Monday, December 31, 2007

Stolen from Nettiemac who Stole it from Kate/Susan who stole it from Melissa who stole it from Drew who stole it from...

Why don't we recap the best of 2007? OK, here we go...

Best Album: There were two albums that really caught my attention in 2007. First was "Raising Sand" from Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. Neither performer could do wrong in my eyes. The next one was "Systematic Chaos" from Dream Theater. The best heavy album of the year - these guys are probably the closest thing to Yes that we have nowadays, except that they are a lot heavier than Yes ever were. Dream Theater may be more experimental than Yes ever was - I'm just waiting for DT to put out their own "Tales from Topographic Oceans" (they came close with 2002's "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence"). Runners-up: Rush's "Snakes and Ladders", which was their best album since 1989's "Presto", and the Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau "Quartet" album. Brad, and especially Pat, could do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.

Best Non-Fiction: Phil Lesh, "Searching for the Sound". A fascinating look at the history of the Grateful Dead, from that band's awesome bass player. I know, this came out in 2006, and Andy Summers (Police) autobiography came out in 2007, but I haven't read it yet.

Best TV Series: It's not a new one, but it's better now than what it was then: "Nip/Tuck". Very strange series, so it's right up my alley.

Best Fiction: I haven't read a fiction story in eons! Someone give me some good ones, please!

Best Kids Music: Give me a break!!

Best Movie: I went to see "August Rush" on Dec. 14. This is such an awesome movie - I would very highly recommend this movie to any music fan.

Best Sign of the Apocalypse: Tom Cruise is still making movies. No one has ever accused Tom of being a good actor.

Best Comeback of the Year: I have to give it up to the Washington Redskins. First, they lose Sean Taylor, who was really coming into his own this season, in a terrible shooting. Then the "double time-out" call against Buffalo that cost them the game. Then they lose their starting quarterback, presumably for the season. They hit rock bottom & could have given up. What a December they had! Todd Collins has thrown 5 TD passes and no interceptions in the last 4 games. Clinton Portis is rapidly becoming a leader for his team. That defense has been nothing short of amazing. And most importantly, they won the last 4 games of the season to make the playoffs. Their road doesn't get easier: they go to Seattle next weekend. Then on to Dallas if they win. And you know what? I would not count the Skins out by any means. The 2008 version of Cinderella? Stay tuned.

Best Old TV show you are just getting into: I really don't have one, but I do have an old TV show that I was into years ago that I have gotten back into: "Twin Peaks". When I was dating Penny in 1990, that used to be a Saturday night ritual for us in her dorm room. We loved that show. Historical fact: 14 years ago today, I rented "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" on VHS. My then-girlfriend (now ex-wife) came over to my apartment & watched this movie. By the time the movie was over, I had gotten sick. Turns out that I had gotten the flu while the movie was on! Oops!

Best Grocery Store: Kind of a no-brainer, don't you think? I love Kroger, and March 6 will make 19 years of employment with that company.

Best (Summer) Vacation: I really didn't have a summer vacation, but the one I had this past spring was awesome - JLo and I went to South Padre Island (see previous post).

Proudest Accomplishments This Year: My promotion from Co-Manager in a store to Assistant Systems Developer in the division office. The last half of 2007 has been the best time I have had in over 10 years.

Goals for Next Year: I only have one. I plan to drop at least 50 pounds. It wouldn't hurt if I drop 75. I plan on doing this by changing my diet, eating less, and working out as often as I can.

Most Exciting Sports Moment of the Year: Arkansas stopping LSU's two-point conversion in the third overtime to beat LSU, 52-50. I was cheering in my office.

Saddest Moment of the Year: In many ways, leaving Hot Springs. I had encountered the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows in the nearly six years that I lived in that town. To a certain extent, I do miss that town, but there are certain people that I will not miss (guess who).

Happiest Moment of the Year: In many ways, leaving Hot Springs. I closed a very painful chapter in my life and opened up a new one. So far, it has been absolutely wonderful, and I love it here in Memphis. I am closer to my aunt & cousin, not to mention rekindling a lot of old friendships from my friends in Jonesboro (I am only one hour away).

We could have an early entry into the best album of 2008: Radiohead's new one comes out on New Years' Day. I can't wait.

OK, that's it for this one. Feel free to discuss, and leave comments with your thoughts. I would love to hear them.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Dan Fogelberg: August 13, 1951 - December 16, 2007. R.I.P.

I get home from work, and I check through e-mails and other stuff, when I stumbled upon Talmadge's blog, and my jaw dropped.

Dan Fogelberg died yesterday of prostate cancer. He was 56 years old.

I have been a huge fan of Fogelberg for a very long time. I have been fortunate to see him twice in concert - and one of those shows featured him, an acoustic guitar, and a piano - and that was it. It totally blew me away. The second time I saw him was in 1995 with my ex-wife. Ironically, I proposed to my ex-wife that weekend. Her favorite Fogelberg song was "Run for the Roses". Strangely enough, that's one I can take or leave.

In his box set, he told of a time where after "Twin Sons..." was finished, he headed for Europe because he feared that the album was heading for disaster. When he came back to the states, he had a hit record on his hands! I remember when I went to see him in 1995, he introduced "Old Tennessee" as one that "goes back many years... if you're old enough to remember this song, you probably have a babysitter tonight." The audience got the biggest kick out of that one.

I have every album the man has put out, and I love them all, but I must single one particular album out: 1981's The Innocent Age. I found that this album held so many meanings for me as I was pushing 30, and now that I am just a few months from turning 40, that meaning has now intensified. If you think about it, the album is a loosely conceptual album about getting older, and so many of those songs leave a haunting effect - and the song that the album closes with, "Ghosts", left a haunting image on me that I still can't shake, 26 years after its release.

I agree with Talmadge - the man did put out quite a bit of sappy material. But less talented people would kill for his songwriting abilities - sappy or otherwise. When the man rocked out, he could rock with the best of them. And the resume of who he has played with & produced reads like a California rock "Who's Who": the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, Little Feat, Emmylou, CSN, I could go on. In this age of computerized crap & all beats with no imagination, Fogelberg's stuff, for me, sounds like a breath of fresh air.

In 1994, my ex-wife bought a copy of the sheet music of his Greatest Hits album. I was so excited when I learned how to play "Longer" and "Leader of the Band", note for note, on my acoustic guitar. Since then, I have managed to learn, either on guitar or piano, the rest of that sheet music. But strangely enough, as you will see, some of my favorite Fogelberg songs weren't the hits.

So, without further adieu, here are my 15 favorite Fogelberg songs, in no order:

1. "Ever On" (The Wild Places, 1990)

This closes out what was, hands down, his best album of the 90s. To me, it is a fitting farewell for this man.

2. "Ghosts" (The Innocent Age, 1981)

Still haunts me to this day.

3. "Windows and Walls" (Windows and Walls, 1984)

The Innocent Age was about getting older; this song is about already reaching that age and wondering what's left. Beautiful melody.

4. "Old Tennessee" (Captured Angel, 1975)

Not just because my new home state is in the title. Great song.

5. "Song from Half Mountain" (Souveniers, 1974)

Fogelberg solo - absolute killer song.

6. "The River" (Home Free, 1972)

Another haunting melody and lyric from his first album.

7. "As the Raven Flies" (Souveniers, 1974)

I agree with Tal - my favorite track from this album, and one unjustly ignored.

8. "Tullamore Dew/Phoenix" (Phoenix, 1979)

Kicks this album off with a bang. Over 8 minutes long and all awesome.

9. "Hearts and Crafts" (Portrait: The Music of Dan Fogelberg 1972-1997, 1997)

This B-side of "Same Old Lang Syne" featuring the Chieftains, and is one of his best songs.

10. "Nexus" (The Innocent Age, 1981)

Very atmospheric song - kicks off this album with a bang as well.

11. "The Innocent Age" (The Innocent Age, 1981)

Could be his best melody and lyric - capturing the simplicity of his heroes in the Buffalo Springfield.

12. "Road Beneath My Wheels" (Live - Greetings from the West, 1991)

A blues song with Fogelberg on bottleneck guitar? This totally rocks!

13. "Seeing You Again" (Exiles, 1987)

This song brings back a ton of memories for this one particular lady that I let go of. Seeing her again was very hard for me, but was inevitable - she was one of my sister's best friends. In retrospect, I wished I had never let her go. I would even go as far as to say that I should have married her instead of who I actually married.

14. "The Reach" (The Innocent Age, 1981)

Very unjustly ignored - one of his most atmospheric and ethereal recordings.

15. "Scarecrow's Dream" (Nether Lands, 1977)

I had to throw in a curve ball, but this is a beautiful song.

Farewell, Mr. Fogelberg. And many thanks for the memories, and for all of the great music that has touched my heart and left a lasting mark on my life.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Back in the High Life Again...

For those of you who have been wondering what I have been doing since my last post back in July - here is a recap of sorts. For all souls who have been concerned about me, let it be known that the concern is greatly appreciated. I'm concerned about myself too!!

Anyway, I started in my new position on July 16. My new boss is a pretty cool person who has shown me the ropes and has been a constant source of encouragement and support ever since I came to Tennessee. The people I work with in my department are pretty cool as well. I have a lot on my plate with this new position, but one of the key things I do are Out-of-Stock audits. I did a store in Memphis & showed my audit to the co-manager who told me that I am not making friends very fast around here. My boss HOWLED when I told him that. He thought it was so funny, he brought it up at a meeting with some Cincinnati corporate bigwigs when they came down. Anyway, I told this person that I have a job to do, and that I am only trying to help, not hurt. I think this co-manager got the message.

With some minor exceptions, I work Monday - Friday. There have been a couple of rare exceptions when a store has had an issue on a Saturday or Sunday, and I go to that store to resolve it, and then I go about my business. I absolutely love my new job - I haven't been this happy at Kroger in a long time.

So, getting used to the new job wasn't a problem. Finding a house that I like turned out to be a nightmare. My real estate agent showed me about 30 houses in Southaven, Olive Branch, Bartlett, and Cordova before I finally found one that I liked. It amazes me how people could care less about houses. I have asked many times, how in the world could people live in a house that looks like that. Anyway, I narrowed my search down to two houses - one in Cordova and one in Bartlett - that I could see myself in. The one in Bartlett was around 1600 square feet that had a huge game room and a fourth bedroom. It was an older home (built in 1977) that needed cosmetic work done on it (mainly paint and new carpet), but it was a decent house. The one in Cordova was about 1450 square feet, but was only 2 years old and in immaculate condition. It also has a jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom (which is big, by the way). I bought the Cordova house. The house is a little smaller than the house I had in Hot Springs, but that's OK. It's just me and JLo that are here...

OK, I now hear you saying, "JLo"? JLo wanted to come with me, and I wanted her to be with me. We are now living together - and I can hear some Christians out there reviling me as I type this. The living arrangement has been a constant struggle. JLo brought all of her stuff with her, and it freaked me out when I saw items in my new home that I had never seen before. We have argued more that we ever have. It's just part of the new adjustment. The first night after the movers brought our stuff was a bad night. It was like a maze just trying to get to the kitchen. I never realized that we had so much stuff. At first, thoughts of me making a terrible mistake with this house crossed my mind, but cooler heads prevailed, and we sat down and had a long talk. Basically, I suggested that we have a major garage sale in the near future - we have too much junk that we don't use, so why do we need it? Fortunately, JLo agreed with me. Unfortunately, we haven't had the garage sale yet! We may do a Christmas garage sale next weekend - weather pending, of course.

I have rekindled old friendships with some of my Jonesboro friends that I haven't seen in a while, and I have gotten e-mails from an old friend of mine from high school as of late. I have seen my ex-brother-in-law and ex-sister-in-law a couple of times. And I even called my ex-wife a couple of times because I needed a couple of favors. The electric bill was in her name, and I needed her signature on release of title. Surprisingly, my ex-wife was very co-operative with me on this. On the day that I closed on my Hot Springs house, I called my ex-wife to thank her for her help. She congratulated me on my promotion, and she told me that she knew that I worked very hard for it. I told her one major perk of the new job, and she thought I would say not having to deal with customers. I told her these three words: "OFF EVERY SUNDAY". She said, "Wow". Then I thanked her and told her that my work in Hot Springs is now officially over. She told me good luck. I haven't spoken to her since, although I heard from a reliable source that she was furious when she found out how much I made from selling my house. I bought the house in Hot Springs for $78,000 in 2001 and sold it for $110,000 in 2007. I pocketed around $28,000 from the sale, which I used to pay off credit card bills & used for down payment on the new home. Pretty cool, huh?

What irritates me now is that I am still unpacking JUNK! But that's OK. JLo loves it here - she managed to transfer from the Kirklands in HS to the Kirklands in Memphis. I have taken her to restaurants that she has never heard of (like the Spaghetti Warehouse in downtown Memphis), and we spent a wonderful evening not too long ago on Beale Street. She really seems to enjoy it here, which is more than what I could say for my ex-wife when we moved to Hot Springs.

As for me, I absolutely love it here. I have been needing to get out of Hot Springs since 2005, and it finally happened for me. There is so much to do in Memphis, and so many places to go. What is just as nice is that Tunica is about 45 minutes from here, and Nashville is about 3 hours from here, should I go there for a weekend. JLo and I have talked about doing that sometime next year.

Speaking of vacations, your humble servant has never been on a cruise before in his life. In 2008, I go on two of them. JLo and I will be taking a cruise from Galveston, Texas, to Cozumel, the week after Valentine's Day. I also won a cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Nassau in the Bahamas, which we will be going on sometime next summer. I am excited, and I can hardly wait.

Speaking of vacations, you already know about the South Padre Island vacation. My second week vacation was spent in Hot Springs - JLo's sister MLo flew from Washington state to Little Rock. Since that vacation, MLo has left her loser husband and is now in Hot Springs until something better comes along. I spent my third week vacation in Dallas, but I was only there for three days, and I was only there for the Dream Theater concert (their new album, "Systematic Chaos", is one of the best albums released in 2007). My fourth week vacation was spent resting and unpacking. I found out that I qualified for a fifth week vacation back in March of 2007 that I didn't know about. I will take that vacation after the holidays, and I will be resting, I'm sure.

As far as concerts, in 2007, I have seen the Who, Little Feat (twice), Dream Theater, Delbert McClinton, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I attended the 2nd annual Feat Fest in Eureka Springs back in September, and the only bad thing about this one is that it started raining during the Feat Jam. I ended up leaving my guitar in the car because I am picky about playing in the rain. Still, Spacely and I had a wonderful time, and you can bet your bottom dollar that we will do this again next year.

Yesterday, JLo and I celebrated three years of dating by going out. We went to On the Border for dinner (we went to On the Border on our first date), and then we went to the late show. If you haven't seen "August Rush", I swear, you need to see this movie. It was such a good movie - the music scenes in this movie are breath-taking. Awesome movie. Do not miss this one.

Now that I have an internet connect, more posts coming from me!! I know - how could you stand the wait?

Until next time... take care.

And Merry Christmas.

- Bolivar