Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Ballad of the Flowery Trail

Today, October 10th, marks the 4th anniversary of my marriage.

Back in 2007, I was just starting to branch out with my music.  As such, I was looking for various venues around the area to see if they had any open-mic nights or things of that nature.  I happened across a small blip in the North Columbia Monthly about open-mic nights every other Friday at a place called Flowery Trail Coffeehouse in Chewelah, WA.

I had never been there before, but since I was living in Colville at the time, a 25-mile trip wasn't too much of a hassle.  After a few failed attempts to find the place, I received directions from a very friendly elderly lady.  I talked to Sally, the Flowery Trail's owner, about their open-mic nights, and she said that they had one coming up that Friday.

That Friday evening, I showed up, guitar in hand, and almost didn't go in -- there was a coffeehouse full of PEOPLE in there.  People I didn't know!  I've often wondered why I'm so interested in being a musician, because (more often than not) the thought of meeting people and interacting with people tends to fill me with dread.  Regardless, I walked in, signed up, and quickly sat down somewhere in the corner.

There are two things I remember from that night:

1. The audience seemed to rather like me.  I played a couple of covers -- at one point, before launching into "Play A Train Song," I asked the crowd if there were any Todd Snider fans there.  When I was met with silence, I replied, "Well, in that case, I wrote this song myself."

2. There was a beautiful young lady there who really caught my eye -- not just because she was a looker, but also because when she walked, she didn't just walk, she glided across the room.

And so I thought, well, maybe there's something to this music thing, after all.  Because, let's face it, 99% of the time, when guys want to be musicians, it's got nothing to do with musical ideals or getting some convoluted message out to the hungry masses -- it's about the ladies.

I was too nervous to talk to that girl that night, but I decided to go back.  So, two weeks later, I returned with my brother Nick and his friend David as back-up.  After all, if she wasn't a regular, I didn't really want to sit around all by myself.  This particular Friday saw a major decline in audience: there was Sally, a few other people, and the girl and her sister.  We got to chatting a little bit and I thought she seemed like a really nice girl.

Two weeks later I returned.

She wasn't there.

Well, my motivation evaporated pretty quickly to be there, but I dutifully played a few songs and commented to Sally how disappointed I was that the "really cute girl who was usually there" wasn't there this time around.  Sally, perhaps somewhat jokingly, suggested I write a song about it.  I laughed, said, "Yeah, 'The Ballad of the Flowery Trail.'"

So I did.

When I went back to the Flowery Trail, that "cute girl" was there, and I was suddenly terrified to play this song in front of her -- I really thought I was going to come across as a stalker.  Happily, that wasn't the case, and at the end of the evening she let me walk her to her car, and I braved up and asked for her number.

And that was how I met Melanie.  Married four years now, and our first baby on the way, due sometime around the end of January.

I didn't think that things like these happened outside of books and movies.  I also know that I am a lucky, lucky man.  I don't know what I did to deserve such an amazing woman, but I am well aware that I really, really lucked out.

And on that note, I'd like to share with you this very sweet love song performed by Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster, as those merry married mediums Frank and Sadie Doyle, from the incredibly funny "Beyond Belief" segment of The Thrilling Adventure Hour.  It's funny, a little sassy, and it makes me think of Mel.

As I type this she's playing "On My Own" from Les Miserables on the piano.  It's very nice.

Thus endeth our origin story.

Bottom line: I love my lady.  Here's to many more!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A shout-out to my father

October 1st, today, marks my father's 75th birthday.  Sadly, it isn't the 75th birthday that I quite envisioned for him, as he is currently dealing with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

I will admit, this has been tough on me.  My dad always enjoyed good health and an active lifestyle, and it's been rough seeing him lose weight at a rapid pace and be unable to move without the aid of a walker; in most cases he needs a wheelchair.

Yes, I am aware that I am mortal.  I know that I will one day die.  But it's an abstract concept that most of us, I assume, brush to the back of our minds.  To spend your time dwelling on your own demise is not a healthy way to live -- the act of living, and of enjoying life while I'm at it, is what keeps those thoughts at bay.

My father's illness has shifted things a bit.  I am confronted with mortality in a very real sense, watching an incurable and fatal disease work its will on a man that I respect and love with every fiber of my being.

Like I said, it's been tough.

I've also had to confront the typical reactions, faith-wise, of such a situation -- why him, God?  What did he do to deserve such a fate?  Don't you care?  Those sorts of things.  Yes, I'm angry.  I'm heartbroken.  I'm confused.  But faith helps ease those stings -- the belief that, when all is said and done, he will be in a much better place.  The relief that, as far as incurable diseases go, this one is relatively painless, and his mind is still his own.

What I had not anticipated, though, was my father's good cheer.  Not that I was expecting doom and gloom, of course -- I'm just not sure I'd be in such good spirits if it was me.  But I remember talking to him on the phone when he told me he had ALS: "Aaron, I'm seventy-five years old!  And it seems a pretty fitting way for this Yankees fan to go out."

And that, right there, is what helps me the most -- his peace with his situation.  Yes, every child loses their parents at some point.  I'm nearly 32; a lot of sons don't get that much time.  But I will admit, I am greedy, and want my dad around as long as possible.  As my wife wisely points out, that's all well and good, but it wouldn't do to sacrifice the quality of life for quantity.  And since I only live about 25 miles away, I'm able to still see him regularly.

So let me just wish my dad a happy 75th birthday.  Will he make it to his 76th?  I don't know.  I hope so, but I'm not going to push the issue.  But in a funny sort of twist, I find that my father has given me a gift.

He's given me hope.


If you're at all interested in learning more about ALS and what you can do to help fight it, check out