Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Wrestlemania Reflection

11 years ago today (April 3, 2005) I attended Wrestlemania 21 at The Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. I went with my brother, friends from college and friends from high school. We couldn’t all get seats together so my friends from high school were seated right across from us. It was a magical day for a kid (at that time I was 21) who had been in love with pro-wrestling for his entire life. I finally made it to the Show of Shows. Wrestlemania. It was a good one too. It featured the first ever Money In The Bank Ladder Match. It featured two standout matches - my favorite wrestler Shawn Michaels versus Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle and The Undertaker versus Randy Orton. The event also featured Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and Roddy Piper. In the co-main events Dave Bautista, who starred in the latest James Bond film and plays Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, wrestled, Motorhead played live and, John Cena won his first ever world championship. Since then Cena has won it 14 more times and become the undisputed face of WWE. Sadly, it was also the last Wrestlemania match for one of my favorites - Eddie Guerrero who would pass away in November of 2005 from acute heart failure. After Eddie’s passing I slowly lost interest with wrestling. Wrestlemania 21 would be the last Wrestlemania I’d watch for 8 years.

I am not sure how I reconnected with wrestling. I really don’t. I very rarely watched it on TV over the next 8 years. In fact the only time I would watch a match was if it would be good enough to become part of a social media news feed but safe to say around three years ago I got hooked again. Last year I was lucky enough to go to my first ever house show in Madison Square Garden. Right behind Wrestlemania this is probably one of the coolest things you could do as wrestling fan. It was a wintery late February night. I was fortunate to attend with a young woman whom I had been dating and had convinced myself I had converted into a fan through watching the E! reality show Total Divas. I was wrong. Half way through a 3 hour and 15 minute show I looked over and though ‘Dear God! She’s bored out of her mind.’ It has been 45 minutes since her favorite wrestler - Nikki Bella - had won her match and I dreaded how much she was going to hate sitting here with a bunch of ‘smarks’ for the next hour plus. 'Smarks' or ‘Smart Marks’ is a wrestling term for fans who know the product is fake but still love it anyway - often times too much. Smarks are the people who complain about why Wrestler A isn’t a bigger star, or why Wrestler B is in the main event when he doesn’t “deserve” it, etc. etc. etc. Lucky for me she was loving and just happy that I was doing something that gave me joy. It was a special night and one I haven’t forgotten.

One of my takeaways from that night was that while a lot of the smarks were annoying to be around - they were often joyless and sarcastic, I got a huge kick out of watching the kids in the audience. It reminded me that wrestling isn’t FOR me. I mean I can still enjoy it - and I clearly do - but it’s for kids. These are characters. Men and women dressed as good guys and bad guys, monsters and myths. The awe and excitement that I saw in the little boys and little girls made me so happy. It reminded me of what I must’ve looked like and felt like watching wrestling Saturday mornings after Catechism classes at the local church. My brother and I learned the sacraments from 10:30-11:00am and then we learned more lessons about right and wrong from Hulk Hogan, The Million Dollar Man, Randy Savage, Sgt. Slaughter and The Ultimate Warrior from 12:00-1:00pm. The lessons were taught in their interviews and in the ring. The bad guys telling us how terrible America was and how anyone could be bought for the right amount of money. The good guys telling us to train, say our prayers and take our vitamins, and to fight hard even when the odds are against you. 

Today I will watch Wrestlemania for the first time with children. I’m anxious to see what it’s like. I hope they are filled with the same awe and wonder that I left watching my first Wrestlemania 26 years ago. Wrestling isn’t for me. It’s for them. It’s about taking simple stories and simple men and women and transforming them into something larger than life. Larger than life characters for little kids and the little kid that lives inside of us. It’ll always be for kids and that’s how it should be. If not, how else will you have a a new generation of young men and women who drag helpless dates to wrestling shows.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

This Must Be The Place - The Talking Heads

I don’t know when I first heard it. I can’t even remember if I liked it. Even still, "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" by The Talking Heads remains one of the songs that seem to be the perfect soundtrack for most any kind of mood I find myself in. 

The song was part of the Speaking In Tongues album and was released in November of 1983. Lead singer and writer David Byrne said that he wrote "This Must Be The Place" as a love song:

"That's a love song made up almost completely of non sequiturs, phrases that may have a strong emotional resonance but don't have any narrative qualities. It's a real honest kind of love song."

Byrne mentions the thing I love the most about the song, the phrases in the song have such wonderful emotion and vivid imagery but there is no narrative. They are stand alone pieces. I believe that is why I can always go back this song whenever I am happy, sad, in love, out of love, lost or found. I would say that over the course of the last six years whenever some important in my life seems to leave or exit I play this song on repeat. It just makes sense for me. 

There is always a line or lines in the song that can reflect the moment in my life. Music is magic. It’s the soundtrack to my life (all of our lives really). When I am in love I can connect with the following verse:

I got plenty of time
You got light in your eyes
And you're standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money, always for love
Cover up and say goodnight, say goodnight

There have been plenty of times since I came to New Jersey where I feel lost. Where I miss home and my friends. Then I realize the place I long for is 3000 miles away. Those people aren’t anywhere near. I remember that this is where I live. This is where my life is now. It’s at those times that I can hear Byrne singing:

Home, is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there

When I was in my last relationship there was a line that reminded me of my girlfriend and how I felt like I belonged wherever I was because she was there with me.:

I come home, she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place
I can't tell one from the other
I find you, or you find me?
There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I'll be, where I'll be

Tonight as I write this I am sad. A little more then deflated. I feel like I like a direction, purpose and energy that I had only a short time ago is lost and cannot find. It reminds me of one the final lyrics of the song.:

I'm just an animal looking for a home
And share the same space for a minute or two

It’s a sad notion. It’s how I feel tonight. Just a dumb animal looking for a place and time where I belong. But with the next line there is hope. Hope of finding that place, that time and that person who will make that place “home”. Of course there is hope, it is a love song after all:

And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I'm dead

At the end of the interview that I quoted above David Byrne says this about his hesitation and approach to write a love song.

"I don't think I've ever done a real love song before. Mine always had a sort of reservation, or a twist. I tried to write one that wasn't corny, that didn't sound stupid or lame the way many do. I think I succeeded; I was pretty happy with that."

Well, Mr. Byrne thank you for this song. It has meant a lot to me the last few years. I am pretty happy with the way it came out too.

The video below is from the movie "This Must Be The Place" starring Sean Penn in what I can only imagine is Penn's attempt to look like Robert Smith from The Cure circa 1983.


Saturday, January 16, 2016


Daniel is the Elton John song that means the most to me. I’ve always liked it. Even as a kid being 7, 8, 9 years old i remember liking it whenever it came on the radio. As I grew older it went from being just a song I liked to hear to meaning so much more.

I grew up in a very troubled home. I can honestly say that I don’t ever remember my parents being in love. i can’t even recall them being affectionate with one another. I don’t remember flowers or cards. I saw a lot of violence and anger in my home. I saw drug abuse and despair. I grew up and saw one parent who was broken, and through their pain break they broke other parent. Both of them damaged and hurt beyond repair. They’ll never be whole. I didn’t witness this alone though. Seeing all of this with me, experiencing it with me, was my younger brother. 

One of the biggest burdens that I carry with me is a sense of survivor’s guilt. You see, growing up I had one special skill, talent, passion, knack or whatever you want to call it and that was my performance is school. I was a really good student. Teachers loved me. I loved to read. When a Scholastic’s book order form came to school I couldn’t have been happier. More books to read. New things to learn. I was good at something. Steven was good too. Just not as good. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for him to be compared to me - not just at school but at home. To make a long story short, education became my ticket out of my circumstances. When I turned 18 I left and went to school two and half hours away from home. I met new friends and new people. I saw things that I never saw growing up. The problems of home seemed a million miles away. Steven never found his ticket. 

At some point early in his life Steven had to endure a lot of pain (physical and emotional) for not having school come as easily for him as it did for me. By the time he was in third grade he would hide his homework before my dad got home. By fifth grade Steven almost never “had homework”. Steven was smart. He was good with his hands. He could solve puzzles pretty well. But Steven never got to leave home. He never got to meet people and see places that would let him know there was something better. When we growing up together at least we had one another. We could be there for each other and I could try to take care of him and he could try to take care of me. The one day I turned 18 and I was gone, and he was still there. Still there dealing with all of it on his own. I’ve always felt guilty about that. I always look at my life and Steven’s and wonder “why me? What did I do that I was saved and he wasn’t? Could I have done more for him?”. 

As I got older and I listened to Daniel it would make me cry. It would remind me of Steven. Daniel was written by Elton John’s long time collaborator Bernie Taupin. It was supposed to be a song about a Vietnam veteran who comes home to adulation when all he wants to do is go home and forget his time as a soldier. However, a verse was cut from the original draft of the song and left the song up to much interpretation. For me the song has come to embody the way I imagine Steven feels about me and our childhood. I am Daniel who has been to Spain - I’ve traveled and seen the pretty things he never has.

I cry almost every single time I hear the song. Usually during the third verse:

Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won't heal
Your eyes have died but you see more than I
Daniel you're a star in the face of the sky

Each time I hear it I feel something different and it means something different. Sometimes I imagine it’s Steven asking me if I still remember how painful our childhood was but how I am lucky because I managed to get out (“you see more than I”). Sometimes Steven becomes Daniel in the verse. Even though Steven is younger he’s experienced more pain than I have because he was never been able to get away from the chaos. In that sense he is ‘older’ (Daniel my brother, you are older than me). 

The line that sticks out the most though is “Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal?”  I know how scarred we are. How much we’ve been hurt. How our past has shaped us and everything we’ve done for better or for worse and how we carry so many terrible memories with us. 

The song Daniel means a lot to me. It always will. While it reminds me of some terrible memories and horrible burden and pain I carry with me everyday, it also reminds me of my brother. Someone I love very much. Someone who I would do almost anything for. Someone who one day I hope can travel on a jet plane with me to go see Spain.

I love you little brother.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A List Of Things About Me...

I’m funny
I’m smart
I love sports
I’m full of random useless facts
Alison by Elvis Costello is my favorite song
I suffer fools but that doesn’t mean I like it
I enjoy random weird quotes
I like stability and routine
It's easier for me to be melancholy than happy
I never thought I’d like exercising but now I do it regularly
I’ve gotten used to going to the movies alone
I’ve driven across country by myself
I think it’s important to tell people how much you care about that at random times
I’m learning to be more selfish
The two things I think is true of all the people I consider my friends is that I trust them and I don’t ever question their motives.
I’m petty
I have a good memory about almost everything, but slights and negative memories are always more vivid and clear
I can hold a grudge
I’m not good with directions
I like being a designated driver
For most of my life it was always easy to forgive
Recently I find it much harder to forgive
I like compliments but I don’t chase them
I think it’s important to ask follow up questions if you really want to know how someone is doing
My heart isn’t as full as it used to be
I like to go for a long walk on my birthday
My birthdays always tend to be really good or god awful - with very few in between.
When i hear that quote about how it takes more muscles to frown than to smile I think to myself, 'happy people are lazy.'
I like buying things for others
I always hold out hope that people will be good, but It’s easier for me to see and believe that we are all flawed and selfish
I think the words we choose are important - so be careful what you say. I’ll be sure to remember them.
I believe that your words don’t matter if they aren’t consistent with your actions.
I am willing to meet someone halfway.
I’m embarrassed by my the name of my email address
I remember using AIM in college
I think we are all hypocrites - it’s just important to realize it and try to be less of one
I believe that sometimes it’s important to judge your friends. As long as your judging them to their face.
I don’t think it’s easy to say your sorry.
I am great at being passive aggressive
When i hear the phrase “cut your nose off to spite your face” i don’t hear it as a warning. I hear a piece of advice.
I am wary of zealots.
I cry a lot
I don’t watch as many cartoons as people might think.
I’ve gotten a lot of my life advice from The Simpsons
I don’t like new situations
i like the idea of options even though I tend to stick to what I know.
i like to be liked - even though sometimes I don’t think I deserve it.
I think that most people’s understanding of me is a caricature.
I like to reflect and analyze.
When I was young I wanted to be an archeologist.
A TV and the 2001 World Series dramatically changed the course of my life.
When I was young I loved reading books about dinosaurs and Sitting Bull.
I like when people do the little things that show they’ve been listening and paying attention.
I don’t want to die along but I think I am emotionally prepared for it.
I like the saying: “God takes care of old folks and fools”.
I try not to get excited about anything because it help me avoid disappointment. 
I don’t like the way my feet smell after a long run
I’m prone to jealousy 
I love Otis Redding
I like the idea of reading much more than the actual act of reading
I like to draw
I almost don’t draw at all anymore
I used to be much more creative
I eat the sausage on my pizza last along with the crust
I’ve used Nair on my back hair
I’ve run a half marathon
Wrestling was a huge part of my childhood and will probably always be important to me.
I often wonder if I’ll be happy the next time the Dodgers win the World Series or if I’ll be relieved.

I don’t know if I’ve felt “at home” somewhere in a very long time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Song To Get Carried Away By...

I think this song 10 on my list of 30. It’s the third track off of Passion Pit’s 2012 album Gossamer. It is Carried Away. 

Before I get into the song any further. The lead singer of Passion Pit looks like former USC QB and Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart. I'm serious just look at the pictures and tell me I am crazy. I dare you. 

I don't think I ever would have listed to Passion Pit before coming to New Jersey and being introduced to them during, of all things, an orientation leader recruitment video.

What I really like about this song is that I can play it in just about any mood and it makes sense. It’s a poppy upbeat track filled with synthesizers. It just sounds fun. It makes you feel happy. I’ve seen this band live and the concert is high energy and tons of fun. When it comes to this song the crowd LOVES singing the chorus. But the beauty of the song is that it's lyrics betray it’s musical tone.

The song is about flawed, doomed, tumultuous relationships and friendships and the self destructive roles people play in them. Here are some of lines that I particularly enjoy.

Listen, I'm your friend (don't quote me)
But not a friend worth noting
Yes, please don't ever note me as your friend

Who says we have cold hearts?
Acting out our old parts
Let's perform our favorite little scene

I get carried away
Carried away from you
And I'm hoping and I'm praying
Cause I'm sorry, sorry about that
Sorry about the things that I said
Always let it get to my head

Anybody who has been in a relationship or friendship that just seems to be filled with selfishness, self destructiveness and passive aggressiveness will appreciate the lyrics. And if you can’t appreciate the lyrics, just dance to the infectious beat and sing aloud to the chorus! It’s a win either way.

Passion Pit’s Carried Away may not age well 5, 10 or 20 years from now but it’ll always remind me of certain people and take me back to a place and time in my life. Plus, the music video is pretty damn good.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

People Are Strange - And So Is My Taste In Music

So I have not been doing this whole 30 songs for 30 years thing nearly often enough and this post is a bit of cheat. Well, not a bit of a cheat. A BIG FAT STINKIN’ CHEAT. Earlier I had taken a look at a song that reminded me of my mom. Well, I thought it was time to do a song that would remind of my dad. 

I have to say that I attribute a lot of my eclectic taste in music to my dad.

Growing up and going on a road trip with him was a musical experience because you were basically going to hear one or two CDs over and over and over again for the duration of the trip. My dad would take my brother and I on mountain biking and fishing trips. Those trips were long. It would take us anywhere between 75 minutes and three hours to get to the location. I can still remember the list of the CDs in his CD case holder.

  • The Best of Santana
  • Pink Floyd’s The Wall
  • Sade
  • The Counting Crows - Yesterday and Everything After
  • Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits
  • Coolio - Gangster’s Paradise
  • The Very Best of Chicago
  • TuPac - All Eyez On Me
  • Earth Wind and Fire’s Greatest Hits
  • Madonna - Something to Remember NOTE: He owned this CD because of just one song “This Used To Be My Playground”. He would literally pop in the CD, listen to the song four or five times and then replace the CD with something else. I honestly don't think I ever heard another track from that album. Also, who owned the CD was a major point of contention in my parent’s divorce. They never argued about custody of me and my brother (seriously) but this one damn album, with only one song that either of them liked, was grounds for professional mediation (alright - well, the isn't actually true). The point is, in my family there is nothing too petty to hold against somebody or argue over.

So instead of picking one song I am going to pick an album. It’s not an album I listed above, but it is the one album that most reminds me of car rides with my dad. In fact, only Pink Floyd’s The Wall even comes close.

The Very Best of The Doors.

Rather than go into a lengthy explanation of why I chose this double CD album I will highlight a few songs and what I remember about them. Please note that I first began to hear this album on a regular basis at the age of 9 (maybe 8).

Light My Fire -  the song reminds me of seeing The Doors movie at age 8. There are only two things I remember from the movie. I vaguely remember the singer/performance artist Nico being introduced to Jim Morisson. And of course I remember the scene were the band was told not to sing the lines “we couldn’t get much higher" before their Ed Sullivan performance and then did it anyway. This act led to  their life long ban from the show.

Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) - I remember (while still about 9 years old) riding a three wheeler with my brother while my dad was washing our Ford Areostar blaring this song. Whenever it would come on my brother and I would sing the lyrics. We would also hold Squeeze It bottles in our hand pretend to drive the our three wheelers drunk. I won’t say where we learned what drunk driving looks like - but suffice to say at the tender ages of 7 and 9 we knew what drunk driving looked like.

Riders on The Storm- I remember being 10 driving through a desert and realizing, “oh this is a song about a group of murders!”. Ah the innocence of youth.

People Are Strange - When I was in second grade we had a lip syncing contest. Everyone in my class was broken up into groups of four or five. I remember some of the songs other groups choose: 

Kriss Kross’ Jump Jump and MC Hammer’s Addam’s Grove

These songs made total sense. We were 8 years old and they were current hits heard all the time on the radio. Well, for some unknown reason my group let me choose our song. I chose People Are Strange. I wish I could remember the look on my teacher’s face (Mr. Berlin) when he asked me what song we were doing and that song came out of my mouth. We actually performed the song. Just acting weird throughout the performance.  

To get a full appreciation of why this was so fucked up feel free to listen to the song with the lyrics.

How Mr. Berlin didn’t call social services on my family is beyond me.

LA Woman - it’s a really good song (even though it’s over 7 minutes long). and the musical breakdown is pretty musch the go to musical accompaniment to any montage of southern California beaches.

Love Her Madly - a good song and it’s prominently featured in Forrest Gump when they flash to what Jenny is doing during New Year’s Eve 1972.

So there you have it. My dad and the Doors. Two reasons why i have such varied musical taste... and so many weird childhood memories.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


People who bug me at the airport:

The wife or girlfriend who badger their male counterpart.

Sorry if this sounds sexist but it happens every time I go to the airport. Especially earlier in the day. There is always some poor schlub dragging the weight of both his carry on and a clearly failing marriage behind him. Everything he does is wrong. From the security line he picks to how many bins he picks or how he orders food from the fast food restaurant. I always feel sympathy for "badgered husband at the airport guy". He just looks miserable. If a terrorist doesn't try to take the plane down, this guy will.

The old person holding everybody the fuck up! I said it before and I'll say it again, when I'm in charge we are building seperate airports for people with children under 6 and the elderly. What bugs me so much about old people though is that every possible accommodation is made to them so they don't slow the rest of us down! They are given cards so they don't have to take off their shoes or belts. And they still can't get through security without causing a traffics jam.
"I have to take my change out of my pockets?"
Yeah gramps you do! You were fucking around when the Wright Brothers first got off the ground how do you not know what's gonna set off the metal detector.
It's bad enough I'm traveling by myself and seeing your wrinkled face reminds me of the sad lonely death that awaits me someday but can you please just do me a favor and not slow me down at the airport. Please.