A Wayback For My Brother Tommy’s 44th Birthday.

This was originally written in 1999. It was written shortly after he was diagnosed with kidney failure and spent over four years on dialysis. He had a successsful kidney transplant in 2004. When this was written, he had not yet started his decade long love affair with Kelly Ripa. At this time, he actually had a crush on Kitty Carlisle, of all people.

I sat with my brother Tommy and asked him what he would like to help me write about.

This was his blog post. I wrote it and he served as my verbal editor. We wrote this on GEOCITIES (remember that?) but the original page is long gone.

The only change is to remove any dead links.

Happy 44th Birthday, Tommy.


(These are some of the friends that Tommy made at the concerts.)

There is more to read. Just click here.

My Brother Tommy On His 43rd Birthday..Stop Growing Up So Fast

I have been hearing about August 11th 2013 from my younger brother Tommy since August 12th 2012.

That was the day after his 42nd birthday. Yep, Tommy loves his birthdays not only because he is the center of attention (not that he isn’t the other 364 days of the year) but because the attention comes from so many people who know and love him..

I wrote a bit about him on his 41st birthday and you can find that blog post here…


Plus, take three minutes and give a listen to Tommy at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. As you will find out, the music of Barry Manilow has meant so much to him as he has grown and dealt with all his life issues. We went to Williamsburg in 1991 and he wanted to do the Karaoke Studio that was there. He picked this Barry Manilow song, sang it totally from memory and frankly, knocked it the hell out of the park. This is personally so amazing and beautiful to me…

Tommy Hickman singing I MADE IT THROUGH THE RAIN by Barry Manilow

And if you are so inclined, you can wish him a Happy Birthday on his Facebook page here…


He will be paying more attention to his Facebook page since we bought him his own Samsung Galaxy Tab3 Tablet. He won’t have to wait for a computer any longer and he definitely won’t wait.

Tommy means so much to me. He is both my brother and my joy. He is the reason that I laugh, cry, get mad, get glad, worry, smile, celebrate, dance, laugh, and love. He has been through so much in his life, so many medical issues that have affected his development and almost took him away from us. So much challenge and yet all he gives back is love.

Instead of gushing on, I’m just going to post some of my favorite pictures of him. Indulge me as I shed a happy tear watching my forever brother grow up.


Tommy at about 1 year old, I am about 15 and my sister Julie (who still wears that coat) is about 7. You have to love my fine hair and my fine loud shirt.

There is more to read. Just click here.

iTuned In Or Out: It’s My Music And I’ll Sing If I Want To.

OK, I admit it. While my musical tastes run all over the place, the place they run could probably use a little dusting.

Don’t get me wrong. I think most of my music loves and choices are great and will stand the test of time. The rest, well, they are my musical choices, and tough if you don’t like them.

However, that last paragraph contains the phrase “stand the test of time”, and that is really a concept that I can have a lot of trouble getting my musical chops around. After all, to paraphrase the group CHICAGO (or if you are really really ancient like me, you might know them as CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY): “Does anybody really know WHOSE time it is?”.

Having come of age during the mid 60’s and 1970’s, those musical memories are going to be my main ones. More than any other time, a song from that period can be accompanied by a memory from that time in my life. There were so many new things to learn, and so many things to influence that learning, that it cannot be avoided that this period, at least for me, would remain vibrant throughout my life.

Add in the fact that my musical tastes were formed at a time when music itself was undergoing a massive sea-change, with Rock And Roll giving way to Rock (and it’s various genres), bubblegum and folk,  R and B gaining massive acceptance as Soul and Blues, and your parents music being christened as “outdated” even though much of it was less than 20 years old.

Be it the post WWII years, the baby boom of the 50’s and 60’s, the fight for civil and personal rights, or whatever reason, the progression of music mirrored that massive human changes of the 60’s. You can point to dozens of musical milemarkers from that time, from the arrival of THE BEATLES, to the move of AMERICAN BANDSTAND to the West Coast, to Woodstock, to the breakup of THE BEATLES. There is a reason so much of this music remains vital today.

However, this blog post is about MY music. Yes, there were momentous world events, but many of them were still seen by me through the eyes of a child. The Vietnam War raged while I was still in grade school. Kennedy was assassinated when I was in second grade (though I can honestly say that I remember where I heard the news. I was in my classroom at Our Lady Of Lourdes and the announcement  came over the loudspeaker). The Civil Rights struggle was seen on black and white TV, but still, I was very young. Again, the Vietnam War would not really affect me until 1973, when I turned 18 and my birthday drew a high number in the lottery (269).

So, this music becomes part of those memories, both personal and worldly, and definitely part of what I am today. So, when I look at my CD collection (yes, I still have a CD collection and yes, I love it), and look at what is on my radio dial, I realize that I can be perceived as living in the past. I dispute that. I simply remember the past, as all of us do, though triggers and touchstones.

Now, getting back to the original jumping off point, I am always willing to give new music a listen. After all, so much of it is influenced by what has gone first, or at least the ones that I like. In addition, my musical tastes do change as my world does. When I was a kid, jazz was a total unknown. Then, little by little, jazz/rock music started to change that, starting with BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS, and eventually growing into a true love of classic jazz. I also love discovering the current artists who keep this music alive, updating it without upsetting it, like JAMIE CULLUM, MARK RAPP, MICHAEL BUBLE, and SACHAL VASANDANI.

As I admitted earlier, I own CD’s, I love CD’s, I buy CD’s, and I mourn the loss of the experience of physically browsing in a good CD shop and watching what others were interested in. Sorry, downloading and shopping on iTunes, for all the braggadocio about convenience, just isn’t the same. I do not want an algorithm telling me what I’ll like.

However, I do own an MP3 player, and now that I have an iPhone, I own an iPod, which I long resisted. I like the iPhone/iPod very much except that I HATE HAVING TO RELY ON THE ITUNES INTERFACE. HATE, HATE, HATE.

Enough hate. I have a Sony Vaio laptop, and it seems that iTunes has an issue with the Vaio computer checks that cause iTunes to drop my library out after a day or two, and I have to reload it, since the iPhone will only match up to the original library. That means time, and it also means I have to reload EVERYTHING onto my phone each time.

APPLE rant over.

Back to my musical tastes. My iPhone currently has 1700 songs on it. They run the gamut from classical to jazz to blues to country to what have you. Much of it is older, I admit. I even am guilty of having some very silly songs on there (MAHAMANA anyone?).  However, as I look at the list, I realize that, unlike my computer which lets me store 100’s of GB of music, my iPod is much more narrowly reflective of who I am, where I was, and where I hope to be. That means that every song is added because it means something to me. Yes, that means that, for better or worse, MAHAMANA means something to me.

I struggle to find new music that means the same to me. A lot of it starts out well on first listen, but doesn’t bear repeat listens. Others are simply not to my liking. Some make me wonder who the hell is actually listening to this crap. However, every so often, I find something new that works and keeps working. If you have suggestions, let me know. I am not a rock, but I won’t ever forget what has been there for me for so long.

That is why I have BARRY MANILOW alongside of THE BEATLES and JOHN COLTRANE and MADNESS and NIRVANA and BEN FOLDS and GREEN DAY and hundreds of others. They all are simply what I like, and like enough to share with othesr. They are simply where I’ve been, and that past will be part of me forever.

But, can I please have my CD stores back (and my video stores as well)?