A Very Public Love Letter

00001060Let’s be honest, when it comes to marriage I am a major overachiever. Just take a look at this photo for all the proof you need. How the hell did Farmer Ted from Sixteen Candles score the hottest girl in town? I must have had a great personality.

Today is my bride’s 45th birthday. But when I look at her now I still see this gorgeous young object of my desires. Sure, she has remained remarkably youthful in appearance, something she adorably credits to Dove moisturizing bars. But I think it’s more than that. I think she lives her life with a youthful exuberance, something I find very difficult to do but it seems to be embedded in her DNA.  Sometimes we’ll be sitting on the sofa surfing the web on our devices and she’ll just start giggling and I realize she’s still a little girl at heart. I’m jealous of that attribute.

It’s no secret I’ve had a rough couple of years health wise. I’ve been very public about my heart attack but in truth there have been a few other issues I’ve kept more private. The good news is I’m doing great, but health issues will certainly put a strain on a relationship. I’d like to publicly thank Leslie for being there for me and for being so strong, not only dealing with my mood swings but taking such good care of me. The marriage vows may feel a bit cliché, but I really understand the meaning of “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” They also say married men live longer, and I am a true believer in that cliché as well. Throughout this ordeal she has been by my side, taking notes at doctors appointments, cooking healthy food for me, nudging me (sometime shoving me) when I attempt to make a bad food choice, and generally advocating for my health. I am lucky as hell and if you ever have a health issue I hope you have your own Leslie by your side to help you along.

But back to her 21658_4928203685754_1864494528_nyouthful appearance. Check out this photo taken recently. This is Leslie as she hits her mid-40s. Compare it to the one above, taken when she was around 23. Can you say fountain of youth? The girl still gets carded on occasion for crying out loud! Yep, she’s still fucking gorgeous.

But more important than her external beauty is her internal beauty. She’s a loving, caring, generous and warm person. She goes out of her way to help people, even people she barely knows. I think that’s one reason she has been so successful at her job for going on 21 years. She doesn’t just think of customer service as a job, it’s also in her DNA. She would literally give you the shirt off her back if you needed it.

Leslie is also the most amazing mother you’ve ever seen. We have some friends who had kids with very serious health issues and the doctors were useless. The mom took it upon herself to learn everything she could about her kids conditions and even when doctors gave up she kept pushing and pushing until she helped identify a treatment. It’s basically a Lorenzo’s Oil situation. Well, Leslie likes to give lots of credit to those particular parents but when I think about what she’s done for our son I think she’s the superhero. Luckily Connor’s health issues have never been life threatening, but they have been a  constant pain in the rear and Leslie has been relentless in her pursuit of better health for him. At 16 he is now in the best health of his life and you can see how his quality of life has improved. I know she’ll say that’s just her job as a mom, but trust me when I say she is a hero.

We are coming up on our 21st wedding anniversary. For those of you who are married, you understand what a feat that is. It’s remarkable that one of us hasn’t killed the other yet. And while we’ve had our share of downs, the ups have far outweighed them. We’ve made some stupid decisions (like moving to Atlanta, and moving to San Diego) but we’ve made some great decisions (having a kid, moving to Phoenix, moving back to Phoenix, moving back to Phoenix again) and through it all we’ve stayed by each other’s side. No matter what we do, Leslie always creates a path to making things better. She has counseled me through multiple job changes and a career change, she cheered me as I went back to school to get a master’s that I don’t use, she stood by me when my dad got sick, and kept her family strong when her mother died. She plans every vacation, every major purchase, every detail of our lives. She’s even getting better at letting go of planning things when Connor and I want to go with the flow even though it’s hard for her.

I like to say Leslie is high maintenance but worth it. I think she’s finally comfortable with that description. In fact, she’s embraced it. And I should also mention (stop reading right now if you’re under 18) that she still knows how to rev up my engines. Sure things have slowed down in the intimacy department, but for crying out loud we’re middle-aged! We work hard and we’re tired all the time! But we still got it baby! Almost 21 years and she still knows how to surprise me.

45 is a monumental birthday. You’re closer to 50 than 40, and that milestone has got to be epic. But if you know Leslie I bet you find it difficult to believe she’s 45 today. I sure do. Because when I think of her in my mind’s eye I always think of that photo above with her sitting on my lap and how amazing I felt that a girl like that would go out with a guy like me. That’s my favorite picture of Leslie in case it isn’t obvious. And twentysomething years later sometimes I walk into the house after work and look at her and I still see that young woman and that big smile and I think,no, I know, I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

Happy Birthday Leslie Gutman!


Scenes From a Sold Out U.S. Airways Center

Last night I had the opportunity to catch Billy Joel in concert at the U.S. Airways Center here in Phoenix. I’d seen Billy Joel three previous times in concert, but not since the 90s and frankly I didn’t buy tickets to last night’s show because I have already spent a ton of money on other live shows this summer. As it turned out, I got lucky and someone backed out at the very last-minute and I ended up with a ticket. All I can say is that I would not have been disappointed had I spent the $125.

Growing up in San Diego I had very few connections to my hometown of New York, so perhaps that’s why I was such a huge Billy Joel fan. I wore out records like The Stranger, 52nd St., Glass Houses and Songs in the Attic and considered Billy Joel my favorite artist. I saw him live for the first time at the San Diego Sports Arena in 1984, and my pal Zac and I wore sports coats with jeans and sneakers to the show in honor of the piano man’s look at the time. I knew pretty much every song by heart and I stayed with him as a fan even through his lean years of albums like Storm Front and The Bridge. Let’s just say I am a huge Billy Joel fan.

I have to admit I was not expecting much last night, which is another reason I didn’t buy tickets. I mean the man is 65 years old and hasn’t put out a rock album since 1993. But the moment the lights went down and I started to hear that piano play I was all in. While I was hoping he’d open with Angry Young Man, which is sort of his signature opening, he instead opened with Miami 2017 from the 1976 album Turnstiles and a song I fell in love with listening to Songs in the Attic in the early 80s. And while he then launched into a great rendition of Pressure, he then went back to his roots to play Vienna from The Stranger album followed by a deep track from 52nd St, the wonderful Zanzibar. I’m not sure Zanzibar has ever been played on the radio, but it is one of my favorite tracks off 52nd St. and it sounded great. 15 minutes into the show and I was transported back to my middle school and high school times.

The rest of the night was like a time warp as Billy worked his way through song after song from the 70s and 80s. He played The Legend of Billy The Kid and then explained how he had no idea what he was writing and basically made up most of the facts about the title character. He played Movin’ Out, New York State of Mind, She’s Always a Woman, My Life, Big Shot, Don’t Ask Me Why, It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me, Allentown, We Didn’t Start the Fire and So It Goes. He closed with Piano Man, then returned for an encore and played You May Be Right and Only the Good Die Young. I think at age 65 he knows he can play whatever he wants and his older songs make him happy. They make me happy too. The highlight of the night for me though was Scenes From an Italian Restaurant from The Stranger. The ballad of Brenda and Eddie has always been not only my favorite Billy Joel song but also one of my all-time favorite songs period.

He also has a great sense of whimsy and humor. A few times he launched into cover songs only to segue into his hits. He played some Led Zeppelin and did a great version of Take it Easy by The Eagles. He let one of his roadies, who is from Arizona, take the stage to perform a raucous version of ACDCs Highway to Hell which he backed on guitar. Halfway through The River of Dreams he launched into Hard Day’s Night and then returned to finish the song. And while he didn’t run around the stage or jump up on his piano like he did when he wore a younger man’s clothes he sounded great and played with great energy. He was, simply, spectacular.

As I begin to explore new hobbies, last night I was reminded that one of the cool hobbies I actually do have is attending concerts. 2014 is shaping up to be a banner year on that front. I already saw Broken Bells, and now Billy Joel. Later this year I have tickets to see Wye Oak at the Crescent Ballroom, Arcade Fire in Los Angeles, an 80s Retro tour featuring Howard Jones, Thompson Twins, Midge Ure and China Crisis, the Tempe Beach Festival with Fitz & The Tantrums, Foster The People and more, and The Black Keys in November. Not too shabby!