One More Look At 2017 Before It’s Gone

It’s now 7:20 on a Wednesday morning as I sit my ass down to type this little opus. It will be my final post for the year during which Donnie Trump first sat his ass down behind the desk in the Oval Office. His ass, unlike mine, is fat. And he, unlike me, is nasty, intolerant and a pathological liar. Just sayin’.

“Hey, Neil,” my wife Sandy, who is staring over my shoulders at the computer screen as I peck away, said two seconds ago, “I thought you weren’t going to talk about Trump in this essay.”

Well, she’s right. He’s depressing. Maybe I’ll turn my attention to other topics, such as Yemen and Myanmar (the former Burma). Wait — am I nuts? The horrors going on in those regions are immense. Talk about depressing. I tell you, I’ll never understand what the story is with the human race. Actually, I do understand. Bottom line is that scads of people just don’t like scads of their fellow women and men. Never have. Never will.

“What are you doing, Neil?” Sandy just asked. “You told me 15 minutes ago that you were going to keep this story light. You know, like all the other disposable, puffy pieces that you’re known for churning out. Get back on track, boy! You’re out of your realm right now.”

Thank goodness I’m married. Okay, Sandy, let me see what I can do. Enough about Trump and hatred. Hmmm, an end-of-year story should offer some words of wisdom, shouldn’t it? Wouldn’t hurt. And though I’ve always been more than a bit low in the wisdom department, I did have a good thought or two in a recent article. Here’s what I said: “ . . . if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years it’s that being friendly to people right and left is the way to go. It won’t kill you. Or so I’m told.” Imagine that — me quoting me! There’s a first time for everything. Or so I’m told.

Moving right along, folks, I might do well to mention a whole lot of things that satisfactorily filled my well during 2017, excluding those I’ve previously oohed and aahed about on these pages. But to avoid being at my keyboard for the next three days I’m going to forget about a whole lot of things and limit myself to only two. Which two shall it be? Ah, yes . . .

Number one: If you want to dive into a better than average novel, may I suggest you glue your eyes to Perfume River, which came out in 2016. Robert Olen Butler, an acclaimed author whom I basically knew nothing about before almost randomly pulling Perfume River off a local library’s shelf a few weeks ago, penned the graceful volume. The book’s narrative floats easily between the near-present and the Vietnam War eras. That war impacted the lives of the Quinlan family in mega-blast ways. The book examines their plights, the decisions that brought them to where they are, and the secrets they hold from one another and, in truth, from themselves. What insights into their own makeups and into those of others are people able to gain as the years elapse? Perfume River is where to look to find a number of delicately-threaded answers to that question.

Mbongwana Star at Abington Art Center

Number two: Do you enjoy exuberant, scarily good music? Then go to see Mbongwana Star, the band from the Democratic Republic Of The Congo that melds African melodies and rhythms with blazing rock and roll. Your chances of ever catching them, though, aren’t large. The band does tour, but not all that much. That I was in their presence over the summer is, to me, rather miraculous. And their performance was, by a reeeeally wide margin, the best I took in during this expiring year.

I’d never have been at their concert were it not for Later . . . With Jools Holland, probably the best music show on television. In the early months of 2017 I caught a repeat episode (from 2015) of Later, which is taped in Great Britain, and was floored by one of the bands appearing on it. Mbongwana Star, needless to say. Their name stayed with me as the months passed. And that is why I nearly fell off my living room sofa when, in June, I saw on Abington Art Center’s website that Star was scheduled to perform on the center’s lush, rolling lawn the following month. How was this possible? How had the center even known about this band? Whatever, I wasn’t complaining. I was exalting. Abington Art Center, in the Philadelphia suburbs, is only three miles from my house.

This show was to be among Star’s final on foreign shores for 2017. Sandy and I arrived early, grabbed a good spot on the lawn for our folding chairs, and waited for the group to come on.

Well, unstoppable, roaring power blasted from the stage from the opening notes. No ballads for Mbongwana Star. Rarely do I rise from my chair at concerts to boogie, but boogie I did, heading down to within 15 feet of the stage and kicking out the jams in my inimitably nerdy, old-guy manner. It was fun of the highest order. Here’s a video of the band playing in Europe in 2015:

Besides Star’s incredible musicianship, the astounding thing to me was that two of the performers, both of whom are vocalists, are in wheelchairs, victims of childhood polio. And yet these gentlemen, dealing with profound problems, are able to celebrate magnificently through their music. Some remarkable people are on our planet, and Theo Nzonza and Coco Ngambali are among them.

Like I said, I’m limiting myself to only two items. And (sometimes) I’m a man of my word. Thankfully, this article has manifested itself fairly fluidly, rather than in the fits and starts that are common for most of the pieces that I write. I take that as a good sign. And so, I now shall conclude the proceedings by wishing one and all a safe, happy and healthy 2018. A relative smattering of hours after I hit the Publish button for this story, Sandy and I possibly will be at Penn’s Landing, part of Philadelphia’s waterfront. If we’re there, we’ll gape at the fireworks being launched in the middle of the Delaware River. We’ve ushered in many previous New Years precisely like that. Let there be light.

(If you enjoyed this article, then please don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing it)

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70 thoughts on “One More Look At 2017 Before It’s Gone

  1. alhenry December 30, 2017 / 12:21 am

    “I tell you, I’ll never understand what the story is with the human race. Actually, I do understand. Bottom line is that scads of people just don’t like scads of their fellow women and men. Never have. Never will.”

    Ah, I think you’ve nailed it. So we must count ourselves lucky that we are not in that unhappy lot, no matter how much stuff they have. For a light heart sets you free. Knowing what is “enough” brings joy. Embracing the possibilities of people/life/the world makes you rich. Happy New Year to you, and let’s hope 2018 brings us some relief. We could all use it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Anabel Marsh December 30, 2017 / 2:55 am

    Yes, it’s hard to avoid thinking about the bad things in the world, but for the next few days we can be optimistic that things will get better in 2018. Here’s hoping!

    We watch Jools less regularly than we used to, but often he comes up with something we’d just never have considered before. We’ve seen him and his big band live a few times and he’s excellent – the rather bumbling persona he uses on Later… is nowhere to be seen, he’s much sharper. And, of course, he can tickle those ivories a bit.

    Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ruth December 30, 2017 / 3:32 am

    Later with Jools Holland is such a great programme for finding new musicians to inspire you – so glad you enjoy it too! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 30, 2017 / 10:48 am

      Thanks a lot for stopping by, Ruth.
      Jools’s show is one of my favorites. It would be a gas to be in the audience there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ruth December 31, 2017 / 6:03 am

        We always watch Jools annual Hootenanny show to see in the new year 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 30, 2017 / 10:13 am

      Hello, Basia. Happy New Year to you and your family.

      Mbongwana Star is a great band. I hope I’ll get to see them again.

      Like

  4. The Artist's Child December 30, 2017 / 6:58 am

    Fantastic band. They must have been great live. Good music, literature and the art are needed more than ever. Thank you for sharing so many terrific examples and for all your entertaining stories in 2017. Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 30, 2017 / 10:20 am

      Hi. I really appreciate all the good thoughts you’ve added to my various stories.

      Have fun on New Year’s Eve.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Joyce Hamilton December 30, 2017 / 7:53 am

    As usual l always look forward to your blogs! Happy and Healthy New Year to you and Sandy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. sniderjerry December 30, 2017 / 8:14 am

    Hello Neil,

    I’m looking forward to more of your great essays.

    Have fun. Be safe. Happy New year!

    Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 30, 2017 / 11:34 am

      Happy New Year to you and yours, Lynette.
      Have fun and be safe on New Year’s Eve.

      Like

  7. S. A. Young December 30, 2017 / 12:11 pm

    Thanks for the entertaining posts in what was, indeed, a bleak 2017. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. tylerus December 30, 2017 / 12:17 pm

    A candid, well-written and refreshing post. May 2018 be a [much] better year (I think we’re all due). A most Happy New Year to you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 30, 2017 / 1:00 pm

      Hello, and thanks a lot for stopping by.
      I wish a safe and happy new year for you and your family.

      Like

  9. Alyson December 30, 2017 / 3:22 pm

    So glad you discovered Jools Holland’s Later… series over there – Must have been great when the band you really enjoyed on that show popped up in Philadelphia. A fine year end essay Neil and all the best to you and Sandy for a happy and healthy 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. C C Cedras December 30, 2017 / 4:32 pm

    I have really enjoyed your lighthearted posts filled with your special take on culture during this dumpster fire of a year. You and Sandy enjoy the fireworks, and Happy New Year! 🍾🥂🎇🎆

    Liked by 1 person

  11. George December 31, 2017 / 4:08 am

    Happy new year. May it bring Trump’s impeachment and many more tours by Mbongwana Star.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. swabby429 December 31, 2017 / 8:35 am

    The catchy music from the Congo is pretty good. Have a great 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. andrewcferguson December 31, 2017 / 12:02 pm

    Great stuff as always Neil. Thanks for enlightening my year with your musings – always a pleasure to read. And yes, keep listening in to Jools – I don’t like everything on every show, but that’s a healthy thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. tanjabrittonwriter December 31, 2017 / 7:34 pm

    If it weren’t for all those “remarkable people on our planet”, it would be hard to cling to any degree of hope.

    I wish you and Sandy only the best for the new year.
    Best,
    Tanja

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Still a Runner January 1, 2018 / 10:14 am

    Unlikely I will get to see the band, but the book recommendation I can manage. Wishing us all a better New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. K E Garland January 1, 2018 / 5:21 pm

    Ha! As soon as 2018 hit, I told my husband “We made it! Donald Trump didn’t get us all killed last year.” Funny, but not lol so I understand the beginning of this post fairly well. On a separate note, I hope you and your wife’s new year has begun nicely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 1, 2018 / 6:27 pm

      Kathy, with Trump we all find ourselves holding our breath. The guy is a wacko.

      Happy New Year to you and your family. Stay warm. It’s bitter cold where I live, so I’ve spent most of today indoors.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. lexklein January 1, 2018 / 7:06 pm

    I read a Robert Olen Butler book years ago and still remember how much I savored it. I’ll have to check this one out. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 1, 2018 / 8:06 pm

      Hi Lexie.
      It’s a good book.

      Right now I’m reading Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. It’s a good one too.

      Happy New Year to you and yours!

      Neil

      Liked by 1 person

  18. cincinnatibabyhead January 2, 2018 / 2:09 am

    Yeah Jools is cools. My gal is still mad at me for exposing her to Grinderman off the “Jules” show but I redeemed myself with Elmeda May. Look forward to more Neil takes in the next year!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. greenpete58 January 2, 2018 / 8:42 am

    Enjoyable post, Neil. Music and books can help us cope with global atrocities and pissant politicians like Trump. It’s easy to bash this orange-headed monster (I do it all the time), but America’s problem goes a lot deeper, into our electoral system and entire culture, which did, after all, elect him and his dangerous policies (sorry to sound preachy). Anyway, Happy 2018, and I look forward to more of your stuff! (that includes the great “fluff”).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 2, 2018 / 9:37 am

      Yup, our country is loaded with people who think just like Trump. Sad but true.

      Happy New Year to you and yours. Take care.

      Like

  20. Quirky Girl January 2, 2018 / 1:01 pm

    Happy New Year! Here’s to a year filled with love instead of hatred, light instead of darkness, and happiness instead of bitterness. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 2, 2018 / 1:36 pm

      Hey there. Thanks for stopping by.
      Happy New Year to you and yours.

      Two thumbs up for everything you said. 👍👍

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Aunt Beulah January 2, 2018 / 5:11 pm

    As always, I enjoyed your writing and the music the music you share of the Mbongwana Star band, (one I’m quite certain I’ll never get to hear in person) but the bit of your writing that will move me to action is your recommendation of Perfume River. I just put it at the top of my to read list. It sounds like my kind of book. Thanks, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 2, 2018 / 6:24 pm

      Hello, Janet.
      I hope you like that book. I think you will.

      I just read Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. He had a lot of problems, and he makes them vivid in this book.

      Dinner calls. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Christy B January 4, 2018 / 1:28 pm

    Sandy kept you on track 😉 May she, you, and the rest of family have a wonderful 2018! I look forward to reading more of your writing

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Imelda January 5, 2018 / 12:54 pm

    The music of the band is upbeat and good for dancing.

    Happy new year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 5, 2018 / 1:19 pm

      Hello, Imelda. Thanks for visiting.
      I hope I get to see the band again some day. They are terrific.

      Like

  24. Paula B January 5, 2018 / 6:30 pm

    Neil, I just started following your blog and I can honestly say that, among the handful of blogs I follow, yours is my favorite. Beautifully written, with refreshing ideas. I can’t say that about most things people write today. Thank you. I’m a drummer, and as I type this I am listening to Mbongwana Star. Terrific! I’m going to check out “Perfume River” as well. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 5, 2018 / 8:08 pm

      Hello, Paula. I appreciate the nice things you said.
      If you ever get the chance to see Mbongwana Star, don’t pass it up. What a band!!
      Happy New Year to you. Take care.

      Like

  25. JT Twissel January 10, 2018 / 4:56 pm

    It was a year that was hard to look back upon. I too had difficulty ending on an up note. I had to go beyond comedic to silly. Love this band. Another great band is the Buena Vista Social Club, all musicians in their senior years! Got to keep on rocking.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. carolinehelbig January 16, 2018 / 5:20 pm

    Happy New Year! Thanks for the book and music recommendations. I’m going to look them both up right now. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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