Baby Boy has been learning a lot of new skills lately. As his father, I too am learning a few new tricks of the trade. If you’ve ever been to a concert, you certainly have seen a “roadie” at work. They are the individuals who haul pieces of musical equipment to various venues, set it up, and make sure it is ready to go for the night’s performance.
I too am a “roadie,” except I work a little closer to home each night. In fact, I don’t have to leave my bathroom. Baby Boy has a set of toothbrushes. One features Sesame Street’s “Cookie Monster,” while the other has a picture of “Elmo.” It is my job to fine tune these instruments. Essentially, that means putting a dab of training toothpaste on each brush, as he likes to use both each night. Then it is time to watch the maestro at work.
I wish I could say it is like watching a great guitar virtuoso perform a jaw-dropping solo. However, it is more like viewing a road construction crew on an Illinois highway in the dead of summer. Lots of digging around in holes, but not much actual work being done. I think the best part is watching him rinse each brush and toss it back in the drawer. For this is when he usually finds both of Amanda’s brushes and decides he will perform an encore for his audience of one. This is generally done sans toothpaste.
It makes me nervous when he exits the bathroom while eyeing the toilet brush. I begin to wondering if he thinks he should grab that and end the night with a real showstopper. If that happens, I think I’ll take a page out of Jimi Hendrix’s notebook and set fire to all of the brushes in the house.
When I started writing this blog back in January of 2019, I wasn’t sure where it would lead. At first my goal was to focus on issues related to my disability. However, my life really isn’t defined by having spina bifida. Therefore, this blog has expanded to be a place where I can share my thoughts on current events, give insights on what living life with a disability is like, and just share humorus observations of the world around me. I hope you have enjoyed following me on this journey.
This particular post will be the 100th post that I have written. I thought in keeping with that, I’d create a list of 100 lessons that I have learned, observations that I’ve made, or opinions that I have formed. Every day there are new lessons to be learned and new experiences to be had. These are just a few of the things I have picked up along the way. Let me know if I have missed anything. Here is my list in no particular order.
100. Never take a hansom cab ride in New York City.
99. Never be afraid to try something new (except for that hansom cab ride in New York City).
98. Holding a grudge against anyone is pointless.
97. God will indeed give you more than you can handle at times.
96. Don’t ever give up. Things will get better. It might just take time.
95. Life is unfair.
94. Anxiety can make you feel like you need to do everything all at once. You actually don’t need to do this. Just slow down and take things one step at a time.
93. The smell of the air just before it rains is one of the best scents.
92. The smell of a baby’s head just after they have had a bath is THE best scent there is.
91. The love that a dog has for its master is one of the purest forms of love there is.
90. Losing someone that you love is one of the most painful things you can ever experience.
89. Working hard to achieve a goal is one of the greatest feelings that you will have.
88. Sitting outside in the winter in a place where there is very little, if any, light pollution and looking up at the stars on a clear night is something everyone should try at least once.
87. Going on a road trip with someone you love is a lot of fun.
86. Dorothy was right, “there is no place like home.“
85. Take time to pray every day.
84. Dirt tastes like dirt (yes, I have tried dirt before).
83. Beets taste like dirt.
82. Walnuts taste like dirt.
81. The taste of soap is not pleasant. (Yes, I have had my mouth washed out with soap. It was at church no less).
80. Cilantro tastes like soap.
79. Eating a bag of peanuts on a warm, summer day at baseball game is one if the most relaxing experiences there is.
78. Take time to listen to the stories that your grandparents tell. I am fortunate that I did. I will treasure these memories for as long as I live.
77. Learn about the things that have happened in the past. You can learn a lot from history.
76. You can never read enough books.
75. Learning to adapt to change is difficult, but it is well worth the effort.
74. Being a homeowner is both a blessing and a curse.
73. It pays to do things correctly the first time.
72. I’d rather have more time to do the things that I want to do in life than to make more money. Time is far more valuable than money.
71. There are still very kind people in the world. Many of them live in the U.K.
70. Listen to your parents. They know more than you do.
69. Do at least one thing you enjoy doing every day.
68. Never pray for patience. God just might answer your prayers in ways you don’t expect.
67. When working with others it is often best to let them speak first. You just might gain some new perspective.
66. Donuts are little bites of heaven.
65. Mashed potatoes are the best food ever!
64. Chick-fil-A is overrated.
63. Fountain Coke at McDonald’s is the best.
62. Hot McDonald’s french fries are the best.
61. The Blues Brothers is one of the best films ever made.
60. Somedays you just have to listen to the Beatles.
59. You will never get everyone to like you.
58. Pancakes made at home are better than you can get in any restaurant.
57. NASCAR is not a sport.
56. Everyone should make a trip to the ocean at least once.
55. Everyone should travel overseas. You will gain a new perspective on life.
54. There is nothing like a good night’s sleep.
53. Spending time in the mountains is one of the most peaceful things you can do.
52. Disney World is overrated.
51. Bacon tastes best when crispy.
50. Cats can indeed be needy (I live with two who are very needy).
49. Sunny days are the best kind of days.
48. Never have your eyes dilated on a sunny day.
47. You can’t properly eat Oreo cookies without a glass of milk.
46. Getting an unexpected package in the mail is better than gifts on Christmas Day.
45. No one has ever sang the National Anthem better than Whitney Houston.
44. No one’s instrumental version of the National Anthem has been better than Jimi Hendrix’s rendition from the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
43. September is the best month when it comes to weather, at least here in Illinois.
42. Rollercoasters are not fun!
41. There is no ceremony quite as somber as the “changing of the guard” at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
40. Ken Burns knows how to make a documentary film better than anyone else. If baseball doesn’t start soon I might have to dive into his 23-hour epic on the sport.
39. Don’t ever try smoking.
38. Tell the people you love how you feel while you still can.
37. Sometimes you just need to eat a big, greasy, cheeseburger.
36. It is never too cold to eat ice cream.
35. Read to your kids when they are young.
34. Walter Payton is the best football player I ever saw play the game.
33. Hot dogs should never be eaten with ketchup.
32. Thanksgiving is the best holiday.
31. Christmas becomes less fun the older you get. However, I suspect this changes once you start having your own children.
30. One of the best sounds you can hear is a baby’s laugh.
29. Many of the best things in life are free.
28. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
27. A soft answer often turns away wrath.
26. Sometimes it best just to remain silent.
25. Autumn is the best season.
24. Always apologize when you are wrong.
23. Michael Jordan was the best basketball player I have ever seen play the game.
22. Don’t argue about politics on social media.
21. Forgive others when they wrong you.
20. Don’t pour gasoline on a fire.
19. Voting for the lesser of the two evils still brings you evil.
18. Finish your work first then you can enjoy your play all the more.
17. You often get what you give.
16. Cynicism isn’t always a bad thing.
15. Always finish what you start.
14. Let your yes be yes and let your no be no.
13. Family is important.
12. Steak is best when cooked medium. Anything else and you cook the flavor out of it.
11. Help others when and where you can.
10. As long as you are alive there is always hope.
09. Nothing quenches your thirst better than water.
08. Admit your mistakes and learn from them.
07. Always tell the truth.
06. Don’t expect others to respect you if you don’t show respect yourself.
05. Every thing should be done in moderation.
04. Always say “please” and “thank you.”
03. You get what you pay for.
02. Fear can be a good motivator.
01. The love of a good woman is a very special thing.
One of the fondest memories that I have of my dad is riding around in his truck with him and my brothers. He had an 8-track player in his truck. It was through that 8-track player that I was introduced to much of the music that I still love today. My dad’s taste in music varied. He enjoyed everything from Motown to the Beatles to Southern Gospel.
As I write this I am listening to an old gospel song called, “Is That the Old Ship of Zion,” performed by the Southern Gospel group called the Kingsmen Quartet. When I hear this song I can’t help but think of my dad, as it was one of his favorites. So it is with many of the songs that I have in my iTunes library. For instance, I cannot help but think of those rides in my dad’s truck when I hear a song by Hall and Oates or Foreigner, as those were in heavy rotation during those trips.
It is because of my dad that I have a fondness for Motown as well. I love The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and The Supremes. This music is timeless to me. It is some of the music that I have started to introduce Baby Boy to after we read at night. I can tell he enjoys music already.
As a student of history, I have always had a desire to go deeper and examine how things began. It is this curiosity that led me to explore the origins of the music I heard on those rides in my dad’s truck. Ultimately, that journey led me to discover the blues. There I found musicians like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King. It was the music created by these men that gave rise to much of the music that I discovered as a teenager. This is the music that I still love today.
Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, all were influenced by the blues. Music is still something that lifts my spirits, and helps me to escape the troubles of the day. One cannot help but feel better after listening to a song like “If I Fell” by the Beatles. In my opinion no group ever harmonized better than the Beatles. Plus, no other duo could write a song quite like Lennon and McCartney.
I thank my dad for instilling a love of music within me. I hope to pass that same love on to Baby Boy. I will be curious to see where it takes him. He might just introduce me to some new things. One thing is certain, I’ll never forget that 8-track player and the music it introduced me to all those years ago.
I find scrolling through Facebook amusing at times. Despite the current state of affairs in the world today, there are posts that I read that truly make me laugh out loud. For example, I came across the the picture below and found it humorous. However, it also got me thinking just how different things would be if we were living without the technology that we have today.
In 2002, I had been out of college for just two years. I was volunteering as a reading tutor through the AmeriCorps Program, which is a domestic version of the Peace Corps. Instead of serving overseas, participants volunteer within their own communities, such as working in schools.
While serving in the AmeriCorps Program, I was living at my mother’s house. Much like the picture above, I had a Nokia cell phone and was limited to dial-up Internet. I can remember dialing in late at night and chatting with friends online. There was that audible dialing of the number to connect to your local Internet service provider, then if you were lucky enough to establish a connection you’d here a long, high-pitched squeal that seemed to drone on forever.
Usually, you could go fix yourself a sandwich, grab a Coke, and by the time you got back the squaling would be gone and you’d be connected to the Internet through your 56K modem. Then it was on to Yahoo to search any number of random topics. In those days, I was most likely looking up information on Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, or any other of my guitar heroes. Because, as you see, I had taught myself some basic HTML programming and I had created my own website that was hosted by a service called Geocities.
Geocities was a web-community that had various “neighborhoods” where you could create a website with a particular theme. My “neighborhood” was in the music section of “town,” as my website was called “Strat Cats.” It was all about my favorite guitar players who were known for playing a Fender Stratocaster. Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and Buddy Guy were just a few of the featured musicians on my site. Each guitarist had their own section, complete with biographies, discographies, and current news.
I can remember staying up for hours researching the lives of these men. I needed to stay current on all of the latest news about each of them so that I could keep the visitors to my website informed. It was enjoyable learning about these people, who were legendary figures to me. Yes, I was a nerd and proud of it! I had a website, which did get noticed by some on various message boards. However, I was living at my mom’s house and when it got too late she’d yell at me to go to bed.
Fast forward now to 2020. Many of us are working from home using high-speed Internet that puts a world of information at our fingertips in a split second. This could not have been done in 2002. Likewise, I am typing this story that you are now reading using just my iPhone, while laying in bed.
I can do most things online from just my smartphone, whether it be paying bills, ordering takeout from a favorite restaurant, or just perusing Facebook when I am bored. Honestly, I cannot imagine life without this access to information.
I am thankful for the technology of 2020. It has kept me employed. However, it is often a hindrance to one’s peace of mind. It can be difficult to shut out the negativity that is so pervasive across much of social media, news sites, and other types of digital content.
I am still a nerd. I love to look up facts about things that interest me. It is also fun to be able to connect with others through Facebook, Zoom, and through various online games, such as Wordfeud. I have met some wonderful people online over the years. Some that I consider dear friends today.
Without the power to digitally connect with others, the world would be much different today. Amanda and I are able to stay connected with our church through Zoom. Likewise, there is FaceTime to see family and friends in far away places. It will be odd to spend Easter at home this year, while participating in a church service online. However, until we can all meet again face to face, this is the best we can do.
I don’t long for the days of dial-up Internet. However, our current situation has made me realize how much I take for granted. Just today I was at the grocery store. I was one of the few without a face mask. There were signs all over the floor reminding customers to “stay at least six feet apart” from one another. Many of the shelves were empty of items that are typically never out of stock.
Perhaps it would be simpler to go back to the days where I was still living at home. I might even go to bed if my mom yelled at me to do so. Now, I have a baby that just yells at me to get up and feed him. But doggone it I can stream any movie I want to watch day or night. I can even watch TV in the bathroom. That is a lifelong dream that has been realized thanks to the iPad.
I am signing off now, I need to go check if “Strat Cats” still exists somewhere out there in cyberspace. If it does it is going to need some updates.
Baby Boy is a month old today. He is growing and becoming more aware of his surroundings every day. He is still ours and it is fun to see him grow out of clothes that fit him just a few weeks ago. Clothes he was once “swimming in” fit him just perfectly now. He is such a long, little boy. He uses those long legs to his advantage during a diaper change.
It is still difficult to imagine that one day he may be taken from us. This realization becomes harder to accept with each passing day. Amanda and I are his parents. We feed him, we clothe him, and we love him like he is our own.
Baby Boy and I have some good weekend “chats” as he lays on my chest in the morning. Of course, I am the one doing all of the talking. He just coos, grunts, and puckers his lips as he listens. I hope we can continue these “chats” for quite some time, as they help me relieve stresses of the week. Baby Boy is a good listener.
In those quiet moments of the morning he and I sometimes listen to music. He will be a Beatles fan some day, he just doesn’t know it yet. I think I’ll wait to introduce him to other favorites of mine later. Listening to Jimi Hendrix in the morning may not be as calming as the acoustic renderings of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Hopefully, Baby Boy is still here once baseball begins. There would be nothing better than introducing him to a game that I love. While I am not holding out much hope for the Cubs this coming season, it is always a joy to see Wrigley Field on the television. It would be a thrill to be able to take him to his first game there. The sights, sounds, and smells would have us both enthralled.
Amanda and I still have no idea how long Baby Boy will be with us. It could be a few days, a month, a year, or even longer. In the month that he has been, he has already left his fingerprints on our hearts. Our hope is that he is ours for a long time to come, but we know that may not be the case. In the meantime, he is ours to love, to teach, and to guide. God give us the strength to do all of those things.
After only a day and a half in Ireland, we flew back to England to spend a few days with a couple of friends who live in Southampton, a city about 80 miles south of London. While in Southampton we stayed at a hotel called the Botleigh Grange. Built sometime in the 17th century, the Botleigh Grange was originally a private country home. It is said to be haunted, but I think the only ghosts we saw were the old men that were drinking in the hotel’s lounge one evening.
While in Southampton we were once again treated with warmth and kindness. Our friends Lesley and Stuart shared their time with us and showed us more beautiful and historic sights. We saw where the Titanic set off on its fateful voyage, and we took a ferry across The Solent to the Isle of Wight. This was another place I had always wanted to visit, not only because it is mentioned in the Beatles’ song “When I’m Sixty-Four,” but also because it was the sight of one of the last concerts that Jimi Hendrix ever played. I guess you could say I am a little obsessed with the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
Because this trip was not all about me, Lesley and Stuart also took us to the home where Jane Austen spent the last several years of her life. The gardens around her home were so vibrant and it was nice to see how well everything had been preserved. We then spent some time in Winchester, which is where Jane Austen died and is buried. Her final resting place is inside Winchester Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe.
After being welcomed with open arms it was difficult to leave Southampton, but all good things must come to an end. So, we hopped a train back to London where we spent one more day and night before flying back home.
Oh, and that wheelchair, well we were supposed to leave it at the hotel we stayed at our last night in London. The service from which we had rented it instructed us to leave it with the front desk staff of the hotel where’d we be staying our last night in London, so that they could retrieve it the morning of our departure. However, when we explained these arrangements to the front desk clerk upon check in he told us that the hotel would not be held responsible for it. So, I called the company and let them know this, but I never heard back from them. We even called them twice the morning of our departure, and we still heard nothing. So, we asked the ticket agent at the American Airlines check in desk if we could leave it with them. Once again we were told they would not be held responsible for it. So, we parked that chair outside security and made our way to our flight.
A few days after we arrived home the wheelchair service called us and asked us about the chair. I explained to them where we had left it and explained how we had attempted to contact them about it before we left. They were never able to locate it, and to this day it remains a mystery as to where it is. When I think about where it might have ended up, my mind instantly goes to the final scene of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. Maybe, it was packed away in a crate in much the same way the Ark of the Covenant is at the end of this film and was wheeled into a storage room somewhere deep in the bowels of London’s Heathrow Airport.
That infamous wheelchair, which I mentioned in part two of this story would prove quite valuable during our first full day in London, for we were off on a walking tour of some of the sites related to the history of the Beatles. Our guide for this tour was a man by the name of Richard Porter, who makes his living showing Beatles fans around London. Richard was an interesting man, to say the least. He resembled Richard Simmons and had the energy to match. Were we going to be “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” or merely taking a leisurely stroll through London’s Soho? Fortunately, it was the latter. Richard had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Fab Four, so our tour led us to some very interesting places.
Our first stop along the way was Paul McCartney’s office building. Richard said that Paul can be spotted at times coming and going, but we had no such luck. We then stopped in front of Trident Studios. This is the studio where the Beatles recorded much of the White Album, along with one of their last singles, “Hey Jude.” Many other legendary musicians have recorded here as well, such as David Bowie, Elton John, Queen, The Rolling Stones, and Frank Zappa. From Trident Studios we headed to Carnaby Street, an area well known for its fashion boutiques that catered to many of the popular bands of the 1960’s.
Next, we found ourselves in front of the London Palladium, the theatre where “Beatlemania” is said to have begun . Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture below, the only thing happening this day was a concert by Rick Astley.
From the Palladium we ventured on to a club called the Bag O’ Nails. This is a club where the Jimi Hendrix Experience played one of its first live shows. It is also where Paul McCartney met Linda, his first wife. Loving the music of both the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, it was a thrill for me to see these places that I had only ever read about in books.
Then, as if this day could not get any better, it was time to see one of the places that looms quite large in the legend of the Beatles, Apple Studios at 3 Savile Row. This is where the band played their legendary rooftop concert on January 30, 1969. Sadly, this was to be their last live performance as a band. After spending a few minutes taking pictures and soaking in all of this wonderful history, it was time to move on to our next two stops.
The first of these places was the Scotch of St. James,
another very important landmark in the history of 60’s rock and roll, as this
was a club that saw many legendary performers play. In the same square where the Scotch of St.
James is located also stands the building that once housed the Indica
Gallery. The Indica was an art gallery
where John Lennon was first introduced to Yoko Ono. Oh, if only John had stayed home that night!
To end our day of Beatles sightseeing, Richard, Amanda, and I caught a train that would take us to Abbey Road Studios. This is a sight that I thought I would never get to see in person. As you can see below, I was able to roll across the famous crossing where the Beatles were photographed for the cover of Abbey Road, which is my favorite album of theirs.
After a very long, but exciting day, at least for me, we rode the train back to the heart of Westminster. This is where Big Ben and the Houses or Parliament are located. I had waited years to visit Big Ben, and to my dismay it was obscured by layers of scaffolding! However, that wasn’t the biggest problem I’d encounter this night.
One thing that became more clear as the night wore on, is that public restrooms are few and far between in London. Having grown up in the United States, where you can stop at almost any fast food restaurant or gas station and use the restroom, I was shocked to discover that this was not the case in London. This realization almost became a disaster as I spent nearly an hour looking for a place to use the restroom. Then when we found one, we had to find a person to unlock it for us. I’m not sure if they were worried someone was going to steal the toilet paper or run off with the commode, but as we found out later there is a secret to these restrooms! After the restroom saga came to an end, we looked for a place to eat. We settled for an interesting pub across the street from Big Ben.
As we were eating we began to speak with the couple seated
next to us and found out they were from Chicago, which made for some enjoyable
dinner conversation. It was fun to share
stories with them and just soak in the culture that surrounded us.
After a very eventful day, we took the train back to our hotel and settled in for the night excited to see what the next day would bring. Oh, and that wheelchair, it made it through the day as well, but it too was weary. I wonder if it has ever been found, but more about that in the next post.