“Close Your Eyes, Baby. Follow My Heart.”

“Call on the memories here in the dark” – Ronnie Milsap

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My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.  It’s strange to look at pictures from 50 years ago when they were young, in love, and a whole future awaited them.  My dad tells me all the time what a great life they’ve lived.  And they have.  They’ve travelled.  They’ve made great friends.  They’ve experienced the joys of raising children and having grandkids.  They’ve experienced a wonderful life together.

Sure there have been arguments and disagreements along the way.  There have been disappointments and loss.  There always is in any lengthy relationship.  There have been tough roads to navigate including the one they’re on right now.  It’s a road with potholes and sharp turns.  There are some smooth, flat stretches with sunny skies, but they are further and further in between these days.

“These precious hours we know can’t survive.  But love’s all that matters while the past is alive.”

My dad’s physical and mental abilities are slipping.  Once an all-American basketball player at Tulane with an athletic 6’2 frame, time has taken that away.  It has thrown him some sucker punches the last few years – falls that have led to a broken hip and a broken arm and collarbone and possible concussions to the head.  He’s had heart issues (two aorta valve replacements).  He’s gone through prostate cancer surgery.  He had a small stroke years ago as well.  He’s starting to forget things like days and dates and mixing up words and names.  His speech is slowing and his fine motor skills are deteriorating.  And it’s hard to watch.

My mom is the middle stages of battling the most cruel of diseases – dementia.  I try not to think too much about it because when I do it makes me agonizingly frustrated.  She’s still there.  Those “memories in the dark” that Ronnie Milsap sings about are still alive, but they’re slipping.  She still knows her family and friends and stories from the past, but she can’t retain anything new.  A three hour football game on television means nothing 30 minutes after it’s over.  She’s on medication to help slow the progress but I can’t imagine what her mind is doing to her on a daily basis.  She sleeps a lot more.  She’s less engaged in conversations.  She’s quieter.  I think she knows somewhere inside that something’s wrong.

They’re doing the best they can.  They laugh and joke with each other.  It’s sad and it’s heartwarming at the same time.  I spend my days wondering how they’re doing and managing their doctor appointments and medications and finances.  There are days and times it feels overwhelming.  There are times that I’m frustrated and angry.  Times when I think why both of them?  If one of them was better then it would be much different and probably easier.  But it’s not like that, even if it doesn’t stop me from wondering.

Then there are those days where it is a honor and privilege.  It’s hard to explain.  You don’t know you have the time to do something until it’s thrust upon you and you have to.  Is it stressful?  Sure.  Is it time-consuming?  Of course.  Is it putting someone else’s needs before your own.  Absolutely.  They’ve done all of that for my sister and I throughout our lives already.

Thankfully I have an incredibly understanding and supportive wife and a very willing daughter.  Thankfully I have a helpful sister and brother-in-law who do what they can.  Thankfully God gave me a somewhat calm and even demeanor even though it’s tested quite often these days.  He’s teaching me something.  Somehow, I’m growing through this process.  I really have no other choice.

“These precious hours we know can’t survive.  But love’s all that matters while the past is alive.”

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Ronnie Milsap has always been a favorite of my parents.  He won the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1985 and I still remember all of the old Ronnie Milsap 33’s that would spin on my parents’ record player.  In 1985 when this Milsap single was released I was a skinny freshman in high school battling everyday insecurities and trying to figure out my place in life.  My dad was 45, my mom was 39 that year, and music was a big part of their lives.  They would fix dinner and drinks, and sit and listen to songs like this while they discussed their careers and children and planned for the future.

Music still is a part of their lives today.  It’s just a different time for them as they now try to recall the old days.  It’s a tougher time.  The journey is a struggle now.  But they still find joy.  They still laugh at their silly jokes.  The sit in their sunroom and spin some cd’s instead of 33’s while watching the birds and squirrels and deer as the sun slowly sets beyond the tree line.

“We’ll let the magic take us away.  Back to the feelings we shared when they played”

This Milsap song was one of his 40 #1 country hits.  One of 40!  That’s amazing and something I didn’t realize.  What a testament to Ronnie’s longevity and perseverance and talent.  The song itself is a beautiful medley from a legendary voice that combined “Lost in the Fifties Tonight” written by Troy Seals and Mike Reid and the 1956 hit by The Five Satin’s “In the Still of the Night.”  It reminds me of my parents’ perseverance and of their love for music.

Here is a favorite of my parents and the video for “Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In The Still of the Night)”…

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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Awesome Keller and a Strong Two-Song Halloween Playlist

“He wears the same hat and sweater every single day.  And even if it’s hot, outside he wears it anyway!”

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My sister and brother-in-law have two amazing kids.  Their three-year old boy is a future crime-fighting vigilante or possibly a lightsaber-wielding Jedi named Keller, and the girl is an adorable future princess just over one year old named Sylvie.  They live about 11 hours away in Wisconsin so I don’t see them as often as I would like to.  Thanks to social media though, my sister and brother in law provide much needed pictures, videos, and updates throughout the year.

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Photo creds to my sis

My sister messaged me the other day to tell me that Keller is a big fan of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Nightmare on My Street.”  The song is a rap ode to Freddy Krueger and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” horror movie series.  It came out in 1988 just before the fourth (and most successful) installment: “Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.”  There are a lot of people that didn’t like the song then, and don’t like the song now (my sister included I suppose), but I love it, and apparently so does my awesome nephew Keller.

Unfortunately, because of a legal battle between New Line Studios and DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, the video for the song was only played a handful of times on MTV before it was pulled from rotation.  The video appears to have vanished forever though I still hold out hope that it may still be out there somewhere and maybe we’ll all get to enjoy it one day.

“He’s gone when I’m awake but he shows up when I’m asleep.  I can’t believe that there’s a nightmare – on my street!”

If you’ve never heard it before, then please take a listen/look at this video shot by some students in 2005.  It’s probably very similar to what you would have seen back in 1988 only without the actual stars.  Off of their “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper” album which featured the smash hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” here is the DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince song interpreted by some students for the classic “Nightmare on My Street”…

 

 

“I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain.

Image result for warren zevon werewolves of london

Shortly after that message about the “Nightmare on My Street” song came another one telling me that Keller was now howling to Warren Zevon’s classic “Werewolves of London.”  I have to tell you this kid nailed a second one of my favorite Halloween songs.  I was also already familiar with Keller’s affection for the 80’s Ray Parker Jr. classic “Ghostbusters,” but this particular song actually transcends more than just Halloween playlists.

This is a classic no matter the date or season.  I don’t know what Keller is going to grow up to be, but I know if he continues to single out songs like this, he will be awesome whatever it is.  The song has some of the best lyrics ever and was apparently written in about 15 minutes in 1975.  It wasn’t released until 1978 after friend Jackson Browne (a big proponent of the song through the years) had started performing it live at some of his concerts.

My impression from reading about the song is that Zevon wasn’t particularly fond of the song that began as a joke between he and Phil Everly of “The Everly Brothers” who wanted Zevon to write a song about werewolves that would also develop into a dance craze.  Zevon was once quoted as saying that “Werewolves” was “a dumb song for smart people.”

“You better stay away from him.  He’ll rip your lungs out, Jim.  I’d like to meet his tailor.”

Dumb or not, the song was an immediate hit reaching #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Unfortunately, it’s also the only song many people know of Zevon’s though he was a brilliant songwriter in his own right.  Zevon passed away in 2003, but “Werewolves” continues to live on especially as All Hallows’ Eve approaches every year.  Here is Zevon performing the classic “Werewolves of London…”

 

So, if all you ever did on Halloween was to put these two songs in a playlist and put it on repeat (ok, mix in “Thriller” and “Ghostbusters” too), it would be a strange two-song playlist I grant you.  But, it would be an awesome playlist, and I would hang with you, and so would my awesome nephew Keller.

(One is the author circa 1970-something with a cheap imitation “The Bat” costume while the other is my awesome nephew Keller wearing a legit Batman mask and cape)

Thanks for reading, and happy Halloween!

Aaoooooo!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Put Put Put Puttin’ on the Hits”

Image result for allen fawcett puttin on the hits

For most of us, myself included, we have no discernible talent when it comes to music.  I have envy for those that can sing (like my wife) or play guitar or drums (like numerous friends I have) at a high level.  My wife likes to tell me that I would have made a great lead guitar or even bass player because of my tall, slender build.  Truth be told, I’ve been an air guitar legend in my own mind for decades.  I’ll even slide over to the air drums whenever Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” or Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” comes on over the speakers.

I’ve written on here before about my love of MTV music videos (obviously), and even my pretend top 10 music video show.  Like a lot of us, I’m also a singing star… in the shower, in the car, in the house, it doesn’t matter.  Television programming these days is full of reality based talent shows involving singing and dancing and cooking and athletic feats, and I enjoy a lot of these shows.

If you’ve seen Spike TV’s successful show “Lip Sync Battle” hosted by LL Cool J, and are old enough to remember, then you know lip syncing shows on television was truly born in the 80’s thanks to Dick Clark Productions.

In 1984, “Puttin’ On the Hits” debuted, and I loved it.  Average “Joe’s” showing up every week and lip-syncing to a variety of songs while under the watchful eye of three “expert” judges.  Each judge scored each act in three categories on a scale of 1-10:  originality, appearance, and performance.  The act with the highest total at the end of each episode won a thousand dollars.

The show lasted four seasons and ended with the season four winner taking on the previous three season winners in a $25,000 winner-take-all contest.  Host Allen Fawcett came into our living rooms every week like a pre-Ian Ziering Beverly Hills 90210 reject rocking some sweet 80’s hair and dominating the interviews with the performers with hard-hitting, in-depth questions like:  “what are your ages?” and “what are your names?” and “what station are all of your friends back home watching on?”  James Lipton he was not.

Image result for ian ziering 90210                                      Image result for james lipton

(Ian Ziering, not Allen Fawcett)            (James Lipton, also not Allen Fawcett)

The show inspired numerous rudimentary lip-syncing videos of my own production through the years starting in high school when I talked my younger sister into doing a rendition of The Fat Boys’ “Wipeout” song (actual video to come someday).

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(A very grainy photo of my little sis in 1988 on the “turntable” as one of “The Fat Kids” in our “Wipeout” video.  She wasn’t that big.  It’s just a pillow you know, just in case you weren’t sure.  Also, shoutout to Pitt basketball – “Send it in Jerome!”)

The trend continued on into college in the late 80’s and early 90’s where my buddies and I made numerous lip syncing videos to the likes of Duran Duran, New Kids on the Block, and we even spun ourselves into a very white Public Enemy one year.  Until I find the PE video, you’ll just have to settle for this one the five of us shot around 3:30am on a Sunday morning (seriously) just before finals back in December of 1989. I’m sure Sam Cooke would be so proud of this rendition of his 1960 hit “Wonderful World.”  Here’s just a small sampling of the creative genius when you have a VHS video camera, tripod, and five 18-19 year olds up at 3:30 on a Sunday morning.

Back to “Puttin’ on the Hits” – looking through some old youtube footage (youtube is the best), I came across this Oklahoma act that re-enacted a song from a little known rap group that lasted only three years called the “Boogie Boys.”  The Harlem rap group had one top 10 R&B hit called “A Fly Girl.”

These four 17 year olds cleverly became the “Bootie Boys” for their lip-syncing performance of a lesser known Boogie Boys’ song from 1986 called “Girl Talk.”  With some nice 80’s dance moves and a big score, check out a clip from one of my favorite 80’s shows – here are “The Bootie Boys,” the awesome Allen Fawcett, and “Girl Talk”…

Thanks for reading.  Now, go out and lip-sync to your favorite song!

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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“Traveling in a Fried-Out Combie”

“On a hippie trail, head full of zombie.” – Men At Work

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I recently heard someone say that you should never start your blog out with “sorry I haven’t posted in a while,” because no one cares.  No one reads blogs!  I think that’s hilarious… and partially true.  I barely have time to write this one much less peruse the blogs of the world reading what else is out there, so I won’t ever apologize for the length of time in between posts.  Plus, I have to spend valuable research time on much more important tasks like looking up “fried-out combie,” and “head full of zombie.”

To inform you – my unbelievably, intelligent, beautiful reader – it’s actually spelled “kombi” and the phrase means that it is an over-heated VW Kombivan.  So, a broken-down van, basically.  And “head full of zombie?”  Well, that is apparently the use of a type of marijuana.

The more you know.

“Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?  You better run, you better take cover, yeah.”

The thunder that came rolling into NW Arkansas like a fully caffeinated “Crocodile Dundee” wielding a cross and a Bible was Australian Pastor Michael Murphy (@michaelleaderscape on Facebook).   And, by the way, if you’re already lost when I said “Crocodile Dundee,” then you apparently don’t know who the greatest U.S.-Australian movie star of all time is (or at least of the 80’s)!  So check out this clip first…

Ahh, Paul Hogan.  We loved you back in 1986, you crazy Aussie.  I just found out (if you believe wikipedia) he’s 78 now!

Ok, now back to Pastor Murphy.  He helped Brian and Bobbie Houston lead and start a little church in Australia you may have heard of called Hillsong Church.  Yeah mate, he knows of what he speaks.  And what he speaks is really on leadership within the church and how to cultivate that leadership and help a church organization grow.

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“I met a strange lady, she made me nervous.  She took me in and gave me breakfast”

He estimates that he spends 300+ nights away from his home, so he is meeting many strangers the majority of the year.  Those strangers quickly become friends, and then Pastor Murphy makes the most of his time speaking with church volunteers and leaders.  He was in NW Arkansas last Thursday through Sunday, and spoke numerous times including at multiple Sunday services.  I took some notes and this is just a random collection of some of the things that were impressed upon me during his brief time here.

  • We should frame our world/future.  Have a vision and drive towards that vision.  Be persistent and patient, but see it, and believe it can be done, because how we frame things in our lives will determine how we think about them.
  • Line up your prophetic word under a daily declaration with God’s redemptive power.  Along the lines of believing, affirmation is so important and you should start with yourself.  Give yourself grace and be an affirming person to others.
  • Keep a “River Mentality” / a no step-child; no victim mentality.  Don’t allow negativity to creep into your thought patterns; find the positive in a situation and soak in those words.  Let it flow in you and through you.  Choose to be the victor and not the victim.
  • Sometimes the Love Boat is a battleship  Our current series at our church is on marriage and is called “The Love Boat.”  Pastor Murphy kept this theme when he spoke at our Sunday morning services.  The irony of this is that Pastor Murphy’s wife, Valery, had a very brief cameo in one episode of the classic late 70’s/early 80’s show.  He even showed the black and white photograph of her, “Captain Stubing,” and “Doc” on screen at the Sunday services as proof.  Once again, those of you too young to remember, here’s what “The Love Boat” looked like…

Anyway, the love boat can be many different types of boats through the ups and downs and different stages of marriage.  It’s important to remember that, and to work to keep your marriage boat on course and to make the necessary corrections when needed.  And it takes work!

It was a wonderful and informative few days, and the only thing I regret in my small window of interaction with Pastor Murphy is not thinking to ask him…

“Do you come from a land down under?  Where women glow and men plunder?”

Image result for men at work 1983

When you think about famous rock groups or artists from Australia, there’s really quite a few that have made it big in the U.S. – The Bee Gees, AC/DC, Air Supply, Olivia Newton-John, INXS, Keith Urban, and heck even Dr. Noah Drake, Rick Springfield, hails from down under.

But when I think of Australia and the 80’s, the first group that always comes to my mind is Men At Work.  The “Business As Usual” cassette was one of the first ones I remember owning and it was also right around the time of my first walkman.  It was 1982 when this song was released in the U.S., and I was about 11 or 12 when I was blasting this cassette from my walkman.

This worldwide smash from Men at Work celebrated their homeland and introduced the rest of the world to the question of “what the heck is a vegemite sandwich?”  (Apparently the actual vegemite spread is dark, and thick like peanut butter, but with a very salty taste).  The song reached #1 in Australia (1981), New Zealand (1982), Canada (1982), and then in 1983 hit #1 in Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, the UK, and the U.S.

Here’s the silly little video from Colin Hay and company.  It’s “Down Under” by Men At Work…

As always, thanks for reading/watching, and go out and be a leader today.  Be a better leader today… and maybe hum a bar or two of this tune as you do.

sincerely,

the 80’s

P.S.  If you want to get a taste of Pastor Murphy’s messages and style, here is a 35 minute video from Jan. of this year…

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“What Do You Want to Do With Your Life!?”

Image result for twisted sister we're not gonna take it 1984

Back in 1984, a M-16 carrying father with anger issues could yell at his son for being “worthless and weak,” and then five questionably dressed grown men with heavy eye makeup could proceed to beat the hell out of that same abusive father, and it was considered comedy gold… borderline Oscar-worthy I would have argued back then.

Fast forward almost 35 years and I don’t think this video gets very far before activist groups supporting gender neutral persons weigh in on these five men known as Twisted Sister (TS).  Bullying groups would be questioning the intended comedic undertones of a clearly abusive father, while anti-violence groups would be outraged at the physical actions against the father throughout the video.  That “father” in the video was poor Douglas C. Niedermeyer.  He was clearly just a victim of his own oblivious timing.

“We’ll fight the powers that be, just don’t pick our destiny, ’cause you don’t know us, you don’t belong.”

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” was an anthem for many teens in the early 80’s.  The video was a staple on MTV in 1984, and it introduced my 13 year old self to the band Twisted Sister and also to what a truly ugly cross-dresser looks like.  I commend lead singer Dee Snider for his boldness, but those men were not pretty.  I was not a big TS fan, but the timing of the message was on point for many in 1984… “you don’t know us, you don’t belong!”

When people ask me what my favorite year of music was from the 80’s, I answer 1984.  To be honest though, no one has ever asked me that question, but that is my honest-to-goodness, swear-on-Lionel-Richie’s-sweet-1984-jheri-curl answer!  Nineteen eighty-four had it all – the beginnings of hair metal emergence with bands like Ratt and TS.  Hip-hop groups were popping up and a certain trio from Queens called Run-DMC was starting to catch my attention.  All the big stars were hitting hard in 1984 too – Prince, Madonna, MJ, “The Boss,” Huey,  and Rick Springfield, and you had 70’s rock staples like Van Halen and ZZ Top enjoying arguably their best year as well.

A music lover could have gone broke at Sam Goody buying cassette tapes in 1984 with all of the good music.  I challenge you to look at the hits from that year, and find me a better year.

“Your life is trite and jaded.  Boring and confiscated.  If that’s your best, your best won’t do.”

Well, 1984 would be the best Twisted Sister would do on the charts.  “We’re Not Gonna Take It” peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It would be their only top 40 single.  The follow up single was another similar type song and video called “I Wanna Rock.”  The song featured a new protagonist and that didn’t fare quite as well.

And finally, it took Twisted Sister to tell us that sometimes your best won’t do.  Thank you for not handing out a participation ribbon fellas, because sometimes no matter how hard you try, it’s just not enough.

“Oh we’re not gonna take it.  No, we ain’t gonna take it.  Oh we’re not gonna take it anymore!”

Dee Snider joined Twisted Sister in 1976, and were kind of an underground sensation for many years, but it wasn’t until today’s song and video in 1984 that they broke through into mainstream success.

I actually watched a two hour documentary on Netflix about the band a few years ago called “We Are Twisted F****** Sister!”  The documentary was a little too long for me personally, but it gives a good account of the band’s origins and rise in popularity.

The ensuing video from “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was a call to arms for America’s misunderstood, metal-lovin’ youth.  It was our 80’s version of what our parents went through with The Beatles in the 60’s or Elvis in the 50’s.  It wasn’t necessarily about Twisted Sister.  It was about a movement in music.  It was about outcasts with strange hair and makeup playing loud rock music somehow becoming cool.   It gave hope to a new generation of musically talented misfits and misunderstoods in schools around the country.

It was also about those that made it. It was about Motley Crue, and Ratt, Hanoi Rocks, and Cinderella.  And this video also revived the legend of one Douglas C. Niedermeyer.  Check it out.

Image result for twisted sister we're not gonna take it 1984  “Stand up straight!  Tuck in that shirt!  Tie those shoes!  Adjust that belt buckle!”

If you didn’t make it to the end of this post, then you’re worthless and weak!  Now drop and give me 20!

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

P.S.  If you’re a little too young to understand who Douglas C. Niedermeyer is from the TS videos, then let this next clip from the classic movie “Animal House” catch you up to speed.

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“Looking Out At the Road Rushing Under My Wheels”

“I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels” – Jackson Browne

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For me (and countless others), Jackson Browne is a brilliant songwriter.  I realize this is a 70’s song, but that’s what I do sometimes on sincerelythe80s.com – I step out of the 80’s when it feels right.  And it just feels right today.  This life is crazy at times.

It’s a beautiful song and a wonderful metaphor.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the road and in the air the past few weeks.  Much more than usual that’s for sure, and it’s felt crazy.  I recently made the 12 hour drive from NW Arkansas to Boulder, Colorado and watched the road rushing under my wheels for many miles.  My wife flew out to visit me for a few days in Denver and Boulder.  I saw baseball games, many interesting people, and most of all – the inside of a classroom.

I write this silly little 80’s blog as a hobby.  My day job is that of a community banker, and I recently finished my second year at the Graduate School of Banking Colorado (GSBC) in Boulder.  Students (ages anywhere from twenty-something to fifty-something) travel to Boulder from all over the country.  Both coasts are represented by community bankers along with a fair amount of federal and state regulators.

I spent two weeks living in the Bear Creek Apartments just off the campus of CU studying exciting topics like “Deposit Retention and Growth Strategies,” “Loan Portfolio Management,” and “Understanding Corporate Culture” just to name a few.  There were actually eight classes over the two-week span along with guest speakers sprinkled in.

For a community banker, it really is an impressive, informative, and at the same time over-whelming two weeks.  Each week is concluded with four short tests of 12 questions each on the four classes for the week.  It’s an expensive investment paid for by each bank, but it’s well worth the time and travel.  In between the summer sessions each year each student is required to write three research papers that are graded fairly tough by faculty so it doesn’t end when the two weeks ends.

GSBC Williams Center

The Williams Center where I ate breakfast most mornings.

GSBC wolf law

Wolf Law – where all of our classes were held

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The back entrance of Wolf Law

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My view every morning on my walk to class

While in Boulder, Jackson Browne was performing about 45 minutes away at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater.  The venue seats about 9,500 and opened in 1906.  Red Rocks has been played at by The Beatles, U2, and everyone in between.  It’s a beautiful setting in the mountains where you can see the skyline of Denver in the back ground, and an awesome place to witness just about any performer (when my wife got into town later in the week, she went with a friend to watch Sarah McLachlan).

“Running on, running into the sun, but I’m running behind”

As I sit here some two plus weeks later, I am writing part of this post from Long Branch, New Jersey, and also from the airport in Newark.  My uncle Hans passed away while I was finishing up school and I flew straight to New Jersey from Denver in order to make the viewing and the funeral.  It was very surreal to go from breakfast in the mountains to the La Quinta Inn and the ocean in West Long Branch over the course of 12 hours.

The ensuing emotional toll of a viewing and funeral for a dear family member only drained the tank even more.  Comparatively though, I’m surely running on more fuel than my fellow cousins and sweet aunt Peggy who just lost their father and husband.  The funeral was held in St. Thomas cathedral in Long Branch overlooking the ocean, and included a Taps salute by Navy Servicemen in honor of Hans who had served in the Navy in World War II.

“I don’t know when that road turned, into the road I’m on”

I don’t see many of my Kerwin relatives because they either live on the east coast or in Arizona, so it’s always nice to catch up.  Unfortunately, the last three reasons to get together have all been funerals, so we’re hoping for a wedding or something happy for the next get-together.

I’m now on my final leg.  Newark back to Denver, and then into NW Arkansas tonight where I will get to see my wife and daughter and sleep in my own bed again.  I can’t wait.  The road will end for a while, but the road of life continues to fly by at alarmingly increasing speeds.  I know there are more funerals ahead for uncles, aunts, fathers, mothers, and grandmothers.  It’s a sobering thought, but a real thought nonetheless.  I can only hope for more births, and weddings, and anniversary celebrations to balance out the funerals.

Let’s all hold on and hold together and we’ll make it… even when we feel like we’re running on empty.

“Running on, running on empty.  Running on, running blind”

Below are just a few pictures of the stage and setting at Red Rocks for the Jackson Browne show.  “Running on Empty” was released in 1977 and the song made it to #11 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and is considered Browne’s third biggest hit behind “Doctor My Eyes,” and “Somebody’s Baby.”

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Here is a live version of Jackson performing the song back in 1979.  He still does it justice in 2018 by the way.

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Gypsy, Sittin’ Lookin’ Pretty”

“The broken rose with laughin’ eyes.” – Def Leppard

Image result for bringin' on the heartbreak def leppard

There are those times in your life.  Those fleeting moments that you want to hold onto forever.  You concentrate, you beg, you pray – don’t let me forget this moment.  It might be a stunningly beautiful view from a mountaintop 14,000 feet high in Colorado.  It could be the setting sun beyond the ocean horizon of your dream beach wedding.  It might be your son laughing with childish abandon chasing bubbles around the front yard of your first house.  It might even be your 17 year old daughter swaying to the sounds of an 80’s rock icon at a sold out arena concert in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Oh for just a few more seconds to savor!  Just a few more glimpses of a time that will only live on in memory.  Some people call it living in the moment or being in the present.  It’ when your awareness and understanding and appreciation come together simultaneously and your heart swells.  I like to think of those moments as a mix between awesomeness with a slight dash of heartbreak.

“You’re a mystery, always runnin’ wild.  Like a child without a home.”

I think there’s always a little bit of heartbreak to those moments, because they are fleeting and I know that moment is destined to become a fading memory soon enough.  But most of all though, I’m thankful for those moments and for the memories to come.  I’m appreciative, but still a little sad at the same time.

I surprised my 17 year old daughter with a Monday daddy-daughter date night.  I told her to be ready about 2:30 and that I would be home and we were going somewhere.  We got in the car at about 3 and as we headed out of town, I cranked up Def Leppard’s iconic “Pour Some Sugar on Me” from the speakers of the car.  I told her we were headed to see these guys in Tulsa (about a 90 minute drive) along with Journey at the BOK Center.  We were also headed for dinner at our favorite restaurant.  She was pumped as we listened to my newly created Spotify playlist cleverly titled “Def Leppard – Journey” along the way.

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Just finishing off our pre-concert meal at our favorite restaurant in downtown Tulsa – Ti Amo

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My wife and I have raised her on all kinds of music.  We have listened to everything from Christian artists to rap to country to pop to classical throughout her life, but she loves her some 80’s rock music, and Def Leppard is one of her favorites.  When your five year old, strapped into her car seat, is singing “Fa, fa, fa, foolin’!” from the backseat then I think you’re winning at parenting.  It may just be a small win, but a win is a win!

Parenting is exhausting.  The challenges are different from day to day, year to year.  It can be draining and unrewarding and agonizingly frustrating at times, but there are those moments that make all the tough times worth it.  The heart softens and the realization of what’s really important in this life surface once again.  Love.  Health.  It’s in those moments that life is truly awe-inspiring and beautiful.  And I was lucky enough to get another one of those moments on Monday night in section 108 standing next to one sweet 17 year old who was swaying to the music.

“You’re bringin’ on the heartbreak.  Bringin’ on the heartache”

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In the land of under-appreciated Def Leppard tunes, I have to put this one in the mix.  There’s nothing quite like a concert to make you appreciate some songs you haven’t heard in a while.  I never thought too much of this minor DL hit, but man has it come to the forefront of my psyche the past 72 hours since the concert.

I know the ballad is really about a girl (aren’t they all?) who won’t let the singer into her heart, but when this was released originally in 1981 (mixed and re-released again in 1984) I doubt the band had little idea of the heartbreak in store for them.  Drummer Rick Allen would lose an arm in a single car high speed automobile accident in 1985, and original lead guitarist and songwriter Steve Clark would lose his life to alcohol poisoning in 1991.  Heartbreak and heartache seem to be ingredients for most rock bands.

There are two parts I really like in this song.  One is when the guitar takes off at about the 1:07 mark where the song kicks into a different gear. The other is Joe Elliott’s multiple “No(s)!” just after the three minute mark to break up the brief silence in the song.

Only getting as high as #61 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984, here is the under-appreciated “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”…

Thanks for reading and may you find one of those moments today – a moment that is awesomely beautiful with just a tinge of heartbreak to it.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Some Days Won’t End Ever and Some Days Pass on By”

“I’ll be working here forever, at least until I die.” – Huey Lewis and The News

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I loved that “Bowzer “from Sha Na Na was part of the group.

I’ve been reading a book this week that a friend of mine wrote a few years back.  The book is a collection of stories from his time of coaching a girl’s softball team, and one of the statements that really made an impression on me recently was the phrase “embrace the grind.”

We hear statements or variations of it all the time:  “The struggle is real.”  “I work.  I hustle.  I grind.”  “Embrace the suck.”  “Struggle, hustle, grind, shine.”

One of the definitions of grinding something though is to sharpen it.  As iron sharpens iron anyone?  All the grinding can be worth it.  Embrace the grind.  To “embrace” something is to accept something willingly and enthusiastically.  But don’t you just hate those people sometimes?  It sure is easy to roll the eyes at those type of people, or let out a heavy sigh at a mundane task that we’ve done a thousand times.  Embracing is hard when it’s something we don’t want.

“Hey I’m not complainin’ ’cause I really need the work.  Hittin’ up my buddy’s got me feelin’ like a jerk.”

Growing up in the 80’s, my jobs consisted of odd jobs that are still teenager-related to this day.  I had the occasional babysitting gig through the year.  I worked a girls’ basketball camp or two before my senior year of high school.  But mostly, I mowed lawns with my best friend Barry during the summer.  I worked on my tan as sounds of Van Halen and Guns n’ Roses and LL Cool J reverberated into the depths of my brain while mowing and edging lawns for neighbors and around town.

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I mowed those many lawns with one of these things hanging from my belt loop or strapped over my shoulder.

There’s not much to “the grind” when you’re young.  Everything is new.  You’re making money for the first time and spending it on frivolous things.  I was living under my parent’s roof, so there wasn’t a “struggle” to make rent or pay the electric or gas bills.  Maybe there was a car payment or an occasional date involved somewhere during those days, but for the most part it was just spending money for more cassettes!

“Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent.  I get a check on Friday, but it’s all ready spent.”

My 17-year-old daughter got her first real job a little over a week ago working as a cashier at a local grocery store, so she is just beginning to learn about “the grind” and workin’ for a livin’.  She’ll be asking about taxes and everyone’s favorite friend, “FICA” soon enough, but for now she’s excited.  She came home with her very first check yesterday and it was for $141.  When you’re 17, $141 mine as well be a thousand dollars.

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Work that checkout lane, girl!

But she’s on her way.  She’s learning about responsibility and being a team player.  She’s learning about accountability and sacrifice, and she’s also learning about the importance of comfortable shoes when you’re standing the majority of the day for your job.

I want her to be excited about this job.  I want her to be proud of her monetary accomplishment, and I want her to be a good employee.  Her excitement makes me think about various jobs I’ve had through the years and that feeling of excitement and anticipation that came with that new job and new co-workers.

I hope it never does, but the day may come soon enough where she will wake up and feel like it’s the same day as yesterday and work won’t be as exciting.  There will be no newness to it.  It might even be hard and unpleasant and unrewarding.  Even if it becomes a grind, I hope she learns to embrace it, because she’ll be better and she’ll be sharper for it.  If we learn to embrace the grind, we will all be better for it.

“I’m takin’ what they’re givin’ ’cause I’m workin’ for a livin'”
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Anytime you can get a harmonica solo into a hit song there has to be another level of appreciation for something like that!  I, for one, have always appreciated Huey Lewis and The News.  Sure they have a few songs that make me want to scratch my ear drums for relief (“Hip to Be Square” anyone?), but for the most part Huey Lewis and his band provided some of the best sounds of the 80’s.

They formed in San Francisco in 1979 and broke into mainstream success with one of my favorites – 1982’s “Do You Believe in Love?”  And though today’s song and video is not particularly in my top five of favorite Huey songs, nor a big hit for the group, this track, also from 1982, is an ode to the working man or woman.  It’s an ode to all of you out there grindin’ every day and earning an honest dollar.  It’s now a soundtrack song for my  80’s-music-lovin’ daughter as well.

Only reaching #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 back then, here is “Workin’ for a Livin'”

A shout out to Huey Lewis and continued prayers and good thoughts for his battle and ultimate recovery from Meniere’s disease which has caused him to cancel all of his 2018 shows.

Also, I’m just teasing with that “Bowzer,” from Sha Na Na comment.  I know it’s you Mario Cipollina

Thanks for reading all of you that continue workin’ for a livin’, and remember to embrace the grind today.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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“Hot Summer Streets and the Pavements Are Burning…”

“I sit around.” – Bananarama

Image result for bananarama cruel summer

In the summer of 1984, America took a stunning crane kick to the face when a karate movie featuring a young Ralph Macchio and an aging Pat Morita debuted and proceeded to win the hearts of Americans everywhere.

The underdog story features an unlikely friendship between a Jersey kid relocating with his mom to Recedo, CA, named Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) and the maintenance man (the late, great Pat Morita) at the apartment complex he and his mom move into.  Throw in a gang of karate bullies, their ex U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret sensei, a few cool songs like this one today, some iconic sayings (“Wax on. Wax off.” “Paint the fence.” “Sweep the leg.” etc.), and you had the makings of a classic movie.  And that’s just what it became – classic.

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Macchio and Morita formed a powerful duo in the 80’s

Around that same time I owned a “how-to” book on Judo.  Judo was very popular for some reason back in the 60’s, and I’m pretty sure that’s when the book was written.  I’m not even sure how I came to possess such a book, but I thought I could read the book, look at the pictures, and teach myself Judo all from the comfort of my own bedroom!  Sure, it wasn’t karate, but it was still a lot of kicking and punching, and I was going to be a total badass!

Well, amongst minor details like my overall lack of desire and dedication, I also didn’t have a partner to practice on nor anyone to tell me if I was doing everything correctly.  Eventually (like two days later), I just gave up on learning judo, but told myself I would learn some sort of martial arts at a later date.  I never did, but I always imagined that one day I would be the skinny underdog who was picked on but eventually became a karate champion by defeating those same bullies along the way in a tournament in front of thousands.  Oh, and I would win the heart of the prettiest girl in school just like Daniel LaRusso of course!

“The city is crowded, my friends are away, and I’m on my own”

Fast forward to the spring of 2018 and as I was browsing through an issue of “Sports Illustrated,” and I saw an advertisement for a new Youtube series called “Cobra Kai.”  Realizing that this new series stars the original characters from “The Karate Kid” in Macchio and his enemy, Johnny Lawrence (outstandingly played by William Zabka), I watched all ten 30 minute episodes over the course of about three days and loved it.  I loved it so much I told my wife and daughter that they needed to watch it, and so I watched it a second time with them.

The story picks up some 30+ years after the All Valley Championships and catches us up on what has transpired, and what is going on in the lives of Daniel and Johnny.  Lawrence, down on his luck, reopens the defunct Cobra Kai dojo reigniting a rivalry with the already successful Daniel LaRusso.  Throw in some flashbacks to the original movie, introduce a whole new crop of young talented characters, provide some brilliant writing by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, and you have something special.

It’s definitely PG-13 for all the language and high school humor, but if you are a fan of “The Karate Kid” or just a fan of well-written, action packed comedy dramas then you should give this series a shot.

“It’s too close for comfort, this heat has got right out of hand”

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The movie and subsequent MTV video helped introduce us to three quirky young women that summer called Bananarama.  With their smoky eyes, messy, low-hanging bangs, and British accents, my 13 year-old self was immediately seduced by this London trio.  I was transfixed to my MTV anytime this video appeared.  “Cruel Summer” helped propel Bananarama to top 10 status for the first time ever in the U.S., and the song also reached #8 in their native UK.

I found it interesting in an interview by original member Siobahn Fahey that the group was first introduced to cocaine during this video shoot by some local dock workers.  Fahey was quoted as saying “That was our lunch.  When you watch that video, we look really tired and miserable in the scenes we shot before lunch, and then the after-lunch shots are all euphoric and manic.” 

That alone made me watch it again just to see if I could tell.  Not sure that I really could, but maybe you can when you watch.  Nonetheless, this song is actually a rather dark song about being alone under an oppressive heat watching the summer slip by.  But with it’s upbeat tempo and catchy chorus, it still has to be a staple on any summer playlist.

One of my all-time favorite 80’s songs – it’s “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama…

 

As a bonus, here is the song featured in “The Karate Kid”…

Thanks for reading, and just remember:  Strike first.  Strike hard.  No mercy.

sincerely,

the 80’s

kkcobrakai

 

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“Have You Ever Been Stabbed in the Back…”

“By someone you thought was really cool?” –  Jody Watley

I hope none of you will be getting stabbed in the back metaphorically, or physically for that matter.

I remember how every May brought the anticipation of the end of another school year, and the beginning of summer.  I have a daughter who is a junior in high school now, and I was curious about one timeless end of school year tradition the other day.  On my way to drop her off at school, I asked her if they still sell yearbooks at school.  She said yes.  I followed up by asking if kids still sign them for each other, and she replied affirmatively even saying that they have a “yearbook party” at the end of the school year.  Apparently all of the students eligible to attend the party (my daughter thought you had to have at least a 2.0 GPA to attend) gather in the gym one afternoon during the last week of school and sign yearbooks for each other.

I remember how exciting, yet scary it could be when it came to yearbook signing.  Do I dare ask that person?  Will they ask me so I don’t have to ask them first?  It was intimidating for an introvert like myself to go ask one of “the cool kids” or one of “the pretty girls” to sign my yearbook.  And then if they did sign my yearbook, what would they say?  If I had to sign theirs, what would I say?  “You’re cool.  Have a great summer.  Glad we had class together.  See you next year.  Hope we have classes together next year.”  Lame.  Lame. Lame!  Oh the pressure of the yearbook signing!  I’m sure I would be horrified by some of the things I wrote 30-35 years ago.  I have no clue what I wrote to other people, but I know one year I signed many of them “Your friend and mine, Kyle Kerwin.”  Insert slapping my forehead emoji right here.

Surely yearbook signing anxiety is a thing, right?  Can one see a therapist for this?  I just remember that you had to be either witty, or sincere and nice (without sounding creepy).  The really good signers could do both.  Signing a yearbook that can still make that person smile all these years later is a resume’ worthy skill in my opinion!

“Smiles they hide behind.  Never know what’s on their mind.”

I read through many of my friends’ messages in my old yearbooks the other day.  I made it easy for a lot of people because they knew me as a good basketball player so they could always write how awesome I was at basketball or encourage me to “keep up the hard work!”  “I know I’ll see you in the pros ones day!”  Lol.  There were funny ones and nice ones, and messages from people I don’t even remember now.  What do kids today sign?  ‘Your Facebook profile picture is awesome.’  No.  Kids aren’t even on Facebook.  How about ‘Your Instagram photos are on point!’ or ‘Your Twitter feed is lit!’  Maybe it’s ‘I’ll check you out on Snapchat,’ or ‘Text me this summer (heart emoji, smiley emoji, peace emoji)!’

Whatever it is these days I still love that I have these little thoughts frozen in time on paper from the people I grew up with.

Some of my “friends” from 8th and 9th grade in 1985 and 1986…

Some of my high school friends from 1988 & 1989…

“Friends are hard to find.  Friends, yours and mine
I’m talkin’ ’bout your friends”

By the time today’s featured song and video was released in April of 1989 I was about a month away from graduating high school with my friends.  Also during this time, Chicago-born Jody Watley was killing it.  She was the god-daughter of the late, great Jackie Wilson, and got her start in the entertainment business as a dancer on the TV show “Soul Train.” 

She was an original member of the band Shalamar from 1977-1983 before embarking on her successful solo career that saw her garner a Grammy in 1988 for Best New Artist.  This song would be the seventh of eight straight singles to appear in the top 10 of either the Billboard Hot 100, the U.S. R&B charts, and/or the U.S. Dance charts between 1987-1989.

During this time in the late 80’s, it was also becoming common for R&B singers to include rappers in the extended versions of their songs.  Many times the rap parts would be edited out for Top 40 radio and you would never know they existed.  Who was cooler back in the 80’s rap game moreso than the duo of Eric B & Rakim.  There’s no question mark because that’s a rhetorical question.  The answer is nobody!  The fact that the “Paid in Full” duo lent their talents to a Jody Watley jam upped her street cred in my books, and not the other way around.  This song peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989.

Here is the extended remix featuring the musical rap stylings of MC Rakim and his DJ, Eric B, who happened to be back on tour this spring for the first time in 25 years.

I wish Eric B. & Rakim and Jody Watley were my “Friends,” because I’d let them sign my yearbook, and then I’d retroactively be the coolest NHS Tiger class of 1989.

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

NHS Grad

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