the ex factor.

I thought about calling this post “Julio Iglesias Can Suck It,” because it’s about all the girls I’ve loved before, and how one in particular impacted how I viewed relationships for many years.

I had a really productive therapy session this afternoon. I brought something up that has been impacting me for almost 32 years, and I was thankful that both my therapist and Jenn gave the the space to talk about this. It’s something that changed my outlook when it happened back in the Fall of 1988, and I’m finally able to let it go.

I met Mandy in the Spring of 1987 at the Music Educators All-Eastern Conference in Baltimore, as we were both selected to sing in the All-Eastern Choir. We instantly clicked, and this developed into a long-distance relationship that continued through our freshman year of college (me at Ithaca, her at Plymouth State in New Hampshire).

During the Summer of 1988, she went to Detroit to do an internship, and the plan was that I’d fly out for a few days in August before she went home. A month before I was supposed to head out, she called to tell me she was going home. Even though I wasn’t going to Detroit (and hadn’t yet bought my plane ticket), we still had our phone calls, and I still sent letters, as we had always done. When I got back to school, I noticed that our communication was not as frequent, but nothing prepared me for what came next.

It was a Saturday night in October…my friend Steve also knew Mandy, and I mentioned that I hadn’t heard from her in a few days. Steve reached out, and that’s how she broke up with me – she asked Steve to tell me that she didn’t want to see me anymore. No reason why, no explanation…..nothing.

I was already having trust issues (part of which were buried because of the sexual abuse), and this made me question myself…was it because of something I did or said? Was it because of my color? Was it something else all together? At this point, I went into a deep feeling of self-loathing, and truly feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be in a relationship with anyone. I’d had a previous girlfriend while in high school, and the prejudice of one of her friends had a major impact on our breakup. I truly lost a sense of self. As I was 18 years old (and my frontal lobe wasn’t quite developed yet), I did not react well at all.

Older, wiser, and with a complete frontal lobe!

As I went through the rest of college, I was afraid to date, and there were certain girls that treated me like I was not worthy of their time. As I went into my 20’s (aka “the Fuckup Years”), I was dating one girl, and simultaneously pining for another girl (Francesca), who I felt treated me like I wasn’t good enough for her. The mistakes I made? Ouch. Then I got into a pattern of dating girls who treated me as less than equal, as I had endured that from my dad, and I had accepted this as normal. One of them actually said to me that “she was the smarter one in the relationship,” and I didn’t have the self-esteem to walk away.

As I’d become less trusting (and simultaneously more arrogant), I had a humongous chip on my shoulder. When I was married to my ex-wife, I had told her about what had happened in my previous relationships, and she used to tease me about Mandy, right down to changing the Barry Manilow lyrics at my expense. Between this and the religious browbeating, this was when I started to hit the wall. I truly believed that I was incapable of feeling like an equal to anybody.

There’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Raymond couldn’t understand why an ex-girlfriend broke up with no explanation. That resonated with me, especially when his wife Debra helped him find closure. It wasn’t that he still had feelings for his former girlfriend…it was the feeling of getting an answer.

Fast forward to my therapy session today…although I’ve worked extremely hard over the last year to get in a really good headspace, I felt like I needed to address this issue that has always been tucked away in the corner of my mind…and I’m really glad that I did.

I got insight today that gave me a new perspective. To use today’s lingo, I was “ghosted” by Mandy. The reasons that she said nothing did not fall completely on my shoulders. We were both 18-year-old kids (whose frontal lobes weren’t yet fully developed), and she was either too scared to say anything, or just didn’t know how. I took the feeling of rejection so brutally hard all those years ago, and I didn’t believe in myself as a result. It feels like I can take that monkey off my back that I’ve let slightly eat away at me all these years.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made a point of reaching out to a lot of people from my past – people that I hurt and people who I felt hurt me, all the way back to junior high. It wasn’t about any type of payback, and although some of the conversations were a little bit odd or slightly off, it was good to say the words that I wish I’d said years ago, but that I didn’t think I was good enough and/or too scared to say. The results have been mixed, but I don’t have the fear that I always felt in the past when thinking about reaching out.

I’m at a point now where I can see and better understand what happened, and although it would be very easy to kick my own ass for all the self-loathing and mistakes for all these years, I’m finding the ability to forgive myself and let it go. I don’t need to know why Mandy did what she did, because it’s a reflection on her, not on me…..and although I’m still not there yet, I’ll get to the point where I can truly forgive her.

This ex will no longer factor into who I am, and how I feel about myself.

beepers, flip phones, and the french toast dilemma.

I was going through some of my stuff in my “music closet” the other day, and I came across a picture from 1996. At the time I was living in Scranton PA, and the picture is of me playing in the band FM and the MF Horns. What cracked me up about the photo is that I could see my beeper on my belt (that, and I still had hair at the time). I also remember getting my first analog cell phone a couple of months later (it had an interchangeable battery and car cigarette lighter adapter….cutting edge), and I remember how awesome it was to feel so “in the moment.”

I say this because feeling “in the moment” 24 years ago feels a helluva lot different that feeling in the moment in 2020. 1996 had its share of tragedy (the Oklahoma City bombing), but as a country, it felt much more like a feeling of hurting together and healing together when this happened. It wasn’t about the color of the people who lost their lives that day – it was about the Americans who perished. The same can be said for 9/11…everywhere you looked, you saw signs that said “USA” or “United We Stand.” The 3000+ people who died were from all different backgrounds, nationalities, religions and preferences. Again, we hurt together, and we healed together.

Now here we are – people cannot wait to say red when somebody else says green. People are all but at each other’s throats about having the last word, and not caring about hurting other people. We are truly 180 degrees from where we were on September 11, 2001, after what could easily be described as our country’s most devastating tragedy. How did we get here, and how do we get back to the simpler times of the past, where people had more genuine respect of others, and couldn’t easily hide behind their vicious comments on social media, or feeling entitled to be so vocal about their hatred?

There’s more than one reason why I choose
Vermont maple syrup.

This morning, the Quaker Company decided to focus on re-branding and renaming their Aunt Jemima syrup. People are losing their fucking minds over this, as there’s a divide that is all but based on color on this decision. A lot of social media comments have been made, varying from “this is ridiculous”, this is “extreme political correctness” (as well as some other vile comments that I flat-out refuse to reprint), to people saying that it represents a depiction of slavery, and is still part of the negative stereotypes of Black people that should’ve gone away a long time ago. What’s really pissing me off today is the feeling of hesitance – yes, I’ve always found the images of items such as this syrup and Uncle Ben’s Rice as “outdated”, and I can’t express how they make me feel as a Black person without fear of backlash, and that really fucking sucks. As a society, are we too stuck in our ways that we can’t even try to see things from a different perspective. I have one White friend who told me that they never saw this as offensive, because they thought this was a depiction of people who escaped slavery. I can see and understand why they had that perspective. What I really respected was that the also took the time to research the story of Aunt Jemima, and realized that this was created on the depiction of a ‘house slave.”

I shudder to think of how much worse things will become before they start to get better. I hope that there’s more of a focus of learning and understanding going forward, instead of fighting and trolling. There truly are no winners right now. All I can do is try to be the change that I would love to see in our society, and hope that others will join me in doing the same.

If you need to reach me, just call my beeper.

ass in the water, toes in the sand? a great beach weekend.

It was the perfect weekend to get away. Last week felt incredibly exhausting and toxic, and we were feeling tired of being cooped up in the house. After doing all of the verification of Phase 2 COVID guidelines, we went to Virginia Beach this weekend.

No, it was NOT a nude beach!
Jenn lowered her straps for an even shoulder tan. 😂

We had perfect weather for being on the beach…not too hot, a fantastic ocean breeze, and plenty of sunshine. Although we did not plan this as the weekend for going, this was also the 53rd anniversary of the “Loving vs. State of Virginia”, overturning the state’s ban on interracial marriage. With the current strife of racism crippling our country, it was nice to be reminded of something so incredibly important and positive.

A beautiful sunset.

In addition to having incredible quality time with Jenn (including a 5 1/2 mile walk of the entire boardwalk), I had the opportunity to spend time with family, and with two friends I haven’t seen since high school. Having the opportunity to catch up after 33 years and to reminisce about fun times in high school was a treat, and to see my cousin and his wife (who came over from Norfolk) was absolutely wonderful!

With fellow Onteora Class of ‘87 grad Nancy Wagner.
With Eric Kirk, the drummer in our
high school rock band.
With Jenn, my second cousin Melvin,
and his lovely wife Erin.

It was nice to be around people for the weekend. We followed social distance guidelines, and the people watching was fantastic (except for a couple of outfits that we still can’t unsee). Although we were at the other end of the Boardwalk when this happened, there was an event this weekend that was incredibly inspiring, and this was an awesome reminder of the power of unity…

40 people who sent a very powerful message.

They say pictures are worth a thousand words….that’s why this post is more about the things we saw and experienced.

Being safe…and fashionable.
Peaceful, sunny and beautiful.
Truly a great weekend at the beach.

As I start another work week, I feel much more at peace, and more focused, as this weekend truly gave me the chance to clear my head. So yes, we were LOVING our time at Virginia Beach!

the truth about dogs and cats.

I survived June 10th…..moving on.

I’ve become a dog lover. Although our lives are not ideal right now for us to have a pet, I’ve gained a new sense of appreciation for our canine friends, and although I’m not a fan of “pooper-scooper” duty, I definitely see myself being a dog owner down the road.

When I lived with my roommates Chuck and Jim 23 years ago, we also had two dogs: Chuck had a greyhound named Gale that he adopted from a dog track, and Jim had a pit bull named Katie (not named after my mom….different spelling) that he found abandoned at a truck stop. These dogs definitely had their moments – Gale got loose from Chuck one day, and took off at lightning speed. Chuck ran after her…I got in the car, and drove after her, which included stopping to pick up Chuck a half-mile down the road, where he was completely winded.

The dogs were not allowed in my room in our three-bedroom apartment (it was the “pet-free zone”), and part of the reason is because of something I still giggle about even now. Jim kept Katie in her crate in his room whenever the three of us weren’t home. As Jim was on the road a lot, Chuck and I would take care of Katie when he was away. During one of these times, Katie somehow wiggled her way out of the crate. I was the first one home, and I opened the door to Jim’s room – Katie had chewed up the Venetian blinds, and she COMPLETELY chewed the ass out of Jim’s favorite pair of Levi’s! After ensuring that she didn’t swallow any of the blinds or the jeans, I’ll never forget the phone call I made to Jim….”James, it’s Lane. Hey, are you truly fond of those Levi’s you left on your bed?”

I’ve been a Georgetown basketball fan since the days of Patrick Ewing playing for the team in the early 80’s. Living near DC now affords me the luxury of going to see my beloved Hoyas live and in person. One of my favorite parts of the game is when their mascot Jack (the hippest bulldog of all time) comes out in his motorized car and is driven around the court….it is too cool for school!

Before my brother and I were born, my parents had a bulldog and a cat, named Mike and Ike (if only they had trademarked their names!)…my mom used to tell me how when my dad would walk around the yard, Mike would always be right behind him, and Ike usually wasn’t too far behind….if and when I get a dog, it will definitely be a bulldog, and it will either be named Miles (for Miles Davis) or Ella (for Ella Fitzgerald).

Our grandpuppy Baxter.
Sharing his happiness wherever he goes.

An unexpected joy a couple of years ago is when Jenn’s daughter Katy got a Golden Retriever puppy for Christmas from her boyfriend (now fiancé Mike). Mike has a brindle pit bull named Diamond that he rescued, and now we also have Baxter. These are our grandpuppies, and it is truly a treat when they come to visit, or we go down to see them in Richmond. They are truly big sister/little brother, as Baxter is very playful, and sometimes Diamond throws him the side eye like you would not believe!

Growing up, my parents always had two cats. When I was little, we had two Siamese cats named Muff and Puff. They were incredible defenders of all rodents, as it was not uncommon to come out in the morning and see that they trapped a possum (and totally kicked its ass), or see them “playing ping pong” with a dead mouse. Because my parents did not de-claw the cats (where we were in the Catskills, our cats needed to be able to defend themselves), we kept the cats in the garage, and made sure that they had extra warmth in the colder months by putting extra blankets in their baskets and parking the car in the garage for extra warmth. My dad didn’t think that it would be an issue parking the ‘68 Caprice with the vinyl roof in the garage with two feisty Siamese cats with claws. Oh, the words we heard the morning after the cats used the roof as a scratching post!

After Muff and Puff passed away, my dad got two shorthair cats, that we named Rusty and Dusty….at this point, we no longer had the Caprice, but we now had a VW Rabbit (which did not have a vinyl roof). We thought there would be no issues putting this car in the garage during the cold months……the mistake was giving the cats Meow Mix as dry food. They figured out that it was warmer under the car. They also figured out a place to store food to stay warm….this resulted in the car breaking down for my mom on the way to work, the car being towed to the VW dealership, and my parents getting a bill for $350 in labor, as they cleaned out a large sandwich bag equivalent of Meow Mix from the air filter. I remember my brother Lee and I sitting in the backseat on the way home trying not to laugh at the bag of Meow Mix my dad was holding when he walked out of the Service Department.

When I was a teenager, my dad got yet another two cats, Piggy and Piper (and no cars were parked in the garage, nor did we feed them Meow Mix). When these cats were little, they were very feisty, including jumping in the air to try and catch butterflies. Piggy was a beautiful shade of grey, and Piper looked just like Morris in the 9-Lives commercials. Piggy passed away after 8 years, but Piper lived until after I graduated college. As he got much older (and a little plumper), he used to park himself outside on the sill of our big living room picture window, and lay in the sun like royalty. Either that, or he’d be watching the TV through the window. I just remember him as being very happy, even though the rodents were running around without fear.

I needed to write this post this morning, because after a day of tough and painful memories, I’m trying to focus on some of my happy and funny memories today. I truly believe that pets do make a positive difference in our lives, as my workday is pure fun when Baxter and Diamond are around. I realize just how much those six crazy cats meant to me as a child, and just how much fun it was living in an apartment with two good friends and two dogs. This makes me smile. And one day I will be hanging out with Miles or Ella, and hopefully I’ll have the same level of happiness.

Bow wow wow, yippee-yo, yippie-yay.

15 years….

Today is an anniversary of a day and a time in my life that I wish I could forget.

My dad passed away 15 years ago today. He was a positive influence in a lot of people’s lives in our community (he was a band director at my high school), but I grew up knowing a very different side of him. I’m not writing this to shatter the perception that many people had of my father – I’m writing this as a way of processing and working through a lot of feelings and memories of one of the darkest times of my life.

My dad and I were at odds with each other when he passed away. He had decided that the gift of $12,000 he had given me towards my new house was suddenly a loan that he expected to be paid back in full. We had all but stopped speaking at this point, as this had been the nature of our relationship for the previous 12 years. I had also had a falling out with my close friend and band mate Pat at the time, I was playing with another band that I truly wasn’t enjoying working with (and the feeling was mutual), and Michal (my now ex) and I were barely speaking to each other. I felt like I was “everyone’s enemy”, and now there was a funeral to prepare for.

My dad’s memorial service was 90 minutes of my life that I will never get back….not because of the unresolved feelings with my dad, but because the event quickly turned into the perfect storm…I didn’t know that Pat would come (which was VERY awkward), a lot of my people from my past who thought my dad walked on water (but thought very little of my brother and me) were there, and to top it off, the expectation was that my brother and I would perform music to honor our dad. The pastor overseeing the ceremony actually said “after the eulogy, the superstars are going to perform!”

Lawrence A. Stowe
May 10, 1925 – June 10, 2005

I remember the extreme rage I felt at that moment, wanting to stand up and say “this is a funeral, not a fucking recital, motherfucker!” , but that would not have gone over well. I ended up singing Amazing Grace through clenched teeth, and all I keep thinking about was that my dad again got the last laugh…where most parents encourage their kids to be the best they can be, we grew up under the dark cloud of “do your best….OR ELSE.” One of my friends posted an email right after the service that was like the highlights of a sporting event…what should have been a day where I had space to grieve became a day for everyone else’s entertainment, and this was incredibly disturbing.

Thus the downward spiral began…I felt like a horrible, untalented human being, and I was the first time that I seriously contemplated suicide. I say seriously, because I had a list of 25 ways to kill myself, even categorized into “ways that would look like an accident.” I felt like I never was able to grieve my dad’s passing, and I was conflicted about if I even wanted to. Michal was being an INCREDIBLE pain in my ass (more so than usual), and I just wanted to stop hurting, because everything felt like a reminder of all my failures. I pulled myself together to go to Buffalo to sing at my “sister” Maria’s wedding, and I’d started speaking with a local pastor for support, but all I could think about was taking my own life, as I “wouldn’t be everyone’s pain in the ass anymore.”

On July 3rd of 2005, I called the Suicide Hotline. I spoke to an older man named Jerry (not sure if he spelled it with a J or a G)…..he listened to me, but more importantly, he HEARD me. We talked for what easily was two hours. I was sitting in my Honda Accord in the parking lot of the Park City Mall in Lancaster PA, and when I first dialed the number, it was make or break, as I was very close to just ending it all. I told Jerry EVERYTHING I was feeling, and he didn’t try to fix my problems. We didn’t talk about religion, but we talked about spirituality….it gave me hope that I didn’t think existed in my life.

I’ve learned to forgive myself for the unresolved feelings I had with my dad, and I had made peace with Pat a couple of years later. I’ve also learned to forgive myself for wanting to take my own life. This is what is on my mind today. I never told my dad about my sexual abuse, because deep down I knew he’d either blame me, or use that as an example of how he thought I was weak. In hindsight, I realize that I allowed my dad to have a power over me that I never should have allowed him. This lasted right up to the day he died. And yes, I’m very thankful for Jerry, wherever he may be. If not for him. I don’t know if I’d even be here right now. (For the record, I still struggled with suicidal thoughts for another 10 years, but had absolutely no impulse to act on them, and therapy has been a tremendous help). I wish I could say that this is a great day for me to remember my dad, but I know that this day still is for a lot of his former students and colleagues, and I respect that very much.

Happy Anniversary Dad. Rest In Peace.

pop tarts and yacht rock.

It’s been a helluva week.

After a week of destruction and divisiveness (but also some incredible moments of unity), I needed to “get the hell out of Dodge” today. It was a beautiful day to head up to Pennsylvania to see some fellow musicians and friends (socially distant, of course). Yes, we talked about the current state of our country with race relations, and we spoke in a very healthy dialogue, trying to understand and appreciate each other’s perspectives.

I spent over five hours in the car today…as I love to drive, it was a great day to be on the open road, with the sunshine and minimal traffic. As it’s easy to forget that we’re in lockdown, I forgot that a lot of restaurants aren’t yet open. As I got hungry driving up I-83 listening to Loggins & Messina singing Vahevela, I got the urge for one of my favorite breakfast treats of all time….S’mores Pop Tarts.

Pop Tart chocolate goodness, sunshine and
Michael McDonald?
Yes, please!

As I’ve been trying to lose weight, there was a moment of guilt, but this quickly turned to guilty pleasure, as these were so INCREDIBLY yummy. I will walk 7 miles tomorrow to try and work off these Kellogg’s calories, and it will be totally worth it.

I used to hate the term “Yacht Rock”, because I felt it degraded a lot of music that enjoyed listening to growing up. I remember being in 8th grade, listening to Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross and James Ingram, as their songs were atop the Pop and R&B charts….this was at a time when I really started to gravitate towards wanting to be a true musician, and this music really resonated with me. I’m thankful that it still has a very strong following, so if “Yacht Rock” was the best way of classifying this music, so be it.

They say that it’s the simple things….I truly enjoyed my day today, connecting with friends, talking about social issues, and taking in a beautiful summer Saturday. Having the Pop Tarts and yacht rock was an awesome bonus.

from lean on me to kneel on me.

The last three months have shown us the best and the worst of humanity. We’re still working our way through the reopening process from COVID, we’ve become an incredibly virtual society, and we don’t know what the future will bring. We’re all hopeful that the day when we go back to “the old normalcy” comes sooner than later, and that this unusual part of our lifetime becomes a distant memory.

When the quarantine first began, we saw numerous acts of charity and unity, as we saw the numbers of new cases (and deaths) begin to skyrocket. When R&B legend Bill Withers passed away, his signature song “Lean On Me” became an anthem of inspiration and unity. Although the pandemic didn’t have the sudden tragic impact of 9/11, there was a mindset shift beginning, where unity became the focus, as worldwide we were all separated from our everyday lives.

Over the last 30 days, we’ve seen the worst our country has to offer….the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the stereotyping and threat against Christian Cooper, and the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. “The Kneel Seen Round The World” has brought back memories of the Rodney King riots, and the frustration, anger and violence has brought great divide, as racism and police brutality have again come to the forefront.

Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
Rest In Peace. Rest in Power.

Although our first responders and health care professionals continue to work around the clock to help save lives, the division and careless disregard of human life has now overshadowed the hard work of so many people. The frustration of social distancing and the economy is secondary to the frustration of oppression, prejudice and racial inequality. The virus of COVID-19 now replaced by the virus of racism, neither having a vaccine.

As we work through these two issues, now more than ever, we need to lift each other up, respect our differences, and spread love. We’ve lost over 100,000 lives to the coronavirus in the United States. How tragic would it be to lose any more lives to civil unrest?

I pray for all families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, and also the families of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as they all need our love and support through this tragic time.

Lean on me, when you’re not strong.

I’ll give you strength.

I’ll help you carry on.

grey.

I just watched the evening news and read the news online about the four cops in Minnesota and about the “Karen” in New York City. Yes, they all got fired, as they should have. But what happens next?

At what point do people stop using stereotype-fueled fear as an excuse for blatant bigotry? I’ve lost count of all the viral videos where people go on a racist tirade, because they feel entitled to do so.

I really try to keep politics out of my social media, but as an African-American male (who just as easily could have been in either of these type of situations or the Ahmud Arbery tragedy), this shit has gotta stop.

I don’t care if your Evangelical Conservative or extreme Liberal, pro-gun or anti-gun, pro “Wall” or anti “Wall”, there are not “good people on both sides” here.

I want to believe that we’ve moved the needle forward since April 4, 1968…have we?

If anyone has to live in fear of going for a jog out of fear of a hate crime, the system is broken…..correction, it’s REALLY FUCKING BROKEN…enough lip service – I never want to see riots like the ones after Rodney King….those were days that I wish we could erase from our history. We’re already divided as a country, and I pray that these events don’t become the straw that breaks this nation’s back.

If your initial reaction to any of these three events was to assume that these victims “must be thugs” before the truth was known, I feel incredibly sorry for you. George Floyd matched a description of a suspect for forgery, not rape (like the acquitted Stanford swimmer) or murder (OJ). Even though he resisted arrest, he did not deserve to have a police officer’s knee in his neck until he choked to death. Christian Cooper was threatened by a Caucasian woman who stereotyped him after he asked her to leash her dog as required in Central Park. Ahmud Arbery – he was out for a jog….A FUCKING JOG!!!

I named this post “grey” for two specific reasons; grey is the combination of black and white, and because we ALL need to be on the right side against racism…there is no grey area here.

When my parents moved to the Catskills to teach public school music in 1960, there was a petition in the school district against them living there. My dad had recently completed his Master’s Degree in Music Education at University of Missouri, and my mom had been a well-respected music teacher in both Oklahoma and Missouri. Sadly, some things never change – it doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, how many awards you’ve won, or how professional you are – there are people who will still live in fear of you because you’re a NIGGER (the word in the English language that I despise the most…and the word that you NEVER forget when someone calls you one).

I hope that this post makes people think….it’s very easy to turn a deaf ear and say “not my problem”…..welcome to reality – this IS everybody’s problem.

By the way, tune into “America’s Got Talent” tonight to watch Archie Williams…he’s an African-American singer from Baton Rouge, who was incarcerated for 37 YEARS for a crime he did not commit. Go get ‘em, Arch!

Ebony, Ivory, living in perfect harmony?

the long and winding road.

These five words are the perfect metaphor of my life, as they describe the different facets of my life.

I love to drive, and some days I live to drive. I don’t need a specific destination…all I need is a sunny day, great music to listen to, and a full tank of gas. Where most people would say Paris or London is their dream vacation, my dream vacation is to drive across the country. I want to watch the sunset as I drive through the Midwest, then head through the Rockies and work my way to the West Coast, then drive the Pacific Coast Highway from end to end down to Santa Monica. I’d also love to drive Route 66 from LA to Chicago, drive up to Wisconsin to Green Bay, then head home down through the Ohio Valley. To take in the sights and sounds of Americana this way would be a dream come true!

In 2004, I went on vacation to Arizona, and put nearly 1700 miles on the rental car in 4 days, driving as far south as the Mexican border, and up north to the Grand Canyon. Interstate 17 from Phoenix to Flagstaff is an incredibly beautiful drive. This experience is what made me fall in love with the Southwest – it’s spacious and wide open, and with every day and every highway, there could be a new adventure.

Arizona – one of my favorite states in which to drive.
(Sorry, Maryland.)

These five words describe the last 11 years of my life. There have been some amazing highs and some incredible lows. When I stop and think about losing my mom, while simultaneously trying to sell her house and deal with my own bitter divorce, there’s no question that this was one of the toughest times in my life. Never in a million years would I have thought that the next chapter of my life would include getting married again to the love of my life, let alone getting married in front of America on a Thursday morning!

These five words describe my friendships. When my best friend Pat Cerello passed away in February of 2011, not only did I lose a best friend, I lost the one person who truly understood me both personally and musically. It was like losing a brother, as we were so alike in so many ways. My friendships have definitely evolved since Pat’s passing – I’ve recently ended some longtime friendships that had more than run their course, and I’ve made some new friendships that I truly value, as these people have accepted me unconditionally, and there’s a genuine and mutual level of respect. The saying is that you can count your true friends on one hand….I couldn’t agree more, as I have five friends who not only know everything about my life story, but they are also friends that I would take a bullet for. Of these five people, four of them are friends that I’ve met within the last eight years.

I started to get the idea for this blog post during my recent trip to the hospital…my initial thoughts of “How did I end up in the ER?” morphed into “How did I get through the last 30 years of my life?”, as it made me think about my career (definitely a long and winding road!) and the people and experiences I’ve had along the way. And you know what? I’m still here, and I’m moving forward.

Because the road is long, with many a winding turn.

father of the minute.

Being a dad is hard enough. Being a dad to a 13-year-old daughter who blames you for divorcing her mom without understanding the entire situation? That’s a completely different level of difficulty.

My daughter Lauryn and I are not seeing eye to eye right now. Adding the COVID social distancing definitely has not helped, but I’m trying to show my daughter just how much I love her. Over the last few weeks, I’ve made three trips up to Lancaster to try and communicate with her – she knows about all three visits, and this past Saturday I actually got to see her for 15 whole seconds. She opened the front door, saw it was me, and closed it again.

In the past, I used to beat myself up for being a “horrible dad” because I wasn’t in Lauryn’s life every day (and my ex using that to negatively alter Lauryn’s perception). But during this time I called every night, leaving a voicemail more often than not, and driving up either every weekend or every other weekend, so that she didn’t have to live out of a suitcase. We had a big disagreement almost two years ago, because she doesn’t yet understand or see the big picture, and her loyalty is to her mom right now.

After she saw me and closed the door on Saturday, it would’ve been very easy for me to “shut down” and start blaming myself for everything. For some (good) reason, this didn’t happen – I was focused on two things….first of all, I couldn’t believe how much taller Lauryn was since I’d last seen her! It was shocking to see her so grown up. The other thing which instantly crossed my mind was that she knew that I again made the effort to communicate with her, and that I considered that a HUGE WIN, because my actions spoke much louder than my words.

Trying to reconnect, minute by minute.

I continue to send her quick little letters in the mail every week, and I’ll continue to drive up and knock on the door, whether she answers the door or not. That’s why I consider myself the “Father of the Minute”, because I’m still trying to find quick and simple ways for her to know just how much I will ALWAYS love her. My goal is to go from a minute to an hour, an hour to a day, and just keep building from there.

There are a lot of things that Lauryn will need to figure out on her own, as unfortunately, the people around her are telling her what she wants to hear, and not what she needs to know. If I push too hard right now, that will only create more distance between us. That’s why this entire process is a marathon and not a sprint. Lauryn and I will find our way back to each other, as she’ll know that I’ll always be there for her.

We’ll get there….one minute at a time.