Happy Tax Day!
It’s always crucial, when talking trends—musical or otherwise—to contextualize the times and remember that wardrobe malfunctions, chemical excess and unspeakable atrocities like porn-star mustaches never exist within a vacuum. To properly remember, and assess, the good, the bad and the ugly of what accelerated (or, in some cases, stunted) our collective forward progress, we should feel obliged to stop, look and listen. And taste, and smell. And always make sure to program our perspective and especially our sense of humor for what we’re about to experience. For make no mistake: when it comes to lessons learned, unfortunate choices and free comedy, progressive rock remains a gift that keeps on giving.
Long story short: somewhere between the first hit of acid and the last ray of light from the disco ball, rock music got ambitious. Rock music got serious. And make no mistake, rock music got pretentious. And, for the most part, this was a wonderful thing. The Beatles began imitating Bob Dylan and then (in less than two years) came into their own as unique wordsmiths. Love it or loathe it, “Norwegian Wood” is a million miles away from “Please Please Me” (thanks LSD!) and “I Am the Walrus” is a million miles from… anything (thanks LSD!). In short order, The Rolling Stones began to take things a tad more seriously, and real contenders like Ray Davies and Pete Townshend started crafting miniature pop masterworks that engaged the mind as well as the gut.
And then, emboldened, or inspired—or both—wide-eyed songwriters followed their muses, and their thesauruses, and all bets were off by the early ’70s. What some of us still refer lovingly to as progressive rock held sway over the sonic landscape: with side-long suites and literary allusions in overdrive, prog rock became an enterprise that launched a million air guitars. These songs (these albums) were of their time in every regard and invoke inextricable connotations of the decade itself: bloated, hazy, earnest, misguided, visionary, awkward, awesome.
So it behooves us, if we want to have a sober discussion of which music from this era is worthwhile, and why it endures, to remember just how much overly produced music was made by overindulged acts throughout the ‘70s. The excesses—both aesthetic and recreational—informing the scene also sorted the field, separating contenders from has-beens and assorted flavors of the Billboard Hot 100. Put bluntly, these were the not-so-good old days when coke-snorting executives in leisure suits green-lighted hit singles by acts destined for the dustbins and oldies circuit. Put even more bluntly, acts like Barry Gibb, The Bay City Rollers and K.C. and the Sunshine Band all managed to be millionaires.
No need to invoke Dickens; it was neither the best nor the worst of times. At one extreme we had dancing queens and dry ice edging ever closer to the public (and publically accepted) stage; at the opposite end of the spectacle we witnessed the emerging proposition of punk rock. To its credit, the punks’ do-it-yourself ethos scorned the self-parody of both dinosaur arena acts as well as the aforementioned jungle boogie bandwagon jumpers. This raw wave crashed in a spray of broken glass, safety pin piercings and bloody spittle that served to shake up the power-pop vanguard. The prevailing formula had suffocated on its own self-importance, and the new fashion harnessed hairspray and spite in equal measure to establish brand new ground rules.
Or at least that’s the generally sanctioned version of events we tend to hear entirely too often. Raise your hand if you’ve read (one time or one hundred times) the facile and hackneyed account of how punk killed progressive rock so that we could all live miserably ever after. The reality, as it stubbornly tends to be, is much messier and more complicated. Progressive rock came and went (and came back), but opinions differ on what specific years it covered and which artists epitomize it. Perhaps this is unavoidable, because this so-called era isn’t easily packaged into a particular time period or specific aesthetic, and what we are left with is the all-encompassing moniker of prog-rock, which manages to be inadequate, overly simplistic, reductive, portentous and… perfect?
A form of musical expression that, for lack of a better cliché, transcends time and place is created and exists on its own terms, so there is no barrier of language, ideology or agenda that prevents it from finding its audience. The only requirement is a sufficiently open mind and ears (or eyes) capable of picking up what is being put down. Of course this same criteria can be—and typically is—applied to any artistic expression. So why is it different, or at least more complicated, when it comes to assessing the pros and cons of prog rock? Put as simply—and starkly—as possible, many beautiful babies were thrown out with the bath water by hidebound critics who were content to snootily dismiss the more elaborate (pretentious!) works that certain bands were putting out as a matter of course in the early-to-mid ‘70s.
One of the many reasons progressive rock remains controversial, and taken less-than-seriously by the so-called serious critics, is because fairly or not it frequently gets associated with sci-fi and fantasy. Matters of musical proficiency aside, it is true to suggest that little of the material holds up especially well, lyrically speaking (of course that is true of most rock music—a topic for another time). This is not a sufficient—or necessarily legitimate—cause to dismiss it as is usually the case, but defenders can only get so much mileage discussing the unparalleled chops of, say, ELP, Yes, Rush, et al.
“I may make you feel, but I can’t make you think”. This line, from Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, serves as a succinct summation of why prog rock did—and does—inspire such intense adoration and/or aversion. The people who reject it (then, now) likely would ask, and not without merit, who wants to think? Music typically fails if it can’t burrow past your beer gut.
It’s fair to suggest that, regardless of its merits or lack thereof, the most successful music of this genre made you think. Inevitably, the artists who were too self-conscious for everyone’s sake; the ones trying a tad too hard to make you think—especially the ones who wanted to make you think how clever they were—crossed the verboten third rail of pretension and have been punished accordingly (then, now). But the best practitioners, through their lyrics, themes and conceptual ideas that occasionally spanned entire albums, went for your head as well as your heart.
For some reason the gatekeepers of the Establishment (many of whom are the ultimate hipsters, poseurs and baby-boomers; many of whom are men; many of whom, coincidentally, have written for Rolling Stone) seem embarrassed by the notion that rock music can—or should—be capable of eliciting thought as well as feeling. That it can be unaffected without the face-saving cynicism too many songwriters, the ones predictably lionized by these same besotted journalists, feel compelled to employ. What is it about prog rock in general that makes these self-satisfied scribes so uncomfortable? That is a rhetorical question.
There is, ultimately, something irrepressible and life-affirming about this music, and in a market (then, now) where opportunism and cold calculation are the default settings, this unabashed—and unapologetic—devotion to an unjaded vision could almost be considered revolutionary.
*First installment of new monthly PopMatters column, “The Amazing Pudding”.
It’s that time of the year, prompting reflection, peace and positive vibes. At least if you’re smart and do most of your holiday shopping online.
I doubt it’s just me, but there is something about Christmas approaching that rekindles a lifelong obsession with classical music.
(This is music I enjoy throughout the year, but there are certain works, at certain times, that lend themselves to certain occasions.)
And during a time of the year that can (should?) be equal parts somber and celebratory, it is only appropriate to invoke the old masters.
And if we want to talk about the masters, we must begin with the master, the only man both Mozart and Beethoven must bow before: Johann Sebastian Bach.
(What’s the big deal about Bach? Here’s some advice for the uninitiated.)
Bach, perhaps more so than Mozart of Beethoven (though I prefer the other two) presents the ultimate good news/bad news scenario for beginners. On one hand, you can dive into virtually any of his works and come away educated, inspired, awed. On the other hand, to say he was prolific is like saying Mitt Romney had a proclivity for stretching the truth. Bach’s canon is unwieldy, astonishing, intimidating. You could spend the rest of a lifetime trying to get your ears around it, which seems only fair since he spent virtually his entire life creating it.
Even if you’ve never heard Bach (impossible) or don’t care for him (improbable), you’ve heard his direct and enduring influence via other artists. Two quick, easy examples, below.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2:
The Beatles: “Penny Lane” (yet another instance of how indispensable George Martin was: Mac was listening to –and enjoying– the Brandenburg and told Martin he’d love to incorporate the piccolo trumpet; a crucial moment on one of the all-time great singles in rock history followed):
Bourrée in E minor (Suite in E minor for Lute, BWV 996):
Jethro Tull, “Bouree”:
You can google (and then YouTube) his more popular works, ones you will realize, after hearing, “oh, that’s Bach”. (Ones like this and this.) And eventually you will also realize: woah, he covered all types of sound, feeling and expression. That’s why he’s the master.
Here are five of my personal favorites:
It’s hard to argue with perfection and pretty much the entirety of his Brandenburg Concertos is just that, perfection:
Violin concerto (BWV 1041: II, Andante)
Incidentally, my personal favorite recording of that movement is on this disc, featuring the excellent Viktoria Mullova (get a cheap, used copy at Amazon).
Concerto No. 3 in D Minor (Vivace) (I prefer the appropriately slowed down versions; when it’s too quick it loses the “voice of God” authority it requires):
Oboe Concerto in G Minor
Last and most definitely far from least, if you’ve never spent some time with Bach’s cello suites, you are depriving yourself of the greatest glories:
This is just a cursory sampling of low-hanging (however brilliant) fruit, and even these handful of pieces must leave one overriding impression: the variety and virtuosity is staggering. Of course it’s impressive enough to master both performance and composition of a single instrument; to conceive, and perfect, entire works for full orchestras must remain an example of the greatest heights we are capable of attaining as human beings. Bach did it first and, arguably, he did it best.
Whatever one’s feelings about progressive rock, Jethro Tull’s Aqualung is a rare album that remains at once part of, and above, the fray. It is, to be certain, a cornerstone of the then-nascent prog-rock canon, but it did—and does—exist wholly on its own terms as a great rock album, period.
One of the many reasons prog-rock is controversial, and taken less-than-seriously by the so-called serious critics, is because fairly or not it frequently gets associated with sci-fi and fantasy. Matters of musical proficiency aside, it is true to suggest that little of the material holds up especially well, lyrically speaking (of course that is true of most rock music—a topic for another time). This is not a sufficient—or necessarily legitimate—cause to dismiss it as is usually the case, but defenders can only get so much mileage discussing the unparalleled chops of, say, ELP, Yes, Rush, et al.
Jethro Tull is in the unfortunate, yet ultimately enviable position of circumventing easy identification. Certainly they are known as a crucial part of the prog-rock movement, as they should be, but their career preceded it and has continued long after its heyday. Aside from their accessibility, relatively speaking of course, Tull also sold enough units to be considered a significant act in its own regard. Tull, in other words, suffers if compared to the critically reviled acts of this time. In terms of their influence, longevity and versatility, they really are a unique entity in rock music.
More than anything else, Ian Anderson’s lyrics are many degrees better than those of his prog brethren. More to the point, his lyrics are many degrees better than rock songwriters in any era. The list of rock musicians whose lyrics can be considered apart from the music and appraised as poetry is small, but Anderson is at the top of the list. In terms of output alone, his work necessarily ranks about Roger Waters and Peter Gabriel, two of rock’s better wordsmiths. The fact that he was only 23 when Aqualung was recorded is remarkable enough; the fact that the themes and words in many ways remain relevant today is sufficient evidence of his genius.
By 1971, Anderson had dealt with the past (Stand Up) and the present (Benefit); his burgeoning confidence would prompt him to combine those elements in an attempt to grind some axes that probed quite a bit deeper than the typical sociopolitical commentary on offer (then, now). For Tull’s first proper “concept album” (despite Anderson’s ongoing protestations regarding this label), the songwriter turns a lacerating eye on the institution of organized religion. While the first side of the original LP concerns itself with, for lack of a better cliché, man’s inhumanity to man, the second side takes on religion with a righteous indignation that has scarcely—if ever—been improved upon by other mainstream acts.
Everyone knows the epic title track (forever and somewhat unfortunately associated with the iconic cover art, which renders the eponymous tramp into a caricature of Ian Anderson who, not a little ironically, casual fans thought—and think?—is Jethro Tull), and then there is the concert anthem “Locomotive Breath” as well as the ones you used to hear on the radio when we used to listen to the radio, “Hymn 43” and “Cross-Eyed Mary”. Four decades on, it happens to be the lesser known tracks that represent the key to the work’s endurance. If you only know the “hits” you are selling the album, and yourself, more than a little short. In between the heavy, huge classic tracks are quiet pieces that, while softer, pack their own subtle punch. The acoustic couplet of “Cheap Day Return” and “Wond’ring Aloud” are archetypes of a sort; the kind of whimsical British folk that Tull perfected all through the ‘70s. The songs seem straightforward and pleasant enough (and they are; Anderson’s voice, always striking, is conveying new levels of expressiveness and emotion, particularly during the slower tunes) but are cut by their topical, occasionally unsettling lyrical import.
Succinct delivery with maximum impact is Anderson’s calling card, and nowhere is it on better display than the one-minute and 24 seconds of perfection entitled “Cheap Day Return”. In quick yet extraordinary fashion he deals with his own alienation, offers a sardonic appraisal of his budding super-stardom (What a laugh!), and his father’s imminent death, all in a song that sounds as innocuous as a nursery rhyme. On “Wond’ring Aloud” Anderson, sounding plaintive but optimistic, turns a seemingly simple love song into a meditation on mortality (Will the years treat us well?), ending on a line that underscores the album’s central theme: It’s only the giving that makes you what you are.
This sentiment is a respite from the unflinching social commentary that comes before and after: the aforementioned “Cross-Eyed Mary” concerns itself with a prostitute, and there is no judgment offered unless it is on the conditions that made the oldest profession possible, then and still conceivable, today. “Mother Goose”, also a deceptively upbeat number, describes a surreal tour through the London underground with an unsavory cast of characters disarmingly depicted as fairy tale characters. When, mid-way through the number, Martin Barre’s electric guitar growl punctuates the proceedings, it becomes clear that the people and places being discussed are in various states of distress and despair.
Where “Cross-Eyed Mary” might be considered a contemporary Mary Magdalene, the titular character—inspired by a series of photographs Anderson’s wife Jennie took—could be Christ himself, embodying the least of our brothers. “Aqualung’s” riff is so urgent and unforgettable, the initial verse and chorus so forceful and familiar, it’s possible that the significance of this overplayed radio standard has slipped under the collective radar. Put another way, while correctly heralded as an essential moment in classic rock history, it is more than that; a point of departure for a new type of music, both for Jethro Tull and the progressive era.
It remains tantalizing to imagine the augmented critical—and street—cred the album would receive if it had only been named after almost any of the other ten songs, especially “Wind Up” or “My God”. And if, as Anderson claims he preferred, the cover had featured the actual tramp from the Thames Embankment who inspired the song (“Aqualung” referring to the gurgling sound of the man’s chronic bronchitis), it would make the lyrics about the real human being inexorably more vivid and disturbing.
The song persists as a confrontational movie that directs itself: a shot that pans a city beside the river; quiet men bundled in rags, huddled together under a bridge, “drying in the cold sun”. Finally the camera zooms in on one individual, whose rasping cough makes him difficult to ignore (“snot is running down his nose/greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes). First, a tracking shot follows him (“an old man wandering lonely”) as he goes about his daily routine (“taking time the only way he knows”): picking up used cigarette butts, taking refuge in a public toilet to warm his feet, queuing up for a daily dose of charity (“Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea”). Then, the guitar solo. The other two immortal solos from this (early ‘70s) era, David Gilmour on “Time” and Jimmy Page on “Stairway to Heaven” (coincidentally recorded in the same studio at the same time) are like Technicolor bursts of inevitability. Martin Barre’s less celebrated solo is a strictly black-and-white affair, sooty, unvarnished, irrefutable: it is the bitter breath of a broken down old man spitting out pieces of his broken luck. Finally, the reprise: we might see or at least imagine multiple Aqualungs (“and you snatch your rattling last breaths with deep -sea diver sounds”) in multiple cities—the nameless people we make it our business to ignore, the people we must walk by because it’s bad for business to do otherwise. Or so we tell ourselves. And the flowers bloom like madness in the Spring…
Side Two is a remarkably ambitious attempt to examine the racket organized religion has degenerated into (or was it always thus?). On “My God” gets some licks in on the clergy, then turns both barrels on the men and women who have set about the self-serving task of recreating God in their image. Acrimony like this, at least in rock music, generally fails to rise above sophomoric ranting, but Anderson’s words retain all of their power and perspicacity if for no other reason than the cynicism and spiritual charade he targets has only become more prevalent. Musically, the song is cheekily experimental, shifting from an acoustic tour de force (Anderson, who is rightly celebrated for elevating flute into a lead instrument as opposed to sideshow embellishment, does not get nearly enough attention for his superlative guitar playing ability) to an arena-ready workhorse, with Barre’s larger-than-life chords. Then, in the extended middle section, we are treated to a credible approximation and/or parody of a religious hymn, complete with multi-tracked chanting and echoed flute effects: it is an audacious act of musical vandalism, at once amusing and eerie. It also serves to function as a soundtrack of sorts for the irreverent image inside the double-sleeve gatefold, which depicts the band having broken into a cathedral for some impromptu merriment.
For “Hymn 43” Anderson sets his sights on the U.S.A. and in quick order sets about decimating the hypocrisy and myth-making of religion and the new religion, entertainment. It still sounds brazen today, but it was downright defiant to pen tunes in 1971 with incendiary couplets like this “If Jesus saves, he better save himself/From the gory glory seekers who’ll use his name in death.” For a postmodern twist Anderson could not have anticipated, the not-so-holy-ghost in the trinity occurred when religion and entertainment got packaged together as part of the anti-science, anti-intellectual politics we see camera-ready charlatans practicing daily on our television sets.
In just one minute on “Slipstream” Anderson captures the opportunistic shamelessness of the materially rich but spiritually fallow weekend warriors who compensate (figuratively) for their nagging consciences in the confessional or the collection basket (“And you press on God’s waiter your last dime/As he hands you the bill”). On the literal levels these are the people we all know: our peers, parents and especially our politicians, whom Anderson contemptuously nails to their crosses of gold. In an era of too-big-too-fail and the wealthiest .001%, it’s difficult to conclude that Anderson was not predicting the future of a world totally off the tracks in “Locomotive Breath” (“no way to slow down”).
Anderson saves his best for last when, in “Wind Up” he recalls being shipped off to church, eventually concluding that God is “not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays”. It brings full circle the concerns, both material and spiritual, that any sensitive—or sentient—person must grapple with, or make sense of. “In your pomp and all your glory you’re a poorer man than me/As you lick the boots of death born out of fear”, he snarls, assailing the fake humility and the appropriation of the holy for personal, earthly gains, et cetera.
And here we are, 40 years later where a great album gets even better. First, we have the new stereo mix masterminded by the indefatigable Steven Wilson, who has become a champion for prog rock remastering. His recent work on the King Crimson catalog managed the improbable by creating indispensable copies of oft-remastered works (ones which sounded fairly spectacular in the first place). Aqualung, on the other hand, has always suffered from shoddy production and/or mastering. Even the obligatory reissues over the years have been lackluster, amplifying the hiss and burying the subtlety in the mix. What Wilson has done with the master tapes is spectacular bordering on unbelievable: the songs do not merely sound improved, they sound different, albeit in ways that do not encroach upon or overwhelm the versions we have grown so fond of over the decades. Now, each instrument (especially the bass and John Evan’s omnipresent piano) gets released from the murkiness of the earlier mixes. Anderson’s vocals are crystalline and each note from the acoustic guitar is a room-filling revelation.
For Tull aficionados the real treats are contained on the second disc: previously unreleased material(!). In addition to remixed and remastered versions of familiar favorites from the ’71 sessions (such as “Life Is a Long Song”, “Nursie” and “From Later”), we get early versions of “My God” (rough around the edges and alternate lyrics familiar to those who have heard live recordings from this era) and “Wind Up” (previously available on the last Aqualung remaster). The newly released songs are the real eye-openers: there is an early run of “Wond’ring Aloud” and initial takes of “Slipstream” and “Up the ‘Pool”. The one that is worth the proverbial price of admission is the alternate take of “Wond’ring Aloud, Again” which combines an early version of “Wond’ring Aloud” and the working draft of “Wond’ring Again” which turned up on the Living in the Past collection. Listening to this take, I found myself fantasizing that the existing (master) take of “Wond’ring Aloud” had simply segued into “Wond’ring Again” (one of the better lyrical and musical numbers from ’71) and the latter had replaced the worthy but not as essential “Up to Me”; if we had the same running order with “Wond’ring Again” instead of “Up to Me” concluding Side One we would have an even more perfect album, if that is possible. As is always the case, it’s fantastic to have this long-discarded material made available; it is imperative for fans and might help newcomers better appreciate why an album made 40 years ago can inspire so much enthusiasm.
It’s not the end of the world, and I feel fine.
But if it was, I would want all these songs to accompany me as we spiraled down the metaphysical drain.
I’d go into battle, or into oblivion, with these soldiers by my side.
Let’s begin, appropriately, at the end, with the boys from Birmingham: if we can’t sustain life here, let’s blast off and “Find another world where freedom waits (yeah)!”
Once the wind begins to howl, as long as I’m riding shotgun with Hendrix, I’m good:
Ian Anderson, of course, called this way back in ’79:
If you’re getting snuffed out anyway, you may as well make sure you say I LOVE YOU to whoever needs to hear it:
If the shit is going down, I’m bringing both barrels, which means I’m blasting The Melvins.
Starless and Bible Black. Any other questions?
And what exactly is a dream? And what exactly is a joke?
Before I sink into the big sleep I want to hear the scream of the butterfly!
Nothing, even the end of the world, can be as deep or dark as the hard time killing floor blues:
If it gets beyond World War III, I know Mikey Dread is waiting patiently on the other side:
All kidding aside, if it’s scorched earth time, let me hide in the peaceful shadow of the Gentle Giant:
Parts One and Two considered the “before” and “during” of end-of-life care (and once again, Bill Keller’s piece is recommended reading: check it here), and the final sections of my memoir deal with the “after”. One of the tensions I try to explore (in under 70,000 words!) is the often enigmatic, occasionally exhilarating connections we make (with others, with ourselves) before, during and yes, after death. As indicated, the so-called takeaway –at least in its author’s eyes– of my memoir is that anyone who encounters this material might be a bit better informed and therefore equipped to do what they can, with kindness and charity, to ease the transition with a minimum of needless suffering. If I were to narrow that down to one word/concept, it would be easy: Hospice. For lack of a better, or more long-winded explanation, Hospice workers combine the best aspects of the religious and medical communities: combining compassion and expertise to alleviate pain (physical and emotional) and provide the support and solidarity that tends to absent when patients are either abandoned or let down by the priests and doctors.
They are not miracle workers; indeed, their unique charm is helping people realize that there are no miracles: death is going to happen when, to paraphrase John Lennon, we are busy making (or hoping to make) other plans. They do for some of us what so many of us could not begin to do for ourselves: manage and oversee our last days with the wisdom and patience (and, always –and importantly– the proficiency) that defines the vocation they’ve chosen. And their efforts on our behalf, speaking of “us” as a community tied together by the one thing everyone has in common, are in many regards the ultimate huminitarian act. And, tragically if typically, this type of work (this type of acknowledgment of our frailty, something so consistently emphasized in religious texts) is easy to demonize, distort and willfully misunderstand. Mankind cannot bear very much reality, wrote T.S. Eliot. That is why, at times, we turn to churches, or texts, or other people. Hospice helps us come to some degree of peace with the one reality no sane person should ever easily embrace.
Once again quoting Keller:
Here in the United States, nothing bedevils our discussion of health care like the question of when and how to withhold it. The Liverpool Pathway or variations of it are now standard in most British hospitals and in several other countries — but not ours. When I asked one American end-of-life specialist what chance he saw that something of the kind could be replicated here, the answer was immediate: “Zero.” There is an obvious reason for that, and a less obvious reason.
The obvious reason, of course, is that advocates of such programs have been demonized. They have been criticized by the Catholic Church in the name of “life,” and vilified by Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann in the pursuit of cheap political gain. “Anything that looks like an official protocol, or guideline — you’re going to get death-paneled,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the bioethicist and expert on end-of-life care who has been a target of the rabble-rousers. (He is also a contributing opinion writer for The Times.) Humane end-of-life practices have quietly found their way into cancer treatment, but other specialties lag behind.
The British advocates of the Liverpool approach have endured similar attacks, mainly from “pro-life” lobbyists who portray it as a back-door form of euthanasia. (They also get it from euthanasia advocates who say it isn’t euthanasia-like enough.) Surveys of families that use this protocol report overwhelming satisfaction, but inevitably in a field that touches families at their most emotionally raw, and that requires trained coordination of several medical disciplines, nursing and family counseling, the end is not always as smooth as my father-in-law’s.
My neighbor died, abruptly, while I was away at college. The girl across the street told me what happened: it was sudden, totally unexpected.
I didn’t even know she was sick, I said.
No one did, not even her, she said.
She simply collapsed; alive one second, dead by the time she hit the floor. No warning, no symptoms. It was like she—and her family—got blindsided by a car called cancer. It was inside her, everywhere, engulfing her from the inside out.
After just about everything had been done, every last resort explored and found insufficient, after five years my mother finally knew (this was before the pain, the real pain, commenced). Even while we were still lying to her, she ultimately could no longer lie to herself. Her body told her, and her grandchildren—who did not yet know how to lie—told her. The kids could sense it, and when she saw she was boring her granddaughter, that was a sign. When she realized she was scaring her granddaughter, the one she helped raise, the one whose diapers she had changed, the one for whom she could not buy enough toys or treats, the one she secretly (and not-so-secretly) loved as much as her own children, when she saw the fear in her granddaughter’s eyes, she knew.
Generally speaking, illness is cathartic. Even the worst stomach flu is tolerable because we know however awful it feels, it’s temporary. In fact, as the worst symptoms ensue you can take a curious comfort, knowing it can’t get worse. It follows patterns, borders, and you can almost predict the course it will take. Then, as you gradually begin to improve it becomes slightly intoxicating: the nasal drip that made it hard to swallow and difficult to sleep now congealed and coughed up, expired demons exorcised from your system. Your vitality stumbles back, like an eager baby learning to walk, and eventually, you’re yourself again.
With terminal cancer there is no improvement, and each time you confront the worst possible symptoms, there are always more on offer, a never-ending supply promising agonies you could not have previously imagined.
What does it say about me that I offer nothing but praise for the folks who helped facilitate the death of my dog?
Euthanize –vb: to kill painlessly, especially to relieve suffering from an incurable illness.
Euthanizing a dog (putting it to sleep, we say) is seldom a dilemma. It’s heartbreaking, certainly, but few people will tolerate seeing a helpless creature with no hope of recovery. However complicated it feels playing God when the decision has to be made, many of us believe it’s the least we can do for companions who loved us so well. There is a discernible solace to be found in the act of holding them as they close their eyes for the final time. I understood, from the first day I brought him home, that my dog was going to die. I understand that every being that draws breath will one day cease to do so. There is so much anguish we can do so little to improve it becomes a surreal blessing, exerting some measure of control, replacing pain with peace.
To hear some people tell it, angels are all around us. Lincoln spoke about the better angels of our nature, but these people believe actual angels are guiding our lives, their handiwork resulting in what we can only call miracles.
It is certainly an enchanting notion: our loved ones looking down from heaven, intervening on God’s orders, helping us do what we can’t do for ourselves.
We see evidence each day of the ways our fellow human beings make concepts like angels, heaven, and even hell seem like the only sensible remedy for the evils we inflict. Even if, guided by angels or their influence over our natures, we established a better way to exist, we would still have inexorable setbacks like illness and death—the sorts of circumstances that practically compel divine exegesis.
What does it say about me that I offer nothing but praise for the people who helped expedite the death of my mother? More, the people were paid to provide their services. More still, I think anyone should consider themselves fortunate to have a similar experience.
Listen: for a country that prides itself on doing so many things so well, America does not handle the process of dying with any particular aplomb. In fact, we are decidedly inadequate when it comes to confronting death, much less helping to expedite it.
At times we need help when we can’t count on ourselves. All too often our medical and religious institutions are ill-equipped to extend the very things they purport to provide.
When we are faced with an impossible situations, we can’t afford to rely on angels we’re unable to see. No miracles are necessary since there are those amongst us who provide the support, comfort and grace many of us would pray for.
Hospice nurses are angels of death, which is to say, they perform the sorts of services God’s envoys usually get credit for.
When you or someone you love is confronting a death that will be neither quick nor painless, these ordinary angels are the best hope you have. When even the most compassionate doctors and priests are unable to offer more than kind words and empty promises, hospice nurses do more for us than we can do for ourselves. And that is as close to a real miracle as we can expect to encounter in this world.
*excerpted from a memoir entitled Please Talk About Me When I’m Gone.
Part One considered the “before” of end-of-life care (and once again, Bill Keller’s piece is recommended reading: check it here), and this excerpt (from Keller, then me) deals with the “during”, and the unanticipated, if revealing way many doctors handle things when they are the ones getting the grim diagnosis.
Terminal illness –and how best to process it– is not remotely an easy to discuss, describe or resolve dilemma. The primary issue, it seems to me, boils down to awareness (which, come to think of it, applies to virtually every situation): it might be easy to blame the doctors or the system, or even the families, but we are currently ill-equipped to have open, honest discussions about treatment options vs. realistic scenarios, and in America especially, our one-two punch of denial and deference to authority leads to many well-intended instances where pain and suffering is prolonged in the name of hope. Keller’s article indicates we can learn a lot from our brethren across the pond, where humane and mature solutions are not met with hysterical screams of ‘death panels’ and the like…
But the hospital that treated him offers a protocol called the Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient, which was conceived in the 90s at a Liverpool cancer facility as a more humane alternative to the frantic end-of-life assault of desperate measures. “The Hippocratic oath just drives clinicians toward constantly treating the patient, right until the moment they die,” said Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, who was until recently the chief executive of the center where the protocol was designed. English doctors, he said, tell a joke about this imperative: “Why in Ireland do they put screws in coffins? To keep the doctors out.”
The Liverpool Pathway brings many of the practices of hospice care into a hospital setting, where it can reach many more patients approaching death. “It’s not about hastening death,” Sir Thomas told me. “It’s about recognizing that someone is dying, and giving them choices. Do you want an oxygen mask over your face? Or would you like to kiss your wife?”
Anthony Gilbey’s doctors concluded that it was pointless to prolong a life that was very near the end, and that had been increasingly consumed by pain, immobility, incontinence, depression and creeping dementia. The patient and his family concurred.
And so the hospital unplugged his insulin and antibiotics, disconnected his intravenous nourishment and hydration, leaving only a drip to keep pain and nausea at bay. The earlier bustle of oxygen masks and thermometers and blood-pressure sleeves and pulse-taking ceased. Nurses wheeled him away from the wheezing, beeping machinery of intensive care to a quiet room to await his move to “the other side.”
Doctors talking about death are not unlike priests describing the horrors of hell: there is the air of presumptive jurisdiction, but also an aloof conviction, almost pitying, that affirms it’s not a place (death, hell) they’ll ever find themselves. We cannot despise them for this: without these affectations that eventually become ingrained, they could not conceivably perform their functions. Their comportment suggests that they have seen many of the things we pray to avoid, and have become intimate with horrors we can hardly imagine. In order to acclimate, they must first fortify themselves.
Physician, heal thyself?
It is understandable that so many of us assume doctors, who have more of everything—knowledge, money, connections—are able to take care of each other in ways their patients cannot conceive. If this were indeed the case it would be comforting in a way. At least we would have irrefutable evidence that solutions do exist and we might look forward to one day employing them ourselves.
But the reality, if less polemical, is nevertheless enlightening. According to a growing field of first-hand testimonials, doctors do in fact tend to die differently, but not as a result of special or preferential treatment. The ultimate, paradoxical disparity lies in an intentional demurral of treatment. Less last-ditch cycles of chemotherapy or illusions of a few extra months—itself a proposition that begs the complicated question: does more time with more adversity (physical if not mental) seem in any way appealing?
This phenomenon, which could simply and accurately be described as acceptance, illustrates several things. The most revealing might be the consequence that doctors see enough avoidable anguish they are disinclined to die in denial when their own diagnoses stare back at them in black and white. Aware of how little can be done, and able to measure the difference between best intentions and bottom lines, some prepare accordingly. In the process, perhaps they are able to provide a measure of peace—and not the opposite—for themselves and their families.
*excerpted from a memoir entitled Please Talk About Me When I’m Gone.
Wow, look who turned 30 this week!
Our beloved (and/or quaint, prehistoric, irrelevant) CD player was “born” in 1982, right around the time video killed the radio star (allegedly).
Pretty interesting take on this rather muted anniversary HERE. Read and remember.
Anyone who knows me (and anyone who has seen my collection) knows CDs have played a rather important role in my life since 1986. That’s quite a bit more than half the time I’ve drawn breath. Wow.
I did –and do– happily endorse the digital experience and, if for no other reason that I can’t convert almost 3,000 discs (!) into a hard drive or Apple-owned contraption, I will always have my CDs. (Just like Rick would always have Paris.)
(Incidentally, the pic above features the unit I rocked from the early ’90s until the early ’00s. That Nakamichi was one of my all-time favorite devices and I loved it more than any car I’ll ever own. If CD players could count mileage, I’m certain thing gave me several lifetimes of listening enjoyment. Suffice it to say, I squeezed every last drop of enjoyment out of that beautiful black tank and practically wept when it was finally time to replace it.)
A little over a year ago I paid tribute to Norio Ohga, “The Man Who Improved Music”. It’s reposted, below.
Happy birthday, shiny obsolete object that made the world a much better place!
Depending on how old you are, the iconic image above may mean different things. If you are young enough that digital files have been the primary way you’ve experienced music as long as you can remember, the picture of a compact disc is like an old car: a relic, a nostalgic reminder of a product that has long since been improved upon. If you are old enough to remember using CDs, you also remember having to pay for them, so their increasing disappearance from the cultural landscape is a welcome development. If you are mature enough, perhaps you already owned enough albums that you never wanted (or needed) to jump on the technological bandwagon. If you are old enough and/or an ultra-audiophile who disdained these discs from the get-go (which means you are an old fart, a pretentious Luddite or Neil Young), you probably saved a ton of money the last few decades, but then again, you probably wasted it on ludicrously expensive gadgets and hundred dollar speaker cables that are actually worth the pocket change it costs to produce them.
If, on the other hand, you are a guy like me, who got his first job right around the time compact discs starting appearing in record stores (note: there were once things called record stores and they sold things called records), you can recall the way the light bounced off that sucker like the star that once guided the wise men through the desert. I’m not ashamed to admit that I acquired my first compact disc even before I had a machine to play it in; I knew I was getting one so I began stocking up as quickly as possible. And after listening to records (good), cassettes (bad) and 8-Tracks (ugly), I looked at this pristine new invention the way the apes look at the monolith at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Here’s the thing: LPs are somewhat back in vogue now (equal parts prompted by desperate hipster cred and retro longings) and, to be certain, many people never stopped listening to them in the first place. But people who remember too fondly by half how the system used to work are either in denial or never lived through the era in the first place. Listen: you hear that snap, crackle and pop? That was an inexorable part of the experience. Yes, if you took good care of your albums, they lasted much longer, but everyone can recall how infuriating (and inevitable) it was to open up a brand new record, slip the needle into the groove and have it skip, usually on the one song that made the album worth buying in the first place. As a result, I am positive I’m not the only person who got in the habit of immediately copying each new LP onto a blank cassette in order to capture and preserve that (hopefully) flawless first-listen. But then, what was the point of doing this when you could not (would not) listen to the actual album after a while? In other words: the system was flawed and it used to be a dorky dream out of some sci-fi fantasy to imagine music being permanently unmarred for a million listens.
Enter the compact disc.
(Intermission: this reminiscence is prompted by news that Norio Ohga, the former Sony CEO and man credited with helping create and develop the compact disc has passed away at age 81. There is an interesting summary of his life from AP here.
A few fascinating highlights from the piece:
As a young man, aspiring opera singer Norio Ohga wrote to Sony to complain about the quality of its tape recorders. That move changed the course of his life, as the company promptly recruited the man whose love of music would shape the development of the compact disc and transform the Japanese electronics maker into a global software and entertainment empire.
Shattering the stereotype of the staid Japanese executive, the debonair Ohga was never shy, his hair neatly slicked back, his boisterous manner exuding the fiery yet naive air of an artist. His persona added a touch of glamour to Sony’s image at a time when Japan had global ambitions. An experienced pilot, Ohga at times flew the plane himself for business trips. A gourmet, he boasted about his roast beef. His hobby was cruising on his yacht.
Chairman of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra since 1999, he continued to conduct there a few times a year. In 1993, he conducted the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in a charity event funded by Sony.
Ohga often compared leading a company to conducting an orchestra.
“Just as a conductor must work to bring out the best in the members of his orchestra, a company president must draw on the talents of the people in his organization,” Ohga said in a 1996 Sony publication.
Ohga had tried to lead a double life of artist and Sony man.
One day, he dozed off from exhaustion in the stage wings while waiting to go on in the “The Marriage of Figaro,” rushed in from the wrong direction and watched his embarrassed co-stars stifling giggles.
He gave up his opera career but still promoted classical music in Japan by supporting young musicians and concerts.
Sounds like a life well-lived to me.)
In between becoming ascendent and outmoded, compact discs had a complicated integration into the mainstream. Yes, from the get-go there were legitimate gripes about the fidelity, authenticity and the mere notion of digital numbers replacing analog wax made many purists pause. I had records, I loved records, and I sincerely wish I still had all my old records (most of which I gave away or sold to used record stores for pennies on the dollar in order to acquire compact discs), but I can’t –and wouldn’t– change the way things unfolded. It’s almost impossible to explain to the uninitiated how unbelievably good compact discs sounded in the mid-’80s. It wasn’t just that they sounded the same with each subsequent listen, they sounded better than the LPs. (The argument, which still rages on in coffee shops and online chat groups and at High-End Audio conferences, is one that can never be reconciled: anyone who claims they can unfailingly tell the difference between an album and a vintage AAD compact disc (e.g. a disc that digitalized an original analog recording, which was the case with virtually all music until the technology caught up with the creation of “new” music) is being recalcitrant or is the same type of person who insists their $300 gold-wired speaker cables make a discernible difference in the quality of the sound pumping through their “listening room”. In other words, it’s an argument that means so much to some people because it means so little to everyone else.)
Records did (and do) have that inimitable warmth, and a certain something that can’t be duplicated, but it’s folly to suggest or insist that contemporary music did not sound better digitally. For instance, I had albums by The Police and those first discs (even though they, like virtually all first pressings throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s, have been radically improved upon since) sounded better than the albums. A lot better. There was more clarity, you could hear all the instruments, and you could definitely discern subtle sounds that were buried into the mix or lost in the ether of fidelity and technology.
Perhaps more importantly, and this is something the younger generation, spoiled brats that they are, can never fathom and therefore never appreciate, is that content was not ubiquitous or readily available back in the bad old days. And I don’t just mean it wasn’t all free for all plugged-in pirates; I mean a great deal of it did not exist. Many albums from the glorious era of Prog-Rock had not been reissued or had fallen out of favor and, in some cases, had never been in favor in the first place. As such, particularly during a time when MTV, hair metal and synth pop reigned supreme (dark days, my wet-behind-the-ears-brethren), “classic rock” was not just considered music made by dinosaurs; it was a dinosaur–it was extinct.
There is no doubt in my mind that the proliferation of compact discs led to the resurgence of sales for old music, which prompted the classic rock radio formats that became a huge deal toward the end of the ’80s.
While writing/reminiscing about Jethro Tull on the occasion of J.D. Salinger’s death (here), I recalled the impact compact discs had on me, as a teenage music fanatic. I did/do defend my obsession with music as an addiction, and an expensive one, but also one that has had only positive influence on my life in literally too many ways to count:
As it happens, when I first experienced The Catcher in the Rye I was in the early (but intense) stages of what became a lifelong infatuation with Jethro Tull. Which naturally coincided with my burgeoning obsession with all-things progressive rock, which happened to coincide with the release of so many classic recordings on that new-fangled technical revelation called compact discs. It would be near impossible for anyone who didn’t live through those days to imagine a world when you waited for anything: i-Pods and online access have made everything that has ever happened available, immediately.
Back then, waiting for certain Rush, Yes, King Crimson and especially Jethro Tull albums to get their digital reincarnation was like patiently awaiting Moses to deliver a new sonic commandment every other week. The upside of this, of course, was that it was still a time when you had time (you had no choice) to savor and spend time with a new purchase, and by the time you’d (temporarily) exhausted your enthusiasm, you had ample funds to get the next installment. This was also, as many will remember, a time before information itself was a free 24/7 proposition. As such, each trip to the record store was loaded with possibility: you never knew what might have been released, including albums by bands like Genesis and Pink Floyd, that you never even knew existed. And, it should go without saying that the prospect of upgrading scratchy vinyl (or tape-recorded) copies of Beatles, Stones, Doors, Zeppelin and Hendrix albums was something slightly beyond orgasmic.
And so, it was not just a matter of how it all sounded, it was also a matter of discovering all this new (old) shit. In this regard, I reckon I was the right age at the right place at the right time, and my obsession with all types of music coincided with this giant technological leap. If compact discs made more classic rock available, it’s simply not possible to convey what a godsend this format was for jazz and reggae. If you think early Pink Floyd albums were obscure (and they were), getting out of print Blue Note jazz discs or any reggae by anyone other than Bob Marley was a pipe dream (literally). While I may have saved tens of thousands of dollars had all this music been available by some magical computer –which is what it would have seemed like then, and still, to a certain extent, seems like now– I can’t say I regret the inexpressible thrill of discovery and the delight of entire eras of music suddenly within my grasp: I reckon (without sarcasm or snark) that I experienced, on some slight but meaningful level, what scholars or religious devotees are in search of when they dedicate themselves to their monomaniacal quests for enlightenment. For me, the pleasure was never in doubt, the rewards indescribable, and at the end of the day, this was the best investment I’ve ever made. Every single disc I ever bought (except of course the ones that were borrowed or stolen) I still own, they all play, and they still sound impeccable.
My world, in sum, existed with albums and compact discs and then digital files. It still does, and while it’s strange to imagine, I’ll welcome the next technological advancement, if there is one. In the final analysis all of these toys and innovations are delivery devices for the most pure form of expression mankind has been capable of perfecting. For that, I salute the rich life and considerable accomplishment of Norio Ohga.
Check it out: there are people who actually believe that the moon landing never happened. Lots of people. Not that it didn’t happen, necessarily, but that it was an elaborate, carefully staged scam; that it happened out in the desert, secret film crews capturing the entire thing. Unfortunately, most of the people who agreed to be interviewed all happen to live in trailer parks, and that tends to undermine their credibility.
Every now and then you encounter one of those documentaries on TV and it’s impossible not to scoff. Look: these people are not merely skeptical, they are insistent. It’s not a matter of which parts of the official record are dubious, all the parts are dubious. These are the folks positive that 9/11 was an inside job, and that the creation of the universe was, in a matter of speaking, an inside job (God being the ultimate insider). These folks are as invested in government’s omnipotent mendacity as the faithful are in God’s benevolence: all that is required is utter abdication of personal volition and the concept of chaos: it’s all preordained and executed according to plan. A run of the mill cynic, sane by comparison, has no alternative but to shake his head in exasperation—or amusement. And yet, the ones immune to uncertainty are enviable in their own weird way: if ignorance is bliss there is a discernible upside to being half-baked.
But I’ll be damned if, fifteen minutes in, I’m on board, buying just about every argument. After twenty minutes I’m talking in increasingly agitated tones to my TV. A half hour later I’m ready to make a down payment on a used trailer.
Listen to them: these people might not be crazy, but they are playing the part to perfection. Wide eyes working to wash away the one-two punch of alarm and indignation; creased foreheads wet with the weight of their weird worlds; the insistent outlook of the converted Christian or polished politician; the unburdened body language of a puppet who has finally plucked the wires from its back.
And, I think: Please!
Please let this be true. Imagine: all the churchgoing, flag-waving, right wing radio listening, free market following, see-no-evil simpletons if they found out?
And then, this: No!
Nothing, it eventually occurs to me, could conceivably be worse than if those astronauts actually landed on earth. Because it is marginally acceptable, or at least comprehensible, that in a time when millions of people are starving and dying of decades-old diseases, we’d have the effrontery to float billion dollar babies in space—that is enough, that confirms all we need to know about priorities and good and evil and the fact that there is, of course, at the end of the night, no chance whatsoever that God is watching over all this (Would you be able to watch and not do anything, even if you were The One who made it all happen in the first place?). But to think that the suits who call the shots arrived at the decision that it was ultimately to their advantage to take the time and imagination to choreograph a made-for-TV miracle to propagate compliance, or boost morale, or whatever mendacious busywork those men who don’t work for a living get up to when they are hard at work behind those fortified doors.
If that is even a possibility, then all bets are off. Then suddenly even the cynics are shit out of luck, and things like fake wars and flying planes into buildings begin to seem like a rather ingenuous part of the program. See: it is conceivable that money gets spent every day on scientific charades that serve no practical purpose. Or conceding that God obviously does not exist, so it can’t be His fault (because He never existed). But finding out that we are capable—and worse, willing—to pull off that kind of crap? It is almost enough to make you join a militia. It’s almost enough to cause you to cash it all in and start looking for the alien transmissions in your fillings. Or hunker down in a trailer park on the outskirts of Area 51.
Shortly after 2011 began, I noted the unhappy occasion of Gerry Rafferty’s passing and did my best to articulate (and celebrate) what his work meant to me (original post here).
In the course of my tribute, I also gave a long distance shout out to a man I have always –and will always– associate with Rafferty’s great album City To City. That man, Iain Caddell, was my History teacher my freshman year at South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia. Here is what I wrote:
Against all probability, I once had a teacher (very appropriately, from Scotland, which is where Rafferty was from) who knew the dude who drew and designed it. In fact, quick shout out for Iain Caddell, my ninth grade History teacher who ended up, of all places, in Reston, VA for the 1984/85 school year. It took many of us a while to adjust to his accent, his long hair and beard (we were too ignorant, too American to understand how bad-ass he was, how real he was keeping it), and especially his ardent wish that teachers could practice corporal punishment in the states with impunity. Of course they could not, and he resented that fact as we celebrated it. A good kick in the arse from this diminutive Scotsman would have been just what the doctor ordered for most of us, myself at the front of the line. But as so often happens, it was something random but genuine that brought us together: music.
When he discovered that I had a better-than-passing acquaintance with Jethro Tull, it was on. We then bonded and began talking, after class, about music and we even exchanged cassette copies of favorite albums. Quaint, no? Little did I perceive, then, that this man, who had ridden in the back of buses with the actual bands as they toured tiny venues throughout the UK, was already lamenting the passing of an era, musically (and, I reckon, culturally) and hoped I was one of the few snot-nosed spoiled rotten American morons who might keep that flame burning as the world collapsed around us, culturally speaking. I’d like to think I lived up to his aspirations, and if our Scots-Irish God is smiling down at us, please someone, somewhere have an idea where Mr. Caddell is today so I might remind him that he was an inspiration on more than one level.
The Internet, being what it is, finds me at once humbled, grateful and deeply saddened to receive the unwelcome tidings that Mr. Caddell has passed away. I received a comment (to the Rafferty post), presumably from someone who was looking for information about him, and this person kindly informed me of the sad news. From what I’ve gathered, the cause of death was complications from a sudden, unexpected stroke. Of course, strokes are seldom expected, but Mr. Caddell was a young man and apparently in fine health, which makes this news doubly sad.
When I read the message I thought, maybe it’s a different man (isn’t this what we always think, or hope, when we receive news we don’t want and can’t immediately confirm?). But I clicked on the link included in the message, which led me to a Facebook tribute page, and there was no doubt: this is the man I once knew.
I’m glad, and not surprised, to see he was still rocking the long hair, and the beard. Of course, when I had him as a teacher, that hair was jet black. (Of course, when I had him as a teacher, I still had hair.) There was a level of irony in the fact that we bonded over Jethro Tull, because his name was Ian (like Ian Anderson) and, well, he looked more than a little like the frontman of that great band.
I’m delighted to learn he was active in a band, Barnstorm, which does not surprise me, since he was such a keen music enthusiast. (A link to their MySpace page, with a solemn tribute from his bandmates, is here.)
So, what does a former student and fellow human being –who connected with him about matters of music and history– make of this, other than the obvious (the obvious being: there is no way to lessen the blow of an untimely passing like this and no reason to rationalize this grim reminder of how horribly quick our time on this planet always is)?
Well, I will consider the same things I always think when someone who impacted my life passes on. I will think: be grateful that they were here at all, be humble that you had an opportunity to learn from them. Be happy that you are alive. Be eager to keep his memory alive, in words (easy) and especially in deeds (trickier). We have learned little, I reckon, if we let sorrow or regret overwhelm or consume us. We deepen the meaning of the departed as well as our own capacity for evolution if we can do more with the time we still have. I think the death of an admired person can –and should– serve as both an occasion for respect and humility, but also as a rallying cry. We all will die, some of us sooner than we’d like; but the only way it’s possible to defeat death is to keep our loved ones in our lives.
I notice, over the course of the past couple of years, I’ve been obliged to remember the lives of departed artists and it is never a pleasant experience. In a lower moment I may even be tempted to acknowledge the morbidity of this repeated exercise (also knowing that as I get older the artists I admire are also getting older and these occasions will only become more frequent going forward). Then, no matter how dejected I may feel –and the news of Mr. Caddell’s death has set me back in a profound way for the last 24 hours, perhaps in part because Clarence Clemons just died, also the victim of a stroke, and yesterday was Father’s Day– I consider the most important part: I should be celebrating them because their lives were well worth celebrating, and they made sufficient impact on me (and the world) that I was happy to do my humble part to express that gratitude.
Let’s face it: is there any more telling evidence of a life lived well than that it is remembered? Iain Caddell made his mark, and I feel secure in saying he touched the lives of many, many people. He should have had more time to enjoy this world and spread his love, but he made the most of the time he was given. It is something anyone should aspire to and I understand, today: even in death, he continues to guide and inspire me.
Cheerio, then, to a unique and unforgettable human being.