Tag: Thoughts

Mixtape Memoirs: An Audio-Biography

Mixtape Memoirs: An Audio-Biography

Welcome to the “Mixtape Memoirs” project.  The story of me, told in small bites (or bytes, if you prefer).  An exploration of the soundtrack to those events and experiences that define who I am, who I was, and who I want to be. This is my audio-biography.

What is a “mixtape memoir”?  To answer that, first you have to ask yourself – what is a mixtape, really?  You wait by the radio for the perfect track – never knowing what was coming next.  The songs didn’t begin or end perfectly, instead they blended into each other in a unique way that would forever be your own. We’ve all heard the same songs – we’ve all lived in the same world.  But your “mixtape” – your collection of moments – tells the story of you in a way no one else can.

What is an audio-biography?  It’s the intersection of music and writing.  Music has always been present at the important junctures of my life.  A special song after that first prom.  A sad song on my phone after learning of the passing of a loved one.  The song I wrote as a wedding present for my wife.  Music has always provided the background to my aspirations and dreams – my successes and failures. There is no way I could tell the story of me with words without also using music. The songs I hear in my mind when flipping through those memories is the soundtrack of my life. That “mixtape” is me.

So, why take on this project?  Well, for one, I want to get back in the habit of writing – and like many people – I enjoy writing about the things I know.  One of the things I know best, for better or worse, is me.  After all, I’ve known me longer than I’ve known anyone else in my life.  I have all the inside scoop and behind the scenes details.  I know what I was really thinking when I lost control of my car going around that turn too fast when I was 16.  I know what I thought before, during, and after my first kiss.  I know how I felt the split-second I knew I was going to ask my wife to marry me.

I know each of these things and many, many more.  But – and here’s the really good part – most of YOU don’t know what I was thinking, what I was doing, or how things really happened.  Some of you may have been there for those events, but I’m betting your memories are just as spotty as mine.

Let’s be honest.  Most of us don’t really remember our youth.  What we remember is a montage of “the good old days”.  We remember things as the stories we tell our friends at weddings and birthday parties – not as they happened.  We remember things the way our parents recount them at family reunions and funerals.  We romanticize the good, minimize the bad, and skip over all the boring filler and commercial breaks in between.

If I’m being completely honest (and for just the moment, I am…) – my memory sucks.  I don’t remember things that happened last week, much less 30 years ago.  I’ve never had a great memory, and thousands of Diet Dr. Peppers over the years likely haven’t helped.   So why set out to write about things from so long ago that I will likely misremember, mess-up, or just flat out fabricate?

The answer is simple – because I can.  This is my story.  Not as it happened, but as I remember it.  Or, more accurately, as I choose to remember it.  Will these stories be 100% factual?  No.  Will they get all the people, places, and events correct?  No.  Will they always portray me in the best light – blameless and virtuous?  No.  Will they add a detail here and omit another there?  Yes.  Will they capture the essence of my memories and experiences?  Yes.  Will they be written from the heart?  Yes – absolutely.

Before we begin in earnest, what are the ground rules of this little project?

  1. The stories will come as often, or as infrequent as the come. Do I want to write every day and post every week?    Will I? No.  But I will be writing and I will be posting.

  2. The stories will all be “true fiction”. Rooted in the real world, but not limited by what I can remember or what actually happened.  Names may (or may not) be changed to protect the innocent (or guilty).

  3. If you want to correct the record on something I write about – send me an email. I can’t promise I’ll make a change, but I would love to hear from you.

  4. Every story will come back to a song.

Many memoirs have been written over the years.  Stories of lives far more interesting than my own.  Why would anyone care to go on this journey with me?  I’m not sure they will – that’s what we are here to find out.  I’ve been fortunate to have music frame the moments in my life that have meant the most to me.  I’ve told stories through songs of my own and used the lyrics of others to express my feelings when I couldn’t find them in my own voice.  I’ve known both the thrill and the terror of standing in front of a live audience.  I’ve seen the power of a song to both wound and heal.  I’ve felt the intimacy of singing just the right words to just the right person at just the right time.

Now I want to share those experiences, and many more, with each of you.  I don’t know if these are just the right words for just the right person – but I do know it’s just the right time.  I hope you can find a familiar echo in the songs I sing.  I hope you can learn something about me, and maybe even yourself.  I hope you enjoy the show.


Let’s begin with an oldie, but a goodie…

Track #1 – “Honestly” by Stryper


Mixtape Memoirs: Track #1 – “Honestly” by Stryper

Mixtape Memoirs: Track #1 – “Honestly” by Stryper

It was the spring of 1989.  I was standing in my high school gymnasium in front of hundreds of friends, family members, and perfect strangers.  I can still feel the hard, unyielding microphone in my hand.  I can feel the heat of the spotlights shining down on me – a heat that did nothing to dispel the cold knot of trepidation in my stomach.  I can feel the single bead of sweat that begins to run down my left temple as I look up and hear the first notes of “Honestly” begin to play over the PA.  I remember thinking – “This is awesome.”  Then, “Oh my God – what’s the first word of the song?”

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Refelctions on Sandy Hook

Refelctions on Sandy Hook

I’ve written and re-written this story a hundred times over the last few days.  I could probably spend another month working on it, and still not get it right.  I’m usually good at capturing my thoughts on the page, but this time the right words seek to elude me.  This isn’t perfect, and it isn’t finished, but I need it to be done for now.  I need to set these pages down and start moving ahead.  


I fear for our country and our society.  Something is metastasizing in our culture, nudging us ever closer to a comfortable darkness of the soul. It speaks to the coarseness and cynicism growing around us, and the innocence we have all lost. Unless it is addressed, I fear the best outcome we can hope to face is one of division and discord.  What is it, you ask?  Guns?  2nd Amendment rights?  Neither – or perhaps both.  No, what I’m talking about is the politicization of every aspect of our lives. 

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Ten Things I’m Thankful For This Year – 2011

Ten Things I’m Thankful For This Year – 2011

Last year I shared with you ten things I was thankful for on Thanksgiving.  It gave me an opportunity to sit down and reflect on the year and really served to start my day off well.  So, in the spirit of giving, I’ve decided to make it an annual event and share ten more things I’m thankful for this year.  It’s not an exhaustive list (and I’m still thankful for almost everything from last year’s list), so consider this more an expansion of that list, not a replacement.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it. 

  • I’m thankful for the new opportunities and challenges I’ve been given this year.  I’m not one to enjoy standing still – it’s good to have motion in my life.

  • I’m thankful for the support of my family and friends.  Those new opportunities have come with a healthy dose of change – and without the support of those closest to me, I wouldn’t have even considered them.

  • I’m thankful that my wife has a love of scrapbooking.  She is capturing so many moments, both large and small, that we will be able to savor again and again like a fine wine in our old age.

  • I’m thankful for the time I got to spend with my grandfather before he passed away this year.  Saying goodbye is never easy – but it’s far better than not getting the chance to say anything at all.

  • I’m thankful for the light in my daughter’s eyes as she greets me at the door when I get home from work each night.  It always makes my day better.

  • I’m thankful for books.  I am still able to lose myself in them every single day.  They open up new worlds to me, provide me with an escape when I need it most, and make me think about the world around me.  They’ve helped me meet some very cool people over the last 18 months.

  • I’m thankful for my grandmother’s strawberry cake.  It is, quite possibly, the perfect food.

  • I’m thankful for afternoons working on piano with my son.  He doesn’t always enjoy it (especially my clapping to keep him in tempo), but sharing music with him brings me great joy.

  • I’m thankful for warm blankets on a cold winter’s morning and cool sheets on a hot summer’s night.

  • I’m thankful for my freedom.  Okay, you’re right – this one was on last year’s list as well – but it’s so important, it bears repeating.  Without freedom, we’re all just colorful paper puppets dancing at the end of someone else’s strings.   

Take a moment and think about all you have to be thankful for this year.  You may find it’s more than you thought.  I hope all of you have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy the food, the family, the friends, and the football!

What haven’t I written anything in almost a month??

What haven’t I written anything in almost a month??

First, let me apologize to everyone.  It’s been almost a month since I’ve posted anything new here at The Word Zombie.  When I sat down, looked at the site and realized how long it had been, I was shocked.  And saddened.  I’ve poured myself into this site over the last year and a half.  The last thing I want to do now is to let it languish.  I still have a lot to say (that will come as a shock to no one who knows me), and a lot to share.  So why the long delay?  Let me explain.


Two things have conspired to keep me away from the keyboard over the last month.  They are both good in their own right, but not so good for the flow of content to The Word Zombie.  The first has to do with my job.


Last week, I accepted a new position at work.  After starting there 18 years ago as an unpaid intern, I’ve just been promoted to the head of sales for the US and Canada.  It’s been a long and exciting journey, but the new job will require that I relocate my family to Los Angeles.


That wasn’t a decision or decision making process my wife and I took lightly.  Both of my children are now in school.  Having myself lived in the same house from the day I started kindergarten until a few months after I graduate college, having my kids deal with changing schools again was not something I looked forward to.  Add to that the pressure of finding good schools in LA and it made for a lot of late night discussions.


We’re not new to relocation – we’ve done three times before.  Still, it’s stressful.  There is a lot you have to do.  Some things go well and some things don’t.  Selling a house is never fun, even in a good economy and housing market.  I’m not sure if you’ve read the news lately – we don’t have either right now.


That being said, the job is a great opportunity both for my family and I.  It’s something I really wanted to do, and to her credit, my wife supported me – just as she’s always done.  So, we made the decision to take the job and relocate.  It was announced last week and now the wheels have all been set in motion for a move.


During all the conversations over the past few weeks, all the late nights doing research on the internet, and all the pitches to my kids on how cool California is – I found it hard to focus on writing.  It was hard to find the time and, quite frankly, I gave myself permission to let the blog slip while we where making our decision.  Right or wrong – that was the choice I made.  Now, however, everything has been decided and I can’t give myself a free pass any longer.  I need to write.  So, here I am – writing about why I haven’t been writing.  Ironic much?


The second reason I haven’t written much has to do with what I’ve been reading.  I have a few reviews I need to catch up on, but about 5 weeks ago I dove headlong into a tremendous series of books and haven’t been able to put them down. I’ve literally been finishing one book and picking up the next in the series within minutes.  I’ve been so consumed with reading them; I haven’t even begun to think about how to review them.  I wanted to finish the series first.


What are the books you ask?  They are the Repairman Jack novels and the Adversary Cycle novels by F. Paul Wilson.  Between both series there are 21 books, telling the “secret history of the world”.  The final Repairman Jack novel was published in October and a revised version of the last book in the Adversary Cycle is due to be published early next year.  When I get finished with the last Repairman Jack book I’ll share all my thoughts on the entire Repairman Jack series.  Next year, I’ll recap the Adversary Cycle after “Nightworld” is published again.  I promise.


I’ll have a lot of time on airplanes in the coming months – time I plan to spend reading, writing, and also sleeping.  As I said, I still have a lot to say.  I’ll have new content up more regularly over the coming weeks.  In fact, to get things back on track, my daughter has graciously agreed to provide reviews for two books she’s recently enjoyed.  (She’s just learning to read and is excited to be joining the blogosphere.)  They’ll be posted by the end of the week.


Again, let me apologize for the sorry state of the blog over the past month.  I don’t take a single reader of The Word Zombie for granted.  You are gracious enough to spend a small portion of your day here with me; I owe you a small portion of my day spent writing in return.  Thank you all for your patience and your understanding.  Talk to you soon.