Saturday, February 21, 2015

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part X: 775-751

I'm not sure if a correlation lies between these two things or not, but brevity and dudes I like both seemed thematic in this installment. Draw your own conclusions.

Only thing I'm drawing looks like a pie chart that says I'm a quarter of the way through this thing.

Whee!

Seven Hundred Seventy-Five: the Benevento Russo Duo

            Marco Benevento and Joe Russo employed keyboards, drums, technology, and occasional guests, and in doing so made more meaningful music than most modern four- and five-piece outfits have recorded in their dreams. They managed this via four studio(ish) albums in a 42-month stretch, and never included a single lyric. The Duo’s unique riffs harnessed electronic emotion and tossed it around the studio with the control of a lariat-clutching roper. I’ve never been exposed to a two-piece rock outfit before, and never did I imagine that a pair of classically trained dudes could convey feeling via instrumental jams. Wicked cool. Short-lived, but wicked cool.


Seven Hundred Seventy-Four: Railroad Earth

            For a brief spell I thought Railroad Earth possessed the possibility of usurping Phish as the greatest American rock band. I collected the pieces of their discography, studied them, and shared them with my family. We took a train to St. Louis to see them perform live, and there I realized the error of my thinking. We had a good time at the show and enjoyed making the trip, but this experience showed me their finite potential and sooner-rather-than-later expiration date. I still appreciated them on a noteworthy level, though. They gave my musical life its first breath of fresh air in a number of years. Their tunes still make me smile and for them, I am grateful.

Seven Hundred Seventy-Three: The Missouri Mavericks

            I wound up on some e-mail list in the summer of 2009 and by the time the Central Hockey League’s expansion-club Mavericks had their inaugural home opener that fall, I had obtained the privilege of working for the league as an off-ice official. This continued through the 2010 season and ended with my return to the restaurant industry, but for two entire hockey seasons I had the pleasure of compiling stats, working the penalty boxes, and lighting the goal lamps. I learned a lot about the operations side of hockey. I met some cool people. I ate more cold Papa John’s pizza than I care to tally, and I saw a ton of free games. It made for a bunch of driving and a healthy handful of cold, post-game beers (away from the rink and of my own accord), but I will never forget the experience of working semi-pro hockey games.

Seven Hundred Seventy-Two: my name

            By the time I’d grown accustomed to life as a student, I’d gone from having zero opinions about the capitalized word my parents chose to call me to wanting to change it at my first legal opportunity. I even had my dad look into it: At age 14 -- or so he told me -- a person could change their birth name. Prior to that feeling, I don’t recall ever having conviction for anything, but come December 16, 1988, I’d be in line at the local vital-statistics office with my lawn-mowing money in hand.

            The feeling faded before I entered teenagehood, but the bi-gender status of Blair -- coupled with the show The Facts of Life -- about did me in. I hated having such a prominent reason for kids to tease me. I loathed the frequent commentary regarding my name belonging to girls, and that stupid sitcom fueled the whole damn thing.

            It passed, though, and I’ve long since been glad I’m not Tom, or Steve, or Mike, or Jeff, Jr. I dig my name. I’m glad my mom chose what she did.

Seven Hundred Seventy-One: Scott(y) Young

            This hard-working Massachusetts native won my juvenile hockey heart and only in recent seasons has seen his status as my favorite player jeopardized. Young twice tallied 40 assists as a Hartford Whaler, once lit the lamp 40 times in a St. Louis uniform, represented Team USA three times in the Olympics and won himself a pair of Stanley Cups (Pittsburgh, Colorado). His speed, grit, hands, and unsung-hero status earned him tremendous respects from the likes of me, and I respected him for how hard he worked for 18 professional seasons. I consider myself lucky to have seen a significant chunk of his career.

Seven Hundred Seventy: growing up in the ‘80s

            It might not seem awesome now, but trust me: It was.

Seven Hundred Sixty-Nine: weed

            You probably think I’m stupid for listing that, and trust me: I am.

Seven Hundred Sixty-Eight: when it’s not baseball season

            I realize that super-fans and sportswriters will find a way to talk about it around the clock, but I love not seeing baseball news in my paper. I enjoy the absence of Major League Baseball ticker tidbits on my television screen. I thrive on not seeing diamond tweets in my timeline. I grew up loving baseball and a part of me will always support it, but holy crap: The glory of baseball season going away for half of the year every year resembles the majesty of having the house all to yourself. You can’t buy that kind of golden silence in the stores or online, and I -- for one -- cherish it.

Seven Hundred Sixty-Seven: not having staticky hair

            The deoxyribonucleic acid I inherited meant I got my mother’s thin hair, which means winter time sucks. But guess what? I went bald. Yay, me!

Seven Hundred Sixty-Six: my clothes

            I’ve had the luxury of receiving a ton of hand-me-downs over the years, and I’ve managed to get remarkable life out of all of the articles I’ve purchased. I’m privileged to have had so much given to me, pleased to have so much bought for me, and beyond content that I have very seldom had to think about clothes for most of 40 years. I owe this gratitude to all of my family and several of my friends.

Seven Hundred Sixty-Five: unnamed friend #16

            My friendship with this dude has spanned most of three decades. We shared neighborhoods as kids, logged hundreds of hours in one another’s first cars, spent a summer as roommates and co-workers, and now we swap parenting tales. Unnamed friend number 16 stood strong for me when my father died and I try to return the favor as he handles challenges associated with his dad’s declining health. I could pinpoint a select few, but no one has come close in mirroring the level of friendship I’ve shared with this guy.

            Unnamed friend number 16 moved to Colorado a couple of years before I prepared to leave it, and it makes me a touch sad to think of the possibility of seeing him more often than I do now had I stayed. He found a beautiful girl for a wife and together they raise two awesome kids. They live a happy life, and for him and his family I am happy. Unnamed friend number 16 spent many years looking after me both as a friend and a brother. For years his folks treated me as a sort of third son, and his brother always embraced me with kindness, too. I admire unnamed friend number 16 in a number of ways. His boldness, his wit and savvy, his generosity, and his determination have helped him achieve much in his young life. I wish him continued success and hope that his happiness continues to know no limits.

Seven Hundred Sixty-Four: Oak Meyer Gardens

            Luck bestowed a beautiful home upon us and it sits in the middle of a fantastic neighborhood. We’ve got good people on both our block and on adjacent streets. Our kids will walk to school when they’re old enough and their grandparents live but a three-minute stroll. Most of our basic needs can be reached in less than a 10-minute drive, and, all in all, Oak Meyer Gardens serves as a reminder that life treats you pretty well if you let it.

Seven Hundred Sixty-Three: Google Maps

            So many of life’s luxuries make you wonder how we did it before they were invented. I used to marvel at the idea of telephone lines being strung -- by pole -- across towns and cities and states. Then cell phones made us ponder the notion of a signal reaching a satellite in outer space. Now we have apps for most everything, and Google Maps might be the simplest (or the most complex) and most important of them out there. I know we did it before and I know how we did it before, but recalling the olden days of paper-map referral and stopping for directions seems pretty archaic in 2015. I don’t pretend to understand the technology behind Google Maps, but I sure as hell use, abuse, and appreciate it. Can’t remember how to get downstairs? Why, thanks, Google!

Seven Hundred Sixty-Two: my health

            I haven’t done much to deserve it, but when you come out of a fog like the pounding-heart middle-of-nowhere one through which I plodded one afternoon a few weeks ago, you have to give thanks to the proverbial man upstairs. I wish to do just that here.

Seven Hundred Sixty-One: the Winter Olympics

            I don’t want to drone about hockey in this series, but I don’t get as excited about anything as much as I do Team U.S.A. lacing ‘em up for the Winter Games. Being patient for a competition that only happens twice in a decade challenges me, but it also makes the wait worth it. We don’t have a ton to get patriotic about on a national level and even if I’m forever in the minority with this I don’t think it gets much better than rooting for the boys in red, white, and blue as they skate against the world’s best. I hope my kids one day share my passion for the international tilt, but even if they don’t, I’m grateful to have watched some great ones.

Seven Hundred Sixty: Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley

            I thought Todd Haley had the perfect mindset as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. It didn’t work out and fans lost their mind because they think he quit on the team and tanked games because of his situation. Whether he did or not I observed a coach getting players to maximize their talents and perform at a higher level. I dug the way he interacted with the press. I thought his tenure would result in big things. Chiefs fans that can’t stand him continue to hope for his demise. I’m thankful for what he accomplished while in Kansas City.

Seven Hundred Fifty-Nine: Barret Jackman

            Heading into the Friday, February 6th game in Columbus, number five for the St. Louis Blues had logged 774 career games wearing the blue note (Live Update: As I type this he gets in a fight with Calvert of the Blue Jackets.Synchronicity!), good for third all time in Blues history. Barring injury he will surpass Brian Sutter this season (Non-live Update: He did). Were he to stay healthy and continue to collect a check from the organization through the 2016-17 season, he would usurp Bernie Federko’s number-one slot. For reasons of geography and broadcast availability I’ve watched Jackman play more games than any other Blue, and I’ve always loved his grit, his energy, and his stamina. He didn’t enter the world a star with goal-scoring prowess or the speed of Usain Bolt, but he mans the defensive zone like his family’s safety depends on it. Also: Gotta love a guy with a five o’clock shadow at 8:00 in the morning. Man-crush alert!

Seven Hundred Fifty-Eight: The Wire

            Greatest television program I ever watched. Thankful it got recommended to me.

Seven Hundred Fifty-Seven: good credit

            Have to give my wife accolades for helping get that ship righted. Yeesh. Things looked ugly for a bit there, but now we recognize the importance of financial responsibility. It gets us things like loans for purchases like…

Seven Hundred Fifty-Six: the Highlander

            I’ve only sat in my wife’s new car three times and driven it once, but it’s got a handsomeness that would make Barret Jackman blush. Bells, whistles, screens, chimes…it’s got it all. I feel blessed to have my name on a piece of paper that says I’m trying to own it.

Seven Hundred Fifty-Five: Daniel Day-Lewis

            Since I appear to be covering man crushes in this segment, we might as well take the time to mention my favorite actor. Think I’ve seen all of his major films and I think I’ve loved every one of them. Dunno what it is about the dude, but he can even make me root for a bad guy as he did in There Will Be Blood. Awesome talent, cool roles, old-school feel.

Seven Hundred Fifty-Four: Longmire

            It would appear the other theme of this run would be stuff I watch on a screen. Either way, I’m glad Netflix picked up one of my favorite recent television programs and shame on the A&E network for dropping it. Can’t put a finger on why I like it so much, but Walt and company display some darn fine TV.

Seven Hundred Fifty-Three: golf

            Some things in life exist to remind you that they weren’t invented for you to excel at them. Other things exist to remind you that you will never know what that excellence feels like. The moral of this story: Don’t invite me to swing the sticks unless you’re either a) playing a scramble, or b) you really, really like me. I give thanks for the humility the universe offers.

Seven Hundred Fifty-Two: unnamed friend #17

            I met this dude in college. We established a solid relationship and logged many an hour listening to music while playing Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat with the volume muted, music cranked. We drank cheap beer, smoked crappy weed, and on occasion ate some potent squares of laced paper. We took a couple of road trips, visited one another’s home towns, and -- for a brief spell -- kept in touch after that year. I thought we’d forged a lifelong relationship, but fate had other plans in mind. I will always give thanks for the privilege of calling unnamed friend number 17 a friend for the short time in which I did. He serves as a reminder that people come and go in life, to make the most of the time with them you have.

Seven Hundred Fifty-One: Walsh’s Corner Cocktails


            At some point, I got old. At some point, going out got lame and crowded, noisy bars just fell plumb off the map of interest, and I wanted nothing more than a dose of quiet when I got out of the house for a cold one. For those reasons, I consider myself lucky to have discovered “the Corner.” I seldom make it there anymore, but it will remain my destination of choice if and when I find the opportunity to belly up for some alone time.