For The Most Part

For the most part, I can say that I am happy with my life. But, there’s that qualifier, ‘For the most part…’ I know I have many friends who, if I needed to call on at 3am to help with any sort of situation, those friends would be there to help and/or rescue me. I know that is no small thing, and I am lucky in that respect. Thinking back, I don’t really know if my dad had friends like that whom he could call on in a pinch. He had dozens of coworkers he shared time with, but it wasn’t until he met his second wife that he found a friend, a true confidant and someone he knew he could trust implicitly. As tumultuous as my relationship was with my dad during those last five years of his life, I was happy he found someone.

Last month, my dear friend Steve Schneider posted this on his Facebook page:

‘Some of the finest, most attractive people I know are not only single, but quite despondent and disillusioned over it. And they have a right to be. I just don’t get this world sometimes.’

After reading it, I wrote the following reply in less than a minute:

I’m not despondent, but I am now resigned and accepting of the fact that coupledom probably won’t happen for me. Do I wish it were in the cards? Yes, but I also would rather be single than be in a relationship that was toxic or unrewarding. Disillusioned? Yeah, that fits most days.

And don’t tell me ‘There’s someone for everyone.’ That’s not true, as much as I would like to believe it.

I thought that was the end of it, but soon after I hit ‘Post’ I kept thinking of other things to say on the topic. I have never been one to wish that my life were different. Times may get tough and there may be some hard days, but more often than not, I am very happy with my life. I work from home, which I like, and I do my best to go out to shows and movies, if for no other reason than to avoid becoming a hermit. So, I really hope this doesn’t read like I am whining or complaining about the current state of things, because I am not. It’s more or less a recent observation that I have come to see very clearly.

I used to be so optimistic when it came to relationships and dating. All through my twenties if a relationship crashed and burned, I would take stock, but I always thought, eventually I would find ‘the person I’m supposed to be with.’ I know now that whole mentality is a myth.

At one point, a long time ago, I thought I had hit the jackpot. She was smart, gorgeous, kind, and upon seeing her for the first time she literally stopped me in my tracks, to the point where my internal dialogue while I made small talk was ‘Don’t be an idiot. Don’t fuck this up….don’t be an idiot.’ We lived in different cities, but my confidence in the belief that she was ‘The One’ had me ready to move to where she was, give up television and red meat. If that’s what it took, I was willing to do that.

That chapter never happened. She decided, when I finally asked her directly, that we were best as ‘never lovers, ever friends’ (although she didn’t quote that lyric directly, that’s how I processed it, because music lyrics are my filter for dealing with real life). The end of that fantasy, and that’s all it ever really was, a fantasy, was when my optimism disappeared. I no longer sought out relationships, telling myself, ‘If it happens, it happens,’ but truthfully having no enthusiasm for opening myself up like that again for fear of getting hurt. The real pain of that relationship not working out shaped every future decision I made.

I crafted that reply to Steve’s post on Facebook almost as a defense. No I am not nor have I ever been despondent about the current state of my social life, but yes, disillusioned fits, and that emotion is tied primarily to not having someone in my life that I can tell anything and everything to, from the big hopes and dreams to the little daily minutia that we deal with every day. I’ve never had that relationship where I see someone every day and know I can trust them to ‘have my back’ when necessary. That’s what I feel like I am missing, and while I like my life, I do get incredibly lonely.

I had a medical scare last fall, and it was while I was processing the myriad of possible outcomes, all the while keeping up a brave public face, that I found myself ready to scream. I was brutally honest about things with my core group of friends that I have known for almost 30 years, but that was all done on the phone or text. It was necessary and appreciated, and I do love my friends, but when I would try to sleep at night, it was during those hours where I literally ached for someone.

I know that if things on this front are going to change, I have to be the one to change them. I say that also knowing that my time is pretty much accounted for between a 40-hour work week and being a caretaker for my mom. That’s the priority now. I understand and accept that. I am used to the routine and, more often that not I don’t mind it.

The likelihood of me being single for the remainder of my life is probably very high, and, as I have said before in other posts on this blog, most of the time, that’s a proposition that I am perfectly content with. But on those rare nights when I feel alone, the emptiness of singledom hits hard, and it hurts.

Why am I writing this? I’m not sure. I just know that my visceral reaction and immediate response to what I read on Steve’s page broke a dam that led to me writing out nine pages in hurried longhand as I tried to process why exactly I feel the way I do.

One Christmas, when that core group of high school friends would gather every year to exchange gifts, drink and play board games until dawn, the then new girlfriend of one of my best friends opened the gift I bought her. She opened it and was astonished that I had gotten ‘the right gift’ after only having her as the newest member of our ‘group’ for a few months.

‘You are going to be someone’s perfect boyfriend one day,’ she said as she hugged me.

‘I know,’ I said matter of factly.

One day.


Old Friends

I have been lucky to have had a group of friends that I have kept in touch with for over 25 years. At some point in the mid-1990s, the group was named ‘The Hearts Club’ because a rotating group of us would meet at my house in Midlothian to play Hearts. That group always included Patrick, Kurt, Tony and myself. Sometimes Jenne and Becca would join in. I remember one all night Hearts contest where, instead of the usual ‘penny/nickel pot’,  we bet ‘care packages’ instead (since Kurt, Jenne, Becca and Tony were in their freshman year of college; I think I still owe Becca about a dozen or so care packages from that evening!). 
When Patrick announced in the spring that he was getting married, I was thrilled – happy for him and his bride Cecelia, but equally happy at the prospect of seeing friends I had not seen for far too long. It seemed the last few times members of ‘The Hearts Club’ had gathered, it was for a funeral, so I could not wait to be able to gather, drink and laugh.


The bride was beautiful. The groom was handsome. The preacher quoted Jackie Wilson (!) and compared the groom to an ‘erotic leaping gazelle.’ The transportation was free. The bar was open (!), the food outstanding…but most of all, being able to catch up with the people that I count as my dearest friends, who have come to my rescue on more than one occasion, and with whom I have spent many an hour lost in conversation over thousands of cups of diner coffee, that was what made this weekend one that will be remembered for a very long time.


Here are some pictures. To Tony, Jesi, Josh and Justin, who were not able to attend: You were missed and thought of throughout the evening.

The Happy Couple: Cecelia & Patrick


Mother of the groom, Pauline, and Patrick

Kurt and Patrick

The author

Matty K. and John P. A seating snafu combined them into one ‘person’: Matt Powers

Having a free night with little to do, Obama showed up, pictured here with Kurt and Valeria

Ethan, 44, Kerry, Sean and myself

All smiles: Matty, Becca and me

The Gang: Front (L to R): Valeria, Becca, Jenne, Kerry; Back (L to R): Sean, Me, Kurt, Patrick, John, Matty, Ethan


All of those pictures were taken at the reception, which took place at the very cool and funky antique store Material Culture. As the clock struck 11pm, the entire group, all at varying levels of inebriation, boarded a trolley back to the hotel and then within thirty minutes, the After Party began in Becca and Matty’s hotel room. The pictures below were taken there. Please note all were (at least somewhat) Intoxicated. Including the photographer.  

Kerry, in, as Ethan described, ‘full sleepover mode.’

Patrick and Jenne, holding a blurry bag of chips

I think at this point, Patrick had no idea where he was or what he was saying.

On three, everyone LEAN!!!

It was a wonderful, memorable weekend. Here’s hoping it’s not too long before we all gather again, to smile, drink and laugh. 
Love always,  Barry


Today feels like Day One, A.C. Or, After Charlottesville.

I sat down at this same computer on Saturday evening with every intention of writing something about what happened. I stared at my blank digital page for a good five minutes, not even typing one letter, let alone a complete sentence, then I gave up. 

Well, now today I am at least past that.

I already know that anything I say here will mean almost nothing and any words I muster won’t change the fact that a woman died on Saturday, in my home state, while protesting Nazis.

Protesting fucking NAZIS!

I avoided the news after the true horror of the events came to light, and I escaped reality by watching movies from my couch. I am usually a very ‘plugged in’ person, always following political news and current events, but Saturday I was in shock. By chance I did turn the news on around 6pm so a friend who was visiting could hear the latest, and I did hear our governor speak and rebuke hate explicitly. But Saturday I just could not fathom how a protest rally under the guise of the removal of a statue – a fucking statue!! – ended with the deaths of three citizens and dozens injured.

Saturday I was shocked and saddened. Today that has given way to anger. But, I really don’t know what to do with that anger or how to channel it into something positive. That’s why I am attempting to write something. Just to get it out.

Quote bluntly, how the fuck did we get here?!


I don’t have the answer to that question, and the only comparisons I can draw between history and what happened Saturday [the Civil Rights Movement; The Summer of ‘68] seem to not quite fit.

Here is the internal dialogue that I kept having over and over late Friday night (when I first saw the ‘Tiki Torches’ photo online) into Saturday as events began to spiral toward an unfathomable Hell on Earth: If the Nazis/Alt Right held a protest in [your city here] and no one showed up to counter protest, to engage them in a fight, no one bothered to pay them any attention, wouldn’t our silence toward them and the fact that we paid them no heed speak volumes?

I am truly conflicted about this because, on the one hand, I understand the want, the necessity to make your voice heard in the face of hate, so I understand the urge to meet the enemy where they stand, and stand your ground.

There’s a part of me though that believes this ‘Alt-Right/Nazi’ minority isn’t worth my time or the energy to mount a protest. No one is going to have their mind changed by someone shouting in the street, no matter how many signs we carry or how many slogans we chant. If anyone is committed enough to wear Nazi swastikas in public, nothing I say or write is going to make them see the light of day, or the error in their ways.

That’s the internal dialogue merry-go-round I have been on since very early Saturday morning, and, as I write this on Monday night, I don’t know which stance is the correct one, or if they’re both right, or both wrong. That’s why I haven’t posted much about this on social media, apart from links to news stories.

I have read today that this same group is planning to have a rally in Richmond. That doesn’t surprise me, even though Richmond City Council has made no decision on what to do with the statues of Lee, Davis and Jackson. If they do decide to come to Richmond, I sincerely hope the horrors of Charlottesville are not repeated, but I know it would be wishful thinking on my part to hope the rally is completely ignored by the public and the press, so that the shouting of hate gets drowned out not by protests, but by its own echo chamber.

With a very heavy heart, tonight I am thinking of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, their families and friends.


If tomorrow has to be better, then hurry up tomorrow. We need you now.


Thank you for reading,


Your History Is Waiting To Smack You In The Face

In 2003, at a time when I was changing Primary Care Physicians, I sat down to type out a medical event history, basically a dot point listing of every surgery, major procedure and extended hospital stay from 1977 until 2003. I also sent a copy of the document to my internist, who had known me since 1992. I make updates to my copy, but haven’t sent it to any providers since I started seeing my latest PCP which was in 2014.

Thursday this week, as I lay prone on a hospital bed awaiting an IV nurse to prep the anesthesia for an outpatient procedure, the Admitting Nurse who asks all the relevant questions (When was the last time you ate? When did you last take your meds?) started to ask about my medical history and then before I could answer, she began to tick off a slew of events from the late-70’s. I was a little out of it since I had not eaten for the last 27 hours, so it didn’t immediately register that she was reading off of my old list, which meant that my typed medical history had successfully made the move to the Electronic Medical Records ‘vault.’

At the same moment I thought, ‘Cool, they still have my sheet so I don’t need to tell them about all of this ancient history,’ I listened as she continued to read off the list. I confirmed that yes, all of those things happened to me and added two more events that happened from 2015-2017.

After she left, I stared up at the celling, head on a very flat pillow, and thought ‘Goddamn, I’ve been through a lot of shit!’

I know I have faced a lot of challenges in my 40+ years, but to hear them all read off in succession, it took me aback. I really do live one day to the next, looking forward to upcoming events like concerts, and do my best not to dwell on things that hold me back. Those of you who know me well know that every single day I deal with chronic pain that’s not severe enough to debilitate, but not minor enough to ignore. Some days it’s just something to deal with, and some days it’s a feat to get out of bed and function. More often than not, though, I manage to get moving. My attitude though is that everyone is dealing with their own challenges, so what I deal with is nothing really unique or special.

I’m facing another medical adventure/challenge in the very near future, and I will write about it at length once I know more info, but I wanted to scribble this here because I knew it was far too long for a Facebook post. (That’s why I have a blog, right?)

In the meantime, thank you for reading and have a great weekend!


The Great (Annual) Escape

“July, July, July! Never seemed so strange”–“July, July!” The Decemberists


More than any other month, July has been, throughout my life, full of milestones; there’ve been memorable events, wonderful evenings I will never forget and days I wish never happened.


July 17 is one of the few days I wish could be deleted from the calendar, or at least my memory. Sometimes it really sucks to have such a good memory where dates are concerned, because every year, July 17 shows up and, no matter what else is going on, for that day, or at least a large portion of it, I am an emotional wreck.


On Tuesday July 17, 2001 my father was killed in a single vehicle car accident in his neighborhood as he drove home from work. He had a diabetic attack behind the wheel and became disoriented, passing by his own home and driving the car to a dead end, where he lost consciousness with his foot still on the gas pedal. No one knows how long it took for the engine to overheat, catch fire and engulf the car, but I would guess the fire burned for an hour or more before the fire department was contacted. When I got a phone call that night from his second wife Kathy, I immediately thought she was calling to tell me that my grandfather had passed, as he had been in ill health. When she told me she had to tell me something about my dad, I knew it wasn’t good news; we barely spoke unless forced to in social situations, so I knew it had to be something cataclysmic for her to reach out to me.

And, cataclysmic it was.

It’s funny how I don’t remember the rest of that conversation beyond her telling me my dad was dead, agreeing to meet her in the morning to start ‘making arrangements’ and then getting off the phone. I don’t remember if I called my brother or if Kathy told me she was going to do that. What I do remember about that night as my mom made phone calls to her friends and family is that Greg Maddux pitched a complete game shutout for Atlanta against Tampa Bay. Even though I loathed interleague play (and I still do), I was thankful for baseball like never before because, in that moment, I could truly escape. I always loved baseball from a very young age, but that night, I understood how important and necessary it was as a means of escaping ‘real life.’

Every July 17 since, on that day, for those 24 hours, I am a man looking for an escape.

My relationship with my father was complicated, but it’s not an exaggeration to say every day something makes me think to myself, ‘I wonder what dad would’ve thought of that?’ That trigger is usually music or sports related, and it usually makes me smile. There is still a lot about that relationship that will forever remain unresolved, and that’s okay. He had his demons and his faults, and he handled things the best he knew how to at the time. It took me a long time to come to that realization and be at peace with it. 

I have written here before about how I didn’t speak to my father from April 12, 1996 until sometime in June of 1999. I was working in radio and he heard me on air and called me one night literally just as I was walking into my apartment, and I picked up without checking Caller ID.

That ‘chilly’ conversation broke the ice, and we eventually met for dinner a few times a year up until his death. I chose to forgive but not forget the reasons for our estrangement, so we were able to mend things as best we could. I spoke to him for the last time the Friday before his death and we agreed to meet for dinner the following Friday (July 20). Instead, that day was his wake, which meant my brother and I, along with his first wife Tara met dozens of people who knew my dad. Some I knew, some I only knew the names from conversation, but they all knew me. If you have ever been in that situation, I don’t have to tell you that it is exhausting.

That summer of 2001 was also the summer I became very well acquainted with vodka. Working in radio, coupled with emotional trauma I couldn’t really process meant I was drinking on a nightly basis for the first time in my life. It was something I knew I shouldn’t be doing, but I really didn’t care. Remember, this is before 9/11. Once that happened, it’s no wonder I quit my job in radio and when New Year’s Eve 2001 arrived, I quite unapologetically drank myself into oblivion.

I leaned on old friends and new friends to ‘get me through’ that time. Some of those friends I still talk to often, some I haven’t seen in years, but they all played a part in helping me, and I thank them for all they did.

Many years later on a July 17th afternoon, while I was in my annual emotional funk, I received news that a dear friend had passed away. That was when I began to wish that the calendar would just skip July 17th every year. As I mark the day, remembering my father and that dear friend, I know that no matter how much time passes, some wounds never heal, they simply scab over.

Whatever your own ‘July 17’ is, I hope you have an army of friends to help you through it, I hope you have an escape hatch nearby that you can use, however briefly, and I hope you know that the next day will be better.

Thank you for reading,


Old School / New School

As readers of this blog know, I have been a Spotify Premium member since July when my iPod Classic stopped working. Spotify was new to me, as the only streaming service I had used previously was Pandora, but since Spotify allowed Offline listening and the ability to download songs to a Listener Library with just the touch of a button, I joined up, using Spotify as a replacement for my iPod. I eventually got the iPod to work, so now Spotify is mainly used at work since it is convenient to stop/start tracks on my phone while working. 

Very late Saturday night, I found an old album on Spotify, Crystal Gayle’s “Miss the Mississippi” from 1979. 

My dad owned this record on vinyl and it was one he would listen to often, so the songs were ingrained in me, and are inexorably tied to memories of my father and my youth. I remember trying to find the record on CD in the late 90s, and I eventually found the album on CD in 2009 and added it to my iPod.


But Saturday night, I wanted to hear this record and my iPod wasn’t close by, so I found it on Spotify and started listening to songs I have known for almost my entire life.


And then, I noticed something strange: After the first song finished, I heard that distinct sound of snaps, pops and hiss that is only heard when listening to vinyl. It seems that the only version that Spotify had to make available for streaming was a very well-worn LP, with lots of pops and hiss (but thankfully, no skips).


I am all for nostalgia, but I was very surprised that the only version of this record Spotify had to offer for streaming was a digital transfer of an LP, especially since the album has been available on CD for many years. I wrote an email to Spotify support just simply to ask what were the reasons/restrictions that made that LP version the only version available to stream on Spotify.

I’m genuinely curious to learn what rules and/or restrictions led to a vinyl transfer being available to stream. If anyone has any details on the inner workings of Spotify, post a comment below. 

Tonight in response to my email, Spotify Support said they “see what I mean” about the audio quality being less than desired. They say they’re working on it, so…stay tuned. 


Shameless Self-Promotion (but it’s for a good cause)

Here is a blog post about two things I don’t normally do:

First, a bit of shameless self-promotion, but it’s for a good cause. On Saturday afternoon, (March 25), The Firehouse Theatre is sponsoring ‘Hamiltunes’, a fund-raiser for The Richmond Theatre Artists Fund Taking place at The Virginia Historical Building, ‘Hamiltunes’ is a unique interactive experience that allows those in the audience to sing their favorite songs from ‘Hamilton’. As of this writing, tickets are still available, starting at $10.00.


Which leads to the second thing I don’t usually do: Sing in public! It’s been decades since I last made the karaoke rounds with friends, but I will be singing two songs from ‘Hamilton’ on Saturday, so if you need incentive to buy a ticket, there ya go!

The fun starts at 2pm. I recommend arriving early, because it is going to be packed! Full details here

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you there if you’re in RVA; it promises to be a fun afternoon.