There’s One At Every Show

I’ve been going to rock shows for thirty years. Over the years, I’ve seen maybe a hundred and fifty shows in outdoor sheds, arenas, small theaters, and dive bars. At most of the shows I’ve seen, there’s always that one guy. You know the guy I’m talking about. At my first Rush concert in March 1988, a drunk kid who couldn’t have been more than fifteen decided that it would be a good idea to stagger up to the tenth row and crowd between my friends and I as the band was performing “Tom Sawyer.” We asked him to go back to his seat. He refused, so we pushed his narrow ass back into the aisle. End of dispute.

At another Rush show in 2002, my wife and I were sitting about six rows from the stage. Before the show, I noticed a guy sitting six or seven seats to our right. He was downing beers like it was Prohibition Eve. The drunker he got, the more he started messing with people in front of him, poking them, trying to convince them of his comedic genius. People laughed at him for a while, but when he didn’t stop, they began to get annoyed. This continued throughout most of the show. I thanked my lucky stars that this guy was leaving us alone…until Rush started playing their Grammy-nominated instrumental “YYZ.” At this point her made his way down the aisle toward my wife and I, and inserted himself between us. I asked him to go back to his seat. He refused, insisting that the seat was his. At this point, I moved him past my wife toward his seat. He turned around to face me, and bumped his chest into me, attempting to get past me. He was about 5’7″, maybe a hundred and sixty pounds. I’m six-foot, two-thirty. Before I could even process what had just happened, my hands shot out, and I shoved him. He went ass-over-teakettle back toward his seat, and was eventually escorted from the concert.

On Friday, March 13, 2015, I took my daughter Riley, along with her friend Jansen, to see southern rock band Blackberry Smoke at the Old National Center in Indianapolis. I purchased priority passes, which would allow us early entry into the venue, a standing-room-only affair in the Egyptian Room. We arrived about two hours before the doors opened. There were maybe twenty-five people in line in front of us. I knew that we would end up close to the stage, and was excited that the kids would get to see a great band so close up.

When we finally got into the Egyptian Room, we placed ourselves just a bit to the left of center. There was a row of people in front of us leaning on the barrier that separated the audience from the stage. We were ten feet from the stage. The first of two opening acts came on stage at 8pm, played a few songs, and was followed by a band called The Temperance Movement. The lead singer was very energetic, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the show…everyone, that is, except for a guy in front and a couple of feet to the right of us. Suddenly, he began pointing and gesturing to the lead singer, and it wasn’t to congratulate him on his fine performance. The guy’s girlfriend immediately got in front of him, because it appeared that he was going to jump the barrier and go after the lead singer. The girlfriend spent the rest of The Temperance Movement’s show trying to talk some sense into her boyfriend. I’m not sure what the singer did to draw the guy’s ire, but I am certain that the guy was drunk and acting like a dickhead. ‘There’s one at every show,’ I thought.

As it turned out, there was more than one at this show. Blackberry Smoke took the stage at around 9:45pm. Within about 15 minutes, I noticed a ruckus to my right. There was a little guy, maybe 5’6″, holding his girlfriend’s hand, attempting to push his way to the front of the crowd. He was wearing what looked like a leather biker vest, complete with a top rocker. Turns out it was a Black Label Society vest. En masse and like a well-oiled machine, the crowd pushed and shoved this guy and his lady friend back to where they came from, but not before the guy got in someone’s face for taking his beer. ‘Okay, so there are two at this show,’ I thought.

Wrong again. There were two more instances of what I described above – one to our right and one to our left. Both instances nearly led to fistfights, with drunken idiots being the aggressors in both instances. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, there were two ladies who were so drunk that they could hardly stand up, though through some miracle of physics, they were able to hold each other up.

I realize that not everyone is in agreement on what defines fun, but when you having fun is disruptive to others, potentially puts others in danger, and turns you into an asshole, do us all a favor and stay home. Most of the people at the front of the room waited in the rain for hours before the show, and held their spots up front so that they could enjoy what turned out to be an excellent concert. You, on the other hand, showed up late and thought that it was okay to drunkenly and rudely shove others out of your way to make it to the stage. Try not drinking so much next time. You might be surprised at the good time you have, and you’ll be much less likely to have conflicts with others.

In the interest of transparency, I am a recovering alcoholic. I have been drunk and acted like an asshole many, many times. I don’t have a problem with people who drink in a responsible manner. Turns out, I couldn’t. That’s why I quit drinking in 1996. I will say that I never attended a concert under the influence of anything other than the music. I always figured “Why pay good money to go to a concert and get so drunk I couldn’t remember it?”

 

 

 

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Book Review: Germ Warfare (of the Corporate Kind) by Noel Warnell

41xdnMqsw8L._SS300_Title: Germ Warfare (of the Corporate Kind)

Author: Noel Warnell

Genre: Humor/Self-Help

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Summary

This hilarious debut book is the result of 15 years ‘in the trenches’ research in workplace diseases and by reading it you’ll take a giant leap towards a happier and healthier place to work, for yourself and others as you: • become aware of the 25 disgusting diseases lurking in your office • discover how to quickly and easily identify symptoms • receive expert guidance on how to disrupt and destroy them.

4 STARS

Review

I read this book in less than an hour, and spent a good portion of the time chuckling to myself. You see, I work for a mental health provider. A few years ago, I left my job as director of one of the organization’s outpatient offices to write grants full-time. With the change in job came a change in the location of my office. I went from having my own office with a door that I could shut to working in a large suite of offices and cubicles. As it worked out, I ended up stuck in a cubicle. I went from working in an office filled with mostly social worker types to working in an office filled with all manner of administrative staff (IT, accounting, billing, human resources, etc.).

I wish I’d had a copy of Germ Warfare when I started my new job on cubicle island. It would have saved me a lot of frustration, and would perhaps have slowed the graying of my hair. I won’t run down the different types of corporate diseases, such as “Bitchy-witchy”, “Verbositoxis” or “Fluff,” but I will say that as I read the book and thought about my workplace, I could identify with many of them. Hell, I have symptoms of a couple of them myself. I highly recommend that you buy a copy and stow it in your desk. I recommend taking it with you for your 9am visit to stall #1 – you know, after the coffee and oatmeal kick into high gear.

Bottom line: This a quick and funny read that sheds a humorous light on the different types of people we encounter at work.

Reviewer’s Note: I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Album Review: Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses

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Title: Holding All The Roses

Artist: Blackberry Smoke

Genre: Southern Rock/Country Rock

5 STARS

 

Review

With songs as diverse as the dishes of food on Grandma’s Sunday afternoon dinner table, Holding All The Roses, the fourth studio album from Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke, is a record that shows a band that is maturing, both musically and thematically. And is if that wasn’t enough, the record, which was produced by Brendon O’Brien (AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen), just sounds great.

Lyrically, Charlie Starr sings of love lost on “Living in the Song,” revenge on “Paybacks a Bitch”, narcissism and the need for some people to be the center of attention on “Wish in One Hand”, and the destructive power of drugs and hopelessness on the heartbreakingly honest “Too High.”

Musically, the band is in top form throughout the album. The first track, “Let Me Help You (Find the Door),” is a solid southern rock song that hits you right between the eyes. The title track is a great bit of southern boogie, with great acoustic guitar and fiddle interplay, followed by a rocking electric guitar solo. “Rock and Roll Again,” the first song I heard via streaming prior to the release of the album, is a fun song with an old time rock n roll vibe, with a little edgy electric guitar thrown in for good measure. “Lay It All on Me” is a simple country song that is held together with Brandon Still’s piano and keyboard work, along with some fine steel guitar.

Blackberry Smoke’s rhythm section, consisting of Brit Turner on drums and Richard Turner on bass guitar, lays a solid foundation throughout the album. Brandon Still’s keyboards, though understated much of the time, really shine through, particularly when he’s providing thoughtful texture with what sounds like a Hammond B-3 organ. The guitar duo of Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson is a solid as any duo out there in country music and southern rock. Charlie Starr’s vocals are distinctly southern – soft and melodic, loud and gruff – perfect for the band’s music.

Though I’m a self-professed prog-rock snob, Blackberry Smoke came onto my radar in 2013 when I was flipping through the channels and came across one of their concerts. What I saw and heard took me back to 70s-era southern rock – Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Blackfoot, and Molly Hatchett – stuff I listened to on WFBQ-Indianapolis as a preteen and teenager. Blackberry Smoke’s heartfelt music and honest lyrics about everyday problems really appealed to me. I immediately went out and purchased all of their music. Holding All The Roses has all of that and more. The music has a universal appeal that is sure to span genres and generations. Thanks for keeping it real guys!

Book Review – Tortured Dreams by Hadena James

imgresTitle: Tortured Dreams

Author: Hadena James

Genre: thriller

Series or Standalone: Book 1 in the Dreams & Reality Series

Summary

Aislinn Cain’s life is a horror story – A Serial Killer Thriller

When the US Marshals Serial Crimes Tracking Unit comes knocking at Aislinn Cain’s door, she is given a chance to use her past to save other people’s futures. She has survived attacks by two different serial killers and devoted her life to studying the darker side of human history.

A new killer is using medieval torture methods to slay his victims. She can give them a glimpse into his twisted world, but not without a cost. If she opens herself, she risks falling into the depths of her own darkness. Can she afford to help, knowing that the cost could be her own humanity?

Review

1 STARS

I was excited when I started this book, sure that it was going to be a top-notch thriller. How can you go wrong with a killer that uses medieval torture devices? What I got instead was a book filled with a lot dialogue, much of it meaningless, and very little in the way of action.

The main character, Aislinn Cain, is a shallow, unapologetic sociopath, and thus, very hard to like or even care about. I don’t feel like any of the characters in the book were particularly well-developed. Most, including Aislinn, felt like robots responding to stimuli, but unable to do much of anything else.

What action there was, although somewhat fantastical and hard to believe, did manage to move the story along, unlike the endless, meaningless banter between the various characters.

Bottom line: This book could have been cut by twenty-five to fifty percent and wouldn’t have lost anything except a lot of meaningless dialogue.

Remember When Facebook Was Fun?

imgresI figure I’ve been on Facebook for about six years now. I went through a period when I was lucky to log on once a week. For the past couple of years, I have visited Facebook on a daily basis. Many days, I am on the site multiple times. It has become my go-to way to communicate with many of my friends. I also really enjoy reading people’s updates and seeing pictures of them with their families.

However, for some people, Facebook has become a forum for their endless discontent with society. You know the people I’m talking about. Every other post consists of some meme touting their political party (or demonizing the political party they don’t like). Or maybe their discontent revolves around gay rights, racial inequality, animal rights, vaccinations for children, workers’ rights, minimum wage, women’s rights, immigration, police brutality, the 2nd Amendment, the right to say Merry Christmas, the right not to have to hear Merry Christmas, religion…the list could go on forever.

imgresDon’t get me wrong, these are all noble causes. Well, all but one. The anti-vaccination bullshit rankles my hide. I was vaccinated as a child, my children and grandchild are vaccinated per the recommendations of their doctors, and none of us are autistic or paralyzed or suffering from any mental or physical maladies that anti-vaccination proponents like to attribute to vaccinations. I get my medical advice from a person who studied medicine and received a medical degree, not some bonehead like Jenny McCarthy. Okay, enough of that.

23903663Though I identify myself as a member of one of America’s two major political parties, I am able to recognize that each political party has its own set of strengths and weakness, and that there are enough idiots on both sides of the aisle to fill a 747 or two. Every day, I see memes bashing both political parties. Many of these memes contain information that is presented out of context, or information that is simply untrue.

As for other causes and issues, remember that you don’t win people over to your cause by ramming information down their throats, particularly information that is inaccurate, or is presented in such a manner that vilifies people who may not agree with you. I am a firm believer that honest, open, and…wait for it… respectful dialogue is what leads to change, not hate and vitriol.

Far be it from me to tell someone what to post on Facebook or criticize someone else’s posts. However, just because someone took the time to make a cute little meme DOESN’T mean that the information on that meme is anywhere close to being true and imagesaccurate. What it means is that someone wants you to think a certain way, and unless you fact-checked the information on that meme before you posted it, you drank the Kool-Aid, and by extension, you are letting someone else tell you how you should think. Here’s an idea: THINK FOR YOURSELF. Folks, there are enough idiots in this world who can’t or won’t think for themselves. Don’t be one of them.

Also, I have a couple of questions for the people who spend hour after hour, day after day posting the kind of stuff I have been talking about. Do you really believe in the causes you are “promoting?” Do you believe imgresin them enough to participate in peaceful rallies or volunteer at the animal shelter (or homeless shelter or wherever)? If so, that’s great! If not, you are what’s known as a slacktivist. Slacktivism is “the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slacktivism).

For the sake of transparency, I have, in the past, posted memes without verifying the information they contained. I have, in the past, been a slacktavist. Currently, I don’t make a habit of either. I try not to post stuff that is divisive on Facebook. I go to Facebook to have fun, catch up with friends, and post stuff about my family. People who I’m friends with on Facebook know that I have the world’s 10418253_10204519337050094_3840918047854906823_ncutest granddaughter, Ariana, and good kids, because I post lots of pictures and stories. And they know that I’m a big fan of the Canadian rock band Rush. And England’s Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree. And Pink Floyd. Oh, and Indiana University basketball and Indianapolis Colts football. That’s what Facebook should be: a place where people go to share what’s good. You want the bad? Just watch your local news or any of the cable news shows. There’s enough bad stuff and bullshit there to fertilize every cornfield in Indiana. Do we really need to rehash it all on Facebook? Or worse yet, present information that is false or misleading?

Yesterday, I was talking my good friend Julie Foltz about this very issue. She is passionate about helping people with HIV, and trust me, she ain’t no slacktavist. She puts her money, time, and talent where her mouth is. She said, “I think I get more depressed from looking at Facebook and the hatred that people in this world have.” I completely agree with her. I love it when someone builds up someone else on Facebook, rather than tearing them down. I love it when I see a picture of someone’s kid, happy and carefree, rather than some idiotic meme that someone else created, bashing one group of people or another.

If this blog applies to you, do me a favor and try this: Go one day, heck, even one week, without posting anything negative. Instead, focus on the positive things in your life. You’ll be amazed at how good it makes you feel. Or, if what I have said offends you, feel free to unfriend me or unfollow me or whatever. My newsfeed will immediately be less cluttered.

Book Review – Cold River Resurrection by Enes Smith

urlTitle: Cold River Resurrection

Author: Enes Smith

Genre: Thriller

Series or Standalone: The Cold River Series – Book 2

Summary

City girl Jennifer Kruger got more than she bargained for when she trespassed on the Cold River Indian Reservation, searching for Bigfoot. She became lost and stumbled upon grisly evidence of murder and mutilation. Rescued by Cold River Tribal Police Lieutenant “Smokey” Kukup, and caught up in a modern war, she seeks to stay alive as she finds herself attached to Smokey and his precocious nine-year-old daughter.

Cold River Resurrection is an action-filled thriller set on a modern day reservation.

3 STARS

Review

I judge a book by my eagerness to return to it, to get back to the action. This book kept me coming back often, and was firmly a four-star book…until the book’s climactic scene, when the realism that had been firmly established throughout the book was thrown out the window in favor of something out of left field – a convenient way to excise the main characters from a seemingly inescapable situation.

Despite my disappointment in the novel’s climax, I still enjoyed the book. The plot moved at a pace that kept me engaged and wanting more. Where else are you going to find a book with Sasquatch hunters, a drug cartel, and an Indiana reservation? It took a while, but the author did a convincing job of weaving all disparate plot lines together into a cohesive and (mostly) convincing story.

The author also developed interesting characters. “Smokey” Kukup is the strong, silent type – an American Indian man raising his nine-year-old daughter Laurel following the overdose death of his wife. He struggles with guilt over the death of his wife while wanting a better life for Laurel, who has unwavering love for and faith in her father.

And then there is Jennifer Kruger, a young woman lost in the woods while hunting for Sasquatch with her boyfriend. She is rescued by Smokey, and as the story progresses, they begin to develop feelings for one another. A little predictable? Absolutely, but the budding relationship develops at a believable pace rather than the two just hopping into the sack. And, it develops to the delight of Laurel, who feels an immediate bond with Jennifer, a feeling that is reciprocated by Jennifer.

Bottom line: Cold River Resurrection, despite a few flaws, is a good book and worth your time, especially if you enjoy books by the likes of Tony Hillerman. The information about American Indians and their beliefs adds a different dynamic to character and plot development.

Determined

The bravest girl I know, Ariana Valerie Combs, entered the world on September 30, 2011, and by all appearances was a normal baby for the first three weeks of her life. On October 23, 2011, she went from being a normal baby to one whose life would be forever changed.

311887_2540433956826_1636852671_nShe began having seizures and was taken to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. We would later learn that she had suffered at least fifteen strokes. It was touch and go for a while, but we finally got to take our granddaughter home two days before Thanksgiving, but not before we were offered a list of long-term care facilities for when we got tired of caring for a baby that would, according to the doctors, never walk or talk.

As we celebrated the holidays and welcomed 2012, it became increasingly apparent that Ariana was not a normal baby. She wasn’t hitting age-related milestones, but she was always a joy to be around. In February 2012, Ariana’s mother, our oldest daughter, unable to cope with the rules of our household and the demands of a new baby, decided to leave home. Wisely, she decided to leave Ariana in the care of my wife and I.

Life in our house continued, with everyone pitching in to care for Ariana. Eventually, she went from not moving on her own to pulling herself along with her right arm, her left leg bent awkwardly behind her. Finally, she started walking with the assistance of a hard plastic brace on her left foot and ankle that keeps her knee from hyper-extending.

10426609_10204339552435591_4653242546329853901_nNot knowing if she would ever talk, we worked to teach her sign language. She hit her second birthday, a joyful, gregarious toddler who didn’t need words to express what she was feeling. The light in her eyes and the smile on her face spoke volumes.

Her walking improved, and eventually she stopped pulling herself across the floor with her right arm altogether. Her third Christmas, in 2013, was a joyous occasion. Though reluctant to open her gifts, she eventually got into the spirit, playing with her new toys, and oohing and ahhing over her new clothes. She even helped others with their gifts, and seemed content in the joy that others’ gifts were bringing them.

2014 brought renewed hope for all of us that were involved in her care and upbringing, including my parents, who watch her two days a week while my wife works. She was progressing well in her multiple therapies, including occupational, developmental, physical, and speech therapies. She bonded with her therapists, and they bonded with her. They challenged her on a daily basis, and most of the time she responded positively, working hard. She had her bad days. Don’t we all?

Sadly, I don’t remember the exact date, but sometime around Memorial Day 2014, it happened. It was as if someone flipped a switch in her little brain. Ariana uttered her first word, which, according to me, was Papaw. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. We were overjoyed. A little girl that was neither supposed to walk nor talk was now doing both! Now, there are times when we can’t get her to be quiet!

10418253_10204519337050094_3840918047854906823_nIn July, we rented a cabin on Black Lake in northern Michigan. As always, it was a relaxing vacation. It was also a week of firsts for Ariana: she played in the sand beside the lake, she was pulled in an inner tube behind a boat (safely in the arms of her Aunt Riley), and she caught her first fish. To see her revel in life’s simple pleasures warms my heart.

Because she is such an inspiration, I like to share her story with both acquaintances and strangers. I used to tell people that she was a stroke victim. One day, as I was telling her story to someone, saying that she was a stroke victim, it hit me. She has never viewed herself as a victim. Why should I? I immediately corrected myself, and said that she was a stroke survivor.

She has moved far beyond the feeble, disabled, bed-ridden child we were led to believe we would be taking home from Riley Hospital in 2011. She has her challenges, but she hits them head-on like the true conqueror she is. When she sets her mind to do something, she never gives up until she’s accomplished her goal. This trait will serve her well throughout her life.

10502059_10204550372900567_3588267187939955653_nShe has become, for the most part, a typical toddler. If you ask her to do something and she doesn’t want to do it, she’ll let you know she doesn’t want to do it. However, she is polite in her defiance. Just yesterday, I said, “Ariana, it’s time to put your books away.” She looked at me, smiled, and said, “No thank you, Papaw,” and then sauntered out of the room, in her mind putting the issue to rest. To say she is a little bit independent and headstrong is like saying habanero peppers are a little bit hot and spicy.

That defiance, which is normal for a child her age, is balanced with a sweet personality. She genuinely cares about how others feel, and is not afraid to give a friend or a stranger a hug or a simple “Hi.” In short, she is developing characteristics that will allow her to continue to be successful throughout her life.

If I’ve had a bad day, I can be reasonably sure that when I walk through the door at home, Ariana will look up, see me, and run to me, yelling, “My Papaw!” No matter what kind of day I’ve had, this always puts a smile on my face and warms my heart. You can’t put a price on that!

976175_10203108000202151_1878770938_oI would like to dedicate this to everyone who has had a hand in helping us raise Ariana, especially my wife Carla, my daughters Savanna and Riley, my parents, my in-laws, family and friends, all of Ariana’s therapists and doctors, and the wonderful people at our church – South Meridian Church of God. We can’t do it without you.

Most of all, I dedicate this to my wonderful, inspirational granddaughter. Ariana, as you turn three today, please know that you care about others and are cared about, that you value others and are valued, and most importantly, that you love others and are loved.