My apologies for the lucky five who read this blog on a consistent basis. This is one I wanted to get in before the baseball season is completely over. This entry is about the Long Island Ducks who were swept in the Atlantic League Championship at home by the Sugarland Skeeters. The week before the Ducks were selling playoff tickets for $5.00. Ali and I took Joe and Bella. Big spenders. I was surprised there was a small turnout. Five bucks for a playoff game…on the weekend? Why? But I guess the weather was a little chilly for a few fans and most decided to skip it. They missed a good game, the Ducks won, tying that playoff series against the Somerset Patriots. I decided to take in the deciding game the next night to see if they could pull it off and they did. Again, there was minimal fan support. Why? During the regular season The Ducks sell very well, so I was surprised. I assumed their fan base would be there. Instead, I saw the same kid with the green face, the other kid with a mitt who looked too old to be chasing foul balls. I was like you, so don’t let anyone discourage you brother! Get the ball. Later in the week, I bought two tickets behind the Ducks dugout for the first home game in the championship series. I thought Ali or Bella would join me. Skeeters won the first two at home and it was a best of five. The weather was miserable. Rain was off and on and it was a crappy day. I called the stadium to see if the game was on. Yes, was the answer. Great. No one wanted to join me, so I walked in and grabbed a beer and took a seat which was dried by the usher with a damp towel. The Ducks looked like a different team. It turned out that it was the last game of the season. The Skeeters won and celebrated in a near empty stadium on Long Island, far away from their Texas fans. I watched them jump on each other as I walked out with a dozen or so miserable fans. Why did I go?
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Sunday, September 11, 2016
9/11/16 Bethlehem, PA 21:49
It’s amazing to think it was fifteen years ago today. More at another time and place. I drove up here since tomorrow my company is having a golf outing. The last time I played golf was more than four years ago. I don’t like leaving my house on a Sunday, but the car was a Mustang with a sweet kick and the music, Foghat was perfect for driving on any open highway. Let me tell you a little about what I was listening to.
After three years of production, Foghat has released an impressive new album, Under the Influence on Foghat Records. It will meet the anticipated expectations from their fans and I hope will make an impact on some younger ears. Under the Influence was recorded at Boogie Motel South in Deland Florida. It contains a mixture of classic rock and Southern rock. The third song on the album, a bluesy, slide guitar, a burst in the murky darkness under the shadows of a full moon is titled, Ghost, I imagined a mythical Gothic creature rising up from the dark everglades. This was one is a hidden gem and stands alone on the album. Sorry for going backwards, but the second song on the album is: Knock it Off. This will be a song which will grab you and have you repeating the lines such as, “You keep pushing and pushing…I see you’re looking for trouble, well I can start some too.” I can see this song playing in a car chase in a movie. Maybe a Mustang making a break for freedom? There goes the imagination. Upside of Lonely, tells the story of a man who is living alone after his lover left him. “I can stay up late and play my guitar, and the groceries go twice as far… Haven’t cut the grass since the middle of June.” Heard it through the Grapevine is a crisp and original rendition of this CCR classic. Pay attention to the background vocals from Dana Fuchs who rips this song from her heart and soul. Honey Do List is a light piece which pokes fun at the chores all of us are obligated to do or asked to do or demanded - we complete. The last song is to celebrate Foghat’s classic hit Slow Ride. 40 years! There is a multitude of background vocals from fans who donated to the campaign to raise funds to record and release this album. I could not hear them distinctly. My hope is the next time I see Foghat they will play a few songs off this album since they should be added to their set list. I recommend picking up a copy of this album and taking a long drive as the music blasts from the speakers.
If I was to rate the album 8/10
Bryan Bassett, lead guitar, slide guitar and background vocals as well as engineer.
Roger Earl, drums and background vocal and original member of the band.
Craig MacGregor, Bass
Charlie Huhn, lead vocals and lead guitar
Special guests, Kim Simmonds, Nick Jameson, Producer Tom Hambridge
Thank you for reading this.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
9/2/16 20:04 Home
Where to start? On Tuesday morning we woke up and drove to Disney World. Checked into one of the value resorts, Art of Animation. A suite was available so we dropped off our things and headed over to Epcot.
I know where to start. We should have arrived last night on a flight, but to an impending hurricane and a state of emergency for the whole state of Florida, I felt it should be prudent. I scratched the idea of the flight and picked up another rental for a one way drive back to Long Island. Amanda was not having any of it and tried to calm me down, but I’ve flown in similar conditions and it wrecked me, turbulence and I do not get along. I panic. But my oldest daughter being the one who has always set her own course in her life booked herself a flight back to Boston and had a pleasant flight back. Given she was flying out hours before the predicted hurricane, and possible tornadoes which was expected to strike Florida later that night, and would affect 140 square miles, I was not having it.
As I’m writing this it’s not even a hurricane. It may not be a tropical storm after all. Booked a hotel on points in Richmond and made my peace with the idea of driving for half a day and into the night.
Dealing with Budget Rental was a mess. I booked a minivan on line, but changed it to an SUV since Amanda said if she was driving up with us - she was not driving in a mini-van - she wanted something like her friend’s father. An SUV. It is big and comfortable. Fine. Made the upgrade and drove a half hour to make the pick up at a hotel in Orlando. My vehicle was not available, although I made the upgrade and asked for a pick up at 12:30. The clerk at that Budget said the mini-van was not running properly, the check engine lights were on, and she had to have it returned to the airport. But come back at 2:00. NO, it’s no longer a minivan…it’s an SUV and I need it now. Can I pick it up at the airport? Considering, I still have the minivan from Enterprise which for almost a week cost $36.00. Thank you points. They don't offer one way rentals. Sure, she says. Go to the airport. Ever get that uneasy feeling that someone is telling you something which is wrong. That someone doesn’t know what they are talking about and you’re going to deal with their ignorance? That’s exactly what I dealt with at the airport. Amanda booked her flight when there was no vehicle. Dropped off Amanda at Jet Blue, hugged and said I loved her though she was pissed since I snapped at her and Ali. Want to fly? Go ahead. I’ll drop you off and drive up by myself…and Bella, she was the happy camper since we were driving. This is the best vacation ever! Dropped off the minivan at Enterprise and walked to Budget.
I waited 25 minutes to get to the counter in the garage, car alarm going off, waiting...I assumed I would pick up an SUV and drive away. I pre-booked it. Makes sense. Get up to the counter. No, I need to go into the terminal and pick up the key. Trudge downstairs, my family behind me while Ali is checking for earlier flights since we called Delta and there was no answer nor call back. She wanted to fly. Emma – wanted to fly and I think Joe as well. Mainly it was Bella and her six foot four father who was not having it. I didn’t want our jet to twirl in the sky like one of the houses in the Wizard of Oz. So my imagination was creating this mess which was being gorged on by constant weather reports.
So, I wait in Budget line in the terminal for another twenty minutes, but I notice one guy on a radio controlled microphone. After each booking he was talking to someone in the garage. This guy could help. I ask Ali to speak to the man and explain the situation. My beautiful wife speaks to the man and I’m called over. Within ten minutes we were out of there and I received a hundred dollars off the bill for the inconvenience. It was also a hundred dollars more due to airport taxes. I drove off in a minivan. It was cheaper and Amanda was flying.
By 3:30 we were on the road. By 7:30 we had dinner at a Cracker Barrel close to Savannah Georgia. Topped off on gas and bought a six pack of Terrapin Beer which is only sold in Georgia.
Through much of the night it rained and at times it was heavy. We crossed through South Carolina, North Carolina and finally into Virginia. The signs for Richmond on 95 were daunting, Richmond 175. A little after 2:00 this morning we pulled into the parking lot to the hotel, got our key and headed to bed. We were shot. I was up before 7 and went out to get our bags so we can take showers and clean up before the drive back. After breakfast, we loaded up and drove off. By 11:30 we were in Maryland and picked up some food. We stopped for gas in Jersey and made a bathroom break at another rest stop in Jersey. Just after 5, we pulled into the in-laws.
I drove all the way as a penance for my decision not to fly. I apologized a few times on the ride up that I behaved irrationally. I know Ali was pissed off at me and we barely spoke on the drive.
I was lost in the music, singing to songs from the ‘70’s and 80’s and whatever else I found on the satellite radio. That was a game changer. I haven’t heard some of those songs for decades, but can’t shake off Donny Osmond’s Look away little girl. Give it a listen on YouTube and it lock itself into your soul.
Thank you for reading this.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
7/24/16 21:00 Home
A family trip to DC has been something we get excited for. Over the years we have made the trip with Joe and Diana. Once we made the trip with Phil and Jenn and their crew and our crew and Joe and Diana. It may have been the first and the last that all of us could make a trip like that again. Soon three kids will be in their twenties and they have their lives. This weekend, Ali and I had planned a romantic weekend away from the kids, but that changed since we had one tag along. With a very a good reason. Bella is weaning off her epilepsy medicine and we did not want to leave her alone with Joe and Diana. She may have an episode. Her neurologist said it may be more likely when she is completely off her medicine. In the last few weeks we have been weaning her off. For a couple of years it was 7.5 ml every twelve hours and making sure she had a good night’s sleep. It was is important, especially for an epileptic.
I didn’t expect to write that much about Bella. I wanted to share the long drive we encountered on Friday as we were crushed by the rush hour traffic and finally making it to the prestigious Mayflower hotel. It is just blocks away or an eleven minute walk to the White House. Before you assume I paid for this stay, pull back the judgement and listen. The hotel was an award from a raffle through AAA. Yes, now you know someone who won a prize. We were greeted at the door by a uniformed bell hop. We unloaded the rental car and checked into the lobby. Our room included parking and complimentary breakfast for two.
The lobby was stellar, marble floors, gold leaf, intricate chandeliers, slight mood light softly lit from the tall ceiling. This hotel has served presidents, has been the homes for our Vice Presidents and countless dignitaries, hey even Walt Disney stayed here. Our room was on the eighth floor and there was a complimentary gift, fruit and imported water waiting for us. There was a living room with a fireplace as well as a separate bedroom. Ali and Bella took up residence the bedroom. I pulled out the convertible. I was beat and after one beer, I fell asleep quickly.
The next morning, I meditated and went for a jog. I passed the White House, and ran down hill to the mall. There were not too many tourists out although it was already hot and humid and it was not even 8 AM. Circled around the Washington Monument. One day I’ll get in there and go up to the top. I ran down to the Lincoln monument and paused the timer on the app since I wanted to take some pictures. It’s not every day that I get to climb the stairs to this incredible monument and take in the splendor of the faint yellow morning light which stretched across the clean floor. I ran back to the hotel, past the World War II monument and should have taken it in, but I was hot and wanted to get back.
After breakfast we took a taxi to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. I could have stayed in there for hours. This is where the flag from the war of 1812, the flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled banner. There are artifacts which cover, media, innovation, science, war and the presidents. In fact the last top hat that Lincoln wore on that fateful night at Ford’s theatre is on display. We have been to this museum before, but we didn’t start on the first floor where there is a bright silver Tucker car. Like I said, I could have been in there for hours. Having Bella with us was a sort of drag. She’s thirteen going on eighteen. She responded to most of my questions by rolling her eyes and it was plain to see she had enough of the museum. She’s the sort of who keeps quiet, barely says a word. She was bored.
Anyway, we started to walk to the National portrait gallery. After walking in the intense heat, through the crowded sidewalks, the strollers, the seniors who God bless them were shuffling, the water salesmen who pushed coolers from each corner and called out, “water…one dollar.” We took a taxi back to the hotel with the plan that we would relax in the cool luxury. I took a nap. Most of us took naps.
We got up and walked down to the White House.
I would highly recommend visiting the FDR memorial, MLK memorial as well as the Jefferson. All are in close proximity, but make an effort to see them at night. The light and sounds of each memorial will pull you into the moment. On our previous trips to DC - the FDR has been peaceful. Usually, there are less people who venture there. Last night was very different. There was a caravan of bikes with blinking lights and a leader who cut through the crowd, calling out or yelling about the administration of FDR. I was ready to start swinging when he brought his wheeled crew to where Eleanor Roosevelt’s statue is. She stands alone in a dim alcove. She is around a corner and far away and the mighty water falls which crash into the boulders. Bella stood next to the statue for a picture - more to appease us since she has stood there over the years. What was more disturbing where the glowing phones and pads and lost minds of those who were playing a game rather than taking in the majesty of the monument. So, this visit to FDR did not meet our expectations. MLK was breathtaking and I walked along the edge and read all of his quotes regarding injustice and peace. Imagine if he was running for President? After visiting the Jefferson, we drove back to the hotel. I pulled out the convertible and made it my bed for another night. I am not complaining. I had a local IPA, DC Brau. It was a little hoppy and citrusy. It hit the spot. I enjoyed it before falling asleep and the one was enough for me.
This morning we were up and planned to go to Baltimore to the Orioles. The thought of driving seven hours after being outside under the sun was daunting. We skipped the game. The last stop before heading home was Fort Stevens which was one of the many forts protecting DC during the Civil War. This is where Abraham Lincoln was shot at while he was visiting the troops there. He is only the second sitting President to have been shot at during war. James Madison was the first in the War of 1812. The fort is in a poor section of DC. The grass was over grown although it is part of the National Parks. Beer bottles were scattered about and there were two plaques. One to signify that a free African American woman’s home was demolished to make room for the fort. The other was a plaque to signify that Lincoln was shot at. There was no parking. There was an abandoned building and we parked close to it and walked in the tall grass. Are you disappointed? Yeah. We drove home and made it back to Long Island in roughly 5 hours which included a couple of stops.
Thank you for reading this.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
6/26/16 17:16 Penn Station, NYC on the train to Philadelphia
I thought this train would be packed. There has not been an announcement telling the passengers where this train is headed as we hurl through the tunnel in a direction. Wait, here he is. Conductor will be collecting tickets. Train to Philadelphia and Harrisburg. We stopped. So close.
This morning I came home at 1:30 in the morning. I assumed I would get in closer to 2:00. I was at the Dead & Company concert. The first of two shows at Citi Field. I wrote about my last experience seeing the Grateful Dead at Brendan Byrne Arena. The man who I had to leave at that arena all of those faded decades before (Frank Dentrone) met me last night. All of these years later? To take a guess – 25 years? There were warnings from the professional Citi Field organizers to show up early. I followed their instructions to an extent and ended up at my seat up in the nose bleeds - 518 section with a beer and sausage and pepper sandwich about an hour before the band hit the stage. Frank had an event to attend and showed up at 9:30. Frank saw The Grateful Dead more than a hundred times and he said if he counted the various versions of the band he saw in concert – it would tally to more than 200.
Let me be clear, I wouldn’t consider myself a dead head. I like their music and respect them as artists. I don’t recall every buying an album and I vow I never had a tie dyed t-shirt, even in the late eighties when it was a craze. That’s a lie, when I was a kid - we made tie dyes with rubber bands and various dyes over at our very close neighbors, The Dickersons. Here’s my thinking with the tie dyes. Where else would you wear one except for a Dead show or one of their various incarnations and copy cats?
This crowd is a unique and considerate breed who look out for one another. Frank and I caught up on our lives and we discussed his years of experiences at the Dead shows. He warned me about the large brown bus which follows the Dead when they are on tour. They are known as Yashawaa followers and would welcome any tripping soul into their cult. I told Frank I saw the bus in the parking lot. Stay away from them dude. OK, got it. Stay away from the brown bus. And with the joy were the tripping, long haired, bearded kids who were feeling it more than I ever would. I watched one kid, of course wearing a tie dye who sort of slunk as he stepped. He lit up a joint in the round as if he was lighting a cigarette as if he could get away with it. He did. He did not give a shit. He was having a good time and was stoned immaculate. We were all having a good time except for the row where someone took the party to the extreme and got sick. The staff cleaned it up with rolls of paper towels and rubber gloves. I assumed the kid with the tie dye would be slumped against a wall the next time I had to use the bathroom. More about him later.
There was a sense of joy throughout the stadium. All ages were there and most were standing and dancing in their seats. Old hipped and the young ones who made the leap into their music. I confess I joined them. It was late and I was getting into the vibe. Give me a break and ignore my swinging intoxicated arms; taking in the distinct smoke clouds rising from multiple joints. The show opened up with Shakedown Street whole the sun was slowly setting. The crowd slowly made their way in. Some were bouncing with joy as they made their way. I watched women without bras and with flowers in their hair smiling from ear to ear - delicately dancing hand in hand. This band caters to the hippies and they were out in full force. But you know what – it was a great time. I told Frank they should come around every year – like Jimmy Buffett. But the event may lose its appeal. The current tour is fairly short. The band is not taking advantage of the fans and yet they have received some criticism. Phil Lesh, the original bassist is not playing with the band. Jerry Garcia has been dead for more than twenty years and in his place, doing his very talented and distinct best is John Mayer. Last night, one of their original backup singers joined the band for these shows – Donna Jean Godchaux . The last time Lesh played with the band was last year on their Fair Thee Well Tour, or their fiftieth anniversary or what was promoted to be their final gigs.
Just before midnight, the band bowed to an adoring audience and Frank and I made our way down from the heights. We stopped outside and were about to part ways when a guy with long hair and robe on offered me a pamphlet. Frank told me who he was. The tied dyed kid who I thought was passed out somewhere, was standing guard like a saint and was ready to warm any unsuspecting Dead Head. He looked at me with wide awake eyes, “Dude, don’t take it. It’s a Yashawaa, be careful.” Thank you my friend. I handed the pamphlet back to the robed fellow who looked disappointed and made my way to my car. There were four men in the corner of the parking lot selling bogus concert tie dyes. One of them waved the bright shocking shirt in front of me. Only $20. They’re $60 inside. I don’t have it, I said. How much you got? I walked away and counted out a ten and went back. How much? $20, he said. I don’t have it. How much you got? $10. Noooo, noooo. I started to walk away. Hold a sec. What’s your size? Handed him the cash and drove off with my first tie dye. Maybe it’s time to buy a Grateful Dead album.
Thank you for reading this.
A view from the Nose Bleeds:
Sunday, June 19, 2016
It’s a rare event when my wife and I are out on a date. I think the last time we were out was the night we went to see Ed Harris in Buried Child a couple of months back. Getting to a concert is scarce since we generally have very different tastes in music. We have one band in common, REM. For Christmas I bought us Billy Joel tickets. He has played at Madison Square Garden almost monthly for over a year. He said our performance was the 30th show in the run. I have not been to one of his shows for a couple of reasons. He plays at large venues and I’d prefer a small theater or a more intimate event. I doubt that will happen with Billy Joel, he’s a stadium performer. But more importantly I don’t go out of my way to listen to Billy Joel. I respect him and like many I can sing his hits, but he’s not edgy enough for me. I like his song, You May Be Right and a few others, but most are middle of the road. I have a clear memory of listening to The Stranger when it was newly released. My mother brought us kids out to California to visit my relatives and we stayed at our Aunt Betty and Uncle Gene’s house. I played the record over and over as I tried to fall asleep on their sofa. I have followed his career from the periphery. Keeping with the large venues, in a few weeks Billy will play up at Fenway. Amanda is hoping to get there and will listen to the show and may get a chance to see him. If you’re around my age and have lived most of your life on Long Island you may have a Billy Joel story. I knew someone who knew someone whose sister was the inspiration for Virginia in his song, Only the Good Die Young. I have never met him, but I have a couple of second hand stories. While on a high school field trip, my sister and her friends were in Central Park and saw Billy playing with his daughter, Alexa Ray on the swings. Gives you an idea how long ago it was. As the kids from the high school spotted Billy and were making their way towards them, he headed in their direction and politely asked if they would respect his privacy with his daughter. Sure thing. The kids moved and the dad went back to playing with his daughter. Years later a friend of mine had a restaurant in Sag Harbor and Billy was a frequent guest. Imagine if they had a piano and the man decided to strike up a few tunes. Anyway, this past Friday Ali and I drove into the city and we sung to a Billy Joel greatest hits CD. I parked the mini-van on the street and we walked a few blocks to the garden. We paid a lot of money for food and beer (for me) and we found our seats in the garden. The show was supposed to start at 8:00, but twenty minutes later the man and his band took the stage and played in front of another sell out. His banter with the crowd was a relaxed as if we were watching our uncle, Billy play in front of us. His voice was strong and I can rattle off the songs he played like Only The Good, Piano Man, New York State of Mind, Moving Out, Uptown Girl. He dedicated, “You’re only human,” the victims in Orlando and said it was the first time they played the song in twenty five years and he hoped they wouldn’t fuck it up. He played roughly two hours. Added material from The Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin. We sat behind the stage and still paid a good amount. I looked out at the audience who were generally older and very white. Some had their hokey dances. I will say everyone had a great time since the entertainer was in the house and in our neighborhood. As we were walking out of there we both said we’d like to come back. Why not?
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
5/21/16 Woburn, MA
I woke up before 6 without an alarm clock. It’s an hour later and the shades are still drawn, snores are emanating from one bed and my wife is in the same position when she fell asleep next to me. I’ve learned on this trip that my father missed his calling since he would have been a perfect project manager. He is the epitome of anal retentive. He is the one who is set on the intricate details that could drive someone like me…bonkers. This was the first trip which our parents joined us. The occasion, their first grandchild was graduating college. Before I describe the event I have to share some of the dialogue between my father and myself. If you don’t know anything about me, I will tell you – I can survive on the spare of moment and take off on a business trip or a weekend without much planning. For work, I can be called out to make a meeting which will mean an overnight. It’s not a big deal. I pack and go. I have to say I am surprised my parents made the trip and very happy they did. My parents planned to take Amtrak to Boston. They wanted to be assured that Amanda would meet them. She did. Two weeks before the trip, my father wanted to know where our hotel was. It’s in Woburn. Another call, do you know if they will hold the reservation after six PM, since we may get in after six. Yes, they will hold the room. It’s reserved. Another call, do they have two beds since your mother snores. I will make sure they have two beds. Another call, what is Amanda’s cell? He called me last Sunday, do you have a paper and pen? Yes. I want you to take down our cell number. Dad, you can call my cell and your number will be in my phone. He didn’t understand. Well, take it down anyway. I did. I finally said to my father, if this trip was too much for you, we would understand if you could not make it. No, I am fine. We want to be there. So, I was surprised when I learned my parents were heading up to Boston. For the record, I tried to call my father on his $5 subscription cell phone – he did not pick up when I called to make sure they were alright while they were making our way up here on Thursday. Dad told Amanda he added “minutes” for the weekend. Everything is set for today. Breakfast at 9:30, so most of us can sleep in. Back to the hotel and leave by 12:00 since their train leaves from Boston at 1:40. No problem, we got it.
Yesterday, the sun was out and it was a warm day in Boston. It was a good day for graduation ceremonies, and especially from Simmons College. The day started out early. Amanda had to be at the site by 9:30 which meant we left the hotel by 7:45. My parents were the first in the lobby. Dad explained he was never late for a ship. We packed into the minivan. Dad sat next to me and my mother with her nerves and genuflections sat in the back. At one time I looked back and saw both hands raised to the sky as she prayed. We hit rush hour traffic and found the grace of the HOV till we were in a short distance for the exit. We made it on time. Parking was $40. Who cares, they got us and it’s too late. Made it on time. Mo Cheeks forgot her tassel. They sold tassels and sweat shirts ($40) Bella looked cold, but Ma used it since Bella said she didn’t need it. The ceremony was incredible. Michelle Alexander gave the commencement address which had an impactful message on the justice system in America that has become a vehicle for racial control.
After lunch, my in-laws drove my parents to BaBoo where we rented a room for lunch. The food was delicious. A few of Amanda’s friends joined us. Afterwards, we walked down to the water and sat on the ledge. There was a sail boat race or practice since all the boats were from Harvard. Jets were taking off from Logan and the day turned out fine…just as I expected.