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  • Monday's Random Thoughts

    Random thoughts on music, the weather, and the power of the young and old:

    • You know Mother Nature is confused when September impersonates July and fall allergies start early.

    • I was in Texas earlier last week to work on a story and see my family briefly. They’ve had so much rain down there that the state’s leash laws need to be amended to include mosquitoes.

    • Last week marked four years since The Replacements performed in a transcendent show at Forest Hills Stadium in New York. See highlights from the show here and read my blog on the night here.

    • Agree with this statement wholeheartedly: Some days I need the music and some days I need the lyrics.


    Thought-provoking and interesting quotes I’ve read recently:

    • From comedienne Robin Fox on getting paid to do what she loves: “Know your worth ... If you’ll work for free why should someone pay you? It is the very definition of being a pro. If you’ll do a free weekend show at a restaurant that won’t even pay you with a sandwich and the place is packed selling food and drinks week after week year after year ... and you’re still willing to perform there ... you’re part of the problem. Being a pro means being paid.”

    • About our list obsessions, from David Cantwell in a New Yorker essay on rock critic Greil Marcus: “The List is an essay in enumerated disguise … That click-baiting scourge of our online age, the all-pronouncement-but-no-argument “listicle,” is a different animal.”


    And finally…

    If you haven’t had the chance, read these two stories that I saw recently. The first is about an 8-year-old who noticed a boy holding back tears at a football game, so he offered him a seat until his dad arrived. The second is about a 99-year-old man who walks 6 miles a day to visit his wife in the hospital. Both give you hope.

  • iPhone Storytelling: Billy Joel

    Continuing what has suddenly become a music thread….

    Billy Joel became the first performer to play three times at Nationals Stadium on Saturday, and he did so despite a torrential downpour that delayed the start of the concert by more than an hour.

    You can't carry a "professional camera" into events like this without a press pass. (I would not have brought my camera in anyway, given the rain.) However, this is one of those times when iPhone photos usually come nowhere close to the images you can get with a regular camera.

    Still, if you're lucky and recognize the shutter delays, you can occasionally get a decent image.

    Let me know what you think of these and the ones on my Facebook page here.

    Joel, as usual, was terrific in concert. He hasn’t written new music since the early 1990s, but embraces one of the best and most popular catalogues with enthusiasm. In turn, the rain-soaked crowd embraced him.

    “What’s it like sitting there with a wet ass?” Joel asked the cheering crowd.

    Fortunately, after seeing the Piano Man multiple times in multiple places (North Carolina, Madison Square Garden), we splurged and bought tickets on the stadium turf. No wet butts for us.

    Unfortunately, we were among the large contingent of the 40,000-plus fans who came to the concert via Metro and were left stranded due to the storms, which delayed the show by more than an hour. Thanks (or not) to “SafeTrack” maintenance, the subway system closed at midnight, and there was no way we could see the encore and make it to the last train.

    Joel even made a joke about the troubled transit system — “Is the Metro running tonight? … So basically, you’re (expletive).”

    With no warnings in advance from stadium officials or Metro — a transit worker at the Navy Yard said they had not even been told about the heavily promoted concert (cough) — we were stuck with a long wait and a very expensive Uber ride.

    The show was still worth it, though.

  • Weather & Random Thoughts

    Weather and other unrelated random thoughts from a waterlogged brain....

    Dear Mother Nature:

    Shrek called. He wants his swamp back.

    Sincerely, Donkey

    p.s. Please stop being such a pain in the ass.


    • It's been so wet and rainy here that I thought briefly about building an ark. Then I quickly realized Trump would want the naming rights and ditched that plan.

    • Mixing politics and Broadway: Sondheim should write a sequel to "Assassins" and call it "Casting Stones," featuring characters playing Dennis Hastert, Newt Gingrich and Kenneth Starr.

    • At what point does ambition segue into nostalgia?

  • A Mother Nature PSA

    Dear Mother Nature:

    Your ongoing three-week decision to drizzle and mist all over the Eastern Seaboard may be a response to the ongoing presidential debacle. Could it be your attempt to show voters that life is not black and white, but really overwhelmingly gray?

    Perhaps it is a perverse desire to boost the fortunes of over-the-counter drug companies everywhere. Or could it be a slow protest of the fact that Hamilton will sweep the Tonys?

    Whatever the reason, the undersigned allergy sufferers of the world would like to politely ask you to PLEASE STOP THE MADNESS NOW. Or better yet, let the sunshine in.


  • Random Thoughts: February 2016

    A few random thoughts from the past week or so…

    • On Antonin Scalia: The only way a Supreme Court justice can leave is by voluntarily resigning or dying. As with anyone who dies, I'm sad for his family who is mourning his passing. I am not sad for the rest of our country, however.

    • That said, Vox Policy and Politics just published a fascinating piece by Dara Lind that notes the close friendship between Scalia, by far the most conservative justice, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s most outspoken liberal. It notes that even people with vast differences can disagree vehemently and still be friends. Wish that were the case in the rest of the world.

    • Two very different trains of thought. Both are applicable this month.

    • Baby barf line of the day: "Sarah Palin, one of Trump's surrogates..." Ewww on so many counts.

    • Drivers suffering from Post Traumatic Snow Disorder apparently have forgotten their coping skills and brought out the stupid again. Joy.

    • The next time someone bitches about it being 70 degrees at Christmas, show them this...

  • Five Random Thoughts

    From the Capital Weather Gang: "Computer models that came in between 9 p.m. and midnight forecast very substantial to historic snowfall amounts for the D.C. area Friday into Saturday night or Sunday morning." How about three seasons, Mother Nature?


    The only reason Sarah Palin endorsed Trump is so she could see Tina Fey again on this week's "Saturday Night Live."


    Speaking of Palin, she has about as much chance of being relevant as she does of being named “Mother of the Year.”


    Headlines you should not read during lunch: "Elton John honors David Bowie, duets with Demi Lovato."


    Amid the NFL playoffs, Kardashian trending updates, and chatter about the presidential debates, an overwhelming number of you took time out to send notes marking the second year of my second half-century on the planet. Thanks again to each and everyone of you. It means a lot.

  • Humidfest in Texas

    With Nicholas back to North Carolina and Ben in New York, the girls traveled to Texas to see their grandmother, aunt, uncle, and five first cousins for almost a week. I went down to pick them up and we had a family trip to the Rainforest Cafe. The seven children were not deterred by the 90 minute wait for a table, despite the smothering humidity in Galveston.

  • Travel Is, Repeat, NOT Glamorous

    From the "Yep, it's Monday all day and night long" file...

    Storms and other wicked weather in the Midwest meant the Billy Elliot tour kids and parents were delayed on the trip from Des Moines to Appleton, Wis. What was supposed to be a 5-6 hour travel day turned into major ugh. Now they're making a 200-mile bus ride from Chicago.

    Nicholas left at 1 this afternoon. Delayed for hours in Detroit, he’s just now getting to Appleton after flying standby when his flight was cancelled. It’s after midnight, and rehearsal starts tomorrow morning early...

    It's not as glamorous as it looks, folks. 

  • April’s (Mostly) Random Thoughts

    As the month comes to a close, here's a summary of random thoughts and observations from the month.

    alrightythen: Walking to the gym the other day, I passed a woman sitting on a garbage bag smoking a cigarette with surgical gloves on her hands. And this was in a parking lot in Northern Virginia, not on the streets of New York.

    The Nats are back: Jill and I recently enjoyed our first Washington Nationals game of the young baseball season. The tickets were part of a three-game pack that was part of my Christmas present to Jill last year. Happy holidays come to those who wait, and the Nats won (a true gift of its own, considering how poorly they played at the start of the year).

    iPhone lightning: I like taking pictures with my phone and posting them to Instagram, even though I know they will be nowhere nearly as good as you get with a regular DSLR. On an unrelated trip to the gym (yes, I’m going relatively consistently again), I managed to capture lightning during a heavy storm on my phone. Again, not as good as I would have gotten on my Canon, but pretty cool nonetheless.

    No smoking … PLEASE! A non-smoking room in a North Carolina hotel is sort of like car lanes in Manhattan — just a suggestion, not a rule to live by necessarily. ... Ick.

    My poor cats (not): When you're tone deaf, whistling while you work brings tears to the eyes of small animals. Ask mine. They'll tell you...

    No Kentucky, but Duke? Thank goodness Kentucky lost its chance at a perfect season and meant I didn’t have to root for Duke as March Madness dragged into April. So my personal streak continues, even though Duke won yet another National Championship. Oh well…

    Quote of the Month

    "Wonderful things can happen when you sow seeds of distrust in a garden of assholes..."

    Thank you and godspeed to the cast and crew of Justified, one of the best — and, in that inimitable Elmore Leonard way, often one of the funniest — shows I've had the pleasure to watch.


    And on a truly random note, congratulations to author Tim Federle, football player JJ Watt and actress Glenn Close for their recent actions. What did they do?

    1) Tim published a new illustrated children’s book about a young boy with ADHD called Tommy Can’t Dance, which serves as proof that he’s been peering into our lives again.

    2) Watt, the Houston Texans football player, rushed out onto the court to congratulate 12-year-old Nicholas Connors for his National Anthem performance at a Houston Rockets game.

    3) And Close, whose sister is bipolar and whose nephew has schizoaffective disorder, was profiled in Variety’s “Power of Women” feature for her work with Bring Change 2 Mind to raise awareness about mental illness. She captured why she believes in this so strongly, articulating the feelings we’ve long had about the issue.

    “We thought the best thing to do was work against the stigma that surrounds mental illness,” Close told Variety, noting that one in four people are affected by it. “It’s a chronic illness like anything else.”

  • Random Thoughts: Spring (sort of) Edition

    Recently, I shared a photo from PrideFest Milwaukee that had an unexpected response. The photo said simply: “I don’t think the worst thing that could happen to me is raising a child who is gay. I think the worst thing is to raise a child who is cruel to those who are gay.”

    The post got an amazing 745 likes on my Facebook page, as well as a few of the anticipated responses that come when you share something that has long been part of the culture wars. I stand firm in my beliefs, but the reaction also is one reason I don’t post much overtly political stuff on Facebook. My friends/acquaintances cut across the political spectrum, and there’s no reason to incite one side or the other. Enough of that is going on as is.

    However, one response is worth examining in more depth. It came from a person who wrote, “The worst thing is to raise a child who is intentionally cruel to anyone … not just gay people.”

    No one disagrees with that, but the statement somewhat misses the point of the post, which calls attention to a group that has been abused and disenfranchised for some time.

    Long ago, I realized that children are not inherently racists/misogynists; more often than not, they’re puppeting what they hear from parents and family members. The danger comes when intolerant thoughts become ingrained beliefs and values.

    This is a simple fact: You can talk to, influence, help, offer, beg, plead, hope and pray, but you cannot "prevent" someone from making a bad decision.

    No matter how far we’ve come as a country, all you have to do is read the headlines and it becomes clear that intolerance and anger toward people who are different from us still has a strong grip on many in our nation. For every two steps forward, we take at least one step back, sometimes more.

    And we only have ourselves to blame.


    Quote of the month from Rosanne Cash: "You want to know where you come from and who you are connected to. From the most simple — tracing back your name — to the most complex of what sticks to your DNA over eternity. The musical lineage I have. The emotional and spiritual lineage I have. What my kids will get from that. All of those questions become really important. They certainly did for me."


    Here are some other random (and for the most part more tongue-in-cheek) thoughts from the past month:

    • Snow days make you realize there's a fine line between togetherness and trapped.

    • The morning after daylight savings time takes effect: There's no way it's already 11 a.m. Oh, yeah...

    • If you want to know why parents do what they do sometimes, blame Daylight Savings Time and the groundhog. That covers at least 90% of it this year...

    • Some days you wake up and feel bitter. At other times you are grateful. The latter definitely applies this morning, despite a night's sleep that feels like the cat's siesta on the ottoman.

    • After the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament: So UNC is smarter than Harvard. At basketball. Barely...

    • So, if you're deciding to run for president, you think you'd be smart enough to purchase your domain name in advance. Don’t believe me? Take a look at (Not surprisingly, the page no longer exists at the apparent “request” of the Cruz campaign.)


    And finally…

    Dear Mother Nature: With regard to your seemingly ongoing disrespect for those of us who live on the East Coast, all I can say is live through this lingering allergy/cold/curl up in a fetal ball feeling. Then you'll understand why my acronym of choice for you right now is GFY.

    On behalf of the Mid-Atlantic and New England states, thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.


  • A Foggy Start to Spring

    A thick, pea-soup fog coated our area Thursday morning, the first day of spring, continuing the weirdest year of weather on record. It was pretty to photograph, though.

    For more photos, see my Facebook album here.

  • The Status Update

    As everyone knows, 2013 sucked for our family. Although I hesitate to say anything for fear of jinxing it, this year has started out much better, at least for us.

    Of course, we still are having to deal with the challenges of parenting three teens (plus a fourth who is staying with us) as well as the random yet systematic failure of appliances (last week the kids’ toilet; this week, the dryer).

    That caveat aside, we have many reasons to be thankful. And for that I am grateful.

    I’ve spent some time this evening updating the blog and, with spring just around the corner (I hope), decided to look back on the first 2+ months of the year. Not surprisingly, given this winter, I’ve written a number of minor treatises on the weather. But there have been others, too…

    A quick recap:


    • Dec. 31: Goodbye unlucky 13 to the 20th power. Here's hoping that things even out in 2014... Wishing the best for all of you in the coming months!

    Jan. 8 (first weather post of 2014): Damn, compared to yesterday, I'm thinking it's time to break out the shorts and flip-flops.

    Jan. 17: Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes, and especially to Jill, Ben, Emma, Kate, and Nicholas for the gifts of caring and time. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it...

    Jan. 20: “Veep” overdub in D.C. Ben’s episode airs April 13!

    Jan. 22: Self-employment note of the day: Home is not your office when the kids are off from school, but a 24-hour IHOP will do just fine.

    Jan. 27: This month has been crazy busy, in a good way, with three photo assignments, a couple of freelance articles, and a couple of RFPs for new business. (Keep 'em coming, folks...)

    Add to that a quick 24-hour trip to New York (4 degrees is not cool, no matter what anyone says), my birthday, kids being out of school more than in, and what soon will be Jill's most hectic week of the year. And, well, whew...


    Feb. 1: Having a beer with my oldest son while waiting for Jill to finish her meeting...

    Feb. 2: Incredibly sad and sorry to hear of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. A real tragedy made worse by the fact that he has three small children. 

    • Feb. 2: OK, folks, the Super Bowl is over, and we've now entered one of the dead zones of the sports season. If you're looking for something to do, go to my photo page, give me a "like," and then start some sort of competition to see which photos you and your friends like among my photos the most.

    I'm all for something like that, but I must let you know that you'll never get a large TV contract or vast amounts of wealth and riches. But, hey, if you're seeking something to do on those missing TV days, look me up. And remember, I'm always up for something that brings me new business, but that's a different story...

    Feb. 3: Received a great surprise this weekend: a two-day visit from my oldest son, Nicholas. It was so nice to have him up here with nothing on the family agenda, giving us the chance to visit, talk, and take pictures. Thanks, son!

    Feb. 3 (another weather post): From yesterday's beautiful sunrise to this?!? Yep, must be Monday.

    Feb. 3 (Daily Double): All I can say about the weather is, "Damn that groundhog."

    Feb. 10: Thought for a random Monday: Fear of success is embracing failure.

    Feb. 11: CNN (not): After hearing the forecast for this week, groundhogs across the nation went into hiding for fear of becoming extinct.

    Feb. 12: I understand that Facebook is picking "Suggested Posts" based on my profile, job status, etc., but I'm beginning to think I'm stuck in a long-ago Amway or HSN commercial. It's frightening on many, many levels.

    Feb. 16: Parenting Payback 101: Going to see Walter White while my kids see Carly Rae Jepsen and The Nanny. Only drawback is that I won't get to visit with two of my favorite “Billy” alums.

    Feb. 22: O'Hare's TSA line is the grocery store checkout from hell.


    March 2: I wish I knew the things I thought I’d know by now.

    March 3: Oscar observation: Hi-def and Botox = Bad Mix

    March 3 (and again, the weather): Dear Mother Nature: Get some Depends, visit a urologist, consult with Al Gore, choke a groundhog. We don't care, honestly, as long as you stop this now.

    With all due respect... The 50 States

    March 6: Enjoyed the opportunity to judge the Excel Awards for Association Media and Publishing (#amp14) today. Had a chance to see a number of old friends and meet new ones. Great to reconnect/connect with you all!

    March 10: Installed the iOS 7.1 update and it comes as advertised: much better performance and not the fluky behavior that's been driving me crazy recently.

    March 11: We’re not even three full days in, but when can I get that hour back?

    March 14: It’s official: Emma has her license!

    March 15 (Yup, the weather): I've had enough of this full moon kind of week. And it looks like Mother Nature is going to try a Full Monty tomorrow. Grrr...

    So that’s it so far, but given that St. Patrick’s Day is coming to a close soon, I must leave you with the last word courtesy of Kate:

  • Another Storm, Another Shoot

    From the “Things that interest me and likely no one else” file…

    Earlier this week, the day after the most recent ice/snowstorm, I drove on Route 1 toward Woodbridge, which is several miles south of our home. I was determined not to get more of the usual “Frozen” shots that I’ve taken (although it’s been fun and I think there are a number of good ones) since the never-ending winter began.

    I happened on a parking lot containing the signs for the new “hot” lanes now under construction on nearby Interstate 95, pulled in, and asked the bored security guy if I could take a few pictures. He shrugged, said OK, and probably wondered what the hell I was doing.

    Afterward, I decided to drive up the slightly icy path that leads to the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater, a venerable institution that is in operation after 40 years, and the nearby nightclub. Both are closed for the winter, but the lone employee working there — and shoveling ice in a fur coat — let me walk around and take a few more shots.

    This is the result…

    For more from the shoot, check out the album on my Facebook page here.

  • A Dusting That Wasn't

    A screwed up winter took another turn Tuesday, when the prediction of a few flurries turned into almost 3 inches of snow near our Northern Virginia home. Fortunately, temperatures were high enough that the roads remained clear, allowing me to take the long, leisurely route — and these pictures — while driving to pick up my kids from school.

    For more photos, check out my Facebook album here.

  • Not a Blizzard, But BRRR!

    Northern Virginia did not get the brunt of the huge storm that hit the Northeast on Jan. 2-3, but the smattering of snow and ice was complicated by 30 to 45 mph gusts, an extremely bright sun reflection, and wind chills in single digits. Made for some non-traditional winter photos, too... For more photos, take a look at the album on my Facebook photo page.