Joe Satriani: The Best Musician You’ve Never Heard Of

I think it’s safe to say that everyone has that one musician or band that they absolutely adore but relish the fact no one else has ever heard of them. It’s like they are your own personal find and you love that you are the only one cool enough to enjoy and appreciate them.

For me, that musician is Joe Satriani.

Satriani is considered one of the greatest guitar virtuosos to ever pick up the instrument. He has mentored the likes of Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett and has been releasing instrumental guitar rock albums since 1986 when his debut album Not of This Earth arrived.

However, it was his second effort, 1987’s Surfing with the Alien, where most people stood up and took notice of what Satriani could do. The album includes 10 tracks of blistering guitar work that continues to amaze me and his legion of fans to this day. Every time I take the vinyl out of the sleeve and put it on the turntable I find something new that I never noticed before. It is considered a classic of the genre and a must own for anyone who takes their music seriously.

I first heard Surfing with the Alien shortly after it was released thanks to a friend of a friend who had the album. He insisted on playing it while we shot pool in my buddy’s basement and I was transfixed by what I heard. Where was the singing? You mean it’s all just instrumental guitar? That’s it? You can do that?

A few days later I bought the cassette and it didn’t leave my tape deck for two solid months.

I couldn’t believe what I was listening to. Songs like the title track, “Crushing Day” and “Lords of Karma” were just Satriani shredding nonstop while songs like “Always With Me, Always With You” and “Echo” showed a slowed down, more musical side to what he could do. And unlike many guitar albums, this wasn’t just someone showing off how fast they could play or what noises they could make with a guitar. This was actual music, the kind you could really listen to, enjoy and get something out of.

Despite the fact I consider myself a pretty hardcore Satriani fan, I’ve only had the opportunity to see him perform live once. It was during the Flying in a Blue Dream tour in 1990 when he played at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby. A friend and I waited outside all night to make sure we got great seats for the show. (This was back when you had to physically wait in line to buy concert tickets kids.) Live he was even better than on his albums, taking songs in surprising new directions and playing off his incredibly talented bassist Stu Hamm.

Overall Satriani has released 17 albums, including his latest, Shapeshifting, which dropped just last week. Over the course of his career he has experimented with almost every type of music you can think of. There is the aformentioned Flying in a Blue Dream where he tried his hand at singing. There is his self-titled 1995 album which is a straight up blues record. There is Engines of Creation from 2000 where he did EDM before it even had a name and 2018’s What Happens Next where he does a more striped down, simple style of guitar record.

Joe Satriani has always been the music I turn to when I need cheering up, when I want to celebrate something or I just need something to listen to while I’m doing the dishes. And it’s time for more people to discover just how talented he is. I can’t keep it to myself anymore. The secret needs to get out.

Do yourself a favor and pick up Surfing with the Alien or Shapeshifting or any of Satriani’s albums. You really can’t go wrong no matter which one you get. You won’t be sorry.

God I miss The Ramones

Yesterday marked 19 years since Joey Ramone, the lead singer of the legendary punk band The Ramones, passed away. He died at the much too young age of 49 after valiantly battling lymphoma for several years.

At the time the passing of Joey Ramone hit me pretty hard. I was (and still am) a huge fan of the band. When people ask my top five favorite bands, The Ramones is always near the top of the list. Even though they had broken up in 1996, there was always a faint hope of a reunion down the road and maybe a new album. But with Joey dead, that wasn’t going to happen. The Ramones were really, truly gone for good.

The day after Joey died I clearly remember playing Ramones CDs practically nonstop at work and my wife went out and bought me a bootleg live CD from a store in New Hope hoping it would cheer me up. That’s how bummed I was about the loss of one of my musical heroes.

The funny part is that if it wasn’t for Stephen King and a trip to the Jersey Shore, I never would have fallen in love with the band in the first place.

My indoctrination into the world of the Ramones came in the form of 1989’s Brain Drain, the band’s eleventh album. On that record is the track “Pet Sematary” which was featured in the film of the same name. Based on the bestselling novel, the track was included thanks to King having been a huge Ramones fan for a number of years. It was written by Dee Dee Ramone and became one of the band’s only radio hits.

I had gone to see the movie with some friends when it hit theaters and remember enjoying the song a lot, more than the actual movie if I’m being honest. One trip to Wall to Wall Sound and Video later and I was the proud owner of the cassette version of Brain Drain. I listened to it a couple times and promptly put it on the pile with all my other cassettes, forgotten.

Flash forward a few months and my family was heading down to Ocean City, New Jersey for a long weekend at the shore. While my mother and sister had each brought a friend with them to hang out, I was going solo. The person I had asked to go had backed out at the last minute so the weekend turned into a party of one.

Luckily I had my Sony Walkman with me (ask your parents if you have no clue what a Walkman is kids.) and I had grabbed a couple cassettes to take with me. One was a Bon Jovi album and the other was Brain Drain.

I must have listened to that cassette 20 times over the course of that weekend. Each of the 12 tracks became permanently burned into my memory. “Learn to Listen”, “Palisades Park” and “Don’t Bust My Chops” are all songs I can recite the lyrics to from heart. I fell in love with the band that weekend and what followed was a binge of Ramones music the likes of which few had seen. In the span of a little over a year I would own most their discography as well as a few bootleg live shows.

In 1992 the band released Mondo Bizarro, the follow-up to Brain Drain and I had it the day it arrived in stores. Two years later I would finally get to see my heroes live when they played the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. I went to the show with some guys from my job and it was everything I tought it would be and more. I still vividly recall when the band broke into “Pet Sematary” and how I completely lost it.

Once Joey was gone, it made me really appreciate the fact I got to see them live that much more. If the end had come for The Ramones and I had not had the chance to see them live, it would have been a regret I would have had to live with the rest of my life.

Last December I had the chance to see the band’s drummer Marky Ramone play Ardmore Music Hall with his group Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg. It was a great show and they played Ramones classics for almost two hours straight without taking a break. But it wasn’t quite the same as seeing the genuine article all those years ago.

It’s still hard to comprehend that next year it will be 20 years since the world lost Joey Ramone. It feels like just yesterday when I popped that cassette into my Walkman and really got to know a band like few others.

Rest in peace Joey. Gabba Gabba Hey.

If You’re Going (Back) To San Francisco

In the summer of 1993 I was in a pretty bad place emotionally. I was five years removed from graduating high school and was going nowhere fast. (Bonus points if you get the Streets of Fire reference) I was stuck in a dead end job, had dropped out of college and was living at home with no prospects and no real future. 

To make matters worse, I had discovered the Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac a few years earlier so my mind was filled with writing and traveling. A copy of On The Road went with me everywhere and I saw myself chronicling my life in words someday just like Kerouac.

I just had absolutely no idea how to make that happen.

After another fight with my mother (which was probably my fault) I was out of patience and out of options. So I called my friend John who had moved to Berkeley, California the previous year and desperately asked if he wanted a roommate.

To my shock, he said sure.

To this day I’m still not exactly sure what brought on the decision to move across the country. I don’t usually make big, life altering changes to my life like that on a whim. I plan and talk about it, but never actually do anything. It’s a personality trait of mine that I always despised and still do.

But a few weeks later John had sent me a plane ticket he had gotten from a friend and there I was. Standing in the San Francisco International Airport with little to no money, a few possessions and absolutely no clue what the future held.

I was terrified and exhilarated at the same time.

I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in a crappy part of town with John and another friend of ours named Grant. I slept on an air mattress on the floor next to the kitchen while Grant slept on a futon in the living area and John got the bedroom. I spent my days writing in a coffee shop I discovered while walking around Berkeley and my nights reading, talking and hanging out.

Unfortunately my friendship with John almost came to an end as a result of us living together and numerous other factors that the two of us have only begun to unravel. But my relationship with Grant, who was only really more an acquaintance at that point, turned into a deep bond that the two of us cherish to this day.

Grant and I would take a day each week and head into San Francisco to explore the city and the people who lived there. We spent an entire day roaming Golden Gate Park, another was spent walking around the Haight-Ashbury District. One afternoon we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, which to this day is still one of the greatest experiences of my life. And we discovered a restaurant with the best chocolate milkshakes we had ever had.

When I eventually ran out of money and realized the living conditions weren’t working, I went home. I took a notebook filled to overflowing with writing and some of the greatest memories of my life and spent three days on a Greyhound bus, heading toward Philadelphia.

I swore that my return East was only temporary however. My plan was to save money and head back to the West Coast as soon as I could. I had found a place where I felt like I belonged and where life made some kind of sense to me. I had to go back.

A little less than two years later though, I met Lisa, the woman who would become my wife. And everything changed.

I knew that my plans to return to California were out the window about three months into the relationship. I was quickly falling in love and Lisa had become the entire focus of my future.

That being said, a part of me never really came home from Berkeley. I consider it one of the benchmarks of my life, a period of time that profoundly changed me as a person. And a small part of me always wanted to return.

I wouldn’t give up a single moment of my life with Lisa for anything, even with her terrible illness and eventually losing her. The deep pain of the last few years that has almost ended me is a small price to pay for the two decades of laughs, love and affection we shared.

Lisa is gone. That part of my life is over and nothing will bring it back. But I’m starting to think it may be time to reunite with a part of myself I almost forgot about. A part of me that realized just how amazing life can be, when there are endless possibilities in front of you and nothing to stop you from becoming anything you want.

I think it might be time to consider a new chapter in an old book I thought I was long finished with.

The Other Things You Lose

When your person dies, whether it’s after being together five months or 55 years, it leaves a hole in your life that isn’t easily filled. And as I recently learned, it isn’t something that you “move on” from. You don’t “move on” from losing a piece of yourself. Instead you move forward with the memories and love of that person and it will affect every decision and every aspect of your life until you pass from this world to the next. 

The list of things I lost when my wife Lisa passed away almost two years ago is longer than I can explain to most people. I miss her smile, her laugh, the inflection in her voice when she said “Hi” every time I got home from work, the way she hugged me with everything she had, the softness of her cheek. Those things I expected.

What I wasn’t expecting were the things that I also lost that you wouldn’t think of. Silly things that would make zero sense to anyone else but mean everything to me. Things that made Lisa and I the couple we were and became important parts of what made us “us.”

Like the movie When Harry Met Sally. I know that I will probably never be able to watch the movie again. I’ve come across it while channel surfing a number of times but cruise right by it, knowing all too well that I can’t stop and watch it.

When Harry Met Sally was the first movie Lisa and I watched together. It was maybe our fourth of fifth date and we decided to stay in and watch a video on her VCR (ask your parents if you have no clue what a VCR is kids.) I suggested When Harry Met Sally, which I happened to own and she had somehow never seen. I brought it over and we laid some blankets on the floor, made some popcorn and had an amazing evening together.

Asking me to watch that movie again would be like asking me to experience joy but know that I can never have it ever again. It would tear my heart out and leave me a sobbing mess. Hell, I can barely watch Notting Hill or Wall-E without crying like a two-year old.

Or Red Lobster. Yes, the seafood restaurant Red Lobster. I know there is a very good chance I will never eat there again. Because of what it meant to us.

Lisa and I both loved seafood and when we had a craving for lobster or crab or shrimp that needed to be satisfied, we would get a little more dressed up than usual and head out to the Red Lobster in North Whales. It wasn’t around the corner so it wasn’t a trip we made that often, maybe two or three times a year. Usually for our respective birthdays and sometime around the holidays close to Christmas.

It became something of a tradition for us. We would go there, have a couple drinks and almost make ourselves sick eating way too much seafood. Both of us loved the cheddar bay biscuits (who doesn’t?) and would go through two baskets, sometimes more over the course of the meal. Then my loving wife would make small talk with our waiter and get to know them a bit because Lisa loved talking to people. That would lead to him or her slipping us a bag with a bunch more biscuits to take home with us.

That was Lisa in a nutshell.

I’ve been able to go to a lot of places where Lisa and I went together and have managed to get through it. But going to Red Lobster would just be too much, which I’ve accepted and learned to live with.

Or how about the fact I can’t eat grilled cheese sandwiches anymore? Or listen to Gary Puckett and the Union Gap? Or read John Grisham novels?

People have actually told me to get over it and “move on” or some version thereof. And I will pleasantly smile and nod while thinking to myself that they should go fuck themselves.

These are the silly types of things that you lose when you lose your person that no one warns you about. The things that tear you up almost as much as losing the person themselves. On the surface they may seem like nothing but in the history of who you are and who you were in that relationship, they are everything.

I miss Lisa just as much today as I did the day she died. And I know I’ll also miss those cheddar bay biscuits almost as much. And I’m okay with that.

Love Shack

Can an apartment play a huge role in the birth of a relationship?

If you were to ask me, the answer would be an emphatic yes.

When Lisa and I first started dating in the spring of 1995, she was living in a second floor, two room shoebox of a studio apartment in a complex in Hatboro. It was small, cramped and there was barely enough room for one person to live there comfortably. That being said, Lisa absolutely loved the place and it was easy to see why. While some people saw “cramped,” she saw “cozy.” While some saw “small,” she saw “affordable.”

Seeing as I was still living at home, naturally we spent a great deal of our time at Lisa’s place. And I will admit that after just a few evenings of hanging out I quickly understood why she liked living there.

The apartment had a certain charm that more modern places just don’t have. The buildings in the complex were old to begin with and management wasn’t exactly the best with keeping things up to date. The hot water ran out quickly, you could hear pretty much everything the neighbors downstairs were doing and since it was right by Neshaminy Creek, the parking lot flooded any time it rained. But the coziness and intimacy of the apartment outweighed those negatives, especially for a young couple falling in love.

Some of the best memories I have of our relationship are attached to that apartment. Lisa would run off to get us ice cream whenever the Good Humor truck would come through. We would lay blankets on the floor and listen to tapes on her small portable radio for hours and talk. We cooked meals together, watched television, rented movies and spent an incredible amount of time getting to know each other in a way that I don’t think would have been possible in another place.

When we said “I love you” to each other for the first time, we did in the living room of that apartment.

I remember our first Christmas there like it was yesterday. It was Christmas Eve and I drove over to stay the night with her and then we would go spend time with family the next day. Seeing as it was our first Christmas together, I completely overdid it with the presents and went upstairs with my arms overflowing with wrapped packages.

When Lisa answered the door, I walked into an apartment illuminated in candlelight. It took my breath away. The tree was lit up too and underneath were gifts aplenty. She had cooked us a wonderful dinner and we exchanged presents, listened to holiday music and enjoyed a beautiful evening together. It forever made Christmas Eve “our holiday” and a special night just for the two of us I looked forward to every year.

I also remember the weekend of the Blizzard of 1996. All the weather forecasts we calling for a monster storm and I had no intention of staying home for it. As I was driving over to Lisa’s place the snow was just starting to fall and by the time we woke up the next morning, it was a full on blizzard. Once the snow stopped we trekked by foot to a 7-11 for cigarettes, chips, drinks and other supplies, laughing the entire time. We played in the snow, dug out our cars and helped Lisa’s neighbors dig out theirs and had an all around blast.

It was one of the greatest weekends of my life.

Lisa and I lived in a number of different places over the course of our 23 years together, some better than others. I often joked with her that we should never have moved out of that place. She always thought I was kidding around but I was completely serious. No other apartment made me feel as happy and optimistic as that small studio we lived in during our first years together.

To me, it was home.

I have realized that some day soon I will have to move out of the apartment I’m living in now simply because there are more bad memories here than good. However, no matter where I go, I will always have amazing memories of 300 Horsham Road. The place where I fell in love for the first time with a wonderful woman I adored more than anything in the world.

Can an apartment play a huge role in the birth of a relationship?

You betcha.

A Basketball Lisa Story

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am a total, completely unapologetic basketball junkie. If it involves running up and down a hardwood court and throwing a ball into a basket, I’ll watch it with gusto. NBA, NBA G-League, WNBA, NCAA, International, it doesn’t matter. There are few things I love more than watching and talking about basketball.

My wife Lisa, not so much.

To her credit, Lisa tolerated my basketball obsession the best she could. She knew if the Sixers were on that talking to me wasn’t recommended. When we couldn’t afford the decent cable and I had to listen to games on my phone, she understood why I wouldn’t answer her pressing questions about The Bachelor.

In other words, Lisa got it.

The only time of the year Lisa let her aggravation show just a bit was during March Madness. I would be set up with two televisions, a tablet and my phone watching four games at once during the first week of the tournament and she would ask “How long does this go on for?” with a hint of exasperation in her voice.

But again, Lisa understood and let me have my fun.

In 2012, my beloved Sixers shocked their fans by squeaking into the NBA Playoffs with a 35-31 record. With Philly going up against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round, no one was expecting the team to get very far. Despite that, to my surprise, tickets for the playoff games were pretty easy to get and I managed to score a pair of tickets for Game 3.

I had never been to a playoff game before in any of the four major sports, so to me this was a huge deal. I was ready to invite a friend of mine when it dawned on me; Lisa probably had never been to a playoff game either. Considering how patient Lisa was with me during basketball season, I figured I owed it to her to at least offer her the other ticket, not expecting Lisa to accept.

Shockingly, Lisa said yes.

The tickets were pretty good, in the lower level, behind and to the right of the basket. We got there early to avoid traffic and as we walked in they were handing out rally towels to all the fans, which I thought was incredibly cool. A free souvenir! As we made our way to our seats, I got my traditional crab fries and giant Coke while Lisa opted for nachos and a water. We sat down and got comfortable, waiting for the game to start.

Thanks to Derrick Rose getting hurt, the Sixers actually had a chance to win this series and went into Game 3 with the series tied 1-1. Then during the game, Joakim Noah also got hurt when he stepped on Andre Iguodala’s foot. The Sixers had a real chance to win this thing!

None of which Lisa cared about at all.

Lisa watched as I jumped up and down like an idiot, screaming at the top of my lungs. She laughed when I yelled that Iguodala sucked for missing an open shot and told me to relax when the score got too close and I was freaking out.

It was toward the end of the third quarter when I asked Lisa if she wanted anything. She looked at me and said no, she was fine. I asked if she was sure and Lisa said yes, she was good.

That was until a vendor came by our section, selling chocolate-dipped ice cream cones. Lisa took one look, her eyes glazed over and she looked at me, silently asking if she could have one. Ten dollars later, Lisa was blithely eating her ice cream cone while the Sixers took it to the Bulls.

A short time later I was again standing, screaming at the Sixers when I heard Lisa say “Hun?”

Not looking over I said “Yeah?”

“Can I have a napkin?”

“I don’t have any Lisa. As soon as they call a timeout I’ll run up and grab some, okay?”

“Oh. Okay.”

Less than a minute later the Sixers called a timeout and I turned to tell Lisa I was going to grab some napkins for her. Instead my jaw hit the ground and I was struggling to find words as I took in the sight before me.

Lisa had solved her problem in her own very unique way.

She was using her Sixers rally towel to wipe the chocolate off her face.

Let me repeat that.

My wife was using her Sixers playoff rally towel to wipe chocolate off her face.

My eyes almost bugged out of my head as I exclaimed “What are you doing?!?”

Lisa looked up at me innocently and said “I had chocolate all over me. I figured I had the towel so I used that.”

“You… you can’t use a rally towel to wipe your face! That’s a violation!”

“Oh relax. It’s just a towel.”

As I looked around, trying to determine if anyone had seen what Lisa did, I said “It’s not just a towel! It’s a Sixers rally towel! You just can’t do that.”

Again, Lisa gave me a look and said “It’ll be fine. I’ll wash it when we get home.”

“But… but…” I was at a loss as I looked at the now chocolate-covered Sixers rally towel and then at Lisa, who was finishing her ice cream like nothing had happened.

The Sixers would go on to win the game 79-74 and eventually the series. Good to her word, Lisa washed her rally towel and handed it to me, saying “See? Good as new.” It now hangs on my wall, one of the most important pieces of Sixers memorabilia I own.

Over the years I’ve been to a lot of Sixers games, both good and bad. I have a ton of memories that are forever linked to that team and the joy and heartbreak they’ve brought me. But nothing will ever top the sight of Lisa at a Sixers game, covered in chocolate, wiping her face with a playoff rally towel, not thinking twice about it.

It’s just another one of the many reasons I loved Lisa so damn much.

Pain in the Cereal Aisle

Since my wife Lisa passed away last December, I’ve had to get used to doing lots of things alone. For the most part, I think I’ve done okay. It hasn’t been easy and there are times when I think it may be too much, but I know this is my new normal and I have to get used to it.

I’ve gone to the movies, gone out to eat, gone to a bar to have a beer, gone walking in the park and even gone to a Phillies game all solo. And sure it hasn’t always been fun, but Lisa wouldn’t want to see me stay in the apartment all the time and wither away to nothing. That is what I try to tell myself when things get to be too tough.

But the thing that’s been the hardest to get used to? The one activity that makes me wince every time I know I have to do it?

Going to the grocery store.

I’ve often told people that, unlike most couples I know, Lisa and I almost always went food shopping together. It was incredibly rare if one of us went shopping and the other wasn’t trailing behind the cart as we went down the aisle.

When we lived in Warminster, we would go to the Wegmans in Warrington and sometimes get dinner before we did our shopping. Lisa would get Chinese food while I ordered a hoagie and we’d go upstairs and eat, talk and enjoy a night of not having to do dishes.

When we moved to Willow Grove we would shop at the Giant at least once a week. We’d pick up all the essentials as well as fried chicken or seafood salad or whatever else struck our fancy. When Lisa quit smoking we would always have to hit the candy aisle so Lisa could stock up on gum and, more often than not, Swedish Fish for her sweet tooth.

Later, when Lisa’s Alzheimer’s was getting worse, going to the store became a regular weekly activity for us. For Dementia patients it’s all about routine, so every Monday, whether we needed to or not, Lisa and I would go to the grocery store. We’d make sure to get a box of her favorite cereal that she ate every morning, her gum and anything else that we decided we needed. It was a way to get her out of the house and have her interact with people.

And interacting with people is something Lisa loved to do. Even before she got sick when we went to the store I knew not to be in any hurry. Lisa would talk to just about anyone. We’d make the rounds and she would be saying hi to all the employees she knew, chatting with other customers and God forbid there was a sample station running. I’d lose her for 20 minutes at the minimum as she got into a discussion with the person running it.

Now, eight months after she passed away, I still get a lump in my throat and a dull ache in my chest when I know I have to go to the store. The first time I went was two days after Lisa died and I had to pick up a few things. I lasted all of ten minuted before I had a massive panic attack and had to call my sister to talk me down and get me out of the store.

Everyone tells me that eventually I’ll get past this and that going to the store will be just like doing anything else, but I’m not sure I believe them. Whenever I walk down the aisle I still always look behind me to make sure Lisa is still there, even though I know she’s not going to be. When I walk down the cereal aisle I make sure to brush my hand on a box of her favorite cereal because I just can’t help myself. As soon as I get to the bakery I smile as I look at the giant containers of chocolate chip cookies I know she loved so much.

Memories can be a beautiful thing. They help us get past the rough times and make sure the person we love will always be with us. But sometimes, I just want to be able to buy a loaf of bread and not break down into tears.

Of course, part of me hopes that never happens. And that for the rest of my life Lisa will be with me every time I go to the grocery store, walking behind me, telling me she needs more gum.

I guess there are worse things in life than that.

Anger, Forgiveness and Goodbyes

Allan at Eagles Training Camp, July 2016

I first met Allan Feather during that awkward time we call high school. Of course, when I say “met” it might be a bit of an exaggeration. Although I was aware of Allan and he of me, it wasn’t like we were friends. We knew each other in that way you know pretty much everyone you go to high school with, some more than others.

That said, it’s safe to say that everyone did want to know Allan. He was gregarious, funny and incredibly talented on numerous levels. He was the Ferris Bueller of our high school. The guy everyone wanted to hang out with and get to know. He seemed to be on good terms with everyone regardless of who they were or who they associated with.

Allan was just that kind of guy.

Once we graduated and moved on into the “real world” I never heard from Allan again. This same statement could be applied to 99% of the people I graduated with. For some reason I had decided to move on and with the exception of one or two people, I had no desire to remain in contact with any of them. The reasons why have been lost to time, but until a few years ago I was perfectly happy with the situation as it was.

What happened a few years ago to change things? Facebook.

I was very late to the party when it came to joining Facebook, and when I finally did I was careful to avoid connecting with the folks I went to high school with. Again, I don’t remember why but it seemed like a prudent course of action at the time.

That was until I got a friend request from Allan Feather.

I accepted because I figured why not? Allan was a good guy and it seemed like we had a shared interest in the Philly sports scene. I was just launching a Philadelphia sports blog and figured he might be interested in contributing.

However, thanks to Allan I slowly reconnected with a ton of people from high school and quickly realized I had been acting like a fool. Now, years later I consider some of these former classmates actual, real friends. Something I never thought would happen in a million years.

When my wife Lisa got sick and I needed someplace to go to vent or complain or just needed a shoulder to cry on, these same people I had avoided became the backbone for a group that helped me through some of the worst times of my life. Without them I’m not sure I would have made it.

Without Allan and that initial friend request, I don’t think any of that would have happened.

In addition to Facebook, Allan and I reconnected in the real world. He wrote for my sports blog and did some amazing work covering the Phillies. We went to a couple Phillies games and thanks to our work on the site got free tickets to a Flyers game as well as the chance to attend Eagles Training Camp at the NovaCare Complex.

I’ll never forget that day at Training Camp. Allan drove and we talked nonstop the entire way down to South Philly. We discussed our shared love of the city of Philadelphia, writing, sports and life in general. We watched training camp, got autographs and had a once-in-a-lifetime experience neither of us would ever forget.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday I texted Allan to see if he wanted to go to a Phillies game. I had gotten free tickets again and was looking for someone to go with. He texted back that he had to pass, that he had a lot going on and couldn’t get away. I told him if he needed help to reach out and I would be there in a flash.

Three days later I found out that Allan had stepped in front of a Septa train and killed himself.

Even now, weeks later, I’m still incredibly angry at Allan. That he would do this and leave all the people who cared about him behind to pick up the pieces. Because believe me, all Allan had to say was that he needed help and a small army of friends would have moved Heaven and Earth to get him whatever help he needed.

Obviously Allan was dealing with a lot of demons that no one was aware of. When he decided to do what he did, he probably thought it was for the best, that he was helping those that he loved. Even though that was the furthest thing from the truth.

What really upsets me more than anything is that Allan knew what I had gone through the past year. He was fully aware of the hurdles and difficulties I had to deal with as my wife’s illness progressed. I could have helped him. I could have given advice or just helped him getting the assistance he and his wife needed. All he had to do was ask.

Instead, I’m left asking why.

This Saturday is Allan’s funeral and I can’t bring myself to attend. Other than the fact it’s only been seven months since my wife’s, I just haven’t found it in my heart to forgive Allan for what he’s done. I realize that may be incredibly selfish of me but that’s just the way I feel. I’m still beyond furious at him for what he did.

My hope is that those feelings will slowly recede, and that eventually I’ll just be left with the good memories. Of the two of us at Training Camp on a beautiful July day watching the Eagles prepare for the upcoming season. Of watching the Phillies play while talking about Star Wars. Of grabbing breakfast and talking about comic book movies.

Goodbye Allan. You will be missed.

A Thank You to Kelly Clarkson

I have always been a music fan. From the time I was little I remember my mother playing records nonstop on weekends. The Carpenters, Anne Murray and John Denver were staples on the turntable at our house. Later, when I wanted to something to listen to on my little toy record player, my Mom introduced me to The Beatles by giving me her copy of A Hard Days Night to play. I must have listened to the title track a dozen times that day as I fell in love with the Fab Four.

Over the decades my musical tastes have become ridiculously eclectic. My iTunes library is a mess of bebop, 80s hair metal, R&B, progressive rock, hip hop and anything and everything else. It can take my 10 minutes just to decide what I want to listen to.

I mean, right now I’m listening to a playlist that includes The Ramones followed by Dokken and then Cher.

I love music. I love the way it can bring back memories that have been long buried. I love the fact I can tell you exactly where I was the first time I heard Joe Satriani or Pink Floyd or the B-52s and why I happened to be listening to that particular artist at that particular time.

(There’s a whole sad tale about why I love the B-52’s that is so funny and yet pathetic at the same time that it will make you cry. Another time perhaps.)

My wife Lisa and I spent countless hours listening to tapes on her small portable cassette player in the earliest days of our relationship. We’d spread a blanket on the floor and just listen to music, whether that be Kenny G or Bread or just the local smooth jazz radio station. Later we would go to Penn’s Landing for their smooth jazz free concerts or go see bands we loved down at the casinos in Atlantic City or in Philadelphia.

So when the Alzheimer’s that was slowly taking Lisa from me progressed to the point that she had to be placed in an Alzheimer’s facility, it made perfect sense that I would retreat into music in a big way, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

Lisa and I had lived together for years and being alone in our home for the first time was incredibly rough. Because I knew that she wasn’t on a trip to see family or that she was just out doing some shopping and that she would be home later. I knew that she wasn’t coming home ever again due to the Alzheimer’s and what it had done to her.

I used to think I enjoyed being alone. Turns out that isn’t the case.

Most evenings, I would sit at my Mac and listen to music for hours. Some nights I wouldn’t even bother to turn on the television. I would just sit at the computer, listening to the songs that made up the soundtrack of our lives. The songs that brought back the good memories of what life was like before Lisa got sick.

Which brings us to Kelly Clarkson.

Clarkson had released a greatest hits album back in 2012 titled Chapter One. It included all the monster hits she had recorded since winning American Idol as well as a new song titled “Catch My Breath.”

For some reason I will never be able to explain, “Catch My Breath” connected with me and made me feel better. The lyrics didn’t really apply to what I was going through at the time and it’s not like it spoke to me on some emotional level, but the song took a small amount of the pain that I was going through away.

I must have listened to that song hundreds of times. Watched the music video more times than I can count. I still listen to it on a fairly regular basis.

Is it possible to connect with a piece of music so deeply and not know why? To know that it makes you feel like you can go on but have no clue why it does that?

It’s isn’t an exaggeration to say that Kelly Clarkson got me through some of the worst days of my life. That one song and a multitude of others made it possible for me to get past those first lonely nights at home.

In the months since Lisa passed I still listen to a lot of music. I’ve taken to finding the music videos I loved watching on MTV as a teenager and keeping a playlist of them on YouTube. I’ve made countless playlists on iTunes that cover the entire musical spectrum.

My favorite? The one titled “Lisa” that includes “Catch My Breath” about midway through.