Tag Archives: George Harrison

Sunday Salon/Currently … Be Here Now

Currently …
Happy Sunday, everyone. It’s another cold one here in Pittsbrrrrgh today. We’ve had several consecutive days of temperatures in the 20s, making this weather somewhat a shock to the system. It feels like we went right from late summer (a few weeks ago we had a string of gorgeous days in the high 70s) to the dead of winter. Looking back at my Facebook memories tells me that on this day four years ago we had our first memorable snowfall of the season, so I suppose we can count ourselves lucky.

I’m not much of a fan of winter and cold weather. I can handle the cold but it just means that the snow and ice isn’t far behind. Ugh.

Today, I have to work this afternoon and help out at a special event (a lecture and VIP reception) for a few hours. The Boy is a bit under the weather. Nothing major, just the usual change of season congestion and sore throat. Young Living oils to the rescue … I’m diffusing eucalyptus radiata for him and have rubbed Thieves on his throat.

Weekend Recap …
Last night The Husband and I went out for what passes for a big night on the town to us. The Girl was attending an event in the city and it didn’t make logistical sense to drive all the way home and back, so we turned it into an actual date night. We wound up going to The Butterwood Bake Consortium in Lawrenceville for dessert and coffee.

I’ll do a full review of the experience in a separate post, but suffice it to say we enjoyed it.

Reading … 
I didn’t finish any books this week and the book I’m currently reading is a review book, so I can’t say much about that right now.

Listening …
Current audiobook is H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald, a memoir that has been on my TBR list for awhile.

Be Here Now …
The subject line of today’s Salon post has several references. I loooovvvvveeeee the TV show “This Is Us” and on Tuesday’s episode they played a George Harrison song “Be Here Now” from 1973. I didn’t immediately recognize it until I checked the Spotify playlist (did you know there’s a “This Is Us” Spotify playlist with all the songs from this season and last? You’re welcome.)  I mentioned it to The Husband, who loves everything Beatles-related. The next day, it came up on his Spotify, totally at random, and then I stumbled on a friend’s blog post with that title. It just feels like a message being sent, a reminder for me to … well, be here now. It has relevance for a lot of things lately.

OK, time to wrap this up if I’m going to be at work on time. Here’s George to take us out.

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The Answer’s at the (Almost) End

Hospital bracelet

A few months ago, The Husband launched a blog called The Answer’s at the End, a mix of in-depth, analytical longform-style book reviews (his focus is presidential biographies and history) along with occasional commentary on sports, current events, and music. (Indeed, the title of his blog comes from George Harrison’s song of the same name from his 1975 album “Extra Texture.”)

If you’re friends with me or The Husband on Facebook, you know the story: as we were finishing up Thanksgiving dinner, The Husband got up from the table and walked into our bathroom. I don’t know how long he was in there — my guess is under five minutes — when I went to check on him.

I found him collapsed on the floor, barely conscious, sweating, and unable to speak.  His breathing was extremely labored. I screamed for someone to call 911, and the dispatcher instructed me to start giving chest compressions because there was a moment when I felt him starting to slip away. The paramedics came, started working on him right there on the floor of our bedroom, and took him away in an ambulance.

I’ll write more about this (all signs point to this being a vasovagal syncope) but for now, I’ll let The Husband take over. As George says, life is one long enigma my friend. So read on, read on, the answer’s at the end.

Weeks ago I’d planned on a post for November 29th remembering George Harrison, on the 14th anniversary of his death. Then I almost got to meet him a lot earlier than I was planning on; so, that’s kind of changed the post a bit.

As I wrote on Facebook yesterday, I collapsed on Thanksgiving Night with an as-yet unknown-and-may-never-be-known misfiring of the brain that left me unable to talk and came very near to stopping my breathing forever. My wife kept me breathing long enough for the paramedics to take over. I spent a few days in the hospital and I’m now home doing a lot of resting.

As it was happening, I remember thinking that this is what it is like to die. I could hear much of what was going on but was powerless, unable to communicate. I felt as though there was a struggle going on. On the one hand was the desire for the inability to breathe and the discomfort to stop at any cost. On the other hand was my wife pulling me back and refusing to let me rest just now. The bond between my wife and I – because of all we’ve been through these last 25 years together – has always been strong. She doesn’t want to hear it, but I know that she’s the reason I hung on. I knew she wouldn’t let me go and that I owed it to her and our children to stay. More importantly, that I wanted to stay. That I fought to stay.

Having said all of that, it didn’t hit me until a few hours after I was in my hospital room that I could have died. This seems self-evident, but my mind was so addled that it didn’t hit home until I saw the date written on the white-board across from my bed. It had the nurse’s name, the emergency numbers, and ‘November 26, 2015’. Looking at that I suddenly thought, “This could’ve been the day that I died” – borrowing heavily from Don McLean.  Later, looking at my hospital ID tag, I saw my date of birth, followed by my date of admission. I realized those dates could’ve been the beginning of my epitaph.

At one time or another in our lives we all wonder what that date will be for us – that ‘death’ date on the epitaph. Seeing it there in print was a bit more than I could handle so I immediately stared at something else [you do a lot of staring at things in the hospital].

The list of things I’m grateful for today that I took completely for granted is too long to even start. Yesterday was a typical day in Pittsburgh – rain, rain, cold, rain – but it sure as hell looked like a beautiful day to me. I know that won’t last and that’s ok, too. I shouldn’t spend the rest of my life flittering around marveling at how great everything always is. That ain’t me [surprise, surprise].

That being said, I sure as hell am going to try to approach things differently. I’m still in the afterglow of having my life saved. And I’m sure I need to pay more attention to my health and that there may be some follow up things I need to do medically.  I’ll face that as it comes. I hope, though, that I can really keep the promise that I’ve made to try to look at things differently.

Before I sign off [just for today, folks], a note about George Harrison as originally intended: I learned about George’s death while in Wichita, Kansas, in a hotel while watching Live with Regis and Kelly. That’s right: I learned about George’s death from Regis Philbin [“well, well, well, Kelly  – guess who’s dead?!?”]. We were in Wichita with our one-week-old twins in the NICU. It was surreal. A Beatle-death would normally have been an Earth-shattering, world-stopping event. With my infants in a hospital 1,000 miles from home, not knowing what would happen or how long we’d be there, etc., however, George’s death registered with a tremendous sadness but I had more pressing obligations.

Still, sad it was. A year later, George’s widow, Olivia, and his friend Jeff Lynne released George’s last album, Brainwashed.  When doctors told George he had only a few months to live in the fall 2001, he went into his recording studio to record as many songs [he had a backlog of dozens of unrecorded songs] as he could. The recordings were raw and as time went on, George’s voice became weaker. After his death, Jeff Lynne and George’s son, Dhani, went into the studio to listen to George’s recordings. They recorded back-up vocals, added backing tracks, and fine-tuned it. When it was released, of course I bought it right away. Listening to it the first time, my son – 1 at the time – joined me and crawled over to the stereo. He pulled himself up to a standing position, obviously listening to the music. I watched this in amazement. I don’t know how long it lasted but it was long enough to leave that impression on me.

I don’t know what was going on while my son was listening to that album. I really felt, though, that he somehow knew that this man singing was someone special. Maybe in the cosmos there’s some kind of connection between them – one coming into the Earthly world, the other leaving one week later. Maybe it’s nothing. But I’ve always taken comfort in thinking that George’s spirit helped us get from Wichita back home and has been with the world ever since.

Thank you, George. I’m just not yet ready to meet you just yet.

 

 

 

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James Taylor Showers the People of Pittsburgh With Love

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014 - 2

James Taylor in concert, Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA 11/29/2014 ~ melissafirman.com

Peace and love, baby. Peace and love.

That was the vibe on Saturday evening as singer-songwriter James Taylor brought his All-Star Band to Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. There, a mostly Baby Boomer and generally mellow crowd (except for the woman a few rows down who repeatedly hollered “I love you, James!”) sang along to the folksy hits of the ’70s while fumbling with the selfie and videocam settings on their smartphones.

“I’m in my sixties,” a concertgoer announced to nobody in particular as The Husband and I found our seats. “He’s a throwback from my generation.”

Maybe so. But part of James Taylor’s appeal is that his music can be enjoyed by all ages, whether or not those ages realize it. (Case in point: every night, either The Husband or I must sing “You Can Close Your Eyes” to our son. He’s a newly-minted teenager who still calls this “The Goodnight Song.”)

Last night marked the third time that The Husband and I – both 45 – had the good fortune to see the 66-year old James Taylor in concert.  We don’t get out much: this was our first concert since seeing JT’s ex-wife Carly Simon on November 25, 2005 at the Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ.

Whether once in a decade or once in a lifetime, a James Taylor concert is a treat. I had wondered how his intimate style would hold up in a stadium environment like Consol, which would be the first time we would see James Taylor indoors.

No worries. Opening with a reverential bow to the audience that almost seemed to be a reflective pause of gratitude, James Taylor greeted the crowd by wishing us a heartfelt “Happy Thanksgiving.”  He might as well have hand-delivered a personalized greeting card to every single one of us. Light the fire, friends, and pour another glass of merlot; the mood was set as if we were in the Taylors’ living room listening to a good friend playing guitar and us singing along and smiling at the backstories that introduced the songs we’d been listening to for our entire lives.

As he opened his first set with “Something in the Way She Moves,” James Taylor took us back to 1968 with his audition song for Apple Records – a performance that he did all those years ago for Paul McCartney and George Harrison. It was an especially fitting inclusion for the evening and would mark the first of several occasions when he would mention The Beatles during the concert.

Although the anniversary went unmentioned by James Taylor, I’m sure there were a few of us in the audience who, like The Husband and I, couldn’t help remembering that November 29, 2014 marked exactly 13 years since the death of George Harrison and who saw the bittersweet ironic connection of George Harrison’s “Something” and the selection of “Something in the Way She Moves” as the opening number on this date.

(Another Beatles connection onstage last night was in the form of All-Star Band drummer Steve Gadd, who performed on Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” album.)

Especially noteworthy to play in Pittsburgh was “Millworker,” a song about a woman working in a Lowell, Massachusetts shoe mill and written for a musical based on Studs Terkel‘s Working. The lyrics could very well have been about life once upon a time in the Steel City.

“I can ride home in the evening, staring at my hands,
swearing by my sorrow that a young girl ought to stand a better chance.
So may I work the mills just as long as I am able
and never meet the man whose name is on the label.
It be me and my machine for the rest of the morning
and the rest of the afternoon, gone for the rest of my life.”

Mixed in with crowd-pleasing classics like “Sweet Baby James,” “Fire and Rain,” and “Country Road” were three new songs. The ballad “You and I Again” about midlife love is probably my favorite of the trio. “Today, Today, Today” hearkens back to 1968, James Taylor explained.  And what little I could hear of “Stretch of the Highway” I liked, no thanks to the cacophony of folks returning to their seats and continuing their banal chatter after the 20-minute intermission. I’m hoping that these new tunes in the James Taylor songbook will make an appearance on what I’ve read is a new JT album in the works. (The sooner the better, please?)

Speaking of making an appearance, I had secretly been hoping that offspring Ben or Sally would stop by to say hi to Dad onstage. I mean, it’s Thanksgiving weekend and the holiday season – anything is possible, right?  As it turned out, James was joined by Henry, one of his 13-year-old twin sons, who sang backup on “Shower the People.” Looking as dapper as his father, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more from Henry in the future.

(While we’re on my secret hopes? I would have liked to have heard “You Can Close Your Eyes,” although we did hear him do that in concert in 2005, so I can’t complain.  And, speaking on behalf of all of us middle-aged concertgoers who have postponed our eye exams and need to upgrade our bi- and trifocal prescriptions, I personally could have used a larger Jumbotron.  I mean, you can’t possibly tell me I’m the only one in Consol whose vision is clearly not what it was in her salad days. I’m just sayin’. But these are minor, minor quibbles.)

The second set (previewed to the audience by James holding up a list written on what he compared to roofing material and joking with the audience about the inclusion of the ever-popular “Steamroller”) was lighter on the storytelling and a bit more on the upbeat hits like the “big city song ‘Up on the Roof,'” “Only One,” and “Your Smiling Face.”

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014 - Up on the Roof

James Taylor performing “Up On the Roof” at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA, 11/29/2014 ~ melissafirman.com

As we left the concert, it almost felt as if Pittsburgh’s late-November chill had actually turned somewhat … well, balmy.

Perhaps it was an aftershock of the backdrop images that accompanied “Carolina in My Mind” and the smiling faces of beachgoers hoisting margaritas to “Mexico” that made us feel toasty. We weren’t imagining it; turns out, according to our car thermometer, it really was about 15 degrees warmer.

It wouldn’t have mattered if it was twenty below zero. These have been some intensely stress-filled months for The Husband and me. For three hours, we were able to forget our worries and cares while enjoying an evening in the company of a longtime friend.

Perhaps that needs to happen a little more often. In the meantime, during these cold winter nights, I’ll be listening to a little more JT than usual.

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014

 

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seems like years

Daffodils - 3-8-2014

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear…” 

“Here Comes the Sun” ~ The Beatles, written by George Harrison

Indeed, it has been a long, cold lonely winter and it does seem like years since it’s been clear enough to get up the driveway, much less spot these daffodil tips in the front yard this afternoon.

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