Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Collecting

I’m a collector. I collect anything that I feel has value. As an example, I collect headphones. Don’t ask me why. I just do. I own a pair of Sony noise canceling headphones, a pair of Sennheiser earbuds and headphones, and I’ve lost count of how many Apple earbuds I have in my possession. Last time I checked, I only have one pair of ears I carry around with me every day. What can I say? I like listening to my music my way.

Sennheiser HD 202
Sennheiser HD 202

For a time, I used to collect movies. I know it sounds strange, but it’s what I used to do. I couldn’t walk out of a video store without purchasing something. I own the entire Lord of the Rings collection. I also bought multiple versions of the Godfather collection, including the restored version, which I think is great. But if you’ve seen the Godfather a billion times like I have, the gold tones in the film are rather distracting. I can’t tell you how many different versions of the Alien collection I own either. Somewhere along the line I went crazy purchasing every set I could find. Yeah, I’m a fan. Now, don’t think I’m heavy on the drama, fantasy and sci-fi genres. My vice is owning all of the movies to the Bring It On collection. What can I say? They’re hilarious.

As silly as it sounds, I’ve gone insane with my music collection, too. How do I describe buying anything associated with Led Zeppelin without seeming like a lunatic? I own their earlier works, their box sets, their remasters, their remasters of remasters, their solo works, their tribute albums. I would go as far as stating I’m a Led Zep die-hard fan, but I won’t. I think my cloud collection speaks for itself. Additionally, I collect oldies albums from the 50’s and 60’s. What can I say? I like listening to those old tunes.

Greek Style Fries
Greek Style Fries

Topping off my list is my silly collection of food photos I’ve been snapping whenever I take the family out to eat. I have a lot of those. Call me OCD. I find food photos to be not only great images to salivate over, but also an awesome springboard to jump start meal ideas. I know. I’m strange. But I can attest they make great conversation pieces.

Okay, one more. I collect photos of a particular tree shedding its leaves in the fall. Once a year, I visit a specific spot in the woods to take the photo. I have many. I’m not sure when my fixation started, but it has kept me busy.

I think that’s it. I collect other stuff, too, but nothing as extravagant as Jerry Seinfeld’s collection of Porsche. Wouldn’t that be something? Where would I put them all? Don’t ask me.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Do you collect anything?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

What Excites You?

An article in Psychology Today eloquently titled What Excites You?—yes, you can smack me later for ripping off the title—states that the prevalent thought in psychology according to Silvan S. TomkinsAffect, Imagery, Consciousness is that humans have an inherent need to maximize positive and rewarding emotions while minimize negative ones.

Pizza with tons of toppings
Pizza with tons of toppings

Given it’s Freedom Friday, I figure the best way to maximize positive thought is to provide you a peek into what excites me. Later in the comments, you can tell me what excites you. How does that sound?

A Good Song: First up, nothing can really replace a good song. You know when it happens as soon as it hits your ears. Your feet begin to shuffle, your fingers begin to tap, and you’re off bobbing your head to the rhythm of the beat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a lousy mood only to rise from the dumpster when one of my favorite songs is playing on my earbuds. My secret weapon for curing the blues is three hits of AC/DC, two chasers of Led Zeppelin and one shot of John Williams.

Good Food: How can I describe the feeling I get when sitting at the table anticipating my mom’s home-cooked meal? There’s a whole method to the act of patiently waiting. I’m Italian, so a meal doesn’t only consist of the main course but it includes the antipasto, the salad, dessert and other foods I can’t bare writing about without eating part of my anatomy. The whole experience is reminiscent of a grand opera served on a platter. Delicious.

Exercise
Exercise

Good Exercise: I love taking walks. I love doing my stretching exercises. I love physical activity outside. Actually, let me qualify that last bit. I love physical activity outside if there’s a goal to achieve. Cleaning up a garage is not my idea of a physical activity I like. I’ll do it, but it’s far and away not on my Top Ten list of things I love doing. Okay, back to my walks. When I go for a walk, I grab my phone, plug in my earphones and soak the tunes while I perform a half-hour jaunt around my neighborhood. The music helps me focus and my love for my neighborhood allows me the convenience to say hello to all my neighbors. The activity is also great on the heart.

Good Friends: Lastly, meeting with good friends over a meal or a ball game makes for one of the most wonderful times ever. I’ve known my best friends, those people who I can call on and say they are my friends, since I was a single. We go to each other’s houses, have BBQ’s, picnics, etc. and we simply enjoy each other’s company. What’s not to like? People change, but the friendship always remains. That time together will one day become a memory worth talking about.

These things excite me. They thrill me, lift me up and inspire me to do better in all that I do.

What excites you?

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RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

What activities do you enjoy doing? What would recommend that I ought to try?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Dreams

I’ve put away some dreams. Did I have a choice? Yet, others I have kept alive by making them a reality. What would life be without dreams? Here are some of the dreams I left behind as I grew older.

Astronaut
Astronaut

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Oh, how I wanted to travel in space looking for life on other planets and perhaps bring back a few aliens to earth. I quickly gave that up realizing I suffered from motion sickness. Every single time I rode in the back of my parents’ car, I can’t tell you how many times I christened the seats with the contents of my meals.

When I was a bit older, I wanted to be a lawyer. Unfortunately, I had to forget that dream when I found out that I wasn’t very good at arguing. Back then, my arguments went something like this:

Girl who liked me: “Did you break my bike?”
Me: “No.”
Girl who liked me: “You were the last person to use it.”
Me: “I didn’t break your bike.”
Girl who liked me: “You did break it. You suck.”
Me: “Well, you suck harder. So there.”

Like I said, I wasn’t very good at arguing.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a rock star. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I learned all Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page‘s licks, joined a wedding band–I didn’t say I knew what I was doing, did I?–and eventually started my own band. We didn’t make much money, but the stress of lugging our own equipment wasn’t what I’d hoped. Where were the girls? What about the late night parties?

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page

When I was out of high school, I wanted to author literature. I imagined a life where I lived in a cottage in the middle of the woods while I banged out a manuscript for my next bestseller. Somehow, the image of wearing one of those smoking jackets, sitting by the fire as I nursed a glass of Napoleon Brandy appealed to me.

That never happened. I’m pretty sure I suffered from ADD at the time, which in turn left me with jimmy legs. I couldn’t sit still for more than five seconds. Oh, well. At least I still have the notes to my ideas. That counts for something, right?

When I was much older, I dreamed of writing books. I wrote one book about zombies, I wrote another one about zombies and aliens, and now I’m writing a third about zombies again. I don’t think I ever gave up the dream of being a published author, although I may have changed what I’ve wanted to write about.

Am I happy? Yeah, I am. I’m glad I didn’t become an astronaut, a lawyer, a rock star or an author of literature. It took a long time for me to figure out my dreams. Was it worth it? Yeah, I would say so.

But I have to confess, it took a lot of work to become a published author. Had I known what I know now, I still would have done it the way I did. It’s the only way I knew how.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

What is it about dreams that spur the imagination? Have you achieved your dreams?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Rain

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved the rain. The pitter-patter of the water on the ground. The smell of it in the summer just as it starts to thunder. I’m in awe to think after all this time the rain still excites me. That’s why I’d like to dedicate this Freedom Friday post to my favorite weather—the rain.

Overcast day at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Overcast day at Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

One of my fondest memories of the rain takes me back to when I was fourteen. As a teenager growing up in the late seventies, early eighties, I enjoyed my place in high school as a student council representative, a wresting athlete, and a music fan. In my world, the biggest band on the face of the earth was Led Zeppelin. They were gods to me. The album Led Zeppelin III featured a song called Gallows Pole. Every time I hear it today, it brings me back to the instant I sat in my room for the first time listening to it. How can I forget that hot summer afternoon? The rain began to pound outside my windowsill. The thunder rumbled the sky. And here I was, listening to this song that starts off quiet but ends in a good ol’ fashioned, down home, country jamboree. I still get shivers whenever I listen to it today.

At that age, I also had my first job working at the city library. They hired me as a page. I never really knew what that meant. It wasn’t until I got older that someone told me a page is a gofer. Go for the books. Go for the librarian. Well, you get the picture. I spent most of the time putting books away. I digress. Late one fall evening, as I sat in my usual spot near the window sorting my books, the rain began. I stopped my sorting and just sat there watching. The traffic lights made a reflection on the street as they changed from green to yellow to red. People scattered to the nearest store looking for shelter. Where I sat, it was a carpeted bay window. I remember how peaceful it was to look at the water coming down in the middle of the street.

The Empire Strikes Back movie poster
The Empire Strikes Back movie poster

Seems I’m remembering a lot from those days. The major movies to hit the theaters were Rocky II, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Saturday Night Fever. Not necessarily in that order. Saturday Night Fever especially gives me pause. When it came out, the guys who I’ve known most of my junior high year, the cool guys, all of a sudden liked disco. I almost choked on my saliva writing that. Yeah, it devastated me. Hard core Zeppelin followers turned from the fold to worship a dance craze where guys pointed their fingers in the air like they just didn’t care. Someone turn me into a zombie so I can go back in time and eat their brains.

You know what, though? The rain is good.

One fateful afternoon, when I worked for the school newspaper, I covered our junior high dance. The disco traitors, I mean kids, came in full force. They sported their polyester shirts and slacks, pointed black shoes, and their array of gold jewelry, enough to weigh down and beach a whale. You know what’s coming. As the kids trickled in, the sky turned angry and the water began to fall. Hard. Those kids arriving, being cool and all, dashed from their parents’ car thinking, it’s only a little rain. A few seconds is all it took. The finely greased hair turned to mush. The polyester shirts and slacks retained every ounce of water drank. And the kids? The kids were dancing to Disco Inferno, tossing water everywhere doing the John Travolta moves.

I love the rain.

What about you? Do you like the rain? Do you enjoy listening to the wonderful sound of water hitting the rooftop on a cold, blustery night?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Naked

The Goo Goo Dolls’ Naked is a song that speaks to the heart. So many people have had so many interpretations for this anthem that no one’s willing to come forward to say it definitely means anything. For my Freedom Friday post I’d like to tell you what I think of this song and of what it means to me.

The Goo Goo Dolls
The Goo Goo Dolls

Recorded in 1995, Naked by The Goo Goo Dolls has raised questions among musical aficionados everywhere. Some have attributed this song to the band’s struggles with stardom within the music scene. Some have said this song is more about loneliness. To whom shall we lend credence?

When I first heard the song, it made me stop and listen. Something about it gripped my imagination and stirred my conscience. I suppose we all have something that moves us. An event. A photograph. This song, however, gave me pause, and I don’t think I would have looked beyond the meaning of the lyrics if it wasn’t for the Stairway to Heaven tribute guitar solo three-quarters the way through.

Now, I know you may be unfamiliar with the song, so I decided to reprint the lyrics here for your reading pleasure.

Naked

Yeah I’m fadin’ and I call out
No one hears me
Never been, never felt, never thought I’d say a word

Weighed down
Safe now

You’re naked inside your fear
You can’t take back all those years
And shots in the dark from empty guns
Are never heard by anyone
Never heard by anyone

Yeah I’m hiding in the fallout
Now I’m wasted
They don’t need me, don’t want me, don’t hear a word I say

Weighed down
Safe now

You’re naked inside your fear
You can’t take back all those years
And shots in the dark from empty guns
Are never heard by anyone
Never heard by anyone

Inside your head
No one’s there
And I don’t think I’ll ever be
And I don’t care

You’re naked inside your fear
You can’t take back all those years
And shots in the dark from empty guns
Are never heard by anyone
Never heard by anyone
By anyone
By anyone

The verse that absolutely shines for me is “you’re naked inside your fear.” I thought about this a lot. I think what it means is in our most vulnerable state—naked—fear is what dictates our behavior. This could mean physical or non-physical nakedness. Fear is a powerful component to our willingness to either live a life befitting of joy or walk around like zombies, never experiencing life’s true happiness.

Additionally, true joy, joy without fear, is being naked to the world having love in our hearts and in our minds. It’s not being afraid of injury by anyone while we accomplish the mission to love others as ourselves. Not to sound too preachy but to me, if we love others as ourselves, we’ve done all we could do to live a life worth living.

Have you ever heard of the song Naked? What do you think the underlying message is?

Posted in Freedom Friday

My Music

Music is a big thing in my life. So I thought for Freedom Friday I’d give you a peek into my iPod to show you what I have.

AC/DC
AC/DC

Most of the songs and albums I possess have a story attached to them. You know the ones—my first love (Nadia’s Theme by Roger Williams), my first kiss (Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill)—those kinds of stories. Although I don’t remember why on earth I have I Touch Myself by Divinyls, I’m quite proud to show off my AC/DC collection including my prized Girls Got Rhythm. How’s that for going from sappy to randy in two sentences?

My Beloved Rocky Album
My Beloved Rocky Album

Growing up, the big song I had playing on my record player was Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti. Everyone I knew was into the jogging thing, and there wasn’t a time I didn’t see someone running in the streets looking like Rocky. Pretty weird, if you ask me. Really though, I think I’ve heard the Rocky album well over five hundred times. I had purchased it in vinyl, which I still have, tape, CD and now it rests safely in my iPod as part of a mix of kick-in-the-pants power songs. I told my wife, if I ever fall off a cliff, she could bury me with my Rocky album. I’m sure where I’m going they’ll have record players.

I drifted for a while out of high school and listened to such hits as Juke Box Hero by Foreigner, Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen, and Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. Those songs played on the radio during those cold, frosty nights in January when I’d grab a snack at Tim Horton’s. They reflected my life going from one job to another supporting a dream of one day becoming a rock star. Well we all know how that turned out. I have yet to receive a call to judge American Idol.

The Gods of Rock
The Gods of Rock

After a long absence from school, I enrolled in college. By this time, I was a bit older, a bit wiser and hadn’t lost myself in deviant behavior to warrant counseling by a Catholic priest. I had also purchased a Sony Walkman to keep me entertained between classes during study hall. I had tapes of Led Zeppelin to keep me out of trouble. Songs such as Good Times Bad Times, Whole Lotta Love, Gallows Pole, Over the Hills and Far Away, Kashmir, and Stairway to Heaven went well with my studies on the intricacies of system analysis and design.

Once I got married, I’d mellowed out some. My wife and I enjoyed old movies on a Saturday night, so I went for crooners like Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra, devouring everything they had made. I have Dean Martin’s Best of album I used to play in the car on my way to work. I must have raised a few eyebrows at traffic lights. While teenagers had the Spice Girls blaring in their cars, I was singing at the top of my lungs to the chorus of That’s Amore.

I was so weird.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

As time went on, my love for the oldies afforded me to purchase musicals such as South Pacific, which led to my current love of movie scores. The second of which (I already had Rocky) had to be Raiders of the Lost Ark. Had to be, because it was one of the first movies I saw in glorious THX where the sound of punches were like bombs. Who can deny me the Raiders March? Tada rump dum, tada rump…

I now have a list of favorite composers who I listen to during the day. I call these composers power composers because their music has that quality to excite a person to achieve great things. Here they are: Marco Beltrami, Steve Jablonsky, Hans Zimmer, of course, Klaus Badelt, John Powell and John Williams. I tell ya, whenever I hear their music, it makes me feel like a superhero crashing through a brick wall.

What’s on your iPod? Do you remember where you were when a certain song played on the radio in a coffee shop?