Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thirty-Three Years - Where Did The Time Go?

It was thirty-three years ago that my high school class had its graduation ceremonies. Every year, the debate went on as to where the ceremonies would be held. Outdoors, or indoors?

My class voted for indoors, which was good because June 22nd, 1984 was a very hot day for us.

I remember so much from that day, from the morning all through to when I went to bed. I remember having no idea how I would get to school for rehearsal and being relieved when my friend Anita offered me a ride there and back. I remember my father, may he rest in peace, being upset at how long the ceremonies took. I remember three of my tickets disappearing from my dresser drawer. That was explained when I saw my mother (from whom I was estranged at the time), my grandfather, and my Aunt Jane in the audience.

It remains, to the best of my knowledge, the only time my brother ever went into my bedroom without asking for permission first.

I remember my friend Sherri coming to see me graduate, even though that meant having to stand the whole time at the back of the gymnasium. That meant a lot to me.

I remember asking my guidance counselor, Mr. Defeo, to go into the teacher's lounge and get me a Coke from the machine in the lounge.

Some of my classmates are people I'm still in touch with. Some of them I haven't seen since that night thirty-three years ago. Some are no longer with us, including a friend who was killed by a drunk driver six months after we graduated.

Some of us, like myself, have had several different jobs and kinds of careers. Some, like my friend Jim, knew exactly what they wanted to do and are still at it. Jim always wanted to serve on an aircraft carrier,  He's been doing just that all these years.

That summer night so many years ago, I had no idea of the things that would happen to me. Everything was fresh and new and filled with possibilities.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer Time And The Heat Is On

Okay, so it's still spring for a few more days. But here in the Binghamton, New York area, we've had several days in a row of temperatures getting anywhere from eighty to ninety two degrees in the afternoon. Today was a nice break, as we only reached the mid-seventies. It rained on and off, as well. That cooled things nicely and freshened the air a bit.

Tomorrow and Sunday look to be quite warm, and I'm not looking forward to that.

For, dear reader, I have never been able to handle hot weather very well. Even as a child growing up, I had problems. Most other kids would want to be outside enjoying summer, but I would stay indoors as much as I could.

When I say I don't handle it well, I mean that. I've twice had to go to an emergency room to be treated for heat exhaustion. In hot weather, I don't have much of an appetite, and what I do eat has to be very light fare. Think salads and sandwiches, and you're on the right track. I've had a grand total of two hot meals all this week. Both of those were eaten in restaurants that have good air conditioning.

It's worse yet when I don't have air conditioning, which I currently don't. Security regulations in this building prohibit their use, on the grounds that it poses a safety risk. I did look into getting a portable unit, which is allowed. I just can't afford it right now.

I do have a small desk fan, which helps some. And I have a window that lets in a nice breeze when there's one to be had.

But I know what I might be in for this summer, having lived in this building before.  I am looking at a few apartments that are in my price range. So, let's all cross our fingers, please.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Can One LP Change A Life?

I was born in 1966. I received a transistor radio as a Christmas gift from my Aunt Yvonne in 1972. So, I was able to hear the top hits from 1973 going forward. But anything pre-1973 was pretty much unknown to me at that time.

Oh, sure, there would be the occasional oldie here and there, as part of a movie soundtrack, or something might get air play years after its release. But for the most part, those records just weren't a part of my life.

I did get to hear several hours of the 1978 version of the radio documentary "The History Of Rock And Roll" when it aired one weekend across the United States and Canada, but by the time I tuned in, the show was up to where it covered the late 1960s. So, anything from say,  before 1967 or so, was still not known to me.

And then, one day after work, I walked across the street to the Endicott Plaza. The plaza is long gone, these days. None of the buildings still stand, save for the K-Mart that closed in 2011 due to severe flooding.

But in 1986, everything was still there. K-Mart, Grand Union, Endicott-Johnson Shoes, and several other businesses called the plaza home.

I went into K-Mart that one afternoon and headed right for the music department. Now, these days, it's very easy to get music, cheaply and quickly. I can buy an MP3 file from a site like Amazon and have it downloaded in less than a minute.

That's nice. But the way we used to do things had its own unique feel to it. There was no way to preview a song. You bought a single or an album and hoped for the best if it was something you were unfamiliar with.

I bought one album that day, a double length cassette.  I walked home and had dinner. It was nice outside, so I decided to listen to the cassette while sitting in a comfortable chair on the front porch of the rooming house I was living in at the time.

I can not remember the exact title of that cassette, but I do remember it was one of the series released using the name of WCBS-FM. These, of course, licensed the name, and were compiled and released by Collectables Records. That label is still in business, and still puts out good product.  It's one of the few labels still offering oldies on 45 R.P.M. singles.

That cassette changed my life, literally.  There were no tracks by Elvis Presley on it, due to licensing issues, I would presume.  But there were tracks by almost every other major singer, band or vocal group of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

No British artists, of course, but then again, the Brits didn't play much of a role in rock and roll until 1962-1963 or thereabouts.

Every record was a revelation. The pounding piano of Jerry Lee Lewis. The sweet harmony created by Dion and The Belmonts. The New Orleans "sound", as created by artists such as Fats Domino and Ernie K-Doe.

From that day forward, oldies music was, is and shall always be the soundtrack to my life.

Wishing you a good weekend, dear reader.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Last Day With Michelle

I will state, for the record, that this post is going to cover some very personal material. Read on, if you wish to do so.

Today is the 12th anniversary of the very last day I spent with my wife; she died the next day on June 4th, 2005. When we first met, she was honest about her health issues. She had five, perhaps six years left to live, at the best. I married her, telling her that whatever time we might have would be enough.

In the almost six years we had together, her health went downhill steadily.

Her weight went from 180 pounds to almost 400. She had a heart attack. She lost part of the hearing in her left ear due to an ear infection. She became diabetic. She injured an ankle and had to have it surgically repaired. She injured it a second time, and it was twelve years ago today that she had a second surgery on that ankle.

She died while I was still at home. I got a phone call from the hospital at 9:30 in the morning telling me I should come to the hospital as soon as possible. Michelle died at 9:45, after a team of doctors and nurses spent forty-five minutes trying to save her life.

In the days and weeks after she died, two sets of thought took hold among those who knew her. Some of us truly believed she had no idea that she might die. Her parents and her oldest friend were in that group. Other people, including myself, were and still are convinced she knew she was going to die.

I can't say enough good things about the staff at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, New York. They were all so helpful to me and the others who were there. 

The very last words we exchanged were over the phone Friday night, twelve years ago today. I ended the call with these words:

"I love you.".