Friday, August 11, 2017

The Allman Brothers Band - Chuck Leavell

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Leading off with the Brothers and Sisters Super Deluxe Set which I am finally, forcefully tucking back into my collection Chuck's dominance, artistry, skill and taste are all over this collection. The aforementioned A Minor Jam and the Southbound rehearsal are but two examples.

The live set from Winterland that make up disc three and four shine. The whole show holds up really well after all these years except for an unfortunate long solo by Dickey on Done Somebody Wrong and Dickey sounding so alone on all the Duane and Berry era tracks when he steps out for a solo.
However there are exceptions to that obviously missing Duane and Berry counter attack. Stormy Monday comes to mind and features Chuck well suited and perfectly dynamic trading riffs with Dickey and that’s not the only time. It’s a testament to how excellent a player Chuck is and how good a band we have here.

Other stand out tracks are all the tracks this lineup originated on its own and they fly. Les Brers clocks in at 25 minutes with an absolutely stunning drum segue that floats, chugs, crashes, meanders and gently settles down. It has a melody of its own. It’s a standout moment in my mind, stunning and speaks volumes to just how good Butch and Jaimoe were together and maintaining that sympathetic ear.

The power excellence and mastery of Butch and Jaimoe is fully realized here on this extended jam and it works as a standalone piece of music unlike any other drum segue, or solo I have ever heard.
I've listened to a lot of music in my day and have gone to a ton of shows both large and intimate and spent ten years plowing through three hour sets on the air. I have been studiously listening to the ABB catalogue processing, honoring, sharing, relieving and letting it inform my writing. So how can a drum solo not get old after repeated listening? Most do on just the second run through.

This is really a standout track and a word on Lamar as he gently joins the band after the monumental excursion stepping in as if on air. He melds with Butch and Jaimoe before thunderously launching the band back into the main refrain. Lamar helped anchor down the groove and held that bottom end firmly in the pocket his playing much more refrained somewhere between Berry and Woddy’s efforts Oteil being to the left of Berry in my opinion. Woddy I have a mad love affair with but later on all of that.

Chuck's work here is what we recognize so clearly as if Big Ben was ringing right in our face. Who knew what to expect after Eat a Peach and wow Southbound and Jessica just re-energized not only the band but the fan base taking us by surprise and delivering the goods in a serious, beautiful landscape of poetry, finesse, and energy. We’re back kids and keep the faith!

Charles deserves high praise and appreciation for re-launching the Allman Brothers back over the fence after Duane and Berry. He is a pillar of the band propelling them forward in a significant way.
Brothers and Sisters cemented the ABB in the general population’s heart and minds. The road that goes on forever gets a little rocky going forward but the work Chuck did not only with Laid Back, Brothers and Sister, but Highway Call galvanized the concept of virtuosity be associated with this band to the world at large.

When Chuck takes the hand off on In Memory of Elizabeth Reed here on this Deluxe Collection there is no mistake that he is an Allman Brother, born a brother, and a brother he always shall be.
When he hands the break back to Gregg no one is wondering who or what that was or notices someone else has stepped in and Dickey's playing on this live track is freakin' fierce.

The music is the music of the ABB and Chuck Leavell is right there where it belongs bringing it to us despite the travesty of fellow band members dropping like freaking flies for god's sake. But the challenge almost doesn’t exist as the gods call forth the muse again and again not to be denied by human failings. If brother Chuck doesn’t have a mushroom on his calf I’ll put one there myself!

Allman Brothers Band Brothers and Sisters Deluxe Edition

Brothers and Sisters - The Super Deluxe Edition is a four disc orgy of music from 1972 and 1973 as the ABB sought to redefine itself after Duane and Berry departed. Disc one is the album of course but disc two has some very nice surprises of unreleased outtakes, rehearsals and jams.

Berry, Berry, Berry, dear lord if Berry could have just hung in there flat picking the bass like a guitarist working alongside Dickey what a dream that would have been. We catch glimpses of this in the outtakes.

Brothers and Sisters proper comes to us with Berry only on two tracks. And while we can hear him funk it up beautifully on Wasted Words with the ABB's opening swagger fully present he's lost in the mix of Ramblin Man. Dickey and Les Dudek’s guitars jangle out front so far that Berry's left to anchoring down passive beats.

Duane gets the headlines understandable but Berry is a beautiful and unique player his loss is just as immeasurable. So it is with great joy that on the rehearsals on disc two Berry is featured on four more cuts.

To hear Berry funkin' it up on Southbound is fantastic. It's an instrumental take and they just get right into it with Chuck Leavell. In the liner notes I seem to recall Chuck's glowing words about how accommodating and welcoming was Berry. It’s such a shame we couldn’t have had a healthy fully realized Berry for as long as we had Gregg and Butch and have Jaimoe, and Dickey.

Duane and Berry one or the other sacrificed to the music gods is bad enough (horrible for family and friends) but losing both wow what a devastating blow across the board. But we have their music and the soul of their expression.

On another rehearsal take the ABB casually saunters into Outskirts of Town with a mellow sway that gives Gregg and Chuck ample opportunity to play together and create. It's fantastic hearing so much of Gregg’s playing and alternating sounds as he and Chuck trade passages.

The final track of the Rehearsal Disc is simply called “A Minor Jam” and it features Les Dudek, Chuck and Lamar with just Butch and Jaimoe. Maybe this is the birth of Sea Leavell in Chuck's mind? I can certainly see that germinating because this track just rips it up in a jazz inflected cadence that jumps out with a crescendo and a very fast back swing. It’s a tremendous track and clocks in at a healthy sixteen plus minutes. I absolutely love it.

So “what if” Les had been brought in would the ABB had more of a jazz fusion bite than it already was going to have? Listen to this cut if you haven't in a while. It's strong. So what's up with the whole Les Dudek thing?

According to Les after Duane died Dickey was going to form his own band. There was plenty of music at that time in Macon including the Caldwell Brothers and Marshall Tucker. Everybody was cross pollinating with each other and Les was living in Macon as well. Gregg asked Dickey to hang in there with the ABB and Brothers and Sisters was born. It appropriately features four Betts originals with Les Dudek’s help on Ramblin’ Man and Jessica.

Les is a great sideman who played with a bunch of heavy weights including Steve Miller and he has the chops. He would have really flourished with the ABB rhythm section and Chuck and their collective vision. Les's solo albums in my opinion don't come anywhere near the glimpse we get here with the McCoy Tanneresqu so called "A Minor Jam". It's a heavy jazz stretch that works and I for one would like to hear more of Les Dudek from these sessions.

The thing is Les is still out there and so is Chuck and so is Jaimoe. It offers intriguing possibilities and I'd sure as hell would buy a ticket and purchase the music. Lamar sounds great on this track so the bass player needs to have that jazz soul as well. If I were King I would make this happen.

Disc one features the original release and while we were all captured by Jessica the blues swing of Jelly, Jelly and Pony Boy really still captures my heart after all these years. The sequencing of the songs is excellent and Southbound just jumps out after Jelly, Jelly. After Jessica triumphantly closes Pony Boy waltzes in with a piece of straw in its mouth and a casual tude that flat out states fuck this bullshit we’re alive lets have some fun. It’s rambunctious, it's acoustic with a standup bass and closes with some dueling hambone and a subtle chuckle at the end what’s not to like?

There is not a bad song on Brothers and Sister and it’s a triumph of perseverance and vision. It’s worlds away from Beginnings, Fillmore, and Peach but respectfully so and how could it not be? The road going on forever such as it does you’ve got to expect a few turns even radical and so we all have. Dickey’s melodic technique and voice come to the fore different than Duane but well established and part of the texture and landscape we had come to love. A necessary foil to Duane’s greasy slide attack and taste Dickey is now out front on his own. Truthfully in some parts of the many varied tracks on this monster release even with Chuck Leavell’s enormous talent Dickey just sounds lonely and it’s sometimes sad. I’m not taking anything away from the music but it must have occurred to him as well and all the band.

You have to compartmentalize the sounds of the ABB before and after Duane and Berry don't compare them. It's then and only then that they both stand as monumental pillars of our global musical heritage second to none both historically and righteously forever in the moment and hitting the note.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Allman Brothers Band - Brothers and Sisters

Brothers and Sisters has taken up residence in my player. Bill put together a beautiful "Super Deluxe Edition" and Scott wrote a beautiful essay with Kirk and many others including EJ contributing. There is a ton of music.

And so now the band's sound has changed. Of course it has how could it not? You cannot take the human element away from the creation and not have that creation change in a profound way. No gear or person can substitute step in for another and have it be the same. It’s a physical impossibility. It doesn't matter if you have the licks down, it doesn't matter if you have the gear, it doesn't matter if you have the throat. The human factor, the heart, the hands, the journey, the affinity for the music, the vibe, the understanding, the knowledge, the study, the dedication, the humility, the ego, the upbringing all speak to the particular individual the intent, the focus, the clarity it’s all a part of the mix. Remove something as dynamic as one human individual and it changes. It's in the blood.

The beauty of the ABB is that they knew this quite clearly as Duane and Berry were their own men. And so they forged ahead without their brothers and created a new version of themselves as a band, a group, but more than that they stayed on the mission to stay as pure to the music as they could. They were still listening to each other both on and off stage.

Time doesn't stand still it morphs and changes as we do as well. Along the way it informs us as we mold the clay that is ourselves with our decisions, intentions, actions, thoughts, words and deeds. That is who we are and that is what comes out after we plug in. It sounds like you because it is you and you are who you are and what it is, what it becomes depends on those very factors, those points, that DNA that road you traveled and no one else has – hopefully it’s a good one and you are the hero of your own story. The guy on the left sure as hell was.

Duane Allman - Little Martha/Ain't Wastin' Time No More

Little Martha - whether Duane was referring to an old girlfriend or not is irrelevant. The fans have designated this young soul as Martha. How could we not? After all she stands watch forever forlorn in Rose Hill Cemetery just the way we feel after the smoke has cleared and the show has ended. And the fans do get a say about all of this the ABB fire and passion, life and journey, the gothic southern novel of it all and the revelation of the music.

Little Martha: Two minutes and seven seconds is never going to sound so complete and pastoral. When I finally arrived at performing a facsimile of this song I was there. It was one of my goals to try and learn it and it takes time. There are so many moving parts and I'm not a full time musician but a labor of love and love is after all what it is all about. Of course my version pales to the original I’m only two hands but when I get it moving and it starts to transcend and I follow the melody and inspiration where it takes me well the muse is floating there smiling and I feel as one feels when they get after it and hit the note, take the journey and feel the vibe. That’s why we play isn’t it and why we share of ourselves to bring it all out and bring it all together?

And so we have the closing of Eat a Peach but what about the opening?

What better tune than Ain’t Wastin Time No More expresses lyrically each of our precarious positions in this reality? It’s as much of a lyrical touchstone as Little Martha is an instrumental touchstone. Both are gigantic in their beings complete and resounding at once effortless and complex. A lyrical milestone Ain’t Wastin Time No More covers the whole realm of existence in stanza after stanza. That’s right its poetry and more than a song. Gregg has composed words to live by. I had a friend once say to me, "you can always make money but you can't make time." I fully encourage everyone to play hooky as often as you can. Life is so much more than punching the clock, collecting a pay check and paying a bank. Listen to Ain't Wastin Time No More back to back with Little Martha and hit repeat it's kind of a revelation of juxtapositions with Gregg's lyrics sitting beautifully next to Duane's acoustic poetry.

If you do run the tunes together back to back after Little Martha ends the intro to Ain't Wastin' Time No More is an acoustic piano. There seems to be some righteous acoustic symmetry to that and righteous was the way the brothers – all the brothers in the band - treated their music their creation and that’s why the payoff was so huge.

There’s a lesson in that for all of us in how we choose to live our lives, what we say, how we act and what we do. The lesson is quite literally in the lyric of Ain't Wastin' Time No More and that feeling embodied by that lesson is in the song Little Martha as it translates those words into a painting of notes awakening across the sky of your soul. One preceded the other so perhaps we have Gregg translating for us what Duane was trying to tell us in his music and all you really need to live a life well fulfilled with joy and happiness and prosperity brothers and sisters is to bring some righteousness to what you do and how you live and breathe.

Allman Brothers Band - In Memory of Elizabeth Reed

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed off of the Eat a Peach Deluxe CD from the June 27, 1971 closing of the Fillmore opens up deliciously smooth and elegant. The band just slides into a relaxed tempo and it’s the most refreshing version of this number I have heard. Here the band is taking its time. The intensity slowly builds like true love making ought to be through this excursion.

The lead work is original and in the moment. The drums splash beautifully in the background as Dickey drives his vision forward with the band having his back all the way. After you play so long together you have a true sense where your band mate is going and you are allowed to listen and get there with them. You can really hear this in Berry’s playing and the drums, oh the drums gently sitting in the mix right where they should be never over powering but well heard. The rhythm section has the anchor and counterpoint in complete subtle sympathetic syncopation.

Gregg jumps in with short chord runs sharply leading the band. The clarity of the mix is perfect with the organ fully heard out front and it chimes and grooves and swaggers righteously. It sounds beautiful, fresh and inventive....then his brother steps up....

Biting, sharp, relentless guitar attacks funk out before sailing off and then returning to a blistering foray all the while Butch, Jaimoe Gregg and Berry keep the tempo locked down as we drift off into a meditative frame punctuated by mid tone arpeggios as the band sways easily like spanish moss....and then the gibsons get vicious, biblical with fierce clean attacks and not overwrought then settling down again for more delicious mid tone punctuations the entire band right there as the drum sticks come forward just a bit then everyone builds together catching fire once more in a tenacious drive while the overall groove stays calm and cool....(how the fuck do you play the guitar like that) fantastic as they perpetuate the drive forward abruptly to the drums briefly and then back to the closing and locking it back down as they close the door on their creation. Holy shit what’s behind that door they just opened and what kind of force, power and vision did they tap into in that graveyard? It's a thing of monstrous beauty whatever it is and strongly rendered. This is a sublime ferocious and beautiful version of a seminal tune.

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed deserves its own spot in the Smithsonian and for that reason I'm singling it out here. We all know the tune there must be thousands of renditions but this one reads all the passages in such a refreshing calm inventive and fierce manner. The nuanced beginning followed by the expansive meditative dynamic giving way to the fiery crescendos and the thundering close. It’s a standout version at once both mellow and intense with a deep deep groove. Upon hearing it again after so many years with fresh ears it is all too clear while some of us have the good fortune to be totally obsessed by this band and their music...

Allman Brothers Eat A Peach - Deluxe Edition Appreciation

Eat a Peach - the Deluxe Edition with the second disc devoted to the closing of the Fillmore in June is a freakin' tour de force. Scorching through the stratosphere Hot Lanta is just fantastic. The mix is stellar and I've been listening to it on crappy car and desk top speakers as well as my treasured Polks. Berry is clearly heard and of course the tone of the guitars is so vintage, biting, just the right amount of fuzz not overwhelming to distort the true tone of the notes just scorching. The twin drums are settled in so nicely and everything is heard with the Hammond B-3 building slowly to a crescendo and then punctuating the soul groove.

The way the band and Berry jump out on Whipping Post is serious. Whether it’s my imagination or not it sure sounds up tempo to me. Berry is more than ready to bring it and it feels like he catches the band by surprise as he furiously launches into the opening... so great to hear and it’s a pace that doesn't let up.... as the boys just go with it - oh my the little touches on the guitar twin attack. I have to stop myself right now or I'll spend the next twenty minutes celebrating every note, turn, phrase, sound and riff just beautifully rendered together. I mean the tone of that band and tighter than tight. Gregg’s vocals are heard beautifully just right above the mix.

When they slow it down you can hear that B-3 just stalking the band the chords sustaining like wind through your hair. Their gentle segues arrive tear inducing as they reach for the heavens follow. If you don't get a lump in your throat you don’t know how to listen to music.

Get Eat a Peach back out and it will seduce you with its magic so passionately. I’m so happy that it was captured in real time for all time just a blistering messianic journey to the soul of creation.

It's mind boggling how a band can sound this excellent, the drive and the power, the determination. Music wasn't a distraction it was a mission.

Stand Back I’m laser locked on that tune the way it jumps out and grabs you with that riff. The Allman Brothers knew what they were doing and the lyrics “a dagger in my back while she's calling me honey" just fantastic. Look a lot has been written about the jazz influence on the ABB - granted – and it’s all good and true but don’t forget the funk. They can authentically bring that swing and swagger just funkin, funktastic. Funkified freaks every funkin where they funkin can the ABB throw that groove at a very righteous magnitude with Berry and Butch as far into the pocket with Gregg grinding the soul foundation and Jaimoe painting over the top.

“Hey have you seen my copy of Eat a Peach” wait I can hear it blaring upstairs in my sisters room. As I open the door Amy and her friends are moving to Les Brers as if their lives depended on it – “just don’t scratch it” as the door slams back in my face.

Allman Brothers Band - Eat A Peach

Stand Back - when listening to Eat a Peach and believe me it was almost impossible to get to as I had to pry The Fillmore Concerts out of my player - its beguiling to think, project where and what the band was going to do next had brother Duane decided to stick around for some more studio albums. His contribution to Les Bres alone would have taken that tune to another level and I say that absolutely loving that butt shaking tune that Berry just rumbles through.

Okay so maybe I'm stating the obvious but we really only get Blue Sky, Stand Back and Little Martha as studio cuts from Eat a Peach. It’s an immense rip off by the music gods. I know, I know they are a live band and Duane is more than well represented on the Eat a Peach Album I'm listening to the Deluxe Edition with the June 1971 closing of the Fillmore represented on the second disc. It's a wonderful compilation with excellent liner notes, packaging and throwback labeling on the discs. But contrast Stand Back, Blue Sky and Little Martha for a moment and hold them in your mind. Each tune is in its own right a different genre. While Stand Back is the fuel injected brothers swaggering through their composition Blue Sky is its melodic counter point. Much like their playing these two songs back to back represent the branches of the tree that was the Allman Brothers. They are two tonal opposites yet together much like Dickey and Duane trading riffs. Of course Gregg is writing here and Dickey is writing there but what brings them together the playing of Duane is a very necessary bridge. Not to draw too fine a point on it but Duane was the glue that kept Dickey and Gregg together and without Duane they blew apart and it’s no one’s fault and their personal vision which they were more than entitled too and deserved were different but Duane was the Fulcrum through which their immense talents traveled.

Considering the emergence of the sound that Dickey was bringing forward (Blue Sky) and the swagger of the ABB (Stand Back) and then Little Martha is it really that far out to imagine an all-acoustic album considering Dickey's Highway Call effort (which I freaking love) and Duane's solo work with Sam Samudio as featured on the track Goin' Upstairs? Would it have been so far out of the question that the Allman Brothers with Duane would have done a record sounding like Taj Mahal melded with their swagger? Considering all their influences that were revealed the above mentioned Highway Call and Gregg's Low Country Blues would such a collective effort over time eclipsed or outfitted the Dawg Music genre with the power of the blues as opposed to just Django? It’s fascinating to imagine what that would have sounded like.

Much has been written and spoken about Duane and the Trane - John Coltrane and Miles - righteous brothers indeed and Tom Dowd's jazz cat ways but what about the root of the tree of music as embodied by Little Martha? How much more of that would we have seen and heard (Pony Boy)? What would have Duane's input done to Jessica and Southbound (songs I am passionate about)?

So here we are with Eat a Peach and we just have three studio cuts that are dynamic and all together different and just the greenest of shoots of the myriad of directions this band would have taken, could have taken, fanning off like a giant river oak.

The tree of music that remained and rebirthed time and time again was fortuitous and mighty in its own right and we are all the better for its perseverance, fortitude, drive and power but for a moment play the what if game and use Stand Back, Blue Sky and Little Martha as your jumping off points.

I'm a big fan of the ABB studio work as well, Gregg's and Dickey's solo efforts but imagine if it had all stayed together - just three studio cuts from Eat a Peach point the way.

The Allman Brothers Band - Berry Oakley

Fillmore East is still tearing up my stereo system and its time for a huge shout out to Berry Oakley who anchored the front line. Duane called him out as the third guitar player. I have spent countless words trying to get at the melded mind set of their musical trajectory coursing through the time and space that confronted them and us and the atmosphere they rearranged with their sonic homage to the creative spirit and their righteous attack that brought such purity to their music but in the end its a futile task just put the music on and listen, listen, listen and listen some more.

I try with varying degrees of success to focus on just one player to really appreciate what they are bringing to the show but in the end I'm over taken and overwhelmed by the complexity and intricacy of the entire dynamic and simply blown away by it all voice, words, tone, tempo and magnitude. So hell yeah I'm still listening to Fillmore East (The Fillmore Concerts version Tom Dowd mix) and hell yeah I can't surprise there though as well to all the brothers and sisters.

The Allman Brothers Band - The Filmore Concerts

Still listening to the Fillmore Concerts 1992 mix by Tom Dowd - Whipping Post is just crazy - the first six minutes dissolve into an amalgamation of themes, trances, movements and refrains that eclipse the standard format of what a popular song is and evolve into art. The shifts that this live exploration of sound make are a kin to winding through a mountain pass so subtle and soft are their landings you may fail to notice every strand of grass or shift in rock formation but they are there.

In its whole its a creative work of genius and the gods but each note, arpeggio and sonic exploration has a purpose and melds from the righteous spirit that drove their creation in the first place.

Their work together on these recordings are true compositions rivaling the masters Bach, and Mozart. Call it jazz, call it rock n roll but it is so much more and beyond the "jam band" moniker its ridiculous. Get this music out listen to it again deeply and pay attention. If you think you know it because you listened to it repeatably years ago you will be surprised at the sophistication, the maturity, the musicianship and the touches and flourishes that permeate the main themes and arcs. It's quite unbelievable what is going on here as the musicians work together and intertwine with each other.

Eat a Peach is on deck next on my musical sojourn back through their catalogue but its going to have to wait for a while more as I re-listen to disc two and circle back to the first disc - I really don't see an end in sight and that in and of itself is a beautiful thing.

The Allman Brothers Band and the Simultaneous Groove

My oh my this is a great shot of the original sextet working the simultaneous groove. It looks like its Berry's turn to break out notice where Butch's eyes are watching on Berry's hands.

I can't over emphasis the beauty, power and velocity of talented musicians owning their musicianship fighting the urge of ego, working together and delivering the goods like no other.

A friend of mine asked me to differentiate between the grateful dead and the allman brothers after I laughed out loud (its a blotter vs mushrooms, roses vs peaches thing) I thought for a moment. Please know I'm a veteran of decades of both bands and I would simply state the ABB locked in more often, stronger and together. It's degrees of variation but while the grateful dead was more of a cosmic soup sloshing around the bowl of existence lapping up side to side with solar flares of transcendence over heart aching ballads and thundering reverberation following Jerry religiously no matter what blind alley he lead them down, through or up the Allman Brothers Band in contrast jumped on that first note like a skim boarder ridding a wave as far as it would take them then turning and charging after the next wave of music and consciousness shredding the lip catching air, turning and pivoting with the waves. Tighter by necessity the ABB driven by a freight train of rhythm, organ and bass achieved thundering elevation immediately while the Dead meandered wobbly floating seemingly directionless then focusing sharply in an Escher like pattern getting there sooner or later but getting there they did.

I watched Pelicans dive for game yesterday afternoon striking their targets, diving in directly from over head in a straight line quickly and with acceleration hitting their targets repeatably over and over again - the visualization of screaming marshals and stalking thundering rhythm in a cascade of movement and righteous glorious splash reversing gravity throwing water in the air as they submerged and reemerged floating then taking flight again seemingly effortlessly sweeping through the air wings fully extended only to recoil and strike again. It was something to marvel at and behold and it looked like music to me and felt like something heavenly

Playing Live The Allman Brothers Band

I want you to take a good look at these musicians and how they are all concentrating and looking at each other. This is how its done. It's Dickey's turn a guitar god in his own right to lead but the ensemble playing behind him including Duane is playing "with" him and working, concentrating, and listening in order to weave in and out of the magic.

Each musician is propelling the other and informing the other as the music takes direction. It is an amazing amount of good fortune that this sextet with these specific musicians was captured live by such a renowned and skilled producer Tom Dowd.

Fillmore East as I have just been re-listening to it only recently is a freaking stunning collection of musicianship,and fire. It is an outrageously groove driven pallet of sound, an avalanche of intricacy and composition with halting pinnacles of contemplation and I haven't even gotten to the second disc yet.

I'm listening to "The Fillmore Concerts" a 1992 remaster of the original release just as the ABB were emerging again off the heals of the Dream Box set and Seven Turns. I'm ecstatic to have it in my collection and truth be told haven't listened to it in decades as I was all in on the later day sextet with Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and Oteil Burbridge.

Berry Oakley's bass work while never receiving as much press as Duane's guitar skill, drive and vision possess the same amount of finesse, brilliance, heart, drive and fire. It is something to behold listening to the original six working together and it is a miracle that this moment in time was captured. Imagine if this recording suffered the fate of the Layla sessions ohhh my what a tragedy that would have been. Instead we have this prodigious amalgamation of the pinnacle of music that is certainly the Mount Everest of music here on Earth and quite possibly a sliver of what it must sound like in heaven - effortlessly dancing and commingling each note, chord and beat thundering through its woven path, barreling through passages of time momentarily settling like a light rain upon your soul and then exploding like a volcano. You better believe it was all about the music and if you bring any other attitude to the stage you suck.

Contemplating Gregg Allman

Contemplating filling up another music hall and the people who he doesn't know or may ever see again who absolutely love him. It would make me wonder as well as to the gift that was larger than myself yet so very much a part of who I am and the universality of it all and yet here I stand just a man but then again all this has evolved before my eyes and so it informs me and I inform it and it being the music and if it ever becomes more than the music I lose my way, my frequency, my channel, the signal, the muse with the confusion, cloudiness and static of the ego and yet my soul, my journey, my life informs the art and distills the creativity so much bigger than who I am but still entwined and coalesced around my very soul and being and the love and the passion and the energy and the enthusiasm from so many strangers and their life's trajectory and myself with friends, family and lovers swirling through the score and yet alone here leaning on my Hammond informed by the vision, reminded by the words as I play and sing, and contemplate and listen and listen and listen some more digging deeper into the moment I can hear it, so I can feel it so I can share it and help to try and bring it forward with all of you and everyone about to arrive, who set the stage and play along and this is what I imagine Gregg Allman is here/there thinking.

Defining What It Means To Be A Man

Men of real accomplishment and legacy who affected positive change both for themselves and those around them. That is what real legacy is all about not passing your name down, or slapping it up on every building and billboard you can find or digging a hole so deep looking for gold you can not climb out.

We are steps away from success for all on our tiny planet with our whisper thin atmosphere in this enormous universe but that step is going to have to be a step up in consciousness. And its going to take real strength not avarice or a sycophant commitment to ones own ego.

These men lead by example and persevered undaunted by the attack the messenger clan of bullies. It takes real strength to be a gentleman, to be patient, to listen, to see the others point of view and to work out differences, to truly listen and it takes nothing at all to be arrogant, greedy, ignorant and afraid of the knowledge that confronts you and tells you who you are. We are steps away from a better world but its going to take the strength of humility and wisdom to confront the obvious wrong and make it correct. That's what these two men spent a life time doing and thats why in the final chapter they are both smiling.

Beginnings - The Allman Brothers Band

Beginnings: It's still so highly inconceivable that these young men in their twenties created such an abundance of sophisticated music. Go back and listen to the first two albums (ABB and Ildewild) reissued in 1973 as the album Beginnings. The level of musicianship is already in place and each track is a mini symphony of blues, gospel, soul, jazz and screaming rock and roll played not only with fire but nuance. Check the 3:12 mark of Dreams as Duane dances dramatically on point literally sliding through the song seemingly effortlessly. The road had taught tightness but each member brought their own life experience to the band. Dickey grew up in a family full of musicians, Jamioe had been playing in Otis Reddings band, Duane had worked with as many top notch musicians and artists as one possibly can. This wasn't a garage band. This wasn't just a bunch of stoned out hippies. These guys were deadly serious about their music. Lifting the arm of a 45 player with your foot studying the old blues masters I mean come on I love my guitar and to play out live but I freaking hate changing my strings.

Go back and listen to each song deeply and take the time to notice the interplay between Butch and Jaimoe. Listen for the bass how it runs along side of the guitar leads while still holding down the rhythm, listen to that organ as it stalks the whole movement in the background and then when it captures the front of the mix and the words. World weary at such a young age already confronted by a record industry selling them out and the music out to churn out a buck, witnessing the struggles of a single Mom in the 1950's and 1960's these men had a depth of character and a level of commitment and a vision they were not going to relinquish.

Get Beginnings if you don't have it put it in your car player and listen. There is a tidal wave of interplay going on each and every cut a miraculous layering of acoustic, electric rhythm and voice. If you are in a drum circle focus on Jaimoe and Butch. The subtleness and sensitivity in which these twenty year olds played right out of the gate on their first two albums is beyond incendiary.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Science Facts and Reality the Bedrock of Good Governance

I can't stress how important facts are - facts derived from vigorous research, and the ability to replicate that research. People can believe what they want to "believe" but the natural world works on science and if we don't understand it we can not adapt or make rational decisions. Too often our policy makers legislate ideology disregarding practical reality. Abortion is a prime example. Make abortions illegal all you want but people will still need them for a myriad of reasons. Abortions aren't going away no matter how hard we wish them to so we need to legislate that if education is still not enough then safe medical care is not outlawed.

The environment is another area where science has to be the go to metric. Sea levels are rising and pollution is bad for our health. Once we get beyond the climate cover up by the polluting industries we can address and implement the changes necessary to preserve our billion dollar coastal economies. People come to the shore because the air is clean and you can swim in the water. If you change that our economy declines. Implementing a carbon tax will preserve and create jobs. Promoting roof top solar will create a multi generational boom in job creation. Moving away from a profit driven healthcare system will lower health care costs and increase productivity.

These are well established facts but money in politics has crippled our ability to govern practically for the macro-economy (another well established fact). We need true patriots willing to be brave and stand up and do the morally correct thing for the Country.

Paul Burke

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sarcoma Recovery Addendum – The Hawks!

So lets talk about the seen and unseen reality for just a moment.  We know that our visual eyes take in a very narrow spectrum of light and we know this Earth and planet got here somehow not of our own doing so obviously there are unseen forces at work in this world.  And I’m here to testify that with a little intuition and a mind open to such possibilities the magic will be recognized by ourselves as the observers with the magic manifesting into the seen world with greater and greater frequency until its a daily occurrence and your consciousness is raised and your journey through life that much more fulfilling.  In other words there is no such thing as a coincidence.  In light of that unseen world manifesting itself into the seen reality the infinite and finite commingle on this plane we call Earth.  How could it not be the Earth is here and so are we and we are not responsible consciously for either event.

Oddly enough in keeping with these manifestations I was escorted through my entire stay in the hospital by these magnificent creatures and symbols of Native American spirituality.  The attached photos are of the actual hawks that perched outside my window for my entire stay.  The photos don’t do them justice they were within six feet of our window perched atop a huge pine tree. Two at a time in some instance it was like being in an aviary.  Their flights and landings were frequent swoops by my window at first amazing and then common place.  They sometimes sat two on that branch and bobbed up and down in the wind and under their own weight.  I told my wife I was being watched like a hawk.  One nurse said she had been working at Duke twelve years and never saw anything like it and another said he had never seen wildlife like that at all.  Others shrieked as they would swoop into the window talons first only to thud loudly and fly off.  Each morning they arrived and circled, stayed for a very long time and moved off briefly and then returning again flying off and then returning in the afternoon for more flight and curiosity.  My wife sat in a recliner in front of the window reading her magazine keeping me the patient company and a hawk would be perched over head as if sitting on top of her.  And then on discharge day they were gone.

No matter what you are going through have faith there is more to life than meets the eye but then again if you are open to it – it is all right there to see – rejoice!

When we went back several weeks later to have the stitches removed there was a hawk (one of these guys) sitting right outside our hotel window……flapped its wings over my wife’s head to get her attention as she stood right underneath its tree.  Phenomenal!



Friday, April 18, 2014

Sarcoma Help – A Primer for Patients, Friends and Family

Chances are if you are here you have received the news that you have Sarcoma.  Right off the bat you need to know what it is and below are several links that are very informative.  I’m posting them right up front because most people here looking at this post are scared to death and need the info right away.  After you have checked out the links come back because what follows is an open, honest journey of one mans experience with liposarcoma.

Cancer is a scary word but it is just a word.  There are over fifty varieties of sarcoma some are down right nasty others like liposarcoma have a low rate of recurrence if properly removed by a sarcoma specialist.  Your local general surgeon does not have the experience in treating the disease.  Getting to a sarcoma center is imperative in lowering your risk for recurrence.

You should know Sarcoma doesn’t act like a typical carcinoma and if you are looking for a little good news chemotherapy is useless in treating Sarcoma.  Sarcoma is treated with surgery to cut the bad cells out.  Cancer/Sarcoma are just cells that have been infected by viruses or chemical exposure to the point where their basic normal function is damaged and they do not know how to shut themselves off.  We have millions of cells dying off and recreating in our body every day from hair growth to bone regeneration our cells are constantly dying off and regenerating.  When they can’t go through their normal life-cycle and die off its up to modern medicine to intervene and surgically remove them and or kill them off with radiation or dose them with chemotherapy.  These are all harsh treatments but undying cells creating massive tumors interfering with your bodies normal functioning organs by their invasion or malignancy is worse.

That’s is all a tumor is that’s why if you catch the disease early enough you can scoop the offending cells out before they spread and do serious damage to your lungs, liver, pancreas, kidney or brain.

Here are the links – get up to speed – if you want to fell better read them – they’ll answer a lot of questions for you – knowledge is power.  And then come back and read my daily journal it will help in knowing what you or a loved one is about to confront.  The journal will be posted sequentially on the front page and under the heading Sarcoma.  Good luck!  With the proper care cancer is not what it used to be ( a death sentence) most cancers these days are highly curative.  There are a lot of people doing a lot of good work in this field.  There is even a dye in clinical trials that will illuminate the cancerous cells for the doctors to see.  Its only in phase one of it’s clinical trials but it would be a game changer if proven affective.


Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry One

Before we get to the journals a little background.  I noticed something in my scrotum last year around this time and went to a urologist.  He determined I had a hernia.  However the urologist did not perform an ultrasound or MRI and sent me on my way to a hernia specialist.  Do not make the same mistake.  Get the MRI and Ultrasound if you notice lumps no matter what they tell you.  Insist on it you have to be your own patient advocate.  And get ready for paper work from the insurance companies and healthcare providers.  Get your bills all on a low monthly payment plan so your household and regular life aren’t up-heaved by $60,000 dollar radiation bills.  If you have good insurance you’ll have a cap on what you pay a year so do not get blown away by the hospital bills.  You are responsible only for your yearly cap in some cases as little as three grand.  And if you don’t have insurance get some today!

The first order of business was to get my imediate family educated I went to Florida to get a no mesh hernia repair.  The doctor down there during the procedure discovered a nasty tumor and excised it out of my scrotum and sent all the tissue off to Miami to a specialist who determined I had a well differentiated lipo sarcoma with DE-differnetiated satellites in the hernia sac.  Scary stuff, scary words until you consult Dr. Google and find out well differentiated is a low grade tumor almost benign and that the DE-differentiated is the maturation into a higher grade tumor.  Its important to know what you are up against.

Here’s  my first email missive off to my immediate family:

Brothers and Sister,
There’s a link below with a lot of background information. Keep in mind the tumor is out I just need to get imaged, and clean out any residual disease the hernia specialist may have left behind. I’m confident I’m pretty clean because Dr. Tomas (the hernia surgeon) also works with lumpectomies and other cancer related diseases. So it’s not like he had an untrained eye on me.

I’ve also attached my pathology report if you want to look up terms. Please keep that private and confidential in the vault that’s not for anybody else’s eyes but you three. I’m taking a huge leap of faith here in sending it to you three so please don’t share that path report with any other doctors, friends or god forbid facebook. I’m just trying to get the big three (that’s you guys) up to date. And I don’t think it would be wise to share it with Mimi or Poppie either. All those unfamiliar terms are shocking and grim. For instance the stage number refers to size not the malignancy potential as in other cancers so being unfamiliar with the terms can lead to jumps of conclusions.

Essentially the area of concern is from just below my “deep” ring in the inguinal canal and my right scrotum (link below). It was a low grade tumor not attached to anything but it spun off some nastier nodules in the hernia sac three to be exact but they are out as well. No hemorrhage and necrosis is a good thing if you read the report.

The Mayo clinic link below is also a quick concise primer that you should read (ten minutes). I’m trying to keep mom and dad updated daily, and remember the best way you can help is to just listen. If you want a daily update call them or each other. The phones been ringing off the hook with both families calling and while everyone is well meaning it’s still grim reaperish like the guy in the first poltergeist movie at the screen door (your all gonna die in there). He was awesome wasn’t he?!!?


If you don’t like something I’ve said just let me vent, and don’t conveniently run for the exit like you have been so offended. I mean if you call and get me talking about this shit the least you can do is hear me out and if you don’t like it tough.

Now I’m going to be fine and have a great positive attitude and the power of the mind and the power of words should never be underestimated. So guard your thoughts, and guard your words or you might manifest just exactly what you don’t want to happen not only with me but in your own lives. If you don’t believe that tough shit I do so you need to respect that.

Stop projecting on me like I’m some idiot who doesn’t know the score. Do I call you up and rag on you about what you are supposed to be doing or not doing no I don’t – and we all have areas we can improve in or do better want me to list them…you don’t need me too right because you know yourself and you are adults capable of making your own decisions and well informed (me too).

Anyway that’s a vent respect it and let it go. Okay, so that’s that lets all just act normal and not wig out. I’ll try to send out emails from time to time to keep you posted.

The latest: My chance for re-occurrence is lower if a high volume facility does the work.  I went to a specialist with my hernia and you bet I’m going to see the specialist for the sarcoma. As far as how I got this I may never know but the first thing the doctor asked me is where do you carry your phone. Any possible agent I’m moving including computer towers I have been sitting next to for the past twenty years and herbicides on my lawn the neighbors. All the toxins are out of the house and Kris can handle the chlorides for the pool. That’s it for now.

Alright I’m out – here are the links – get up to speed – if you want to make me happy or fell better read them – they’ll answer a lot of questions for you – knowledge is power.


Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry Two

There were other emails of a much more personal nature that I’ve decided to skip but the crux of the situation is that for Sarcoma the clinical results and metrics show your chances of recurrence diminish greatly if you have radiation therapy first before having the surgery to cut out the tumor or suspicious mass.  What was causing my doctors down at the Duke Sarcoma Center concern was the scar tissue from the hernia surgery.  They couldn’t determine without cutting me open whether it was just a hematoma (black and blue mark) scar tissue or a tumor the hernia surgeon left behind.  I assured them the Hernia surgeon wouldn’t leave one tumor behind while taking another.  And in an example of patient advocacy insisted that the specialist at Duke talk to the Hernia surgeon in Florida (they did) because he was boots on the ground.  Once they talked to each other the Duke specialist dialed down their alarm and basically said we don’t know what it is but we are cutting it out of you and I now have the scar to prove it!

Journal Entry Two:
Hello all,
Just a quick email update we are approaching the end of radiation treatment. I am not going to miss getting zapped every day as I am now slightly sun burned in a very sensitive area….yowie zowie! The final treatment is scheduled for Tuesday the 11th. One of the weird peculiar to me side affects is I come out of radiation just ready for chow. I had to have a couple of cops and a homeless guy push me out of a snow bank as I barreled into my local Wawa for a classic turkey hoagie extra provolone oil and mayo and bring on the Fritos and chocolate milk. Think Animal House and Flounders car crashing into the front yard. Actually I could use a hoagie right now and yes its 10:45 am. That’s how a true Philadelphian combats calamity – take two hoagies and call me in the morning.

We are now waiting to hear from Duke about logistics. There is another round of CT Scans and MRI and then surgery. We are looking forward to getting this behind us and having a great summer! Amy thank you for the gifts in the mail we used that money on a night out and of course the scenic calendar is beautiful. Jay it was great talking to you as usual and I’m expecting those old Kingston Road garage photos or at least one of them in the mail – so start digging brother and I hope they are in the original frames as well. That will help keep the home fires burning.

As you all know I’m not the only one dealing with this screwed up industrial assault on our bodies there are others in our own families and extended families so keep everyone in your heart. And just so you know some of us don’t like playing the victim or treated like victims so keep a stiff upper lip and go into the corners hard elbows up.

One final word that cancer ad during the super bowl was targeted at those without cancer because those of us dealing with it don’t want that weak, wimpy victim attitude directed at us. I was horrified at that add. One big middle finger to cancer is the attitude you need to beat it – at least that’s the approach I’m taking. Feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to get it done (with anything). So don’t bother worrying or feeling sorry or milking the drama its counter productive and just flat out annoying to deal with – treat those in your life with cancer the same as before. I’ve heard this from all types of people with disabilities and disease. So when you think of me laugh hard know I’m still enjoying life from dawn to dusk and back again in all its subtle wonder both seen and unseen as I always have and get tough and have a hoagie!

Chow hard and keep the faith!


Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry Three

It’s going to be a busy week as I wrap up the radiation. I am in the middle of the 5th week but I don’t want to sugar coat it I am definitely feeling side affects. The pelvic region has some very sensitive areas and folds. This is not diaper rash boys and girls more like Hiroshima for the groin the surface of Mercury it only hurts when I walk, sit down, or move.

My total radiation dosage over the 5 weeks is 50 gray. Here’s an article from Wikipedia that describes radiation therapy

Wednesday morning I’m hopefully having another round of CT Scans (just the chest this time) without contrast and an MRI of the Pelvis without and with contrast. I don’t have to drink any nasty vanilla flavored barium. I did originally. It’s nothing you voluntarily would ever want to do and it pissed me off having to do it. The contrast for the MRI is delivered intravenously its big time fun when you can feel your kidney tweak as the dye goes through your body. Then on Wednesday afternoon around 3pm or sooner if possible – we are headed back down to Duke. Hopefully we’ll get on the roads before they become icy or that storm that is forecasted takes a turn or never materializes. Our appointment at Duke is for 11:15 am on Thursday. At that point we should know when surgery is how long it will be, and how long I will be in the hospital. Hopefully I’ll show clear images from the Scan and MRI and the surgery won’t be too invasive.

That’s it for now,


Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry Four

Well the trip down to Duke was eventful. First off the place looked like the mall on Black Friday. The parking attendant warned us that the lot was full and we would never find a space. I found one right away. It was for valet parking only. Hey I know these guys a couple dollars here are my keys and I’m on my way. Nothing doing the moron’s handling the valet parking in the garage must have been on their cigarette break. So right off the bat I told them they were a bunch of hicks for not working with me and reversed up through a one way alley. Here’s a little Philly for ya fellahs. I found another spot immediately. Kris used to get upset with me now she tells me to go faster and run the barricades

Imagine a crowded airport terminal with a multitude of cancelled flights and that’s what this scene looked like in the parking garage and the medical center. And let me tell you Duke Medical is as big as an airport and that’s what it looked like. Kris heard one woman say they had been waiting four (4) hours. These are cancer patients being herded like cattle. Fortunately Kris and I got there early and were called for our appointment right on time. We did a bit of sitting around. But what I told Kris and firmly believe is that the Doctors should not rush with any patient under any circumstance so we did not get impatient. These other people are sick as well and some horribly so. It was a sad wild scene.

We finally got home around 8pm. We stopped at Bull City Burger and Brewery for a late lunch and headed out of town by 4:30pm.

It was a long long day and Kris picked up the driving duties once we got into Virginia. I was determined to leave North Carolina on my own terms! But I did suffer and threw myself into the tub (my new best friend) as soon as we got home.

You’re never in a good mood when you are walking like Walter Brennan, the doctor tells you how long the incision will be, your backside is on fire and you have to use the rest stops.

But right now I have six weeks to decompress and process the next procedure. I go in for a pre-op on March 19th and surgery March 28th. I’ll be in the hospital for at least two nights possibly three. They reserved a private room for me for five nights. They reassured me that five nights was just precautionary. They didn’t want to have to scramble to find a room if I had to stay longer. The recovery at home could be up to six weeks but that’s worst case scenario and the Duke surgeon stopped referring to the unknown image on the MRI as a tumor and referred to it as scar tissue or a hematoma (fancy name for a bruise)

Four words you never want to hear your physician say, “Your scrotum is pealing”.

But I feel great and my humor is intact. Once you accept this is going to happen and that there is no exit door or escape hatch (I keep looking for one while soaking in the tub) and start adding up all the positives it becomes easier to deal with. Although I have been thinking about blowing it all off, cashing out, selling the house, and going on a twenty year binge around the world. I’m afraid to mention it to Kris because she might say yes!

Here’s what I’m really talking about: We purposely opened back up the door to our doctor’s office you know how they close it after the nurse leaves and you wait seconds going by like minutes in an empty room well I pulled the door back open for two reasons. One so we wouldn’t be forgotten in all the mayhem and two to learn by watching and listening. So what was the big reveal? When you are so caught up in what’s happening in the moment you loose perspective. I gained some back when we witnessed a doctor in the hall run up to several nurses telling them “yes we admitted her right away.”

You follow?

One patient they saw that day was so lousy with cancer that they hustled her into the hospital right then and there. Imagine going in for a consult being told you have cancer and by the way we are rushing you into the hospital. So think if yours truly was so bad I wouldn’t be typing this email been allowed to leave let alone have another six weeks to heal (party).

There have been a lot of positives with this journey momentary incidents that run across the board from inspirational to desperate. And one that has occurred to me but not emphasized by anyone is that in another six weeks this remaining hematoma/scar tissue may shrink even farther and perhaps even disappear. That would mean the surgery will be less invasive than advertised by the worst case scenario. Physicians have to plan for the worst case and spend a lot of time talking and focusing on that so they and you are not surprised. But as an individual you have to be fortified not to be drawn into obsessing about the worst case scenario. You have to drill down and find out about it so as to be aware but realize its only one possibility in a range of possibilities that also include the best probable outcome as well – otherwise that escape hatch your looking for in the tub is down the drain.


Sarcoma Treatment Jounal Entry Five

What a relief it is to be able to just walk around in a normal stride. Although not completely healed I’m feeling much better every day. The radiation still has some very visible affects and some stubborn areas that are still pealing but I’m through the dark side so to speak. Although I re-learned yesterday that radiation has some unseen affects as I crashed hard in the afternoon and was tired late after feeling great in the morning. I feel great again this morning and hope to be back on the treadmill soon. Little Martha has finally come together. I can not believe I can sit down and play this song. It has about a billion moving parts in it and is just so satisfying to be able to play.

So finally a much needed reprieve as I don’t have surgery until the 28th of March. There will be two doctor appointments prior to that and I’ll update you after the fact. But in the meantime you all need to help me take advantage of this down time by quite literally dropping the whole subject.

What a lost opportunity it would be to recharge my batteries if we go through the next 30 days without taking a breath. These days every time the phone rings I cringe. Those of you who have put me on their calendar for a regular Sunday call I am already dreading next Sunday. So please stop that right now and wait for the emails they come out on Monday morning. Please do not ignore the emails a lot of effort goes into them. In fact those of you who take the time to respond by email are the ones I prefer. Because I’m sitting down ready to read email instead of being caught by surprise with a call.

All weekend plans are tentative: Kris and I are playing it by ear and may run off to the outer banks some random Friday afternoon if the weather is nice. We are liable to up and go any weekend and might not know until that Thursday night. I know for you planners that’s hard and we apologize for that but that’s kind of how we roll anyway. If you take it personally you have to stay behind after class and write on the blackboard I’m a dummy a hundred times.

Others who have mentioned visiting me in the hospital good lord please don’t. This is not a party or a reason to get the family together. I am going to be zonked out of my mind one night and doing physical rehab the next day and hopefully headed home the third day. I’m not interested in dealing with any additional germs brought in from who knows where and will have a huge incision that I do not want contaminated with staph or any other kind of bug or virus. Please clue yourself into this situation its major surgery and the only person I want to see when I wake up is my wife with a milkshake. Anybody else other than Kris needs to wait until I’m back on my feet. That’s not a request that’s an order. Those of you planning on coming down to see me at home after surgery – please don’t. Again I don’t need any germs introduced from out of town or down the street so wait until I am back on my feet. Then I’ll be ready for visitors, beers, laughs and story time. So everyone sit tight, relax and put the worrying, and planning aside for the month of March.

Now that everyone’s offended I’ll say I know you are all well meaning but the thing with this disease is that there is a huge constant mental component. Constant so while you are going on about your day and life pre-occupied by what’s confronting you at this very moment the cancer patient in your life is praying for that distraction. If you really want to do your cancer friends, congregation members, neighbors and family a break don’t talk about cancer to them….ever….they want the normal boring stuff. They know they have cancer and are trying to have as many normal moments as possible. Talk to them about the weather, your team or make them laugh. It’s the best medicine.

March presents itself as a whole month of normality for me (hernia scars are fading, my junk is looking more or less normal again, I don’t have radiation targets drawn all over me, the daily radiation trauma is over, the smell of burnt skin and petroleum is gone and the peeling and burn is going away) you bet I’m going to take advantage of that as best I can even celebrate it – so you all need to play along…you feel me…enough said?!?!

I know it seems counter intuitive but when you approach someone with cancer and talk about it you are expressing your fears and concerns projecting your worries onto them making them relive it and sapping them of their strength as they digress upon it once more (obsessing about it yet again). Visiting them at the hospital or even at home is a lot like rubberneckers on the highway or visiting gorillas at the zoo and just about as dignified.

Wait until I’m in my natural habitat to come visit me!



Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry Six

Hey Friends and Family,
March madness well not really things are quit calm – the calm before the storm perhaps but I am noticing my hernia surgery swelling is resolving itself further. After five weeks of radiation I am now just finally repairing myself naturally and the swelling from the original surgery back in November is getting another chance to go down. I hope this bodes well for the next surgery scheduled at the end of the month. We received some wonderful artifacts from big brother Jay in the mail recently a little something from the old days and I think all of you elbow benders might get a kick out of Highball Tommy! Plus we have an additional artifact to the Flyers shrine building under the television. Only Jay would have a cassette of Kate Smith singing God Bless America.

I feel great and was back up on the treadmill taking full advantage of our snow days and even got a little run in as well during my work out. I have to be careful with rubbing my legs back and forth as I run with all that new skin still recovering from radiation. But I thought I would add Vaseline like the marathoners do the next day to keep a rash from forming but decided to lay on the sofa instead.  Also on the recovery front the guitar is back out and in full swing. I’m headed off tonight to play out in public. You all know it’s about the music with me it gets my mind focused elsewhere is incredibly satisfying and I strongly believe it has curative effects.

Just listen to Pharell’s “Happy” over and over again and try not to feel euphoric.
(Can someone say Smokey Robinson check the little one at 12:28pm at this link

I’m actually hoping for a small crowd at tinis tonight so I can catch up with the staff. The owners have been very supportive and are fans. Those of you local come out if you can there won’t be anyone there frozen yogurt season is not yet upon us but I’m itching to play trying to give back and taking advantage of this down time in my treatment schedule.

2861 Lynnhaven Drive and North Great Neck

It was great to see Mike and toast the Sunset Sunday afternoon. Hopefully we will be circulating Saturday as we need to catch up with Jeff and Lori as well.

That’s all for now and well see the family at the beach in July god willing and the creek don’t rise.
Kari and Mark get your butts down here some Saturday night soon we know you have busy weekends so it’s tough but we’ll catch up – keep us posted.

And last but certainly not least a huge shout out to Denice and Janette who made a miserable situation tolerable. They laughed at all my vain attempts to put a positive spin on the situation. Thanks for playing ladies and they were there with a comforting word when I felt down. They are champions more than any sports team, politician or entrepreneur could ever be. Whether they know it or not or whether they like it or not and I really don’t think I can overstate it they are friends for life like Androcles and the Lion and that’s how I feel about that. Hope to see you two soon under different circumstances. I’m due in at 9am for a follow up with Scott on the 11th hope to say hi then as well.



Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry Seven

Beautiful day family and friends and I had a very good doctors visit this morning. In short the suspicious mass that may or may not be a tumor has shrunk even further. My radiation oncologist was delighted – it’s a short message today but a sweet one…smaller is better it quickens recovery and hopefully reduces the surgical field. It was great to see Denise and Janette and even with a lobby full of patients they made time for me. They are two very special people and one of several good things that has come out of this experience. Remember there is darkness in light but there is also light in darkness and these two shine especially bright.


Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry Eight

Kris and I drove down to Duke Tuesday night for pre-op appointments Wednesday. As if you didn’t know getting sick is a full time job. The freakin’ paper work and if I have my blood pressure checked one more time I’m gonna scream. At least the book I’m reading while I’m waiting to subject myself to all of this is finally starting to get good. Nothing like being at a cancer center for eight hours of soul crushing anguish as the children go by in wheel chairs, the patients with strange growths on their faces and incisions in their heads walk by or sit idly awaiting their fate, but hey at least the carpets are nice. And oh the soul affirming poetry they frame and post on the wall miss the mark by a wide margin and reek of morbidity but then again that’s just me slapping my forehead….uplifting is in the eyes of the maudlin. Take my blood, take my money, take my signature, give me the worst case scenario you know because of litigation and get me the hell out of here. All I could think of going through pre-op and admission was my cat when I took her to the vet. Looking for a way out Sylvia jumped into a window and tried to make a break for it – smart cat – she pressed up against the screen just as hard as her little body would let her. Beyond that screen was fresh air and an open field on a beautiful sunlit day. Who could blame her I know how she feels.

That’s my girl giving it her all – happy cat indeed!

So four hours of surgery, two surgeons, several scars, pig skin or some strangers cadaver skin, three nights in the hospital followed by 6 weeks of recovery which might include self-injections – you know just for fun, and oh yeah there’s a 50/50 chance your wound won’t heal and you’ll need a third surgery. Apparently the irradiated tissues on the inside of my body may not bind back together. There it all is down and dirty folks in case you ever have to go through it and some of you have.

Sorry no happy rah, rah talk about how everything is going to be all right – its surgery time and I’m not so happy rah, rah about having to go under and we might knock your teeth out or give you brain damage – you know the legal folks make us say that – but god forbid you’re the .0001% that this happens to and you wonder why people worry – because it is a big deal.

I’m actually in a better frame of mind than all of the above but that’s what you go through folks and there is no reason to pretend otherwise. You all better keep in touch with Kristine because she won’t have anybody at the hospital with her and if you don’t appreciate what she will be going through then dig around a little deeper in the back of your closet to find your heart.

The Rolling Hills of the Piedmont are simply beautiful – if you find out I didn’t make it to Duke I’ve jumped out of the car and will be running through them.


Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry Nine

Well its been a whirlwind trip but Kris and I are back home now. Most of you we have talked to one on one and I’m a little out of gas right now so its going to just be a short hello. There was a range of options from worst case scenario to best case scenario and in the surgeons own words – we got the best case scenario. Pathology taken during surgery showed negative margins. We are awaiting more in depth pathology results from the lab to come in next week. Negative margins are good. You do not want positive margins that means they found cancer cells. I was in surgery for two and a half hours and then the plastic guys closed me up in a half hour – three hours total! One surgeon said point blank we did not find any cancer….so I said “keep on truckin” and he smiled and said keep on trukin – it was a moment at 6am with just me and him in the room. Thanks Patrick I’ve got the scar to prove you looked.

We are fine, in our happy home. Kris is taking great care of me and that can not be overstated. The sun is shinning the birds are singing and as soon as I can get behind the wheel of a car I’m headed for the boardwalk. I’ve already ditched the walker they sent me home with and I am using a cane quite dapper in my pajama pants and black cane with gold trim. I also got one of those tall commodes – you know “toilet on a stand” and ditched that thing. I loved it the first few days in the hospital – its a long way down with a scar in your abdomen but they are really confining, They slap your legs together and leave no room for Mr. Happy definitely not what I’m used too and shortly thereafter that thing was hauled out of the powder room in an act of defiance and everything cut loose after that.

Speaking of cutting loose the hardest part for me is taking it easy – it was major surgery so I have to force myself to hit the sofa and lay down – fortunately there is Oxycodone for that……space the final frontier. Twilightzone dreams and the space time continuum has been shattered, Next week we go back to Duke to have stitches and the blood bag removed. I’m carrying a drainage pouch around with me. Its fun dragging your bodily fluids around – especially when all the chords get tangled up as your hospital gown gets caught in something. I do not miss my catheter. Great, great care from the Duke team but there were a few fumbles a long the way – you have to be your own patient advocate people – hospitals are health care factories. But great people doing great work gets overrun by the crush of business and lack of time. Nurses need more pay!!!

Thank you one and all for thinking, praying and meditating on us….


Sarcoma Treatment Journal Entry Ten

I hope by now some of you will see that with humor, defiance, fight, education and taking it one step at a time you too can get through this process.  Dealing with concerned families let alone the paper work is a full time job so don’t be afraid to push back even on the well meaning if they are draining you emotionally or physically or just saying the wrong damn thing.  Call them out educate them and the process will go better.  Be proactive and not passive and by all means get to a sarcoma specialist someone who has performed hundreds of these type of operations.  Through plain old trial and error they know how far to cut to get negative margins.

I faced one thing at a time whether it was the first MRI’s or CT Scan’s or the 5 weeks of radiation I ticked each event off one day at a time and worried about the next step, day when I got to it.  I handled it in small chunks right down to the self injections when I got home after surgery to combat blood clots.  There were plenty of tears going into surgery but the staff at Duke were great and there were tears after it was all over.  I also was watched by hawks literally as they perched outside my hospital window.  The entire staff on the floor came into see this phenomenon and to take pictures they had never seen it before and stated that they had worked there a long time.  And on check out day the hawks were gone.  I kid you not!  My animal spirit, god whatever you want to call it was sending me a message.  I received it and felt reassured. My life and soul  (just like yours) is being watched like a hawk by angels who have gone on before and the creative spirit of all that is mother nature herself.

It’s okay to feel the whole range of emotions from victim, to fighter, to the why me and also to gain perspective from those around you.  Trust your instinct.  Talk to the other patients in the waiting room you’ll learn something and at least be conversing with someone standing in your own shoes.  I can’t tell you how important that is.

To this day I’m convinced I sprayed myself with weed killer- wind drift took it right up my shorts on a hot summer day, sweating, working in the yard for hours at a time and commando style my skin and groin were unprotected.  The mayo clinic link lists herbicide as one of the causes of sarcoma so please learn from my mistake.  Where underwear and long pants when applying that stuff or go and stay organic.  It was a rainy summer and I got lazy and bought roundup for the first time in five years.  Trust me I’m back to using vinegar for weed killing it works but you do have to apply it more frequently.

The risks in being lazy are too great and I’ve learned my lesson.  I’m one of the lucky ones and usually they don’t post on line.  Why would they – relieved they are going on with their business.  Most of the posting on line is from people who are just slammed, worst case scenario remember sarcoma comes in at least fifty known varieties.  Its an attack on the extremities and in the old days led to amputation of legs and arms.  We’ve come a long way and we will travel even farther.  Be your own patient advocate.  I insisted that only the most experienced doctors work on me even for stitch removal.  You have rights as a patient so push back don’t let residents and students put in the epidurals.  You want the attending physician to do it and don’t focus on worst case scenario the surgeons are just giving you all the scenarios so when you wake up you are not horrified or litigious.  Get the consent forms signed ahead of time.  Nothing is more gruesome rolling into surgery while still going over a consent form that lays out all the possibilities that could go wrong.  We know we might die in surgery right before going in is a helluva time to be reminded.

In the end if you want to write back or leave a comment please do and I’ll answer it as soon as it comes up in my inbox.  Remember its not all worst case scenario.  I was given a 50/50 chance that I would have complications with even my wound healing….didn’t happen.

And remember the stats they give you are based on everyone not the subset that is uniquely you.  If you see a lump anywhere on your body get it looked at and demand an ultra sound and MRI and get several opinions.  Be willing to see other doctors if yours pushes back on you or won’t perform the procedures.  Good luck, be strong, and you can get through this ordeal.  Cancer is slowly evolving into a manageable disease.  Don’t get overwhelmed by thinking too long term take it one step, one day at a time.  For the rest of my life I’ll have CT Scans and MRI’s and believe it or not I’m looking forward to it.  If those little nasties make a come back I want to know as soon as possible and take care of the situation promptly and properly.
Here’s the original links that proved helpful and informative for me:

And here is my final journal entry.  I hope somehow sharing my journey will help with yours.
Good morning :)
As some of you know we just heard last night that the final pathology report has come back negative. It’s counter intuitive but negative is good in medical language speak. I have clean non-diseased wide margins in the tissue they removed from my body. They did find left over low grade tumor tissue in what they cut out of me called well differentiated but the doctor referred to that as almost being benign – no contamination in the lymph nodes and they did not find the higher grade tumor tissue called De-differentiated that they were worried about and had turned up in a prior pathology report from my hernia surgery in November.
I have suspected all along that those little nasties came out with and in the hernia sac. They found some irradiated tissue as well in what they removed which makes sense after 5 weeks of radiation but on the whole just a little debris mixed in with mostly healthy tissue. The tumor bed is now all cleaned out with wide clear margins on the inside of me – so for that we are all very grateful. There is to be no more radiation or surgery just regular screenings with MRI and CT Scans! So I’ve made it to the observation stage and pray I never have to go through this again – statistically for all patients with this disease there’s a 90% chance it won’t reoccur if you go to a Sarcoma Center.

Later today we head down to Duke to have stitches and the blood bag removed. We’ll go over the path report in greater detail as well. The stitches coming out is a big deal – like pulling up railroad track. I’m hoping for sedation and lots of it! I have a lot of swelling and it will probably be the end of the month before I even think about driving to the office. A shower would be nice.

Whatever transpires my perspective has only been amplified by this experience – quality of life is what matters most and I will preserve and enhance my quality of life each and every day come hell of high water.
Many, many heartfelt thanks and love for all the prayers, worry and positive thoughts…..keep the faith and love each other.