Best of 2017 Playlist

I have to admit something…I’m not totally in love with this year’s best-of. It’s not that I don’t like the songs (they wouldn’t have made the consideration cut if that were true), but this year’s version of the list didn’t auto-populate as in the past – I had to dig around, drop some, add some, convince myself of some. Of course, there are a few that stood out as obvious choices and at the end, I am satisfied enough to call it complete and to move on. Ezra and Elia’s taste in music is still something that I am proud of, and their selections for this year’s list remind me a lot of a good animated movie (made for kids, adults will enjoy – a lot sometimes).

Like always, there are three rules that go into qualifying for the list: Rule #0 (because it applies every year): fit on a traditional CD and come to my library in the calendar year (even though the songs may be older than that). Rule #1: Don’t suck. Rule #2 (and most important): Be interesting.

1 – The Album Leaf – The Outer Banks

2 – Camila Cabello – Havana

3 – Marian Hill – Down

4 – Run The Jewels – Talk To Me (explicit)

5 – Judah & The Lion – All I Want Is You

6 – Wildermiss – Keep It Simple

7 – K.Flay – You Felt Right

8 – Kamasi Washington – Truth

9 – Maggie Siff – Lullaby For A Soldier

10 – St. Vincent – New York

11 – Pandas & People – Find You

12 – Dirty Projectors – Cool Your Heart

13 – Rag’n’Bone Man – As You Are (Shy FX Remix)

14 – Japandroids – No Known Drink Or Drug

15 – Weezer – Feels Like Summer

16 – Keller Williams – Mama Tooted

17 – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – Imaginary Friend


  • Elia’s Song Choice: Mama Tooted (it’s great)
  • Ezra’s Song Choice: Imaginary Friend (also great, the lyrics are pretty stellar)
  • My Favorite: 
  • The One Despite All Efforts I Couldn’t Keep Off: Havana
  • Biggest Surprise: Talk To Me (not my normal bag, but I really enjoyed this entire album)
  • Really Crank This One…No, Louder Than That: New York
  • Band Not Making The List For The First Time In A Few Years: Doesn’t apply this year
  • Bands Continuing Their Run: Judah and the Lion, Pandas and People
  • Dammit If They Didn’t Show Up Again: See above
  • Last Song Dropped From The Playlist: Intro by M83
  • Concert We Went To Featuring Three Of The Bands: Broncos Tailgate at Mile High w/ Judah and the Lion, Pandas and People, and Wildermiss

Previous Year’s Best Of Lists:

Best of 2016

Best of 2015

Best of 2014

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

Best of 2008

Best of 2016 Playlist


Ready…it turns out, that once you remove all of the songs from Ezra’s plays, there is a whole lot less music than you think. Somewhat unfortunately, this has become the reoccurring theme over the past few years – a whole lot less – due to the time/space warp that are kids and life…and it doesn’t stop at music: skiing, camping, house cleaning, and photography are also easy victims of this dilemma. My several year long non-intentional transition away from jam bands and into more electronic music continues, but there are still songs on the list that hint backwards to a style of music I cannot forget. The playlist builds throughout, so if you feel slow/bored near the beginning…don’t fret, it’ll come around.  Some songs on the list are here because they defined a particular moment in the year, some because they just kept playing and playing, and some because they are just that damn good.

Like always, there are three rules that go into qualifying for the list: Rule #0 (because it applies every year): fit on a traditional CD and come to my library in the calendar year (even though the songs may be older than that). Rule #1: Don’t suck. Rule #2 (and most important): Be interesting.

1 – Judah & The Lion – Stockholm

2 – The Strumbrellas – Spirits

3 – Pandas & People – Hands

4 – Mudcrutch – I Forgive It All

5 – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats – I Need Never Get Old

6 – Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Beyond Belief

7 – Mitski – Your Best American Girl

8 – Japandroids – Near To the Wild Heart Of Life

9 – Radiohead – Burn The Witch

10 – Animal Collective – FloriDada

11 – Odesza – Kusanagi

12 – Kaytranada – Lite Spots (not Explicit although it sounds like it)

13 – Busdriver – Worlds To Run

14 – Sylvan Esso – Radio (Explicit)

15 – Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Arthropoda

16 – The 1975 – The Sound

17 – Esperanza Spalding – Earth To Heaven

18 – Ages And Ages – As It Is

19 – Cold War Kids – First

20 – Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling

  • Elia’s Song Choice: Spirits
  • Ezra’s Song Choice: Stockholm
  • My Favorite: Lite Spots
  • The One Despite All Efforts I Couldn’t Keep Off: Spirits
  • Biggest Surprise: Can’t Stop The Feeling (watching the kids dance to this is what got it a spot)
  • Really Crank This One…No, Louder Than That: Lite Spots, Your Best American Girl
  • Band Not Making The List For The First Time In A Few Years: Pan Astral
  • Bands Continuing Their Run: Pandas & People
  • Dammit If They Didn’t Show Up Again: The 1975
  • Last Song Dropped From The Playlist: The Growlers – I’ll Be Around

Previous Year’s Best Of Lists:

Best of 2015

Best of 2014

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

Best of 2008

Best of 2015 Playlist

If you needed a representation of 2015 in notes, melody, and taste…here it is! All year long, I think about this list and if a song may or may not make the cut for consideration. As I sat down to put together the list, I had some preconceived notions as to the direction of the music; but setting those aside and choosing the songs lead the list in a rather different direction. Of course, each kid has the opportunity to pick a song to go onto the list – their favorite for the year. In the rest of the list, I found a few reoccurring themes: notably, the heaviest Colorado band influence to date, songs that finish a lot better than they start (which is the exact opposite of my very first qualifier to a good song – a first 30 seconds that sinks it’s teeth into you), and a lot of input from television shows and movies. That brings me to my next confession: this is one of the smallest raw pools of music that I have had in years. I really didn’t visit a lot of the music blogs that I normally would have (and one of the best, I am Fuel you are Friends, is shutting/slowing down), so my exposure this year was mostly through friends, entertainment, and podcast. The result is a few gems that I probably wouldn’t have come across in other years, and a few songs that may have had a tougher time making passing grade in other lists. Either way, these are my favorite songs from 2015…

Like always, there are three rules that go into qualifying for the list: Rule #0 (because it applies every year): fit on a traditional CD and come to my library in the calendar year (even though the songs may be older than that). Rule #1: Don’t suck. Rule #2 (and most important): Be interesting.

1 – Worthless by The Yawpers

2 – Who I Wanna Be by Pandas & People

3 – We’re Going To Be Friends by The White Stripes

4 – Grew Up At Midnight by The Maccabees

5 – Bend To Colors by Chemistry Club

6 – Clearest Blue by CHVRCHES

7 – The Skylab Plan by Daniel Pemberton

8 – Occupied by The Radio Dept.

9 – Oceancrest by My Body Sings Electric

10 – Fresh Blood by The Eels

11 – When Summer Comes by Pan Astral

12 – Squeeze by Monroe Monroe

13 – Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

14 – Girlfriend by In The Whale

15 – The Feast And The Famine by Foo Fighters

16 – Go’head by Rocstrong

17 – Can’t Keep Checking My Phone by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Elia’s Song Choice: Red Right Hand (right? my 3 y/o digging post-punk? awesome)
Ezra’s Song Choice: Who I Wanna Be (he has picked Pandas & People two years in a row)
My Favorite: Worthless
The One Despite All Efforts I Couldn’t Keep Off: The Skylab Plan
Biggest Surprise: We’re Going To Be Friends (mostly because it sounds nothing like The White Stripes)
Really Crank This One…No, Louder Than That: Girlfriend or The Feast And The Famine
Band Not Making The List For The First Time In A Few Years: RAC
Bands Continuing Their Run: CHVRCHES, Pandas & People
Dammit If They Didn’t Show Up Again: Pan Astral
Last Song Dropped From The Playlist: Sea Of Love by The National


Previous Year’s Best Of Lists:

Best of 2014

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

Best of 2008

Elia – 36 Months!



Elia 36 Months!

NYC Stair Climb

An absolute highlight of my career/profession/life.

A lot of work and a lot of thought and a lot of care have gone into planning the stair climbs locally and nationally over the last 11 years. Throughout all of that planning, there have been several program positions that are uncompromisable…including 1) money raised using 9/11 would go back to the FDNY and whatever they saw appropriate, 2) what the families say is non-negotiable, and 3) what the FDNY says is standard. For example, the FDNY has worked on the idea of a stair climb in NYC for a few years now, but for a variety of reasons, it just wasn’t the right thing to do. Additionally, the FDNY has stated that when looking at doing a stair climb in the city, they would not be supportive of a climb in lower Manhattan…just too close to too many things (physically and emotionally). So when the FDNY said that they were ready to have a climb in the city, it was a significant marker in the stair climb program.

I had a chance to fly out in the spring to assist the FDNY with a site visit at Citi Field (home of the NY Mets) and to begin the planning of the climb that would eventually be held in October. The FDNY, and the FDNY Counseling Services Unit were completely behind the effort and dedicated equipment, units, and lots of hours of work on the climb…and they were extremely successful with the final outcome.

Ahna and I, along with the rest of the NFFF Stair Climb Steering Committee had the opportunity to travel to NYC to assist with the climb. It was such an honor to be part of the event, to see the firefighters climbing, to be witness to the FDNY support, and to spend time with crews that lost friends, and families that lost husbands and fathers. It was especially touching to talk with the kids of the firefighters who were able to find their father’s photo card, and climb for him. The event was incredible, and I am pretty sure that I was somewhere between clouds nine and 10 for the entire duration – and to be able to spend that event with the other members of the committee and with Ahna was very special.

After the event, we were able to spend a day and a half in the city exploring Manhattan. We had the chance to go to Ground Zero and to go to the 9/11 Museum – which was an incredibly emotional experience (especially after doing the climb the morning prior). The museum is beautiful and extremely well done, packed with a ton of information and artifact. After the museum, we wandered around Central Park, MOMA, and finished the evening at a Michelin starred vegetarian restaurant and drinks above Broadway/Times Square. We even squeezed in a midnight ice skate at Rockefeller Center.

The trip was a great get-a-away with Ahna, and a physically and emotionally exhausting and fulfilling experience. And now the planning begins for 2016…


Photo Oct 11, 06 37 23


Today we climb.

I promise that we don’t forget. We will NEVER forget.

Each year, I post this photo…a stunning capture in history (read story here). This is a photo of FDNY’s Ladder 118 responding to the WTC. None of them would survive the day. These guys knew what they were getting into, yet they didn’t hesitate. We climb to finish what they started.


The list of the 343 FDNY brothers that died on 9/11:

Joseph Agnello, Lad.118 Lt. Brian Ahearn, Bat.13 Eric Allen, Sqd.18 (D) Richard Allen, Lad.15 Cpt. James Amato, Sqd.1 Calixto Anaya Jr., Eng.4 Joseph Agnello, Lad.118 Lt. Brian Ahearn, Bat.13 Eric Allen, Sqd.18 (D) Richard Allen, Lad.15 Cpt. James Amato, Sqd.1 Calixto Anaya Jr., Eng.4 Joseph Angelini, Res.1 (D) Joseph Angelini Jr., Lad.4 Faustino Apostol Jr., Bat.2 David Arce, Eng.33 Louis Arena, Lad.5 (D) Carl Asaro, Bat.9 Lt. Gregg Atlas, Eng.10 Gerald Atwood, Lad.21 Gerald Baptiste, Lad.9 A.C. Gerard Barbara, Cmd. Ctr. Matthew Barnes, Lad.25 Arthur Barry, Lad.15 Lt.Steven Bates, Eng.235 Carl Bedigian, Eng.214 Stephen Belson, Bat.7 John Bergin, Res.5 Paul Beyer, Eng.6 Peter Bielfeld, Lad.42 Brian Bilcher, Sqd.1 Carl Bini, Res.5 Christopher Blackwell, Res.3 Michael Bocchino, Bat.48 Frank Bonomo, Eng.230 Gary Box, Sqd.1 Michael Boyle, Eng.33 Kevin Bracken, Eng.40 Michael Brennan, Lad.4 Peter Brennan, Res.4 Cpt. Daniel Brethel, Lad.24 (D) Cpt. Patrick Brown, Lad.3 Andrew Brunn, Lad.5 (D) Cpt. Vincent Brunton, Lad.105 F.M. Ronald Bucca Greg Buck, Eng.201 Cpt. William Burke Jr., Eng.21 A.C. Donald Burns, Cmd. Ctr. John Burnside, Lad.20 Thomas Butler, Sqd.1 Patrick Byrne, Lad.101 George Cain, Lad.7 Salvatore Calabro, Lad.101 Cpt. Frank Callahan, Lad.35 Michael Cammarata, Lad.11 Brian Cannizzaro, Lad.101 Dennis Carey, Hmc.1 Michael Carlo, Eng.230 Michael Carroll, Lad.3 Peter Carroll, Sqd.1 (D) Thomas Casoria, Eng.22 Michael Cawley, Lad.136 Vernon Cherry, Lad.118 Nicholas Chiofalo, Eng.235 John Chipura, Eng.219 Michael Clarke, Lad.2 Steven Coakley, Eng.217 Tarel Coleman, Sqd.252 John Collins, Lad.25 Robert Cordice, Sqd.1 Ruben Correa, Eng.74 James Coyle, Lad.3 Robert Crawford, Safety Lt. John Crisci, H.M. B.C. Dennis Cross, Bat.57 (D) Thomas Cullen III, Sqd. 41 Robert Curatolo, Lad.16 (D) Lt. Edward D’Atri, Sqd.1 Michael D’Auria, Eng.40 Scott Davidson, Lad.118 Edward Day, Lad.11 B.C. Thomas DeAngelis, Bat. 8 Manuel Delvalle, Eng.5 Martin DeMeo, H.M. 1 David DeRubbio, Eng.226 Lt. Andrew Desperito, Eng.1 (D) B.C. Dennis Devlin, Bat.9 Gerard Dewan, Lad.3 George DiPasquale, Lad.2 Lt. Kevin Donnelly, Lad.3 Lt. Kevin Dowdell, Res.4 B.C. Raymond Downey, Soc. Gerard Duffy, Lad.21 Cpt. Martin Egan, Jr., Div.15 (D) Michael Elferis, Eng.22 Francis Esposito, Eng.235 Lt. Michael Esposito, Sqd.1 Robert Evans, Eng.33B.C. John Fanning, H.O. Cpt. Thomas Farino, Eng.26 Terrence Farrell, Res.4 Cpt. Joseph Farrelly, Div.1 Dep. Comm. William Feehan, (D) Lee Fehling, Eng.235 Alan Feinberg, Bat.9 Michael Fiore, Res.5 Lt. John Fischer, Lad.20 Andre Fletcher, Res.5 John Florio, Eng.214 Lt. Michael Fodor, Lad.21 Thomas Foley, Res.3 David Fontana, Sqd.1 Robert Foti, Lad.7 Andrew Fredericks, Sqd.18 Lt. Peter Freund, Eng.55 Thomas Gambino Jr., Res.3 Chief of Dept. Peter Ganci, Jr. (D) Lt. Charles Garbarini, Bat.9 Thomas Gardner, Hmc.1 Matthew Garvey, Sqd.1 Bruce Gary, Eng.40 Gary Geidel, Res.1 B.C. Edward Geraghty, Bat.9 Dennis Germain, Lad.2 Lt. Vincent Giammona, Lad.5 James Giberson, Lad.35 Ronnie Gies, Sqd.288 Paul Gill, Eng.54 Lt. John Ginley, Eng.40 Jeffrey Giordano, Lad.3 John Giordano, Hmc.1 Keith Glascoe, Lad.21 James Gray, Lad.20 B.C. Joseph Grzelak, Bat.48 Jose Guadalupe, Eng.54 Lt. Geoffrey Guja, Bat.43 Lt. Joseph Gullickson, Lad.101 David Halderman, Sqd.18 Lt. Vincent Halloran, Lad.8 Robert Hamilton, Sqd.41 Sean Hanley, Lad.20 (D) Thomas Hannafin, Lad.5 Dana Hannon, Eng.26 Daniel Harlin, Lad.2 Lt. Harvey Harrell, Res.5 Lt. Stephen Harrell, Bat.7 Cpt. Thomas Haskell, Jr., Div.15 Timothy Haskell, Sqd.18 (D) Cpt. Terence Hatton, Res.1 Michael Haub, Lad.4 Lt. Michael Healey, Sqd.41 John Hefferman, Lad.11 Ronnie Henderson, Eng.279 Joseph Henry, Lad.21 William Henry, Res.1 (D) Thomas Hetzel, Lad.13 Cpt. Brian Hickey, Res.4 Lt. Timothy Higgins, S.O.C. Jonathan Hohmann, Hmc.1 Thomas Holohan, Eng.6 Joseph Hunter, Sqd.288 Cpt. Walter Hynes, Lad.13 (D)Jonathan Ielpi, Sqd.288 Cpt. Frederick Ill Jr., Lad.2 William Johnston, Eng.6 Andrew Jordan, Lad.132 Karl Joseph, Eng.207 Lt. Anthony Jovic, Bat.47 Angel Juarbe Jr., Lad.12 Mychal Judge, Chaplain (D) Vincent Kane, Eng.22 B.C. Charles Kasper, S.O.C. Paul Keating, Lad.5 Richard Kelly Jr., Lad.11 Thomas R. Kelly, Lad.15 Thomas W. Kelly, Lad.105 Thomas Kennedy, Lad.101 Lt. Ronald Kerwin, Sqd.288 Michael Kiefer, Lad.132 Robert King Jr., Eng.33 Scott Kopytko, Lad.15 William Krukowski, Lad.21 Kenneth Kumpel, Lad.25 Thomas Kuveikis, Sqd.252 David LaForge, Lad.20 William Lake, Res.2 Robert Lane, Eng.55 Peter Langone, Sqd.252 Scott Larsen, Lad.15 Lt. Joseph Leavey, Lad.15 Neil Leavy, Eng.217 Daniel Libretti, Res.2 Carlos Lillo, Paramedic Robert Linnane, Lad.20 Michael Lynch, Eng.40 Michael Lynch, Lad.4 Michael Lyons, Sqd.41 Patrick Lyons, Sqd.252 Joseph Maffeo, Lad.101 William Mahoney, Res 4 Joseph Maloney, Lad.3 (D) B.C. Joseph Marchbanks Jr, Bat.12 Lt. Charles Margiotta, Bat.22 Kenneth Marino, Res.1 John Marshall, Eng.23 Lt. Peter Martin, Res.2 Lt. Paul Martini, Eng.23 Joseph Mascali, T.S.U. 2 Keithroy Maynard, Eng.33 Brian McAleese, Eng.226 John McAvoy, Lad.3 Thomas McCann, Bat.8 Lt. William McGinn, Sqd.18 B.C. William McGovern, Bat.2 (D) Dennis McHugh, Lad.13 Robert McMahon, Lad.20 Robert McPadden, Eng.23 Terence McShane, Lad.101 Timothy McSweeney, Lad.3 Martin McWilliams, Eng.22 (D) Raymond Meisenheimer, Res.3 Charles Mendez, Lad.7 Steve Mercado, Eng.40 Douglas Miller, Res.5 Henry Miller Jr, Lad.105 Robert Minara, Lad.25 Thomas Mingione, Lad.132 Lt. Paul Mitchell, Bat.1 Capt. Louis Modafferi, Res.5 Lt. Dennis Mojica, Res.1 (D) Manuel Mojica, Sqd.18 (D) Carl Molinaro, Lad.2 Michael Montesi, Res.1 Capt. Thomas Moody, Div.1 B.C. John Moran, Bat.49 Vincent Morello, Lad.35 Christopher Mozzillo, Eng.55 Richard Muldowney Jr, Lad.07 Michael Mullan, Lad.12 Dennis Mulligan, Lad.2 Lt. Raymond Murphy, Lad.16 Lt. Robert Nagel, Eng.58 John Napolitano, Res.2 Peter Nelson, Res.4 Gerard Nevins, Res.1 Dennis O’Berg, Lad.105 Lt. Daniel O’Callaghan, Lad.4 Douglas Oelschlager, Lad.15 Joseph Ogren, Lad.3 Lt. Thomas O’Hagan, Bat.4 Samuel Oitice, Lad.4 Patrick O’Keefe, Res.1 Capt. William O’Keefe, Div.15 (D) Eric Olsen, Lad.15 Jeffery Olsen, Eng.10 Steven Olson, Lad.3 Kevin O’Rourke, Res.2 Michael Otten, Lad.35 Jeffery Palazzo, Res.5 B.C. Orio Palmer, Bat.7 Frank Palombo, Lad.105 Paul Pansini, Eng.10 B.C. John Paolillo, Bat.11 James Pappageorge, Eng.23 Robert Parro, Eng.8 Durrell Pearsall, Res.4 Lt. Glenn Perry, Bat.12 Lt. Philip Petti, Bat.7 Lt. Kevin Pfeifer, Eng. 33 Lt. Kenneth Phelan, Bat.32 Christopher Pickford, Eng.201 Shawn Powell, Eng.207 Vincent Princiotta, Lad.7 Kevin Prior, Sqd.252 B.C. Richard Prunty, Bat.2 (D) Lincoln Quappe, Res.2 Lt. Michael Quilty, Lad.11 Ricardo Quinn, Paramedic Leonard Ragaglia, Eng.54 Michael Ragusa, Eng.279 Edward Rall, Res.2 Adam Rand, Sqd.288 Donald Regan, Res.3 Lt. Robert Regan, Lad.118 Christian Regenhard, Lad.131 Kevin Reilly, Eng.207 Lt. Vernon Richard, Lad.7 James Riches, Eng.4 Joseph Rivelli, Lad.25 Michael Roberts, Eng.214 Michael E. Roberts, Lad.35 Anthony Rodriguez, Eng.279 Matthew Rogan, Lad.11 Nicholas Rossomando, Res.5 Paul Ruback, Lad.25 Stephen Russell, Eng.55 Lt. Michael Russo, S.O.C. B.C. Matthew Ryan, Bat.1 Thomas Sabella, Lad.13 Christopher Santora, Eng.54 John Santore, Lad.5 (D) Gregory Saucedo, Lad.5 Dennis Scauso, H.M. 1 John Schardt, Eng.201 B.C. Fred Scheffold, Bat.12 Thomas Schoales, Eng.4 Gerard Schrang, Res.3 (D) Gregory Sikorsky, Sqd.41 Stephen Siller, Sqd.1 Stanley Smagala Jr, Eng.226 Kevin Smith, H.M. 1 Leon Smith Jr, Lad 118 Robert Spear Jr, Eng.26 Joseph Spor, Res.3 B.C. Lawrence Stack, Bat.50 Cpt. Timothy Stackpole, Div.11 (D) Gregory Stajk, Lad.13 Jeffery Stark, Eng.230 Benjamin Suarez, Lad.21 Daniel Suhr, Eng.216 (D) Lt. Christopher Sullivan, Lad.111 Brian Sweeney, Res.1 Sean Tallon, Lad.10 Allan Tarasiewicz, Res.5 Paul Tegtmeier, Eng.4 John Tierney, Lad.9 John Tipping II, Lad.4 Hector Tirado Jr, Eng.23 Richard Vanhine, Sqd.41 Peter Vega, Lad.118 Lawrence Veling, Eng.235 John Vigiano II, Lad.132 Sergio Villanueva, Lad.132 Lawrence Virgilio, Sqd.18 (D) Lt. Robert Wallace, Eng.205 Jeffery Walz, Lad. 9 Lt. Michael Warchola, Lad.5 (D) Capt. Patrick Waters, S.O.C. Kenneth Watson, Eng.214 Michael Weinberg, Eng.1 (D) David Weiss, Res.1 Timothy Welty, Sqd.288 Eugene Whelan, Eng.230 Edward White, Eng.230 Mark Whitford, Eng.23 Lt. Glenn Wilkinson, Eng.238 (D) B.C. John Williamson, Bat.6 (D) Capt. David Wooley, Lad.4 Raymond York, Eng.285 (D)

Family Camping

And by ‘family camping,’ I mean ‘a lot of family going camping together.’

Ahna’s family was able to make a week-long journey en-mass to our house immediately following the completion of the school year. And while there will most certainly be more to come on their stay, this post is about our joint camping experience.

14 people, all related, two campsites, and little-to-no recent camping experience for most of us. And yet it somehow turned out to be painless, beautiful, and fun. It’s always amazing how much stuff needs to get packed for one night out – especially when you go car camping and are building a house and bed to sleep in. All 14 people and gear fit into three cars, and the three cars managed a 2 hour drive into the mountains without getting lost. We all ended up at the campground located just off the shores of Lake Dillon and spent a chilly evening exploring, getting dirty, getting bit by local bugs, roasting perfect smores, and going to sleep (sort of) way too late. Sounds like family camping perfection.

Photo Jun 08, 18 17 14

Up Close With U2

Not too many times will one get to experience arguably the greatest of anything in history – let alone four times. Whether or not U2 sits on top of the pile isn’t the point…it’s that they are at the top of the pile. For decades they have been producing some of the best and most important music in the world, and because they are globally loved, being able to see them live is an exercise in timing.

Once at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. Once at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Twice at Pepsi Center in Denver.

I’ve been lucky. And considering that two of those times Ahna and I went together, I have been very lucky. The Pepsi Center (capacity around 19,000) seems like an intimate venue to see a band of U2’s stature. Having seen two huge performances in stadiums, the shows that they do indoors are entirely different. While still a performance, they are much more raw, much more rock, and much more fun.

This time around, we snagged floor/GA tickets, and met up with a couple of friends. We walked into the arena through a special entrance with no idea on what to expect. When we ended up about 10 feet from part of the stage, we were assured by someone who attended a previous version of the concert at an earlier tour stop that we were in perfect placement. Then the show began and our jaws dropped. Bono appeared immediately in front of us; then later seemingly serenaded us with Sunday Bloody Sunday. The band walked and played just in front of us, and the big video screen was omnipresent. Oddly, one of my favorite parts of the show was actually just a video…of Johnny Cash singing The Wanderer – perhaps my favorite U2 song ever (it was never played in the previous shows I have been to).

A night to remember for sure.

Photo Jun 06, 20 59 25

Family Fire History

My Dad and I spent two days late last year going through my Great-Uncle Bob’s fire museum in Woodbine, Georgia. He passed away a couple of months prior and left the entire contents of the museum to the National Fire Heritage Center. We met representatives from the Center on site at the southern Georgia location, and were able to bring home some unique pieces…mostly importantly of which were several pieces of family history (badges, etc). Our family firefighting legacy extends 102 years now…


These Two Days…

Let’s set the scene for a moment:

February 18, 2015 is the 4th anniversary of Liam’s death.

February 19, 2015 is the 15th anniversary of Jonathan’s death.

Today, I was greeted by a warmer than normal winter day with blue skies and lots of sunshine. I was greeted by good people at work coming off of shift, and more good people coming into the station with me. We have been greeted by lots of texts, Facebook posts, e-mails, comments, knowing taps on the shoulder, pictures and even a wonderful poem – all sending their love, thoughts, and support. And this carries us. But…

These two days fucking suck.

I thought for a minute about what words I should use to describe the annual emotions of Feb 18/19. Whether or not I should try to string together a series of descriptions that wouldn’t fail any appropriateness tests, because, you know…using profanity is a judgment on intelligence (which I think is bullshit, by the way). But clarity and understanding are what I seek…not a lesson on how to beat around the bush.

Just like most emotional situations, these anniversaries bring with them a roller coaster of emotion – probably near bipolar at times. Happy to sad, engaged to apathetic, patient to short fuse, committed to tired…and then visa-versa and all over again.

There are two grieving processes that run headstrong into each other over the course of 48 hours. One of those processes is a lot further along than the other, but it’s precisely because of their anniversary proximity that at times they are nearly indistinguishable in their grief.

There are a lot of things that I have learned over the past 15 years, and especially in the last four. But there are two things that stand out above all of the others as ones that feel most paramount this year: Time doesn’t heal. And, relationships matter.

The saying that “time heals all wounds” is an outright criminal statement. Time by itself doesn’t heal anything, what it does do however, is allow things to be less raw. At first, there wasn’t even a five minute stretch where I wouldn’t feel a sickening pit in my stomach; but the longer that goes by, well, I think there are even stretches as long as a few days where there isn’t that pit in my gut.

I have cried a lot – and still do. But time has meant that the need to do so doesn’t come on nearly as suddenly or dramatically. To be sure, this isn’t all about simply time passing – meaning it’s not like we sat in a house and waited for the hours to tick by. This is about the combination of a great support network, a lot of conversation, participation in a grief support group, an amazing family, and a partnership in life with Ahna that …well, she’s just the greatest person ever.

(As if the segue was planned…) There was an assignment as part of the aforementioned grief support group that asked us to think about the people that were there for us when we most needed, and the people that surprised us by their absence. While there were some obvious answers to that question, I didn’t realize at the time how impactful those results would become.

Previously I would have established that two of the most important features in a relationship were blood and longevity. Generally speaking family is important; and if you have managed to stay friends with someone for a long period of time, then that shows a lot about each of you. Actually, I have discovered that neither of those hold the weight that social history would place on them. And even though both sets of people will always have some level of importance in my life, just because we are blood or just because we have known each other for a long time no longer is the pass that it used to be.

Most of my closest friends now, most of the people that I want to spend time with, most of the people that I deeply care about either established and/or cemented their place four years ago. And this group of people  – who all feel like family that I have known forever – looks significantly different that the group of people did only five years ago.

In the last four (and 15) years I have tried to not wait for time to pass and to address the emotions as they came. I have tried to migrate away from the relationships that just don’t matter as much, and more into the arms of the people that do. There have been more successes than failures on both fronts, and precisely because of that, I can sit here and openly tell you that these two days fucking suck…BUT it’s supposed to snow this weekend, which means that things will get better.

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