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Back In The Saddle (or office chair in this case)

Lynnrockets would like to thank all of you once again for your sympathy and kind words of support during my recent time of loss. Loving words go a long way towards healing a wounded soul. I never would have guessed when I started this blog a little over a year ago that I would attract very many readers, let alone the sizable group of wonderful folks that have become not only an important part of this little community, but who also now hold a very dear spot in my heart. I will continue to hold you close and hopefully repay my debt to all of you with a few cogent comments and a lot of laughs.

I have decided to return to the blogosphere more quickly than I had originally anticipated. Please bear with me (or bare with me if you don’t like wearing clothes) during the next few weeks if I wax philosophically or seem a bit maudlin. My intention is not to bore you or seem overly dramatic about my recent losses, but rather it is to help me work through a most difficult time while simultaneously revealing a bit more about myself to you terrific folks. Please indulge me for a while.

As most of you have probably already figured out, I am a 40-something person that is a product of Irish parents. I live in the smallest town in Massachusetts which just happens to be located on an island (more accurately known as a “tombolo”) just about ten miles northeast of Boston with a wonderful view of the Beantown skyline. I am one of only two children (I have the best older sister in the world), married (to my very best friend) with no children and one great two year old dog (my second best friend). I attended public elementary schools and junior high school, a Catholic parochial high school, a Small Ivy college and a Boston law school. Since childhood I have played and have a passion for hockey (“ice hockey” to you warm climate dwellers). I am a fan of the Boston Bruins (NHL), the Boston Red Sox (MLB) and the Boston Celtics (NBA). Neverthelss, my favorite franchise of all has always been the Green Bay Packers (NFL). I am a lifelong liberal Democrat. If this were a dating site, this is the point where I would say something like “I enjoy long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners”.

The most important influences in my life were my loving parents, my great aunt Gertrude, Bobby Orr and Jack Kennedy in that order. The most important people in my life are my spouse, my sister and her husband, my one nephew and his wife and my grandnephew. In my opinion, a better family could not be had. I will remind them of that every day for the rest of my life. I would advise all of you to do the same with your loved ones because we can never predict when we will lose them.

My mom and dad met as schoolchildren in the 1930’s and were inseparable thereafter. They were childhood sweethearts. They were married in 1949 and for the next 61 years they spent less than a handful of nights apart. My mom became ill about 6 years ago and her condition deteriorated quickly to the point where at first she was housebound and then bed-ridden. My dad promised her that he would do everything possible to prevent her from hospitalization or nursing home care as she loved her home. He kept his promise. With the help of visiting nurses, health aides and family, my father spent every single one of those days with his wife. He single-handedly got my mother out of bed every morning, fed her breakfast, washed her, dressed her, took her to the bathroom and cleaned her before putting her to bed at night. As ill as my mother was, my father was the picture of health. He often told my sister and I that he only wished he could gift some of his health to my mom.

In February of this year my mom passed away in her sleep at home. All of my family experienced the pain of sorrow but none so much as my dad. Outwardly he was the strong man that everyone knew but he now suffered from a malady that had nothing to do with the human body. He made all the right gestures such as continuing to work and since he was no longer called upon to be my mom’s constant care-giving companion, he even began to socialize outside the home with family and friends much more frequently. We moved in with him to keep him company and the last five months allowed me to rekindle the love and comaraderie that I had shared with my best pal during all those years I lived with him as a child. We were true buddies.

At about six or seven o’clock each evening he would sit down to watch The Golden Girls reruns on tv. I do not recall him ever watching that show when it was originally aired but he told me that my mom loved to watch it, so now he would do the same. It grew on him and me too. It became a ritual for the two of us and I must admit it was a great show. It seemed that every couple of nights he would ask me, “How many times was that Rue McClanahan married?” I never had the answer for him until early this month. I remember saying, Hey dad, Rue McClanahan was married six times.” He said, “How do you know?” and I answered that she had died that morning and I read the obituary. (side note: Bostonians refer to the obituaries as “The Irish Sports Page”).

My dad and my two dogs also became fast friends during the last five months. At first I thought they annoyed him with their exuberant greetings after work and a steady supply of barking at everything. After not too long however, I spied him petting their behinds while watching tv and feeding them those prohibited table scraps. My sister, who worked with my dad every day in the family business, even told me that he would often say to customers, “You’ll never guess what my dog did today!” This too however was short lived as my eldest dog, a Dalmatian named McKenzie, passed away at the ripe old dog age of fifteen in April. We were all crushed at another loss. I did what I could to save that pooch, even going so far as to have her euthanized on Good Friday in the hope that there would be a miracle and she would rise again three days later on Easter Sunday. Alas, such was not the case.

My dad, my spouse and my other dog, Marley the two year old Weimaraner carried on. My dad, who loved and anticipated the warm summer sun had all the yard furniture arranged out on the upper patio by late March (remember, this is Boston and it still tends to snow sometimes in March). He simply could not wait to get out there and sun bathe. The Irish octogenarian boasted a tan that my spouse and I felt would be a sure ticket to skin cancer on a younger person. My dad however, was a unique man. He was never sick and was only hospitalized once in his life back in the seventies for knee surgery. Recently we believed that he suffered from at least one torn rotator cuff and possible knee ligament damage from all the wear and tear of carrying my mother for so long. We were wrong. It only proved to be a mild case of arthritis. He was a virtual Superman.

Well, Fathers’ Day rolled along a few weeks ago and we had a special day. Not only was my entire extended family at the old homestead for a cook out, but my spouse’s parents, siblings and children were also all in attendance. It was a glorious day. My father was at his best being the proud host. He joked, hugged, kissed and cajoled everyone. He was truly holding court. One of my brothers-in-law commented that he looked like a movie star with his tanned upper torso, sunglasses and full long wavy mane of pure white hair. The day lasted well into the evening before the last guest left. I remember my father (always one with a joke) telling one to the last guest as he departed.

After all the guests had left, my dad sat with us and the dog on the couch and thanked us for a wonderful day. He said he was tired and going to bed. He told us he loved us. He kissed us, petted Marley, went to his room and left us to be with my mother forevermore. Until I meet him again, I will miss him every day that I live.

I love you dad.

Anyone interested in that last joke?

Well, there was this old timer (let’s call him Jack) that went to his doctor for the annual check up. The doctor said, “Well Jack, everything looks pretty good. You’re a fit and healthy 80 year old. What do you have to say for yourself?” Jack responded by inquiring if the doctor could test his sperm count. The doctor exclaimed that he was puzzled as to why an 80 year old would care about his sperm count but Jack told him that he was just curious and if it were in good standing, he would feel even better about himself. The doctor acquiesced, handed Jack a specimen bottle and instructed him to return in the morning with the specimen.

The next morning Jack returned to the doctor’s office. The doctor asked if he had the sperm specimen. A dejected Jack said, “No”. Jack explained that when he left the office the day before, he went straight to his room to provide the specimen. He said, “I sat on my bed and tried for half an hour with my right hand, but nothing. I then tried for half an hour with my left hand, but nothing. Next I tried with both hands for about twenty minutes before I was exhausted and fell asleep without success.”

Jack explained, “When I awoke the next morning I tried again first with my right hand then my left hand and then with both hands and still no results. My wife, God bless her, saw my frustration and said she would help. She tried with her right hand, but nothing. She tried with her left hand, but nothing. She tried with both hands, but nothing. Finally, she even removed her dentures, put it in her mouth and tried for ten minutes, but she still could not get the cap off of that damn specimen bottle!”

Who knows, maybe there is a book to be written about my lovable quirky family!

Tuesday Night Music Byte

Love was an American rock group of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were led by singer, songwriter and guitarist Arthur Lee and the group’s second songwriter, guitarist Bryan MacLean. One of the first racially diverse American pop bands, their music reflected different influences, combining elements of rock and roll, garage rock, folk and psychedelia. Love started playing the L.A. clubs in April 1965 and became a popular act. At this time, they were playing extended numbers such as “Revelation” (originally titled “John Lee Hooker”) and getting the attention of such contemporaries as the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. The band lived communally in a house once owned by horror actor Bela Lugosi, and their first two albums included photos shot in the garden of that house.

Their musical reputation largely rests on two albums issued in 1967, Da Capo and Forever Changes. Da Capo, released in January of that year, included rockers like “Stephanie Knows Who” and “7 and 7 Is,” and melodic songs such as “¡Qué Vida!” and “She Comes in Colors.” Gone were the Byrds influences and jangly guitars, replaced by melodically airy art-songs with predominantly jazz and classical influences. Some critics derided it as a one-side album, with the six songs on Side One contrasting markedly with the lack of focus displayed on the other side, which was devoted entirely to the 19-minute “Revelation.” Cantrelli and Pfisterer soon quit the band, leaving it as a five-piece once again.

Forever Changes, released in November 1967, is a suite of songs using acoustic guitars, strings and horns that was recorded while the band was falling apart as the result of various abuses. Producer Bruce Botnick originally planned to record the entire album with session musicians backing Lee and MacLean but after two tracks had been recorded in this way the rest of the band were stung into producing the discipline required to complete the rest of the album in only 64 hours. Writer Richard Meltzer, in his The Aesthetics of Rock, comments on Love’s “orchestral moves,” “post-doper word contraction cuteness” and Lee’s vocal style that serves as a “reaffirmation of Johnny Mathis.” Forever Changes included one modest hit single, the MacLean-written “Alone Again Or”, while “You Set the Scene” went on to receive airplay from some progressive rock radio stations. By this stage, Love were far more popular in the UK, where the album reached #24, than in their home country, where it could only reach #154. Love did, however, have a strong following in the U.S. at the time among critics.

MacLean, suffering from heroin addiction, soon left the band, as did all the other members except Lee. MacLean later emerged as a Contemporary Christian artist. Echols and Forssi also experienced the ravages of heroin addiction and disappeared from the scene. Arthur Lee, as the only remaining member, convened a new lineup and continued recording as Love. The reconstituted version of Love, which included Jay Donnellan and Gary Rowles on guitars, Frank Fayad on bass, and George Suranovich on drums, played in a blues-rock style very different from the band’s previous line-up. Three albums were released by various permutations of this lineup: Four SailOut Here (1969), and False Start (1970). The latter featured a guest appearance by Jimi Hendrix. Arthur Lee released the solo album Vindicator in 1972, followed by a final official Love album, Reel to Real (1974), recorded by Lee and session musicians. Love was finally discontinued in the late 1970s, and various plans to reunite various Love lineups in the following years did not come to fruition. Lee reemerged with the one-off single “Girl on Fire” in 1994.

After spending six years in prison from 1995 to 2001 for firearms offenses, Arthur Lee began to play Love’s classic songs in concert by reuniting with the members of Baby Lemonade. In the early 2000s, co-founder of Love and original guitarist Johnny Echols rejoined Lee, in this line-up and performed as “Love with Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols.” This reformed group toured for several years, frequently performing Forever Changes in its entirety.

Ken Forssi died of a suspected brain tumor in his home state of Florida on January 10, 1998, at age 54. Bryan MacLean died in Los Angeles of a massive heart attack at age 52 on December 25, 1998, while having dinner with a young fan who was researching a book about the band. Arthur Lee died in Memphis, Tenn., on August 3, 2006, of complications from leukemia at age 61.

Please enjoy Love performing two songs from the Forever Changes album, “Alone Again Or” and “A House Is Not A Hotel”.