Remembering My Brother Ted

Eight years ago yesterday my younger brother Ted passed away. I can’t say we were surprise by his death, my brother had been slowly killing himself with drugs and alcohol for years. We all knew that day was coming, it was just a matter of time and his time finally came. The years of abuse had taken their toll and his body just couldn’t take it anymore. At the time of his death he was not drunk or high on drugs, blood tests revealed that there were no illegal drugs in his system and his alcohol level was well below the legal limit. No, his heart simply stopped.  It’s sad that it took death to bring him the peace he longed for in life, but the demons he was battling were winning and that my friends made life a living hell for him and those around him. Please remember him in your prayers

Rest in peace baby brother. Until we meet again…

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John Lennon Remembered 38 Years Gone

I still remember where I was when I heard 
Cranked up the volume got caught up in the words
Cosell was saying
While the teams went on playin’
Tears fell from my eyes …   JS   3/81
————————————————————————————-
Senseless killing in the street
Yoko screamin’, her husband at her feet.
Killer was a fan who lost his head (yeah, yeah, yeah)
gunned down his hero – stood in the rain and read.
Johnny was a victim…    JS  12/82      
                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                              
downloadToday marks the 38th anniversary of the tragic death of Beatle John Lennon who was slain by a deranged fan outside his home at the Dakota Apartments in New York City in 1980. It’s hard to believe  he’s been gone so long. Lennon, renowned musician, artist and peace activist, was returning home from a recording studio where he and Yoko had been putting finishing touches on their new album “Double fantasy” his first new release in nearly five years. His death was a tragic loss for us all.
 
His death like that of John Kennedy is one of those moments  in time where you remember exactly where and what you were doing when you heard the news. I was at home that fateful Monday night, 12/8/1980, watching the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, when Howard Cosell suddenly interrupted the play by play regular broadcast and somberly informed viewers of Lennon’s death. Ironically on another Monday night six years before, Lennon surprised Cosell  by joining him in the broadcast booth where they engaged in an impromptu interview. It was a very fun-filled exchange. This time however what Cosell had to say was tragically shocking.
 
lennonnyclg-210x300I couldn’t believe my ears. I remember thinking that they had to be wrong, John couldn’t be dead, and frantically began changing channels looking for more news on Lennon. I soon found a special report with live coverage from New York.  A large crowd had already gathered outside the Dakota and was growing by the minute. Stunned fans stood in the chilly night air, some were singing Lennon songs others simply huddled together, stunned in disbelief, tears flowed freely. At home I too was stunned and crying as well.   
 
The next day the airwaves were deluged with coverage of Lennon’s death. I still couldn’t believe it. Lennon  was and still is my favorite Beatle. I loved his irreverent attitude when being interviewed, always the wise guy, the grand cut-up. His music with the Beatles and in his solo career has had a profound influence on my life. As a young man many of my views and beliefs about love and life were a result of his music. His final album, ‘Double Fantasy” was Lennon reborn, It was a work of art, filled with songs about hope, truth, love and respect. I can’t help but wonder what direction his music would have taken had he been given the opportunity. Always a visionary Lennon appeared to be on a new life path. Sadly that life, cut short  by a crazed gunman, depriving the world of a much needed ray of light in a dark and dreary world.
 
The response to Lennon’s death was incredible, a shot heard round the world.  I remember hearing the reactions of George and Ringo and was touched by their response. Later in the day I was thoroughly disgusted when I saw a very brief interview with Paul McCartney, in London. Reporters had caught up with him outside Abbey Road Studios and asked for his reaction  on the death of his friend and Beatles writing collaborator. Mc Cartney, looking a bit bored or perhaps stoned, made an off-handed remarked to the reporter while chomping his gum, and disappeared quickly into the studio. I can still hear his crude statement as if he said it only a moment ago.  “Yeah, it’s a drag isn’t it.”   A drag? That’s it? John Lennon gunned down on the streets of New York and it’s a drag? Yep good old Sir Paul, what an ass! He was always my least favorite Beatle, a little too cutesy for my liking. Yeah his reaction really sealed the deal.
Years later my attitude towards him changed when I learned that he had been in the studio for hours after the shooting, distressed and in tears. The offhanded comment to reporters, the one I saw, was not a true indication of the pain he was experiencing at the loss of his long time friend. Although I still don’t believe the caliber of his music is on the same level as Lennon’s and is sometimes trite, I have come to respect Paul and even saw him in concert a few years ago. Something I had long said I would never do. Actually I believe I said I’d never pay to see McCartney. Then sometime later a good friend of mine gifted me tickets and I went to see Sir Paul. 
Of course I attended the Las Vegas show wearing a tee-shirt with a large likeness of Lennon on both front and back as a tribute to John and perhaps an affront to McCartney fans. But by the end of the night I was quite impressed with Sir Paul’s performance and his comments between songs, particularly his stirring tribute to John. And you know perhaps Paul was right all along because 36 years after John’s death it’s still ” a drag isn’t it?” A tragic drag for us all…
 
                                             “Favorite Lennon Story”
My son John was only two when Lennon was killed. By the time he was six he’d been inundated with Beatles and John Lennon music. He knew all about the Beatles.
 One afternoon in the summer of 84, my son and I were driving in my VW to my parent’s  home in Azusa when I spotted Tim Ryan, a friend of mine, walking along the highway. I quickly pulled over and offered him a ride. We drove him to a friend’s house in Azusa. The entire time John sat in the backseat listening to us talk and didn’t say a word which was quite unusual for John. Yeah he just sat there staring at Tim.
Lennon

Lennon

After we dropped him off and were driving away, John Michael, in awe, said to me,” I didn’t know John Lennon was your friend.”   I thought about it for a moment and realized that Tim, with his long hair, round, wire rim glasses and hawk nose did sorta, kinda, bear a resemblance to John Lennon. And my son actually thought he was really Lennon. I remember telling him “Yep, John Lennon and I are good friends.”  

My buddy Tim

My buddy Tim

And I hadn’t lied to him. Although I never met Lennon I knew him just the same. Through his lyrics and everything I ever read about him ( and believe me I read a lot) I knew him well. Lennon was indeed a good friend and saw me through some very troubled times. For several years John Michael would tell the story about the time we gave my good friend John Lennon a ride in my VW. It was priceless.       

Imagine…

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Life Stories: Until Death Do Us Part – or Not

I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband,                                                                                                                                                               To have and to hold, from this day forward,                                                                                                                                                                            For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,                                                                                                                                                                      Isickness and in health,                                                                                                                                                                                                           Until death do us part…

The Dream is over…

Several times this year, I’ve found myself wondering about what it is that keeps a marriage alive and thriving in today’s crazy world? I’ve tried to understand why some marriages flourish and last until death do them part, while others crash and burn somewhere along the way?  I’ve asked myself why some couples are so devoted to one another and so intent on making their marriages work while other are willing to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble? What is it that makes for a healthy, thriving union? Clearly, the exchanging of vows like those above plays a role as a solemn pledge of love and fidelity, but they are not some magical incantation or other such enchantments that guarantee a long and happy marriage, the magic comes from within each married individual and these vows must be honored and respected in order for the magic to work.

What then is it that holds a marriage together? What is the secret ingredient? Is it the unconditional love shared by a couple that is the key to a successful marriage? Is love really all we need as the Beatles once sang?  Does love really make the world go round? Sounds good right, but as any married person has learned, there is much more to it than love. Along with love comes commitment, communication, respect, and patience to name a few. And it takes all of these components and more to make a good marriage. That is what I choose to believe, throw in a hefty dose of some old-fashioned hard-headedness for good measure, and I think we may have something. A successful marriage takes a lot of hard work and compromises to make it long lasting. I sincerely hope that the married among you are blessed with a healthy and thriving union, one you’re willingly working to preserve.  Sadly, many married couples never find the happily ever after we all seek. Over 50% of all marriages end in separation or divorce. I long thought I was among those who had been successful at marriage, but as it turns out I guess not.

You see, 2017 did not end well for me. In late October the ties that bind unraveled and the walls came tumbling down. Two weeks shy of our 44th anniversary, my wife informed me that she had filed for divorce. I gotta tell you,  although the ‘D’ word got talked about more often than I care to admit, I was still a bit surprised when she told me. It felt so strange to think that it was really over. I suppose if she hadn’t filed when she did, I eventually may have, still, it was a bit surreal. Neither of us was happy, we hadn’t been for quite some time and at our age, we deserve at least that, right? So after nearly 44 years of marriage we have parted ways. Our divorce was final at the end of September.

In retrospect, the dissolution of our marriage seemed inevitable. Things hadn’t been right for a long time and really came to light nearly three years ago when my pop’s passed away. Since his passing, we simply began to grow further and further apart and created a great divide that could no longer be bridged. There is no bad guy or blame game to be played, no pointing fingers or throwing stones. Neither of us was unfaithful or anything like that. We simply grew apart and fell out of love. We lost that loving feeling. If there is any blame to be had we both share it equally, we are both guilty of looking the other way and allowing love to do a slow fade from our marriage.

So here I am, 67 years old, retired and divorced, who would have thunk it? Not me, that’s for sure. If someone would have told me that this is where I’d be today, I’d have laughed my fool head off. I’m not laughing now. The final curtain has come down on our marriage, the ratings plunged, the plug pulled and just like that the John & Ray Show was off the air. I’d like to believe we had a good run, we certainly had a long one. I guess Jagger was wrong when he sang ‘love not fade away’, it can and does time and time again. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m a firm believer that all things happen for a reason and when one door closes another opens, maybe not right away but eventually. I’m slowly adjusting  to my new life situation and waiting patiently…

peace…

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