(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

“YOU wanted the best and you got it! The hottest band in the land…”


NOW, if you are any kind of true rock-n-roller, you would know that “APE” is not the real conclusion to the above lines. You would know that those lines are at the beginning of KISS “Alive I.” Back in the early to mid seventies, KISS came on the scene and took the teenage world by storm. They were different. They were awesome with their make up, costumes, platform shoes and catchy rock-n-roll tunes. You either enlisted in the KISS Army or you just were not with it, man!

So, Cousin P and I decided that we would start our own rock band. Somehow we came up with the name APE. We each had stage names as well. He was the infamous “Alfred B. Oil” and I was the ultra-cool “Barney B. Bogart.” Hey, it sounded cool at the time! But what did we really know? We were still making the transition from plaid double-knit pants to tie-dyed bell-bottoms. We weren’t fully hip yet.

Cousin P had a small low quality drum set that Gram and Pop got for him from Sears or something. So he let me play that. His mom then got him an electric bass guitar from J C Penny, I think. So we would set up in Gram’s basement, put some colored lights on and make some noise. We would yell and scream and carry on. We even wore our blue motorcycle helmets while we played. That was the ultimate in coolness! If KISS could go on stage with their faces painted, we could certainly start a motorcycle helmet trend!


SPEAKING of KISS’ costumes, there is something I could never really understand. Paul Stanley is the lead singer, rhythm guitarist. His costume, with a big black star over his eye, represented a rock star. Okay, that is cool. Ace Frehley, while sporting such a happening name like Ace and playing lead guitar, represented some kind of alien. Cool again. Gene Simmons was the bass guitarist and portrayed some kind of demon lord/monster, breathing fire and spitting blood while dangling his surgically enhanced tongue all over the place. You can’t get much cooler than that! But what was Peter Criss’ deal? He was the drummer and his costume was a… cat?? Huh? (I recently heard an interview with Gene Simmons. He said that they decided to unmask themselves when the original band broke up and they had to find guys to replace Peter and Ace. He said they were afraid the next guy might want to dress up like a giraffe or something and they would have a real zoo on their hands!)

MY MY very first album was Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” I turned Cousin P on to Alice. We both were hooked! It wasn’t long before we added to Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, the Stones, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Foghat, KISS and a host of other rock giants to our record collections. Also, it was not long before we began imitating some of these people in a lot of ways. Cousin P was not allowed to, but I began letting my hair grow long. Our wardrobes suddenly had all kinds of T-shirts sporting the arrogant faces of our leaders. Circus magazine became our staple diet. My bedroom wall was covered with posters from Circus and from the Alice Cooper fan club. And we, along with many of our peers, would often pose for pictures with our tongues as long and pointed as we could get them just like Gene Simmons. Once I brought in a bloody baby copperhead snake that the cat brought home. I pulled an Alice Cooper as I let it dangle out of my mouth as I turned to the girl next to me in eighth grade homeroom. What a delight it was to see her flee the room in an ear-piercing scream! Cousin P even attempted blowing fire like Gene Simmons. A few good burns on the lips ended that though. (I sometimes think that the two of us would have ended up HERE for real if we kept following our heroes!)


SOME of the things we did in imitating our idols as kids were rather mindless and even a little scary, looking back at it now. What were we thinking? What do we do about our own children and the people that they are following these days? At times I have found myself acting the role of “parental censorship officer.” And rightly so! But more often than not, since I do like a lot of the music that my kids like (other than the rap), I have found that some of the issues raised by my children’s idols and their songs have given us an opportunity to talk. It has given me an opportunity to teach them some good values when I hear negative attitudes advocated in their music. It has given me an opportunity to talk to them about suicide, sex, anger, drugs, proper attire and the complete evil of boy bands (I couldn’t resist!). We have a good time listening to music. We sing. We shout. We play air-guitar. We dance, even in the car! Just recently, as we approached our street on our way home one night, AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long” came on the radio. The kids begged me to not turn the car off until the song was over. So, I cranked it up to full volume and all five kids and I drove around the streets near our home until the song was over. What a blast! And yes, later the older kids and I talked about the fact that that song is just a sex song. Rather than taking my role as “parental censorship officer” to the extreme and banning all rock-n-roll from our house, I have chosen to use it as a touch point to relate to my kids. When we were kids, rock was all fun and excitement. As an adult, it still is. But there is something more to it now. I know that I have to be an example to my children. I refuse to leave their mental and emotional molding in the hands of their idols. I am the rock star in this house! Now put the disk in, crank up the volume and dance with me kids!



(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

ALRIGHT! Super Bowl Sunday and my team is playing! They finally made it! After all these years, the boys from Boston are going to the Super Bowl!

“Wait… Did you say Boston? The Giants aren’t from Boston, neither are the Ravens.”

That’s right. I said the boys from BOSTON are going to the Super Bowl. That’s right! AEROSMITH is doin’ the half time show, baby! Heh heh! SCORE!

WELL, my only plan for the day is to do nothing but watch the game later. I’ve been battling off a cold since Wednesday. It’s just enough of a cold to make me feel rather lethargic, a little achy, and somewhat cranky. (I bet you’re glad you aren’t hanging out with me today!) I thought I was over it on Friday, but it’s got me feeling pretty crummy this weekend. And Thursday was the worst! My cold was at its peak and I had a migraine headache on top of it. I was scheduled to be off from work on Thursday morning in order to take J to the neurologist. We both felt so sick that I cancelled the appointment and stayed in bed moaning until 10:30 when I finally slithered my way to the shower.

I did manage to get to work for the second half of Thursday and even had lunch at a Chinese place with a friend. I ordered plain old chicken and broccoli figuring that it should be the Asian cold remedy just like chicken noodle soup is American. Besides, I couldn’t taste much so there was no sense ordering anything fancy. My friend ordered some spicy shrimp with garlic sauce. Thank God for my cold! I wouldn’t want to smell that breath in the car all the way back to work!

I guess I must have been a little silly at lunchtime. My friend told me the next day that I was like a 10 year old boy who was up to some kind of mischief. (So what else is new?) But let me explain. In the middle of lunch I took my second dose of migraine medicine. It only took about 10 minutes for it to kick in and then… Well, my memory is a little foggy after that point. I don’t think I caused a scene in the restaurant. We had a team meeting as soon as we got back from lunch. I don’t think I caused any commotion during the meeting either. And I’m pretty sure I remained fully clothed the whole time.

LET ME tell you about those migraine pills though. Those things are deadly! Not just because they can whack your brain for a bit. They are just plain hard to swallow! Big, chalky and nasty, they just refuse to go down my throat!

A few months back, I had a migraine while I was at work. On this particular day, a good portion of the people in our department were attending a business seminar. So it was pretty deserted and quiet in our area. When I tried to swallow my pill I coughed and the pill launched up the back of my nose, ricocheted off the inside of my skull and shot like a meteor right down into my windpipe! I tried coughing again to no avail. I tried swallowing more water and just made matters worse. I was barely able to get any air and was making some pretty scary noises. My head started getting dizzy. I thought that pretty soon my life was going to be passing before my eyes. And I saw the tunnel of light that everyone speaks of. (Okay! It was only the fluorescent light above my cube. I just added that for dramatic effect.) I knew I had to get help quickly. I stood up and was about to go to the person on the other side of my cube wall. Standing there for a moment I decided to make one last desperate attempt to save myself. So I wrapped my arms around my ribs, squeezed with all of my might and coughed again. With an uncontrollable holler, that pill came flying out of my mouth like a bullet! It ping-ponged all around my cube! My eyes were watering. My face was beet red.

I had survived! I thought, “How ironic that something that is supposed to make me better nearly killed me!” Many times when I have had a migraine I said I would rather die than endure such pain. But I never really meant it!

YES, I am surviving right now. This past week was rather tiring. I won’t go into details about making arrangements for S to transfer schools, or the horrendous argument the kids had before I got home from work, or how I put off doing laundry a few days too many. (Did you realize that after a while, if certain types of undergarments are not changed they almost need to be chiseled off of one’s body?? Oops! Forgive me for putting that thought in your mind! Heh heh!) So life goes on. The stresses and trials continue. The house is still a mess and the dishes are piled sky high. But I am still breathing. Somehow I’ve managed to make it this far. So I’m not going to quit now. I only have a few gray hairs. I’m not completely bald yet. And I haven’t reached the stage of insanity where you start to drool on yourself. So I still have some fight left in me! Bring on those three teenagers and all their dirty laundry! I’m game!

WELL, since I live in New Jersey I guess I better root for the Giants tonight. They really should be the New JERSEY Giants, you know! Their stadium is in New Jersey. But whatever. I’ll be kicking back, sipping on my Robitussin, watching the big game tonight. Regardless of who wins, I’ll be happy. My boys made it to the Super Bowl. AEROSMITH RULES!



(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

TODAY is my grandfather’s birthday. He passed away in 1993 after suffering through several strokes and other health problems. Today he would have been 90 years old.

THROUGHOUT the day, I thought a lot about Pop. God, how I miss him! With Gram passing just a few weeks ago, some of the grief of Pop’s passing has been brought back to the surface. Pop and Gram were one. It is now impossible to miss one without missing the other.

THE FOLLOWING is a song by Mark Heard who passed away several years ago at the age of 42. The song is about a friend of his who had died. The song expresses a faith that refuses to believe that death is final. It is full of a love that reaches beyond the grave. Its underlying pulse is a confidence that the writer and his friend will one day be reunited.

I HAVE often thought about Pop when I have listened to this song. At times I have cried with such a desire to see him and to talk to him again. “I see you now and then in dreams. Your voice sounds just like it used to. I know you better than I knew you then. All I can say is I love you.” My how those lines touch something so deep in my heart in relation to Pop! “I thought our days were commonplace, thought they would number in the millions. Now there’s only the aftertaste of circumstance that can’t pass this way again.” Oh how those lines cause me to miss him! How they bring up so many happy memories of days with Pop! What I wouldn’t give to have one of those days now! What I wouldn’t give to hear one of his jokes, or to go to a hockey game with him, or to hear him call me Jesse James when he caught me sneaking candy from the candy case at his diner as a kid. How I wish I could just be near him and sense his strength! He was a leader in our family. He was not afraid to go before us. He knew that we would follow. God, how I love him!

In Memory of Edward Durnin
January 25, 1911 – June 13, 1993

I see you now and then in dreams
Your voice sounds just like it used to
I know you better than I knew you then
All I can say is I love you

I thought our days were commonplace
Thought they would number in millions
Now there’s only the aftertaste
Of circumstance that can’t pass this way again

Treasure of the broken land
Parched earth, give up your captive ones
Waiting wind of Gabriel
Blow soon upon the hollow bones

I saw the city at its tortured worst
And you were outside the walls there
You were relieved of a lifelong thirst
I was dry at the fountain

I knew that you could see my shame
But you were eyeless and sparing
I awoke when you called my name
I felt the curtain tearing

Treasure of the broken land
Parched earth give up your captive ones
Waiting wind of Gabriel
Blow soon upon the hollow bones

I can melt the clock hands down
But only in my memory
Nobody gets the second chance
To be the friend they meant to be

I see you now and then in dreams
Your voice sounds just like it used to
I believe I will hear it again
God how I love you

Treasure of the broken land
Parched earth give up your captive ones
Waiting wind of Gabriel
Blow soon upon the hollow bones

From “Satellite Sky”
By Mark Heard



(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

I recently purchased a book called “Grace for the Moment” by Max Lucado. It is a small book of daily readings collected from this man’s many books. The readings are just little “bite-sized” portions to ponder on. This particular “bite-sized” portion happened to lodge in my throat and make me think a little bit today. Here it is:

“CAN YOU imagine a world minus sin? Have you done anything recently because of sin?

At the very least, you’ve complained. You’ve worried. You’ve grumbled. You’ve hoarded when you should have shared. You’ve turned away when you should have helped…

Because of sin, you’ve snapped at the ones you love and argued with the ones you cherish. You have felt ashamed, guilty, bitter.

Sin has sired a thousand heartaches and broken a million promises. Your addiction can be traced back to sin. Your mistrust can be traced back to sin. Bigotry, robbery, adultery – all because of sin. But in heaven, all of this will end.

Can you imagine a world without sin? If so, you can imagine heaven.”

THERE are some pointed thoughts and questions in that passage! “You’ve snapped at the ones you love and argued with the ones you cherish.” Isn’t it true? Isn’t just like the song, “You always hurt the one you love?” Why have I often done this? I guess I could just excuse it by saying that that is just the way it is when you live closely with someone. I’m human. They are human. Humans often irritate one another when you place them in close proximity for any length of time. But why? Why is it this way? Was it this way in the very beginning when God made the first humans? Or did something happen at some point in our history that made us this way?

I was tempted to brush these thoughts away and chalk up my shortcomings to the fact that “this is just the way I am” until I read the next page in Lucado’s book:

“GOD wants us to be just like Jesus.

Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You aren’t condemned to ‘grumpydom.’ You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one.

Where did we get the idea we can’t change? From whence come statements such as, ‘It’s just my nature to worry’ or, ‘I’ll always be pessimistic. I’m just that way.’ Who says? Would we make similar statements about our bodies? ‘It’s just my nature to have a broken leg. I can’t do anything about it.’ Of course not. If our bodies malfunction, we seek help. Shouldn’t we do the same with our hearts? Shouldn’t we seek aid for our sour attitudes? Can’t we request treatment for our selfish tirades? Of course we can. Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like His.”

WELL, after this good man’s observations, all I will say is that I definitely stand in need of great amounts of help from above! Yes, you may all shout, “Amen to that!”



SO, tonight I found myself seated at the bar at Chili’s with Friend J when this “oyster” sitting next to me started talking about the unfairness of marijuana being illegal. “You never hear of anyone getting all nasty and crap when they smoke pot. It’s the ones who drink that get all out of control and beat people up and crap. Getting high just makes you all mellow and makes you think of really cool crap.” I figured it was safest to not argue with a pothead on a soapbox, so I kindly listened. The only thing I could figure was that he was a liberal Democratic “oyster” who was having a bad day because George W. Bush was being sworn into office today. He was probably from Florida, or maybe California. Anyone who has lived in California for any length of time is definitely an “oyster.” We had sat at the bar because there was a long line of people waiting for tables. By sitting there we avoided the aggravation of sitting among other “oysters” out in the tiny little vestibule of Chili’s and were able to order dinner right away. I guess that sitting next to this particular “oyster” at the bar was the price we had to pay for the convenience. But you know, where ever you go there are always “oysters” around you. I think half of them work for the government (CIA or IRS most likely) and the other half hold positions on public school boards.

ANYWAY… Friend J and I talked about normal things like wondering if we could find a Perl compiler to run on a desktop, using Telnet to find Perl errors when your script is on a server, the coolness of using Java rather than CGI scripts, just stuff that normal people talk about every day. Right?

We talked about how neither of us feel as old as we really are. Friend J said that he stopped celebrating his birthday after high school so that he never has to get any older. I think he’s on to something there! I think it’s working for him! I feel like I’m still a teenager too. My oldest kids are nearly passing me in maturity! They are teenagers and they think that I listen to my music too loud in the car. What is wrong with kids these days? And suddenly the soundtrack to my life kicks in:

I ran into my room and I fell down on my knees
Well, I thought that fifteen was gonna be a breeze
I picked up my guitar to blast away the clouds
But somebody in the next room yelled,
“You gotta turn that damn thing down!”

“Teenage Lament 74” – Alice Cooper

Yeah, the issues and struggles of life at 3x years old are different than they were at 15. But I still feel like the same “kid.” Help! I’m a teenager trapped in a man’s body!
WHEN we left Chili’s it was snowing pretty hard. But we didn’t worry because the weatherman said that it was not supposed to snow where we were. I guess if we could deny our ages we could deny the weather just as easily.

In the car we talked about this personality survey that we had to fill out at work recently. Formally it is called the “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.” We had to answer this set of 131 questions in preparation for an upcoming team building workshop. Most of the questions could have been answered in different ways depending on how you looked at them or what mood you happened to be in at the moment. Most of them didn’t allow enough options to choose from. I found myself answering similar question very differently from page to page. I was wondering what all this would say about my personality in the end. What would Mr. Myers and Mr. Briggs determine my personality to be? How about this:

“A chronic sociopath with severe serial killer tendencies and a genetic pre-disposition favorable of spontaneous combustion.”

Wow! That sounds interesting! That would make me stand out in a crowd for sure! But what if the verdict is that I’m just normal? What if they classify me as “just like the next guy,” “average?” What if they come and label me as “permanent press”, “no special care needed,” “just wash with like colors and tumble dry on medium heat?” I don’t want to be status quo! I don’t want to be just another Tom, Dick or Harry. I want to be a Sven! After all, I’m not normal! I listen to “oysters!” Pot smoking “oysters!” Remember?
Well… Normal or not, at least I’m NOT an “oyster.”