2 March 24ths for the Virtual MemoryBook

 

Sixteen years ago, March 24th fell on a Monday… the day my nearly 90-year-old mother fell and fractured her femur… the final, full 24 hour day she lived in her home of 42 years.

Within mere minutes of my summoning an ambulance, we both could hear the approaching siren’s Doppler shift… the increase in volume. Once parked out front, the flashing red lights began casting their surreal, subdivision-wide strobe effect.

The EMTs did what they do best… rapidly evaluated and prepped their patient. As the midnight hour neared, they wheeled Mom out on a gurney, I locked up, started up my backed into the garage car, idled the engine in the lower driveway and awaited to join them on our ride to the local, nearby hospital. Even at normal highway speeds, our ETA would be five minutes, tops. At the stroke of midnight, we were on our way.

Since I knew sirens could easily, overly stress out my mother, I had requested they not use them unless the situation became a life or death matter. I was so relieved that her condition permitted them to heed my heads up.

Long sigh… within a week of successful surgery to repair her fractured leg, pneumonia had set in. Her advanced years and one year earlier heart attack all conspired to make her chances for rallying slim to none.

Mom’s ambulance ride, eventually, turned out to be a one way trip. Her Earthly Home left behind, the sequence of her rapidly changing forwarding addresses had become… Nursing Home… Funeral Home… Eternal Home.

This past Sunday, the 24th, from my own perspective, I could not help but dwell upon Mom’s final 24 hours in her home… the home I wound up inheriting. By early evening, I had wound up falling asleep on the living room sofa. But… oddly enough… with this day’s final five minutes rapidly ticking down… I had awoken… instantly cognizant of that timing’s significance. I threw open the front door and made my exit into the still of the night…standing on the dimly street lit porch… my eyes panning the entire neighborhood… my mind time tripping to that not so distant past.

At the stroke of midnight… just as I was about to turn to go back inside… I could hardly believe my own eyes. An ambulance was driving on by… traveling along the very same highway… in the same southerly direction… at the posted speed limit… no flashing reds… no siren…

And while there would’ve been no reason to be following them in my car this time… I did follow them with my eyes. And once they were no longer in sight… my gaze averted upwards… to the heavens…

 

 

 

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Dual Valentine’s Day Messages

Excuse my lateness in posting my Valentine’s Day messages. For a reason that’ll soon be obvious, I was in no particular hurry.

To each of you who has found the love of your life… count your blessings… you have “The Song of Happiness” in your heart to accompany all that you do on this special day… throughout all your special days of togetherness ahead.

For each of us stumbling around this world while minus our soul mate… experiencing the unenviable pangs of loneliness on this day… I’m furnishing three different “roads” for us to travel down… i.e., to experience the flip side of “The Song of Happiness”… a.k.a. the J.D. Souther / Glenn Frey composition… Last In Love.

Why three paths? Well… hearing this song sung in both female and male voices is so apropos… after all… gender-wise… loneliness knows no bounds.

Since gender is not always an either/or prospect… and I was unable to locate any representative recording artists… well… at least not those who’ve recorded this particular, off the beaten path, musical selection… below my parting paragraph you’ll find the lyrics in text form.

However you wind up experiencing this track, the mood throughout will be unmistakably unsmiling. However… well… at least the way I’ve interpreted Souther and Frey’s sentiments… there still is a glimmer of hope found right within the song title itself. Last In Love does imply that a race is being run… the human race… and who knows… so long as we persevere (i.e., just keep on running it)… well… maybe… someday… we’ll wind up winners.

 

Last In Love
by J.D. Souther & Glenn Frey

Blues outside my door
I don’t even know if it’s raining
But I’ve been here before
And I don’t wanna be here again

Every now and then
Voices on the wind
Call me back to the first time
Far away and clear
You can hear the teardrops
Fallin’ for the last in love

If I let you down
All I can say is I’m sorry
Now it’s all over town
So I don’t wanna hear it from you

But please don’t look away
It’s hard enough to say
This could go on forever
When the night is clear,
I can hear the teardrops
Fallin’ for the last in love

Every now and then
I hear voices on the wind
I may love you always, always
Far away and clear
You can hear the teardrops
Falling for the last in love

Callin’ for the last in love
Will we always be the last in love?

 

 

 

 

A Four Decades Old Whodunit

 

Initially, my father’s non-living wage, public school teacher gig had necessitated menus consisting of the cheapest, tasteless cuts of fatty / gristly meats and made patched up hand-me-downs my “fashion statement”. We rented from a slumlord, who probably was counting on his furnace’s carbon monoxide fumes to exterminate his hovel’s rats.

What little tech we did possess involved a snowy, black & white VHF-only TV, staticky AM-only radio and cheapo, monaural phonograph that damaged whatever vinyl it sank it’s stylus / fang into.

Fortunately, Presidents JFK and LBJ’s vision for a Great Society materialized… thereby helping to elevate folks like us out of poverty. By the early 1970s, I was actually pursuing my Broadcast Arts college degree… my parents even generously affording me the tools of my hoped for trade… e.g., an AM/FM stereo receiver, turntable, reel-to-reel tape deck, microphones and headphones.

A show of gratitude certainly was in order. My inspiration came from [1] watching Mom using a low-fidelity, monaural cassette recorder to tape her fave tunes off her tiny, tinny sounding radio AND from [2] listening to her rationale… namely… her concerns regarding Hard Rock station formats popping up all over… up and down the dial… a trend with the potential of banishing her fave Big Band music entirely from the FM band.

My game plan became to give Mom the gift of music… i.e., set up my tech to tape whatever songs she deemed keepers. On the night of our recording session, she became instantly WOWED by the clarity and expanded frequency range, which her audio devices lacked. Even after the passage of 4 decades, I still vividly remember her words… verbatim…

 

“It’s as if the musicians are right here in the room with us!”

 

And truth be told, her hard rocker son, too, experienced that same WOW! Never before had I heard Big Bands played in high fidelity.

While this was all good news, this tape did fall short in one crucial aspect. The DJ… perhaps sensing he’d soon be replaced by a rock jock… had been either rapidly rattling off his playlists or flat-out neglecting to do so. His omissions rendered the status of “ARTIST UNKNOWN” to the very song, which had incontrovertibly converted me into a Big Band enthusiast!

While my folks could both name that tune… Bugle Call Rag... neither could quite figure out “The Whodunit”… especially seeing how a bevy of band leaders all had included their versions within their repertoires.

There was one other prob, too… Mom shied away at the mere thought of trying to thread an open reel tape deck… a device sporting a lit up, metered control panel that could’ve fit in well within a jet’s cockpit. Ergo, I needed to be on hand for each playback… i.e., until my acquisition of a HIFI cassette deck. That device had been barely out of the box when I dubbed Mom her user friendly copy.

That handpicked by Mom, 25 song musical set was a representative sampling of the soundtrack to her life. As such, this cassette was destined to become her all time fave… one she wound up constantly playing back for the next (nearly) three decades. She’d have likely insisted on taking it with her, too… well… had there not been strict rules prohibiting worldly possessions beyond Earth’s Exit signs.

Beyond that… throughout the latter years of this tape’s lifetime… I could not help but concede that… just like my Mom… I’d wind up taking my final breath never having even the slightest inkling regarding Bugle Call Rag’s whodunit.

On a more positive note, I did conclude that YouTube… the repository of humankind’s creativity… could afford me my best shot at remedying that prob… especially upon considering the following fun facts…

“The total number of people who use YouTube – 1,300,000,000. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day. In an average month, 8 out of 10 18-49 year-olds watch YouTube.”

There just had to be at least one other Earthling YouTuber who was aware of my sought after version of Bugle Call RagRIGHT??? Yet… many a past search had left me “empty handed”.

It was mere weeks ago… as the waning hours of Tuesday, January the 15th were ticking down into the wee hours of Wednesday the 16th*… when… once more… I found myself scrolling through multiple dozens of YouTube Bugle Call Rag finds… skipping over any that had PB times significantly greater or less than my unknown’s known 2 minutes and 50 seconds timing.

This was where and when the ancient saying, “The Third Time’s the Charm” certainly had come into play. Following my audition of the first two potential matches…

EUREKA!

 

 

Within hearing the first few notes of try number three… I simply could not believe my ears! Although this upload was not doing full justice to this track’s base frequencies… my 44-year-old whodunit search had come to a successful conclusion! All the sudden I felt this odd sensation on my face.

Rushing over to a mirror, I realized I was actually smiling… a rarity in my life these days considering the sorry state of our world and my homeland. And I kept on smiling, too, for I could now check “Discover Bugle Call Rag band leader’s name” off my bucket list!

WOW…. I almost forgot to mention that the mystery maestro and his merry music makers were/are Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra!

And since it had always been my contention that anyone who could’ve created such an energetic gem must also possess a massive repertoire of other must hear music, my next www destination became Barnes & Nobel where I discovered Mr. Gray’s CD… an hour’s worth of Big Band music with none other than Bugle Call Rag as the #1 Track. Within one week, USPS delivered my order.

I’ve now been listening to this entire CD with the same enthusiasm and frequency as Mom had played her birthday present… oh… so long ago. Interestingly enough… I’m using the exact same stereo receiver’s amp to power the very same speakers which blasted forth Gray’s rendition of Bugle Call Rag for my family’s listening pleasure!

 

 

 

*ADDENDUM: My above mention of Tuesday the 15th leading into Wednesday the 16th, has a much deeper significance. The April page of 2003’s calendar conformed to that identical day/date alignment… my Mom’s last two days on Earth… a time where we had been able to converse and reminisce for the first 5 hours of what would turn out to be my 22-hour vigil.

 

 

 

A Nutritionally Incorrect Sentimental Start to `19

 

My Happy New Year wishes to all kindly souls wandering about virtual reality on this special day.

So far, aside from easily crashing through last night’s time barrier ‘tween `18 and `19, I also wound up crashing a small plate into the linoleum while preparing this morning’s meal… uh… regrettably… just one serving for li’l ol’ lonesome me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not crying in my beer. That’s mainly because [1] I’ve accepted for many decades that my bachelorhood is likely terminal, [2] things could’ve been far worse had that broken glass involved my one and only French Press coffee maker and [3] beer would not have been my first choice for washing down my, by and large, nutritionally incorrect holiday feast… a menu consisting of drenched in syrup pancakes, overly salted turkey sausage patties, cinnamon coated / saturated fat loaded doughnuts and toast spread thick with jam.

NOTE to any concerned cardiologists / physicians / nutritionists out there… as well as buzzard-like morticians flying in formation (in a holding pattern) above my home:

In my defense… [1] this is not my steady diet, [2] I also consumed a far healthier banana, Fuji apple and bowl of oatmeal, and [3] considering my metabolic “ability”, I find myself frequently “flirting” within featherweight territory (118 – 126 pounds / 54 – 57 kg).

Well… at this point I can virtually hear your three part question…

“Wassup Tom? You still hung over from New Year’s Eve champers? Just WTF is the point to your post, anyway?

Well… this is all about the “jam” I got into this morning… NO not the broken plate deal… the type of jam we spread on our toast. And, considering all the sugary stickiness… maybe you’ll stick around long enough to hear me out?

You see… one of the things I’m grateful for is that my Mom not only had taught me all she knew about food prep, but that this also involved invaluable, hands-on cooking/baking OJT.

One of Mom’s favorite (usually Christmastime) projects involved jam production. To e.g. that a bit… she loved preparing her unique peach / pineapple blend recipe. BTW. she oft tossed in a few halved maraschino cherries, which not only added flavor but also randomly dotted the jarred, brightly orange hued jam with festive red. All in all, this was… still is… a labor intensive endeavor. Believe me, each jam manufacture’s costly, per jar asking price is more about the labor than the actual price of the fruit, jars and lids.

Well… in the beginning… Mom and I had worked as a team… but… as age related fatigue started catching up with her… there were times where she’d leave mid project… only to return just as I was topping off the jars with sealing wax. Amidst my mentor’s apologies for having bailed were her smiles. After all, she now knew that her skills would live on long after she had departed.

But… as already mentioned… jam making is so labor intensive that, in the nearly 16 years since Mom’s death, I’ve yet to put our shared, jam making know-how to good use. Instead, I’ve been opting to let the “pros” do all the work. And imagine how thrilled I was to discover that one manufacturer’s product line not only includes peach but also pineapple preserves. Even better is the size of the jars… respectively 18 oz (510g) and 12 oz (340g)… i.e., respectively, a peach to pineapple ratio, which is oh-so-close to my Mom’s original recipe.

In other words… at the breakfast table level… to “cook up” a close facsimile all I need do is proportionally spread peach on one side of the warmed and toasted bread, pineapple on the other and fold.

Now, here’s where my story takes on an aspect… one that many would dismiss as mere coincidence… but not li’l ol’ lonesome me!

During the December holiday season, jam sales typically, rapidly decimate the supermarket displays. Just last Friday, on the nearly barren shelves… misplaced from their usual “homes” I spotted one jar of peach preserves… and right next to it one jar of pineapple… the very same two jars that wound up on my breakfast table this early a.m. I mean… how could I not interpret this as a message… a “phoned in” menu request… from the great beyond?

Just prior to sinking my teeth into this a.m.’s warm toast, I hoisted my coffee cup upward to toast my Mom. True, its mere speculation on my part, but…

Might it be possible that, on special occasions, our ancestors can live virtually (sort of vicariously) through us… still enjoy earthly sights, sounds, scents and flavors with us / through us? After all, half my DNA belongs to my mother. If I am correct, maybe … just maybe… she sort of sat alongside li’l ol’ lonesome me at my New Year’s Day breakfast table… maybe even enjoying that “homemade”, breakfast table blend which so closely resembles her peach / pineapple preserves.

 

 

The Fine Line ‘Tween Persistence and Pestering

 

‘Tis the season to be tortured by robocallers, telemarketers, extortionists and identity thieves… and that season lasts twelve months annually. Obviously, being registered on the national “DO NOT CALL” list means absolutely nothing. Pressing whatever number these bastards oft “offer” to delete our names from their databases serves only one purpose… to assure a barrage of their subsequent calls.

If it were only a few, isolated incidents where I could politely say “not interested” and never be bothered again. But that’s not the case when dealing with a rude ‘tude… best summed up thusly…

Oh yeah? How DARE you refuse me / resist my scam? I will hound you until the day you die and then come after your survivors, too! And you cannot do one damned thing about it!

Neither using my answering machine to field these calls nor totally turning it off resolves the prob. More worrisome… just how much abuse can this equipment take before the digital recorder and/or ringer “burns out”? In the case of the latter these sadists will simply let my phone ring dozens of times per call… and still call back! This has got to be their twisted notion of punishment for anyone who’d dare to deliberately avoid them.

And what about the ill-mannered callers, who do front (more or less) legitimate businesses? What crappy training they had to have received to not comprehend the fine line between persistence and pestering. Indeed, they seem utterly clueless to the fact that nobody can ever high-pressure a customer into buying any product or service. In other words… zero customer respect nets zero bucks.

Worse yet, some of their sales pitch assaults are also insults… e.g., they’ll ofttimes claim they’re calliing back because I had requesed they do so. Their implication being what? That I must be feeble-minded if I don’t remember doing so? And then what? I’m supposed to pretend to remember something that never, ever happened? And then what? Knuckle under to mindlessly buy whatever crap they’re peddling?

I have complained to my service provider. When they informed me that the majority of such calls originate from outside my homeland’s borders I allowed them block all international calls… to no avail. And since (obviously) the problem is also domestic, I’m now considering having the phone company permanently pull the plug on my landline. HOWEVER… this is the one and only phone number that has ever been in my family’s name… dating back to 1958! Yep, those seven digits are the very same ones I committed to memory as a four-year-old!

And all sentimentality aside… landline service could, someday, be a lifesaver. My experiment during August 2003’s Northeast Power Grid Crash, had proven that my cell, held mere inches away from my regular phone could not get it to ring even once.

So… down to my last option is where I’m at. I’ll now be treating my landline like my cell… “turning it on” / plugging it in ONLY when I need to place an outgoing call. Of course, the real kick in the ass is how I’ll still be paying my phone company full price for far less than full service.

Forced into social isolation because robocallers, telemarketers, extortionists and identity thieves flat-out refuse to take my flat-out “NO!” for an answer.

 

A Black Friday Gift That Keeps On Giving

 

Today being the official, traditional launch of the December holidays gift giving season, it was while playing back a CD and preparing my breakfast this early a.m. that I found my thoughts fondly flashing back to my own, all-time fave, “Black Friday” shopping experience.

It was on this very day, back in 1973, that my father and I had been shopping at a locally owned appliance store… one which was just beginning to branch out into audio / video gear. We had momentarily gone off in different directions… little doubt… catching my ear was a progressive rock FM station’s broadcast blasting forth a Track from the (then) newest Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP) LP.

My eyes eventually caught up with my ears and they instantly widened upon spotting the Fisher™ 180 receiver connected to ElectroVoice™ model-13 speakers and a Garrard™ 40B turntable. My own Sears™ turntable having died mere days earlier (coincidentally while playing a two years older ELP Track), I recognized this sound system to be an audiophile’s dream come true.

At that moment, the only sound that could’ve possibly brought me back down to earth was my dad’s own voice. Seeing how I was already familiar with the reliability / durability of these manufacturers’ products, before any sales associate had even approached us, I was already delivering my own sales pitch.

My father… [1] knowing that his community college attending son was working towards his broadcast arts degree… [2] understanding how vital it was for me to stay connected to the radio and music industry… and [3] agreeing that this high quality, hi-tech had a low price tag attached… well… he knew he had found his gift to me. Even better… seeing how I had already seen it… he didn’t even make me wait until Christmas morn to “unwrap it”.

And while the Garrard™ turntable had eventually proven to be the most vulnerable to the ravages of old age… the amplification of my morning, wake-up music… on this very day (45 years later!)… was courtesy of my father… courtesy of that vintage, very same Fisher™ receiver… still the driving force behind those ElectoVoice™ tweeters and woofers!

And while my dad lived on only fifteen years beyond his Christmas ’73 present to me… my feeling of connection transcends the tech… transcends time.

Indeed, there is that connection to Christmases past… that genetic connection, too… for, dad’s gift just keeps on giving!