Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Crosby, Stills & Nash at Wolf Trap



Thanks to an ad I posted on Craigslist, I was able to get a ticket for face value to the Crosby, Stills & Nash show last night at Wolf Trap. I was seated in the Front Orchestra, thirteen rows back and directly looking at the middle of the stage. Perfect seat!

David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash are in their sixties now. Last night was a terrific chance to see three immensely talented musicians - and their excellent four piece band - put on a enjoyable show in a venue that was a perfect setting for their music. The last time I saw them live was 1982 at Greensboro Coliseum, so it had been awhile.

The setlist, in no particular order included Marrakesh Express, Long Time Gone, Cathedral, Déjà Vu, Delta, Southern Cross, Helplessly Hoping, Love The One You’re With, Guinnevere, Our House, Wasted On The Way, Almost Cut My Hair, You Don't Have to Cry, Wooden Ships (my personal favorite). The encores were For What It's Worth and Teach Your Children.

Some notes:
I like the line from Wasted On The Way, "I am older now, I have more than what I wanted but I wish that I had started long before I did". I guess that can sum up to where I am in my life today.

Cathedral: Graham Nash played keyboard with David Crosby singing harmony. The song started slowly but increased to a dramatic crescendo. Just beautiful.

Almost Cut My Hair: All three on electric guitars and cheers for David Crosby, who still has the long hair although not much on top anymore.

Wooden Ships-I used to listen to this all the time growing up and it still gets heavy air time on my iPod as I have several versions of it. If I ever list my top ten favorite songs ever, this would make the list. The trio and the band nailed it last night.

Wounded World: A Southern bluesy rocker dedicated to Stephen Stills’ 20 year old daughter.

There were a couple songs protesting the Iraq war. "Military Madness" which Graham Nash said in articles he's tired of singing and another song whose name I can’t remember had mentions of Homeland Security. An anti-war message is fine, no one loves war and this is what CSN have been about their whole careers.

In closing, I thought one of the most interesting things about last night's concert was the way Graham Nash played four instruments (guitar, tambourine, harmonica and keyboard) in addition to singing. The three musicians took turns singing lead vocals and switched off guitar duties as well. Overall, it was a fantastic show and the trio were enthusiastic the entire evening.

While you're here, please be sure to check out Wolf Trap Insider

Monday, July 28, 2008

George Pelecanos: The Turnaround



On a hot summer afternoon in 1972, three teenagers drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood and six lives were altered forever. Thirty five years later, one survivor of that day reaches out to another, opening a door that could lead to salvation. But another survivor is now out of prison, looking for reparation in any form he can find it. THE TURNAROUND takes us on a journey from the rock-and-soul streets of the '70s to the changing neighborhoods of D.C. today, from the diners and auto garages of the city to the inside of Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital, where wounded men and women have returned to the world in a time of war. A novel of fathers and sons, wives and husbands, loss, victory and violent redemption, THE TURNAROUND is another compelling, highly charged novel from George Pelecanos, "the best crime novelist in America." -Oregonian

George Pelecanos first book in two years called The Turnaround comes out this week. By all means check this book out. I got an advanced, unedited copy a month ago and I could not put it down. He's easily the best writer I've ever read. Besides capturing the essence of Washington DC in various era's, one thing I love about his work is the way he tells us what's on the characters' sound systems, on their car stereos and why. As a native Washingtonian, while reading his books as events happen I often visualize myself at the scene or in the bar or store during the particular era the story is set in.

The Washington Post Magazine recently did a feature on Pelecanos called Crime Story

The Turnaround was reviewed in today's Post by Patrick Anderson; The Real Pelecanos

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Diabetes: Week One

So far during the first week I've tested my blood sugar with one of these One Touch monitors. I've been testing myself at various times during the day to the point where I feel like a pin cushion. My readings have varied but it will take time before this is under control so I am not too worried. I'm taking my medication daily and watching what I eat. I've lost four pounds, which is the equivalent to taking a five dollar bill out of Donald Trump's wallet, ha ha.

I do miss my chocolate and sweets and sometimes during the day I get headaches. I do have a roll of Lifesavers handy and usually sucking on one of these candies helps.

I've been exercising in the evenings and this definitely helps control my blood sugar and as a result I do feel better. I'm not as run down at the end of the day so there's some progress. Meanwhile I am reading as much as I can on diabetes and I have a follow-up doctor's appointment in a month.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Life with Diabetes

Flash back to mid-December 2007. I was in a job that I was stressed and unhappy at. My car had been rear ended resulting in a trip to the emergency room with a back ache. I had a cold. One night I was working on the computer and watching Deal or No Deal. I was waiting for Benjamin's laundry to dry. All of the sudden I started to cough uncontrollably. So I stood up and next thing I remember I was picking myself up from the floor. I must have stopped breathing when I was coughing and blacked out. The whole episode probably took fifteen to twenty seconds. They were asking someone whether or not they wanted the deal and when I woke up, they were still arguing over it so I couldn't have been out long.

Scared the hell out of me to the point I went to see my doctor. I experienced a vasovagal syncope. The way it was explained to me was when I was coughing uncontrollably, the heart puts out less blood and the blood pressure drops, and what blood is circulating goes to the legs rather than to the head. The brain is then deprived of oxygen, and the result was my losing consciousness. During the past few months I have had several visits with my doctor and numerous tests. I am ok, however:

In December I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and since then I have been taking medication to control it. Earlier this month I had some more follow up tests and the result is I have been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes

Well, it's not a death sentence but it is something I have to take very seriously as this runs in my family and my Grandfather lost a leg during the later part of his life. I've got a very active two and a half year old and when I get to age 70 I want to still be able to chase foul balls at the ball yard.

So I am on more medication and I need to monitor my blood sugar daily. I have finally started to take my diet seriously. When I gave up drinking in 1989, I started to rely on sweets, candy bars, ice cream, you name it, to replace the sugars lost in the alcohol I was giving up. The doctor told me I can still eat the above but in moderation but I told the doctor I don't do moderation very well.

In addition to changing my diet, I have also started to take exercising seriously. Thank goodness for the recreation center close to home.

I knew I probably should have started to change my diet and exercise more when this happened last December but at times I am very stubborn and I would always dismiss it. Now with this diagnosis official, I need to take care of myself better. For Weena. For Benjamin.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Evening at Wolf Trap



Weena and I went to see Earth, Wind & Fire last night at Wolf Trap's Filene Center. We were inside the pavillion and loved every minute of it. It was a great concert as this legendary band played all their hit songs. We were treated to classics like Shining Star, Sing A Song, Serpentine Fire, Fantasy, Got To Get You Into My Life, September (Weena's favorite), Boogie Wonderland, After The Love Has Gone and a bunch more during the hour and a half show. Among the encores was my favorite, That's The Way Of The World.

The evening was perfect, not too hot and no humidity and a beautiful view of the moon as we left. I can't say enough about how easy it was to get there. We live about ten miles from Wolf Trap so it was a quick trip up Route 7. We left our house after saying good bye to Benjamin and Weena's Mom at 7:10 and were parked at 7:30. The walk was brief and we were in our seats after getting some water at 7:45. Getting out was easy too, we left at 9:45 and got home at exactly 10:00. Perfect.

We both agreed we need to visit this venue more often and we noticed they had children's performances too for Benjamin's enjoyment. Looking at the schedule I see Crosby, Stills and Nash is there on July 28th but it is sold out. I may check Craigslist for a ticket or drive out there and look for someone with an extra. Chris Issak is also appearing August 21st and that's tempting as well.

Here is more information on Wolf Trap here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tip for Today

I don't write about my job much but I'll update you a bit as to where I am today.

June 2007 I took a job with a CPA firm three times the size of where I was at. It was closer to home and I thought it was a good move. Long story, short, it wasn't. I figured that out a month into it. I wasn't happy but I managed to grind it out six months until I got my current job with a firm much smaller and closer to home, Weena's office and Benjamin's day care. I'm very happy there and I enjoy going in to work each day.

Part of my job duties is monitoring accounts receivable. Not the most glamourous work but it is very important to the business and I come up with ways to keep myself challenged and motivated as I work on the list. I do like to work out any problems clients have in making their payments. The idea is to keep the client while getting paid and over the years I have been very successful at doing this. Occasionally I will get an angry client. One of the tricks I learned at a seminar I went to yesterday was to keep a photo of something that makes you happy while making these calls. The instructor said when having a smile on your face, clients can sense you are upbeat. Today I have a picture of Benjamin below my computer monitor and I think of him as I make these calls.

So today I'm on my last call with this client and he's none to pleased to be talking with me:

Me: "I'm calling in reference to some past due invoices totalling $xx,xxx.xx"

Him: "I'm having a shi**y day and you call me up looking for money? The &@^#&@ stock market stinks and I'm watching my life go down the tubes!!!!

Send me the &*^#%%@ invoices with back up, what was done, time spent and by who, not just numbers, I want what's behind the numbers, got it!"

Me: "Done by COB today".

Him: "Ok, sorry for being an ass . Man, the stock market stinks!"

We hang up and I decide to take a look at Washington Post.com and see that the Dow is down 226.

So I learned something else...check how the Dow is doing before calling the head of an asset management company when looking to collect past due invoices. Whoops!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Benjamin's World Soccer Debut

Benjamin's still talking about the D.C. United game we took him to on June 29th. We kick the ball around outdoors and even goof off indoors. He said he wanted a soccer jersey when I remembered we had a couple national team kits from Brazil and Norway. So Benjamin made an appearance for each last night, FIFA rules be damned that he's cap tied to one country :)

Pele, Romario, Ronaldo, Robinho, Benjammar?
Get your Brazil soccer name here. For the record I used Benjamin Michael



Got my game face on for Norway


No one can beat me!


Dazzling moves


Next kit: D.C. United. I couldn't find a youth kit at the team store when we were there a week ago. Might have to pester someone here at the team store.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day: Then and Now

I took Benjamin to my old neighborhood today to witness the annual Independence Day parade. It was scaled down from when we were kids but I still joked with my old neighbors wondering if there will be beer distribution for those thirsty parade watchers and I tried to guess which Redskin or politician will be there. Answer was no and none although there was some councilman who I never heard of distributing candy and Benjamin got some good stuff.

We got a lot of walkers and bikers and some cars were decorated. No real big floats were constructed. Back in our day neighbors from various streets used to battle for that top float prize every year. Benjamin loved the fire trucks and he did his Fireman Sam thumbs up to the firemen, who gave him a thumbs up back. He loved seeing the dogs on parade too.

We went to the park afterwards to have some fun. We stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and Star Spangled Banner, then got some food. The line was too long for the moon bounce but we ran and played on the slides and swings before calling it a day. I was bummed there wasn't a softball game and egg toss contest. Pony rides were replaced by a motor train, which drove kids around the playing fields at the park.

I'm very much into nostalgia. Can't explain it except I used to love listening to my Grandparents talk about their lives and what was going on in the DC area when they were kids and adults. History was my favorite subject during the times I paid attention in school. Also I get nostalgic when I listen to tons of music off my iPod from various eras. I'm proud of where I grew up, appreciate my roots and we had a fun childhood that I'll never forget. I get a kick showing Benjamin the area now and he's starting to develop an appreciation as he told me today "I like seeing where you grew up Daddy". He's two and a half, going on ten.

Hope everyone who reads this had a Happy Independence Day! Enjoy the pics. Just for kicks I took a few of Benjamin today in front of the house we grew up in.

My Grandparents awaiting parade, 1969


Benjamin awaiting the parade, 2008


Daddy staying cool, 1969


Benjamin kicking it, 2008


Daddy at the front door, 1970


Benjamin at the front door, 2008


Policemen and Firemen, 1969


Firemen, 2008


Cars in parade, 1969


Cars in parade, 2008




Miscellaneous shots


Daddy and Benjamin


Benjamin and a friend

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

More from D.C. United-L.A. Galaxy



In the 75th minute Ben Olsen entered the game with D.C. United ahead 4-1. What's special about this? Click here. It's incredible Ben came back from this latest injury. I thought the earliest we'd see him back would be some time next year, if at all.

It was cool that Ben came back during Benjamin's first D.C. United game ever. Ben Olsen's been my favorite D.C. United player for quite some time. As the banner above indicates, he has the heart of a lion. One of the best comments I read on Big Soccer came from a rival New York fan, saying Ben Olsen is to D.C. United is what Babe Ruth is to the New York Yankees. On Sunday when I saw the #14 sign go up signifying his entry into the game, I got chills. Having Benjamin with me was special. I'll explain it all to him one day when he is older. I printed the above picture and will place it in his scrapbook along with the ticket stubs.

So for the past two nights now we've kicked the soccer ball around. Benjamin's really into it now. For a two and a half year old boy, what is better than running and kicking a ball around?

More on Ben's return here