Will the Real David Crosby Please Stand Up?

Last night, we saw Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Keller Auditorium in Portland. Some of our Facebook friends were surprised to learn that David Crosby is not dead. Truth is, he’s alive and well. And for one blissfully ignorant half-hour, we thought we had met this rock ‘n roll legend.

We had time to kill before the concert, so we were strolling around the auditorium. A couple of tour buses were parked in back and standing next to them, just minding his own business and leaning against a railing, was a very distinct looking man who was bald on top with a shaggy mane of white hair cascading down the sides and a big, bushy mustache.

“Holy shit!” we said. “It’s David Crosby!”

We don’t generally like to bother famous people, but he was introducing himself to his fans, posing for pictures, and chatting away. So we approached and shook his hand.

“I’m a big fan!” I announced.

Tara was wearing a t-shirt from our Tom Petty concert last month. “Tom Petty,” David Crosby snorted. “He sings through his nose!”

“We’re much more excited to see your show,” Tara said, stretching the truth a little but more than happy to butter the guy up. After all, it was David freakin’ Crosby. He played Woodstock, man.

“We hate to bother you, but could we pose for a picture?” we asked.

David Crosby was happy to oblige. He put his arm around me (OMG!), smiled, and joked about how “we go way back.” It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.


We thanked him for his time and walked away, immediately posting this picture to Facebook and Instagram. For the next thirty minutes, we could not believe our good fortune. It’s not every day you shake hands with a rock ‘n roll pioneer.

And then, Tara had to go and pull out her phone.

She clicked on a hashtag I had posted – #csny – and pulled up a whole bunch of photos of Crosby, Stills & Nash. Recent ones.

“Umm, that was not David Crosby,” she said.

“What are you talking about?!” I replied. “That was totally David Crosby.”

Only, she was right. The man we met was most definitely not David Crosby. THIS is David Crosby:

davidcrosby110613wWell, shit. In seconds I had gone from shooting the breeze with a rock ‘n roll legend to shaking hands with a weird, fat, sweaty Portland guy who put his arm around me.


Yeah, he fooled us. The resemblance was pretty remarkable (though in looking at recent photos, not quite so much as we initially believed). At least we weren’t the only ones bamboozled by this weirdo. People were chatting him up left and right and taking pictures with the guy. One poor schmuck had him sign a CSNY record album he was toting around. Now, that would piss me off.

In retrospect, it did seem odd that David Crosby was just hanging around outside the auditorium 45 minutes before a show without a care in the world, taking the time to chat up everybody who happened to wander by.

That guy’s a real jackass, whoever he is. I’d almost rather have remained in the dark because boy, were my friends awed and impressed by this picture. For a few brief moments, I felt like a hero to them. But then Tara posted that he was in fact not the real deal, and the Crosby was out of the bag.

Oh, well. We did get to see the real David Crosby, at least. From the third row of the second balcony, but whatever. CSN put on a great show. The vocal harmonies may have diminished some from their heyday in the late 60s and 70s, but when they gelled, they were on. “Cathedral” was downright rockin’, “Guinnevere” gave me shivers, and the combination of “Helplessly Hoping” and “Our House” was executed flawlessly. Three hours had passed by the time they came out for a final encore, “Teach Your Children.” We got home really late for a work night, but it was totally worth it.

There's the real David Crosby: that tiny white-haired speck on the right.

There’s the real David Crosby: that tiny white-haired speck on the right.


The Portland sign.

I Want to Hold Your Hand

The bottom line is that yes, I do want to be with you. Let’s give it a shot and hope that we can make it work.

Three years ago today, I received an email from Tara. I had asked her if she wanted to pursue a relationship with me the morning I left Ely after our first visit together. Her response? She wanted to think it over. I had no idea “thinking it over” would take 3 excruciatingly long days. Finally, on September 14, she sent me a long email over Facebook. The first several paragraphs were filled with doubt and concern. I honestly thought she was telling me no. And then, the last paragraph. The one posted above. To my great relief, I broke her will she agreed to give “us” a chance.

The rest is history.

Two years later, on another September 14, Tara and I were married. And today is our first anniversary. It’s been an amazing ride.

In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that anything could have given her doubts. She worried that a long-distance relationship would be too difficult to pull off, and didn’t want to risk our then nine-year friendship. I told her the biggest risk would be not taking a risk on something that might turn out to very special. How very Zen of me. Thankfully, she paid attention.

An incident last week perfectly sums up our relationship…

We were taking a walk after dinner, and passed another woman who lives in our complex. “Aww,” she said. “It’s nice that you two are holding hands. You rarely see that these days.”unnamed

I don’t know if that’s true, but we always hold hands. It’s one of those simple gestures I missed when I was single.

For our anniversary, we went out to dinner at a restaurant in downtown Portland called Veritable Quandary last night. Start to finish, it was one of the best meals of my life. We began with cocktails, then moved on to appetizers of bacon-wrapped dates, duck confit spring rolls, and a salad of butter lettuce, poached egg, pancetta and white cheddar buttermilk dressing. We could have left satisfied then, but there was more. I ordered the osso bucco – braised veal shanks over parmesan and basil risotto – and Tara got the ribeye steak with spinach pesto, heirloom tomatoes and caramelized balsamic onions. The whole thing was topped off with a chocolate walnut souffle and coffee. So delicious! Veritable Quandary has been around since 1971, so you gotta figure they know what they’re doing.

The weather was perfect last night – clear and mild – and we were stuffed, so we decided to walk along the waterfront after dinner. That turned into a 90-minute stroll in which we crossed two bridges and a river, wandered along the Eastbank Esplanade, got up close and personal with the Portland sign, and made our way through Old Town back to our car.

Today, our actual anniversary, is much more low-key. We enjoyed coffee on the deck, made French toast for breakfast, went grocery shopping. We’re watching football. It’s hard to top last night…though we’re going to give it a good try next weekend. I surprised Tara by renting a beach house for two nights on the Oregon coast…our favorite place. And not coincidentally, where we exchanged vows one year ago today.

Here’s to many more!

Morrison Bridge reflecting off the Willamette River.

Morrison Bridge reflecting off the Willamette River.

The Portland sign.

The Portland sign.



TBT: Never Forget

Manhattan Skyline 97

Today marks the 13th anniversary of what is probably the defining event of my generation. My grandparents had Pearl Harbor. My parents, Kennedy’s assassination. For me and most of my friends, it was 9/11.

As for that particular day, it was the same for me as most people, I suspect. There was a lot of stunned silence and disbelief. Productivity was nonexistent. The world felt strange and different. I wrote a tribute on the tenth anniversary discussing the aftermath.

Just a horrible time.

Today happens to be Throwback Thursday, and since it coincides with the anniversary of 9/11, I thought it would be the perfect time to share this photo. I thought about cropping out the date stamp in the bottom right corner – I can’t believe I actually ruined perfectly good photos by including that obtrusive mark (and on film, no less) – but decided I like it. It reflects a more innocent era.

In the fall of 1997, my ex-wife and I, along with our two-year old son Rusty and my parents, flew back east to visit family in Trenton, New Jersey. The highlight of our vacation was a day trip to New York City to catch a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman. We arrived by train in the morning, and had a full day to kill. Our very first decision was which skyscraper to visit, the World Trade Center or the Empire State Building. We agreed unanimously on the latter, probably because it was more architecturally appealing. In retrospect I kind of wish we’d gone to the WTC instead, but I had been there before so I can’t say I have any real regrets.

It wasn’t a beautiful day by NYC standards. The city was in the grip of a heatwave, temps pushing well into the 80s and the sky rather hazy. But, that view! It was phenomenal. I trained my camera on the Manhattan skyline, clearly focused on the Twin Towers. It still amazes me just how much they dominated the New York City skyline. Hard to believe less than four years later, they would be gone forever. This view no longer exists, hasn’t existed for thirteen years.That is just incredibly sad to me.

I’m so thankful I got to experience it in person. I only wish I appreciated it more at the time. But, why would I? Nobody knew what was coming.

There’s a lesson here about living in the moment, stopping to smell the roses, etc. No need to discuss the obvious.

May we never forget.


Oh Give Me a Home, Where Lots of Bears Roam

Ever since Tara moved in, we’ve been at (playful) odds over where we’d like to live. Not tomorrow, or next month…we’re going to be in the apartment for a few years, there’s no way around that. We’re talking in the long run, when we are able to buy a house together.

Tara, being a small-town girl (livin’ in a lonely woorrrlllddd…oops, sorry), has long advocated we buy rural property in the country, while I’ve pushed for an urban home in the heart of Portland.

“We can have chickens,” she says.
“We can have chicken from that trendy new bistro down the street,” I reply.

She pushes for solitude and open space, while I say it would be cool to be able to walk to Mississippi Studios to catch live music.

“We’d never find a parking space,” she warns.
“We could get eaten by a bear walking to the mailbox,” I counter.
“I hate traffic,” she says.
“I hate getting eaten by bears walking to the mailbox,” I say.

We have been at an impasse since Day 1.

That impasse might finally have broken over the weekend. We were invited to an “End of Summer Party” by a former coworker named Jessica. Her address was Brush Prairie, Washington. OK, there were numbers and a street name in there as well, but the important takeaway here is Brush Prairie. This area is rural by Clark County standards. Of course, by Ely standards it’s a freakin’ metropolis, but whatever. Saturday evening, we hopped in Tara’s truck and made the drive to Jessica’s house.

Turns out it was much more rural than we expected. We drove through Hockinson – the area Tara keeps pushing for – and continued into the foothills. Soon, the paved road gave way to gravel, and we found ourselves in front of a cute little house in the middle of the forest. It was surrounded by tall trees and featured a babbling brook that spilled into a pond. The scent of pine and wood smoke filled the air. It was like camping, but instead of a tent there was a cozy ranch-style house with a wraparound porch and a jacuzzi. Jessica’s got a chicken coop and a greenhouse and a garden and, best of all, complete and utter privacy.

“This is wonderful!” I gushed. “Umm, what kind of wildlife do you have out here?”

This was my subtle way of asking whether she had ever encountered a bear out there. I love animals, but I’m not going to lie to you: bears scare me. I used to hike alone quite often, and always in the back of my mind I feared rounding a bend in the trail and running into a bear. My fear is not unfounded: this is bear country. We may not have grizzlies, but I wouldn’t want to tangle with a black bear, either. Especially a mama black bear with baby black bear cubs.

Turns out there are bears out there. They’ve even come right onto Jessica’s deck. I glanced around nervously because I was standing on said deck when she made that pronouncement, but there were a whole bunch of other people there and music was playing so I felt relatively safe, despite the fact that the aroma of grilling meat was wafting through the forested (and apparently bear-populated) air.

Jessica's property.

Jessica’s property.

Despite that, I fell in love with the place. And came around to Tara’s way of thinking. There’s a lot to be said for a quiet little oasis in the middle of the woods. The privacy. The quiet. The fact that we would be surrounded by nature. And if we do want to check out that trendy new bistro, we’ve got cars to whisk us into the city. Portland really isn’t that far. Especially by those aforementioned Ely standards.

The downside? We grabbed a flyer for a neighboring property that was for sale. Asking price? $400 thousand. It would take a small miracle (or a big inheritance) to be able to afford something like that, so we might have to compromise. There are other areas in Brush Prairie and Hockinson that aren’t quite as secluded, but still plenty rural. They’d probably be more in our price range.

So congratulations, honey. You win.

I’ll just load up on bear spray for those walks to the mailbox…

Howdy, neighbor!

Howdy, neighbor!

It’s the Singer, Not the Song

Earlier this week, I was saddened to learn that Jimi Jamison had passed away.

Jimi was the lead singer of Survivor, one of my favorite bands from the 80s. When most people hear this, their reaction is, I love “Eye of the Tiger”! I love “Eye of the Tiger,” too. It’s long been my personal anthem through rough times. But Jimi did not sing “Eye of the Tiger.” He joined the band after that song was released, when Dave Bickler, their original lead singer, developed vocal polyps and was forced to quit the band.Vital+Signs

Well take a message from the man
Who’s not afraid to come on strong
When there’s magic in the music
It’s the singer not the song

Still, the Jamison-led version of Survivor found success with the release of 1984’s Vital Signs, an album that includes the hit songs “I Can’t Hold Back,” “The Search is Over,” and “High On You.” I still have the original vinyl LP I purchased that year, and consider it one of my favorite albums ever.

Whenever I listen to Vital Signs, I am transported back to a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon in the winter of 1984-85. I was fifteen, and living on Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. I don’t remember the month…probably December or January. All I know is, the sky was overcast, the wind was blowing across the prairie with a fierceness any resident of the northern plains is familiar with, and the temperature hovered around zero. I piled onto a school bus with a ragtag group of kids my age for a weekend field trip to a pristine lake in the Black Hills to try my hand at ice fishing. It sounded like a fun way to pass a few hours, but in reality, it sucked. I have never been so cold in my entire life. The wind blowing across the frozen, exposed lake made the temperature feel like -20°F. A heavy winter coat and a makeshift shelter on the ice did nothing to ward off the intense chill. I was completely miserable the whole time, and of course, we didn’t catch a damn thing. Either the fish were too smart to leave their hiding places, or frozen solid. I did learn one important lesson that day: ice fishing was not for me. I never did it again.

When it’s comin’ from the heart
All the people sing along
It’s the man behind the music
It’s the singer not the song

Thawing out back on the bus, I slipped on my headphones and pressed PLAY on my Walkman. The cassette I was listening to? Survivor’s Vital Signs. As the bus wound its way through the otherwise-lovely Black Hills, Jimi Jamison’s voice filled my head. This is the rare album where every song is good – so good, in fact, that decades later when Tara and I first started dating, I declared in a Facebook post how “I Can’t Hold Back” perfectly summed up my burgeoning feelings for her. But it’s not just the hit songs I like. “Broken Promises,” “Popular Girl,” “Everlasting Love” – all feature catchy melodies and monumental choruses. Those songs made me a Jimi Jamison fan for life.

RIP Jimi Jamison. (Courtesy of staugustine.com).

RIP Jimi Jamison. (Courtesy of staugustine.com).

Which is why his death hit me hard. Survivor had just performed a concert in Morgan Hill, CA Saturday night. Sunday, Jimi suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 63. By all accounts, he was a friendly and generous man who always went out of his way to please his fans, chatting with them after shows and happily signing autographs. Too many celebrities act like celebrities. Jimi, in comparison, never let the fame go to his head. He will be missed.

Survivor may never have achieved the huge mainstream success I feel they deserved, but in my eyes, they are bigger than life.

RIP, Jimi.


Not All Stuffed Animals are Cuddly

I am sitting at home with the windows open, enjoying the whisper of a gentle breeze beneath a cloud-dotted sky. There’s a promise of autumn in the air this afternoon, though the weatherman is telling us we’ll be back into the upper 80s in a couple of days.

I hate that guy.

It’s Tuesday, and my Labor Day. We got back home around 7 PM last night after being away for five days, and were smart to take a vacation day today to recuperate. Traveling is draining!

Ram east of The Dalles.

Ram east of The Dalles.

We hit the road Wednesday after work, making it as far as Baker City, Oregon. That’s about five hours from Portland, and we were glad for the head start to Ely. Otherwise, it’s a really long day. The drive was uneventful until about ten miles east of The Dalles, when Tara somehow spotted a herd of rams on the side of a hill. That woman’s got eagle eyes when it comes to wildlife! We had no idea these animals lived in Oregon, so seeing them was cool. The other highlight was stopping at a pitch dark viewpoint in the Blue Mountains east of Pendleton about 10 PM for a little stargazing. We got into Baker City around 11, checked into our room, charged all our electronic devices – because that’s what 21st-century road trippin’ is like – and settled in for the night.

Thursday, we were on the road at 7 AM after fueling up at Starbucks. We took our time traversing Idaho, stopping for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Boise, the same place we ate when Tara met the kids for the first time. In Twin Falls, we got out at the Snake River Canyon and watched a couple of base jumpers parachute from the Perrine Memorial Bridge. Crazy bastards. Best thing about Idaho: the speed limit is now 80 mph. If you feel the need for speed, drive across the Gem State! We didn’t make it to Tara’s dad’s house in Ely until close to 6 PM, despite shaving 5 hours off our drive the day before and the super fast speed limit. Lots of stops, I suppose. Plus, we visited with her grandparents for a little while after we first hit town. Randy (her dad) made us spaghetti and we caught up over drinks.

Idaho is so cool!

Idaho is so cool!

Friday, Randy made us breakfast, then we ran some errands around town, including an aborted attempt to drive up the side of a sheer cliff to Squaw Peak in Tara’s new pickup truck. Sensing that Audrey and I were both a little, ahem, nervous over the venture, Tara wisely turned back about halfway up. All I can say is, it was too easy to picture us plummeting over the side of the mountain, 4-wheel drive or not. We grabbed sandwiches at Economy Drug, Ely’s old-fashioned soda counter, and then headed south to her uncle Ward’s 300-acre ranch in Currant. There, we picked fresh peaches, pears, grapes, plums, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and almonds, all of which Ward grows as a hobby. We then drove out to the ponds on his property for some fishing. Tara and her dad were hauling in fish as fast as they could cast their lines…and then promptly throwing them back in the water.

I don’t really get the point of fishing, but it was fun nevertheless.

What wasn’t fun, at least for Audrey, were the wall-mounted heads of all the animals Ward has shot and killed that adorn the walls of his ranch house. Audrey has a tender heart and loves animals, so she was actually traumatized by the sight. This became a recurrent theme throughout our trip and was probably the biggest reason why my daughter felt so out of place in Nevada, where hunting is as natural as brushing your teeth. We saw “mounts” everywhere: grocery stores, restaurants, you name it. And she was freaked out every time.

Tara's uncle has his living room decorated with animals he has killed.

Why Audrey was traumatized…

Back at Randy’s house we had a dinner of steak, baked potatoes, and corn on the cob with Tara’s grandparents and uncle. After dark, we drove south of town and pulled over in the middle of nowhere to look at the stars. I mentioned to Audrey how crazy it is that outer space is endless and the universe goes on forever and it completely blew her mind. Good times.

Saturday, after breakfast we drove east to Great Basin State Park. When I first came up to visit Tara three years ago, she took me there to tour Lehman Caves, and we wanted to share the experience with Audrey. It was every bit as fun as before. Such an awesome cave! On the way back we drove over Success Loop, one of Tara’s favorite drives, winding over dirt roads and beautiful landscape dotted with quaking aspens just beginning to change color. Back in Ely, we headed to Rack’s Bar & Grill to meet up with friends for dinner and drinks.

Sunday, we left Ely for Elko, driving through the ghost town of Hamilton and stopping by the abandoned Belmont Mill. Some of the buildings in Hamilton had graffiti dating as far back as 1894, so we added our names for future explorers to see. Along the way, Audrey got an impromptu driving lesson. Hey, she’ll be 15 next year! We checked into our motel in Elko and met up with family for an authentic Basque dinner at the Star Hotel. I don’t know much about the Basque culture other than the fact that they make wonderful chorizo (Tara bought 14 packages to bring back home!). Dinner was served family-style and was the strangest combination of food I have ever eaten. You start out with cabbage soup, which was surprisingly good. That was followed by an overdressed salad with a garlic-mayo dressing, plus bread and butter. Then they bring out canned green beans and baked beans, spaghetti, and french fries, plus your entree. I ordered pork chops; Tara and Audrey got sauteed shrimp. Portions were huge, but the food was a mixed bag. The entrees, at least, were excellent. I started out with a traditional Basque cocktail called a picon punch but was not impressed. Still, I figured when in Rome, right? And that’s why we found ourselves at the Elko fairgrounds after dinner for calf roping. Audrey and I felt out of place, but Tara enjoyed herself. I’m sure the beers helped.

Monday was spent in the truck. Pretty much all day…we left at 6 AM and got home around 7 PM. That’s a long haul, and I don’t think I’ll be ready to do it again for some time.

Now our vacation is over and it’s back to work tomorrow. At least it’s a short week.

Enjoy the photos, and click on any of them to enlarge.


I’d Rather See Balki

Have you heard that Full House revival might be in the works?

Also: why?

Don’t call me a hater, but I’m really not interested in seeing Jesse & The Rippers twenty years later. And if the last thing Dave Coulier ever did publicly was stomp on Alanis Morissette’s heart (inspiring her revenge anthem “You Oughtta Know” in the process), I could live with that. I simply have no desire to revisit the Tanner clan, especially when so many other deserving sitcoms languish in the television graveyard.

If you’re going to revive anything, how about Seinfeld? Jerry and the gang never got a proper sendoff, anyway. I’d love to see what schemes Kramer would come up with a decade and a half into the 21st century. Besides, we could use some fresh new catchphrases. Think of all the great contributions Seinfeld made to the English language! Spongeworthy. Yadda yadda. “Master of my domain.” Low talkers. Close talkers. Festivus. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I don’t think there’s ever been a show so consistently fresh and funny. I’d love more Jerry!

I’d also be down for a Friends revival, even if the only characters returning were Joey and Chandler. They could do a lot with 22 minutes every week. While we’re at it, let’s bring back Cheers. Or Family Ties. Or Charles In Charge.

Just kidding about that last one. Although…

Hell, even Perfect Strangers is more deserving of a second shot, in my opinion. There’s no such thing as too much Balki.

I kinda miss this guy.

I kinda miss this guy.

So, we leave this evening for Nevada. I’ve been prepping Audrey in advance by giving her some tips on how to fit in. Like, for instance, she has to call a creek a “crick” and the glove compartment is actually a “jockey box.” And scones as we know them here are nothing like the scones out there (or the scones in jolly ol’ England, either). She has spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how swaggy to look. I had to break it to her that Nevadans don’t give much thought to swag…at least not those in the part of the state we’ll be visiting. Ahh, teenagers.

Yesterday I was packing, and realized I’ve really got it down to a science after so much traveling these past few years. At one point, I even found myself piling up clothes in the order in which they will be worn.

“Hey, Audrey!” I called. “Do you pack your clothes in order?”

“Are you kidding?” she responded. “I’ve got two pages of notes with detailed information on what I will be wearing, and when.”

I didn’t believe her, but…


She even listed items that were currently in the washing machine as she was compiling her notes. And she’s got outfits broken down by day and night. I’m beginning to think my daughter might be a little bit OCD.

Tonight, we’ll hit Baker City, Oregon. And then tomorrow it’s on to Ely.

Bon voyage!

Get Crazy With the Cheez Whiz

This crazy, busy summer continues to speed right along.

It’s hard to believe we will be in Nevada this week. We’re driving to Ely to visit family and friends. And bringing along Audrey, who is in for a serious case of culture shock because she has never experienced small town life before. We’re leaving Wednesday after work, driving to Baker City, Oregon for the night, and then staying three days in Ely and another in Elko before returning home on Monday.

In case any burglars out there are thinking of taking advantage of the public fact that we’ll be out of town, I need to warn you that we’ve got a very large and very hungry animal guarding the place in our absence.


Her bite is worse than her bark, so don’t go gettin’ any bright ideas, okay?

Also right around the corner: Audrey begins high school next week! Where did August go? For that matter, where did May, June, and July go? For that matter, where did her entire freakin’ childhood go?!?!

When August rolled around, I mentioned it was going to be a very busy month. It has definitely lived up to its billing! Last week, we got to see Beck in concert at McMenamins Edgefield Amphitheater in Troutdale. This outdoor venue east of Portland is gorgeous, and the weather was perfect that evening. We had a great time; the self-described Loser put on one hell of a show, with a set that nicely represented his two decades of music. Can you believe Beck has been putting out records for 20 years now? I’m really digging his new album, by the way. I like mellow, introspective Beck more than “get crazy with the Cheez Whiz” Beck. The highlight was probably his duet with opening act Jenny Lewis, a cover of Rod Stewart’s cheesy disco classic “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” Pretty much everybody was swaying or singing along to that little ditty.

Great venue for a summer evening concert! (Courtesy of edgefieldconcerts.com)

Great venue for a summer evening concert! (Courtesy of edgefieldconcerts.com)

The evening before, our Sacramento newlywed friends, Heidi and Ross, dropped by for a visit. I suppose the 580 miles between us means it wasn’t “dropping by” so much as making a planned trip north and coming over while in town, but still, we appreciated seeing them again. Tara made a fantastic dinner (roast pork loin and homemade mac ‘n cheese) and we spent hours catching up over wine. Our mutual friend Chris was there, as well. Everybody seemed to really like our new apartment, which was nice to hear.

Speaking of, I was out running errands yesterday and found myself in the vicinity of my old townhouse, so I made a detour through the complex and drove by the place. I don’t know what I was expecting to feel, but it ended up being surprisingly little. It felt familiar, I suppose, but no longer home. It makes me realize how quickly we adapt to change.

Beck. (Courtesy of the LA Times).

Beck. (Courtesy of the LA Times).

A similar thing happened years ago. In February 2007, I had ordered some CDs from Amazon (shows you how dated this story is!) and realized when I got the shipping confirmation that they were going to my old address – the house my ex and I had sold five months earlier while going through a divorce. So I drove over there one afternoon and knocked on the door. That was strange enough. When the new owner answered and invited me inside, that really felt odd. It was like stepping through a time portal and being spit out into the past. Except for the shiny stainless steel refrigerator in the kitchen and the scent of Vietnamese food permeating the air, the place was remarkably the same as when I had left it. Same ugly green carpeting, same Pergo flooring, same wooden pocket doors. And yet, it felt like a lifetime had passed since I had last set foot in there. In some regards, it felt like I had never actually lived there. I blogged about the experience, and wrote,

 It felt weird inside there, and natural, at the same time. As if both sentiments could coexist. The house didn’t make me feel happy or sad, but rather ambivalent. There’s a phrase about a house not being a home, and even though it feels like a bad cliche, it’s true. Did I have happy memories there? Of course I did. And last year, I had many sad memories, as well. I guess perhaps those conflicting emotions cancel one another out. I thanked him for allowing me inside…got back into my car and drove home. To my real home this time.

In many ways, the same sentiment holds true today. Even if I had been invited inside my old townhouse yesterday – and I should point out the same amount of time has passed since we moved out, 5 months – I would feel like it is no longer home.

By the way, the current occupant, according to my former neighbors, is a strange and paranoid man who has turned one of the kids’ bedrooms into “a gun room” and the other is devoted to video games. He takes the battery out of his cell phone every night because he believes the government is spying on him. And, he’s deciding which breed of large and vicious dog to acquire as a pet.

Yeah, the neighbors miss us…

Peace, Love & Reincarnation

I’ve been watching a documentary series on CNN called The SixtiesIt’s a ten-part look at the influence the 1960s had on American culture and society, with episodes devoted to topics such as the Cold War, JFK’s assassination, the Space Race, and Vietnam. It covers the gamut from television and politics to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

And I find it completely fascinating.

I was alive in the 60s, albeit barely. A whopping eight months of my life existed in that decade. Yet, I find its influence touches so many different aspects of my life, I’m amazed.

I identify with the 70s and 80s more. I suppose that’s natural. My parents tell me I witnessed the moon landing, but for some strange reason I can’t remember a single moment. I suppose that might have something to do with the fact that I wasn’t quite three months old when it happened. While Neil Armstrong was making one giant leap for mankind, I was spitting up on my mom’s shoulder. I was a real underachiever in comparison that summer.

gap0030-01-01-fpDespite my limited engagement with the turbulent decade, I am inexplicably drawn toward it. I have been fascinated with the Vietnam War for as long as I can remember. And Woodstock. Peace signs, hippies, tie-dye. My dream vehicle is a VW Bus (and a very specific one, at that; I want the split-windshield version, which was only manufactured until 1967). I love psychedelic music. Janis, Jimi, The Doors, all are  faves. Harvest gold and avocado green appliances. Beaded curtains. Retro furnishings. Tang. All of these scream me.

We were all watching the season finale the other night. It focused on the counterculture movement: hippies, LSD, psychedelic rock, Haight-Ashbury, the Summer of Love, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Woodstock and free love. While Tara and I verbally embraced the ideals of the hippie movement and appreciated the causes they were championing, all Audrey saw was a bunch of long-haired, dirty drug addicts. Which led to a big discussion on idealism, individualism, and the extreme divides that sometimes split generations.hippie-history-bus

I tried to explain as best I could, from the perspective of an outsider looking in (my birth year notwithstanding), how the countercultural revolution was an honest attempt to shake up the status quo. That it wasn’t just an excuse to get stoned and make love to everybody you met. Those were just perks! (I kid, I kid). Hippie ideals espoused cultural diversity, spirituality, sexual freedom, environmentalism, heightened consciousness, and self-sufficiency. They rejected materialism, opposed war, and believed mainstream society was ultimately flawed and corrupt. Their goal was to develop a Utopian society free from constraint.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s hard not to appreciate that type of thinking.

Here’s where this post gets fun…

A while back, my blogging friend Ron wrote a post about reincarnation. OK, it was 2008. A long while back. He had an experience while visiting Japan in which he felt such an overpowering sense of deja vu, he began to question whether he had once lived there and taken part in the rituals he was observing. I can relate, because I sometimes think I have lived a past life, too. I have long had this unshakeable idea, crazy as it sounds, that I was a soldier who died in the Vietnam War sometime in the 60s.

I will be the first to admit this sounds far out (and not in the “groovy” sense of the phrase). I am one of the least spiritual people in the world, and don’t have a religious bone in my body. But maybe that very ambivalence is what allows me to be so open to the idea of reincarnation. Because I do believe in an afterlife, just not a Pearly Gates version. And if there can be an afterlife, why not a beforelife, too? If the body is merely a vessel for the soul, couldn’t that soul travel to different bodies?

About ten years ago, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall came to my hometown. On a dark and dreary autumn evening plagued by a persistent light rain and bitter chill, I made a pilgrimage to the wall. I just felt drawn to it. My then-wife was not interested in going, but in truth, I did not want her there anyway. When I got there, I ran my fingers over many of the names chiseled in stone. It felt like I was searching for something, though I had no idea what. My sense of deja vu was very powerful that night.

I just…I don’t know. It’s a weird thing, and I feel funny writing about it. Almost like it’s too personal to share. Many reading this will find the idea ludicrous. I guess at this point, I really don’t care. All I’m saying is, if this nagging idea is somehow true, it would explain a lot about my life. Who I am and what I believe in.

If you’ve ever read stories about individuals who have reported past life experiences, they are pretty fascinating. A lot of times, children have knowledge of people, places, and events they otherwise should have no way of knowing about. Here is one such story I find particularly compelling.