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I was a music major back in the dark ages…starting in 1980.

I spent two years at Los Angeles City College, or LACC. As you might expect with any music program, I took classes in music theory, harmony and piano…

For some reason – it was insufficient attention and the fact that I was not very disciplined – I never got to the point where somebody could drop a piece of music notation in front of me and I could play it on the spot.

I regret that. I should have been more devoted to the instrument. I have said before that my piano-playing style is a conglomeration of ADHD, trial-and-error and muddling through. There is much more about my piano journey HERE.

I have a great ear, though, and I can also play like hell from a chart.

But that’s not why I wanted to write this.

We also had choir and voice classes, including sight-singing (solfeggio). Somehow I was OK with that. Way more than sight-reading piano music.

Early on, the professor in charge of the choir stuck me in the tenor section.

Problem was, I couldn’t sing that high. Still can’t.

That was a mistake – so I just pretended – using falsetto or simply mouthing the words. I should have said something, but I was not exactly a self-starter back then.

In voice class, another professor named Wes Abbott knew I was struggling with the high range. I remember complaining about it to him, and he recommended a renowned throat specialist named Hans Von Leden. Some names just stick with you, and a name like his is hard to forget –

But my then girlfriend’s dad was an audiologist and I went to see a throat guy in his practice in I think West Covina or San Dimas. I don’t remember exactly what the guy did, but there was nothing inherently wrong with my throat.

My brother and I could sing high before our voices changed – and the same girlfriend’s mother seemed relieved when she met me in person, because I sounded like “a used car salesman from Van Nuys” when I called for the first time to speak to her.

Well then, I have a low voice – and I should not have been placed in the tenor section.

Which brings us to rock ‘n’ roll…

When I was growing up, a vast majority of rock singers – and pop singers for that matter – seemed to ascend into the heavens with their vocal ranges. Think about early Elton John or Billy Joel for instance. Or Robert Plant. Or the late Tony Lewis from The Outfield. They must have had a Vise-Grip attached to their nether parts…

Steve Perry, anybody?

Not me. Or my brother.

In some band lineups, we tuned down a half-step to give us a little breathing room.

And the transpose button has long been my friend.

I enjoy playing and singing Elton John songs – and I take a perverse comfort in the fact that he can no longer hit the stratosphere. But then again, at least he used to.

I’m somewhere between Tom Waits and The Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio. Somebody once said I sounded like Elvis Costello, but he can sing higher. Randy Newman, maybe.

Acceptance.

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Most of my life, I’ve been made giddy by possibilities.

With life spread out in front of a young person, the options seem endless and there is ample time to explore any avenue that appeals to them in the moment. If they are lucky, they have at least one parent on board with the concept – and luckier still if that parent encourages them to spread their wings far and wide.

I had one such parent in my father.

Dad was the perennial youngster. He died at 70 but was endlessly drawn into a sense of childlike wonder about life, places and people. Sure, he had his down moments, but he was full of love, life and joy most of the time.

I will never meet anybody quite like Dad.

But is there an expiration date on the endless-possibility mindset? Doesn’t this encourage a mile-wide-and-inch-deep way of living – relegating a person to life as a generalist?

I bet this exacerbates ADD…

Does seeing the world as full of endless possibilities – especially at a certain age – limit one’s ability to focus?

Can a person reverse this – and when is it time to throw a dart at the map and move toward that coordinate?

Maybe we “possibility people” can enjoy the best of both worlds. We can throw the proverbial dart and move toward one main thing while keeping our hearts and minds open to happy coincidences, serendipity and spontaneity.

Can we move in the direction of that main thing without becoming so rigid that we cut off our ability to find joy in the realm of possibility?

It’s possible.

As my brother and I progress with our podcast, we’re finding our way.

27 episodes in, I believe that we are living up to the discipline it takes to continue the process. So far, we like the 30-minute episode format. I know we have the option to go as long as we want to, but in this world of immediacy, sharply declining focus and distraction, I don’t think marathon-length episodes are the way to go.

Does anybody really listen to all three hours of, say, Joe Rogan? Do folks just pop in and out of the Experience (see what I did there) whenever the urge arises?

The bulk of our podcast has been one-on-one, in-person conversations between us – trips down memory lane about growing up in Hollywood, original music and observations about our current lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We have included phone conversations with friends several times, and plan on doing more of that.

When we come to the end of the digital music archive, we will start to include live performances. Also, there is so much stuff on audio tape that a digitizing project is in order.

I am happy that folks say they enjoy listening to us and we are stoked that we finally got this thing going.

I cordially invite you to have a listen and let me know what you think.

Get the podcast HERE.

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I was recently impressed with a quote from Jason Leister that went like this:

“You do not need permission to be who you are here to be.”

Sounds compelling, doesn’t it?

Why is it that so many of us feel as if we need a nod from others before we embark on our genuine lives? Why is it that we transfer our innate power to others? Why do we leave it up to others or so-called fate to decide which is the best direction for us?

Why do we play the waiting game?

Why do we hitch our wagons to the stars of others instead of forging ahead in our pursuit of the hopes and dreams we cherished when we were young?

Did somebody important to us – a parent, a sibling, a close friend, a boss – squash our self-esteem?

Did something someone said or did take the wind out of our sails?

Did a major setback, loss or disappointment take all the fight out of us?

Did we settle?

Did we abdicate the throne of self-direction and choose instead to live as subjects to a new monarchy of control, restriction and suffocation?

Did we buy into the trading-time-for-money paradigm for so long that its walls closed in on us?

Did our past decisions lock us away in a prison of despair and self-doubt?

Did we decide to numb the pain of our abdication with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, shopping or ambition?

Do we expect to buy our way into heaven with good deeds?

Do we think God is punishing us?

Do we harbor bitterness and resentment?

Did one too many gatekeepers deny us entry?

Do we make too much of small things?

Do we overreact to perceived slights, only to realize that the offending party isn’t even aware of having caused any harm?

Were we programmed early on by school, church or state to obey others in “authority” before ever considering the malign motives at play?

Do we long to break out of our self-imposed prisons?

We must bake the file into our own cake. We must not expect others to “bust us out.”

God does not punish us.

We punish ourselves.

Ever since I met him, Casey King has been all about changing the face of recovery.

King, a physics professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach, founded and launched the college’s Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series in 2008. He was also HGTC Professor of the Year in 2019.

He has been sober since 2005.

Through his work with the series, he hopes to reduce the stigma that society places on those in recovery.

My first experience with him was in 2016, when I covered the series for The Sun News, a McClatchy newspaper here on the Grand Strand. That year, actor Danny Trejo was the keynote speaker. I have had the pleasure of covering him and the series in subsequent years as well – and it’s an honor to count him a friend.

You can read some of my previous coverage HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

The Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series is a popular event that has included a growing “Who’s Who” of featured celebrity speakers – from actors [Louis Gossett, Jr., Mackenzie Phillips, Danny Trejo] to rock stars [Everclear’s Art Alexakis, Bob Forrest from Thelonious Monster] to medical professionals [Dr. Drew Pinsky] – and more.

The series also features presentations and panels including college students, recovery advocates and spokespersons from local recovery groups, rounding out a lecture series that shines as a beacon of hope for those still struggling with addiction and a lamp on the path of those on their recovery journeys.

The program is set to continue this year in a virtual setting on the Zoom platform, beginning on January 28 and continuing every Thursday until February 18.

Throughout the COVID-19 situation, King has hosted recovery meetings on Zoom with attendees as far afield as Berlin, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and Tenerife – featuring some of the folks slated for the series. He cites these online meetings [what he has called a World Home Group] as pivotal in the decisions of some speakers to commit.

It seems that the pandemic is not going to get in the way of the series this year. It’s just a change of venue from physical to virtual.

This year, the series features an astounding celebrity lineup including Craig T. Nelson, Carnie Wilson, Paul Williams and more [see above graphic].

My brother and I recently had a conversation with Casey on EPISODE 22 of our podcast, and we’re glad we did. Casey opened up about the history of the series, his own recovery journey, how things came together for this year’s event and much more.

Rock on. We do recover.

For more information, click HERE.

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Just punch those keys…it’s advice I frequently read from bloggers who blog about blogging, especially Cristian Mihai from The Art of Blogging.

Like, punch the keys when? Before or after I have a solid idea? Do I punch them until I see the germ of a workable post? Is it like panning for gold?

I’m taking his advice and punching the keys now to see what comes out.

“Freestyling” like this, I have no idea where I am going – I’m simply punching the keys…

Is it possible to succeed at blogging without drilling down on a specialty – or can my specialty be blogging about the things and people I find interesting?

I love personal development-related content.

I have been sober for more than six years, and I have an endless supply of stories I can tell about this journey – before and after.

I was a single father for quite some time. I have adult twins. There’s a storehouse of gold “in them thar hills” also.

I am a man of a certain age. I used to toss aside mailers and periodicals aimed at those coming up on their “golden years,” but now the people in the photographs are starting to look more and more like me – and I finally realized not too long ago that my time on this planet is limited.

What happened to the immortality I took for granted as a youth? I could blog about that.

Seth Godin blogs constantly about finding one’s tribe, and Kevin Kelly’s “1000 True Fans” concept resonates with me.

Is fragmentation a problem?

Politics? I fear the first time I publish a political post, the bots, trolls and haters will bear down on me with a vengeance. Because this is a fear, perhaps I need to do that.

Feel the fear. Do it anyway…

Aren’t there already too many armchair pundits with way more political expertise than I possess? Yeah, right. What I really mean is that nobody is more of an expert than anybody else. Some are just louder than others…

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one, and yours stinks…

I have done a good deal of recording. Little did I know that there were so many echo chambers outside of a recording studio.

I share a podcast with my brother.

I have been a freelance journalist for many years, and enjoy working on personal profiles – getting to the heart of the folks I talk to. Everybody has a story – and I see no reason not to include them in this blog.

I have worked in the premium cigar industry for decades. Why have I not explored this at any length in my writing?

Should I podcast about podcasting? Blog about blogging? At this point, I’ll leave that to the folks who have been in the game much longer than I have.

I am also a working musician, but I thought I’d be a rock star with my brother by the time I was a young adult. I’m 57 now.

Let’s just say the consequences of the choices I made have come home to roost. Another rabbit hole to explore.

I have lived. I have learned. I have lost. I have won.

But I have also been profoundly lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to be punching these keys.

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Didn’t Patty Smythe once sing, “I am the worrier?” No, wait…

This one goes out to the worriers, the procrastinators and those like me with a propensity to gaze inward rather than outward.

Introspection is one thing, but sometimes the inward gaze is insidious. It can take us into dark imaginings and a landscape from which escape is dicey.

How many times have we fallen down the rabbit hole of indecision, mulling over every scenario we can possibly dream up until we wind up lost, confused and in much worse shape than when we started?

Have you ever stalled so much that an opportunity simply passed you by?

Inaction robbed you.

I can’t begin to count the hours I have wasted, waiting for the “right time” to do something – and the sad thing about this is that the something in question might not have been consequential to begin with.

It’s mountains-out-of-molehills, worst-cast-scenario thinking at its finest.

As the years go by, the more I am convinced that action is far superior to inaction, and that executing even an imperfect plan is head-and-shoulders above a well-intentioned delay.

Why?

Because we can usually correct course as we go.

A good plan doesn’t have to be perfect – but without action, any plan is useless.

The magic happens when we take action.

Take it from “Old Blood and Guts” himself, General George Patton:

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

There comes a time when we must put the ball in motion, to “pull the trigger,” as they say.

I have experienced firsthand the benefits of taking action – and it could be as simple as making that phone call, attacking that overdue project or simply showing up where you need to be – and it feels good, every time.

I’ll leave you with the words of Albert Einstein:

“Nothing happens until something moves.”

Begin.

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As we slouch into 2021, I have so far resisted the urge to participate in my usual self-imposed orgy of navel gazing…

I don’t know if I can hold out much longer, but I hope to take a different tack this year by being kind to myself instead of running down what I did wrong or failed to do altogether.

Should I enumerate all of the times I have been disingenuous this year? Did I fail to show compassion to others? Was I greedy? Was I selfish? Was I arrogant? Did I talk more than listen? Did I procrastinate?

Yes on all counts.

But given the duality of humanity, I don’t think I’m putting together a laundry list of personal shortcomings in my journal this year.

Have I been kind? Have I loved? Have I laughed with others? Have I hugged (Damn you, COVID-19)? Have I been sincere? Generous? Gracious? Of service?

Were my intentions understood more than they were misunderstood?

The longer I live, the more I realize that I have been lucky – and this is coming from a man who has been through the proverbial wringer more times than he would like to admit.

To any thinking person, the choices I have made resulted in the obvious outcomes, positive and negative. The old saw from the bygone commercial, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” is a bit erroneous.

We can’t fool mother nature. And as much as our magical thinking would like it to be true, there is no skirting of universal laws. If you think this is not so, give it a bit more time.

You’ll see.

Cause and effect, y’all.

Come on, 2021. Happy New Year to all.

Be nice.

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That moment when you’ve had enough…

That moment when you say “to hell with this” to a situation and begin at last to correct course…

That moment when the pain of the status quo becomes so unbearable that you put the steps in motion to rise above it at any cost…

That deep realization that “insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result…”

The knowledge that “what got you here won’t get you there…”

That nagging and persistent feeling that you were made for more than this…

The acceptance that your challenges are uniquely yours, and the only person who can pull you out of them is you…

The quiet assurance that you can overcome…

The confidence that others have risen from much more difficult circumstances…

The upward thrust of action…

The moving toward…

The leap of faith…

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Around Christmastime, one of my dear friend’s recurring mantras is this:

“Give from the heart. Not from the mart.”

I like it, and it makes sense.

But anybody with children will attest to the fact that this sentiment only goes so far. I mean if Santa left only baked goods or a handmade craft, a palpable sense of betrayal would fairly howl through most households in this country.

I wouldn’t be any good at handcrafting a PlayStation or a Big Wheel. Hell, I had trouble assembling the Big Wheels and other contraptions Santa left for my twins, and invariably there were parts left over…

I remember grappling with a Foosball table one Christmas Eve as I downed beer after beer, in no way fooled by the fantasy that one more drink would make the process any easier. That table was very nearly my undoing, and it was as wobbly as I was.

But I soldiered on, listening to Pope John Paul II on the television as he concluded yet another Midnight Mass.

For better or for worse, I had the damned thing put together. With an air of drunken self-satisfaction, I took a bite out of Santa’s cookie, finished off his milk and went to bed.

I am so glad I am sober now, by the way. Have been for years.

Because my twins have December birthdays and I am not Rockefeller, I would always find myself “jammed up” about how to pull off the two events…

…but credit cards, a bit of squirreled cash and the kindness of loved ones made it possible for my son and daughter to enjoy their holidays; if not in high style, then by all means in a manner that prevented them from feeling pinched.

Despite my promises to myself to be better prepared “next year,” that has yet to happen. But birthdays and Christmases came and went, and everything seemed to work out. Every. Single. Year.

But what if your kids are adults?

My twins just turned 27, and I am lucky that they are both nearby. My son and daughter-in-law live in Myrtle Beach, and my daughter is down from New York, staying with them as she works from home for a time – a decidedly positive byproduct of the COVID-19 nightmare. I’m thrilled she is able to do that.

They are still getting presents, though, but the endgame moving forward is to keep it simple and avoid credit card spending.

I need to keep in mind that as far as gifts are concerned, 27 is not 17 is not 7 – and yet I keep hearkening back to those times, like, will my gifts be enough

But then I snap back to reality with the profound realization that, yes, they will be enough because I am enough. This is where the heart comes in, where spending time together comes in, where love comes in.

That kind of acceptance just became the biggest gift I could possibly give myself.