From the FB Archives…

Someone asked me tonight, “what is best in life?”. I’ll forgive that they called me Mr. Young – even FB knows thats my Dad. But it got me a-thinkin’. I know, I know, nothing good can come of that. So, I says to myself, what is “best in life?” This is what I think today is best in life. Uncertainty, foolishness, fearlessness and passion. Life is uncertain – embrace it, ride it like a wave. Be a fool. Be a fool for something, someone – be unselfconscious in all you do. Be as silly, whimsical and happy as you can manage. Laugh, smile and make others laugh. That is a true gift, making others laugh. Don’t be afraid – fear feeds on itself and will suck the strength out of you. Fear and its partner worry will tie you down. F’em! Charge ahead, damn the torpedoes! You know what you love – do it. There is no substitute. It doesn’t have to be a great grand endeavor. Just give yourself to it. And then, from my personal perspective, there are some things that I consider best in life – a nice whiskey, a crushing riff, a long slow kiss, the laugh of a child, the warmth of the sun, reverb, a properly cooked steak, the love of friends and family, the awesomeness of the universe, the sound of coyotes on a cold autumn night, sharing a bottle of wine, cooking for others, the wind in my hair, a long run, having my hand held, a warm breath on my neck, a finely crafted beer, a candle lit dinner, a slow dance and bacon. So, for what it’s worth, that’s my answer today. Ask me tomorrow, and I may very well give a different answer. Cheers, peace and love

It’s been a long time…

Thirty three years ago next week I saw Led Zeppelin’s third to last performance with the original four members in Mannhiem, Germany.

Last night I saw the next best thing to seeing the band that reformed for the fabled O2 concert in 2007.

We went to the local concert shed to see Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience open up for Heart.  Believe it or not, I had never seen the Wilson sisters perform.

It was a typical hot and humid June night and thankfully we had seats inside the pavilion.  The setting sun was still very intense from our seats in the 300 section, near the back of the building.  We had our shades on for the first half of Bonham’s band’s set.

Eventually the sun dropped below the tree line and we could begin to see the images on the large video screens on either side of the stage.

The Led Zep Experience ran through a quick set of Zeppelin standards, with Jason occasionally addressing the crowd from behind his kit.  The passing and subsequent absence of his Dad, though 33 past, is obviously still an emotional subject.

The band consisted of a trio of hired guns on vocals, guitar and bass.  They did a solid, if unremarkable, job with the material.  It’s clear that Jason is the star here.  Vocalist James Dylan is from the Northern Virginia area, so he had quite a few local supporters.  He’s a Plant sound-a-like, even if he is a Daughtry look-a-like.

The band was rounded out by Tony Catania on guitar, and Michael Devin on bass.

Jason, I think Bonzo would be proud.

After a brief intermission, the Anne and Nancy and crew took the stage to the power chords of their signature rocker, “Barracuda”.

Heart ran through set heavy on the hits, with couple of pleasant surprises.  Nancy did a solo acoustic cover of Elton John’s “I Need You to Turn to” that was really beautiful.  “She’s really underrated as a performer”, I shared with my date, “but she’s in the Hall of Fame”.

Other than the train wreck, “Dear Old America”, it was a solid set with some heavy riffs and the sister’s legendary vocals.  No “Dog and Butterfly”, but they did play “Mistral Wind”.

As the final notes of “Crazy On You” rang in the night and faded, the lights dimmed and Jason Bonham’s drum riser was rolled back out on stage for the “encore”.

Anne and Nancy appeared center stage.  Anne on acoustic guitar, Nancy on mandolin and they proceeded to play the “Battle of Evermore”, a Zeppelin tune they’ve been covering for probably 30 years or so.  It was, if the word can be used on a Led Zeppelin song, sublime.

That was followed by some of my favorite Zep tunes, “The Song Remains the Same”, “The Rain Song”, “The Ocean”, “Kashmir” and “Stairway to Heaven”.

“Stairway” was the closer and they included the choir, albiet a smaller version, that appeared with them on the Kennedy Center Honors awards show honoring Led Zeppelin among others.

Short of seeing Jimmy, Robert and JPJ together on stage again, this is probably as close as a Led Zeppelin fan will get to seeing the band live at this point.  Anne Wilson is undisputedly the finest interpreter of Plant’s Led Zeppelin vocals. Finest.  Ever. Period.

It’s a show well worth your time.


MedalOh the things we get ourselves in to…

Yesterday I found myself in Charlotte, North Carolina at the US National Whitewater Center to participate in a Spartan Race.  What is a Spartan Race you might ask?  You might.  Google it.

Last year a friend participated in the Spartan Run at the same location and after she regaled me with her exploits, I thought, “hey, I can do that”.  Apparently I also said it out loud.  I really need to be more careful.

The forecast for the day was rainy and in the mid to high 30′s.  Why did the weather forecasters pick yesterday to be right?

I had a start time of 9am and we arrived at the USNWC well before 8 to check in and get suited up.  We collected our race bibs and timing chips and got marked.  This last part was new to me.  It simply involved having your bib number written on your body with Sharpie so your body could be identified in the event your bib fell off.  Mine did.  I choose the back of my left calf and my face.  Sharpie ink is hard to wash off, I still have the numbers on my leg.

I joined my wave at the starting line about 15 minutes prior to the start.  It was interesting to see the choices my fellow runners made regarding their kits.  We had everything from soldiers in full BDUs and gas masks to a couple of idiots in just running shorts.  More on them later.  I choose shorts with base layer long sleeve under my Rush running jersey along with my trusty Adidas trail shoes.  I also had on my cotton beanie, the one I bought for the Inauguration Day parade but didn’t wear.

The first mile was really fun, a nice trail run through the woods – I could’ve done that for many miles.  Many.

Near the end of mile one was the big “OUT” sign, right before the first obstacle.  If you wanted out, now was your last chance.  Well, that or on a stretcher…

Obstacle number one was a mud pit.  Well, a big hole filled with muddy water.  Did I mention that it was cold?  One of the other runners just about lost his shoes to the mud’s suction.  I decided a dog paddle was the easier way.

From there they put us in the river.  Really. The Catawba river runs adjacent to the facility.  The water was actually a bit warmer than the mud pit.  This was the last time I would feel clean until my post race shower.

Upon exiting the river we came upon a couple of the aforementioned shirtless idiots being rescued by the EMTs.  From the looks of things it was for hypothermia.  They were wrapped up in space blankets, shivering in the back of an all-terrain vehicle.

The next obstacles were walls that had to be scaled.  7 and 8 feet.  Have I ever mentioned that I have no vertical leaping ability?  I hit the wall running and jumped to get ahold of the top.  I felt like a fly hitting a windshield.

One of the great things about this race was the instant camaraderie among the runners.  I got a boost over the 7 foot wall and worked with a team of Aussies to get all of us over the 8 footer.  I joked with a fellow male runner about how “shrinkage” caused by the cold water was very helpful when straddling these walls .

The rain was unrelenting.  Many of the Spartan Race obstacles always involve mud.  Yesterday they all did.  Thanks to my trusty trail shoes, I never lost my footing or traction.   That meant that every time I hit the deck, it was on purpose.  Many of my fellow runners could not say the same thing.  How’d that tree feel, dude?

Burpees?  Really?  30 burpees?  What’s a burpee, you might ask.  It’s a form of torture that should be banned under the Geneva Convention.  Seriously.  It was also the penalty for failing to complete an obstacle.  30. We used to call them squat thrusts in PE class.  They suck.  I did 120 of them, give or take.  In the mud. With rocks.  It really sucked and my knees bare the evidence.  I was, however, never alone.  Misery truly does love company.

I did great on the “feats of strength” obstacles.  These included pulling a rain soaked rope attached to a weight, dragging a concrete block up a muddy hill and back down, flipping a tractor tire over four times, and carrying a rain soaked – did I mention it was raining? – sand bag down a hill and back up again.

The obstacles that involved balance and/or climbing gave me the most trouble.  The rain certainly didnt help, but neither did not having the proper upper body strength to body weight ratio.  I knew this would be an issue going in, so I was prepared to struggle.

The final hurdle was a fire pit.  I thought every stop should have had fire.  Man, it was miserably cold.  I didn’t stop shivering until I was in the car and well on my way back to Salisbury.  That’s with a bowl of chili, two cups of coffee and a milk stout!

Why?  Why, you might ask, would I – do people, do these events.  I can’t speak for others.  I did this because I was afraid I couldn’t and I needed to prove to myself that I could.  I have found that at every race there is always someone older than me, fatter than me and slower than me.  This tells me two things.  One, that I have no excuses and two, that others hear the same voice that I hear.  Get up, don’t die sorry.

Oh, and I did it for the medal – it’s pretty bad ass!

P.S.  “Spartan the F*ck Up!”

P.P.S. Thanks to Beth and Cecilia for being our cheering section.

TAO of Mark

  • Sometimes the firm words of a friend are the greatest kindness
  • Never pass up the opportunity to try something new, no matter how weird. You may miss out on the greatest thing ever
  • No one owes me anything, but I owe everyone something
  • Do what you can, when you can, with what you’ve got
  • Fatherhood is more than biology, attendance counts
  • To make another laugh, this is the greatest gift
  • Celebrating the success of a friend is the best
  • There are more important things than being right
  • Lack of understanding is directly related to the inability to communicate effectively
  • Correlation does not imply causation
  • Minimum effort yields minimum results
  • Don’t wait for perspective, be thankful and relax
  • If you really enjoy being divisive, why don’t you just split?
  • Everything in moderation, including moderation.  Excess can be good for the soul.
  • Karma is law, Grace is choice.  Love one another.
  • The Hammond Organ sings in the key of melancholy
  • In the face of confusion and chaos, optimism wins the day
  • Reflexes make for great athletics, not politics
  • It is said that perception is reality. So, if I look busy, is that the same as being busy?
  • A little self loathing is OK, just don’t get carried away
  • Act, don’t react
  • When inspiration calls, you’d do well to answer
  • Baby steps often become giant leaps
  • Despair takes too much energy
  • Say thank you
  • Leap, don’t look
  • Be provocative
  • Be ridiculous
  • Everyone is so sure of the rightness of their opinion and the righteousness of their cause, and my list of things I’m sure about is shorter than the list of things I’m unsure about – I must be doing something wrong
  • Yell, holler and scream, but never in anger at each other
  • Be thankful for what you have, some would kill or die to have the same
  • If you are not impulsive or reactive, you can be resolute
  • Always be looking forward, there’s a reason they don’t put rear view mirrors on rockets
  • You can’t lie to the road
  • I didn’t change my route because the old way was easy, I changed it because it wasn’t hard enough
  • Stop looking over the fence
  • No one can motivate you, no one can deter you
  • Quityerbitchin
  • No one saw that, but Karma took notice
  • They say you can’t run away from your problems. Well, mine can’t keep up with me when I run…
  • I don’t want to ride your bandwagon
  • Religion leaves a bad taste in my mind
  • Cynicism breeds anger, anger becomes hate – ‘and the greatest of these is love’. Don’t give in to cynicism.
  • Coltrane
  • First rule, check your connections
  • If you didn’t treat your body like you hated it, maybe it wouldn’t act like it hates you
  • Be careful when talking politics on FB, as you are likely only preaching to the converted and are only speaking into an echo chamber
  • Wisdom is earned with blood and sweat, and if blessed, with love at hand
  • There are few things and no people that can’t be laughed at
  • It’s OK to not know

Bands I’ve seen over the years…

Update of the ongoing and growing list…
1. AC/DC
2. Judas Priest x3
3. Queen
4. Rush x6
5. Led Zeppelin
6. ZZ Top x2
7. The Police
8. Cheap Trick x2
9. Asia
10. The Black Crowes
11. The Alarm
12. Kings X x4
13. Journey x3
14. Peter Frampton
15. Bob Dylan
16. Emmylou Harris x2
17. Buddy and Julie Miller x2
18, The Proclaimers
19. The Cranberries
20. Toad the Wet Sprocket
21. Dream Theater x2
22. Zappa Plays Zappa
23. Queenscryche
24. Iron Maiden x4
25. Kansas
26. Foreigner
27. Scorpions x2
28. Def Leppard x3
29. Gamma
30. Jethro Tull
31. Thin Lizzy
32. Rolling Stones
33. J. Geils Band
34. Jason & the Scorchers x3
35. Randy Newman
35. Simon & Garfunkel
36. The Everly Bros
37. Carbon Leaf
38. Seven Nations x5
39. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra x3
40. Saxon
41. Motorhead x3
42. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath w/ RJD)
43. Larry Norman x2
44. Eddie From Ohio
45. Shawn Colvin
46. Jonathon Waite
47. April Wine
48. Krokus
49. Girlschool
50. Styx x2
51. Nickelback
52. Papa Roach
53. Hinder x2
54. Saving Abel
55. Los Lonely Boys x2
56. Los Lobos
57. The Young Dubliners
58. Great Big Sea
59. Phil Keaggy x4
60. Second Chapter of Acts
61. Blue Oyster Cult x2
62. The Machine
63. Stryper
64. The Thompson Twins
65. Howard Jones
66. TNT
67. Loudness
68. Testament x2
69. REM
70. The dbs
71. Dan Fogelberg
72. Chicago
73. Earth, Wind & Fire
74. Pete Yorn
75. Over the Rhine x3
76. Bill Mallonee x5
77. Ted Nugent
78. Molly Hatchett
79. Wishbone Ash
80. Pat Travers
81. Johnny Winters
82. Moe.
83. Savatage
84. The Galactic Cowboys
85. Saga
86. Susan Tedeschi
87. Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers
88. Accept x3
89. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers with special guest Stevie Nicks
90. Social Distortion x2
91. Collective Soul
92. Bryan Adams
93. Trey Anastasio
94. Christopher Parkening
95. Bruce Cockburn
96. Epica
97. Blackguard x2
98. SignalThreat
99. Megadeth
100. Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers x3
101. Alice Cooper
102. Godsmack x2
102. Halestorm
103. Alter Bridge
104. Bullet for My Valentine x2
105. Seether x2
106. Sevendust
108. Red Fang
109. Avenged Sevenfold
110. Pop Evil
111. Skillet
112. Foo Fighters
113. The Joy Formidable
114. Ryan Montbleau Band x6
115. Disturbed
116. Trivium
117. Straight Line Stitch
118. Machine Head x2
119. In Flames
120. Black Tide
121. Three Days Grace
122. Escape the Fate
123. Theory of a Deadman
124. Sabaton
125. Sound of Thunder
126. Slayer
127. Anthrax
128. Slipknot
129. The Devil Wears Prada
130. Asking Alexandria
131. Alice Cooper
132. Drake White
133. Blackberry Smoke
134. Dixie Power Trio
135. Ana Popovich
136. Soundgarden x2
137. Silversun Pickups
138. Capital Cities
139. AWOL Nation
140. Stacie Collins
141. Deanna Bogart
142. Mavis Staples
143. Bonnie Raitt
144. Quinn Sullivan
145. Southern Hospitality
146. Indigenous
147. The Slide Brothers
148. Trampled Under Foot
149. Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience
150. Heart
151. Motionless in White
152. Butcher Babies
153. Job for a Cowboy
154. Amon Armoth
153. Mastadon
155. Five Finger Death Punch
156. Rob Zombie
157. Battlecross
156. Children of Bodom
157. Monster Madhouse
158. The Deathbillies
159. UFO
160. Godspeed You Black Emperor
161. Nine Inch Nails
162. Ryan Montbleau solo acoustic
163. Amber Rubarth
164. Clutch
165. The Mike Dillon Band

For Tina, on the anniversary of her upsetting the balance of the universe.

Happy, happy my dear friend.

May peace and chaos always find the right balance in your home, and those under your roof know the depth of your love for them.

May you and yours prosper and never want, and the light in your hearth never dim.

May those close to you never fail to show their appreciation and affection.

May your aim always be true, judicious and merciful.

May all of your dreams come true, your adventures be epic and shared.

Thank you for being my friend, my evil big (older!) sister, my Tina.

Happy Birthday!

Love ya,

Mark, aka “your stupid little brother” ;-)

P.S.  Yeah, I so didn’t get you a card…