Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

Record Night Returns: the Recently Departed

Music fans everywhere have been ruminating for a while about how difficult these next twenty years are going to be, as our rock and roll heroes leave Planet Earth just in time to avoid the developing catastrophe that will be the latter half of the 21st Century.  But upon further reflection, we really don’t have to wait to feel the pain because the last decade has already been rough.  I hadn’t realized the extent to which we’ve lost our musical brothers and sisters until last week, when Record Night festivities resumed at the Wall of Sound in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  A dubious crew gathered to honor those artists who died within the last decade.  Songs were celebrated, drinks were consumed, and mistakes were made, as noted below.  But even avoiding the obvious casualties – Michael Jackson, David Bowie, George Michael and Tom Petty (until the very last song) – there were a staggering number to choose from.  True, we reached pretty deep with some of these, but that’s what makes these types of outings fulfilling. 

Without further ado, celebrate with us as we pay homage to the recently departed.  My apologies for any errors.

Southern Nights – a twofer tribute of singer Glen Campbell and songwriter Allen Toussaint.  We also played a bit of God Only Knows, which was unfortunate
Massachusetts – Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees
Glory Days – Clarence Clemons of the E. Street Band (though, sadly, no saxophone on this song!)
Fool for the City – Craig MacGregor of Foghat
Drown in my Own Tears – Pat Dinizio of The Smithereens
It’s the Singer Not the Song – Jimmy Jamison of Survivor
I Was a Teenage Werewolf – a twofer of Lux Interior of the Cramps and producer Alex Chilton
Beyond Belief – producer Geoff Emerick for this Elvis Costello and the Attractions song
Starrider – Ed Gagliardi of Foreigner
Dreams/Zombie – Dolores O’Riordin of The Cranberries

It should be noted that in the midst of these record selections, one could hear Kevin uttering while checking Google, “That sucks!  I thought he was dead!”  Such is the competitiveness of song selections on record night.

Peaceful Easy Feeling – Glenn Frey of The Eagles
Home and Dry – Gerry Rafferty

This has been my favorite song for the past two weeks.  I’ve played it perhaps twenty times and figured out the unusual chord pattern on the piano.

Creep – Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots
Thank You For Being a Friend – Andrew Gold
Say It Isn’t So – John Spinks of The Outfield
The Cover of Rolling Stone – Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show
Touch and Go – a twofer of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake of – in this case – Emerson, Lake and Powell
Knocking at Your Back Door – Jon Lord of Deep Purple
Burning Bright – Roger Ranken of General Public
20th Century – Shawn Smith of Brad
Saturday Night – Alan Longmuir of Bay City Rollers
Looking Around – a twofer of Peter Banks and Chris Squire of Yes
Love at First Feel – Malcom Young of AC/DC
God Only Knows (again!) – this time with Daryl Dragon of Captain & Tennille
Snortin’ Whiskey/Boom, Boom – Pat Travers
Call Me a Dog – Chris Cornell
Flying Cowboys – producer Walter Becker for Rickie Lee Jones
Livin’ Thing – Mike Edwards of ELO
Queen of the Night – Whitney Houston
Be Like That – Matt Roberts of Three Doors Down
People are Strange – Ray Manzarek of The Doors
Think – Aretha Franklin
Might Mighty – Morris White of Earth, Wind & Fire
Ride My Seesaw – Ray Thomas of The Moody Blues
I Go Crazy – Nick Marsh of Flesh for Lulu
In the Dead of Night (Presto, Vivace and Reprise) – a twofer of Allan Holdsworth and John Wetton of UK
I Can Feel Your Heartbeat – David Cassidy

Note: Paul thought it was 10cc!

To Be With You – Pat Torpey of Mr. Big
Getting Closer – producer Phil Ramone for Billy Joel, who was playing not 30 minutes away at Miller Park
Space Station #5 – Ronnie Montrose of Montrose
Jammin’ Me – Tom Petty

That was all we had time for, but there were others we could have chosen, most notably the aforementioned superstars, but I was ready to go with George Martin productions, songs co-written by Jerry Lieber, Chuck Berry, etc. were it not for a two hour drive home awaiting me.

There will be more heroes to fall, as there must be.  Hang on tight, music fans.  It’s going to be a rough ride.

An Antidote for the Cynic

Jerry Maguire once uttered in Dorothy Boyd’s living room, “We live in a cynical world, a cynical world,” and while I normally wouldn’t be one to dispute this, things sometimes happen that turns this assumption on its head.  Case in point: two months ago my family encountered a state of upheaval after my wife’s surprise ankle surgery, and the outpouring of assistance and care we received from friends, family and co-workers was heartwarming, turning difficult days into manageable ones. 

Now, someone like Jerry Maguire might say, “Sure, friends and family might come through, but what about the guy on the street?  The average Joe Schmo will swindle you out of your last dime if he’s able.”

I’m not so sure.

Last month my son and I drove through much of Ohio as we visited the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State and Case Western, and upon our return home on Interstate 80, I received a phone call from my still-convalescing wife. 

“I just received a text from someone saying they have your wallet.  Do you have it on you?”  With one hand on the steering wheel, I patted by jean’s pockets.  My wallet was nowhere to be found.

After a frantic transfer of information, I was soon talking to a woman and her husband who were shopping about 60 miles east and who’d found my wallet on the parking lot floor of the Steak ‘n Shake in Elyria, Ohio.  My son and I had made a quick stop for a banana shake, a way of celebrating having visited three colleges in two days, and upon getting back in the car I had apparently dropped my wallet while retrieving my phone from my front pocket. 

We quickly exited the turnpike and turned around, and while we raced along the highway in the wrong direction, I summoned my inner Jerry Maguire, my mind flipping through all the possible ways this could go wrong:  the couple might not show, using this hour of time to go on a shopping spree; they might return my wallet but in time I’ll discover charges on my credit card statement, and on and on.

Instead, I was greeted in the parking lot of an Ohioan McDonald’s by two of the nicest people who not only returned my wallet, but also refused any money in return and who humorously told the tale of how they tracked me down.  After a few false starts on Facebook where a few other Paul Heinz’s happily strung the honest couple along for a while, they found my wife’s business card (I didn’t even know I had her business card) and made the connection.

We bid farewell, and with wallet securely in hand, I returned to the turnpike with my son, a few hours behind our original schedule, but a few lightyears ahead emotionally, our faith in mankind momentarily restored. 

It’s so very easy to sink into the seas of cynicism, but every once in a while, a life jacket gets tossed in our direction.  It’s best to hold on and never let go.

The 2019 Brewers

It’s hard for Brewers fans not to be optimistic for the upcoming season, which is exactly what makes a lot of Brewers fans worried.  It’s so much easier to go into a season with low expectations, but after defying the odds in 2018 by winning the NL Central and making it to Game 7 of the NLCS, owner Mark Attanasio and GM David Stearns are all in, spending an unprecedented amount (for the franchise, that is) to make a run for the World Series.  There’s reason to think the Crew can make it happen again.  There are also a few reasons why they may not.

Offensively, the Brewers have the potential to score a helluva lot of runs, especially if shortstop Orlando Arcia can play up to 2017 levels.  Looking at the likely regular starting lineup, there’s not an easy out in the bunch, and each player can do some damage with the longball, something fans should see plenty of with the addition of catcher Yasmani Grandal and the resigning of (this year) second baseman Mike Moustakas.  The Brewers also have a lot of nice options to play matchups against righties and lefties with the aforementioned additions plus outfielder Ben Gamel.  Yes, this roster is going to strike out a lot, and fans will slap their heads from time to time when guys like Shaw and Moustakas refuse to bunt against the shift (Don’t think this matters?  Review Game 2 of the NLCS), but overall, expect to see an entertaining offense in 2019.

So why the worry?  Pitching.  It’s notable that most Brewers fans had the same worries last year, yet the Crew ended up with the fourth best ERA in the league, largely due to manager Counsell’s effective “out-getter” strategy, eschewing the traditional starter-closer roles in favor of getting outs where it mattered most by any means necessary.  Generally, I liked this strategy, as I hate what the closer role has become and the Brewers can’t afford marque starters, but sometimes the strategy fell victim to overmanaging (taking Wide Miley out in the sixth inning of game 2 of the NLCS after only 74 very effective pitches).

But this year the Crew is going with a group of very young and unproven starters, including three who played important reliever roles last year: Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and 22 year-old Freddy Peralta.  The success of the Brewers depends largely on whether this trio can pitch reasonably effectively for an entire season.  Starter Jimmy Nelson is still trying to regain his strength after a 2017 shoulder injury that likely led to the Crew missing the playoffs that year.  Whether he will ever pitch regularly in the MLB again is big question mark.  To make matters more concerning, the Brewers recently discovered that reliever extraordinaire Corey Knebel has a UCL injury, and earlier in spring training it was deemed that Jeremy Jeffress would not start the season with the team, as he needs to build up arm strength after a shoulder injury. 

So, a lot of question marks for sure, but it would be wise not to bet against Stearns and Counsell, who’ve managed to find a way to put a winning team on the field even when it seemed unlikely.  So what’s my prediction?  I would be surprised if the Brewers managed to win the NL Central again – it’s going to be a very good division this year, with the Cubs and Cardinals likely contending for the division crown – but I would be just as surprised if the Crew wasn’t at least in the September hunt for a wild card berth.  Their 88-74 finish may get them into their first back-to-back playoff appearance since 1982.

Life Lessons from Three Old Men

Over the past several years I’ve had the privilege of getting to know three older men in my community, and from each I’ve been able to take away a few lessons about how to live or how not to live, offering me glimpses of how I’d like to be a few decades down the road.  Bette Davis once quipped, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” and as expected, all three men have experienced various hardships, some quite debilitating, but two of them – and one in particular – have managed to live extremely fulfilling lives, while one seems determined to wallow in a state of regret and helplessness. 

For the purposes of this essay, I’m going to call the men Al, Bob and Carl.  All three are over 85 years old.  Al and Carl lost their spouses between five and ten years ago.  Bob is still married.  All are physically able, especially Carl, who walks three miles a day and shovels his own driveway.  I also shoveled my own driveway this winter, but whereas I’ve been managing severe shoulder pain as a result, Carl – at thirty-five years my senior – suffers not one iota from the physical labor.  Not too shabby!  He’s also mostly blind, which makes many things difficult, but he’s fortunately still able to read, take walks and watch TV.  Al is in good physical shape as well, though a little less robust, and to date he still keeps up an amazing travel schedule, visiting numerous countries each year.  Bob is in fair shape, able to get around but not do anything too strenuous.

Physical attributes aside, the biggest differences between these men is mental.

Al is the kind of guy who always has a smile on his face, who loves to talk and listen, and who’s endlessly curious.  When he was well into his 80s he decided he wanted to record a collection of old children’s songs for his great-grandchildren.  I helped him with this project, but not before he insisted on attending months of vocal lessons at a nearby music store to help with his voice technique.  His rhythm wasn’t so good, but his singing voice was loud and clear, and he successfully created a piece of art for his descendants.  Al works out regularly, sings in a group, drives, goes out to lunch with various people, and keeps a travel schedule that just thinking about exhausts me.  He has a female companion to accompany him on various trips, which is undoubtedly helpful, but much of his travel is spent visiting relatives and friends.  A World War II veteran and widower, his life has not been without hardship, but he’s overcome these hardships with vigor and a zest for life.  When he underwent a medical procedure a few years ago and had to spend a few nights in a hospital, he told me about his experience with a smile and couldn’t stop mentioning the cute nurse who had taken care of him.  This is the man I want to be when I grow up!

Bob still travels some, but doesn’t appear to be as physically able as Al.  He does still drive, and this allows him to go to work almost every day for a few hours, and his wife of similar age does the same!  He is acutely concerned about the future of the Earth and the political changes happening world-wide, but that hasn’t kept him from working zealously at archiving his family records for future generations.  I’ve helped him publish his father’s diary, am in the process of helping him publish his memoir, and we’ve digitized old family movies and photos.  Smiles are a little harder to come by for Bob, but when we visit in person his eyes light up and we enjoy each other’s company.  He is comedically self-effacing despite his significant life achievements, he has a strong relationship with his children and grandchildren, and he is quite adept at using technology, allowing him to communicate with his younger relatives.  It took him a few tries to get going on adding audio to some old home movies, but he’s embarking on this task with determination.  Although Bob is still married, his life hasn’t been free of hardships, having lost much of his extended family in the Holocaust and having left his immediate family in the 1940s for the U.S., never to see his father again.  More recently, aside from many physical ailments, he lost his cousin, his last link to his European past.  Still, he perseveres, and doesn’t face a day without an agenda of to-dos.

Carl’s blindness makes life more physically challenging, and while he’s overcome this condition in some ways, in other ways he uses it as an excuse.  Smiles have to be earned for Carl, and even then, they look like he’s practicing for the real thing.  He reads, he watches movies, visits the library, has lunch with a men’s group a few times a month, and sees his three children at various times.  This doesn’t sound too bad, but he’s alone most days with little contact with other human beings, and there is a veil of sadness over everything Carl does.  I would best describe him as doleful, lugubrious, qualities that are funny in a character like Eeyore, but in the daily drudgery of human life are something else altogether.  Carl is disappointed in his children because they don’t visit him and take care of him as much as he would like.  When I suggested that he invite them over to his house for dinner, he said, “And have to cook for all of them?  No thank you.”  After I proposed that he offer to make a salad if they could bring the main course, he answered, “I don’t want to appear needy.”  I said to him, “Carl, we’re human beings.  We’re all needy.”

He resents his children taking vacations to interesting places without him, but he’s wealthy enough to take them all on a vacation that would include him, if only he would set thing into motion.  He won’t do this.  He has a lot of regret over past events – the details of which are unclear to me – and when I recommended that he see a therapist to get his thoughts out, he says, “Well, I’m a little tight with the money.”  No kidding!  I’ve implored him to spend some (“What are you saving it for?”) but old habits die hard.  I’ve suggested getting wifi so that he can explore podcasts, movies, works of music, etc., but he doesn’t want to spend the money.  Although he’s done some amazing things in spite of his blindness, he won’t take advantage of the services that are so easily available to people that would expand the radius of his life.  He says he can’t get out to shop or eat lunch.  “Have you heard of a cab?  Or an Uber?”  He doesn’t want to do this.  He wallows in his dour disposition, almost seeming to take pride in it.  On the one hand, he recognizes his predicament, for he’s the one who reached out to a local service to ask for the weekly visits that I now perform, but that seems to be all he’s willing to do for himself.  Most importantly, it’s apparent to me that he went through life without friends.  His wife was his social life, and now that she’s gone, he’s left with the results of a friendless life.

So what to take away from these three old men?  Nothing earth-shattering, but watching real-life can help to clarify what we perhaps already know, and you can’t start implementing life’s lessons in your 80s; you have to live these throughout your life, practice them, become proficient at them.  Being happy may in many ways be a choice, but if you’ve never practiced being happy before it’s going to be difficult to do so when you’re old.  Here’s a list of some of my takeaways:

1)     Express gratitude daily.  Without question, this is number one for me.
2)     Share your time and expertise with others.  Without question, this is number two.  If you only practice these two things, you’re half-way home.
3)     Stay curious.
4)     Keep old friends.
5)     Open yourself up to opportunities to make new friends.  Cast as wide a net as you can.
6)     Stay in close contact with your children and beyond – don’t eschew opportunities for love and companionship.
7)     Look for reasons to say yes to things instead of finding excuses to say no.
8)     Surround yourself with things that make you feel good.  Music.  Art.  Flowers.  Nature.  Pets.
9)     Experience new things, challenge yourself
10)  Stay active despite whatever limitations you may have.
11)  Overcome the desire to stick to a routine.
12)  Laugh at yourself.
13)  Accept other people’s shortcomings as you hope they will accept yours.
14) Proactively reach out to people for lunch dates, gatherings or calls for help. Needing companionship isn’t being needy - it’s being human.
15)  Stop bitching.
16)  Get happy, and don’t forget to tell your face.
17)  Stop talking about yourself for one fricking second and listen.

So there you are.  Trite?  Cliché?  Perhaps, but if living the right way were easy, we’d all be gloriously happy, successful and fulfilled.  This stuff is work, and I’m glad that I have some real-life examples to guide the way.

Joe Jackson at Thalia Hall (again)

Joe Jackson has been busy lately.  After not one, not two, but three tours supporting his very strong 2012 release, Fast Forward, he immediately took his band consisting of bassist Graham Maby, drummer Doug Yowell and guitarist Teddy Kumpel to a studio in Boise, Idaho (the location of last summer’s final show), and quickly recorded an eight-track album called Fool.  It too is strong, and at last night’s return to the fabulous Thalia Hall in Pilsen, Chicago, he and his band played five tracks from the album along with a selection of other songs spanning four decades to an enthusiastic sold-out audience.

To commemorate Jackson’s forty years in the industry and to mix things up a bit from his previous tours, the band highlighted tracks from four other albums from four different decades, though two of them were way too predictable: Look Sharp from the 70s, Night and Day from the 80s (those are the predictable ones), Laughter and Lust from the 90s and Rain from the 00s.  It’s these latter two along with the six newer tracks (one from Fast Forward) that made the evening interesting, along with a rendition of “Steppin’ Out” that mimicked the original recording to perfection, including a glockenspiel and Jackson’s Boss DR-55 drum machine whose “club beat” was used in the original.

All of the musicians were excellent and given various moments to shine, though Jackson took more solos than I remember from previous concerts, including one from his once-ubiquitous melodica.  But it was drummer Doug Yowell’s high energy performance who really sole the show.  Animated, forceful and dexterous, Yowell blew me away with the beginning of one of my favorites, “Another World,” when he managed to play the drum beat and accompanying cowbell and timbale beat simultaneously.  My drummer son and I turned to each other with mouths agape.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the final track from 1991’s Laughter and Lust, the moody tune of resignation to love, “Drowned,” along with the opening – and closer! – “Alchemy” from Fool.  That’s right, Jackson both opened and closed with the same song under dim, red lights.  I loved it, if only because it meant that we didn’t have to hear the band end with “Slow Song” again as they had repeatedly since 2000.  Adding “I’m the Man,” “Got the Time,” and Steely Dan’s “King of the World” were welcome crowd-pleasers near the evening’s end, and the new song, “Fool,” was among the most exciting songs of the night.  Jackson pointed out that it is sometime the fool – or jester – who makes life sane (“If you lose your sense of humor, you’re fucked.”) and the song’s playfulness seemed contagious to the four musicians on stage.

All in all it was a great concert.  Jackson continues to use an iPad teleprompter for his lyrics, which is a little odd for songs that he’s been singing for forty years, but hey, if that’s what the guy has to do to keep touring, then I’m all in. I’ve seen Jackson perform eight times now, and this show ranks in the top three for sure. Keep ‘em coming, Joe!

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved