Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pursuing autumn

Where have you been?  I’ve been here thinking of where to start.

Yesterday, the last day of August we were all on the beach together. It was an occasion I wanted to accomplish before the end of summer.  To bring down a couple of pizza’s and soda, eat, go for a swim and watch the sunset.   Last night, while a motorcycle faded into the distance and what few souls were left in the water a band played a Stevie Ray Vaughn song at the bar.  Intoxicated minds and sun burnt shoulders drifted back to when the music was better and their faces were thinner.  We accepted this was the last time for a swim.  I still wrestle with the idea.  There will be days when I may finish work early enough to go for a swim and yet the days are getting shorter and the early days will become early evenings when the stars glimmer – when just a short while ago - it was light enough to have a catch in the back yard.  Tonight, Joe and Bella are getting ready for their first day of school.  Amanda is back in Boston and Emma Tess is back at Hofstra.  This will be the last semester for Amanda and Ali – both are graduating.  This is the first year for Emma Tess as she pursues a veterinary degree or premed or as I’ve been praying: Lord provides the child with some extra muscles for her heavy books.  Joe begins high school as a ninth grader and Bella will be in middle school as a seventh grader.  I will be taking classes this fall as I pursue my masters…and we move into another season…all together.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Scofflaws played Ska in Setauket near sheep

The Scofflaws played in Setauket on Friday Night (7/10) at Benner’s Farm.   Parking was very easy and I was surprised with the number of vehicles, it was evident there was a crowd. I was impressed with the sound system as well as the raised and well lit stage which was set up next to one of the sheep stables.   There were food trucks as well as an ice cream truck.  It was a reasonable $10.00 to get in.  Yet, I needed a beach chair or blanket. Maybe I should keep one in my trunk for these summer shows?  With five kids dancing in the grass as the sun was setting and families on lawn chairs and virtually no one...dancing the show was...different. Being alone, I was a little out of place.  When you see The Scofflaws everyone should be up and having a good time.  Even some of the sheep cried out.  It was also a clean show.  Their song Paul Getty which normally has an angry anthem at the end…was…tame.    Typically, you would hear some lines like, “Got any ganja?  You know what I told him (The boss) Eat Shit.  This is my mantra, work sucks!”  None of the angst was there expect for a slide slip of sensamilia…I was also disappointed with their song, Till the End of Time.  I think Sammy was just going through the motions.  He jived a little, but he did not have the balls to get the crowd up and moving.  The positive, was that their trombone player, Jared Dubin was there, he fills out their sound.  Hats off to the talented Brian Duggan who kept the rhythm section tight.

So why did I go?  I went for the prime reason, it was The Scofflaws and the show was close to my house.  I did not stay to the end of the second set.  The kids were playing with beach balls that glowed in the dark.  That was cool.  The stars were out, very nice.  The adults for the most part were sitting in their chairs and clapped and occasionally hooted, which was a little disappointing.  Two thick bugs flew in my eyes and blinded me.  I could feel the blood sucking mosquitoes were getting a good pint out of me.  Time to go…till the next time…and remember when The Scofflaws announce family fun on their Facebook page...I just might skip it...

Thank you for reading this.

Ravi Coltrane plays in Huntington, a review


We arrived from California just after midnight.  On Saturday, while we were packing up I read Ravi Coltrane was giving a free concert on Sunday (7/5) in Huntington.  He was also going to be interviewed by a DJ from Hofstra.  This event was to kick off a proposed annual event, John Coltrane Day in Huntington.  It was also a fund raiser for the Coltrane Home foundation which is trying to raise funds to refurbish the house where John Coltrane lived and composed for the last years of his young life.  He was only 40 when he passed in 1967.  This is the house where he wrote the classic and influential A Love Supreme.  There are details on the house on the web site:

From what I understand Ravi has played in Huntington previously, but I am waiting for more details.  I’ve seen Ravi Coltrane previously, performing at the Blue Note, Iridium, Lincoln Center as well at his mother’s memorial at St. John the Divine.   This was one of those shows I would be kicking myself if I didn’t attend.   Even Ali said I should go.  Off I went with my head still in the clouds and a little jet lagged.  I found a spot on the hill, sloping towards the stage and in the back.  I could have sat closer.  There are rules to these concerts I learned.  No beach chairs in front of the stage, only blankets.  Since I had neither, I could have propped down stage center. 

Before long more people were staking out their places, some had candles in glass cups. One couple had a small hibachi with a small flame.  There was a crowd.  As dusk fell on us I saw a drone which at first I thought was a bird fly over the park and then fly back to where it originated.   The device was pretty cool and I have to admit I’d like to get one.  Why?  It’s a cool toy.  Fire flies dotted the dark.  Children were playing in the park. Sparse couples sauntered around the pond as Ravi Coltrane’s quartet played.  It was a cool summer night to spend under the Huntington sky....listening to jazz.

The interview was sort of bland, the DJ said he was nervous, but Ravi made a memorable remark about his birth at Huntington Hospital. “The doctors botched up my circumcision. I really need to speak to them.”  He discussed growing up in California, “My mother was an Ashram and my father was a jazz legend.”  As well as the influence John Coltrane has on jazz. 

The Ravi Coltrane Quartet:  featured Glenn Zaleski, piano, Joshua Crumbly, bass and Kush Abeday, drums. This quartet is different and new and as Ravi explained, “young.”   Still, this brief show displayed their immense talents. Yet, I am curious why Ravi would not play one of his originals?  He is a Grammy nominated artist...

The following is a play list:

My Lady, by John Coltrane
Who wants Ice Cream, by Ralph Alessi
I’m old fashioned, by Jerome Kern
Nothing Like You, by Bob Dorough
Lush Life, by Billy Strayhorn

A Love Supreme, part two resolution by John Coltrane

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Vacation in California

6/27/15 Indian Wells, California

We flew out of JFK on Thursday at 5 PM on Virgin America.  Maybe, I built up the airline too much to my family since they were not that impressed.  I wasn’t that impressed as well.  If you sit in the back, you will end up paying for the movies you thought you’d be able to watch…for free.  Food was an extra charge, each bag was $25.00 but I get it, this is the way most airlines make some money.  What ticked me off was the the flight attendants who barely cracked a smile.   Maybe they are based in New York?  Most of the flight was smooth, but we hit a little turbulence, as we crossed over Colorado.  The good news, we landed before the estimated time.  We checked into the Marriott Residence in near LAX which was about a five minute drive from Enterprise where we picked up a KIA minivan.  It’s a comfortable ride and there are three rows which is perfect for when we need to pick up Amanda who is flying in on Tuesday.   Although it was late in New York, it was early here and we bought some food at Burger King.   I thought we paid a lot, but when we came through the hotel lobby we saw another family who were coming back from the pool.  The father pointed at the bags we were holding.  “Did you also end up paying seventy dollars?”  “Nope, but it was more than $40.00.” He smiled and made a sour face. Our room was spacious and from the 11th floor it looked across toward the airport where we could see the white line of bright lights as other jets landed.  It turns out the hotel is only three months old and for the traveler who is in the area for business or pleasure it is very convenient.   Included with our rate was breakfast.  It’s not your typical bagel and cold cereal and juice dispenser; there was actually food, scrambled eggs, potato pancakes, hash browns and turkey sausage as well as the other items which are more common.  I don’t mean to sound like the world traveler but had to share. 
We journeyed into Los Angeles and the first stop was Randy’s Donuts.  This is the famous landmark which has been in movies and TV shows.  The jelly donut was incredible, soft and sweet with a mouthful of sugary jelly.  Ali wanted to go to the Griffith Observatory which is another LA landmark and has one of the best views to the Hollywood sign.  It is free for parking and free for the entrance.  But the main reason she wanted to go was to see where James Dean was as he filmed in Rebel Without a cause.  We slowly winded our way up the hill to the observatory; both sides of the road were lined with cars, trucks.  I dropped off the family and turned around and parked at the bottom of the hill and walked up.  The walk was not strenuous, the air was mild, and there was no humidity even a slight breeze made the walk more pleasant as it blew over the brown hills.  I passed some families who were taking their time and met Ali and the kids outside.  We walked around the perimeter and went inside to see some of the exhibits.  We bought some food, great selection there and priced very reasonably.  We ate and I walked down the hill to fetch the minivan.
We made our way over to Amoebe Music which is on Sunset Blvd.  It is another landmark for the music fan and after watching many YouTube videos of, “What’s in my bag,” I was eager to get in and get lost.  I could have spent hours in there, but we came out with a good share of REM and Replacements CD’s as well a Clash t-shirt I had to have.  And then it was tattoo time.  I’ve wanted this one for the past couple of years and we made it happen.  It’s the REM bicycle which they used for some of their 45’s when Reckoning was released.  We made our way over to Hollywood Tattoo Studio.  Joe had the image of the bicycle on this phone and we went in and asked how much.  $80.00.  I was not sure if that was a good rate.  Both Ali and Emma said it was and it was a done deal.  A sketch was made and it was traced on my skin on inside left arm.  The fun began.  Not really, it felt like someone was jamming their nails deep into my tender skin.  I was wincing, but grateful Ali and the kids could not see my face.  I looked up at the dingy ceiling and the dirty shelf's and hope I did not make a mistake.  I didn’t.  Jay has been there since 1977 and before that he was providing his artistic skills in Hong Kong.  After a half hour of enduring the pain, we left the city…in rush hour traffic.  I had my arm wrapped in plastic which felt as if it was burning and we slowly rolled down highway 10 EAST towards Palm Springs.  After a three hour drive we pulled up to the condo where we are staying.  We are surrounded by arid rocky mountains.  Last night as the sun was setting, the world in which we were standing… appeared mythical. 

Thank you for reading this.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Drinking and hanging out at the Garage like a good ole boy on a Saturday night

6/8/15 20:21

Ever have one of those nights when you look around at the new scenery and ask how did I end up here?  It happened to me last Saturday.  Let’s go back to the night before when I arrived back in Ronkonkoma , paid for parking my car in the parking garage for the previous three days and took the elevator to the top floor.   The car started and made a strange ripping metallic noise.  The car was not popping out of park.  Yes, it started I said since I called my mechanic and asked what he thought?  Could be the shifter cable.  Do you have a spare key?  You can jam it down the shaft and unlock it.  I didn’t have a spare key, but I had a long white plastic pen from Disney World.  It didn’t pop.  Do you have AAA?  Yes.  Give them a call and tow it here.  OK, I called AAA and explained what happened.   The rep tells me he can’t send out a mechanic.  We only fix flats and jump start or two.  That’s alright, I tell him.  I can send a tow truck, he says.  I explain I’m in a parking garage and this may be a problem.  Why?  He asked  The ceiling is low.  How low is the ceiling?  I take him with me while he’s on the phone back down to where I paid and asked the attendant, how low the ceiling was.  I don’t know, but if you walk out to the front of the building, there is a sign.  I walk out and see the sign and tell the representative it’s six foot nine.  That’s too short he tells me.  I call my mechanic back.  Well, we can go back in the morning and tow it out of there.  Do you have a ride home?  I do.  I called Ali and finally got home around eight.  My dinner was cold, but so was the beer.  But this story doesn’t end there.  Saturday morning my mechanic is busy, but later this afternoon, he should be free.  At three o’clock I’m driving back to the train station with his assistant, Nick who is quiet.   In the back seat is a large brown lab. Nick is quiet so I became the annoying customer, the crazy passenger he wished he’d never had next to him.  I ask him pointless questions, where did you go to high school?  How long have you been a mechanic?  If you have an annoying passenger, you put the radio on.  Nick did not put the radio on.  Maybe he enjoyed the attention?  I asked more questions until we made it to the station and barely make it under the low ceiling in the Suburban with a U-Haul car tow attached.  I start the car.  Nick opens the shift cover with a long screw driver and unlocks the shift and gets the car in reverse.  Do you want it towed?  No, thank you.  Did he want me next to him on the ride back?  I drive back to the garage and my mechanic goes to work.  He tells me, I’ll call you when it’s done.   An hour or so passes and I get the call.  Ali drives me to the bank where I get the cash.  He asks, want a beer?  It was a warm day and I could use a beer.  Sure.  I can drink one before dinner.  There’s a kid cleaning out the bay and I recall one of my first jobs when I was 14, cleaning out bays on a Saturday night back in Northport.  The scent of oil, slicked concrete and the kitty litter which I’d use to dry up the oil and grease. I left that place spotless.  The greasy little shit mechanic who did not clean up after himself had me fired since the owner thought I left the shop a mess.   The little shit came to school and told me I was fired.  I wanted to kick his ass.  Back to last Saturday; my mechanic has boats and motorcycles and an old truck which he converted into a hot rod.  After a few…many… Bud Lites, tossing the bottle caps and throwing the bottles in the trash, bull shitting about life and music and more beers, it was time to have a contest. What kind of contest?  Shoot the empty bottles with a pellet gun.  I have not shot a gun in a long time, but I had a BB gun.  I shot a 22 as well as a cop’s service pistol in the parking lot at Shea Stadium (making sure there were no jets approaching) Back to the contest…he tells me to use the scope, but don’t let it get too close to your eye, “it will smack ya.”  First shot was a miss.  The second shot splattered the brown glass bottle.  I felt pretty good.  Next we had a contest with actual paper bull’s eye with points for each circle. The paper was stabled onto a wooden board.  We put some money down.  I lost the first round, but grabbed the loot on the second and the sober Nick took the third.  Can I drive your truck?  Sure.  He’s leaning in the small cab and telling me not to fuck up his truck.  I was shivering, partly cause it was a cold night and I didn’t want to rip the ferocious truck into a gas pump.  I floored it and made it back in one piece.  It was after ten and I received a text?  Hello?  I’m hanging out I texted.  We sang out loud to The Doors, Roadhouse Blues, and whatever else came on.  You were in a band?  I was in a band.  It was a long time ago.  I hung out for almost four more hours and made my way back to my repaired car and bid my new friend a good night.  When I got in Ali was sleeping.  I thought I made it back and could tell her in the morning, it was a late night and leave it at that.  To my surprise I got up without a terrible hangover and came to the kitchen.  What time did you get in?  It was a late one, I said.  Emma said it was either after 12 or 2 AM.  Emma chimed in; I know there was a 2 when I looked at the clock.  The second one I said and left it at that.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

the Evolution of a Cro-Magnon by John Joseph


Last night, I finally finished John Joseph’s autobiography, The Evolution of a Cro-Magnum (2007 Punkhouse Publishing).   I say finally since I had a difficult time reading and finishing this 423 page book.  I felt it was full of exacerbation and to be blunt - I felt it was not authentic.  I am not suggesting Mr. McGowan (his birth name) did not have a rough childhood.  He and his brothers were raised in foster homes, abused by the foster families and suffered, emotionally and physically.  His depiction of one foster family, the Valenti’s, Italian immigrants was at times humorous and other times disturbing.  Mrs. Valenti would make the boys sandwiches, but not the sort you’d expect, perhaps a peanut butter and jelly, no and here’s an exaggeration she scooped the icing off Oreo cookies with her teeth and spat the contents on the slices of bread, really?   It seems the book was full of peaks and valleys one moment he is living with another foster family in Garden City with the same last name, McGowan.  The foster mother takes him clothes shopping, but John doesn’t want to wear the standard preppie clothes he sees everyone else wearing in the Garden City neighborhood, this is an opportunity for him and he brings her to a “black” neighborhood.  He is influenced by the clothes on Soul Train and buys platform shoes and silver pants and other shirts.  “These are my people.”  And he makes the impression when he walks through the halls in his new school.
Drugs are a dominant theme in the book.  A girlfriend who he loves overdoes on heroin – he finds her body and leaves her in a deserted house.  Really?  What kind of love is that?  He sells drugs and is very proficient at it; he learns how to skim off the drugs and even sells fake hits of acid to concert kids at Madison Square Garden.  He joins the Navy and then goes AWOL for fifteen years.  He gets involved with Bad Brains and it is their singer H.R. who opens his mind to spirituality.  But for each relationship there is the eventual demise.  He becomes deeply involved in the Hare Krishna movement and is one of their best “pushers” bringing in thousands of dollars as he lives on nothing.  But that relationship “cult” dissolves when he learns the leaders are hoarding the cash, living lives of luxury or has homosexual tendencies.

The book is written by a man who never really matures.  He manipulates anyone who comes across his path.   He is a misanthrope, homophobic, misogynist, and a xenophobe.  I found the book irritating.  You know when you listen to someone and you can’t get away from them? We’ve all been in situations like this, you at a party or on on board a flight and endure the pain of listening to their tales.  You’d like to question them, but that would create more stories. Throughout this book we see him trying to fit in with everyone.  He is always in the middle of some conflict and then magically bringing the opposing sides together to an understanding… that is ridiculous.  Drug pushers, gang members, cops, he is able to be the mediator.  Example, US Marines giving Hare Krishna’s a hard time in Hawaii, John Joseph is able to beat up three of the Marines in a parking lot and they in turn leave the Krishna’s alone… out of fear and respect for John.  Really?   
Throughout the book John only wants to be accepted.  There is a real emptiness that is filled with excessive drugs, alcohol, and people who can see and take advantage the real John (Joseph, Blood clot) McGowan who is “street smart” but clearly ignorant.

Currently, John is giving tours on the lower east side.  I took the tour last fall and recommend it for those interested in punk history.  He is a bit arrogant, since he is a rock star and he asked me three times if I read this book since I read his other book; Meat is for Pussies, which by the way is a very good read.  It also changed my diet.  He still sings and tours with the Cro Mags. 

Unfortunately for me, the Cro Mags history and demise is another part where perhaps John exaggerated.  He briefly touches on taking “some coke” during one of their last tours.  Not really accepting any responsibility.  But he decided to quit.  There is a contradiction here, since the band reported John was kicked out of the band and abused drugs and could not sing.   John explains the reason he quit was because their bassist Harley and an original member who always smoked pot and stole money from the band.  So, John leaves the band and becomes addicted to crack. Harley reaches out to him and gets John to rejoin the Cro- Mags and Harley once again steals money from the band.  Here is a classic John Joseph conflict why he rejoined the band, “I figured what the hell I could make some pretty decent money and I figured it would be a paid vacation.”  The next sentence, “For me music was never about the money.”

For some reason this book is very difficult to buy.  Try searching for a copy on Amazon or on EBay and you will be paying more than $50.00.  While on his 3 hour tour ($30.00) I asked John why it was so difficult to buy, and he said his manager bought all remaining copies since they are making a movie on the book.  After reading this book, I’d say there are a few pending law suits.  John Joseph wrote some very slanderous tales.  I’d like to see this movie, but I feel there is a defamation law suit pending.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Off to Boston!

4/10/15 Woburn, MA

The six of us are sleeping in a hotel room.  Initially the plan was Amanda would take either Emma or Amanda to spend two nights in her dorm room at Simmons.  Instead, she wanted to spend the night with us.  As we were checking in, I asked the front desk manager for a roll-a-bed, but there was none.  He offered a blow up mattress which we took, but that left one of us sleeping on the floor.  Off to Target to buy some snacks and… a blow up mattress.  Ali reasoned it is cheaper than paying for another room.  True.   These trips are hitting my wallet hard so I was up for the suggestion.  Today, we dropped off Amanda at the state house in Boston where she is working for a representative.   Seeing her dressed formally, like a professional was a surprise, our Mo Cheeks is growing up and she loves her job.   After dropping her off we drove out to the Kennedy Museum and made plans to visit the new Edward M Kennedy wing.   We have been to the JFK museum before and for the most part, the displays are the same.  I was not alive when JFK was President. Still, the Kennedy’s had a celebrity status for us, perhaps a near god realm for many Irish families.  But over the years and decades the myth has cracked and most of us have learned our heroes were fallible humans.   They were closer to all of us.   The JFK museum traces the career of JFK.  There is a short documentary which captures his career up to the 1960 Democratic Presidential nomination.   The museum has many displays which are distinct, for instance there is the Attorney General, Robert F Kennedy office, I wanted to sit in his chair yet decided it was best not to.  There is the oval office which has JFK’s favorite mementos, the rocking chair, and special trinkets from his desk.  There is a display of Jacqueline Kennedy and her impact on international relations. 

Next, we were off to the Edward Kennedy Institute for the US Senate.  This is a new facility and for its recent opening President Obama was there as well as Vice President Biden.   The museum is more interactive, after you check in you are provided a device which you will use throughout the museum.  You register yourself as a senator, pick a party and can be from any of the fifty states.  For those of us who are curious how the senate and of houses work, this museum will feed your passion.   What is different; you participate, you learn.  By the end I had more than a memory of displays but gained more insight into our government’s practices.  It’s unfortunate that Mo Cheeks could not join us.