dislike to my key after a week and stopped working. The first time I was locked out was a cold, rainy evening (of course) when I was trying to juggle my pocketbook, a bag of groceries, my iced coffee, and the keys. Fortunately B works late (his office is on the first floor of the building where I live), and he was nice enough to come out when I knocked on the door. 

After several fruitless attempts on his part with the master key, he tried spraying silicone in the lock, which didn't really work, followed by graphite, which did. Or at least it did until three nights later - also a raw, drizzly evening - when once again I couldn't get my key to work. B, to his credit, came out once again. Once he determined that my key, for whatever reason, wouldn't work consistently, he gave me his spare, which does work, and said he would replace the lock in short order (likely early this week). On the bright side, it turns out he's a fellow baseball and hockey fan like yours truly; you can never have too many kindred spirits, right?

***

To continue with the randomness theme for this post, here's a shot of the American Chop Suey my mother and sister made last weekend:


This is one of four containers of this size that they gave me, incidentally. lol Much as I love it, and much as it tastes even better heated up, I had to freeze three of them for future use - including this one, which was my dinner this evening. Incidentally, this was made with ground turkey, not beef (although I will make an exception to my usual avoidance of red meat for this dish; I'm sure you can understand why ;D).

OK, that will do it for this post. Stay tuned for another in this space soon!. :c)

***

I was pleased to see that The Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan's band, are releasing their first new album in nearly a decade next month. I've been a fan since their first album, and have enjoyed all of their records - and Dylan's two excellent solo efforts - so the forthcoming album is welcome news. Accordingly, here are a few tunes from their catalogue.

We'll start with "The Difference," from their 1996 sophomore album Bringing Down The Horse. This is a terrific live version from 2002:

Next is the lead single from their third album, 2000's excellent Breach; this is "Sleepwalker."

Does he look just like his Dad or what? And those eyes... damn... (I met him when he played the Newport Folk Festival in 2008, and can attest that they are just as remarkable in real life - and that he is a genuinely nice guy. :c))

Next is the lead single from Bringing Down the Horse, and my second favorite song from them: "Sixth Avenue Heartache." Apparently this was inspired by a street musician Dylan would see playing every day on the corner outside his apartment building. He was slowly realizing the pull music had on him - just as it did with his fellow musician down on the corner: "And the same black line that was drawn on you/Is drawn on me/And it's drawing me in/Sixth Avenue Heartache."

Such a visually striking video - and I've actually been to several of the places they visit too. :c) That indelible guitar part, incidentally, is played by Mike Campbell, formerly from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and now solo with his own band, The Dirty Knobs.

Finally, we'll wrap this post up with my very favorite song of theirs: "Three Marlenas," also from Bringing Down... Beautiful song (the keyboard part and the string arrangement really enhance the song's dream-like quality), and mysterious too. Is it about one Marlena, with each verse representing her imagined version of a new life? Or are they three different Marlenas? Maybe even she (they?) don't know: "One, two, three Marlenas/There's got to be someone we can trust/Out here among us."

I've always loved the lines: "She's gonna pick a star in the night/And pray to make it all right/She tried so hard not to pick a kite/She only prays to heaven lights." Beautiful imagery.

That will do it 'til next time. Have a good week, everyone...


Cass's New Kicks

Sunday, May 2, 2021

...As in my new shoes - running shoes, to be precise. :D


With that established... hello all. Hope everyone had a good weekend. You are looking at one of the two big news items in Cass's Casa from last week. My running reboot effort has been going fairly well, all things being equal - until one day the week before last.

It started to rain lightly just as I was finishing my run, about five minutes from home. It wasn't a hard rain, but it was enough for me to realize my feet felt wet after a minute or two of precipitation. I stopped and took a peek at the bottom of my shoes; both had a hole. Oops. 

I couldn't complain; I'd gotten two and a half years out of them, after all, just as I had with my previous pair, which is pretty astounding for running shoes. (New Balance makes a great product.) I'm not hard on my shoes in general (I constantly startle people inadvertently who don't hear me approaching), but two-plus years is still terrific. I have wide feet - I'm between a double E and a triple E - and a high instep, plus one leg is longer than the other by a third of an inch. (I wear an orthotic, but it still causes issues from time to time.). Combine all of those factors, particularly the wide feet, and the side of my running shoes and sneakers closest to my big toe and the ball of my foot eventually splits open. Again, two years-plus is still pretty great, so I have no complaints.

I gave the new pair their first test run yesterday (Saturday), and they passed with flying colors. My feet felt great during and after the run, and still feel good today. The style is slightly different than I'm used to, but in a good way. The tongue isn't a separate piece; its all one unit. I'm explaining this poorly, but I think this design is why they feel so good. I'm glad I spent the extra money to get the ones my research indicated were the best bet.

It's supposed to rain here tomorrow and Tuesday, so they may not get their next jaunt until mid-week, but it's nice having a new pair. I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but my split improved by nearly half a minute (I think it was just a fluke, honestly). Still, they're off to a good start, as is the running. I am absolutely determined to get back to my normal weight once and for all. And I will do it. I'm right on track (no pun intended). :c)

***

The other news flash also helped rectify a potential exercise/running-related issue. I've had the same Fitbit for over four years. It was solid and reliable, and did exactly what I needed. My nephew C received an Apple Watch for Christmas, and while helping him with some of the basic initial setup on Christmas morning, I saw enough to make a mental note to investigate them further, thinking that my Fitbit was already past its expected sell-by date.

Well, the past few weeks it's been acting up. It wasn't tracking steps properly . For example, I went for a 90 minute walk one afternoon at a sustained brisk pace, only to discover the Fitbit decided I'd taken 2900 steps (it should have been closer to 9000, based on past performance). It wasn't tracking active minutes properly either, which messes up the algorithms it uses to measure your performance.

I had a few minutes free last Wednesday evening while making dinner, so I decided to do some quick research on the Apple Watch vs. the new, top-of-the-line Fitbit. Based on the 15 minutes I spent, it became clear that while the new Fitbit is terrific, the Apple Watch 6 is still superior in most respects. That convinced me that my next sports watch would be the Apple Watch 6. Since I've just moved, and on short notice, I'm still feeling the pinch financially. I hoped I could get a few more months out of the Fitbit before it met its demise.

Well, the next day I get a text from my landlord telling me a package had just arrived for me. I was puzzled, since I wasn't expecting anything. So I went downstairs, picked it up, and put it on the living room coffee table so I could attend an online meeting.

I finally got a chance to open it several hours later, and to my shock - and very pleasant surprise - this is what I found:



Yup, this is the Code Red Apple Watch 6. Pretty snazzy, eh? How did this fall into my lap, you ask? Like this: 

I'm a sustaining donor for a local non-profit radio station, and they were giving away prizes during a recent fundrasing drive to by gear for the soon-to-open new studios. I made an additional dontaion on top of my standard monthly contribution, which turned out to be a terrific investment indeed. (While in general I have what my friends say is less-than-stellar luck overall, I've always had great luck with contests, going back to junior high. 

(I guessed the number of jelly beans in a jar and only missed by three; I was out sick the day they annoucned the raffle, so I didn't hear what anyone else had guessed, which turned out to be a good thing, since my guess was larger by several hundred than the next-closest guess. What did I win? An autographed ball from the Boston Celtics. While they had one of the worst records in team history that year, several non-roster folks also kindly signed the ball: John Havlicek (one of the all-time great Celtics)... and a skinny young fella from French Lick, Indiana with the improbable moniker of Larry Bird. Wonder what ever became of him? ;D) 

Anyway, I've barely scratched the surface on what it can do, but suffice it to say I am very impressed so far. Its metrics for exercise, particularly running, are far more robust than th Fitbit, so I'm already loving it. And I'm looking forward to exploring its features further this week. Should be fun.

*** 

Going to wrap it up here. By the way, this is a stop-gap post. I'm working on something a bit different than the usual fare here for my next effort, but it's not ready for prime time quite yet. I'll have it posted before next weekend, so keep an eye on this space.

***

One last item I wanted to share. I recently celebrated my birthday, and I have to show you the card I received from my dear friends T & J. Check this out:


It's a bit difficult to read the card (thanks to my mediocre photo skills), but it says "Hope your birthday is Moo-ey Bueno." lol You can never go wrong with a cow-related gift item, I always say. :c)

As you can see, it now occupies the place of honor on my refrigerator door alongside the postcard of the late, great John Prine. I think John would approve of the juxtaposition; it is, as he said, a big old goofy world. :c)

Have a good week, everyone. 'Til next time....

***

Speaking of the aforementioned Mr. Prine, here he is performing "It's A Big Old Goofy World" from his 1991 masterpiece The Missing Years:


From the same album, here's the sort-of title track: "Jesus - The Missing Years," which is about... well, what the song title says it's about. :D Be sure to check out his introduction explaining his inspiration for writing the song; it is hilarious. :c)

 

I'll wrap up with the final song he ever wrote, shortly before his death in April 2020. (He'd had multiple bouts with cancer in recent years, and eventually died from coronavirus complications.) He was 70 years old. This is "I Remember Everything."

I hope that when he got to heaven, it was exactly the way he hoped it would be:

RIP, John, and God bless. You are sorely missed.

Halfway Home

Sunday, April 25, 2021


Hello all. Hope everyone had a good weekend.

The big news in this corner of the blogosphere is that I received my first vaccination this past week. I'd been attempting to line up an appointment for several weeks (i.e. as soon as I was eligible), using a number of tools to search for appointments. 

One thing I learned quickly is that she who hesitates is lost - or at least shut out from that round of appointments. You basically had to responds literally within seconds upon receiving a notification or everything would be booked. 

I finally landed one through the state-run program, and was scheduled to get one in Boston on Friday afternoon at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay neighborhood (for those unfamiliar with Boston, think the traditional image of Boston, with the brick house buildings and the gas lamp style streetlights; that's the Back Bay). While getting into and out of the city is a hassle, thanks to Boston's notoriously awful traffic, and I'd been hoping to find something closer, I was still genuinely pleased to finally have an appointment. 

Just as I was leaving to head into Boston on Friday, I received one of the "appointments available" text message alerts. Out of habit I opened it up - and there were suddenly multiple vaccinations available at multiple nearby locations. I hadn't seen a single one closer than about 25+ miles until this.

I decided to click the link to see what was available, expecting the usual notice that all available were taken - but lo and behold, I was able to snag one in the next town over. I could hold the reservation for three minutes, so I quickly checked to see if it was still possible to cancel the appointnent in Boston, I didn't want to take a time slot away from anyone else at either location, needless to say. Fortunately, it was possible, so I cancelled in Boston and registered for the shot at the nearby pharmacy. 

And how did the appointment (using the Pfizer vaccine, in case anyone was curious) go? Just fine. As predicted, my arm was sore around the injection site, particularly for about 8-10 hours afterwards. It's still a bit sore, but basically it's just slightly more than a typical shot. Other than that, I just feel more tired than usual today, which is also common. I've taken it easy today (no 10K runs today, needless to say).

I'm now registered for the second shot, in three weeks time, which I am very much looking forward to. I think I've mentioned that my parents, sister, nephew, and niece have already been vaccinated, so I was the lone straggler. I'm looking forward to being to see my sister and my nephew C in person without a mask for the first time in a long, long time.

So, as the post's title indicates, I'm halfway there. I felt as if I've been in one of those suspended states of animation for quite some time on a number of fronts, as past posts have indicated. Hopefully the new apartment (which I'm really enjoying - as is my little menagerie in the photo above) and this are a sign things may start to move in the right direction. Fingers crossed.

That will do it for this post. Hope everyone has a great week. :c)

***

Bonus photo: this was the view from my kitchen window on Friday, April 16th:

Suprise! We wound up with about an inch where I live, but friends in central Massachusetts received over half a foot (~16 cm). It was also very cold for April here: just above freezing all day. It was 80°F/25°C just a few days before. Similarly, yesterday was sunny/75°F (23°C); today was rainy/48°F)(°C). .Such is spring in New England...

***

A few songs to wrap up this post. We'll begin with one from the late, great Levon Helm. This is his version of Buddy & Julie Miller's "Wide River To Cross," from his wonderful 2007 album Dirt Farmer:

Here's a gorgeous Julie Miller song - hymn, really - from her 1997 album Blue Pony. This is "By Way Of Sorrow":

I listen to this one a lot when I'm feeling down. She is a brilliant songwriter (as is her husband Buddy).


Finally, one last Julie Miller song, covered by Emmylou Harris on her landmark 1995 album Wrecking Ball. Here's her stunning version of "All My Tears."

As the unmistakable sound indicates, Wrecking Ball was produced by Daniel Lanois, a longtime favorite of this blog. I was fortunate enough to see Emmylou tour behind this album, with Daniel Lanois and his band backing her up. It was an incredible show, as you would imagine.

Until next time, then...


Musings: Thru With The Two Step

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hello all, and a happy mid-week to you. Just wanted to put together a brief post to stay in the writing zone. 

I'm pretty tired tonight; a car alarm kept going off every half hour or so last night from midnight until almost 4:00 AM. It sounded as if AAA finally came and towed it away, so it must have been an electrical problem. I had long since conceded defeat to getting a decent night's sleep by then, unfortuantely. I can get by on 4-5 hours, but I got less than three last night, and I'm feeling it right now.

One other, much more positive, reason I'm dragging a bit is that I'm running again. I'm still in the very early stages, where my only goal is to rebuild my stamina. I had an online appointment with my doctor this morning, who is also a runner. She nodded sympathetically when I mentioned I'd started up again. She agreed that the first few weeks of starting again from scratch (which I am, for all intents and purposes) just, well... suck. :c) There's nothing to do but keep the big picture in mind  and work through it. It will be worth it in another 2-3 months when I start seeing serious results. And having done it once before I know the payoff will come. So as the blog title says, it's through with the two step, each day.

As I've mentioned in recent posts, I'm determined to get out of the long-standing rut where I've been for too long. Without going into details, my doctor's appointment today will help. As we were finishing she said she knows I'll get past this rut, and said I'm one of the most determined patients she's ever had. That was a nice thing to hear. Positive feedback like that goes a long way.

OK, that will do it for now. I'm off to take a shower, then hopefully get a decent night's sleep. Ciao, everyone...


***

I was sorting through moving boxes over the weekend and pulled out an old favorite from my record collection: Robert Plant's second post-Zeppelin solo album, The Principle of Moments (1983), which for me is his best solo album. 

I'll start with a song that was running through my head (no pun intended) during yesterday's jaunt through the neighborhood - "Through With The Two Step."

Next is one of the album's two hit singles - "In The Mood": 

One reason it's such a great song is the unmistakable drumming of Phil Collins. I was lucky enough to see Plant's tour to support the album - his first as a solo artist - and even luckier because Collins was the dummer in his touring band. I've never understood the flack some people give Collins; the man was a monster drummer. Just listen to the drums in the song's instrumental break, around the 3:05 mark. Seriously great playing. 

(Having watched the video for the first time in I don't know how long, I have to say: it is really, really weird. lol I still haven't figured out how the housewives at the 1:28 mark figure into things... but I sure do love their look! Maybe for my next Halloween costume...)

The other hit from the album was "Big Log." I don't care much for most music videos, but this one is a standout; it perfectly captures the song's dreamy, mysterious, other-worldly feel.  

I always loved how it ends too; you get the sense this scenario plays out over and over as each new person arrives. 

I'll wrap up with my favorite song from Mr. Plant, one which never actually appeared on an album proper. "Far Post" was recorded during the sessions for Pictures at Eleven, Plant's solo debut album from 1982, but inexplicably didn't make the album. Again, Phil Collins drums are a highlight: 

It's funny what you remember; I distinctly recall this song receiving extensive airplay on WBCN-FM & WCOZ-FM, Boston's two biggest rock stations at the time, in the fall of 1982. I have vivid memory of hearing it on COZ's Thursday night Top Ten countdown that autumn as it climbed the chart all the way to the top spot. Quite impressive for a song that at the time was only available as the B-side to an import single (if memory serves). I liked it enough that I trekked all the way into Boston to Newbury Comics (which is still around and still great) to buy the single. And all these years later it still sounds great...

'Til next time, everyone...

 

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