Friday, July 25, 2014
You may recall my novel was published by Champagne Books a couple of years ago. After getting it back and making the necessary edits and the needed tightening; the novel is much better than before. Once it's available I will post a link. For now here is the link to Monk Press.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I recall seeing Norman Mailer in his eighties, slowly walking across a wooden stage, clutching two canes which made hollow thuds. It was in New York City. He was there to conduct an interview. He knew he was old, apologized in his own way for his declines and explained it’s only natural for the body to significantly break down when we reach our eighties. He passed a few months later. When I am 88 I hope to be able to entertain a crowd of great grandchildren. I imagine what the future will be like. The children will be induced with an artificial personality. Their entertainment vehicles are implanted - since birth - to their sensitive brains. Thanks to government of the United States of Google. Perhaps they won’t care if I told them about seeing Mailer or BB King. I hope someone tells me when I repeat the same stories, like BB King did…last night…that it’s time to retire. BB did it in front of hundreds, maybe there were thousands in the field. Many smacked beach balls up to the stage, smoked their cigarettes, reeked of patchouli oil and drank their amber beer from plastic cups. It was my introduction to a summer ritual in Patchogue. I was at the Great South Bay Music festival. I was there for a purpose. Make it two; to see BB King which is why I paid for a VIP ticket. It may have rained and I missed seeing BB King at Jones Beach a few years ago, the concert was cancelled due to an impending hurricane. I also came to the event to see if I can find my old friend from elementary school. Both of us served time in the prison known as St. Philip Neri in Northport. I saw JP. He is a cancer survivor. We hugged and reminisced till be told me he had to sit down. I went back to watching the almightily Scofflaws who I wrote about before; see my English Beat review at the Paramount. The Scofflaws are professional entertainers and I will go far to see them. In front of the stage, whole families were dancing. Grand- parents were twirling canes and passing spliffs to strangers. Father’s in t-shirts had serene expressions as intoxicants circulated in their empty bellies. They were smiling and grooving to the rude boy SKA beat. It was magic and then the night came. The cool breeze blew in off the bay. BB’s band came out and played a tight blues mix for fifteen minutes or so. Then the one and only was introduced as the world’s greatest blues player. BB KING. Not that he played much, but his voice bellowed from the speakers, Rock Me Baby. The Thrill is Gone, and You Are My Sunshine. Why? Why did you play You Are My Sunshine, not once but twice and why did you introduce the band and your daughter before you played a lick off Lucille? By the time You are My Sunshine was played, the crowds were moving out. Beach chairs were flung on backs, Kids were picked up, and the rush to leave reverberated in the crowd. Why are you leaving? Let me vent here: This behavior is a Long Island curse. Leave before the play is over, before the game is finished, before the mass is over and blessed, before the birthday gifts are open and the paper is discarded on the floor. We are an impulsive group who hate to wait. We whine about waiting in the traffic. Whine about the lights, for the tardy doctor, for the shit head in front of us at Taco Bell. Hurry up. What are we rushing out of? But you see you impatient…fleeing little shits…I got out from the big VIP tent in the back of the field and made my to the front - as far as I can go. I was close. This is where the real fans were. I snapped some pictures. BB KING tossed little necklaces to the women. “Women, I love you. Men…I love you too.” He was assisted out of his chair, dressed in a long black coat and wore a white hat as he waved good-bye. With all respects, please consider retiring Mr. King. I’d like for your reputation to stay intact. It seems we are paying to catch a glimpse of the legend before the voice fades away.
Thank you for reading this.
Friday, July 18, 2014
I have no regrets about last night. Well, maybe I saw a band that was forgettable. But, I got the chance to hang with Mike Sweeney who was my long time concert partner. I spoke to the one and only Jody Stephens from Big Star at the gig. He was playing drums for the forgettable band. My eyes may have deceived me, but I thought I spotted Lee Ranaldo in the sparse crowd at Bowery Electric last night. Lee plays with the one of the musicians from the forgettable band. But they play together in Lee’s band. I hope to see that band. Saw Sonic Youth many years ago at Jones Beach. Last night, we were all there, all fifty plus strangers; to see the tired band "End of Love," who were making what was promoted as a “rare” New York appearance. You bastards, you sold me. Honestly, I wanted to hear Jody and Nels play, but after I noticed Lee, I hoped he would pick up a guitar. It’s a small stage. No room for another player. End of Love consists of Jay Deegan, Jennifer Groves, Irvin Menken and Jody Stephens. Special guest was the accomplished and idolized guitar god Nels Cline who plays with WILCO. Before I write on. Excuse the brief interruption since I saw Jesse Malin last night after the forgettable band played. Jesse was a friend of a friend (15 years ago) and he is a rock star. Back then he was sort of a rock star, finding his way after D Generation. Even Jesse sighed when he watched Nels pack his things in the trunk of a taxi, and head out of the Bowery. It was late by then. Jesse said he was still sober and the night was early for the rock star. He clasped his hands, bowed slightly and blessed us before we departed the blue neon residue station. Back to the gig which is the reason we were there. Earlier in the night, I checked with the door and was told the forgettable band was getting on the stage at 10:30. They must have been on minutes early, meaning Mike and I missed the first three songs. We walked in as they were playing Big Star’s September Gurls. Let’s remind ourselves this was the forgettable band’s first gig and so far by the indications of their web site – the only gig for this band. Just as well? Just a suggestion? If you practice together - you will play better as a whole band instead of this piece meal collaboration. Look at the set list, there are instructions for the musician who obviously did not know the songs. Jennifer’s voice was lacking. her bar band stage presence was embarrassing. She barely moved and her voice was reaching too many times. There was the small contingent of fans or were they family? She cupped her hands over her eyes a few times and waved. I have not seen that behavior since the open mic show in Patchogue. Same goes for the other one in that band, Jay Deegan. When someone called out from the back, he called back the little circle of giggling intoxicated pals. The same pals who did not, “shut da fuck up” while the band played their boring songs. I could not hear Irwin’s banal comments before most the dire songs. It seemed like a tactic to avoid the next song. Before they were over, I moved down to the floor to the dozen or so who stood there. There were the video goons and the camera addict who did not stop snapping. But before we sweep it up and toss it in the can, the band came out to the encore, kicked it out with another Big Star copy, In the Street. Thank you for the last breath of empowering impact. The music ended. The minimal audience slowly merged out into the night. Under the half moon, their bodies and hearts went far off to their own distractions - under summer ceilings, and leaving behind the conventional conditions of the city.
Thank you for reading this.
Enjoy the pictures
Next review BB King in Patchogue, 7/20
Monday, July 14, 2014
7/11/14 train to Mineola
I’ve been listening to a lot of Big Star lately. This was the band that influenced REM, The Replacements and so many others. They were a mythical band which were unheard while they were together. My Big Star kick started out with the documentary “Nothing Can Hurt Me” which was released a couple of years back. If you have not seen the movie and are at least curious what the story is behind this influential band; do yourself a favor and watch it. The band was compared to The Beatles and heralded in Rolling Stone, Creem and other rock magazines back in the early seventies. There is awareness on some songs to The Fab Four, but Big Star was original. They created an Americanized mix, a little country twang, check their version of Velvet Underground Femme Fatale. The sound created a buzz within all corners of rock establishment and made their first album a must have classic. If you have not heard it, the layers of instruments will grip you and give you a ride through various emotions. The first song of the album, FEEL had Chris Bell singing the lead. It starts off very slow, plucking power chords and then Bell screams the lyrics. The choir, “I feel like I am dying!” with the rest of the band backing him up. Sure it sounds like Beatles in some harmonious parts, but then we’re rocking with a sax and a true authentic jangly American guitar sound. This sound made the band different from other established rock bands. It drove Chris Bell to perfect the quality of their recording while engineering at Ardent Studios in Memphis. This is where the band originated - but the story of their demise is layered like their sound. It was a lack of record sales which is a story within itself. There was a clash of ego, but from the movie’s perception, I don’t think there was the violent fall out, the big conflict, the fists; the rift was mental. It was created in Chris’s head being jealous that Alex Chilton received most of the attention. It was Chris’ early departure which could have devastated the band, but they did not go their separate ways. The second album was a bold departure from the first. They were a three piece. Their musical style had changed to a more jazz/folk even a WHO influence. Their singles September Gurls and Back of a Car are examples of what I am trying to disseminate. The third album, Third/Sister Lovers was their final. For some listeners they will hear the sound track of a band breaking up. Some will say it was Alex Chilton who was breaking apart at the seams. It was the first Big Star album I heard and I knew it very well by the time I saw Big Star perform their 2009 show in Brooklyn. It was the last time Alex Chilton performed before his passing early in 2010. That night in Brooklyn was memorable, there was the slightly intoxicated blur. There were too many Polish beers and not enough food. The band was tight although I recall Alex kept going back to check on his heavy winter coat which he stored behind one of the amps. Just a thought, but there was something in one of the pockets he did not want to lose. Thank you Friends is the second song on Third. I attended the Third performance at Baruch in New York back in 2011 which had Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, Matthew Sweet and a heck of a lot of others who sang the album in entirely as well as other Big Star covers…some of these songs as well as clips from that last show in Brooklyn are captured in the documentary. There is a brief second when you see me as I am walking out of the auditorium and about to shake Jody Stephen’s hand who stood in the lobby and shook many hands before calling it a night…Nothing can hurt me…Big Black car…to sum it up Big Star never had the opportunity to succeed. From the movie, there was just a sense of bad luck with the band. Chris Bell recorded a 45, I am the cosmos, and tragically died at 27. The original bassist left after the second album. And to capture the thought are the lines from their song Holocaust, “Everybody goes as far as they can.” (Big Star/Third)
Thank you for reading this.
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Last week Ali and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. Twenty years. In these twenty years we have had four children who have been blessings in our lives. But married couples with children have a tendency to lose their identities. Their focus is more on…the kids… building the children, creating them in our own image if I can be so bold as to suggest such a statement. We want them to appreciate our tastes – let’s say in music. Their choices should be similar to ours. Each of our children know REM very well and have joined us on at least one pilgrimage to Athens GA. But there is more to sharing good music and to having children for any relationship to last twenty years. Yes, we have been through some very difficult times. Some of them could break many couples, but when we would consider breaking up (nothing serious kids) we think of the children or did we? There is more to "us" than the kids. I love my wife very much and cannot think that anything can be the last straw. We have learned an important lesson - we can get over the tough times– they don’t last. But we have adapted and grown together through these past two decades. Sure, we are different from when we first met. Thank God! In a strange way, we lost our identities when becoming parents, but we lost what we were before we were married. What was it like before we were married? It’s been too long. Who was I? Do I miss the opportunity to meet a buxom blonde? No. Do I miss the freedom to run away with the buxom woman? What would I be running away from? I forget; it’s been too long since I had that freedom or even desired it. Well, OK, YES, there is the fleeting…and I will admit it…enticing… commercials for Victoria’s Secret during holidays, have you seen the blonde - but let me get back to this. Who wants the maddening mind games and the insecurities? Is that what it was like before Ali came into my life? I feel for you - those who have not found that love or ever fell in love. Falling in love is a humbling experience. If you marry, you need to learn to have a balanced approach. You can’t be the enforcer and expect love. That sort of love doesn't last. Instead you gradually learn…you change. You not only allow a sense of vulnerability but the awareness of losing yourself. So there are the early struggles. The ego wants whatever it demands. You may feel you're not going to change. If you don’t release yourself and truly discover the ideal of “married couple”…you will eventually be left all alone by yourself and never learn what it means to be a happily married couple. Another lesson…. respect. You need respect. Without respect we would have lost the love. I hear the skeptics, maybe we continued for decades out of fear of being alone? It is not. I can honestly write that I am in love - as much – maybe more (if love is measured) as I was twenty years ago. I am married to the most beautiful woman. My wife is stunning. But there is more to her her beauty. She has an amazing intellect and I have been a witness to her blossoming - from an eighteen year-old college freshman - to the woman who I have the honor of sharing my life and children with. She has been very supportive and has put up with a lot of my shit… but she is right beside me. We have both learned what forgiveness means in this lasting relationship. We are human and prone to make mistakes. Mistakes happen and in twenty years…it’s likely. So here’s another lesson, don’t focus on mistakes. You cannot change the past. Let it go. Why wallow in misery? Life is too short. There is the term, unconditional love. I have to say Ali and I have it. We move on with each blessed day together. We continue to learn what wonderful lessons our relationship has in store for us. Tonight, like every night I will hear the words which resonate under the ceiling of stars; an expressed love which will be as fresh as it was the first time...all of those light years away…
Thank you for reading this.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Yesterday my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. The event came at a time when Emma Tess our second oldest just graduated high school. The graduation and party held our attention for the past few weeks. Saturday we had a large rented tent in the back yard. Family and friends from the neighborhood and schools joined us at the house in the celebration for Emma Tess. Two years prior it was Amanda’s graduation. Yet Emma’s was different. Her class was different; they were supportive of one another which were the general theme in many of the speeches. I have to believe it. I watched the class jesters and others participate in tossing beach balls, tennis balls until they were confiscated by security who were begging them to give up their toys; the antics were an entertaining break from the sincere speeches, but how many can honestly state; I didn’t prepare anything. They didn’t need anything or so they thought. A ball is smacked. Young men and woman suddenly acted their age – you are teenagers (or I assume you are) be young. Have fun. The stoic faces broke out in smiles - which was a relief. Many of them appeared older, wiser, and I dare make the bold statement – they were confident. It seemed like nothing was going to stop them. They took their diplomas, took their pictures, took off their caps and tossed them in the air and we watched the caps twist under the faint blue sky. Some of us snapped pictures and listened to the applause for their children or grandchildren or their parolees. Emma Tess graduated high school. The little girl who’d I wrestle with. Back then she had a lisp when her front teeth were missing and she’d say, “Give me a sound beating.” This is the girl, who told us, she never wanted to grow up. I feel sorry for her and will ask if she feels the same way, do you regret getting older? I know she’s excited about Hofstra. Look at it this way, instead of focusing on the past - passing by - think of the hope which lies in the future. There are so many possibilities. The dreams we heard in the speeches - follow them; pursue that dream. Be driven by passion. Love what you are doing since you may be doing something for forty years. Yikes that’s intimidating and if faced with the objective, most of us would cower. Take it one day at a time. Clinton Kelly, the star celebrity - a graduate from Comsewogue High School gave the graduating class a speech, what the hell do you refer to the keynote speech as? The keynote speech. He was incredible and entertaining and kept popping in nuggets of wisdom – this is what said this which I copied from his Facebook page and it’s perfect; The energy you spend with your head in the past will never get you closer to the future you dream for yourself.
Thank you for reading this
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Taking the red eye back from San Diego was supposed to be fairly easy. On the way to the airport I saw a flight attendant and asked her, what’s it like there? She thought I meant Dallas, where she comes from. No, I meant, what’s it like 35,000 feet above this glorious country of ours. She looked at me like I had two heads. I have to admit, the in-flight turbulence is not making my flying experiences any better. I know what you’re thinking (it’s safe up there) but let me explain what happened. In this blog I wrote about flying back from Tampa a few years ago when I made a connection. The flight had so much turbulence, the pilot asked the flight attendants to stay seated for their safety. That flight wrecked my nerves so since then, I have not been the smooth operator, passenger. Let me share this. I was in San Diego for a trade show. One of my colleagues tells me when she flew to New York the President was landing at JFK and all the incoming traffic was diverted up North and while they were diverted the jet hit some serious turbulence and they dropped, you know (she tells me) like when you drop in an elevator and your stomach heaves up? You know? I felt like sticking my fingers in my ears and telling her, “I don’t hear you….I can’t hear you…you can’t make me listen…” shit…stop. Then a client tells me, “Once I flew back to Philly and all the way over, it was so, smooth… smooth as it can be…that was till we hit the tri-state area and bam! A hail storm, the plane in front of us was hit so hard by hail a panel in their windshield cracked open. Imagine that?” No. I don’t imagine that or want to. Then he tells me, he’s flying back the day after me and the area is supposed to be hit with thunder storms. So, what do I do? I check the weather. New York is supposed to get hit with a storm on Friday – I land on Thursday morning. I’m safe. Right? I check in and take my seat and chat to the guy next to me who also exhibited at the same conference. Yeah, great….then I hear the metallic voice crack over head from the speaker, I felt like telling the guy next to me to shut up. The captain is speaking… the one voice who I really want to hear who will tell us what we can expect on this passage through the skies. “This is the red eye as some travelers call this flight, so I expect most of you will be resting for most of the flight. “ I thought, you’re not going to sleep? Right captain? You can't sleep, so what's keeping you awake? “We expect a smooth flight till we get close to Chicago which might give us some bumps, and I might make an announcement to fasten the seat-belts.” What do you mean, I might? That was all I needed to hear. I knew it meant we are going to hit rough weather. I calculated two hours into the flight which should put us over ORD. It will be 03:00 in New York and I hoped I was sleeping. I was jacked up with nerves. Dear friends, let me tell you what happened. There was no sleep. My slimy and greasy nose was pressed against the cool plastic window. Sweat dripped down my back. My legs shook as we approached…Chicago. I kid you not. This is what I saw. Thick, chaotic and violent bolts of lightning burst from huge dark clouds. I said a prayer as we began to rock and roll and shake and slide. That was a storm. That was more than just bumps you lying captain. I was pissed. You cannot fool me. So I get up. I am too nervous to sit and I am panicking. I walk back to the jet and ask the attendant who was sitting there…I ask for water. The bottles are small and I downed it. Can I have another? I confided to the woman who was playing a game on her computer before I came and disturbed her and who - may I add- was oblivious to the turbulence or the storm. Like a small child, I whined to her. I did. I admit it. “There’s lightening - out there.” Really? Well, it’s not dangerous to fly in it. I think. That’s what she says to me. It hurt my nerves when she said, I think. It meant she did not know. The water I drank quickly became sweat on my back and I walked down the aisle and used the bathroom on the other end. The flight attendant, an African American male who announced earlier before take-off what we need to do in case of an emergency looked like he was nervous. There, I told you. This shit is real. Right? No, he plays it off. “We’re on schedule and will be in New York in an hour and a half.” I take my seat with my trembling legs and look outside at the darkness. Above the clouds, the stars are present in their places in heaven. We fly on. Eventually, like some bad times in our lives – we get passed the storms and past the distractions and the nerves are drained and we learn how to cope. Breathe. I seep into a sleep… till the shakes woke me again.
Thank you for reading this.