Riff Summer Challenge

The Season I Still Don’t Get

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

My entire understanding of Summer is not much of an experience. In two years, the Summers of camping for two weeks, visits to the beach, days at the pool — faded away after I developed sepsis and spent ten weeks in an ICU, and my younger sister died.

This is not a sad story or a bad thing. So much of that experience helped me grow into the person I am. …


Driving in the Early Morning

Image by Oziel Gomez on Unsplash

Years ago, a friend and I were both experiencing the dissolution of our our marriages in what Frost referred to as death by ice. We commiserated, and reached the point of being friends and sharing our current post-marriage lives, with the complications of children who we parented with our ex’s.

Our initial bond came through a shared love of music, and we eventually made a memorable mixed tape, taking turns month by month to add a song. Through exploration of music we shared food and drink and laughter and friendship. …


Coherence in an incoherent world

Image by Emily Rudolph on Unsplash

I grew up listening to music: on the radio, the record player, cassette tape (and one car had an 8-track). Alone in my room, it was mostly radio, with a few pre-recorded cassette tapes and vinyl.

It never made sense to me do to anything other than putting the needle on the outside of the farthest grove and listen until the final sounds of side A or B died away. and Cassette tapes were not very durable, so repeated fast-forwarding and reversing to find a particular song shortened the lifespan of the tape (a lesson learned the hard way).

So…


What We Hear and Do Not Hear Matter.

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Every musical instrument generates waves of sound — literal waves. Those waves can be captured by recording media; and for more than 120 years every recording was analogue in and analogue out. Wax cylinders, later wax records, then vinyl records, then reel-to-reel tape, then cassette tape, and (mercifully, briefly) 8-track tape. Then in 1982 came the Compact Disc.

The CD. Perfect sound forever — that was a marketing slogan.

Perfection is a subjective concept: two people will almost never agree on the definition on any topic. Sure, CDs don’t have tape hiss, or the crackle-and-pop of badly cared for vinyl…


Aural Memories

Image by David Zawila on Unsplash

To grow roots in a new part of the country I have begun listening to local radio. Over the years I’ve driven up and down the Eastern seaboard, and to many places between the Atlantic and the Mississippi. Almost always by myself, music was my companion for many thousands of miles and hundreds of hours of driving.

Before satellite radio, I looked for rock stations in cities along the way, and I’d write their frequencies and call letters on an index card in order of travel. …


The Old Hammerjacks, JJ&tBH

Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

Going to concerts is something I value, in large measure because of the sense of community I get when surrounded by people I’ve never met before yet feel closely connected to. Concert venues with seats generally allow you a little elbow room — and hence personal space. But some literally make it impossible not to rub bodies with everyone around you.

Take the number of people in that photo, double it, then put them in a room 40% the size of the space they are in now. …


Songs that Shaped Me

It’s important not to use others

Image by Chander Mohan on Unsplash

In my early teens I was hungry all the time, but not for food. Emotionally I was starved for connection with someone I trusted, someone who saw me and enjoyed my company. My friends saw much of me, yet there are things we don’t share with friends — even if only because we don’t know what they are.

As a guy in my fifties, with the benefit of both hindsight and therapy, I can put to words things that I felt my way through back then. …


I’m not a tubist.

Photo by Albrecht Fietz on Pixabay

There are violinists, cellists, flutists, clarinetists, trumpeters and even trombonists. There are no tubists, only tuba players There is a simple reason for this.

Musicians invest decades in learning to play an instrument, and any musician who wants to play for an orchestra must show they can do everything the instrument can do — and do it well. After getting in, even more rigorous standards must be met because you never know when you will have to play a super-hard solo. …


Many revolutions are so small history never records them, even as their effects ripple out across communities.

Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash

These are the quiet revolutionaries, people who consistently do what they believe is right in the face of a society that has other ideas (or no ideas at all) about right and wrong. Sometimes these individuals are aware of the rebellious nature of their actions, but their focus is on doing the next right thing in a daily struggle.

Parents can be the most powerful revolutionaries.

Yep. Parents who live their values change society. Parents whose lives speak of integrity help raise a…

JP Timko

Long memory, philosopher, advocate of The Exuberant Life, believer in the little things

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