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Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Positive Mega Mix (Songs 341-500 of 500)

For songs 1-180 see here.

For songs 181-340 see here.

341. Say Hey I Love You by Michael Franti
342. Star Wars Cantina Theme
343. In Summer by Josh Gad
344. Everybody Loves a Nut by Johnny Cash
345. I’ve Always Been Crazy by Waylon Jennings
346. As Good As I Once Was by Toby Keith
347. Loch Lomond by Runrig
348. The Boys Are Back in Town by Thin Lizzy
349. Bright Side of the Road by Van Morrison
350. Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest
351. Now and Then by Arlo Guthrie
352. Whiskey River (live) by Willie Nelson
353. Real World by Big and Rich
354. You Never Even Called Me By My Name by David Allan Coe
355. Family Tradition by Hank Williams Jr.
356. Theme from the Dukes of Hazzard by Waylon Jennings
357. Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw
358. Epistemology by M. Ward
359. Love Will Find a Way by Michael Franti
360. My Back Pages by The Byrds
361. Wasted on the Way by Crosby, Stills, and Nash
362. Settled Down by Richard Buckner
363. Home by Jack Johnson
364. Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson
365. So Damn Lucky by Dave Matthews
366. All Night Long by Lionel Richie
367. One Love by Bob Marley
368. Margaritaville (lost verse live) by Jimmy Buffett
369. Brighter than the Sun by Colbie Caillat
370. The Show by Lenka
371. Brave by Sarah Bareilles
372. Smile by Uncle Kracker
373. Crazy for You by Michael Franti
374. In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry
375. Band on the Run by Paul McCartney and Wings
376. The Irish Rover by The Pogues
377. You’re a Good Man Albert Brown by XTC
378. Aba Dabba Honeymoon by Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter
379. Raiders March from Raiders of the Lost Ark
380. Take It Easy (live) by Bruce Springsteen
381. Box of Rain by The Grateful Dead
382. Scare Away the Dark by Passenger
383. Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks
384. Friends in Low Places (live with extra verse) by Garth Brooks
385. Bruises by Train and Ashley Monroe
386. American Pie by Don McLean
387. Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer by Old Crow Medicine Show
388. Scent of a Mule (live) by Phish
389. Eyes of the World (live) by The Grateful Dead and Branford Marsalis
390. Here Comes the Sun by Richie Havens
391. Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks
392. Changes by David Bowie
393. Step Out by Jose Gonzalez
394. One Step Beyond by Madness
395. Punk Rock Girl by The Dead Milkmen
396. Beverly Hills (live) by Weezer with Pete on Trombone
397. Golden Age by TV on the Radio
398. 666 by Foxygen
399. Monica (live) by Phish
400. Now by Everclear
401. Harper Valley PTA by Syd Straw
402. Rainbow Connection by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
403. Your Pet Cat (live) by Phish
404. Lust for Life by Iggy Pop
405. You Wreck Me by Tom Petty
406. Handle with Care by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
407. The Joker by Steve Miller Band
408. September Gurls by Big Star
409. Wonder Why by Dion
410. Then He Kissed Me by Crystals
411. Be My Baby by The Ronettes
412. Go All the Way by Raspberries
413. Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede
414. Not Responsible by Tom Jones
415. Oogum Boogum Song by Brenton Wood
416. For Once in my Life by Stevie Wonder
417. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye
418. Can’t Get Enough of You Baby by Smashmouth
419. Do You Like Me by Ernie and Bert
420. Crazy in Love by Beyonce
421. Can’t Sleep Love by Penatonix
422. Shake Your Booty by KC and the Sunshine Band
423. December 1963 Oh What a Night by Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons
424. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Leo Sayer
425. Get Ready by Rare Earth
426. I Can’t Help Myself by The Four Tops
427. Heartbeat Song by Kellie Clarkson
428. I’m Always in Love by Wilco
429. I’m into Something Good (live) by Jeff Tweedy
430. Master of the House from the Les Miserables Soundtrack
431. Let It Go by Idina Menzel
432. Fixer Upper from Frozen Soundtrack
433. Magic America by Blur
434. Sparkle (live) by Phish
435. The Bad Touch by The Bloodhound Gang
436. Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer
437. Mony Mony by Tommy James and the Shondells
438. Is There Something I Should Know by Duran Duran
439. Jammin’ by Bob Marley
440. Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel
441. Route 676 by G Love and Special Sauce
442. Groove Is in the Heart by Dee-Lite
443. Love Shack by the B52s
444. Like a Virgin by Teenage Fanclub
445. Never Say Never by Romeo Void
446. Double Shot of My Baby’s Love by The Swinging Medallions
447. Freak Flag from Shrek the Musical
448. Sensitive Artist by King Missile
449. Oh! Look at Me Now by Frank Sinatra
450. You Make Me Feel So Young by Frank Sinatra
451. Happy Together by The Turtles
452. Question by The Old 97s
453. Falling in Love in a Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg
454. Book of Love by Peter Gabriel
455. Lucky by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat
456. Kiss the Girl from the Little Mermaid
457. You’ve Got a Friend in Me by Randy Newman
458. Life’s a Happy Song by The Muppets
459. Astral Weeks by Van Morrison
460. Daydream Believer by the Monkees
461. Baby I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney
462. Stand by Me by John Lennon
463. Octopus’s Garden by The Beatles
464. Fun, Fun, Fun by the Beach Boys
465. Do You Love Me by The Contours
466. Beginning to See the Light by Bobby Darin
467. Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
468. Bright by Echosmith
469. Meteor Shower by Rhett Miller
470. When You Wish upon a Star from Pinocchio
471. Space Oddity (live) by Phish
472. In the Aeroplane over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
473. Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix
474. I’m Calling by Polyphonic Spree
475. Geeareohdoubleyou by Tripping Daisy
476. Nature Song by Granddaddy
477. Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin
478. With Plenty of Money and You by Count Basie
479. We Go Together by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John
480. On the Road Again by Willie Nelson
481. East Bound and Down from Smokey and the Bandit
482. Wabash Cannonball by Boxcar Willie
483. Uneasy Rider by Charlie Daniels
484. You Can Finally Meet My Mom
485. Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys
486. Harpua (live) by Phish and Primus
487. Rockin’ the Suburbs by Ben Folds and William Shatner
488. What is Life by George Harrison
489. My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
490. Polyester Bride by Liz Phair
491. It’s the End of the World As We Know It by REM
492. If I Ever Leave This World Alive by Flogging Molly
493. Can’t Even Tell by Soul Asylum
494. End of the Line by Travelling Wilburies
495. Beautiful Ride by John C Reilly
496. Please Do Not Go by Violent Femmes
497. Last Words by The Real Tuesday Weld
498. Show Me the Way to Go Home by Bing Crosby
499. Imagine by John Lennon
500. Lou Gehrig Speech

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Positive Mega Mix (songs 181-340 of 500)

If you would like to see up to 180, please go here.

If you would like to see 341-500, please go here.

181. Celebration by Kool and the Gang
182. Boogies Shoes by KC and the Sunshine Band
183. Get Ready for this by 2 Unlimited
184. Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey by Paul McCartney and Wings
185. Gimme Some Lovin by Spencer Davis Group
186. Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs
187. Nobody but Me by Human Beinz
188. Respect by Otis Redding
189. Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis
190. Good Lovin by the Rascals
191. Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone
192. Soul Man by Sam and Dave
193. This Old Heart of Mine by the Temptations
194. Soul Finger by the Bar-kays
195. Stardust by Louis Armstrong
196. Soul Power (live) by James Brown
197. Maceo Parker stuff
198. Smash Your Head by Girl Talk
199. Big Poppa by Notorious B.I.G.
200. Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO
201. Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
202. Gangam Style by PSY
203. Fireball by Pitbull
204. Like a Prayer by Madonna
205. Pop Goes the World by Men Without Hats
206. Dance to the Music by Sly and the Family Stone
207. Me, Myself, and I by De La Soul
 208. Apache by Sugarhill Gang
209. Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer
210. Ice, Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice
211. Rapper’s Delight by Sugarhill Gang
212. Peter Piper by Run DMC
213. Billionaire by Gym Class Heroes and Bruno Mars
214. Be Good to Yourself by Journey
215. You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall and Oates
216. The Safety Dance by Men without Hats
217. Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
218. Take on Me by A-Ha
219. Here It Goes Again by OK Go
220. Mambo #8 by Perez Prado
221. Get Right Back by Maxine Nightengale
222. I Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Michael Buble
223. Just a Gigolo by Louis Prima
224. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
225. Just Breathe (live) by Pearl Jam
226. Forever Young by Rod Stewart
227. At My Most Beautiful by REM
228. Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
229. Kiss Me by Six Pence None the Richer
230. Baby I Love Your Way by Peter Frampton
231. We Are Gonna Be Friends by Jack Johnson
232. Shake Shake Shake Signora by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
233. Joy to the World by Three Dog Night
234. Little Green Bag by George Baker Selection
235. Cheers (Drink to That) by Rihanna
236. The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars
237. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers
238. Young Americans by David Bowie
239. Moon Dance by Van Morrison
240. Piano Man by Billy Joel
241. Got to Get You off My Mind by Solomon Burke
242. Rave on by Buddy Holly
243. If I Had a Million Dollars by Bare Naked Ladies
244. Kooks by David Bowie
245. Apeman by The Kinks
246. Sweet Virginia by The Rolling Stones
247. Movin on Up by Primal Scream
248. Something Good by Utah Saints
249. Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys
250. Merry Christmas Everybody by Train
251. All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey
252. Only at Christmas Time by Sufjan Stevens
253. Mr. Heat Miser by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
254. Me and You and the Bottle Makes Three by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
255. No Myth by Michael Penn
256. Watch Me by Labi Siffre
257. Such Great Heights by The Postal Service
258. Classic Girl by Jane’s Addiction
259. Teenage Kicks by The Undertones
260. Another Girl Another Planet by The Only Ones
261. Surrender by Cheap Trick
262. Mr. Blue Sky By Electric Light Orchestra
263. Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb
264. Light and Day by Polyphonic Spree
265. Something to Believe in by The Ramones
266. Berkley Mews by The Kinks
267. Every Day I Write the Book by Elvis Costello
268. Right Here, Right Now by Jesus Jones
 269. The Girl from Ipanema by Some Latin Jazz Guy
270. Red Red Wine by UB40
271. Dancing on My Own by Calum Scott
272. The Climb by Miley Cyrus
273. Head Over Heels by The Go-Gos
274. Shape of You by Ed Sheeran
275. Handclap by Fitz and the Tantrums
276. I Got a Feeling by The Blackeyed Peas
277. Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars
278. Freedom by Pitbull
279. Hey Ya by Outkast
280. Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus
281. Imma Be by The Blackeyed Peas
282. Gettin’ Jiggy wit It by Will Smith
283. September by Earth, Wind, and Fire
284. Gaston by Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack
285. Loaded by Primal Scream
286. I Believe in Miracles by The Ramones
287. So Alive by Love and Rockets
288. Lips Like Sugar by Echo and the Bunnymen
289. You Spin Me Round Like a Record by Dead or Alive
290. Tenderness by General Public
291. Run by New Order
292. Getting Away with It by Electronic
293. Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode
294. A Little Respect by Erasure
295. Carolyn’s Fingers by The Cocteau Twins
296. Hey Hey Hey by Michael Franti and Spearhead
297. Tomorrow from Annie Soundtrack
298. Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars
299. Thinking out Loud by Ed Sheeran
300. God Only Knows by The Beach Boys
301. Our House by Crosby Stills and Nash
302. Let There Be Love by Oasis
303. Everybody Needs Love by Drive By Truckers
304. I Can See Clearly Now by Johnnie Nash
305. OOH Child by The Five Stairsteps
306. Up Up and Away by The Fifth Dimension
307. There’s No Business Like Show Business by Annie Get Your Gun Cast
308. Stayin Alive by The Bee Gees
309. Show Me the Way by Peter Frampton
310. Help on the Way / Slipknot / Franklin’s Tower (live) by The Grateful Dead
311. Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealer’s Wheel
312. Friends / Sigmund the Sea Monster by Tripping Daisy
313. It’s the Sun (live) by Polyphonic Spree
314. In the Middle by Jimmy Eat World
315. Firecracker by Ryan Adams
316. Rock and Roll Girls by John Fogerty
317. Hey Janeane by The Hangdogs
318. New Madrid by Uncle Tupelo
319. Windfall by Son Volt
320. Beautiful World by Colin Hay
321. Fight Song by Rachel Platten
322. Roar by Katy Perry
323. Rise by Katy Perry
324. Alive by Sia
325. Theme from Disney’s Up
326. Summertime by Will Smith
327. This is the Day by The The
328. Me and You against the World by Space
329. One Week by Barenaked Ladies
330. Wake Up by The Boo Radleys
331. All Right by Supergrass
332. Song 2 by Blur
333. Where’s Me Jumper by Sultans of Ping FC
334. The Size of a Cow by The Wonderstuff
335. Birdhouse in Your Soul by They Might Be Giants
336. Sparky’s Dream by Teenage Fanclub
337. Stay up Late by Talking Heads
338. Take Me With You by Apollonia
339. Candyman by Christina Aguilera
340. Marry You by Glee Cast

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Return of Spring and the Best Baseball Season Ever

            Around these parts, winter is still here, but it’s not as bad. This morning was in the 20s, and the wind wasn’t howling and shaking the trees like it has in other days these past few weeks. Frankly, a sweater was enough to walk to the car and then “brrr” as I put the heater and the mp3 player on until things warmed up for me to feel comfortable on my 30 minute drive to work.

            With only 1 month left of winter and a Florida vacation to see friends in Jacksonville looming in 20 days, the thoughts of flowers and new life are everywhere. The snowdrops (a type of flower, which is pictured above) are pushing through, and if Facebook is to be trusted, so are the crocuses, but I haven’t seen them in our yard. Frankly, I just haven’t had time. There’s just too much have to do work going on.
Because of what I don’t have time to see because of that nagging, pestering work and grading, there are other things I haven’t seen. Word around the campfire also says that the great-horned owls who have nested with their babies at Ephrata Park are back to fornicating again because there’s pictures of one of these birds standing guard at the tree’s natural opening. This must be investigated, so when I’m driving home from work today at noon, I will be there with my trusty camera hoping to see them or him or her standing guard in that tree opening today.

            A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
            But in my annual tradition of the end of the hot stove watch, there is the all-important return of the baseball season, though if truth be told, I don’t turn MLBTV off all winter. Now, with February’s end in sight and the groundhog not to be believed, there is that great truth to this period of time and that is that real, new baseball is back. Florida and Arizona are hopping because pitchers and catchers have reported, so life is good.
            And if baseball is back, that means that the first quasi-meaningful games of spring are back soon. This year, that also means that the United States is trying to compete in the World Baseball Classic, but let’s be honest; we don’t have the desire to rally around the flag or field a team like the Dominicans. Ownership and agents aren’t fielding Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, so is this really our best foot forward? Nevertheless, we do have some good players if you follow the game. These include Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Buster Posey, Eric Homser, Daniel Murphy, Andrew McCutchen, and Giancarlo Stanton. The bullpen looks good with Andrew Miller leading a lot of decent 1-inning guys, but the starters look relatively above average at best when looked at. One year and a contract run doesn’t make a career great player headed for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

            So what does make a great baseball player? Apparently, it’s being a silent leader and showing up to work every day to just be great. It’s building a body that is so strong that he was once turned down for the role of Tarzan because he was too jacked. It’s putting up with the media's obsession with the star-struck, drunken, womanizing hero / lout of the world, who batted in front of him while he, Lou Gehrig, quietly hit 464 home runs by 1936, which was before his age 34 season. His age 32 season would be one of his most memorable seasons ever since it was his Triple Crown year. Nevertheless, he did have “better” statistical years. This says something since his slash-line in 1934 was a .363 batting average, 49 home runs, and 166 runs batted in, which stood as the defining offensive moment of a baseball season. That year, his on-base plus slugging (OPS) was 1.172, which was the 33rd best season ever for this number, statistically speaking. Of course, that’s behind 4 seasons where Barry Bonds wasn’t being pitched to because he found the Fountain of the Clear and the Cream, but that too is neither here nor there.

However, by real standards, that wasn’t his best season by far. Neither was his Murderer’s Row season in 1927 when he had an OPS of 1.239, which is the 24th best OPS ever (that year, he also had an 11.8 Wins Above Replacement, which was tied for the 7th best season ever). The closest a current “all-time great” stands to that (Mike Trout, who really is that awesome) is 10.8, which says he’s good for 11 more wins over an average fill in guy over a 162 game season. What this means is that for an 89 win team in 2012, if the Angels don’t have Trout, they have a losing record.
Getting back to baseball stats (Sabrmetrics) in his Historical Abstract on baseball, author and baseball genius Bill James asks:

"A good statistical analyst in studying the statistical record of a baseball season, asks three or four essential questions:
1) What is missing from the picture?
2) What is distorted here, and what is accurately portrayed?
3) How can we include what has been left out?
4) How can we correct what has been distorted?"

For me, that leads us to Lou Gehrig’s 1938 season where he hit .295 with 29 home runs and 114 runs batted in. Looking at Gehrig, he hadn’t produced numbers that low since 1925 when he first started to become the Iron Horse, which came with Wally Pipp sitting out a game because of a headache. This led to Gehrig never being replaced in the lineup until 1939 when he gave up baseball due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS and also known by the name Lou Gehrig’s disease.
            According to the NIH, ALS is “a rare group of neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking, breathing and talking. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms get worse over time. Currently, there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to halt, or reverse, the progression of the disease. ALS belongs to a wider group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, which are caused by gradual deterioration (degeneration) and death of motor neurons. Motor neurons are nerve cells that extend from the brain to the spinal cord and to muscles throughout the body. These motor neurons initiate and provide vital communication links between the brain and the voluntary muscles. Messages from motor neurons in the brain (called upper motor neurons) are transmitted to motor neurons in the spinal cord and to motor nuclei of brain (called lower motor neurons) and from the spinal cord and motor nuclei of brain to a particular muscle or muscles. In ALS, both the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons degenerate or die, and stop sending messages to the muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, start to twitch (called fasciculations), and waste away (atrophy). Eventually, the brain loses its ability to initiate and control voluntary movements. Early symptoms of ALS usually include muscle weakness or stiffness. Gradually all muscles under voluntary control are affected, and individuals lose their strength and the ability to speak, eat, move, and even breathe. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from when the symptoms first appear. However, about 10 percent of people with ALS survive for 10 or more years.”
       If we look further on their page, we see that symptoms include:
·         fasciculations (muscle twitches) in the arm, leg, shoulder, or tongue
·         muscle cramps
·         tight and stiff muscles (spasticity)
·         muscle weakness affecting an arm, a leg, neck or diaphragm.
·         slurred and nasal speech
·         difficulty chewing or swallowing.

        Statistics show the 14-15,000 people have the disease. One of them is former NFL hero Steve Gleason, who just released a documentary about his story.
        For me, this forces a statistical adjustment, which I do on the grounds that Lou Gehrig achieved baseball excellence with ALS running through his body.
Thatyear, Gehrig didn’t get his first hit until game 6, but he was dead to rights when he slid into third base and called out. He didn’t get his second hit until game 9. His first multi-hit game was game 10, which left him with a .097 batting average before he went hitless in game 11. His first home run was in game 16, which brought him up to a .154 batting average. He would hit 28 more that year, hitting his final 1 in game 152. Prior to that and even with 2 hits in game 12, he was the worst batter in the American League with a .133 average.
Then something began to happen. Maybe it was the insults and fan’s mocking of both him and the team, but Gehrig turned it around. Pride in a person’s heart can do this as can strength in a person's convictions. As Gehrig began to compensate and work through his challenges, his May batting average was .368. In comparison, the best batting average for 2016 was DJ LeMahieu hitting .348 for the year. We haven’t had a year that good or better in baseball since 2004, when Ichiro hit .372 while setting the all-time single season hit record.
According to biographer, Jonathan Eig, this wasn’t all good. Eig stated, “Gehrig felt no pain, nothing to cause him concern, but there is evidence to suggest that he noticed the subtle change in his body… When the nerves fail to properly stimulate the body’s muscles, the muscles atrophy. As the muscles in Gehrig’s legs, shoulders, and arms began to atrophy, home runs became fly outs. Triples became doubles. Doubles became singles. He began to think about hitting for average instead of power.”
Nevertheless, even that didn’t always work.
“When he gets these attacks, they take his breath away and he has sharp pains through the small of his back. He can’t straighten up, but he nettles when someone says he has lumbago or something else that is chronic,” one writer stated after watching Gehrig get injured on the base paths after hitting a double that season.
As Lou faced the future of his consecutive game record and the ultimate disrespect some would feel for his lack of playing time, even his wife asked him to consider sitting out a game when it would be him controlling the equation instead of someone else or his health. However, Lou Gehrig would play it out for 2,130 games, only choosing to sit after being complimented for making a routine play. After all, a great man doesn't receive average compliments.
After that retirement would come the diagnosis, that July 4th quote, and his positive letters back and forth to his wife and his neurologist, which made him believe he could beat ALS, even when the game was already decided.
Through the last days, Gehrig remained tough, and his play showed how determined he was to win and to bring the Yankees back to some kind of glory, willing his body and especially his legs to carry on while battling with the press.
“I can’t see why anyone should attack my record. I have never belittled anyone else’s. I intend to play every day and shall continue to give my best to my employers and the fans. What about the guy who pays $1.10 to see the game? What if I sit on the bench and say I’m resting?”
However, life began to pile up on Gehrig. His manager, Joe McCarthy noticed his changes. In addition, he didn’t start the All-Star Game. After, this he fractured his thumb, and the x-rays noted other fractures, which had never been diagnosed as well.
“There’s always something sad about watching a ballplayer age. It’s like seeing a preview of death, played out pitch by pitch, game by game, in front of thousands of spectators. He loses a bit of speed. His eyesight fades just enough that he can’t see the spin on the ball and can’t judge the necessary split second whether it’s a fastball or a curve headed his way. The snap action in his wrist slows just enough that he can’t catch up to the fastest of the fastballs. Little by little, it all gets worse, and a player’s mind invariably turns toward retirement. But Gehrig wasn’t suffering from the normal aging process of the athlete. His skills were fading much faster.”
However, before the season would end, Gehrig would have several 4 hit games. He would also hit his 23rd career grand slam, a record at the time and pile his numbers up. There was even a point where he had improved so much since his dismal beginning of the season where he was hitting .300, which is baseball’s mark of excellence. However, the spike in drive faded, and Gehrig pulled himself out of the lineup before batting, keeping his streak alive only because of a half inning of defensive work.
While the season’s end saw the Yankees beat the Cubs in the World Series, capping off a comeback season for the record books, Gehrig went 4 for 14 in the contest, playing averagely at best. While his teammate’s celebrated, Gehrig got drunk on triples of hard liquor, suffering over the new normal in his life.
Had ALS never come, Gehrig’s energy would have been channeled into greatness, but instead, he willed himself to be very good. In fact, for many players, he would have had a career year. Nevertheless, for Lou, very good wasn’t good enough. 
He was more than good enough for the Hall of Fame in 1939. What's more, he is a hero and a role model for the courage he faced that year and the hindsight we can all get from his numbers, which reflect the true performance of the all-time best.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Response to the Flaming Lips' "Do Your Realize" and Ed Sheeran's "Thinking out Loud" and Disney's Up

This essay was originally written as part of the story of my wife Heather's and my marriage (Toledo, Ohio) that I wrote in large quantity in 2012. In that incarnation, each song from our wedding soundtrack was to tell a moment of our life together. This one was from the Flaming Lips' "Do Your Realize."

I have updated the Flaming Lips vision of this with Ed Sheeran's words in "Thinking out Loud" because they combine well with the images of that Carl and Ellie in Disney's Up to mirror the reality our marriage and love, especially the first lines, which I think about her saying to me as my leg shakes with tremors.

When your legs don't work like they used to before
And I can't sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks
And darling I will be loving you 'til we're 70
And baby my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Oh me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am
So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are...

From the early days of our goals of pursuing waterfalls and vistas, as we did in 2008, to going to musicals at the Fulton Theater like we did last weekend and that we will do this weekend, our marriage has been a lot of good times. Since 2009, there's bound to be other things that weren't always as good, too, but I wouldn't trade our journey for anything. While the future is uncertain for us as it is for all love, with or without Parkinson's involved, I look forward to shaking the winter cold off once and for all and seeing the rebirth of spring to get out and explore places near and far.

From swampy adventures on the Florida / Georgia border to Virginia Beach to New York State to Yellowstone and Canyonlands, there will be a lot more good times and journeys through the world's trails. As long as I'm walking and breathing, we'll keep journeying and pushing on, whether it be in the woods, in a canyon, or on a beach, life is meant to be lived. There's nobody I'd rather live my life with... even if she doesn't want to go see Iron Maiden with me in June.

Fortunately, we've got Disney's Up and its adventures to mirror our journeys past, present, and future.

The morning of August 15, 2009, is a blur. So many things are happening and have happened. There are still more things to do.
With the playing of The Fragile Army CD and the preliminary pictures taken, the countdown to 11 A.M. began, and with that, it was important that at 80 minutes out, the right mix CD was playing. And so it opened up with the ethereal synthesizer sounds of “Do You Realize” by Flaming Lips. In the hauntingly beautiful words, there seemed to be a premonition to every life that would ever be lived or characterized in song, book, poem, or movie that ever categorized the completeness of a relationship with regard to how it began and how it ends and how it represents the course of an entire life as the iceberg that lies beneath the surface, the private moments, the beautiful realizations, the frustrations, the hopes, the dreams, and the enormity of all that it is happens to be more than a series of pictures on a windowsill.
Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips softly harmonizes the words into a beautiful love song, but there’s so much more to it if only someone listens to hear him sing, “Do You Realize that you have the most beautiful face? Do You Realize we're floating in space? Do You Realize that happiness makes you cry? Do You Realize that everyone you know someday will die?”
Here is the world of human relationships. Here is Anakin Skywalker in torment when he should instead listen to Yoda’s words of non-commitment to mortality and move his thoughts into focus on the time that you have and being happy with that. If he did, he might hear the words of the Flaming Lips, and here, he could use these words to capture the montage of scenes from the life of Carl and Ellie in Disney’s Up.
Before I begin with what the music and words have come to mean, I should say it wasn’t intentional in how I sound-tracked Heather’s and my wedding at the time, but it does reflect where the choices of song will someday take us on our journey through life to the point that one person experiences the temporary time apart until the spirits are intertwined at a later time. I have promised that if I could control it, I would be the one to experience the time apart, but as I am not to control things, I should only hope that Heather never feels this pain. I should also state in the very same way, going to see the movie Up was never meant to reflect all of the things in Heather’s and my life, but in the scenes of how Carl and Ellie meet, fall in love, and live life until she gets older and passes away, there is an expression of the journey of loving as a mirror of the life that is and the life that is to come, of marriage as the right place to be with the time that we do have. And for this, we should only focus on the happiness of the time that we have as the rest can take care of itself when the later time comes, for otherwise, it becomes a heartbreaking image of the failure of being human as the earthly punctuation mark that exists until it doesn’t exist in the material now.
In the same way that Flaming Lips sing of this, Neutral Milk Hotel sings of much the same thing when Jeff Mangum expresses that “One day we will die and our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea but for now we are young let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see love to be in the arms of all I'm keeping here with me, me.” And while his love was for Anne Frank, a gal he never would have a chance to meet, the feeling is still the same. If there is a Heaven above, or at the very least a Heavenly type world, then you are there, and I will find you. If there is a place where souls go when it is all over, then you are there, and I will wait for you.
“I hope that someday, I am there with you.”
And just like that, our dusts are surely mingled and intertwined in a heavenly world where they can be like Pound’s kindred spirits holding hands into the eternity of the universe forever and ever.
“I will be your river merchant, if you will be my wife.”

And Carl and Ellie never quite made it to the most beautiful waterfall of all, Paradise Falls, which they always said they would see together, but…
And there always is a but…

In real life, Heather and I have seen many great waterfalls together. We have felt the mists of Sullivan and Pike County whip at our faces. We have traversed the paths that cross above great gorges as the sides fall off into the infinite chasm that lies below. We have held onto roots as we crawled up and down steep cliffs to see if we could rediscover the mythical green spot that I once saw glowing through the trees and onto the pitch pool that lies below the cliff as it thrusts its water down on us as I saw it on that 37th birthday I first found it. And we have felt water on our feet and experienced the scratch of branches and sticker bushes as we cut across shortcuts in search of what may or may not be on the other side.

This is a path right?
And we have done this in order to get to the uppermost falls on the trail. Heather looked at the books, the pages that showed the next adventure, and from memory, I told her what was to come. It was all part of the grand plan, the experience, the togetherness, and the memories. And every one of these times has been beautiful. Even when the waters trickled down, we watched the skeletal waters drip drop at their simplest and most aesthetically mechanical moments. It was never meant to be everything. It just sort of became a symbol of what everything would become.

And for that reason, I look forward to the next adventures this spring, whether my tremors shake or my eyes don't blink or if my smile isn't as big because of the bradykinesia. Inside, I will be completely and totally happy.

And Carl and Ellie did have a great life together. It was clear that they would have an even greater forever together. They did form a “duprass” in spite of Carl’s plight of being left in the world long after his significant other shuffled off this mortal coil. They may never have combined to form children, but that didn’t matter since they made each other whole, and this was love.
Nevertheless, instead of feeling all of the good things that they had, Carl instead felt consumed by the loss of the earthly presence of his lover… his appendage… his companion for life… and he is led to get old and lost and lonely until he reluctantly, but necessarily, starts the new adventure that she always wanted for him to have.

And how did we cast off the monkeys on our backs, discard our stale appendages, and throw away our things that no longer mattered to come to the point where we could just easily and openly fall in love forever and ever and ever? Isn’t that the greatest, but most wonderful mystery of all?!

For this, there is a power in how Carl and Ellie and all perfect couples grow old and intertwined in all that each other was, is, and will be. This, we see in the journey through all of the ties that she knots up for him in order to fulfill his working man’s destiny that will provide lift off for others who can be made happy by his very presence and purpose, which is to support and take care of her forever and ever.

And there are ties that hang around my neck, ties that are hanging in my closet, ties that are matched to a variety of colored shirts, and ties that are worn to impress those who sit before me as I enter the room. There are power ties for interviews, and there are ties that just coordinate to the colors of Heather’s dresses and other outfits that she will wear to weddings or special occasions. There are even bow ties for Christmas and wedding rehearsals, bow ties that are worn to resemble the great academic adventurer Indiana Jones, a bow tie that I can wear to be a part of a simpler, nostalgic time from a history that did and didn’t exist.
Billy Joel would understand. Perhaps, I too am an innocent man.
“I’m so inspired by you. This hasn’t happened for the longest time.”

Was I this kind of a man to you? Were you impressed when you saw me wear my ties when I came to be with you? Did I look handsome and worldly, filled with intelligence and charismatic leadership that would make you listen to my words and follow my actions into forever when I dressed up to go to the King of Prussia Mall and came to your apartment after work? Did you see the things in me that nobody else saw, the things that led you to love me forever and forever?
Or was it something else?

But Carl doesn’t see that. We are aware of what he is missing and must gain because the good folks at PIXAR have provided us the perfect sequence of falling in love. As for Carl, he sees only the empty future that goes on without Ellie.
And with that, now that the original adventure has ended, he thinks that there is only loss, and he forgets the good times other than that they were there and that they were callously and maliciously robbed from him and he decorates the world with his anger and sadness, rather than paying tribute to the beauty that was shared with him.
Even in motion, he sees only the past. Even when he eventually makes it to South America, and he finally gazes across the canyon to the waterfall, he can only comprehend that he isn’t at Paradise Falls yet. It’s still so far away. Even with Russell helping him to get there as the boy youthfully and playfully runs off to be where he himself needed to be in order to see the beauty of the world in much the same way that Carl felt as a child, Carl can no longer relate to what Paradise Falls was to two kids playing in an abandoned and decrepit building.

Every day that we spend together, every sight that we see, every dream that we dream, every time that we go out to dinner and talk about our lives, every walk that we take down the side-walked paths, every picture that helps us remember some inconsequential event, every change that is made to this home that we live in, every ornament that adorns a Christmas or a Halloween tree, every obstacle that we overcome, it is just a part of the Paradise Falls experience, and for this, I will never regret one single day of the journey that we have entered onto together.

Here, Carl is the curmudgeon instead of the brave and noble man. For all Ellie has taught him, it seems that she hasn’t taught him enough. The anger and resentment is so palpable that it is easy to send him off to the retirement home.
But before that can happen, there must be another teacher, and this learned colleague will be the boy who is now teaching the man to step up to the plate and be who he needs to be. For this, Disney has taken Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and played it out with balloons and giant birds and talking dogs. While the family nature of PIXAR removes the potential for vicious attacks that existed for the boy and his father, there is still a fear of the bad things that Charles Muntz, the former hero, is capable of committing in order to regain his good name. There is something about the all or nothing questing nature of man to find his white whale that will lead him to disregard all things for the completion of what needs to be done. The permanent questing nature makes people forget that there was ever anything else that was important out there, and for the consequences that it offers, the rewards offer very little other than to say, “I was there” or “this is who I was” – even if the formerly great “I” is now someone entirely different. And while Muntz is a real life Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges, a shameless promoter of himself and liar to the world, Carl is in an all or nothing quest of his own to get to the waterfall, where he forgets the lessons that he has learned regarding honor and meaning, and this is where Russell steps in to keep the man from ending up just like the fallen hero who now stands before them.

But our lives are different. There are no growling dogs here. We aren’t going to battle for survival in a giant dirigible that floats through the air with its cargo being transported back to civilization. Instead, our battle will be with the 21st century work and play world that we have come to live in. We will battle for purpose with the world around us in a way that sees us look to find meaning in spite of our obstacles and those the world puts in front of us, but nevertheless, we will battle, and there will be tough days, but we will prevail and we will be better for the experience so that we can travel to the California Redwoods and the Caribbean and Tahitian beaches. Someday, we will walk along the raised pathways of the Italian coastline. We are assured that good things come to those who wait. Good things come to those who work to deserve them, and we are working to overcome our failures in order to deserve them. We are working hand in hand with a God that will show us what really matters and who will inspire us to be the kind of people that He wants us to be. In the meantime, we will be patient, introspective, and dedicated to the future that we want to have together. These are the things that really matter.

Like most stories that are written for young children, we learn from Up that a promise is a promise. We learn that we must be on the side of what is right. We must not be afraid as we go off to defend what is good from what is evil. Whether we are Wilderness Scouts, old men, aging women, or soldiers entering into battle, we must be brave. As human resources workers or teachers, we are still entering into a battle for our futures and those destinies of the people around us. Equally, even if Carl doesn’t seem to want to lock and load for war, Russell will be there for Kevin no matter what. Here, we must realize that we don’t always look eye to eye to find a hero, but we will never look down to find the greatness that is all around us.

I will always be there for you. I have my arms to put around your beautiful body. I can hold you through the roughest of tides. I can forget my own selfish pains, and I can make it all right. I can give you enough love to make you feel that a forever with me is the best place to be, and that here, you will always be safe and warm and snug and protected and loved and adored.
You are the bestest bestest, and I need you and love you more than you can possibly imagine.

But then Carl is jolted back to life by the sense of honor and paternal instinct that he possesses, that he was filled with while trying unsuccessfully to have a child with Ellie. He is led to do what is right, and he just does it and all is good with the universe again as he comes to Russell, Kevin, and Dug’s aid.
And in there, Carl realizes something more; he is not who he was when he fought the construction man to keep his house. He has literally flown off to something newer and more powerful, something that is and always will be intertwined with Ellie. That said, it doesn’t need to be bound to reality with earthly items in the way that it once was. The line of demarcation goes on throughout the story until Carl realizes that Ellie loved the trip through the adventures that they did have together in the way that life took them. The house was all just a place that they came back to and share their lives together. Their far-fetched dreams were just that – hopeful ideas and distracting thoughts that kept them from focusing on things that wouldn’t matter past the hiccup that they caused. Flat tires are like that. All of the things that go wrong in the course of a day, be they the kind of things that take money to fix or just time and effort, they are just hiccups that need to be water off of a duck’s bad. Even a disability is just that. All of us need to learn that in the same way that Carl learned his lesson. And in the end, Carl and Ellie’s real life was the thing that made perfect sense. For that… how good their lives together were BECAUSE OF the changes that happened to all of their dreams, which forced them to live life as it happened instead of by the easy plan. They didn’t buy the travel plan. They went on the adventure.

And someday, years and years and years from now, our ending will be the same. We will be the Robert Frost character who has become who he was meant to be by the path that was chosen, by the obstacles that were faced, the antagonists from all sides that were endured, the sacrifices made, the pleasures never experienced, and the weather that has carved lines in his face. We will be so many things, but we will be a fully-realized existence, and it will be a story of significance and purpose and love, no matter what becomes of our earthly bodies.
It will be our story, and it will be perfect to us, which is all that really matters. In the end of all of that, our story will be perfect, and this will be the first volume of it.

Carl and Ellie had each other, and she was beautiful to him, and he was beautiful to her. In the end, does anything other than enjoying the living time together really matter?
But to realize this, his stubborn ways that try to force him to resist the “Call to Adventure” must be abolished. He must move beyond his threats to throw in the towel on life and living and pathetic attempts that saw him want to just give up on Kevin, Russell, and Dug. He must move beyond only understanding the sadness of his own loss. He must live in the world that is going on around him. Nothing good can ever happen to him until he gets to the land of the living – no matter what he believes. He must come face to face with the permanence of now and still be able to make sense of the importance of the reality of his mental memories as opposed to burdening himself with the cumbersome physical things that we carry with us.
The right things will always be there in the way that they need to be.
For Carl, he will always have Ellie – even if he no longer has their time together.
However, he is carrying around her heavy objects and a ghost-like a monkey on his back, which is stopping him from remembering all of the right things that she taught him and that he should be carrying with him. If he knew that and threw off the burdens of the final physical act of her passing, he would still have the lessons that she taught him from the first day when he entered the abandoned house. He would always have her beautiful red hair and her smile. He would be abandoning earthly attachments and preparing to meet her as she is and not as she was.

As I said before, for Heather, there was the fear of commitment to contracts when we decided to enter into marriage. Sure, she wouldn’t sign a long-term phone contract, but she never hesitated to stick with me through the tough times and the troubles and the uncertainties that I offered throughout the toughest times of 2011, and she isn't budging now in Parkinson's days. Instead, we are strong for one another. She has continued to do whatever it takes – even when she thought that she couldn’t give more – through all of the sweat and tears, she was always the strongest that she could be. I could never understand how anyone would be that for me, but she was. For her, I was everything, and I will never allow that thought to become a commonplace thought. I will work to deserve it every day.
It’s amazing how we learn what we’re capable of doing when our attitude is that we must do it because the other options such, and for that, we spend our whole life wanting to do it. I wonder if I have enough of that attitude. For the fact that I’m still here when so many things came into my path along the way that would have made it easier to be somewhere else, somewhere not on this Earth, there must be something.
I look to Heather and remember a conversation that she had with her father about how tough it must have been for him to feed and clothe and house 12 different people other than himself for the years he raised his family. I remember thinking of how much she came to appreciate him for that, even if things were difficult growing up. There is a certain sense of pride that we have for ourselves and others when they do what’s right. I know that I have that pride and respect for Heather for all that she has done for the last year of our lives.

Before Heather, for me, it was so easy to be alone. It was so easy to be inside of my head and never open up to another person. There was the ideal of love being magical and easy, a romantic vision that bursts like an exploding balloon as two people come together and meet and it just doesn’t work, so it must not be true. Nevertheless, the romantic in me still believes that there is a place where 2 bodies and souls intertwine with one another and every minute is more magical than the next. Sadly, I never realized how lost inside myself that I was. I had to be found before I could prove that those visions are true, but the catch is that it takes two shy and protective people a little bit longer to open up to one another. However, when people stop that negative and lonely routine, all things are possible. I am glad that Heather and I kept coming together, that we kept growing to know one another, and I’m glad that I was able to open my mouth to say all of those words to her. She is the most beautiful woman in the world, and for as wonderful as those words are, I look to give her more and more and more of those and more beautiful and wonderful words to keep her close to me and filled with the knowledge that she is truly the most deserving and special woman alive.
She is my wife, and she is my everything. I wouldn’t have it any other way than the way that I share with her now. Forever is just that. This is why the gold rings are circular and never-ending. Is there any other way for it to be?

On the first day he encountered her, Carl was scared of Ellie, too, as he was a shy person compared to her loud and boisterous nature. She looked like a feral child in her braces and tomboy persona, but looks can be deceiving. What was important was her insistence that he brave danger in the attic of the abandoned house to get to his balloon, an act that would lead him away from that small chubby and shy presence that he exhibited in the great big world that towered over him. However, somewhere in that journey across the top floor of the abandoned house, he fell through the wooden plank and hurt himself as he crashed back down to Earth. But he got fixed and kept going. This kept being as it was in the beginning. Prior to going forward into this new life of death defying adventure, she was there for him with the bottle cap that made him her kind of person. After the fall, she was there for him in his room on that night when he lay in bed wondering what had happened to him that broke his bone and left him shattered.
He saw her there at the window, and she shattered his pain and alone with her friendship, and then he really fell for her.

Before I saw you there on the sofa, I saw you at the door, smiling with beautiful eyes and a body that wanted to see my arms around it. When the moment came that I saw you as someone I loved, everything just was. In that moment, I understood what love and beauty and the right place to be all were. I had fallen in love with you, and so I had to tell you this on that February 9, 2008 evening.
All things so big and important all come out so soft and timid.
“I think that I’m falling in love with you.”
There was no think. I was. I didn’t want to say it for the first time on Valentine’s Day. That was so cliché. I wanted to say it at the point that I felt it, which was right then as I lay in bed next to you. The streetlights reached into the apartment and illuminated our world together. What a big step it was. Not the “I love you” part. Anyone can say that. It’s only three words, and we all love lots of things. We love movies, places, music, and food. We love our parents and blue sunny days, but how often do we find the people who come in from the outside to change our lives with their simple presence in a way that can light up the darkness and give new meaning to life? How often do we take the big step to risk it all to make ourselves vulnerable when we say “I love you” for the first time and really and truly mean it in a way that still gives us butterflies and makes us feel so childlike and small and whole in the arms of the person who gives us the “I love you” return? So many times, we say it in our lives because there is a person on the other end who performs the immediate acts of love that go with adult relationships, and we feel obligated or moved through to the place where saying those words just happens. Other times, we say it to the good people who deserve it, but life takes it away for other reasons. Then, there's the other times, the times when there’s no worry about the return of “I love you” because what’s happening is not love and whether it is said with full intent or knowledge of the meaning of what it should convey, it will come, and it will be OK, and mechanical love will continue to exist, but when it’s real... Yes, in those empty times, the return of words will happen, and things will go on as such for a while, but it’s not this perfect and true as what I felt at that moment when I looked into your eyes, afraid for some reason to look into your eyes, and just opened up and said the words:
I love you.

Bob Dylan once sang about love that was “easy” and “slow” when he reflected over what had happened throughout his life and the things that led him to write the CD Blood on the Tracks. Could Carl have sung that about what had happened when he realized that Ellie was this someone special for him? What made love go wrong and right for Bob Dylan and Sara Lownds? What made Bob Dylan write songs about the hope of reconciliation after they both had said and done all of the things that disintegrated their love? Did Dylan remember it all too late and too far into life after he had learned that he shouldn’t have strayed from the beaten path of what he had with a woman who completed him to the point where it was just a beautiful family scene?
And Carl had never wanted to be away from Ellie, but now he was.
And I never want to be away from my Heather, and I definitely never want her to know what it’s like to be away from me. So I have learned from Bob Dylan and all of the other lost men who think that they can find something that they had with the love of their life that is better with another person that they can’t. I have learned that despite the greatness of an album for showing its emotional frailty over personal failure and heartbreak, it’s better to live on by doing the right things and never having to say I’m sorry. And it’s about learning from having messed up before. Billy Joel knew that when he got cheesy and wrote a really bad album that still expressed all of his personal triumph and hope and love.

She's a trusting soul She's put her trust in you But a girl like that won't tell you 
What you should do Tell her about it Tell her everything you feel Give her every reason To accept that you're for real Tell her about it Tell her all your crazy dreams Let her know you need her Let her know how much she means Tell her about it Tell her how you feel right now Tell her about it The girl don't want to wait too long You got to tell her about it Tell her now and you won't go wrong You got to tell her about it Before it gets too late You got to tell her about it You know the girl don't want To wait--you got to Tell her about it 

And whether his words can be listened to or not is totally irrelevant. The fact is he learned from all of those love affairs that didn’t work. He learned from the marriage that didn’t work. Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks is more listenable, and songs like “Idiot Wind” play far better than anything Joel did at that time, but given the choice of having all of the betrayals that Bob and Sara felt were done to each other and the anger and regret that these bad times caused, isn’t it better to live out the word of “Uptown Girl” (even if the song is unlistenable pop nonsense)?

Uptown girl You know I can't afford to buy her pearls But maybe someday when my ship comes in She'll understand what kind of guy I've been And then I'll win
And when she's walking She's looking so fine And when she's talking She'll say that she's mine She'll say I'm not so tough Just because I'm in love With and uptown girl She's been living in her white bread world As long as anyone with hot blood can And now she's looking for a downtown man That's what I am

And I think of that, and I wonder what your facial expression was when you saw the strawberry bead waiting there for you. I wonder if it was like the face you made when you were given the daisies at Christmas. I wish I could have been there to give it to you, but I hope the surprise of its presence was enough for you.

I’ve learned from Carl that I do appreciate the small things and that I will never lose sight of the great things that I can give and that I do get. I’ve learned from life to never say things that I can’t take back. I wish that I had more time to just be with Heather apart from the work and the writing, and all of the other things that life has to offer and demand from me. I’ve learned that I wish I had more money to make it all happen, but even if I don’t, the things that we can have when the opportunities are there are worth as much as trips to Paradise Falls.
In reality, these Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland hiking trails are Paradise Falls.
And if this book says all that it’s supposed to, then perhaps I have crafted a lasting monument to the love and sense of purpose that I have found in the former Heather Jones who now is known to the world as Heather Glass.
I still can’t believe that my name is worn like jewelry.
It’s just unbelievably special.

And just as I had met a wonderful woman in the late days of 2007 and early days of 2008, Carl had met the love of his life while stumbling into the unknown nearly 70 years ago. He thought that he was climbing mountains and crossing canyons, but instead, he had been introduced to someone special. And one day, he would be smacked upside the face by love! He may not have known it at the time. We rarely know people who will change our lives that much when we meet them. Carl certainly didn’t.
Who was this crazy-haired young girl and her family of rambunctious hicks?
She was the bestest bestest.

And who was this wide-eyed and hopeful woman behind the apartment door in Ephrata on December 1st, 2007?
She is the bestest bestest.

But to find this out, we both needed to grasp the balloon and go up with our lives, just as Carl and Ellie had grasped their own balloons. Coincidentally, for Carl, even with not getting to the balloon on that walk across the plank, he still grasped at the feeling of adventure that makes life special. This gave him 70 odd years of happiness and meaning that would eventually lead him back to a time of alone. In that time, he thought that he lost everything he had with her, and so he moved into emptiness without her as he became sadder and more dismal and unrecognizable as the man he was as fate forced him into life and out of the house that had become his coffin. Still, he clung onto the negativity because the material nature of the house that they lived in together was all that he chose to have left of her. Instead of seeing that she was still with him in everything, he hung on to a world that didn’t exist anymore until one day tragedy struck and he was forced to act, taking the house with him to new and more exotic places in the jungles of South America that he had always dreamed of going to, but now, here those cliffs, trees, vistas, waterfalls, and animals were, more different and scary than they were when they dreamed of them from the sofa in their living room.
And on that journey, he went up with the balloon again. Where he once had made a living selling balloons and happiness to youngsters, he was now using the balloon to go back to happiness and to be alive again – re-imagining himself as the child who was guiding him to knowledge. Now, he was filling himself full of lightness and lifting himself toward the future. It was a rough journey, but it was a symbolic journey to go ahead in life to go back in life.

All those things that we once were and we lost, we gained so much more by taking hold of the balloons and going up together instead of drifting through life in the way that was given to us. You found meaning in why you came to Pennsylvania in the first place by finding me. I found purpose in the Pennsylvania world that I came back to by finding you.

But change doesn’t happen all at once. As the storm clouds raged, Carl fought to protect images of Ellie even then, keeping her picture from falling, and at the same time, he kept himself from losing her visage forever by holding onto that picture. And just as he took himself to the future, he took Russell there, too.
And that’s the catch in life. We can be our own units, but we can also make a big difference in the life of someone else with the things that we do and that we offer other people. Most of those things that we give to others were given to us. This is the eternal sharing that made Carl realize that Ellie was always with him. And in that way, she would be a surrogate grandmother for Russell, as well.

In a way, we learned how to love from all of those people that came before us. Some of these people are the wrong people. We say that we will never go back to the ones who never loved us, that loved us incorrectly, or the ones that never loved us at all, and yet we find their twins, their brothers, their sisters, and their darker selves in other places that seem to be identical to the places that we found them in the first place.
We do this when we should remember the times that we were held in all of the right ways, and we should want to preserve that feeling or relocate a newer and better version of it with the right person. We should want to expand and amplify it in the way it does when the words “I love you” are stated and they’re just so easily stated. We should want to live out the images that we saw with other people in our lives, in our worlds, and those that inhabited the silver screen. We should want to learn by heroic and leadership example, even if we’ve never had a good example in our own lives.
In some way shape or form, Heather learned from the men who came to her door and took her out for the evening, the relationships that never connected, and the relationship that was lost to infidelity. All of the hope and loss, happiness and sadness, lost time and desire. These are the faces that surrounded her as we went forward on that first date.
For me, I learned from the visions of women who never wanted to take the time to get to know me, the relationships that were plagued by the deep down troubles that can’t be solved with words or with time, and the experiences of being with the wrong women at the wrong times. I learned from the fact that I wasn’t the outward image of the kind of person that someone that I wanted to have a relationship would want to have a relationship with in return.

And as I drove across Route 222, I listened to the hopeful songs of a future together, and I wondered which face would you be when I knocked on your door? Would you be the face that joins the crowd and comes to the next door that I knock on or the face that I say goodnight to ever night of my life for the rest of forever? Would you be another image of failure or a successful night together?
We spin around from the wrong ones that never added up to anything and just hurt us at worst or left us wondering why we ever went on the date in the first place, and we curse our pasts. Sometimes, these people call back and want to know what we’re up to. Sometimes, we come back to them. Fortunately, you’re in a committed relationship and the prospect of a night on the town is no longer appealing, and I don’t have to fear that there’s something better on the other side of that street. So I don’t.
And in my own education, I have learned about the ocean and the time and the differences between worlds enough to know why my future was always here, even if I needed to be other places first. This was the other grand realization in the Toiyabe Mountains. There was something special that my America would bring to me. In this, you never have to worry that there will ever be a better version. You were always the one.
Don’t you remember that there was a vision that the fortune teller spoke of when she looked into the future for you? There was a reward for you and for all that you did for your mother and your family. Some people might think it was vague generalizations and pocketing your cash, but there was something in the transcendent mists of time that she saw, which was real. I still wonder how she saw what I could offer you when I couldn’t see myself in those days. What would she have said to me if I would have come in when I was so lost and consumed in my mind? Nevertheless, somehow, I made it out of the murk to find you in the fogs of where you had come to. And in that, I still find it hard to believe that I became that person, but in this house that I sit in, two blocks from where we began our life together, the place that we have made our own, this is the life that we wanted to live. And while times may get tough in this 21st century world, the best is yet to come and I am glad that we are together. And while some people might find going to psychics frivolous, if it kept you going through the dark times and led you to here, then it was the best money that you ever spent since I’d like to say that this adventure is working out quite well and I look forward to seeing where the next years will take us!


PS - I saw this yesterday and loved it... thought I'd share. I'm still 30 years away from being in this place, but in the journey that I'm on, I'm sure someday, Heather and I will still be holding hands, loving one another.