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31 December 2009

Love and Death in 2009 and 2010

It is the last day of the year, so I am compelled to write about what was, and what is to come.

My last post was four months ago, and that is very hard to believe. The autumn of 2009 was a blur. Basically, I became so busy with work and everything else that I missed the autumn -- one of my favorite times of year. Occasionally, I would look up from my computer, peer out of my office window, and notice that the leaves had changed color, or that they'd
fallen off the trees, and that it was getting colder. I went for no long autumn walks. The Mrs. and I were supposed to meet up in New Orleans for some fun in early November, but she came down with the flu and couldn't make the trip. Insult added to the injury inflicted by her own fairly brutal work schedule. And, oh yes, the national health-care reform "debate" droned on, depressingly.

My own time was well-
spent -- I was able to accomplish many good things at work and at least to keep up with things at home -- so I'm not complaining; but it was so busy that my rhythm was knocked completely off-kilter. I was under stress and in a bad mood much of the time. I stopped exercising; didn't have time to go to my yoga class; didn't eat particularly well, and by mid-December I was running on fumes. I've taken a break and it's been nice.

As for 2009 as a whole, however, there were definitely some highlights. The inauguration of Barack Obama and, a few weeks later, his meeting at Capital City Public
Charter School with my 11-year old son and (yes, there's more) he and Mrs. Obama reading to my 8-year old daughter's second grade class. It really was all down hill from there.
Just kidding: Other highlights included a couple of wonderful weeks in Bayside,
Maine during the summer; taking the kids to NYC for their first time and seeing Mary Poppins on Broadway; continuing to play good music with the band and at shul; and seeing Steely Dan in concert in a small venue. Also, during the autumn blur, I took my son to the bar mitzvah of one of his camp friends from New Jersey and we made a side trip to the town of my youth: Livingston. We visited My Old School(s) and the two houses I'd lived in, one of which is now a law office and the other of which is still occupied by the man my parents sold the home to in 1978. It was Halloween on the day we visited. We rang the doorbell and, luckily, Tom was at home. I said "trick or treat" and he remembered me immediately. The three of us had a terrific visit. It's really a story that deserves a separate post, so perhaps I'll do that at some point. Suffice it to say, it was extraordinarily mind-blowing for all involved. My family made and distributed homemade lunches for 60 homeless people on Christmas, as we've done for the past few years. Workwise, as I said, I was able to get a lot of good things done as a judicial educator in my favorite subject matter area -- offender reentry -- and, in that regard, I was able to "move the ball down the field" quite a bit further.

Several well-known people who I admired passed away in 2009. I've already written about Ted Kennedy, but another was the great jazz guitarist Les Paul. Les Paul was to jazz and rock music what Thomas Edison was to electricity; what Albert Einstein was to physics; what Sigmund Freud was to psychology and psychiatry. He was the inventor of the solid body electric guitar and he was a hell of a player too. I'm a drummer and I noodle some on the acoustic guitar, but growing up, even I understood Les Paul's importance. When I was a teenager playing in all kinds of rock bands, the guitarists played either a Gibson "Les Paul" solid body (or, more commonly, a knock-off) or a Fender Stratocaster. So if you loved rock music, and especially if you played it, you understood the importance of Les Paul. Indeed, I and millions of other rock fans and musicians understood that a "Les Paul" guitar was an instrument that, when expertly wielded by the likes of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, could make sounds that would send us to extraordinary emotional places: anger, joy, tears, laughter, ecstasy. The Les Paul guitar is (along with the Stratocaster) the Stradivarius of electric guitars. So, when Les died this year at the ripe old age of 94, I took it pretty hard. Yet another chink knocked out of the armor of my evermore quickly fading youth. Ironically, the "Les Paul" guitar is far better appreciated in the world of rock 'n roll than in jazz, and I'm much more of a rocker than a jazzman. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to remember and to say "thank you" to Les Paul before 2009 becomes history: Thank you, Les!

Like everyone else, I do not know, precisely, what 2010 will bring. I do know that my son will have his bar mitzvah and that we will travel to Israel and Greece during the summer -- a pilgrimage of sorts. Work will be busy, as usual, but hopefully less crazed than last fall. My music will continue with the band and with others. Health care reform legislation will be enacted into law and President Obama will have his work cut out to maintain his congressional majority.

I have some worries, but nothing out of the ordinary for a middle-aged man. The usual stuff: money, relationships, time, gray hairs, my health and the health of my loved ones.

Most of all, in 2010, I want to regain my rhythm.

See you next year!