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Thoughts on 2017

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August in Rome.

Summarizing this past year is impossible. The simple truth is 2017 brought more questions than answers, with anger, fear, ignorance and misunderstanding playing the starring roles.

Twenty-seventeen reminded us racism and sexism can’t just be the elephant in the room. The economic gap continues to widen, as do our our relations with other countries on everything from foreign capitals and human rights, to mocking climate change. If 2017 was the year of chaos, we can hope 2018 is one of direction — or at least some resemblance of a progressive path. We can hope.

But it’s hard looking back on the past 12 months individually without acknowledging it was undoubtably the best year of my life. I’ve never been happier.

I graduated from college. I have a great job that I’m proud of and excited to continue. I traveled to places I’d only seen previously in daydreams. I am dating my closest friend.

I truly consider myself the luckiest person I know. For that, I’m grateful.

Happy New Years to everyone, and here’s to a wonderful, healthy, and enjoyable 2018.

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Pittsburgh with Sloane.

 

 

 

A few thoughts on Chuck Berry

Back in high school, I made a list of the world’s coolest people. The first two names were Chuck Berry and Keith Richards.

I never added another name to the list.

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So I sat devastated when I heard the news Saturday. Now a day removed, words are still difficult to find.

Losing him isn’t the sort of heartbreak of a losing family member or pet. Instead, losing Chuck Berry is like losing a close, timeless friend.

Berry isn’t my favorite musician, but he’s the influence behind every guitar strum, every downbeat of my heroes.

The first rock ‘n’ roll star — his first record came before Elvis — few musicians and bands will ever churn out as many great hits as Berry. And for those who have as many hits, those rapid-fire guitar licks and Johnnie Johnson’s playful piano keys have inspired them all.

His lyrics were so simple and pure: women, cars, school, music, Americana and freedom.

Relatable to anyone at any age, he was a man-made American Dream, a musician from St. Louis who had something to say and the whole world heard it.

We heard the man who could play a guitar just like ringing a bell. We heard the wail of an engine on the lonely, open road with no particular place to go.

While anyone can rock, few can roll the way Berry rolled.

Notorious for being stingy, if he was gonna rock, he was gonna be paid. No money, no show. And even when he played live, he brought no band. That meant more cash for him. Besides, who needs a backing band when everyone knows your songs?

I don’t remember my age when I first heard Berry. But I can remember the feeling — the feeling that he could do something with an electric guitar and six strings no one else could. There was escapism, a new world. In many ways, he slammed the doors down for everyone to come along and play.

I’ve played.

Chuck’s death doesn’t mean the end of his music, the end of his spirit. I can promise you The Great Twenty-Eight still sounds as great.

He can still make you smile; your pulse will still pump faster.

When I’m in the Mr. Tuxedo basement playing cassettes, Berry’s greatest hits will still have me lock the door to the business so I can run around like a rock star.

When I’m in my car and his songs on the oldies AM station, I’ll still play them full blast with the windows down, regardless of location or weather. He deserves it and others deserve to hear it.

When I’m listening with friends, I’ll continue to perfectly time “Reelin’ and Rockin’” to “I looked at my watch and it was 10:29” for laughs and another sip of my drink.

When I’m home with my dad and a Berry song comes on randomly, I’ll make sure he’s the only artist played for the next 20 minutes. No apologies.

And when I just touch down on an American international runway, you’re damn right “Back in the U.S.A” will still be the first tune.

When I heard the news Saturday night, my dad called me to see if I was OK. I’m still disappointed, but I’m grateful.

Thank you, Chuck. For your music, your spirit and for singing about your ding-a-ling.

Roll over, Beethoven, and dig this rhythm and blues.

 

 

Thoughts on 2016 from a Birmingham, England, kitchen — Dec. 30, 2016

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Covering my final Ohio football game, Detroit.

Now that it’s about finished, 2016 brought boatloads of uncertainty, death, political change and apparently, a movie based on emojis. What the hell?

But 2016 has also been the best year of my life.

Professionally, it’s been a massive success. Not only did I get to cover my hometown soccer team for my hometown newspaper, but I wrote a feature story for my dream newspaper, finding a mentor along the way. Additionally, I covered an NBA game with my favorite team, while also overseeing a newspaper staff that’s more successful than ever in my four years at Ohio University. For that, I am very proud.

On a personal level, 2016, in many ways, was a dream come true.

I’ve been healthy and done the things I’ve longed to do. I’ve visited my sister in my favorite city AND another one over 4,000 miles from home. I’ve made it to Europe, and more importantly, England. I’ve met family and friends I’ve planned to see for years. I’ve watched my beloved Norwich City, AND seen them lose twice. The Browns were 0-4 when I saw them in 2016. Nice.

Honestly, I’m not sure what 2017 will bring. I graduate soon, then I’ll have to find a job. I’m nervous; I’m excited. Whatever happens, I enter the new year happier than I’ve ever been.

For that I’m grateful.

Come tomorrow night, I’m ready to be somewhere unpredictable in London, holding a gin and tonic, eager and ready for 2017. I hope everyone will have a wonderful start to the new year as well. You deserve it.

Cheers!