Saturday, February 26, 2011

Session Man

I got to record a tin whistle track for The Jo Henley Band yesterday.  Thanks to Mark Bryant and Seasound Studios for thinking of me!  One of the things I wanted to do when I started playing tin whistle was get good enough so that people would think of me when they needed that something extra, something Irish.  And I'm no virtuoso, but someone at least thought I was good enough for one tune.  It was a good time.

I haven't been to a traditional Irish session in a while.  I need to get back to that.  Even though I'm not the regular whistle player for the Gobshites right now, I still want to keep up with it.  And trad sessions are a very important part of the learning process.  Nobody plays a traditional Irish tune the same way, and it's fun to get together and hear everyone's personal spin on an old jig or reel.

Some of the best musicians you'll never hear of show up at trad sessions.  A really good one gets everyone involved, whether it be playing an instrument, singing an old song, even reciting a poem, dancing, and of course the odd pint or two.  It's what they call The Craic.  You can't really define a good craic, but you know it when you see it.

Don't forget to come out to the Rock Your Irish event tonight in Clinton, if you're in the area.  And if you're in the range of WAAF-FM, we're going to be playing live on Bay State Rock at around midnight.

See you at the pub.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snap Out of What?

It occurs to me that, having laid out all my broken-ness here online, I may be creating the impression that I take no responsibility for myself.  This is definitely not the case.  I know more than anyone that I'm ultimately responsible for making sure my mental health issues are monitored and treated.  I get that.  And I've failed at that in the last couple of years, with spectacular results.  When I started my new job, I should have immediately sought out my doctor and restarted treating myself to avoid spiraling out of control, and I didn't do that.  It's probably one of the bigger regrets of my life.  I thought I was okay, and I wasn't, and I didn't see it until it was too late.

Having said that, I also get that many people don't see this as a real illness.  They think maybe I (and people like me) are just moody, or selfish, or whatever.  Fair enough.  It's only been relatively recently that mental illness has come out of the closet, so to speak.  My parents' generation was probably the last to have the mindset that all you need to do is "Snap out of it."  Hell, plenty of folks in my own generation are of the same idea.  So okay, I understand that the solution of "Snapping out of it" seems rather obvious.  And I guess it is.  But this is an illness, no doubt, and it can be just as devastating as any physical ailment, because it is physical.  It's about the brain, and how it's wired (or unwired, as the case may be).  The brain is part of your physical self, and if it's damaged or broken, the symptoms are felt for real.

Telling someone with major depression to snap out of it is like telling someone with kidney disease to snap out of it.  You can't just will yourself better, no matter how much you want to.  You need medical and psychological help.  Unfortunately, there's no magic shot or pill that does the trick.  Medication does help (the jury's still out on the Prozac right now), but if you have reasons to be sad, anxious, or afraid, it's not like a pill is going to take those reasons away.

So anyway, I do understand that it's my job to treat me, and I now understand even better the dangers of failing to do that.  So all I can do is keep trying.  And I will.  That's a promise from me to me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Stuff and Things

I really kind of love this:

(image from the Wisconsin protests courtesy of Crooks & Liars)

I skipped the melatonin last night.  My sleep aid came courtesy of Arthur Guinness and Samuel Adams.  And some guy named Blue Moon.  I went to trivia night at RiRa in Providence with a couple of friends, and we won.  Good times, good times.  And no, I didn't get loaded, just comfortable.  Senor Prozac is ever vigilant.

Still holding at 190 as of this morning.  That's fine, I'm feeling good, physically.  Gym today after work, then home for a quiet night, I think.  Watch some TV, play some whistle, annoy the cat.  Maybe some laundry.  This is the life of an Irish Punk Rock Star.

Speaking of which, The Gobshites are taking our brand of mayhem to Ireland in November.  We tried doing this last year, but the economy kept a lot of folks from signing up.  If you're interested in coming along, visit the Hammond Tours website, scroll down to our picture, and click on the .pdf link.  This is a great way to see the country.  I've done it twice with Black 47, and we had an absolute blast both times.

And don't forget about our big show at Clinton Town Hall in Clinton, Mass. this Saturday.  It'll be us, Black 47, Dierdre Sweeny, and some Irish dancers.  Come down and join the hooley.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Years ago I was in a club in Providence, waiting to see Neutral Nation.  Just sitting there, minding my own business, drinking a beer, when a woman walked up to me and complimented me on my hair.  I had very long hair back then.  I was a rocker.  I thanked her, and she explained to me that she was a hairdresser, so she tended to notice things like that.  I thanked her agian.  Well, she then explained, she was a hairdresser and a stripper.  "Huh" I replied.  "Cool."  I returned to my beer and watching the stage.  She stood there for a few more moments, and then walked away.  That was the end of the conversation.

Here's the point:  It never once occured to me that she was hitting on me.  My mind just doesn't work like that.  Whether it's a lack of self-confidence (in this case), or some part of my mind just isn't wired for subtlety (although looking back, I guess she wasn't really being all that subtle), but I'm just thick that way.  You really need to stand right in front of me sometimes, and maybe even hit me over the head, for me to see what you're getting at.

That's weird, right?  I mean, I spent over a decade on the standup comedy circuit, I'm an avid reader, writer, and reasonably sharp guy in general.  So why do things just pass right over my head like that?  I have no idea.  And it's not even all the time.  At least I don't think so.  It could be that things go by without me noticing constantly.  Am I just distracted?  Is it a symptom of ADHD?  A friend once told me that I displayed many characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome, although I've been assured by professionals that this is not the case.

Whatever it is, it's frustrating, that's for sure.  I think it creates the impression in people that I'm either aloof, self-centered, or just a jerk.  I really hate that, because I think of myself in the exact opposite way.  I'm not a jerk, and I'm not the least aloof.  I know I can be self-centered, but no moreso that anyone else, really.  I have empathy, and I care deeply about many things and many people.  And many times, I really am listening, but I don't know how to react to things, or even whether I should.  What does that say about me?

What the eff is wrong with me?!?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Solitude and Fear

Today is President's Day.  I'm off, spending the day cleaning house, doing dishes and laundry, and futzing around with the cat.  Truly a patriotic undertaking.

I've had quite a bit of time on my own this weekend.  Time to relax, read, write, watch TV, and think.  Solitude can be a good thing.  It can also be nerve-wracking and anxious.  I tended to waft between both this weekend.  It was good to tune out the world for a bit and contemplate things.  But at the same time, the thoughts that can go through my head when I'm left on my own can be dangerous and lead to feelings of worry and doubt.

I have abandonment issues.  At least I think I do.  At the very least, I have issues revolving around being left behind or left out.  Could be part of my illness, could also have something to do with the fact that I was the youngest kid, by a few years, growing up in my neighborhood.  Nobody wanted to be stuck with the baby, so I was often left out of things like go-cart races, tree forts, and other games.  As I grew up, it seemed like even kids my own age would leave me out of their cliques.  I'm hardly alone in that, I know.  And it's not like I didn't have friends.  But I spent a lot of time on my own, in my room, listening to music or reading comics.

As a result, I'm hyper-sensitive when it comes to feeling like things are being kept from me.  Does that make me paranoid?  I don't know.  But it can make me afraid to be alone sometimes, because I often wonder what's going on without me.  Is everyone out having a great time, even though (or maybe because) I'm not there?  Are they happy to not have me around?  What are they saying about me?  Or worse, is my absence not even noticed?  Those thoughts get swirling around, and then hours can pass like years when I'm on my own.  I get anxious, lonely, and afraid.

This weekend, not so much.  I mean, there was some of that, but not nearly as pronounced as it used to be.  Mostly, I was tired.  Unfortunately, the melatonin failed me again last night, and I woke up at 12:45, and the again at 4:00, and then off and on until about 8:00.  Alas.  Maybe it needs time to build up in your system.  I'll keep trying.

I forgot to mention yesterday that, at the Gobshites/Black 47 show this weekend, we'll be selling one of our two new CDs, "Poitin".  Those of you who pre-ordered "Songs Me Da' Got Pissed To" will automatically get this as well, for free.  For the rest of you, bring some extra cash.  It's really good, if I do say so.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stuff and Things

So first, a quick check-in.  Down to 190 as of this morning.  That's 22 pounds since December.  Yeah.

I can't really tell about the Prozac just yet.  It's only been a little over a week, so I guess there's still time to figure that out.  But things do seem a little bit sharper.  That's a good thing, anyway.

I tried melatonin last night, and the results are mixed so far.  I slept pretty well, but my internal clock is set to about five in the morning, so that's when I woke up.  Probably didn't help that I took the pill at about midnight.  We'll try again tonight, but earlier.

The Gobshites played RiRa in Portland, Maine this past Friday.  What a great city.  I used to go up there a lot for comedy, and haven't been in a while.  This weekend was the Great Guinness Toast.  Like we needed an excuse to go play somewhere.  Basically, this is the start of our busy season, as you might imagine.  We'll be back up there on St. Patrick's Day, playing from 9-Close.  This weekend, we're opening for our pals Black 47 at Clinton Town Hall in Clinton, Massachusetts.  The event is called Rock Your Irish, and the proceeds go to support the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development and their work on behalf of people with developmental disabilities.  Definitely come dow if you can.  It's a great cause, and a Gobshites/Black 47 show is an event, to be sure.

That's it for today.  I'll try and think of something witty and insightful for President's Day.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Weeeellll, looks like we got ourselves a reader"

I've had more than one person at work say some version of "Every time I see you, you're reading another book" to me, like they can't imagine why I'd do such a thing.  I actually had one guy tell me last week that he hated reading.  I don't understand that.  At all.  I come from a family of readers.  I was read to constantly as a baby and toddler, so I guess that's where it all started.  I actually remember the first time I realized I was reading on my own.  I was sitting on the couch in our living room, about maybe four or five years old.  And while the details are a little hazy, I believe it had something to do with turtles playing football.  I could be completely wrong about that.  I remember once in kindergarten, sitting by myself and reading a book aloud, and when I looked up, a bunch of other kids were all sitting around me, listening.  My first public speaking gig.  I was a little embarrassed, to be honest.

Reading is just what I do, I guess.  Whenever I develop an interest in something, the first thing I do is look for books on the subject.  The history of it, biographies of prominent people related to it, how to's, whatever.  I'm pretty sure that even if I did end up a waffle waiter (see clip above), I'd probably be reading on my lunch breaks.

Right now, I'm reading a book by British music journalist Colin Irwin called "In Search of the Craic."  It's about his journey through Ireland's pub culture, looking for the ultimate traditional seissiun.  Lot's of good anecdotes about people like Shane Macgowan, Christy Moore, De Dannan, Sharon Shannon, and other luminaries of the traditional Irish music scene.

I like non-fiction a lot, but fiction creeps in pretty regularly too.  Twain and Vonnegut would have to rank up there as my favorites, along with Steinbeck, Kerouac, and more contemporary writers like Neil Gaiman and Bruce Sterling.  I just finished the Keith Richards memoir.  Highly recommended.  The guy can tell a story, for sure.  I got a bunch of books for Christmas, as well as a Barnes & Noble gift card, which netted me three more, including Patti Smith's "Just Kids".  I think that's going to be next.

Any other readers out there?  What are you reading right now?  What have you read lately that you can recommend?  I'll even take suggestions from waffle waitresses...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Come Sleep, O Sleep!

Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
Th' indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw!
O make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.

-Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

I'm not sleeping enough.  I try to get at least six hours a night, but that's not always possible.  I gave up on eight hours years ago.  I've tried Tylenol PM a couple times this week, and it works.  But one:  I don't want to have to depend on that.  And two: I end up still tired in the morning.  As I type this, I feel drowsy, and I've been awake for three and a half hours.  I've showered, shaved, dressed, made my lunch, eaten breakfast, driven to work.  And now I feel like finding three conference room chairs to line up so I can take a nap.  I hope I can snap out of this, get a second wind or something.  I've got my gym bag with me, ready to go for after work.  The last thing I want to do is doze off in the middle of an ab crunch.  I'm wondering if I need to add Melatonin to my daily regimen of vitamins and supplements.

One of the things my weight loss surgery resolved was my sleep apnea.  That's actually what set the whole gastric bypass thing in motion in the first place.  I knew I snored a bit, but when I was told by someone that they could actually hear me stop breathing in my sleep, I had to do something.  So I went in for a sleep study.  Honestly, I have no idea how they can get a decent read on your sleeping habits, because they put you on a gurney (not even a hospital bed, a gurney), with monitors attached, and then they wake you every hour or so to try a different position or mask.  Not exactly ideal conditions, if you ask me.  But I'm not a doctor.

The first part of the night was without any mask or other breathing aide.  They told me later that in one hour, I woke up 30 times.  30 times.  That basically means that about every two minutes, I'd stop breathing and choke myself awake.  No wonder I was a zombie during the day.  Then they tried a C-PAP machine.  This basically forces air into your lungs through your nose, so you can't help but breathe.  Well, you can't help but breathe in, anyway.  The C stands for continuous.  I had a very hard time with this one, so they tried a Bi-PAP, which alternates the flow of air as you breathe in and out.  This one worked a lot better, so it was determined I should start using one at home.

Aside from the occasional teasing that I looked like a test pilot and sounded like Darth Vader in bed, I did pretty well with this.  I eventually got used to having a big mask over my nose, attached to a tube, all wrapped around my head, and until a few months after my surgery, it helped me get the sleep I'd been missing all those years.  Since the sleep apnea was related directly to my weight, I no longer needed the mask after I'd lost a significant amount, and I could sleep on my own.

Having gained some of the weight back, I think the apnea has started to creep back in.  I didn't go back on the mask, though, but I've lost most of the weight that I gained back (still holding at 194), so hopefully that'll resolve itself again.

Untill then, I've got the sheep on standby...

Monday, February 14, 2011


Down to 194 pounds this weekend.  That's 18 pounds since the beginning of December.  Dig on that.

Also, I started a new medication.  And we went old-school this time with Prozac.  It's only day four, but so far so good.  It seems like it's taking at least some of the edge off.  I'm sure there's a cumulative effect before  I really notice it, but that's now part of my daily intake, along with my vitamins and supplements.

I did want to see how or if I needed to watch my alcohol intake, so for purely scientific purposes, I stopped off on my way home on Friday and grabbed a four-pack of Guinness.  Now granted, I've already cut back significantly at shows, and with my playing a vastly more aerobic instrument these days, I just don't even have the free hand to pick up a pint.  But my doctor said one or two beers wouldn't have much of an effect, and I wanted to see for myself.  I decided to skip the lab coat though, and dressed instead in the traditional jeans and t-shirt.  Observing me in my natural habitat.

My doctor was right.  One or two beers is fine.  Three was verging on loopy.  Four?  Well, I'm just glad I was at home is all I'll say about that.  Luckily we don't have any lampshades.  Of course this situation, me at home watching TV and relaxing, is a bit different from being out at a show, physically active, etc.  So at our show the next night I again gingerly waded into the Guinness wilderness, with similar results, although I stopped before things got too loopy.  After all, I had to be fit to actually play the show, and then pack up my car and drive home.  So I cut the Guinness with significant helpings of water.  That's something that's worked in the past for me, and it continued to serve me well on this night.

Alcoholism can be a risk, both due to my family history and the statistics with gastric bypass patients.  And I admit I sometimes don't pay attention to my intake when I'm out at a pub, on stage, and someone's thrusting a pint into my hand every time I turn around.  I enjoy having a drink or two, but if I'm going to get myself back on track, I need to start paying better attention to this.  And I will.

Welcome to the new me.  Or maybe it's the old me.  Whatever it is, it's the real me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reality Killed the Radio Star

I went to college with the intention of making my living in radio. 

Money well spent.

I guess it wasn't that big a pipe dream, but it wasn't all that realistic, either.  Maybe if I'd been willing to be the kind of person that moves all over the country every year, making meager change in small markets and DJing clubs on the weekends to supplement my income.  But I didn't want to be an absentee father.  And I figured the Boston area had enough radio stations.  And with Providence nearby, that should have expanded my options.

But man, schools churn out aspiring Howard Sterns by the truckload.   Nobody told me that beforehand.  And those folks will fight you to the death for the crappiest paying gigs.  Add to that the egos and the outright scumbags in the business, and a guy who's not too into confrontation and tends to retreat into himself doesn't really stand much of a chance.

Nevertheless, I stuck it out for a few years, mostly because it really was a fun job.  Whether I was on-air or producing, I got to hang out with some pretty incredible people, meet a lot of folks who've influenced me over the years, and go to see bands and comics and other events that I'd never be able to afford to do.  Yeah, guest lists were a huge side benefit.  Also books.  Turns out, if you work in radio (and TV and other media, of course), you can call a publisher and get a review copy of pretty much any book out there.  Pretty sweet for a guy who likes to read.

Unfortunately, the reality of low income and the decreasing likelihood that it would get any better made me make the painful decision to give it up.  Besides, I'd gotten into standup at that point, so my creative jones was satisfied.  I still miss it sometimes, but in the 12 years since I left, opportunities have gotten only scarcer.  More and more stations are going DJ-less, and the talk radio side, for the most part, is populated with people I wouldn't cross the street to piss on.  So no, I don't regret not being in radio anymore.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Loaded Up And...Locked

A big problem I run into is that, far from having nothing to say, I'm actually brimming with ideas in my mind, but for whatever reason I just can't seem to get them out consistently.  Probably a byproduct of my condition, but even when I was treating it regularly, I'd fall into a rut very easily.  Maybe it's feelings of worthlessness caused by depression, maybe not.  One thing I always have a hard time with is deciding in my head whether something's worth writing down.  I need to keep telling myself that it's all worth writing down (that is, after all, what a personal journal is for, right?).  It's whether the product is ready for public consumption that's the key, I think.

I've been assured by more than one person that I have at least a modicum of talent for writing, so why don't I believe it?  Is it just too hard to see myself as any good?  I recognize the signs of self-doubt when they come on, but overcoming them is another thing entirely.  And I know I'm not exactly unique in that respect.  Truth to tell, these doubts don't just apply to writing.  In fact, I have just as much trouble getting what I want to say out of my head verbally.  And it has cost me.

Why?  Why am I so passive?  When things start going south, I start retreating into myself.  I hate that.  I hate knowing that I should be saying something and having nothing come out.  I hope this new regimen of mine can help with that.  I'm sick of feeling hopeless and inept.  Sick of letting what I want slip away because it's too painful to stand and fight sometimes.  Doesn't what I want matter?  So what's stopping me from trying?

Only me.  Get out of my way, me.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Two Quick Things

Just checking the stats page for this blog.  I have no idea how to read most of that stuff, but I notice that, after the USA and Canada, my biggest audience seems to be from the Netherlands.  Not sure what to make of that, but welcome, Dutchmen.  Also, one of the search terms that popped up was "Sheer Terror Hardcore."  I know who Sheer Terror is, been a fan for many years (more for Paul Bearer's rants than anything else, but their music is pretty cool too), but for the life of me I can't figure out how that got someone to this page, as I've never, to this point, even mentioned them.  Maybe it was because I said I used to play drums in a hardcore band?  Kind of a stretch, but okay.

Just thought those were curious, nothing much else to add.

Carry on.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Stepping Away from Standup

My last standup gig was in August of 2009.  I played Showcase Live in Foxboro, Mass, opening for Louis Ramey.  It was a pretty sweet gig.  I had my own dressing room!  And a personal waiter!  And I didn't even have to order from the kids menu!  And then someone asked me if I had my guest list.  I didn't even know I was getting a guest list!  I started texting furiously to see if I could get anyone to come out and make me look like a big shot.  And at the end of the night they even gave me a CD of my performance.  I'm still trying to convince myself that the smattering of laughs on it was due to the fact that they didn't mic the audience...

The next night, the Gobshites played there, opening for Young Dubliners (presumably so we could rub their nose in the fact that I decided to skip their show to see the 'Shites instead the year before...).  It just seemed like a fitting time, and more than a little symbolic, to take a break from comedy at that point.  I just wasn't getting the same thrill out of it anymore, you know?  I wasn't writing nearly as much, and just the grind of trying to chase bookers down was getting to be a bore.

I was also starting to get a little bored with my material.  I knew I was never going to be a Patton Oswalt or Louis CK, but I just wasn't even really feeling it anymore, even the stuff I knew worked really well.  I could still pull off a good 30-40 minutes feature set, but just good.  I wasn't getting great.  I wasn't even striving to be great anymore.  So I put comedy on hold for a bit.

Out of sheer habit, I still keep my notebook with me, telling myself that one of these days I'm going to start jotting things down again.  And I will.  One of these days.  I haven't totally written off getting on a comedy club stage again.  I'm sure I could get some spots around Boston and Providence if I wanted to.  There's even a weekly open mic right around the corner from me, and I've been thinking a lot about heading over there some Wednesday night.

I Can't Even Find the Words...

Well I probably could if I tried.  But really, what else is there to say?

Monday, February 07, 2011

At Least My Pity Party Has a Cool DJ

"GAWD!  I wish he'd stop with the 'Woe is me' crap!"

Yeah, there's a lot I've written lately that sounds an awful lot like wallowing in my illness/condition/whatever.  I'm really not trying to do that.  I mean, sure, I'm kind of an emotional wreck these days, but I'm trying to focus on the positive and get better.  Music helps.  My playlist can get a bit eclectic, but lately I've been listening to a lot of straight-up punk rock.  Cock Sparrer, The Business, and Street Dogs have been in heavy rotation lately, along with Swingin' Utters.  There's quite a bit of Celtic, both traditional and otherwise (See: Greenland Whalefishers, The Pogues, Christy Moore, Flatfoot 56, and The Real Mackenzies).  I got a great four CD compilation for Christmas called Rockin' Bones, which is all 50's and 60's rockabilly.  And there's even been a little Zydeco thrown in, most notably Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys' Trace of Time CD, and also the first Zydepunks CD.

I should put in a plug for the two new Gobshites CDs coming out very very soon.  The first one to come out will be "Poitin" (pronounced (pot-CHEEN), which is our "Official Bootleg."  It's a compilation of various songs we've done for compilations, some live tracks, and one or two alternate mixes.  The other is "Songs Me Da Got Pissed To," an album of traditional Irish songs and tunes, done Gobshites-style.  Originally, "Poitin" was supposed to be a freebie for those who preordered "Songs...", and until midnight this Friday, it still is.  But we're also going to be selling them at shows now as well.  Both of them come out this month, with "Poitin" leading off.  You can get more info by sending an email to

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Weight of My World

Part of getting myself back is getting back on track with my weight and general physical health.  On April 30th, 2007, I had Gastric Bypass Surgery.  It was deemed necessary by my GP, as I had reached over 300 pounds and have a family history of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.  The thing is, I never minded exercising at all.  I actually enjoyed it.  But my lack of motivation would often torpedo any efforts I made to get back into a fitness routine.

So I met with the folks at the Mass General Weight Center, who set me up with a surgeon, a psychologist, and a nutritionist to determine whether surgery was my best option (as I mentioned in a previous post, it was here that I learned of my ADHD for the first time).  After several meetings, they did finally recommend Gastric Bypass over the lap band procedure.

It was a nerve-wracking decision.  I'd never so much as spent a night in a hospital.  I had no idea what to expect, and of course there's always the possibility that something could go wrong.  But I was also hopeful and optimistic about finally being able to get my weight under control.

The surgery worked.  I lost about 140 pounds, got down to about 175, and my energy and self confidence grew in leaps and bounds.  I felt like I had turned my whole life around.

Unfortunately, the depression and ADHD issues I've previously written about sapped my motivation to keep going, and I gained some of the weight back.  Not a huge amount, but enough that it started becoming a concern for myself and my loved ones.  By the beginning of this past December, I was back up to 212 pounds.

So I determined to hit the gym.  There's a modest one on the first floor of the building I work in, and I started going after work, three days a week.  Treadmill, weight machines, and some ab exercises that I've picked up over the years, and I pretty much just designed my own little program.

This morning, I was down to 198 pounds.

Back under 200, and in a good routine.  I also started cutting way back on my consumption of Arizona Diet Green Tea (I stopped drinking carbonated soda altogether about five months before my surgery) in favor of good old water.  It's funny, I think the water has actually kicked my weight loss into overdrive.  For a few weeks, I was going through a period of losing two pounds and gaining one back, and now it's been only losing.

So it's back to the gym again tomorrow, and Wednesday, and Friday, and the same for next week, and the week after that, and hopefully the progress I've made will compound and continue.  Because I like feeling fit and healthy.  I think I'm going to keep it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Father of a College Student, Am I (Almost)

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter called me in an excited flurry and informed me that she'd just been accepted to the college of her choice.  A huge, HUGE sigh of relief was heard across southeastern Massachusetts, from her house to my house to her aunt and grandmother.  It wasn't that I didn't think she'd get in, she's a far better student than I ever was.  But just the culmination of over 17 years of worrying and hoping and wishing that she'd grow up to do whatever she wanted to do makes even a gimme a nerve-wracking experience.  It is true what they say, you will never know the sheer terror, combined with the utter joy, of raising a child unless you've helped to do it.  I know I've made some big blunders along the way, yet she's grown up to be an amazing young woman, someone who'll make her difference in the world, and do it beautifully.  Well done, my wonderful girl.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

On Tin Whistles, Singing, Drums and Etc.

In September, 2008, I joined The Gobshites, a Boston-area acoustic Irish punk rock band.  The band itself has been around since 2002, with various members coming in and out around lead singer/guitarist Pete Walsh over the years.  The original idea, as I understand it, was to have a sort of revolving cast of characters, a'la Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review, however at one point a more-or-less solid, permanent lineup emerged, and stayed that way for a few years.  One thing they'd never had before I joined was a tin whistle player (the tin whistle heard on our CDs was supplied by session musician Billy Novick).  One thing I had never played before (well, there are many things, but this is the most relevant) is the tin whistle.  It was a natural fit.  My joining the band was pure happenstance.  I had known the guys for years, and was looking to go out one night to see some music, when I saw that they were playing at a pub not 15 minutes from my house, so I decided against heading out in a teeming rain to see the Young Dubliners at another venue about 45 minutes away.  You have to wonder what the Young Dubs missed out on because of that rain...

I grew up playing drums.  My dad was a tenor drummer in a drum & bugle corps growing up, and when I was very young he bought me a pair of sticks and a practice pad and taught me how to do a five stroke roll and a paradidle.  When I got older, he signed me up for drum lessons, and a few years after that bought me a used drum kit that served me through various bands in high school and college.  Most of them never did much of anything, except Suckerpunch, a late 80s-early 90s Boston Hardcore band that had gained most of its' notoriety before I came aboard to replace the original drummer.  That was my last band, and my last regular drumming for a long long time.

Also from an early age, I listened to a lot of Irish music.  My folks were big fans of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.  On summer trips to Cape Cod, we often spent afternoons at the Happy Hour of a local pub, eating and listening to the Irish bands playing there.  So being a drummer, I figured playing bodhran would be a natural choice for me.  I took lessons at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton, Massachusetts, and hit up a few sessions, and did that more or less as a hobby for a while.

Now back to that fateful night at the Gobshites' show.  During their second set, the pub's owner jumped up on stage with one of the decorative bodhrans that adorn pretty much every Irish pub in existence, and started banging away.  In between sets, Pete turned to me and said "You know how to play that, right?  You're in the next set."  And then he handed me a pint of Guinness, which went a long way towards overcoming any objections and/or stage fright.

After the last set, we chatted for a bit about the fun we'd just had, and when Pete asked me if I played anything else, I mentioned that I had a tin whistle that I'd been trying to learn.  "Cool" he said.  "Practice is on Monday nights at the Feeney's."  And that was that.  My learning curve on the whistle was pretty steep.  I had to learn three sets worth of songs, plus a bunch of traditional Irish tunes we were going to record for our new CD, and I was pretty much learning on stage, in front of the audience.  It was daunting, sure, but that's also what I liked about it.  It took me way, way out of my comfort zone, and introduced me to a whole new crowd of friends and loved ones at the same time.  And having become bored and disillusioned with my standup comedy career, it couldn't have come along at a better time.

Recently, after we went through a succession of drummers, I was pressed into service at the last minute during an outdoor brewers festival.  It was only one 45 minute set, but at the end of it, my arms felt like they'd been rope-a-doped.  Still, even for not having played regularly in years, I managed to pull it off reasonably well.  And then this past weekend, I was asked again to sit behind the kit, this time for three full shows.  I was nervous as could be, but amazingly, my body held out through all three nights.  I guess it helps that I've been hitting the gym on a regular basis.  So now, I've taken over as the regular drummer for the time being, while still practicing the whistle for recordings and such.  I was a little hesitant to take on the new role, but I guess it boils down to what can I do to help the team, you know?

It's still fun, and I'll keep at it until it isn't.  Check out our website for upcoming dates, and stop in if you're in the area.  We're a good time.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

If ADHD Were a Person, It Would Look Like This

So I have ADHD, and as I said in my previous post, I was officially diagnosed with the condition (along with depression) a little over four years ago.  It was a little bit of a shock to the system, to be honest.  I had always assumed that would have been tested for much earlier in my life, but no.  I was told, first by the staff psychologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center (who wasn't qualified to give an actual diagnosis), and then by my therapist (who is so qualified), that I had it, and probably was carrying it from childhood.  Holy crap.  All these years trying to figure out why I couldn't seem to keep it together and focus on things, even things I was very much into.  I thought maybe (because I'd been told by many adults) I was just chronically lazy and unambitious.  But the truth is, I had a lot of ambitions, and there were a lot of things I wanted to do.  For some reason, I just couldn't get started with any of them.  So I started to doubt myself, which leads, nearly inevitably, to depression, which is another possible result of ADHD.

So I went on medication.  Wellbutrin at first, and then after my gastric bypass surgery, my therapist added Provigil, a milder stimulant than is normally prescribed for this condition.  The reason for that is that one of the side effects of the stimulants they use to treat ADHD is a decrease in appetite.  And where I just had a surgery that ensures that you eat a lot less than you used to, they didn't want to cause problems with my ability to get proper nutrition.  The meds worked, although there was no moment of "Aha!  I think I'll start training for the Boston Marathon."  It's more you just sort of notice, after a while, that you're starting to follow through on things more, and your thinking is a bit clearer.  You know how, when you take medicine for a headache, and then you realize at some point that the headache is gone, but you can't put your finger on when, exactly, it went away?  There you go.

Unfortunately, about two years into my treatment, I lost my job, along with my insurance.  And since I couldn't afford COBRA, I also couldn't afford to continue taking the meds, or seeing the therapist.  So I stopped.  I got a new job about four or five months later, but the schedule there wasn't as flexible, and so I couldn't really get back to see my therapist, and so I (stupidly) let it fall by the wayside.  And now, two years after that, I'm finally trying to get in touch with her again to see if I can get back to that place where I was able to finish what I started and follow through on my ambitions.

There's really no way to describe the cloud you get stuck in with this condition.  Add depression to that mix, and you're really lost.  I've struggled to write (both comedy and otherwise), my position in the band was threatened, and it's caused a major strain on my relationship.  All of these things I'm working desperately to try and resolve and work out now.

So I've got a call in to my old doctor, and I've started writing here again, and practicing (I promise to talk more about the music in a later post.  I realize I haven't said much about it besides the fact that it exists), and trying to do everything else I can to get back on track.