the power of music

A young man or woman goes to the music store.
Or the pawn shop.
They buy a beat up guitar.
A keyboard.
Some blank music sheets.
Or a note pad and a number 2 pencil.
They sit in their basement with their headphones. Fumbling to play along to their favorite artist.
Or, on the side of a lazy river, scribbling the lyrics to their someday breakout hit.

They dream.

Do they dream about fame? And fortune? Thousands of screaming fans clamoring for their attention, in desperate need to hear their favorite song? Isn’t that the goal, after all? I would imagine it is.

But I wonder if an aspiring artist knows that, despite their level of achieved success, they have the potential to make someone’s day, even change their life by sharing a piece of themselves with us.

Did Bruce Springsteen know that a 47 year old man would immediately go to his music while driving 2 hours on a cold December night, tears streaming down his face, to see his father before he draws his last breath?

Did Journey know that their music would make millions of 80’s kids remember sweaty fumblings in the back seat of sedans and slow dances with their High School Sweetheart?

Did Van Morrison know that Into the Mystic would always remind me of that one night, sitting oceanside, watching a thunderstorm in the distance, drinking bourbon in beach chairs with a dear friend that has since died?

Did Dawes know that in his song A little bit of everything he would perfectly illustrate, as if on a design board, how to approach life when you don’t know how many days you have to live?

Did Michael Franti know that he would inspire my blog when he sang Good to be alive today? The song that slapped me in the face and told me that it is so simple, and necessary that I spend each day trying to make the world a better place and just be glad to be ALIVE.

So many songs.
So many associations.
So many memories.
So many things to so many people.
So many powerful emotions. Smiles of nostalgia. Tears of angst. Pains of heartache, sadness and loss. Euphoria and joy. The urge to play air guitar or pound the steering wheel to your favorite drum solo. The feeling that you have been where the artist has.

I have listened to thousands of songs in my life. There are millions of songs that I still want to hear. Songs that I know could speak to me. That will make me feel something, experience something powerful. I can only hope that when I hear them, I have a takeaway. Something that I can relate to. A fresh perspective on a old subject, a new spark to light the candle of another fond yet dormant memory.

Here’s to the person out there, just getting started, setting out on your musical journey and hoping for all of the typical trappings of success. May they know that success can me measured in so many ways.

Always keep in the back of your mind that you may change just one life with your efforts.


Service

In my last post I discussed the virtue of humility. It was a simple post, a suggestion to mankind in general and a reminder to myself in particular to think of self less and others, or the big picture in general, a little more. In the interest of brevity I touched on, but was unable to dedicate enough time to the greatest benefit of the humble lifestyle. Service to others.

When you are ill, even if you are fortunate enough to have a strong circle of support in the form of family and friends, you often become the focus of extra, sometimes unwanted attention. As well-intentioned as the constant inquiries into your health status can be, it can have a negative effect. I have the occasional day that I feel “normal” (an entirely different subject for another day) and am going about my day and the first person I encounter hits me with a “how are you feeling?” and boom, there it is, the reminder that they know me as the sick guy. It feels weird, perhaps ungrateful even, to put this to words because it is a beautiful thing that people are concerned about me enough to ask.

But it still bothers me.

So I deflect. I play it down. Knowing that at least half of the people who ask really don’t want to know, but feel negligent by not asking, I keep it short. Often, I just say “today is a good day.”
I can’t go wrong with that because I do have more good days than bad, and I truly believe that any day looking down at the dirt, not up, is a good day.

The other thing I do is spend as much available resources on others. I work my Masonic charities. It is the greatest kind of giving, it is anonymous. Scrambling behind the scenes to find a prom dress for a HS senior who can’t afford one, glasses for a child whose family has no insurance, a scholarship for a local youth to buy books is truly food for the soul and I am grateful to be in a position to help.

I volunteer at the local food pantry. One day there and it is immediately evident that my life could definitely be worse. All of our lives could.

On a smaller but significant note, I make a point to call and visit people. People I know very well and people that I know enough to call and say hi. The funny thing is that everyone that I call or visit gives me some inclination that they needed it, confirming my favorite quote…

I have spoken to so many people that needed to unburden themselves and I found myself in a position to do something, even if all they needed was for someone to listen to them. One commonality I have found is that the conversation is either prefaced by or includes the some variation of the phrase “of course, this is nothing compared to what you’re going through…”

I shrug that off. That is the essence of what they don’t get. My problems are my problems, their problems are theirs. It is not a matter of whose is bigger or worse, they are pressing on us and affect our ability to function and be happy. It’s not a contest. But interaction with each other, no matter how small, makes it better and also unburdens us. I truly believe this.

Obviously, at least it should be, we should be cognizant of the needs of our fellow man and help whenever possible. It is our duty as human beings. But a wonderful secondary effect of focusing on others is that it takes your mind off of your own issues, whatever they are.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know that should scientists discover the center of the universe, I won’t be shocked to find that it’s not me. My happiness is in making my life not only about me, but of being a part of a bigger picture. Being surrounded by happy is my source of happiness. My sense of purpose. I couldn’t achieve that if I was to sit around thinking about how sick I am.

The universe, like most people, doesn’t give a shit.

Finish the story-the Travelers

I have been tagged by Lisa to finish the story. I like these challenges, they’re fun. In my case it is getting me out of a slump. I had a killer eye infection for the last week and my headache was so intense that blogging was not possible. So, thanks Lisa for getting me moving again. Please check out her blog as well as all of the other fine bloggers who collaborated on this project.

Rules

1. Copy the story as you receive it.

2. Add to the story in some fashion.

3. Tag another person to contribute to or finish the story.

4. Please use FTS as a tag so I can find it or link back to part 1.

5. Have Fun!

The Travelers – Teresa’s Introduction

Alexander and Alistair waited in line to check on their flight. It didn’t matter how long the line was, or how tired they were of waiting in it, they were happy to be getting away for a week. Life had not been difficult, but it was still nice to finally get away–alone.

Alexander couldn’t wait to show Alistair around Pompeii and Alistair couldn’t wait to show Alexander around his old home. They enjoyed people watching in the airport and passed time telling stories of the old days.

Finally, it was their turn to check in. Alexander sat his luggage in the bin and watched as a scrawny kid retrieved it and threw it on a conveyor belt. He cringed and crossed his fingers that his cologne didn’t break.

It wasn’t until they were standing by the large window at their gate watching their luggage be thrown around like last week’s trash that they noticed it. Something was not right.

“Hey, Alistair,” Alexander said, pointing out to the luggage cart. “Do you see that?”

Alistair followed Alexander’s finger and squinted. “Yeah. What is that?”

“I can’t be sure, but it looks like …

Part two – Paula of Light Motifs II

The luggage on one of the other carts was all black with a lightning bolt logo. And sure enough, a black stretch limo with the same logo pulled up directly to the plane and out tumbled the crazy rockers the Zappers and their entourage.

“Oh no,” Alistair moaned. “Those lunatics will be on our flight!”

Alexander sighed. “Horrible. They always get up to some ridiculous shenanigans, but surely they’ll behave themselves in the air?”

“It’s too late to change our tickets?”

“Well, yes. Our luggage is being flung into the bowels of this tin can as we speak.”

The men stared glumly out the window, their previous good mood soured. When they were called to board, they stood in line without speaking, having mutually decided to stoically bear the flight and have fun after landing, when the nutty rockers had gone.

Women chatted behind them in line. “Oh my God! Did you hear that the Zappers are on our flight? I’m totally gonna sneak into first class to see them!”

“I have such a crush on Nikki Zapper! I bet he does something wild and we have to make an emergency landing!”

Alistair and Alexander looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

But all went smoothly during takeoff, and then as one of the flight attendants was giving the safety presentation, a blond man dressed in black leather popped out of the first class section, grabbed her, and kissed her.

Part Three Li at Tao-Talk

Several people in coach lifted up their cell phones to record Nikki as he laid one on Myra, the flight attendant, ooh-ing and aah-ing as they did. Myra was torn, as she was supposed to rebuff any advances by the passengers, no matter how famous; but on the other hand, she had been a global fan of Nikki and the Zappers for years, using her bene of free flights to see them dozens of times. She even had a likeness of Nikki tattooed in her cleavage. Throwing caution to the wind, she kissed Nikki back and soon they, locked in an embrace, were stumbling towards the bathroom – where they would be the newest members of the Mile High Club.

As they often synched with each other over the years, Alistair and Alexander looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

“Well, I never!” huffed Alistair.

“Indeed!,” puffed Alexander.

“Let the shenanigans begin. Where are those sleepers you packed? Time to take a snooze until the show is over,” said Alistair.

Alexander reached for his carry-on, which was stuffed under his seat, and retrieved enough for both of them. They asked another attendant for a handful of the little booze bottles to wash them down with. Soon they were fast asleep, snoring to beat kingdom come.

Neither one knew how long they had slept, but both were awakened by the throbbing bassline of the latest Nikki and the Zappers tune, “Don’t Harsh My Buzz.” They were shocked to see….

Part Four Teleporting Weena;

…that the lights in the plane’s cabin had been turned off. Being that it was night time, they couldn’t see a thing in the dark. The bass guitar was still pounding out the beat so loud it shook their insides.

Suddenly an explosion of neon-like lights began flickering all around the plane’s interior, as the Zappers launched into their current number one song.  Passengers were crowding into the narrow aisle, and even just standing at their seats, dancing and singing along to the music.

The captain came on the loudspeakers: “Welcome to the party of the year…we present the Zappers for your inflight entertainment. Free drinks for everyone!

A big cheer rocked this unusual concert venue.

“Can you believe this?” Alistair asked as he busted a move right there in his seat.

Alexander looked at Alistair. They were grinning from ear to ear but didn’t roll their eyes at this exciting turn of events.

Cocktails and cups of beer were passed around, as the party continued through the night, 32,000 feet above the ground, but a sudden lurch of the plane made everyone gasp. The plane yawed to the left, then to the right. People screamed and tumbled into each other.

This is your captain…please everyone…sit down and fasten your seat belts…

***

Part Five – Sadje of Keep it Alive

……..we have a pick of air turbulence. It took repeated announcements from the caption to quieten down the passengers who were still hyped up from all the drinking and dancing. Eventually, everyone was seated, the belts fastened and a hush descended on the plane. Suddenly there was a jerk as the plane lost a lot of height very quickly. It was an air pocket that caused the loss in the plane altitude. There were quite a few screams and shrieks from many people.

The pilot came on air again.

I am sorry ladies and gentlemen we are in the middle of a storm right now. Please keep the seat belts on. I am afraid that we have lost power in one of our engines. I am trying to make an emergency landing………..

His announcement was cut abruptly and….

Part Six – Kristian’s Addition

…the oxygen masks dropped from their concealed compartments above the passengers.

Alistair and Alexander helped each other putting them on and then they squeezed hands.

The atmosphere had gone from one of enjoyment to panic. A few people had begun to get hysterical. Myra the Stewardess was trying to comfort one particularly distressed woman who couldn’t stop crying.

Then there was a loud bang and a hiss as the cabin filled with smoke. Alistair could just see Alexanders face through the haze. His eyes were scrunched tightly together and his grip on his hand was threatening to cut the blood supply from his fingers, but they were together and that was some comfort.

It was the impact of the plane hitting the water that sent luggage pouring out of overhead compartments and a few chairs broke loose, tumbling bodies around like they were dummies.

Myra lay at an impossible angle. Her legs bent backwards and her head twisted.

A figure lay face down in a black leather jacket and the strings of a broken guitar wrapped around his neck.

After the terrific noise of the impact, everything seemed deathly quiet. Alexander’s eyes opened, tears streaming down his face but he fixed Alistair with a desperate blue stare.

They had survived the crash but so many hadn’t.

A panicked voice suddenly came from over the tannoy system.

“This is the Navigator speaking. If there are any other survivors, please come to the front of the plane and make yourselves known.”

Together Alistair and Alexander got up from their chair and slowly made their way down the plane.

They were surprised to see…..

Part 7 – A Guy Called Bloke

cockpit-683529_960_720

………. that the cockpit was empty!

The navigator stood there, in a right mess, another steward was desperately trying to stem the blood flow from his left arm, well what was left of his left arm anyway! They could see by looking into the cockpit was not a good move – the Captain and the Co-pilot were missing. The navigator was mumbling about the fact that the two pilots had suddenly just disappeared into thin air and then all hell broke loose! That the aircraft lurched and then plummetted to the earth.

Alastair and Alex looked at each other in complete disbelief and utter astonishment. Behind them the screams of agony and anguish were filling the small space of the aisle .. and yet when they looked behind them, something was amiss, not quite right, it took them a few moments to comprehend that the loss was actually people. Before the crash, all the seats had been filled with passengers and yet now, if you included the dead, the dying, the subdued expressions of those in shock and the few others still, looking bewildered at them, they came to realise that, a good 50% of their part of the cabin was emptier than it had been?

“Well where, did they go?” Alex said to himself almost as much to the others?

“Which is what l have been trying to say!” mumbled the Navigator, “poof gone! Where who knows, Frank and Thomas were laughing and joking one minute and then l was disentangling myself from metal! Which is why my arm is not right. We didn’t hit the sea, we are not sinking which is good news. From what l could gather as l looked out of the windows as we were skewing across the surface, if anything we were skimming across a swamp!”

“Right!” Al said, “I think we should start to disembark, does this plane have one of those things that are like a Bouncy castle slide?”

“Yes of course.” Answered the Navigator, and with a small cursory move to the steward, he motioned towards the door. The steward after a bit of rough manoeuvring, managed to cast the door open and then aside and for the first time the four of them looked out into the world before them.

An overgrown jungled swampland greeted them, very mangrove looking Alex thought and said as much “Charming, just what we need a bloody jungle!”

“Right, well you must have a passenger list. I suggest we get everyone off the plane as best as we can, there must be other stewards throughout the aircraft? There must be first aid and medical equipment. We need to check the state of the craft itself to see if we are in any immediate danger of blowing up, and then , well then we will have to figure out where the bloody hell we are and what we do?” Alastair said officially.

Alex looked at his friend in confusion, “How do you know all of this?”

“Well l was huge fan of the disaster movies from the 70’s, l am just repeating what they said and it’s common sense surely?”

“Right, well l am very impressed Al, must be said”

“Thanks Alex, however now is not the time for praise, now is the time for action.”

At that moment in time, as the four looked out into the darkness of the surroundings they were now in, they heard something very heavy crashing through the undergrowth! If that wasn’t disturbing enough, the screech was!

“Oh my lord, what the hell is that?” The Navigator moaned.

Before any of them could answer, the undergrowth parted and crashing out towards them was ……..

And here’s my contribution:

an enormous metal beast; it had wheels at the rear but at the front were giant clawed arms which served to change the direction of the machine but also to clear the dense forestation. It halted before the terrified survivors, the massive throbbing engines creating an illusion of life; a black heart of block and pistons beating. In their bewildered state the passengers didn’t see an internal hatch opening, they saw a giant gaping maw that they were certain was going to swallow them whole.

The screaming began and quickly turned to mass hysteria as people fought each other in an effort to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the machine that had so terrified them. Alistair and Alex clung to each other; they too were afraid but their desire not to be separated in this awful moment overrode their natural flight response. Their breath came in short, sharp gasps and Alex could feel Alistair’s knees start to give way.

“Alistair!” he hissed “Come on, you can’t collapse on me now”

Alistair shook his head and tried to lock his knees, he couldn’t let Alex down, but he could still feel the violent trembling that coursed through his body; he clung tighter still and hid his face in Alex’s jacket. Alex’s eyes, meanwhile, were fixed on the hatch in the machine, it was now fully open and someone, or something, was emerging from it. The hairs on the back of his neck rose up and he was aware of being exposed; a quick glance around him confirmed that all the other passengers had fled into the forest. He and Alistair would, it seemed, face this thing alone.

“What do you want?” Even to his own ears, his voice was unsteady.  At the sound of his voice, Alistair turned his face away from Alex’s shoulder and looked at the emerging figure. He fought to maintain control of his bowels as it climbed down from the machine and slowly walked towards them; the last thing he heard before his terror overwhelmed him was the voice of the creature saying……………………………………

my contribution.

“Identify, immediately!” a voice boomed.

A blinding spotlight was suddenly trained on them. Unable to see and afraid to move, Alex and Alistair stood frozen, as if chained to the damp forest floor. The two men exchanged furtive glances and Alex nodded slightly to Alistair that he would answer. He put on a brave face, took a deep breath and said, “I am Alex. And this…”he motioned to his right, “is Alistair.”

“I am not interested in what you are called!” The voice was louder. Closer. “I am asking you what is your species!”

“What?” Alistair stammered. “What the hell is this?”

“Shut up, Alistair,”Alex said. “Let me answer.”

“We are…”, he paused as if he was unsure of his answer, “Human beings”.

Suddenly, the blinding light vanished. They struggled to focus as their eyes began to recover.

The figure was standing before them, a mere 5 feet away. The approach seemed implausible because they had heard no footsteps or any sounds that would betray movement of such a large body. It towered over them at a height of at least 8 feet. Glowing, reptilian eyes pierced the darkness, revealing a enormous, bulbous head perched upon a thin but sturdy frame, supported by strong haunches not unlike a T-Rex. Short but strong arms extended towards them as if to strike anytime. It appeared to be hovering an inch above the damp, mossy floor of the forest.

The two men were paralyzed with fear.

“Human beings”, the figure replied, the voice calm, even, but not at all reassuring to the terrified men. “What makes you think you are welcome here?”

Alex and Alistair turned to stare at each other, certain that their answer had better be a good one. Alex again took the reins.
“We didn’t have a choice. We landed here by accident.”

“Yes. We see that example of primitive technology lying in ruins.”

“Primitive technology?” Alistair blurted out. “That’s a state of the art airplane.”

Alex gave him a shot to the ribs as a reprimand and gave him a look that clearly said shut up.

“Human, to you it may be, as you say ‘state of the art’, but it is most primitive in comparison to our advanced technology.”

Alex, garnering courage asked, “You say ‘ours’. Who, if I may ask are you?”

“We are the rightful owners of this planet. We have been away.”

“How long ?”, asked Alex

“That is not important. What is important is why we are here. We are at the beginning of a rejuvenation process, one that wouldn’t be necessary without you ‘humans’. This was once a fertile, bright planet. Then, you ‘humans’ destroyed it. Over population, pollutants and the weapons used to fight useless wars, all because you can’t get along, have nearly destroyed it.”

The figure moved closer, the glow of its eyes intensified.

“You can’t be trusted to be on this land. It is the last refuge from your infestation.”

The two men backed away a few steps, cowering from the intimidating figure.

“Again”, Alex stammered, “It’s not like we had a choice. We crashed here by accident!”

Alistair, feeling brave, chimed in. “If you tell us where we are, we can try to use the radio on the plane. You know, to call for help. We’ll be out of here and you won’t see us again.”

The figure silently advanced towards them and stopped mere inches from the men, towering over them and said in a flat, mocking tone.

“It’s not a matter of where you are human, it is a matter of when you are…”

I pass the baton to my buddy Steve. The last time I did, he did not disappoint. Have at it, bud.