Monday, August 18, 2014

The Gordon's take on Hershey but only after The Devils on the Cross Bronx Expressway tried to stop us!

8/18/14 18:25

What did you do on your summer vacation?  It’s a question some of us dread, some of us wait for the question and let the warm memories flow like a broken dam.  What did I do?  I wrote about some of the things we did this summer, but listen to this; summer is not over.  Not yet.  Last Friday we drove to Hershey.  The plan was to pick up Amanda and Emma’s friends, Sarah and Hannah - both are sisters and the pairs graduated in their respective classes.  After we pick them up we drive to Hershey.  Easy enough.  I rented a car and used points for the hotel.  The hotel was in York.  York is forty five minutes away from Hershey, but for two rooms it was a bargain and well worth the drive.  But here's the news, Friday was one the worst driving experiences I encountered.   As a habit, I listen to 1010 and get the traffic.  The Throgs Neck Bridge was reduced to two lanes due to construction or was that the Whitestone? I wasn’t sure.  I waited ten minutes for the traffic report again, but was distracted, so followed the signs , the recommendations in neon and flashes.  We took the Throgs.  We made it over fair easily.  No major issues to report.  The sun was out, a perfect view of the city to the West.  I used the cash lane since my EZ PASS is linked to my corporate credit card.  Not a problem.  Then the sun went black and the traffic stopped on the Cross Bronx Expressway.  Little devils with gnashing teeth beat down on us and taunted us from the hood of the car, tossing pitch forks and flames. It was hell.  We eventually made it to New Jersey as if the anus of a state - was a foreign land - we kissed the trash laden ground as we set foot on the sacred rest stop.  It took over an hour to get there, maybe three, but really - who is counting?  I avoid looking at the clock when I don’t move.  I was numb.  After our break, we headed back out and while on the NJ Turnpike, I came up with an idea.  It was getting late. Why don’t we go straight to the hotel?  That led to the next parking lot which on this Friday evening rush hour traffic - slowly rolled and stopped, rolled for miles.  The devils were taunting me again.  Each exit was a painful imprint on the skull.  My conscience was playing tricks with me, you are here and you need to be there and you are not going very far…are you?  You can get out of the car and walk and you will get there faster.  Was it an accident?  No.  Amanda and Sarah were playing music and seemed settled and bored.  I questioned my logic, perhaps we should have drove to Hersey and spent an hour or two in the park and then off to York?  What is done is done.  Hello Trenton, only took four hours to see you.  What was a four and a half hour trip to the hotel - took nine fucking (excuse me) hours which included the rest stop and a meal at Cracker Barrel. 
The next morning we awoke after a good night sleep and arrived at Hershey Park.  It is tree lined.  The air is cooler and sweeter and fresh with a trace of the decaying hay from the fields.  Most arrivals take the tour which is a ride as well as an educational opportunity on how chocolate is made in the sweetest place on earth.  Years ago, you would be given a little Hershey bar, not these days, we were handed some lame ass chocolate covered beans in a tiny bag.  Rip off!  But I let that go, these days I need to be more grateful.  Thank you, Hershey for the little shit chocolate covered beans.  We checked through the entrance which is beautiful without being gaudy.  You walk into what feels like a quaint European village, why look, it’s Dunkin Donuts.  It’s sort of laid back in the park.  Kids with pimples on their pale faces wear baggy uniforms and push little brooms, picking up white paper napkins and white plastic spoons. They are the walking dead dreading to be seen by their friends.  I was there.  I pushed shopping carts one summer at a super market and recall the embarrassment and the torture since I had to wear a tie in that scorching heat.  My neck and back broke out in boils and I looked at them and picked up a napkin someone else dropped.  I got it, the kid said.  No son, I have this one.  You do enough at this park.  Well, not really, but I thought of it, as we passed slow ass country folk who walked as their underwear was loaded.   Get out of the way. What's the rush?  We can't help it, we are from New York.  Come back to see us.  What's with the characters?  Hershey Bar and Reese's and 5th Avenue - what the fuck?

The water park was fun.  Joe and I hit a ride and flew through a darkened tunnel and out into the light and back into the darkness only to crash face forward into the pool. I flew over Joe and nearly drowned my son who I pulled up from the cool deep.  He looked shocked.  Ready for another? I asked knowing what he’d say. Nah.  He was toast for most of the day.  While Ali and the rest hit the lazy river, I stayed at a table and watched the huge candy bar characters chase little kids and demand to get a picture with them.  Music played and this corpulent woman who was the ring leader for the characters was dancing.  I felt sorry for her.  I really did.  She was smiling though, maybe thinking she was on stage or the life of a party.   I hit the comet which is the oldest roller coaster in the park.  Front row.  I screamed like a little girl. Scott and Tyler also joined us.  Overall it was an enjoyable day for all of us. As night settled in - teenagers who were keeping their safe distances through the day were holding hands and acting like kids at a country fair would do; joking around and gawking at other teens.  They were having fun.  I watched them from a distance and saw one odd couple, the girl was tall and the boy quite short. They held hands and looked to be showing the world how opposites do attract. 

Under the cool night air, we wished for rest. We were at the park for close to twelve hours.   We had our fill.  Good night Fifth Avenue Bar and all of your inebriated chocolate friends.

Thank you for reading this.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A very short review of a very long book Duma Key by Stephen King

8/4/14 22:24

Henry Miller said if he could not get into a book within the first fifty pages, he’d put it down and pick up another.  I can relate to that, but what about reading the first 400 plus pages of a 600 plus and putting it down, you have to question my sanity.  I would.  I was fed up with the monster.  The heft in my hands built tight muscles, veins popped out near my knuckles.  The heft is called Duma Key by Stephen King.  I like King.  He gets me sucked into his books and for most of them I will go with the flow.  This beast was a little too much of the erection and less of the substance.  Look how big my book is!  Edgar Freemantle lost his arm in a terrible accident, subsequently suffers from memory and verbal dysfunction, is divorced, moves to the gulf coast of Florida, limps on the beach, befriends a lawyer and becomes an artist.  Not just any artist, but a master.  His works captivate.  They also exhibit a possessed spirit.  So, I started the book back in the winter and watched it gather dust on the floor near our bed and finally picked it up and finished it.  I blame the book on our North Carolina transplant and one of the joys in my life, Danielle Zahm, who I thought was visiting us this summer.  Which was the motivator to finish the book.  Years ago she lent me the wide text.  She told me, you have to read this…it’s a great book.  So I read and read and…I felt like I was watching one of those lame comedians David Letterman would bring out on his show from time to time.  You’d wait for the punch line.  You watch the anguish face on the screen.  They are suffering.  The comedian beats himself up in his wretched mind.  You’re on TV now.  Big break.  Big.  I think King has sold a few too many books and sucked us into his name.  I will continue to buy his books.  I will be a loyal reader.  But this book could have been half the size and made an impact, instead it is lost in his library I add to.  Before I put it away, I have to tell you, I was the one who waited for the gripping, nail biting, "oh no he didn't," and the twisting...he did it. The feeling that this master can create horror like no other.  You wait and you receive.  The last quarter of this book flowed and hurled with an incredible kick.  The scene close to the end when Edgar is walking with his daughter on the beach captured such love.   Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Done.  Now I can pick up and read Nick Tosches...


Thank you for reading this.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Novel Killer Commute will be published by Monk Press


7/25/14

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.

http://monkpress-mike.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our impatience was displayed for BB KING at the Great South Bay Music Festival

7/21/14

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

With Jody Stephens and Nels Cline a forgettable band plays a rare gig

7/18/14 15:30

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

Everybody Goes As Far as They Can, Big Star memories

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.