Only kindness matters

We laid by uncle to rest yesterday in a leafy cemetery in Cuyahoga Falls, just down the road from where he and his family have lived for the past many years. I was thinking a lot about the idea of funerals and elegies, and what sort of message might be drawn from my own life when all is said and done.

There’s a lot that I plan to do — and a lot that I’ve done — but I think what matters most is how you treat other people and how you lift up their spirits when your paths cross. “Only kindness matters.”

Uncle Steve was a kind man, and he will be missed every day for a very long time.


Three feet off the mark every now and then

I did not accomplish my goal for September. And I won’t be able to accomplish it this month, either. I’m totally fine with this. There’ll be another chance down the line.

A lot of things happened last week that swept me away from my daily writing on this website. Some of those things had been planned well in advance, and I was prepared to write a few stories ahead of time and schedule them out on a nice daily basis. Then other things happened that weren’t planned at all, and my schedule spiraled out of control a bit.

The long and short of it is that my uncle died last Wednesday, and one of my best friends got married on Saturday (in Phoenix). I’ll be attending the calling hours for Uncle Steve today, and joining my cousins as a pallbearer tomorrow morning. The last week of conversations with family members and thoughts about my uncle’s passing has been tough — particularly on an empathetic level, in which I consider the pain of my dad (Steve’s brother) and my aunt and my cousins (his three kids, all around my age). I’ve been thinking about what they’ve been thinking about.

The wedding, meanwhile, was lovely. I joined some of my lifelong friends in the Arizona heat for a three-day extravaganza. My, how we laughed. And drank. And celebrated.

I guess the whole point of this post today is a bit of recognition that not all goals are met — but there’s always another shot at them, right around the corner of the calendar.


I think about this tweet often, and I return to it today. I haven’t really had time to process news reports of the mass murders in Las Vegas, but the sheer numbers are jarring — almost beyond belief.



“It was hard not to notice how a movement that began with a player explaining why he kneeled for the anthem had reached the point where a player was forced to explain why he stood for the anthem.”

I’m fascinated by the inherent absurdity into which the #TakeAKnee protests have quickly evolved. It’s not surprising; the national media and the president, of course, enjoy wringing all critical thought out of cultural phenomena. The protests — originated by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid in dissent of an unjust national pathos, of a country that treats its black citizens as little more than a passing thought — have been transmogrified into a bizarre #SupportTheTroops mish-mash of jingoism and knee-jerk presidential politicking. Woof.

And so we end up with statements like the above, which was taken from this very good Deadspin piece. This is what you get: It’s a Mexican standoff where no one’s free to make a move, lest they wind up dead. Mutually assured destruction, 10 feet off the original mark. It’s as American as hatred and apple pie.

False starts

cbI was going to write up a long-ish essay on the #TakeAKnee protests in the NFL and elsewhere this weekend, but my day is incredibly busy and I’ll have to find time on another day for a deep dive like that.

Needless to say, I fully support nonviolent resistance to our country’s racist and xenophobic leadership.

And then, of course, I wanted to write about that very leadership’s stance toward Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory now facing a nearly boundless humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria. I’ll have a piece in Scene this week, co-written with my colleague, but there’s much more to say on all that, and I’ll get around to writing something more in-depth on the Puerto Rican plight (and some of my own goals intersecting with the same).

Needless to say, I fully support Americans of all stripes getting involved — even if that only means reading up on the history of the island and engaging your federal representation to get help to those millions of people.

And then, naturally, I had said that I’d write about Exile on Main Street today as a sort of “part one” to what might be an ongoing series about specific albums and how they shape my life.

Needless to say, I’ll get to that later, too, and for now mention only that Exile is an amazing album that I’ve enjoyed keeping front and center in my world for the past seven days. I’ve had “Sweet Black Angel” stuck in my head for most of that time.

I’ve got to get back to my day here, so I’ll leave you with this: Charles Bradley died on Saturday. He was an amazing and supremely talented musician, and I feel so lucky to have seen him perform at Beachland Ballroom a few years ago. Here is one of his finest songs, and I’m sure it couldn’t possibly be more timely.

My top 25 most listened-to bands of the last six months

This sums it up pretty well.

  1. Phish
  2. 311
  3. Aesop Rock
  4. moe.
  5. Fugazi
  6. The Gourds
  7. My Morning Jacket
  8. Built To Spill
  9. Slightly Stoopid
  10. JJ Grey & Mofro
  11. Soundgarden
  12. Atmosphere
  13. The String Cheese Incident
  14. Trampled By Turtles
  15. Lettuce
  16. Queens of the Stone Age
  17. Led Zeppelin
  18. R.E.M.
  19. Foxygen
  20. Modest Mouse
  21. Wilco
  22. Grateful Dead
  23. Radiohead
  24. The War On Drugs
  25. Brother Ali

(Data provided by ManageMyMusic and Spotify)

Sooty tern

I never planned on visiting this place, but I’m glad I did. It’s been a good ride so far, and today I turn nine-and-twenty. I’m pretty thrilled about it; I think I’ll send this decade out in style and achieve a few nice goals in the process. (Honestly, I’m very excited about my 30s. But we’ll get there in about a year.)

The world seems more aligned today than it has in recent September 23s. There’s a meditative calm around me, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this new chapter unfolds in the year ahead. I’ve learned so much from the good and the bad in the last nine years; it feels empowering to take those lessons and blend them into my present.

That’s the ticket: Make the past count, no matter what happened. Let it change as you change, and let it be. I’ve been fortunate to lead a blessed and wonderful life, due completely to the incredible friends and family around me.

(Strawberry Fields Forever is playing in my living room now, and I think of how I saw my favorite band perform this song at Madison Square Garden in July and how my dad gave me Magical Mystery Tour for one of my early birthdays and how it’s been one of the great constants in my life. Music is the most important thing in my life. It colors all my love.)

Someone told me last night that there’s a sooty tern in Dover. One of the hurricanes blew it northward into Ohio, and it sounds like the bird doesn’t really want to leave. I think I understand how it must be feeling. It’s nice here, and the people are lovely.