It was out there, in the darkness between Denver and Albuquerque, that I believe we had our last discussion, maybe a year after you died. I was camping alone, without a tent, in the cool dry Western night marveling at the stars of the Milky Way and a nebula I could see with your old hunting binoculars.
In a dream of myself lying there in my sleeping bag, my sister’s princess phone appeared suddenly on the arid grassland beside me – the very same one with the headset I cracked when a chair fell onto it while I was trying to make time with that postdoc from Edinburgh (that’s a story we’ll exchange offline). They call it a “landline” these days – we now have these wireless phones people carry around everywhere.
The phone rang – I looked around bewildered, but I answered. It was you. You said that you were sorry you couldn’t be there and wished you could be, but you were happy that I was enjoying what you wish you had done yourself.
And you said you missed me.
And I said I missed you, too.
I love Chartreuse’s dedication page:
this site is dedicated to my best friend, Henry Michel, who passed away in 2002, my daughter Destiny who I miss dearly and my 2nd ex-wife (yeah, second!) ,who taught me how to stop being so “fucking pedestrian.”
That’s my goal in life – to not be “fucking pedestrian”.
I’m still working on it.
If you want to build a boat, do not instruct the men to saw wood, stitch the sails, prepare the tools, and organize the work, but rather make them long for setting sail and travel to distant lands.
– Antoine De Saint-Exupery
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius.
Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for always the inmost becomes the utmost and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment… A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.
In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another…
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve always enjoyed Leonard Bernstein.
Everything that Bernstein did – he did with his own unique passion.
Bernstein was one of the most important musicians of the 20th Century – born in Boston, graduated from Harvard, he got his start as a conductor and instructor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at their summer home in Tanglewood near Lenox, Massachusetts. He was hired to be the Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic while still in this 20s – based on the strong recommendation of legendary Boston Symphony Conductor Serge Koussevitzsky.
In 1943, Bernstein was fairly new in his role as the Assistant Conductor in New York – when on the morning of a concert that was to be broadcast nationally – the conductor, Bruno Walter, fell seriously ill – forcing Bernstein to conduct the concert without practice or rehearsal. Bernstein brought his own energy, passion, and style to the podium that night – and the concert was such a hit that it was featured on the front page of the New York Times the next day — -one musician from the orchestra would later recollect:
“You just couldn’t believe that a young man could create that kind of music. Here were players in their 50s and 60s with long experience. And here this little snot-nose comes in and creates a more exciting performance.
We were supposed to have gone over it with Bruno Walter, we had rehearsed it with him and performed it with him, and this had nothing to do with Bruno Walter. The orchestra stood up and cheered. We were open-mouthed. That man was the most extraordinary musician I have ever met in my life.”
– Jacque Marolis, Violinist, New York Philharmonic
Bernstein brought a level of energy, uniqueness, style, and strong passion to the conductors podium that the staid classical music world had never seen – and hasn’t really seen in the years since. As you can tell by the pictures here – he was just different. He was so energetic that one time he completely fell off of the conductor’s podium during a concert from bouncing around so much while conducting!
Bernstein went on to serve as the Music Director and conductor of the New York Philharmonic for 11 years – composed many classic pieces – but he always ventured back to where he started each year and would conduct the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood each summer. His last concert, on August 19th, 1990 – not long before his death later that year at age 72, was Beenhoven’s 7th Symphony – on the podium at Tanglewood.
Some critics might have said that Bernstein’s energy was not good for the art that is classical music – but what I choose to take away from this is that we should never be afraid to bring energy and passion to what we do – that passion is contagious – as Bernstein showed.
We should never be afraid to show our passions about what we do.
I’m several days late with my traditional year’s end blog post – unfortunately life, vacation, and a host of other things have gotten in my way of taking the time to properly reflect on the year that is now past.
The new year, as I’ve said before, is a time of great reflection for me. I typically take a long vacation in order to recover from the previous year and plan for the year ahead. And this year has been no different.
As always, each year brings with it loss and heartache, as those that have brightened our lives move on and pass out of this world into the next. Perhaps it’s just me being reflective, but it seems that as I age, that more and more of the people in our world move on — perhaps it’s just that they’re closer to me in age now – or that I’m more aware of them than I once was.
George Carlin passed this year – one of the few comedians that I would stop what I was doing in order to watch – and then laugh uproarishly. Edmund Hillary, who in 1953 had the courage to climb the slope of Mount Everest and gain success where so many others had failed. Michael DeBakey who worked tirelessly to develop new methods of cardiac surgery – even creating a process that was later used to save his own life from a cardiac issue. Bobby Fischer, who in 1972 defeated Boris Spassky in one of the greatest chess games of the last century, and Charlton Heston, whom I’ll always remember as riding that chariot in Ben Hur with the jubilant grin on his face.
The one that I’ll probably miss the most, though, is NBC’s Tim Russert, who died far too young at the age of 58 last year. I’ve missed his candid commentary during the election last fall – and his tough questioning on Meet the Press. Tim always asked the questions that I had in my head – and never failed to entertain when he was being interviewed by others. A good man, we lost him far too early in life.
And then, just as the year was coming to a close, a woman that many of you have never heard of – Margaret Bogart, passed away at the age of 87 in Arizona. When I was a young man growing up in Covington, Indiana, Margaret and her husband Herb were our next-door neighbors. A retired couple even at that time, they had never had children of their own, but in some sense, they had adopted my brother and I – and even my parents – as their surrogate family. They moved away to Arizona in the 1980’s for a warmer retirement. Herb passed away many years ago – but Margaret never slowed down – traveling the world and keeping up with her hobbies. As a young child in a small town, sometimes a good laugh with a neighbor is all that you need – and that was what Margaret gave everyone.
I didn’t make the funeral – my parents went to the simple graveside service – where after more than twenty years away, the service began with the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana”.
I think everyone has had someone like Margaret in their life at some point. She’ll be missed by many.
And finally, Paul Newman passed away last year at the age of 83. A highly gifted actor, I’ll always remember him for his saying in The Hustler, “Fast Eddie, Let’s shoot some pool…” – reminding me that at the end of all of the talk, the posturing, and the discussions, someone needs to make a decision – that despite our circumstances or situation – we have to go out and face the day.
Which I think T.I. and Rihanna say quite clearly here:
I hope that you and yours had a safe and wonderful new year. I’m looking forward to the challenges that 2009 will bring to all of us – I plan on living my life.
I didn’t really finish this post – I came upon it in draft and decided to just touch it up and publish it. Hope I didn’t let anyone down – I just can’t seem to finish this piece.
So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.
But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.
Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.
And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
Last year, through a stroke of complete luck, I won a trip to Washington, DC to visit some sites — and one of them was a VIP tour of the Pentagon – which I had never visited.
A young Coastguardsman took us into one spot that I didn’t expect to get to visit – the Memorial Chapel that was built inside the rebuilt-section of the Pentagon – at the exact place where the plane struck the building seven years ago today.
It was one of the quietest places that I have ever visited.
Just outside the glass there – we could see the memorial that was dedicated this morning being constructed.
[Video Removed due to CNN Stupidity]
There are few things as haunting to me as the sound of Amazing Grace being played on bagpipes – and the scene of this man, a member of our Coast Guard, marching solemnly through the memorial as a part of its dedication – reminds me again of all that I felt.. as I stood in the Memorial Chapel just a year ago – and read the names on the wall.
I said everything that I think I will ever have to say about 9/11 four years ago:
In the end, I think we all have the responsibility to remember what happened that day – to us – to our fellow man – here in our own country.
A few weeks ago, while having coffee with a peer in Minneapolis, our conversation steered towards the impact of September 11th on our lives – both personally and professionally.
She pulled out her PDA – tapped on it a few times – and spun it around so that I could read it.
It was her calendar – turned to September 11th, 2004 – and it showed just one word: