Rush and the Soundtrack of my Life

I have spoken before on how Rush has been the soundtrack of my life, which reminds me of the following story. "Dreamline" was the first song that I heard from Rush's Roll the Bones album, and in those pre-Internet days I didn't know that the album was being released, so my first hearing of that song caught me entirely by surprise. My wife and I had recently returned to the United States after having lived in Germany for the past 3½ years, and I had picked up our car in New Orleans and was making my way westward along I-10 toward Fort Huachuca (which is 90 miles south of Tucson).

As I was driving through the vast, empty expanses of Texas, I was channel surfing on my car's stereo to find the best rock stations in each town I passed through. When I made it to El Paso, I was passing by Sunland Park Mall as I tuned to a local station where the DJ said, "Here's the latest single from Rush," and those famous notes of Alex's epic intro came blaring over the car stereo's speakers, which were quickly joined by Geddy's bass and then Neil's thunderous drums. I cranked the car stereo to 11, and I was so immediately enamored with the piece that I could've wrecked the car if I wasn't careful.

That brief, specific moment in time is frozen in my consciousness; I can still see exactly where I was as I literally drove headlong down the highway into an uncertain future. My wife and I were closing a major chapter in our lives and opening another, and "Dreamline" will forever be tied to that memory.

But then again, how could it not when the song's lyrics are:

"They travel on the road to redemption
A highway out of yesterday - that tomorrow will bring
Like lovers and heroes, birds in the last days of spring
We're only at home when we're on the wing
On the wing

When we are young
Wandering the face of the earth
Wondering what our dreams might be worth
Learning that we're only immortal
For a limited time

Time is a gypsy caravan
Steals away in the night
To leave you stranded in Dreamland
Distance is a long-range filter
Memory a flickering light
Left behind in the heartland

We travel in the dark of the new moon
A starry highway traced on the map of the sky
Like lovers and heroes, lonely as the eagle's cry
We're only at home when we're on the fly
On the fly

We travel on the road to adventure
On a desert highway straight to the heart of the sun
Like lovers and heroes, and the restless part of everyone
We're only at home when we're on the run
On the run..."

I have hundreds of stories just like this, which is why - as I mentioned earlier - Rush has been soundtrack of my life. I occasionally sit back and watch any of the live videos that Rush released over the years, and the feeling that best describes each viewing experience is "nostalgia." I know that sounds trite and simplistic, but I have countless memories that are emotionally connected to all of Rush's songs. The live videos are an added plus, because I saw Rush on many of those same tours, and the videos bring back memories of the times in my life when I went to those concerts. Some of those shows were when in was high school and I attended them with my older brother, some shows were when my wife and I were newly married and the tickets that cost a pittance by today's standards were a fortune for me at the time, and in recent years I attended several shows with my older brother and a group of close friends - and every time was a mind-blowing event. Rush never "phoned in" a gig - they always brought their "A Game" and killed it on stage. (Which, of course, is why Neil had retired prior to his untimely death; he knew he couldn't continue playing at that level forever.)

[Deep Sigh.]

I miss Rush.


  1. See for the song's full lyrics.

Making a Point while Missing the Mark

I recently read the essay Sometimes reforming: Martin Luther, the church and the rest of us, and if it had ended with "Sometimes the most we can do is 'give a witness' by our dissent and hope for reformation when future generations take up the cause for social and spiritual transformation," I would have thought that essay was a brilliantly-worded treatise on why Christians should reflect on Luther's words and actions this October 31st. Unfortunately, the essay didn't end there, and its author, Bill Leonard, spent the succeeding paragraph lashing out at non-Baptists and pro-Trumpers. (And just to be clear - I am decidedly NOT pro-Trump. I have publicly spoken out against Trump on many occasions, but that's another story.)

Throughout the "On All Hallows' Eve 2023" paragraph, Leonard doesn't mince words when he equates the actions and attitudes of those with whom he disagrees with the 19th-century pro-slavery crowd and suggests that evangelicals are on an equal footing with the rest of today's sin-obsessed society. (Note that from a historical perspective, Leonard's pro-Baptist sentiments conveniently overlook the pro-slavery views held by the Southern Baptist Convention that upheld slavery and helped pave the way toward Civil War. Leonard also fails to mention that it was largely evangelicals from the Second Great Awakening who opposed slavery, and he makes no mention of Methodists who referred to slavery as the "execrable sum of all villainies," but I digress.) Leonard's entire "All Hallows' Eve 2023" paragraph is nothing short of "denomination bashing," which is a behavior that ultimately portrays all of Christianity in a bad light, and for which people have said to me on numerous occasions: "That's why I wouldn't want to become a Christian: you Christians are always fighting each other."

When viewing this essay as a whole, what started out so well as a history lesson about Martin Luther and a call for contemplation on the role of dissent within our Christian lives quickly descended into a veiled attack on those with whom the article's author disagrees, and in so doing Leonard completely negates his opening quotation from Luther: "I will constrain no one by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion." With that in mind, I would suppose that some form of sarcastic kudos are warranted for the essay's author; his dissertation on Luther is so misguided that he completely misses the meaning of Luther's original prose, and he manages to publicly humiliate the church in the process. So I offer a brusque "bravo" to Bill Leonard for his essay; his opinions are exactly what the church needs today, but only if the church intends to fail miserably in modern society.

A Picture Can Wound a Thousand Broken Hearts

I wanted to reshare this photo because it was very personal to me. My wife and I have a bed very similar to this in the bedroom where our four-year-old granddaughter sleeps peacefully when she comes to visit, and I can imagine that the child who owned this bed was sleeping peacefully in it before she was senselessly slaughtered this past weekend. And what had the child done to deserve such a violent and militaristic execution? She was alive, and that was it. For thousands of years people have killed millions of Jews simply because they existed, and many of these genocides have been largely ignored by unsympathetic historians because the victims were Jews and no one seemed to care about their suffering. This is racism at its worst, and it must stop.

Hamas Kills Innocent Babies

Over the past few decades, I have also heard much about the plight of the Palestinians, and if I'm being honest, I have to agree with some of the arguments that I have heard in their favor. I believe that Palestinians should have an independent state where they can live in peace, and if you study your history, you'll see that on multiple occasions Israel offered huge swaths of land with which the Palestinians could have created a free state for themselves. But the Palestinians refused these offers, because the terrorists the Palestinians voted into power, namely Hamas, do not want to peacefully coexist with Israel. Hamas has been very vocal over the years about its intentions to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, which is what lead to Saturday's surprise attack and the deaths of hundreds of innocent Jewish people for the simple crime of not being dead already.

I occasionally see people driving around with the "COEXIST" bumper sticker that is fashioned from the iconography of several major religions. While this is a noble-sounding sentiment, it reveals much about the naiveté of the person who emblazoned their vehicle with such innocent absurdity. The problem with preaching this particular message of coexistence is that it completely ignores the actions and emotions of people who do not share a common sense of right and wrong. Americans had a difficult time understanding this disparity when 9/11 happened; the thousands of innocent lives who died in the Twin Towers and Washington DC hadn't done anything to warrant their tragic deaths at the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists, but the enemy we faced was so blinded by hatred that it could not be reasoned with. Sadly, this is where Israel finds itself today. Hamas cannot be reasoned with. Hamas doesn't want to coexist. Hamas only wants to hate Jews and kidnap families and rape women and kill innocent people - like the child who owned the bed in this photo. Being ex-military, I am angered by this image. I am repulsed by what it depicts. I want vengeance for what Hamas has done. But that's not my place, and if I'm not careful, I may find myself so consumed by hatred for Hamas that I'm no better than they are.

Cursing by Keyboard in the Early Morning

If, like me, you were ever forced to read Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," here is my 21st-century homage to his most-famous work:

Cursing by Keyboard in the Early Morning

It's half past two, I'm still awake,
Typing madly, cursing mistakes.
Myriad tasks my ire rouse,
No end in sight, and my head aches.

Emphatic din of keys and mouse,
Resound throughout the tiny house.
Word just crashed with hard drive errors.
I scream in silence. (Can't wake my spouse.)

Word's "auto-save" denies my prayers;
Four thousand words beyond repair.
No cloud drive clone, I could just weep.
I start again, fraught with despair.

I long for blankets warm and deep,
But I have my deadlines to keep,
And hours to work before I sleep,
And hours to work before I sleep.


While I admire Frost's usage of iambic tetrameter throughout this poem, I thoroughly dislike the rhyming scheme that he employed. Nevertheless, my trifle of a poetic offering is more or less a form of parody, so I tried my best to stay true to Frost's pattern.


Yet Another Fan Appreciation Post for Rush

My brother shared the following video on social media of Rush during their "R30" tour, in which they were celebrating their 30th anniversary. Despite having seen the video before, I quickly found myself wrapped up in nostalgia as I rewatched Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart as they treated their fans to a musical retrospective of their storied career.

It's difficult to believe now, but the first time I saw the "Triumvirate from Toronto" in April of 1981, Lerxst and Dirk were just 27 years old and Pratt was just 28 - yet they were already on top of their game and the undisputed masters of progressive rock's heavier side. Rush was touring to support their Moving Pictures album, which came rapidly on the heels of their Permanent Waves, Hemispheres, A Farewell to Kings, and - of course - 2112 albums.

There are few bands who have managed to release a comparable collection of monumental, musical masterpieces in so short a time. The Boys from Willowdale join the ranks of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Yes, and a handful of others whose sphere of influence spans across tens of thousands of other world-class musicians.

While I admit that the occasional uneducated malcontent will utter some senseless trifle like, "...but I don't like Geddy's voice," those people can easily be discounted because they're generally not musicians. To put that another way, if you're a musician and you've seen Rush, then you know.

Transcribing Love, Salvation, the Fear of Death by Sixpence None The Richer

Today's transcription is a song that I began transcribing a couple years ago, but I never took the time to sit down and finish until today: "Love, Salvation, the Fear of Death" by Sixpence None The Richer. This song does a great job of showcasing J.J. Plasencio on the bass (and I'll say more about him in a moment), and Matt Slocum's amazing skills with myriad, layered guitar parts. I briefly mentioned Matt Slocum a few years ago in my Transcribing Girlfriend in a Coma by The Smiths blog when I was discussing Johnny Marr, and the two of them fall into something of the same category for me. As always, I'll have some notes to share after the following video.

Here are my notes about this transcription:

  • J.J. Plasencio's intro on the bass does a great job of setting the tone for the piece with a fast tempo and high energy, and it took some experimentation in Guitar Pro to get the effects to sound like the dotted eighth note delays that guitarists have been using for years.
    • If you're sitting down to work on this piece and you're trying dial in Plasencio's sound, all I can say is that a lot of experimentation with a delay pedal will go a long way. For what it's worth, my early skills with delays date back to David Gilmour's and Alex Lifeson's guitar work in the late 1970s and Eddie Van Halen and The Edge in the 1980s, and the skills in question were how to use the delay to create complex melodies that sound like more than one instrument.
    • I saw a live video of Sixpence None the Richer playing this song with Plasencio on bass several years ago (see, in which Plasencio played his parts on a 6-string bass. However, the song is quite playable on a 4-string bass in Drop-D tuning, which is an instrument that the majority of bassists will have handy, so that's the direction that I chose to go with for this transcription. That being said, if you have a 6-six string bass, some of the parts can take advantage of the high C string and you might not need to jump around the fretboard as much. (Note that in the live video from 1:20 to 1:35, the physical pain that Plasencio is clearly suffering is not imagined; it's a challenging bass part if you're playing with fingers on your right hand, which is why I use a pick.)
  • There are a lot of sonic textures going on within Matt Slocum's guitar parts, and I spent a good deal of time listening and re-listening to this song while trying to dig out every little nuance that I could. That being said, I know that the three guitar parts that I ultimately arranged for this transcription may not be perfect, but they're more than good enough for a cover band to sound like 99% of the original.

As I have always said in the past, this is a free transcription. So if you're upset that I left something out, or you don't think something is correct, then it sucks to be you.

NOTE: See for the official video for this song.

My Army Recruiter Never Lied To Me

Army recruiters have forged a dishonest reputation for their actions when they're trying to get potential recruits to sign up, and I will admit that sometimes that reputation is completely justified. Whether they're duplicitous recruiters who are trying to nudge indecisive candidates over the finish line when these potential recruits are trying to decide whether military life is right for them, or if they're overeager recruiters who are simply trying to fulfill their recruiting quotas, it is nevertheless true that some recruiters have no problems bending the truth when it comes to their recruiting tactics.


However, that wasn't my experience when I signed up, so I thought I'd share my story.

To be honest, I hadn't thought about joining the military at first, but my younger brother was joining the Marines, and one day he asked me to drive him across town so he could meet with his recruiter. At the time, the recruiters for all four primary branches of service - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines  - shared a single facility with separate offices. While my brother walked into the Marine recruiter's office, I walked down the hall to the Army recruiter's office - mostly to bide my time - and thus began a process that was to change my life forever.

The first step when joining the military is - obviously - meeting and working with a recruiter. As I mentioned earlier, Army recruiters have a bad reputation for dishonesty - which in many recruits’ situations is totally justified. For example, it was blatantly obvious that some of the recruiters in the Tucson office were lying through their teeth whenever they spoke to me. However, that wasn’t the case for the specific recruiter with whom I worked. My recruiter was always straightforward with me, and I’ll explain why he was being so honest in a moment.

The military has a list of available jobs, called Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs), which have designations like 11B, 19D, 12B. Before I met with a recruiter, I already knew about the 98G "Signal Intelligence Voice Interceptor" MOS from my stepfather, who had done that job for several years and enjoyed it. In a nutshell, being a 98G meant going to the military's language school for several months, then being sent somewhere (hopefully) exotic where you monitored people who spoke the language you just learned. That line of work sounded exciting to me, and when I walked through the door of the Army recruitment office, that was the only job that I wanted. I told my recruiter that I wanted to be a 98G, and I wanted to learn Russian. My recruiter said that he didn't know about selecting a specific language, and he couldn't guarantee any MOS until I took the "ASVAB Test," which I will explain.

The second hurdle for potential recruits when joining the military is taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which is a comprehensive test that measures all sorts of things and helps determine what you'll be able or allowed to do, and sometime within the next few days I headed to downtown Tucson to take this test. I had graduated high school a little over a year before, and I hadn't managed to forget anything over the ensuing months. With that in mind, I didn't find the ASVAB particularly difficult, and when one of the recruiters was giving everyone their scores after the test had ended, I was informed that I had scored a 98%, and the recruiter was stunned.

When I drove back to the Army recruiter's office, I was promptly informed that I could have any job I wanted, so the 98G MOS was mine for the taking – at least in theory. My recruiter informed me that there were two additional obstacles in my path: a thorough physical examination, and something called the "DLAB" (which I'll explain in a moment).

At the time of my enlistment, all physical exams for the state of Arizona were conducted at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Phoenix, which was the main entry point for military recruits in the state. My recruiter arranged for me to travel by bus to the MEPS in Phoenix, and the Army put me up in a hotel on the night before my physical. On the following day I passed my physical for the most part, with a nagging medical issue that I needed to resolve before I could report for duty: I was horribly underweight. I had been an anorexic teenager, and I still weighed anywhere between 100 to 105 pounds on any given day. The Army made it clear that I needed to gain a few pounds before I could join.

The next item of the day was specific for the 98G MOS: I had to pass the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) before I could become a military linguist. By way of explanation, the DLAB is an exceedingly difficult and very confusing test, wherein potential recruits are taught a series of artificial languages and submitted to a plethora of linguistic logic questions. The DLAB helps to determine – in theory – how adept potential recruits might be at learning languages. (Believe it or not, I learned some interesting things about languages during the DLAB that helped me later when I attended language school.) Nevertheless, my head was swimming by the time I was done with the DLAB. I thought that there was no way I could have passed that test, yet by no small miracle I did.

Having put both the medical physical and the DLAB behind me, it was time to meet with the recruiters at the Phoenix MEPS. They quickly outlined what my career would look like: Basic Training, Language School, Advanced Individual Training (AIT), then a tour of duty somewhere for my remaining time in service. Because the duration of my academic training would be almost two years, I would be required to sign away four years of my life. However, due to the high demand for my MOS, I had my choice between $32,000 for college when I left the military, or an $8,000 bonus upon completion of my training coupled with $10,000 for college.

The second deal that I was offered sounded good to me, and the recruiters had me fill out a "Dream Sheet" with my list of preferred language choices; I chose Russian, German, and French. However, the recruiters said that they couldn't guarantee that I would get any of my language choices, and I would have to take my chances if I joined. There was one potential pitfall to all this: if I failed out of any of my schools, I would belong to the Army for the duration of my four years, wherein I would have to do whatever job they chose for me.

I said that I needed to go home and discuss everything with my wife, at which point the MEPS recruiters dropped their sales tactics and shifted to outright mocking, with responses such as: "What??? You need your wife's permission to join???" Those guys were schmucks, but I stood my ground, and they eventually pointed me to the door. They made no offer to help me get home, they simply said, "The bus station is a couple blocks away down such-and-such street. Goodbye." To be honest, those jerks were so awful that it was almost a deal breaker for me. But then again, by that point I wanted to join, so I was kind of at their mercy, and I think they knew that.

And, of course, I did join.

When I arrived home and discussed everything that I had learned with my wife, we decided that my enlisting in the Army was really our best option for that season of our lives. I met with my recruiter in Tucson, and I signed up for the Army's "delayed entry" program, which allows recruits to formally join the military to lock in their MOS and the contract that they were offered, and then to report sometime later for duty (which could be up to a year). That being said, my "delay" was only a couple weeks.

And thus it was that on a clear day in the Spring of 1986, my recruiter drove my wife and me to the local MEPS for me to report for active duty. The time was still early, so my recruiter took us to a diner near the MEPS where he bought breakfast for the three of us. While we were eating, I asked my recruiter why he had always been honest with me, and he replied, "I knew that you were going to join from the moment you walked through the door, and I knew that if I didn't shoot straight with you, you'd probably change your mind."

He was right, too. I wanted the job, and I'm sure that he could sense that. However, I had also been a military brat for most of my young life, and I could spot recruiter BS a mile away. If I had thought that I was being deceived, I would have walked out the door and never returned. So my recruiter played it straight with me, and as a result of his honesty I was in Basic Training less than a month after I first entered his office.

In the years that followed, however, I had my life turned upside by incompetent clerks and jerks who incessantly ruined my life by failing to do their jobs correctly, thereby resulting in me being sent to the wrong unit because someone couldn't read my orders correctly, or being underpaid because someone couldn't do basic math, or temporarily losing my security clearance because someone didn't feel like filing the right paperwork at the right time, or having my family members suffer countless hardships as a result of my desire to serve, etc. The ocean of imbeciles whose myriad ineptitudes wreaked havoc on my life again and again will forever hold a place of scorn and contempt that wells up from the depths of my soul whenever I am asked about my time in uniform.

But my recruiter? To this day I have nothing but respect for the guy who helped me join. I'd love to shake his hand and say "thanks."

It's Memorial Day - Thank a Veteran

An anonymous person posted a suggestion to social media that everyone should "Thank a Veteran this Memorial Day." I thought that proposal sounded like a good idea, so to all my former uniformed brethren - I say with a grateful heart, "Thank you for your service."

However, no sooner had the anonymous person posted their statement of gratitude, another well-meaning person responded with the following meme:


Giving benefit of the doubt, I believe the second poster's intentions were good, and I agree that wishing someone a "Happy Memorial Day" is culturally insensitive. Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor the sacrifices of our nation’s men and women who have fallen in combat. There is nothing that is "happy" about this annual observance, and as such the phrase "Happy Memorial Day" is at best an oxymoron, and at worst it is an insult to those who have lost loved ones during their time in service.

However, while I agree that we should NEVER utter the words "Happy Memorial Day" because they dishonor the meaning of that holiday, we can ALWAYS thank our veterans - whether it's Memorial Day, or Veteran's Day, or Independence Day, or Mother's Day, or Christmas Day, or a Tuesday, or a Friday, or any day that ends in "day."

In one fashion or another, every veteran has sacrificed, which is amply expressed by the following adage: "All gave some, but some gave all."



For more information about Memorial Day, see The Tangled Roots of Memorial Day and Why It's Celebrated on the NY Times website.

The Union Street Orchestra at the Moore Theater in Seattle

Ten years ago my son's band, The Union Street Orchestra (TUSO), played a gig at the historic Moore Theater in Seattle as part of the theater's More Music @ The Moore program.


It was a fantastic evening of entertainment, with lots of great, local artists from the Seattle area on the bill. Here's a video of TUSO during a dress rehearsal that took place a couple of days before the final show, which is - unfortunately - the best video that I have of this gig.

As a parting thought, here's a photo of my son belting out the lyrics to "Fooled Again" from the final performance.

Saying Goodbye to Gordon Lightfoot

I just heard that the Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot passed away yesterday, and before I continue, I should mention that Rick Beato live streamed a great retrospective about Lightfoot at Gordon Lightfoot 1938-2023 R.I.P. Having said that, I am sure few people who were born after 1980 have ever heard of Lightfoot, which is because his type of songwriting has long-since passed from popularity. By way of explanation, way back in the 1970s, there was a style of songwriting that was more of storytelling, and several artists - like modern-day troubadours - made this genre very popular. Here are a few artists to illustrate what I mean:

I recognize that this singer/songwriter style is no longer in vogue, nor has been for several decades. Listening to songs from that time period illustrates how much the styles of instrumentation and production have not aged gracefully through the years.

Returning to Gordon Lightfoot, he had a unique style of storytelling that I believe set him apart from his peers. He will often be remembered for his story-based songs like Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, though I'd like to suggest that he should be better remembered for songs like If You Could Read My Mind, which is a love song from Lightfoot to his wife as he tries to put his emotions into words as their marriage crumbles. Rick Beato recorded an excellent analysis of If You Could Read My Mind three years ago, in which he delves into the sheer musical brilliance that underpinned the arrangement. Lightfoot's use of 7th, 9th, and 11th chords - both on the vocals and instrumentation - added to the overall melancholy of the piece. Sadly, I cannot recall a recent musical offering with so many rich musical textures and lyrics within a single song.

Of course, I realize that all art is subjective; I like Renoir and my wife likes Van Gogh, while my oldest daughter likes Jackson Pollack and I think his artwork looks like something a four-year-old would do. Nevertheless, when it comes to music, people can fret and fume and think that I sound like some old guy who is pining for the past, but these days I often think that just about anyone with a rhyming dictionary could put together what passes for song lyrics. The singer/storyteller has faded into the sunset, much like the protagonists in the songs they once wrote.


Another honorable mention in the singer/songwriter/storyteller genre that I'd like to make is Michael Martin Murphey, who wrote 1975 hit Wildfire. That song has an odd personal association for me, because that song was still popular around the time that I was getting ready to graduate from high school in the early 1980s. I often played guitar with a drummer who had already graduated; he had auditioned to play the drums for Murphey, who needed a guitarist for some shows. My friend had suggested my name, but I passed on the audition/gig since I didn't think that my dad would have let me ditch parts of my senior year to go on tour. (My dad later said that he wouldn't have cared.)

UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written that I later discovered had never been set to "public."