Already Gone

The Eagles. A long time ago. On The Long Run tour.

Seeing live music used to mean listening to the radio to find out when tickets were going on sale. You could look in the paper, but radio was much faster, since we were always listening to the radio anyway.

This was a cash economy. No teens I knew had access to a credit card (!!). There were no phone order, no secure websites. You had to go and buy the tickets at the arena. For a big show, you had to camp out.

If it was a Dead show, you’d see DeadHeads from hither and yon (mostly New Yon) a few weeks out. Outside of the Dead, though, lines would form a few days, maybe a week before tickets went on sale.

In fairness, there were ticket limits. Each buyer could purchase like twelve or twenty tickets. This created a fairly small aftermarket.

If you didn’t get your tix on the day of sale, you could scour the classified section of the local paper and call The Guy on his landline listed in the ad in the paper that you had to buy from the store. Last option, you could go day of the show and usually get tickets from a scalper. There could be a big or a small markup. There had to be a physical exchange of paper cash for paper tickets. No Venmo. No PDFs.

I got my Eagles tickets using this last method. I was poor and pretty scheduled with school and work, but concert tickets were more like a necessity than an extravagance. I was limited by the money I had in my pocket. Definitely kept me on budget.

Scalpers were easy enough to find within a few blocks of the venue. Nobody would bother you–despite the illegality of the transaction–if you were decently subtle.

We stopped and furtively spoke with a few “vendors.” We found A Guy with tickets in our price range and, surprisingly, in a lower tier. Made the exchange and went into the arena.

Our seats were not obstructed view. Except they were behind the stage. In dozens of shows, I’d never seen seats sold with a view of the asses of the band. The norm was a wall of speakers behind the band and 60 or 80 foot long drapes billowing from the ceiling.

I felt so stupid and so conned. UGH! And bad word. There were no jumbotrons for The Long Run tour. At least the stage was clear, and we could make out the backs of the musicians.

About 2/3rds into the show the band stopped and, jumping in unison, turned around to perform Take It Easy for us. Best. Song. That. Night. After performing two songs for us suckers in the bad seats they turned their backs on us.

That’s rock ‘n’ roll.

Yes, I’m already gone
And I’m feelin’ strong
I will sing this vict’ry song
‘Cause I’m already gone
Yes, I’m already gone
Already gone
All right, nighty-night

Godspeed Glen Frey.


Guided Style

big comma

I fancy myself a writer.

Obviously. I am doing this writing thing. Every. Stinking. Day. For. This. Entire. Year.

I write. I publicly put it out there. And, you, My Loyal Reader indulge me.

Wait. Damn.

Do I refer to you as “my Loyal Reader,” or as “My Loyal Reader?” Consistency counts!!

I need to check my style guide.


Oh crap.

Do I use the Oxford comma? Is email one word or is it e-mail? Have I settled on website? Dateline cities?

One certainty, I never, ever, ever allow a colon prior to any bulleted list. ESPECIALLY wrong on subheads.  That just pisses me off.

Should I go back through the past ten years of this madness and make sure I am consistent in what I call things?

Am I Doc Think? DocThink? Dr. Think? This is becoming existential.

Lavender’s Thursday Dilly Dilly

Bottle of Mrs. Meyer's lavender dish soap

Standing over the sink, washing the dinner dishes, I couldn’t think of what day it is. I knew what day I wanted it to be.

I switched to lavender scented dish soap two or three months back. It started with lavender candles, went to lavender counter cleaner and settled in with lavender dish soap.

The dish soap is my least favorite of my lavender infatuation, mostly because it smells like soapy lavender, and I have an irrational fear that it tastes like it smells and that the smell won’t rinse off. Irrational because I still think that thought after months of zero evidence that there is any residual taste or even smell of lavender. It rinses off just fine.

I made an amalgamation of leftovers in a bowl for dinner, so the dishes were primarily containers from the leftovers and some dishes and silverware. There were two round containers with screw on blue tops, one large cube with a snap blue top, and a glass rectangle with a clear top that you need to slap the edges hard to seal. The glass rectangle is heavy. My plan was to switch from the eventually disposable plastic containers to all glass, but the size options don’t meet my food storage needs. Also, they don’t stack as well.

I don’t know why I was so confused about the day, but I definitely struggled to tease it out. At first I thought that it was Thursday, but quickly realized I was a victim of wishful thinking. Yes, I wanted tomorrow to be Friday. Nope, today had to be Wednesday. I was pretty sure. I looked at the container lid in my hand and smelled the lavender smell. I counted the days I remembered this week and Wednesday seemed mostly right. I rinsed the lid. I volunteered to wash the dishes tonight because I wanted to have my hands in the warm water.

I took a step back and leaned toward the calendar. I looked and saw that Wednesday was the 13th. It seemed like today was the 13th. Was that right? Maybe it was the 14th?

I put the next well-rinsed container in the dish drainer. I picked up the plastic encased sponge and the next dish and strained my brain for a clue of what day it is. There was nothing–absolutely not one thing–that I could come up with that was routine, that was a marker for this day, whatever day it is. The water ran from the faucet as I put more soap on my sponge.

What day is it today?

My brain turned to my Mom’s trips to the hospital over the past few years. The nurse would lean in on her and say [loudly because my elderly Mom was hard of hearing and didn’t listen anyway], “HONEY, DO YOU KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS TODAY? WHAT YEAR?”

I used to think that was a dumb and unfair question. In the hospital one day is like another. There weren’t markers of time other than when meals are brought. If they wanted to know if she was confused, there would be fairer questions. Of course she’d get it wrong.

I stood there over the sink, sponge hanging off of my hand, brain starting to smoke as I turned my day over and inside out searching for an elusive cue. I looked into the running water and pushed fog away. I remembered that I cancelled our regular Thursday meeting today. A marker! It’s Thursday.

Which means tomorrow is, indeed, Friday.

I finished the dishes and wiped down the counter, grateful that there wasn’t a test today on today.

Bam Ba Lam

Old lady singing into a large microphone

“Oh, God!” said my high-school boyfriend.

Me: What?
HSBF: You know that song, ‘bam ba lam’?
Me: Yeah?
HSBF: It came on the radio today and MY MOM WAS SINGING IT!!!

Oh. The, Horror.

It was a little funny, except that I never met his mom. So I didn’t have much perspective. Come to think about it, I never met his dad. Or his brothers. In 30ish months of “going together,” with our ancestral homes separated by about a mile, I never met his people.

My mom introduced me to the Beatles. She would play Meet the Beatles and Introducing The Beatles. She had a bunch of old records we’d listen to, like Limbo Rock. I grew up with people listening to music. People had records and also listened to music on the radio. And sang along.

My folks gave me my first AM radio when I was about seven. I used to listen to CKLW [the motor ciiitttttyyy] like church. Detroit radio introduced me to the Stones, Supremes, Little Stevie, Smokey, Aretha, Clapton/Cream/Stevie W/Traffic, Zeppelin, The Who, Kiss, Prince, George Clinton and GrandMaster Flash.

When I was ten, I got my first turntable. It also had a radio that included FM! I bought my first LP–Elton John’s Greatest Hits. In high school I had a job in a record store. I always had music on–in the house, in the car, via my portable FM radio and eventually on my boombox.

On school mornings, I’d get up, pad into the kitchen and turn on the radio to eat breakfast. We’d listen to the AOR station (I’ll be the roundabout). I guess my Mom listened. She didn’t turn it off or tell us to turn it down. She’d be in the room, so I guess she listened or at least heard.

So, like who cares that your mom knows your song?

Maybe that’s why I didn’t know his mom and family. He cared that his mom knew his song. As if only we teens owned the public airwaves. As if it was unacceptable that his mom was part of that public. What if he was embarassed of his family? I didn’t know them so maybe they were embarrassing. That said, they couldn’t be much worse than mine, and he was over our house all the time. What if WE were the embarrassing ones–lacking even the most basic self-awareness that we were embarrassing?

I know that I resemble an embarrassment to my spawn. Rolling into the Boys and Girls Club after summer camp with Get Low blasting from the minivan is certainly cringe-worthy. Or when a millennial colleague caught me on my headphones and asked me what I was listening to. Don’t judge an old book by it’s cover, I say.

So I’m thinking about HSBF’s mom, enjoying music. And hope that she looked like this:

And for the record, these Black Betty induced memories were triggered as the Big Guy blared it from his phone, followed by some Creedence. He ain’t no fortunate son. He came by it honest.

Fresh Grass

white smoke with a hand coming out from it

Legalized marijuana in the District stinks.

D.C. voters passed a ballot proposal that “legalized the limited possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults who are 21 or older.” It became law about 11 months ago, and while there are limits to folks lighting up in public, police are pretty much letting smokers be.

This has translated into the pungent smell of weed imposing itself on me with increasing frequency. It was a bit jarring at first. Walking to work, smell pot. Driving down the road, smell pot from another vehicle. Walking to the dog park, same thing.

And it stinks. Plain and simple, it does not smell good.

It smells like skunk. It’s our city skunk sachet. Ugh.

Today I was getting off the subway and was shocked by the smell of weed. Shocked that it smelled like the weed that scented the halls of East Quad in Ann Arbor many decades ago. Cheap weed that filled a ziploc sandwich bag for $5. Weed that was full of seeds and stems and nary a bud. It didn’t have a name (other than pot) and had the simple effects of making people giggle, paranoid and hungry.

For a second there, I smelled a familiar smell, like fresh mown grass on a late spring day. Not like it smelled like grass, but it smelled like grass. Man.

Feelings Behind

plane flying in a pretty sky

Dear Mom and Dad,
I remember leaving. I was 18, and so glad to be on my own. You two were already grown. I didn’t really give you any thought. As if my next steps would have any impact on you–my parents. I was about me.

Today I was at the airport. I watched Baby Bear walk away from me to get on that big metal bird to the mountains. Where he lives.

So, Mom and Dad, I have some questions. Did your heart break when I drove away? Every time? Did you wonder if I was going to be okay? Were you conflicted by your amazement of your spawn functioning without you and your worry that you couldn’t protect me?

Did this ever stop? These feelings of an ever-alert, yet redundant, guard dog? Was I always your kid? Your baby, in your heart? Did you whiplash when conversing with a grownup while stuffing protective impulses back inside you before I noticed? I know you know that I would have insisted, again, that I was an adult and didn’t need anything.

Did you wonder if you were doing enough? Too much? Did you worry about respecting my autonomy? Did you worry if I was paying my bills? Drinking too much? Breaking a heart? Getting my heart broken?

When I was starting out and job hopping, did you think I was making mistakes? Wonder if I was carrying health insurance? Saving for retirement? Paying my mortgage? Getting up on time for work?

Did you think that I was able to balance being a parent and breadwinner? Did you look at me looking at you in your hospital bed and think about how you being in that bed was affecting me?

I never thought about how you felt about me. Not from the point of view of a parent. Not until today. I’m sorry for not seeing this. It’s crazy love.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Your (grown) Child

All Comes Down

Dog reviewing the lit up Christmas tree.

I’m doing it this weekend.

Unlike in many, many, many years in the past, when it would stand until the branches bowed convex and were favoring the brown side of green and when the needles had become little weapons stabbing you to protect their ornaments until they sacrificed themselves to carpet the carpet with their barbed edges awaiting an unsuspecting stockinged foot. So sneaky. But not this year.

Yet, this year’s tree was not without its own dramas. It begins with a process.

First, I placate my conscience by making sure that the proceeds for a pricey fire-hazard farmed for my holiday pleasure goes to a “good cause.”

Then there’s the search for the right tree. It has to be a very tall tree that isn’t too wide (old house with small rooms and high ceilings). I really like the impact of a TALL tree. It’s so impressive.

I don’t like the really long needles, so there’s that. And I can’t ever remember the type tree that we usually get. White pine? Douglas Fir? Fraser? Colorado Blue Spruce? Some people know. I don’t. But I know what it should smell like. And the smell is key. I usually grab a branch and run my hands along it to feel the needles and, if it feels good, I sink my nose into its cold body and take a big whiff, because when you get your tree it needs be cold and smell like cold and sweet pungent pine.

So it looks and smells right, but, and this is critical and based on prior trauma, will it stand upright for the duration? This is when we hold it and spin it and study the trunk, because depending on the cut and any squirrely bend in the tree, you can find yourself rehanging ornaments all season. Or, as in one year, someone might just pick it up off of the ground and javelin it across the room accompanied by a volley of sharp words not appropriate for you, Loyal Reader.

After much scrutiny, unwrapping and review of trees in the secret stash and a highly supervised and exacting chainsawing of the bottom branches, we brought the tree home. (Also after a most excellent and celebratory hot toddy and bar snacks.)

Guess what? The damn tree was unstable in the tree stand.

Yup. So there was much additional doctoring of the branches, backs and forths with hacksaws, crosscut saws, heavy duty pruners, and likely a switch blade. It stood, but if a heavy truck drove down our street, it would surely drop.

It was time for the big gun. But that was not without some regret as the Big Gun’s solution included screwing the tree stand into a block of wood that ended up breaking in half and then taking a pair of these bad boys

and posting them on top of that plank for additionally stability. This is where the size of the tree is important since you can almost–almost I say–cover them with a tree skirt and still have room for presents underneath in the front.

The next day I climbed the rickety ladder–I mean why buy a new ladder when you can continue to use the one that your Spouse found in the shed at the group house he lived in 30 years ago?–to place the star on the top of the tree.

Heavy star tree topperI got the star about four or five years ago. Decent tree toppers are almost impossible to find and this star has faceted mirrors to reflect the lights on the tree. I was ecstatic that it didn’t light up with some garish LED lights that looked more like a downtown Cincinnati bar sign (drink bush lite here). It would light from the tree itself. But when you buy something online, you might find yourself focusing on how it looks, because, well that’s what you see online, a beautiful star on a beautiful Pottery Barn tree in an amazingly beautiful curated holiday scene. You don’t recognize, for instance, that the star weighs 75 pounds and there is no discernable way to attach it to the tree.

So you get on the rickety ladder and braid together some old bread ties so they are long enough to wrap around the top of the tree and the tree topper (you don’t do the braiding until you are on the top of the ladder because, I don’t know, you like to swing back and forth with a 75 pound fragile star in your hand at the top of a rickety ladder while crocheting wire ties together?!). And you do this same thing every year because, I don’t know, Christmas?

Anyway, you get on the top of the rickety ladder with your ties and your star and start the process of braiding and then affixing it to the top of the tree. Lot’s of twists of lots of ties.

And then, and then, and then—you notice that the tree is starting to list to starboard. It seems strange since there are 100 pounds of weights holding it down, but it pitches anyway, and there is no time for additional analysis. It’s time for action. From the top of the rickety ladder you un-secure the twist ties that you really really twisted while trying to hold the tree upright and trying to keep yourself from losing balance and tumbling off the ladder onto the tree.

You know just what is needed. The tree needs to be tied to the wall. And you need a Bulleit.

And, today, it’s coming down.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Nicebot on twitter. So nice.

Look what found me today? The Nice Bot.

This is what it said:

@docthink If hugs were snowflakes, I would send you a blizzard. #TheNiceBot

Wow. What a treat.

Someone programmed this bot to randomly send nice tweets to random Twitter users. It was a very pleasant, and very welcome, Friday afternoon surprise.

What a sweet use of Twitter, the Internet and some programming logic.

Speaking of bots, today is the day that a famous bot from the film Blade Runner was incepted. The super-replicant, Roy, began his short four-year life today, but 34 years ago. Yes, this is confusing.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain.

As #TheNiceBot surprised me, so did the enraged and crazed Roy surprise Harrison Ford’s Deckard. There is good in this world, at least from robots.

Good lesson for us humans.

Geography Tweet

I know it’s silly season. But, seriously. Can people be any more silly?

Folks are really going off on The Donald, saying he intimated that he didn’t know that Paris isn’t in Germany.


That is the silliest thing I’ve heard in a long time. Donald Trump totally knows that Paris is in France. Despite the froth that is happening around The Twitters.

I would have hoped that The Twitters would remember that you have 140 characters. It’s hard to be concise and clear. But, breaking down the tweet, he is talking about an incident in Paris and then conflating it with the New Year’s incidents in Cologne when organized gangs of men–identified by some as refugees–attacked and robbed women. Not that he thinks that Paris is in Germany. Ugh. Makes my head hurt.

I was on a Trump diet, but the trending made me take a look at the “issue.” And made me blow my Trump-diet. The read of this tweet as him not knowing this pretty basic geography is just goofy.

The “issue” with Trump is totally a false “gotcha.” Agree with him or disagree with him–and other candidates–as you like. But be smart and stop adding to a garbage pile.

I Don’t Talk To Machines

A whack looking bug-eyed silver robot claymation figure.

As a rule, I don’t talk to machines.

Well, to be honest, I have been known to soothingly coax the car, angrily curse the computer and gratefully coo at a working HVAC–both in summer and winter. But these are always one way interactions. We don’t have conversations.

I did try to conversate with that simple-Simon, Siri, but she is the most useless of all. I thought if I provided feedback it would get better. It did not.

I get quite peeved at those too-clever-by-half robo calls that try and trick you into talking by using pauses and intonations that make you think you are speaking with a real person. They don’t fool me, though. I quickly hang up and THEN curse. I am not engaging with a machine. Even to give them what for. I learned from Siri. They don’t learn.

When I call the credit card company and they ask me to speak my card number, I dial it in. I remain silent if they ask me a question. I just want a human (who always asks me for the account number that I just entered, but that’s a different complaint.)

Today I continued to have trouble with the Barnes & Noble textbook returns. The instructions were to print out a return label. For the past two days, I went online and got the error message “ups service is down please try after some time.”

So I hit up the chat feature. This is the verbatim chat.

Lanie : Hi, my name is Lanie . How may I help you? 
ME: Yes, please. 
Lanie : Hi. 
ME: I am trying to print out the labels to return textbooks since yesterday. But I get an error that says to come back “after some time.” 
ME: Books are due on the 11th! 
ME: when is after some time? 
Lanie : I understand you need assistance with rental and I’m happy to help you. 
Lanie : The packing slip is the paper that came with the original package of the book. If you no longer have it you may print the order confirmation email and use it as the packing slip. 
ME: lanie are you a machine 
ME: this is the worst chat ever. 
Lanie : I’m sorry. But I’m not a machine. 
ME: you are just acting like one?
ME: No offense, but you did not respond to my question. So I thought you were a machine. 
ME: Just spewing based on a key word or two.
Lanie : I do apologized if you feel that way. 
ME: so can you go back and read my question and respond to the question that I actually asked?
ME: I feel like I am texting with Siri. She’s not very good at listening, either. 
Lanie : Have you tried this steps on the web page
ME: uh. that’s the issue. 
ME: Step 4: 
ME: 4. Locate the textbook that you want to return and click Print Shipping Label. A pop-up lists the address of a UPS location close to your shipping address.
ME: when i click i get the above error message: “ups service is down please try after some time.”
Lanie : Oh, I see. I can send you a return label instead. 
ME: via email? 
Lanie : Yes, I will send thru your email. 
ME: okay. 
ME: will you do that this morning? 
Lanie : Yes, sure. I will send it right away. 
Lanie : Is there anything else I can help you with? 
Lanie : Are you there? 
Lanie : Are you there? We’d like to help you, but I need you to respond. I will continue to wait for 2 minutes, but after that, I will have to disconnect from this session to assist other customers. We apologize for the inconvenience 
ME: okay 
Lanie : I’m sorry but I have not heard back from you and there are some other customers who need some help. I will have to sign off our session now, but when you have more time please get back to us so that we can give you the help you need. Just contact us again by email at, or by phone at 1-800-THE-BOOK (1-800-843-2665). Have a great day! 
ME: i’m done 
Lanie : Thank you. 

Lanie has disconnected. 

And 11 hours later? Still no label. Screw you, Machine. Totally disconnected.