Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The last song you hear

Any moment that Gene Wilder died was going to feel like it came too soon. Still, I find this comforting:
As our hands clutched and he performed one last breath the music speaker, which was set to random, began to blare out one of his favorites: Ella Fitzgerald. ... She was singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” as he was taken away.

Not everybody gets to go out while hearing one of their favorite songs.

What's the song you'd like playing in the background when you die?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

ME/CFS Awareness Day 2016

ME/CFS AwarenessToday is ME/CFS Awareness Day!

If you're new to this band blog and you've never heard me sound off on ME/CFS, you may be thinking, "What is ME/CFS, and why should I be aware of it?" I'll answer that question and others in a handy FAQ format.

What's ME/CFS?

The "ME" part stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis. The "CFS" part stands for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Oh, chronic fatigue syndrome! Yeah, I've heard of that. I don't get what the big deal is, though. I get tired too.

ME/CFS isn't just being tired. Symptoms vary from person to person, but commonly include:
  • chronic, debilitating pain
  • post-exertional morbidity—symptoms get worse after physical or mental exertion and require an extended recovery period
  • flu-like symptoms, such as joint and muscle pain
  • cognitive impairment, including problems with short-term memory
  • crushing exhaustion, which is not relieved by rest
  • Other common symptoms include cardiac arrhythmias, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, blurry vision, eye pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of other conditions that are nasty in their own right.

A friend of mine says she has this thing, but every time I see her, she seems fine. I think she's just a hypochondriac.

Probably not. It's typical for sufferers to have good days and bad days (though a "good day" can still be pretty bad from a healthy person's perspective). If you see someone with ME/CFS out and about, you've probably caught them on a good day. You don't see them lying flat on their back for the rest of the week, in the privacy of their own home, recovering from their trip to the grocery store.

Is there a cure?


Any hope for a cure sometime soon?

Hard to say. The Open Medicine Foundation is working to discover biomarkers and effective treatments, but this disease gets very little funding. And despite the considerable evidence that ME/CFS is biological in origin, much of the funding it does get goes toward questionable psychiatric research.

That's messed up. I wish there were some way I could help.

You can help in more ways than you know. Here are a few ideas:
  • Donate to the Open Medicine Foundation, an organization whose primary purpose is finding a cure for ME/CFS.
  • Wear your underwear on the outside of your clothes. (It's a fundraising thing, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.)
  • Join #MillionsMissing on May 25 to protest the lack of funding for ME/CFS research.
  • If you're too sick or too far away to make it to any of the #MillionsMissing physical protest sites, get involved with the virtual protest.
  • If you have a friend with ME/CFS, make an effort to keep in touch. Your friend may not have the energy to call you, but he or she would probably love to hear from you.
  • If someone you know makes a comment about how chronic fatigue syndrome is just laziness, don't let it pass. Explain that ME/CFS involves serious pain and real impairment, not just greater-than-average tiredness.

Hey, you said this was a band blog. How'd you end up doing ME/CFS advocacy? Seems kinda random.

Same way anyone ends up doing disease-related advocacy: I know someone who has the disease. He had an amazing career and a great life. Now he lies in bed all day, in pain, unable to do any of the things he loved. It sucks. There aren't words to convey how much it sucks.

But being a songwriter, I wrote a song about it. "Everybody Knows About Me" is told from the perspective of someone who lives with the disease ... and other people's prejudices.

So that's something else you can do:
  • Send "Everybody Knows About Me" to anyone who might benefit. That includes people who have the disease and people who don't understand it. You can stream it on our website or download it for free on this page (top of the sidebar). Once you've obtained it, make as many copies as you like and send it to as many people as you like.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Pretty soon now you're gonna get older

Listening to the radio on my way home from rehearsal tonight, I caught a few live David Bowie tunes, which KXCI played in honor of his 69th birthday. I thought about how there'd be an even bigger deal made next year, on his 70th birthday. I wondered what he was up to musically. And thought about how, although he wasn't old old, someday I'd hear of his death. I hoped it wouldn't be soon.

We don't always get what we wish for.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Adoptable animals

There was a bit of confusion today when we arrived at HOPE Animal Shelter. The area where we were supposed to play was taken up by tables with food, raffle stuff, and other goodies. After some brainstorming, somebody figured out that we'd fit in the corner.

"HOPE has adoptable animals," I announced between songs. "Ron is a drummer-sound guy mix, and for a reasonable donation, you can take him home today. I'm a keyboardist-singer mix, but they need to spend more time socializing me, which is why I'm in the enclosure."

Ron is no longer available, having returned to his forever home with his wife and many cats. If you're looking to adopt a quadrupedal animal, however, HOPE is still a great place to go.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Oldies Lite

I'm out with a few friends from a professional association, and one of them asks me how things are going with the band. I tell her about our Fountains gig. I recount how they were playing oldies from KTUC-AM on the speakers, and how it made me think about what they'll be playing when I'm ready for the old folks' home.

"KTUC," one of my friends says. "Isn't that the really conservative oldies station?"

Huh. I have no idea what the station's political leanings are, but come to think of it, they do play a very specific kind of old music. I look up their playlist later online. Here are a few of the songs they've broadcast tonight:

"Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin
"Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford
"Love and Marriage" by Frank Sinatra
"September Song" by Tony Bennett
"Teach me Tonight" by the De Castro sisters

You get the idea: oldies lite. There's no "Splish Splash," no "Rock Around the Clock," definitely no "Louie Louie," for damn sure no "My Generation."

If a station like this is around when I'm in my 90s, they won't be playing REM. They'll be playing Boyz II Men.

NOW I'm depressed.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


It's not like years ago
The fear of getting caught
The recklessness in water
They cannot see me naked
These things they go away
Replaced by every day

Kitchen chores beckon. Some people love to cook. I'm not one of them. To relieve the tedium of food prep, I decide to listen to an album as I chop and fry and clean. I pick REM's Automatic for the People because one of its tracks has been going through my head for the past few days.

It occurs to me that this album is more than two decades old. When I was a kid listening to the radio in the '70s and '80s, the stations that played '50s and '60s music were oldies stations.

Wow. REM is oldies now.

That doesn't seem right. 1992 feels like three lifetimes ago, but when I hear "Man in the Moon" it might as well be three days. For all it belongs to a distinct era, it doesn't sound nostalgic.

I had a similar line of thought last week when Ron the Drummer and I performed at the Fountains, an assisted living facility on the northwest side of town. Oldies station KTUC 1400 played on the speakers as we set up and broke down. The music of our audience's youth. What will nursing homes be playing when I move into a place like this? The Talking Heads? Nirvana? Sir Mix-a-Lot? Will those bands sound as hopelessly out of date to the visiting grandkids as Tony Bennett does to my generation?

Time marches on. I can accept that. I pretty much have to accept that. I just don't want it to march on without me.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

How to take a compliment

After a short performance tonight, an audience member came up to me and told me she'd enjoyed our set. The rest of the exchange went something like this.

What she said: "You sounded like Alanis Morissette!"

What I said: "Thanks!"

What I wanted to say: "Uh oh. Jagged Little Pill Alanis Morissette, or Alanis Morissette after she decided to start singing in key?"

Score one for knowing when to keep my mouth shut.

(P.S. I bought Jagged Little Pill in in 1995 and quite liked it, but as an artistic type I reserve the right to be neurotic about everything, including nice stuff people say about me.)