Browsing Tag

in memoriam

The Long Goodbye

“The photograph reflects. Every streetlight a reminder.” — “Nightswimming,” R.E.M.

“These wheels keep turning but they’re running out of steam. Keep me in your heart for a while.” — “Keep Me In Your Heart,” Warren Zevon

These are some of the last photographs I took of Bernie. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if he was saying a long goodbye by doing certain things one last time.

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No Other that Compares With You

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worry
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

— Tom Petty, “Wildflowers.”

In Memoriam: Bernie Yuen-Li

“Oh honey, look at this one!” my wife gesticulated to me one night, holding out her phone with glee.

It was a picture of a small, tan-and-white dog named “Axel.” Felines & Canines, one of the local shelters in Chicago, had just posted his info. Apparently, he was a corgi-mix that had just reached the shelter after being rescued from Kentucky and he was already charming everyone with his gentlemanly demeanor.

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The Reluctant Pop Star

“There is no such thing as a reluctant star. Stars are almost always people that want to make up for their own weaknesses by being loved by the public and I’m no exception to that.” — George Michael, 1987.

But there is such a thing as a reluctant pop star. George Michael was no different from the many singer-songwriters desperate for critical acclaim and credibility. What made him unique was that he was willing to throw away his chance at being the biggest pop star and sex symbol in the world because he believed that his songs were good enough to sell themselves.

And in most cases, he was right.

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The Cool Eagle Flies Away.

He was the laid-back cool guy who drove his band hard to the point where one guy poured a beer over his head when he quit the band and another nearly fought him on stage. He was the soulful country-folk singer who longed to be a rock star. He was the front-man for the most transparently commercial band of its era who desperately wanted to be seen as an outlaw or rebel.

Despite all of the contradictions, one thing remained constant: Glenn Frey was the calm, reassuring singer whose sweet voice provided listeners with an escape from all of the turmoil in their lives.

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Music Was The Least Interesting Thing About David Bowie

I’ll admit it. I was never a David Bowie fan. I didn’t care for his music, nor did I really understand his appeal. I have one David Bowie song in my iTunes library – and it’s a song that’s more identified with Queen than with him.

Then I read about him.

Bowie passed away on Monday at the age of 69 after suffering from liver cancer. The news came as a shock to most people, as Bowie had kept his diagnosis private. His death has, obviously, prompted a tremendous outpouring of grief, as well as the usual assessments of his long and successful career. It was kind of a shock, actually, seeing the huge numbers of people who were sad to find out about his passing. After all, he hasn’t had a hit record in years and, arguably, hasn’t really been relevant as an artist since the 1990s. Whether it was because he kept a low profile away from the stage or because he never settled into the nostalgic oldies singer role that many of his colleagues had, most of us simply haven’t seen much of him in recent years. As such, it was easy to forget about him and the music that he continued to make up until his death (indeed, he released Blackstar the Friday before he passed away).

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Breathing Is The Hardest Thing To Do

It was easy to dismiss Scott Weiland as a second-rate Eddie Vedder fronting a second-rate grunge band in the mid-to-late 90’s. It was easier to dismiss him as a second-rate Axl Rose fronting a second-rate Guns N’ Roses during the mid-to-late 00’s. It was, perhaps, easiest of all to dismiss him as a troubled soul whose inner demons guaranteed that he’d die a premature death and go down in history as a second-rate Jim Morrison or a second-rate Kurt Cobain.

But Scott Weiland’s talent was never second-rate. Not only was he a first-rate vocalist, he was one of the best front-men of his generation.

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Thank You — Ten Years Too Late.

Google can be a real downer.

Sometimes, I like to search for people from my past that I’ve long lost touch with to see how they’re doing. Usually, it’s to satisfy some momentary burst of curiosity inspired by one of the many mental tangents my brain seems to go on. I’ll pass by a piano and wonder what became of my old piano teacher and the music school I used to go to on Saturdays. I’ll write about some lawsuit and wonder whatever happened to some of my law school classmates or former work colleagues. I’ll watch Lebron James throw down a monster dunk and think about some of the guys I used to play basketball with and how we’d feel when one of us would do something like that – on video games we’d play after we were done laying bricks on the basketball court.

Today, I thought of Georgeann Rettberg. I was thinking about why I became a writer in the first place, and she was the first person that I thought of. She was in charge of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project’s Young Writers Institute in Pittsburgh. The program, which is still around today, looks to teach and develop writing skills in schoolchildren from grades 4 through 12. I attended the summer program, which ran five days-a-week for about six weeks, on two occasions. I don’t remember the dates (the second time was in 1991) but suffice to say I was pretty young at the time and would have rather been out having fun instead of using my brain. My parents, however, thought it was a good way for me improve my verbal skills (my dad had the math part covered) so that I could do well on the SAT and get into a good college.

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