Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Little Cherub is gone....

We lost my mother on March 19th, and as was said by my wife, the lights have dimmed on planet earth. My mother was often affectionately called "the little cherub" because she was the true definition of that acronym.

After being a punching bag for the medical and pharmaceutical industries for the past 4 years as well as watching friends and family go through similar trials and tribulations, I thought I had taken all the hits there were. But this is a knockout punch like no other, I'm not sure how to rise up from the mat on this one. My disdain for those entities, as well as our inept congress and senate knows no bounds, and that has some relevance here, but that topic is for another day. This is about the woman who defined my mother.

She was a terrific mom on all counts, and I will miss her every day for all of my time. Mom knew I always had a penchant for strawberry Twizzlers, and all the way up until her final Christmas, she would include a package in whatever Christmas presents she sent me. That was probably the equivalent of 40 years of licorice. I also often would compare any chocolate chip cookies I tasted to, "Not as good as my mom's". Many times I would get a small tin of chocolate chip cookies she had baked in the mail to which very few of them survived the journey intact. Didn't matter of course, they were the best, and I ate every last broken crumb. Mom was also an excellent seamstress and once she decided to make me a styling fleece shirt. We went to a fabric store, picked out some fabric and some fancy buttons and off she went to be a tailor. By the time I got it in the mail, the sleeves were too short and the tail not long enough. That didn't matter though, I wore it anyway because a warm fuzzy shirt made with love is like Linus' Blanket, it doesn't get any better then that. Until I wore it threadbare, I was asked by many people where they could get one, even strangers, and that made me so proud. Of course. there are far more wonderful stories to tell of her sweetness and generosity, and soon I will write as many as I know well. Mom never wanted to be famous, or great, but she defined Great Mother, and every friend I've ever had adored her.

One of the greatest moments I ever had with her was when my wife and I took her to Montreal for a long weekend. After she and my wife went on a pink carriage ride through old Montreal and we stopped in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral, she turned to me and said, 'Wow, Pete, I NEVER thought I'd get to do that and see this!" (even though everyone knew I preferred "Peter"-she could call me whatever she wanted) Her face lit up like you see in the photo above. Which is another of one of the many moments when she lit up planet earth with those eyes and smile, dancing with my wife while friends played Celtic music on guitars and fiddle. I will never, ever, ever, forget that look.

The toughest moment I ever had with Mom, was steadying her hand when we had to let my father go. He was a great, tough, generous, old salt, and you knew why she loved him. He chased her when she was a young beauty, and rightfully so. His prime objective was to buy Mom a big Cadillac when he could, and he did. The widest, longest, blue Cadillac they made no less. When Dad was gone, I chose the song "Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton to be played at his service, because Mom was having trouble making decisions as you can well imagine. Although the song was about Clapton's recent loss of his own young son, some didn't understand it when it was played. Mom loved it though, and proceeded to have me take her out to buy up "Clapton's Greatest Hits".and "Unplugged".  I thought it was the neatest thing that my 60+ mother was listening to Clapton for weeks on end and did for years. Again, never will I forget when I walked into her house once with "Layla" playing on her little CD player. She used to say, "I like that Eric guy". My Mom was cool too.

If Mom ever had any fault, it was that she would sometimes tell you what she thought you wanted to hear, because she wanted YOU to be happy. Didn't always matter if it might be true or not, your happiness was most important to her, even more then her own. In her final years, mom sometimes got names and places mixed up, and she would often tell the same story about her grandchildren or her times with her sister Elaine at the Eastern States Exposition Fair over and over again, sometimes within minutes of telling the same story. But that didn't matter because she would laugh and light up, and it was a truly wonderful laugh. It was worth that laugh and we would just let her tell her story(s) time and again.

I firmly believe that my mother never had an enemy in her entire life. All she ever seemed to really want was people around her to be happy. If she could find any way to do that, she would. We could all learn a lot from that belief which defined the best Mom a boy could ever have,

Monday, January 11, 2016

"We can be heroes, just for one day"

Not too long ago I read or heard or a quote that said, "I'm in that half of life when it no longer gives you things, but takes them away". This is one of them. As of late we have had too many friends and colleagues pass away and I myself have had my own battles with cancer over the past 3 years. Last night, cancer took away one of the truly great iconic artists of our time, and my favorite recording artist, David Bowie. He was 69, I am 57. For 40 years I have been a huge Bowie fan, and today, another part of me is gone.

Last Friday night, my wife and I watched a broadcast of "Ziggy Stardust" on VH1 and this past Saturday, we bought his latest album, "Blackstar". While driving home we both commented on how much of the album seemed autobiographical and jazzy. How ironic that seems now, and truth be told, that is who Bowie always was. He always recorded who he was, when he was that person. As many who knew him well, like the great Brian Eno commented this morning, he was saying goodbye to all of us on that last album.

Bowie was, "Ziggy", "The Thin White Duke", "Chameleon", "The Elephant Man", "Major Tom",and many other labels to many people, but the truth is David Bowie was simply always himself and in HIS moment. Too me, he was the artist I admired and respected the most and as "cool" as Dean or McQueen. Musically, Bowie was always light years ahead of everyone else in the industry. He could funk, rock, dance, and croon with everyone from Bing Crosby, John Lennon, to Freddie Mercury, he could rock anthem and rip an amplifier apart with "Suffragette City", he could do electronica and paved the way for legions of followers. Bowie could play a gazillion instruments and he worked with and influenced many of the greatest artists in rock and roll as well as rejuvenate some from ashes. While almost every other musical artist simply repeat themselves, Bowie explored new ground at every turn. His lyrics were often prophetic.

I'm proud to say I saw every tour David did except "Ziggy", many several times in one year, and once spent an entire day in LA with my good friend Michael, watching a retrospective of Bowie videos and filmed performances which was nothing short of amazing. I own all the albums, several collectable pieces, and decades ago in my 'Punk Days", had the honor of meeting both David Bowie and Iggy Pop together in NYC. One of the highlights of my life was seeing Bowie live in Milan, Italy on the Glass Spider Tour from front row center. I've seen many great concerts, but none ever came close to that.

My favorite songs were: "Let Me Sleep Beside You", "Heroes", "Young Americans" "Slow Burn", "This Is Not America", "Gene Jeanie", not necessarily in that order, and the list goes on and on and on and on.

Little Richard may have "invented" Rock and Roll, Elvis may have been "The King", Morrison "The Lizard", and Led Zeppelin, Stones, ACDC, and Queen the greatest bands who rocked. But...there was no one that came close to the sheer creativity and genius of Bowie, nor will there ever be again.

RIP David, the world of art has a huge hole in it now which cannot be filled.