Tuesday, November 30, 2021

BOPPIN's Monthly Day Off

Once a month, Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) takes an entirely too brief break from its addlebrained commitment to daily public posting, and provides a private post for just its beloved paid supporters. This month's private post for patrons is another preview of my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), specifically that book's chapter about "Surrender" by Cheap Trick.

Regular daily public posting resumes tomorrow, December 1st, the same day my patrons get to read about a Greatest Record Ever Made! by a group called Cheap Trick. You can become a paid supporter of this blog for just $2 a month: Fund me, baby!

Monday, November 29, 2021

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 1105

When Dana and I started to put together this week's playlist, we suddenly realized how few regular editions of TIRnRR remain until special programming closes out 2021. After this week's extravaganza, there are only two more shows before The 23rd Annual THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO Christmas Show on December 19th, all feeding into our big blowout year-end Countdown show on December 26th. 

This show, and then two more. And then two weeks of specials to write finis to 2021. That's all that's left of this year.

Guess we better make it count. 

This is what rock 'n' roll radio sounded like on a Sunday night in Syracuse this week.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at  http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read all about this show's long and weird history here: Boppin' The Whole Friggin' Planet (The History Of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO)

TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS are always welcome.

The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio:  CD or download

PS: SEND MONEY!!!! We need tech upgrades like Elvis needs boats. Spark Syracuse is supported by listeners like you. Tax-deductible donations are welcome at

You can follow Carl's daily blog Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) at 

TIRnRR # 1105: 11/28/2021
TIRnRR FRESH SPINS! Tracks we think we ain't played before are listed in bold

THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (Rhino, End Of The Century)
IRENE PEÑA: Nothing To Do With You (Big Stir, single)
KID GULLIVER: You'll Never Know (Red On Red, Kismet)
SLY STONE: Ain't That Lovin' You Babe (Light In The Attic, Sly Before The Family Stone)
BARBARA & ERNIE: Somebody To Love (Real Gone Music, Prelude To...)
MANDY MOORE: Anticipation (Epic, Coverage)
DELANEY & BONNIE AND FRIENDS: Will The Circle Be Unbroken? (Real Gone Music, Motel Shot)
JILL BROWN: Neverending Song (single)
DIONNE WARWICK: Walk On By [German] (Real Gone Music, Odds & Ends)
THE BEATLES: Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand (Apple, Past Masters)
ELKIE BROOKS: The Way You Do The Things You Do (Ace, VA: On The Detroit Beat)
THE SPONGETONES: Don't You Know? (Black Vinyl, Beat & Torn)
BEVERLY JONES WITH THE PRESTONS: (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave (Ace, VA: On The Detroit Beat)
NELSON BRAGG: Glorious Days (Steel Derrick, Gratitude Blues)
THE ON AND ONS: Vanishing Act (Citadel, Back For More)
SPIRIT: Nature's Way (Epic, The Best Of Spirit)
THE BEVIS FROND: My Own Hollywood (Fire, Little Eden)
GENERAL JOHNSON & THE CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARD: Carolina Girls (Ripete, VA: The Beach Music Anthology Box Set)
SPYGENIUS: Step Inside Love (Big Stir, Sypgenius Blow Their Covers)
BO DONALDSON & THE HEYWOODS: Who Do You Think You Are (Varese Sarabande, The Best Of Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods)
GALLOWS BIRDS: So Unhappy For You (Rum Bar, Quaranteenage Kicks)
THE BREAKAWAYS: Everyday Things (Alive, Walking Out On Love: The Lost Sessions)
THE DAZZ BAND: Let It Whip (UNCUT, VA: Summer Of Motown)
DEVO: Whip It (Rhino, Pioneers Who Got Scalped)
THE GRIP WEEDS: I Wonder (Jem, DiG)
CHARLIE ROBBINS: Heart Said Go (Blue Wave, VA: History Of Syracuse Music Volume 14)
THE MOST: Best Of Me [live] (unreleased)
JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES: Please Don't Touch (EMI, The Best Of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates)
HEADGIRL: Please Don't Touch (Lemon, GIRLSCHOOL: The Singles)
DIVINYLS: I Touch Myself (Virgin, Divinyls)
WENDI DUNLAP: Season Of Loss (Futureman, Looking For Buildings)
MAD MONSTER PARTY: Can't Stop Loving You (Futureman, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 3)
PRINCE: Hot Summer (NPG, Welcome 2 America)
LES HANDCLAPS: Sunny City (Handclaps, Ouh Ouh Ah!)
THE MONKEES: Sunny Girlfriend [acoustic remix of master vocal] (Rhino Handmade, Headquarters Sessions)
THE JAYHAWKS: She Walks In So Many Ways (Rounder, Mockingbird Time)
STUPIDITY FEATURING KEITH STRENG: Waking Up The Band (Red On Red, single)
THE JAM: Strange Town (Polydor, Direction Reaction Creation)
THE BROTHERS STEVE: Wizard Of Love (Big Stir, Dose)
THE GROOVIE GHOULIES: Laugh At Me (Lookout!, Fun In The Dark)
ARETHA FRANKLIN: Save Me (Atlantic, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You)
THE GO-GO'S: Head Over Heels (IRS, Talk Show) 
BOB SEGER: Rosalie (Palladium, Back In '72)
THE MUFFS: Something Inside (Oglio, Really Really Happy)
SQUIRE: The Life (Tangerine, Big Smashes)
THE PRIMITIVES: Dreamwalk Baby (RCA, Lovely)
THE FLASHCUBES: Alone In My Room (single)
THE KENNEDYS: And Your Bird Can Sing (Futureman, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 1)
CHUCK BERRY: Johnny B. Goode (MCA, The Anthology)
GANG OF FOUR: Armalite Rifle (Matador, Entertainment!)
JIM TRAINOR: Heaven Descending (Futureman, Staring Down The Sun)
THE FLYS: Love And A Molotov Cocktail (Own, Today Belongs To Me)
THE KINKS: Dedicated Follower Of Fashion (Sanctuary, The Anthology 1964-1971)
THE ENGLISH BEAT: Save It For Later (Shout Factory, Keep The Beat)
DEAN LANDEW: After Work (single)
THE EASYBEATS: Friday On My Mind (Retroactive, Gonna Have A Good Time)
UTOPIA: I Just Want To Touch You (Rhino, Deface The Music)

Sunday, November 28, 2021


Assemble! We're going to begin our superheroic show with the latest single from America's Sweetheart IRENE PEÑA. While we'd be justified at that point to pause and just marvel at our splendor, we'll barrel ahead nonetheless, with a mighty biff-bang-pow barrage o' the amazing old and the invincible new, courtesy of THE KINKS, THE GRIP WEEDS, DIONNE WARWICK, JILL BROWN, THE BEVIS FROND, SPYGENIUS, PRINCE, WENDI DUNLAP, THE CHELSEA CURVE, THE MUFFS, ARETHA FRANKLIN, GALLOWS BIRDS, THE MONKEES, THE BROTHERS STEVE, THE GO-GO'S, CHUCK BERRY, LES HANDCLAPS, and more. Face front, True Believer. See, we can marvel at our brilliance without bothering to pause. Come marvel with us. Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FMhttp://sparksyracuse.org/

Saturday, November 27, 2021

POP-A-LOOZA: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! Elton John, "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting"

Each week, the pop culture website Pop-A-Looza shares some posts from my vast 'n' captivating Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) archives. The latest shared post is another episode in the ongoing saga of The Greatest Record Ever Made: "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" by Elton John.

This entry was prepared as a chapter in my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but it is not part of the book's current blueprint. I have shed a number of completed chapters from the book as I fine-tune what I think should be included. You would think I'd be more likely to delete one or more of the nine chapters that aren't finished yet, but I just confound rational explanation, don't I? The Elton John piece wound up getting cut because I wanted to make the book a little shorter. A complete Cheap Trick chapter was erased because I didn't think it was good enough, and restored when I realized a better way to celebrate the song and its relevance, and then did a little bit of rewriting to make it so. Now, I like the Cheap Trick piece, it's back in the book, and it will be December's private post for this blog's patrons on December 1st. You can become a patron of Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) for a mere $2 a month: Fund me, baby!

Meanwhile, we raise a glass for a different song. A Greatest Record Ever Made! celebration of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" is the latest Boppin' Pop-A-Looza.


You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download

Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio:  CD or download

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Friday, November 26, 2021

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (VOLUME 1): updating the blueprint

As always: An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns.

That's the familiar mantra of my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). It's been a long road to get this far, and the book is no closer to a publishing plan than it's been in any previous part of its journey. But it is nearing completion, with only nine more entries remaining to be done. Having already finished initial work on my first book--another nonfiction music title with a tentative publication date in late 2022--I'm hoping to complete a draft of GREM! in the near future, maybe even in enough time for me to say I wrote two books in 2021. We'll see.

The book's Table of Contents has changed since its last update. It's a tiny bit shorter now, with the previous intent to spotlight 180 songs (175 entries plus five bonus tracks, labeled Overture, Entr'acte, Encore!, Encore!!, and Coda) slimmed to the current plan of 170 songs (165 plus the same five bonus tracks). Here's what the GREM! Table of Contents looks like today:


Table of Contents

DISCLAIMERS AND DECLARATIONS (A User's Guide To The Greatest Record Ever Made!)
A Fistful Of 45s
OVERTURE THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?
1. BADFINGER: Baby Blue
2. CHUCK BERRY: Promised Land
3. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: I Only Want To Be With You
4. THE SEX PISTOLS: God Save The Queen
5. ELVIS PRESLEY: Heartbreak Hotel
7. PATTI SMITH: Gloria
8. LITTLE RICHARD: The Girl Can't Help It
9. NEIL DIAMOND: Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
10. CRAZY ELEPHANT: Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' 
11. WILSON PICKETT: In The Midnight Hour
12. THE HOLLIES: I Can't Let Go
14. THE ROMANTICS: What I Like About You
15. SAM COOKE: Chain Gang
16. PETULA CLARK: Downtown
17. ARTHUR ALEXANDER: Soldier Of Love
18. TRANSLATOR: Everywhere That I'm Not
19. LESLEY GORE: You Don't Own Me
20. THE SHANGRI-LAS: Leader Of The Pack
21. THE SHIRELLES: Will You Love Me Tomorrow
22. THE RAMONES: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
23. AMY RIGBY: Dancing With Joey Ramone
24. PINK FLOYD: Wish You Were Here
25. GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: Midnight Train To Georgia
27. MERLE HAGGARD: Mama Tried
28. THE TEMPTATIONS: Papa Was A Rollin' Stone
29. BUDDY HOLLY: Peggy Sue/Everyday
30. JOHNNY NASH: I Can See Clearly Now
31. SUZI QUATRO: I May Be Too Young
32. ALICE COOPER: School's Out
34. OTIS REDDING: (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay
INTERLUDE The Monkees Play Their Own Instruments
36. THE MONKEES: Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)
37. PRINCE: When You Were Mine
38. THE 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS: You're Gonna Miss Me
39. THE ROLLING STONES: Get Off Of My Cloud
41. BOB DYLAN: Like A Rolling Stone
42. THE KINGSMEN: Louie, Louie
43. BARON DAEMON AND THE VAMPIRES: The Transylvania Twist
44. THE MARVELETTES: I'll Keep Holding On
45. THE WHO: I Can't Explain
46. TODD RUNDGREN: Couldn't I Just Tell You
47. SHOES: Tomorrow Night
48. THE FLASHCUBES: No Promise
49. TELEVISION: Elevation
50. DONNA SUMMER: I Feel Love
52. JUDAS PRIEST: Heading Out To The Highway
55. THE NEW YORK DOLLS: Personality Crisis
56. MILLIE SMALL: My Boy Lollipop
57. THE EASYBEATS: Friday On My Mind
58. IKE AND TINA TURNER: River Deep Mountain High
59. THE RONETTES: Be My Baby
60. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Girls In Their Summer Clothes
61. KISS: Shout It Out Loud
62. THE LEFT BANKE: Walk Away, Renee
63. THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Rock And Roll Love Letter
65. THE WONDERS: That Thing You Do!
66. THE GO-GO'S: We Got The Beat
INTERLUDE The Tottenham Sound Of...The Beatles?!
67. THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: Any Way You Want It
68. JAMES BROWN: Please, Please, Please
69. GRAND FUNK: We're An American Band
70. THE VELVELETTES: He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'
71. THE FIRST CLASS: Beach Baby
72. THE ISLEY BROTHERS: Summer Breeze
73. THE RUBINOOS: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
*74. THE PANDORAS: It's About Time
75. BIG STAR: September Gurls
77. LINDA RONSTADT: You're No Good
*78. P. P. ARNOLD: The First Cut Is The Deepest
*79. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS: All For Swinging You Around
81. THE BEATLES: Revolution
82. YOKO ONO: Kiss Kiss Kiss
83. THE MC5: Kick Out The Jams
*84. THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS: Time Has Come Today
85. MARVIN GAYE: I Heard It Through The Grapevine
86. THE MUFFS: Saying Goodbye
87. SAMMY AMBROSE: This Diamond Ring
88. THE MYNAH BIRDS: I Got You (In My Soul)
89. RICK JAMES: Super Freak
90. THE FLAMIN' GROOVIES: Shake Some Action
92. THE DANDY WARHOLS: We Used To Be Friends
93. THE CARPENTERS: Only Yesterday
94. MATERIAL ISSUE: Kim The Waitress
*95. THE 5TH DIMENSION: Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures)
96. THE JACKSON FIVE: I'll Be There
97. SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE: Everybody Is A Star
*98. THE BANGLES: Live
99. THE SEARCHERS: Hearts In Her Eyes
100. THE FLIRTATIONS: Nothing But A Heartache
101. THE SPINNERS: I'll Be Around
103. THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY: I Woke Up In Love This Morning
104. LED ZEPPELIN: Communication Breakdown
105. THE BANDWAGON: Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache
*106. DON HENLEY: The Boys Of Summer
107. THE CLASH: Train In Vain (Stand By Me)
108. BEN E. KING: Stand By Me
109. GENE PITNEY: Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa
110. RUFUS: Tell Me Something Good  
111. THE SPONGETONES: (My Girl) Maryanne
112. THE TRAMMPS: Disco Inferno
114. GRANDMASTER AND MELLE MEL: White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)
115. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: I'll Be Your Mirror
116. DEL SHANNON: Runaway
117. THE EVERLY BROTHERS: Gone, Gone, Gone
118. THE COCKTAIL SLIPPERS: St. Valentine's Day Massacre
119. SAM AND DAVE: Soul Man
120. T. REX: 20th Century Boy
121. HEART: Kick It Out
122. THE RUNAWAYS: Cherry Bomb
123. AMERICA: Sister Golden Hair
124. THE KINKS: Waterloo Sunset
125. THE KINKS: You Really Got Me
126. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY: Time Will Tell
127. THE SMITHEREENS: Behind The Wall Of Sleep
*128. THE COWSILLS: She Said To Me
129. ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS: (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?
130. THE FOUR TOPS: Reach Out I'll Be There
INTERLUDE Old Time Rock 'n' Roll
131. THE BOB SEGER SYSTEM: 2 + 2 = ?
132. THE JIVE FIVE: What Time Is It?
133. LULU: To Sir, With Love [Museum Outings Montage]
134. FREDA PAYNE: Band Of Gold
135. THE CONTOURS: Do You Love Me
137. WHAM!: Freedom
138. THE SUPREMES: You Keep Me Hangin' On 
139. THE BEACH BOYS: God Only Knows
141. THE SELECTER: On My Radio
142. TRACEY ULLMAN: They Don't Know
143. MANNIX: Highway Lines
144. THE DRIFTERS: On Broadway
145. FIRST AID KIT: America
147. SOLOMON BURKE: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love
148. THE JAM: That's Entertainment
149. THE COASTERS: Yakety Yak
150. CHEAP TRICK: Surrender
151. TEGAN AND SARA: Walking With A Ghost
152. DAVID BOWIE: Life On Mars?
153. THE O'JAYS: Put Your Hands Together
154. THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John's Band
155. EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS: Do Anything You Wanna Do
156. JOAN JETT: Bad Reputation
157. STEVIE WONDER: I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)
158. MARYKATE O'NEIL: I'm Ready For My Luck To Turn Around
159. EYTAN MIRSKY: This Year's Gonna Be Our Year
160. THE JAYHAWKS: I'm Gonna Make You Love Me
An Infinite Number
INTERLUDE Underrating The Beatles
ENCORE!! THE T-BONES: No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)
Cruisin' Music
CODA THE RAMONES: Blitzkrieg Bop

IMPORTANT NOTE: These selections are not ranked in any way, and this is most definitely NOT intended as an inclusive list of the all-time best songs. There are an infinite number of worthy prospects; these are the one I choose to write about in The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Voume 1).

The asterisks designate chapters still in need of a completed draft. Although a number of previously-announced songs have been removed from the book (and some others added), this does retain most of the songs played in This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio's Greatest Record Ever Made! special this past August. And what I wrote for that show's playlist still applies to the book project itself:

"A few years back, I decided [this] would be a great premise for a series of essays. Yeah, The Greatest Record Ever Made! Some friends (including intrepid TIRnRR listener Dave Murray and invincible TIRnRR co-host Dana Bonn) urged me to start writing already, so the GREM! celebrations began on my blog with a spotlight on Badfinger's 'Baby Blue,' posted October 27th, 2016. Many more GREM! pieces would follow, part of an ongoing but finite glimpse at the infinite.

"Seemed like a good idea for a book, too. I've written for magazines for decades, I've written for other people's books, but I've never had a book with my name on the front cover. In late 2018, I started putting together The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) as a book. In 2019, I secured an agent, wrote a formal book proposal, and things seemed to snapping into place for my GREM! book.

"Until, y'know, they weren't snappin' anymore.

"I went over some of the circumstances of the book's (perhaps permanent) pause here...But I have not given up on my baby. I haven't given up on The Greatest Record Ever Made!...

"...Each song is great. Each song is the greatest, in its own infinite turn. There oughtta be a book about that. Maybe there will be."

Nine chapters to go. Ten if I decide to add Headgirl's "Please Don't Touch." About 142,000 words written in the completed chapters, with a goal of keeping the final total under 155,000 words. This book's gonna get done. 

Will it get published? I think it will. I hope so, anyway. That, my friends, would be the greatest.


You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download

Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio:  CD or download

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Tales Of Thanksgivings Past (and present)


I have two conflicting childhood memories of Thanksgiving. I remember turkey prep in our little suburban kitchen, with my Dad buttering a brown paper bag, placing the turkey in the buttered bag, and then putting the big, bagged turkey into the oven. It sounds like a weird method to cook a turkey, but I tell ya, it results in a moist 'n' delicious bird and a tasty holiday meal.

But I also remember going to my Aunt Mary's house on Park Street in Syracuse for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know if I've confused different Thanksgivings in my mind, or if my Mom baked the turkey in North Syracuse and we transported it to Aunt Mary's house for the family dinner. Or maybe I'm confusing Thanksgivings with the Christmas Eves we spent at Aunt Mary's. I don't know.

But I think we did go to Aunt Mary's house for most of our Thanksgivings. And my memories of holiday dinners there remain full and vibrant, and plentiful: turkey and stuffing, roasted potatoes, macaroni and meatballs (We're Italian, fercryinoutloud!), and sweet, sumptuous desserts. As far and away the youngest kid at these dinners, I was usually relegated to a meal at the kitchen table rather than the dining room. And I vividly recall loud conversations after the meal was done, as my Uncle Art and Uncle Mike argued politics, and my Dad--ever the peacemaker--tried to referee. It is an indelible, happy memory, no matter how much fuzz my aging brain tries to gather around it.

Uncle Mike passed away in the mid-70s, when I was in high school. Uncle Art died in 1995, when my lovely wife Brenda was pregnant with Meghan, our only child. I lost my Dad in 2012. Aunt Mary, now 93 years old, resides in an assisted living facility; the family house on Park Street, which had belonged to my grandfather, was sold long ago. At 91, my Mom still lives in our old house in North Syracuse, and I check in with her every day.

For Thanksgiving this year, my brother Rob and sister-in-law Barb invited us to join them in Albany for a family meal. Rob and Barb have a new grandson, whom my Mom had not yet had the opportunity to meet. With that added incentive of allowing Mom to meet her newest great-grandchild, we agreed to make the trip. On Thanksgiving morning, Brenda, Meghan, and I picked up Mom, and set off down the New York State Thruway for Thanksgiving dinner in Albany. (Aunt Mary and my cousin Mary Ann had planned to meet us in Albany, but a morning phone call from Mary Ann informed us that her Mom didn't feel up for the trip. It was the only disappointing aspect of an otherwise-lovely day.)

Travel can be intimidating, even precarious around here at this time of year. Earlier this week, Syracuse had been the unhappy recipient of almost two feet of snow dumped upon our sorry souls; it took my ol' Cub Cadet and me an hour to clear the driveway Monday morning, and I don't want to imagine how long it would have taken (and how much I would be achin') if I'd been armed with just a freakin' snow shovel.

But fortune favors the cold! Or the bold. Whatever. By Thanksgiving, temps had risen, excess snow had melted, and driving conditions were conducive for a road trip.

My wife's car has satellite radio, so Little Steven's Underground Garage channel accompanied and propelled our ride: Moby Grape, James Brown, The Dave Clark Five, The Ramones, and Lesley Gore were among the sounds keeping this intrepid driver on the straight and narrow. We were ahead of schedule, so I added two pit stops near journey's end, just so we wouldn't arrive at my brother's house before they were ready for this Syracuse invasion. We got there just as the other guests started to filter in.

A word about my brother's in-laws: like Tony the Tiger once said of a specific sugary cereal, they're great. I often joke with Brenda that both she and I lucked out when it came to in-laws, and that goes for the extended family, too. I love my family, and Brenda's family, and my sister-in-law Barb's family, and so on through all the attendant family tree branches you could name. I hear so much about people who can't get along with their own family, or with some element of their family, and it saddens me. Even during our holiday dinner this year, Meghan heard from a friend suffering through Thanksgiving with her aunt, in a setting where she didn't feel welcome. I realize it's a common situation, and it's alien to my own experience. I appreciate how lucky I've been to never know that kind of life.

For me, family--even extended family--has always been about love, and delight, and camaraderie. It's not that we all agree about everything--we don't--but we agree on what's basic and important. And we enjoy spending time together, laughing together, remembering what was and hoping for what may be. I wish more of my family could have been there--I wish my brother Art and his family could have come in from Ohio, and I wish my sister Denise and her family could have flown in from England, and I wish Mary Ann could have come with Aunt Mary--but I'm grateful for the opportunity to gather with those who could be there. And I'm aglow with the contented feeling of seeing my daughter grow into the incredible young adult that now stands where my cherished little girl used to be; I look back in awe, and I look on in wonder, and marvel at the grace life has granted me.

I wish we had more time together. I wish we had more time. Meghan joked that we need another wedding, just to gather the family together. I agreed, while thinking to myself, Please, not your wedding next. Not now. Not yet. We last gathered en masse for my Mom's 90th birthday celebration in August of 2015. That was a blast. We need more happy get-togethers like that. We need a chance to toast, and dance, and tell stories, and reminisce.

As a family, like all families, we have suffered loss. We have endured the trials of time and distance, and done what we could to sustain our fragile hearts. Time is cruel, and we are mortal. But we live, we love, and we understand the bounty that we have been given. On Thanksgiving, members of our family gathered once again to enjoy a fabulous meal, and to enjoy our all-too-brief time together. That's sufficient cause for gratitude right there. That's reason enough to just say Thanks.


Much has changed in the past two years. Mom is now in a nursing home. Last December, a fall at home made it clear that she could no longer live on her own. I was with her for the ambulance ride to the emergency room, as EMS workers lifted her out of the house that had been her home for more than 65 years. She knew, in her heart, that she would not be returning there. She never had an opportunity for closure, to say goodbye to the house in which I grew up. She does not want to visit that house now. The memory of what was, and which only lives on in memory, is too painful to reconcile.

My daughter Meghan and her boyfriend Austin live there now, as guests of my sister Denise (who bought the house from Mom when Dad died in 2012). It was time for Meghan to start building an independent life, and that's a good thing. But the house's current state is less than ideal, as a persistent leak in the ceiling near their bed has proven difficult to remedy. Attempts to patch the roof have been as effective as BBs shot at Superman. I haven't even been able to get an estimate on replacing the roof, because, y'know, winter in November. I'm trying to come up with at least some kind of temporary solution, and I'm beside myself with worry that the leak will grow larger and that Meghan and Austin will not be able to stay there. I feel helpless.

Last Friday, Meghan, my wife Brenda, and I attended a memorial service for my sister-in-law Patty. Patty married my brother Art in 1972; her family had lived kitty-corner across the street from our house in North Syracuse until the early '60s. When Art started dating Patty around 1970 or so, Mom asked him, Isn't she a little young for you? But together, Art and Patty were just right, and so much in love. Fuck cancer. She was only 67. Brenda thought of Patty as a sister, and she's devastated, as we all are. We all wanted to get to Columbus for the service, so we dodged threatening weather conditions for the drive to Ohio. My other brother Rob and his wife Barbara drove in from Albany as well, and we surprised Art and his family with our presence. We felt that we needed to be there for him, for my nephews and their wives and kids, and for Patty's siblings. They used to live across the street from the house where Mom no longer lives, the house where a ceiling drips ominously upon Meghan and Austin. Family needed to be there for family.

My sister Denise lives in England with her husband Tony. Tony's mom passed away earlier this year. Last week, Denise and Tony's own home was devastated by fire. No one was hurt. They will not be able to move back into their house for up to a year. They are too far away for us to hug and offer comfort.

Aunt Mary, who could not make the car trip to Albany in my previous Thanksgiving story, also passed away this year. She was the last of my father's siblings. That generation of Cafarelli is now gone.

Today, Brenda, Meghan, Austin, and I will go to Mom's nursing home for a Thanksgiving meal. The nursing home staff allows guests to join residents for holiday celebrations, requiring only notice and a $5 fee. Rob invited us to Albany, as he always does, but we need to stay closer to home this year. We presume that institutionally-prepared turkey will not match Barb's cooking (a pretty safe presumption), but Brenda is making some corn casserole, noodle kugel, and sweet potato pie to supplement the fare provided. More importantly, we will be there. We will try, not so much to preserve the elusive illusion of normalcy, but to be together in whatever circumstances fate allows. We all wish we could be together, all of us in Syracuse, Rob and Barb and their extended family in Albany, Art and his boys (and their girls, and progeny) in Ohio. Denise and Tony, their son Tim, their daughter Mallory and her newlywed husband Alvaro. Patty. Aunt Mary. Tony's Mom. Dad. My niece Stephanie, taken from us a decade ago. We wish things were different. We're grateful for the grace we've had.

I'm not as strong as I need to be. But I'm trying. I succeed some days. I keep trying. And I write all of this, not to bring anyone down, but to acknowledge our common frailty, our shared vulnerability, our mutual mortality. My tale is only unique in the sense that each person's tale is unique. I know others suffer, many far, far worse than I can even imagine. A high school friend wrote recently of how Thanksgiving has always been a time of struggle for her, a holiday she simply can not embrace or celebrate. I wish there were a way I could help to lift her heart. I wish I could lift a lot of hearts, my own included. But still, I give thanks. I give thanks for family, and friends, and love, and life. We will struggle. We will fall. And we will keep on trying. We will be as strong as our spirits allow us to be.

Happy Thanksgiving Day. Happy Black Friday. Happy Cyber Monday. Happy December 17th, January 23rd, February 11th, whatever. Happy any day you can. We can't be happy on all of the days. Here's hoping we can each find a few happy days here and there.


This year, it can be difficult to feel thankful. We can't wish away the troubles, can't pretend things are as they should be. They are not. For now, we have each other, and we have our music. Thank you for that. 

The quarantine scene means there will be no family gathering for Thanksgiving this year. We'll have an international Zoom call this afternoon, and later my daughter Meghan will come over for a socially-distanced meal. She'll sit at the opposite end of our dining room's more-than-six-feet long table, we'll enjoy some wonderful food and conversation, and remain masked when we're not at the table. In the evening, her boyfriend Austin will join us--masked--to decorate the Christmas tree. It's not the holiday we want. It's the holiday we have. And we're grateful for that.

I won't see my Mom at all. Her nursing home is on a state-mandated lockdown, closed to visitors until the All-Clear sounds. She has tested negative for...you know, as have all of the other residents of her building. But the lockdown remains in force, and for good reason. There have been positive test results in other buildings within the nursing home's complex. Visits would present a foolish and unnecessary risk. She understands. We understand. It's not what we want. It is what we have. And we're grateful for that.

Things will get better. They may still get worse before they get better, but they will get better. Not soon enough, but as soon as they can. It's not the timetable we want. But it's...yeah, you get it.

We have what we have. And we're grateful. Thank you.


Time is the enemy. Yet it's an enemy we're grateful to have for as long as we have it.