Saturday, December 31, 2011

Get In The Van by Henry Rollins

This year my goal was to read as many books by Henry Rollins as possible. I couldn’t. There are some reviews in previous postings. His books are mainly his journals depicting his global travels and the assorted characters he meets. There is some heart wrenching moments when he meets a young - terminal cancer patient. I read this before my wife was diagnosed with cancer and to this day - the images of the boy in the sterile hospital room in Australia haunts me. I respect Rollins as being blunt and true to his convictions. He is sober and a workaholic who has little regard for the drunks he encounters while touring with the band or on one of his sojourns. For the record, after finishing some of his books,” The Black Coffee Blues” series which are interviews as well as journals was more bang for the buck. You get the real deal when he writes. But there are minimal physical details of his surroundings since his interest is more in what internal battles are waged in his mind. He suffers from depression but battles the illness with an insatiable appetite for travel and work. After reading as many books of his that I could, I’m ending the year by finishing his most popular Get in the Van which depicted his years with Black Flag, actually the last years of the band’s existence. Rollins was their third singer and Greg Ginn was the last original member of the band. Like Spinal Tap with their series of drummers, no one was safe in Black Flag except for Ginn. This book, published in 1994 put Rollins on the map since he won a Grammy for the spoken word version of the book. What is interesting is how he developed as a performer, not just a singer in a band but also a spoken word performer and with reluctance he becomes a celebrity. The band asked him to audition, he left his job as a manager at a Hagen Daaz store, sleeping in his VW Beetle and cleaning up in the store’s sink, but working and gaining a reputation as a singer with the DC punk bands. While he toured with Flag he was abused by his fans to such a degree that most would quit than deal with the ordeal of the hardships of travel. Cups of urine, beer are splashed on him. People spat on his and called him a faggot or a pussy. The appeal for Rollins was the road was the escape to his depression and self inflicted isolation which he writes about, he lives in a shed in the back yard of Greg Ginn’s mother’s house in LA. His insight into the band and their diverse personalities is worth the time to read and trudge through the constant themes such as lack of sleep, pain from either self inflicted wounds, body aches like his right knee or the pain from getting smacked in the face by a guitar or a fist into his face. The other common theme is the skin heads who are the enemy to the punk movement since they inflicted violence on those who were weaker and always travelled in a pack. The book is filled with pictures of the band and their live shows as well as behind the stage. I have to say with some reluctance I will ask Rollins to sign my copy of this book as well as the others I read. I will be one of those people who get his autograph and say something inconsequential like, Henry Miller is the shit man, don’t you think?

Get In The Van by Henry Rollins

This year my goal was to read as many books by Henry Rollins as possible. I couldn’t finish them all. There are some reviews in previous postings. His books are mainly his journals depicting his global travels and the assorted characters he meets. There is some heart wrenching moments when he meets a young - terminal cancer patient. I read this before my wife was diagnosed with cancer and to this day - the images of the boy in the sterile hospital room in Australia haunts me. I respect Rollins as being blunt and true to his convictions. He is sober and a workaholic who has little regard for the drunks he encounters while touring with the band or on one of his sojourns. For the record, after finishing some of his books,” The Black Coffee Blues” series which are interviews as well as journals was more bang for the buck. You get the real deal when he writes. But there are minimal physical details of his surroundings since his interest is more in what internal battles are waged in his mind. He suffers from depression but battles the illness with an insatiable appetite for travel and work. After reading as many books of his that I could, I’m ending the year by finishing his most popular Get in the Van which depicted his years with Black Flag, actually the last years of the band’s existence. Rollins was their third singer and Greg Ginn was the last original member of the band. Like Spinal Tap with their series of drummers, no one was safe in Black Flag except for Ginn. This book, published in 1994 put Rollins on the map since he won a Grammy for the spoken word version of the book. What is interesting is how he developed as a performer, not just a singer in a band but also a spoken word performer and with reluctance he becomes a celebrity. The band asked him to audition, he left his job as a manager at a Hagen Daaz store, sleeping in his VW Beetle and cleaning up in the store’s sink, but working and gaining a reputation as a singer with the DC punk bands. While he toured with Flag he was abused by his fans to such a degree that most would quit than deal with the ordeal of the hardships of travel. Cups of urine, beer are splashed on him. People spat on his and called him a faggot or a pussy. The appeal for Rollins was the road was the escape to his depression and self inflicted isolation which he writes about, he lives in a shed in the back yard of Greg Ginn’s mother’s house in LA. His insight into the band and their diverse personalities is worth the time to read and trudge through the constant themes such as lack of sleep, pain from either self inflicted wounds, body aches like his right knee or the pain from getting smacked in the face by a guitar or a fist into his face. The other common theme is the skin heads who are the enemy to the punk movement since they inflicted violence on those who were weaker and always travelled in a pack. The book is filled with pictures of the band and their live shows as well as behind the stage. I have to say with some reluctance I will ask Rollins to sign my copy of this book as well as the others I read. I will be one of those people who get his autograph and say something inconsequential like, Henry Miller is the shit man, don’t you think?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fire Destroys a house in Port Jefferson Station













The red lights swirling in the room woke me up in a panic. Smoke hung in the air. Our house was on fire, where did it start? I got up and looked outside, ready to see firemen running around our house. A truck with its lights on was stationed in front of my neighbors to my left. Was the fire at that house? Across the street, flames crept up from the back of the large house where college students live. A thick spray of water drifted to our house, hoses showered the house in waves of water. Did they make it out alive? I stepped outside and asked if everyone got out. I was told they escaped. Wind ripped the icy air; I shivered as I watched the volunteers, heavy with rain coats and equipment extinguishing the fire. There were a few on the lower roof. Flames flared up where they were. Another team climbed inside, breaking up the wall to see if the fire was contained inside the walls. There were fire departments from Terryville, Setauket, Port Jefferson and Selden. This morning I spoke to an arson inspector and asked if he knew where it started, he said they were still trying to determine that. My neighbor had one of the tenants from the burned house inside his home. From what Vito said, one of the kids who lived on the second floor saw a small flame on the carpet that spread quickly. They called 911 from Vito’s house. It took some time for the first responders to arrive, and by the time they did, the back of the house, where the fire started was engulfed in flames.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cheap Trick at The Paramount Huntington, NY 12 8 11


12/9/11 sometime in the morning on the rush hour train out of Port Jefferson.

It’s Friday morning and I’m on the train. We’re pulling into St. James. There are the usual commuters mingling about, slowly moving into the train. So last night was the last event for the week. Cheap Trick played at the Paramount in Huntington. It’s a new venue for Long Island which has brought some headliners. The building used to house the IMAC theatre, which had some concerts, like some new age artist you’d hear on NPR’s Echoes on Sunday nights. I saw Stanley Jordan the jazz guitarist at IMAC and a few friends and I saw Tragically Hip what ten years ago. The theatre was cool, since there were old seats and ornate moldings on the ceiling. At one time it was a vaudeville theatre. When I lived in Huntington about 20 years ago, I worked in the theatre, fixing some of the molding as best I could which later needed a professional. So, I was curious to see the changes since I heard it’s as if Long Island now has its own city club. The lobby was more open and on either side was steps that led to a bad, a large window in the back looked over New York Avenue. MTS and I walked up a slight slope which led out to the floor. One either side a large bar was set against the wall. The beers were expensive for the small plastic cup they served it in, but the bartenders as well as the folks working at the venue were friendly. The ceiling had a rustic appearance, stripped bare, the concrete roof with ceiled cracks and steel support beams appeared in tact and sound. There was a balcony on both sides which had seats and in the back were more rows of seats. From the way the place was decorated the designers were creeping close to Hard Rock CafĂ© or a House of Blues theme with flames and sheet metal, scripted flare. Inside the bathroom appeared original graffiti which the artist actually signed his name to in the corner I was too busy to notice what the painting was. If you had seats, the tickets were more money than the GA we paid, but both Mike and I prefer the floor, getting closer to band. Elvis Costello played the first event at The Paramount, BB King and I’m trying to remember who else. Willie Nelson…how can I forget? Can’t really think of any more at this time, I’m exhausted. I got to bed at 12:30ish and woke up five hours later, but really who gives a shit about my lack of sleep. Cheap Trick was amazing, I was a little reluctant to shell out that much for a band that I liked but was never a huge fan. Not to say I didn’t like them. Since I bought the tickets I took out some CD’s of the from the library, they released a live album that I think was recorded somewhere in Illinois, I will get the title, but the recording was tight, they had some appearances from the likes of Billy Cochran from The Smashing Pumpkins. Like last night, the band barley let up; if there was a second or a pause they ripped into another song, played The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour as if they owned it. She’s Tight which brought back images of the video from thirty years ago. The Dream Police which I would say in my favorite, and I Want You to Want Me. Rickie Nilsson kept flipping guitar picks out into the audience and like a kid I wanted to get one. I have one of his from when I saw them perform at LeMore Brooklyn. I have a metal First Aid box that looks like it came from the Korean War which contains my childhood mementos, and inside with some baseball cards and a Suzanne B Anthony Dollar is that white guitar pick. Rickie tossed a handful out at the end of the show and both Mike and I grabbed one. I have to write about the opening band, Mike Leigh or Matt Lee or whoever they were - sucked the fuck- out- of- Lee. The lead singer/guitarist rock star posing drunk played like shit. They played some copies like Jimi Hendrix Manic Depression which was barely recognizable, drunk fuck rubbed his guitar against the stand, the mic fell and he looked like an idiot. There was the rock star salute he sung about living in New York and wanted the crowd to sing a long, he took his mic and shoved it into some faces that yelled or hummed. If he shoved it in my face, I would have told him to hang it up shit head and get off the stage. Odd how Cheap Trick didn’t mention them when they came on the stage or at their encore.

Turns out it was Joey Ramone’s younger brother Mickey Leigh. If Joey was in the audience he would have kicked the shit out of this little brother. I wrote this review of the performance for his web site, but I can guarantee it will never see the light of day:

I was at last night’s show. Didn’t know who I was watching since there was nothing on the drum kit. or on the keyboard, or even the back drop to tell us who was on the stage. I called The Paramount, who was that? They sucked!
It’s a shame, since it’s the first time I saw Mickey perform – he appeared drunk. Their rendition of Hendrix’ Manic Depression was horrible. The band was lame. He posed like a rock star, rubbing his guitar on the mic stand. Are you serious? I haven’t that shit since 1979. The theatrics were an obvious replacement for the “musician.” Mickey mentioned wearing out his welcome last night before he tripped off the stage. Please note, if you come on stage and act like an idiot there will be little appreciation from any crowd. Cheap Trick kicked ass and schooled you, besides they didn’t mention the shit show Yorkesta once while they were on the stage.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Prairie Home Companion show at Town Hall 12/3/11



A Prairie Home Companion show at Town Hall has been a live production I’ve wanted to see for years. In the past, the shows have sold out quickly, so I was excited when I bought a ticket. For myself. For Christmas. It was a present I gave myself. Going to a show by oneself is odd. Some would say it’s pathetic. So is masturbating. I know these things, but I still had to go…and do. I came into the city by myself. I am writing this on the train on the way home. I am alone. But I will write more details about the train in a little while. There are not a lot of fans of the show that I know of. Listening to the show has been a secret over the years. I am divulging this fact only to you. I can hear the shit from my brother and sisters, you listen to what? When? OK, on some Saturday nights I Iisten to the radio. Garrison Keillor appears to be a tortured artist, there are no two ways about it and I’m intrigued to learn more about him. He came on the stage wearing a long red tie, red sneakers, tight red socks and a black baggy suit. His thin hair was messy at times, strands flew in the air in different directions. Small thick glasses dangled on the bridge of his small nose. I brought one of his books hoping for the chance to get it signed. It didn’t happen. I had to leave to catch the train instead of hanging out after the show like some groupie. My seat was in the loge area, the seats were closer than I expected. Since I bought one seat, I was able to get close as possible. From past events when I would go by myself I have been spoiled. I had a great seat at Radio City to see the Dali Llama, Betty Carter at the Bottom Line, and now this. I still paid $75 which included the service fees. Before I review the show I have to describe where I’m sitting at this moment. As I mentioned, I am on the train. Sitting inches from me a couple who appear to be a few years older than me and who behave half lit. “I think we have enough left at home to make some martinis.” There is one punk who did something foolish as the train pulled into the station, the conductor asked as he looked out from an open window “Are you serious?” The droll punk hunched his rebellious shoulders, “Yeah.” Fair to say, I didn’t see what the punk did. Two adolescent girls who are deep into their teen years, spill out conversations from their seats, everything is so dramatic. I’m losing space for my review of the show and I apologize. Town Hall was sold out, which is normal for this short run production. The show comes to New York once a year, each time at this time each year, but I heard or read that Mr. Keillor was cancelling his show after this season, so there was an impulse to buy the tickets. I know Mr. Keillor is very busy in his own artistic pursuits from writing novels to editing poetry. He also has solo performances which after seeing tonight’s show I would like to see and compare it to A Prairie Home Companion. Here is the odd thing which dawned on me; his shows are clean which contradicts my usual humor. I prefer more of the insanity of Robin Williams or even my cousin Jason Gillearn. There is a hard edge in their humor. What is it about A Prairie Home? Looking at the audience which is older than me, we grasp onto an innocent ideal which is too remote in today’s world. Face it we are too connected for our own good, so listening to tales of Lake Wobegon is a little like sharing rumors of the town we would like to live in. Tonight’s fable or tale as it’s referred to in the show was about the reverend who conducts miracle healings. I loved how Keillor wove the tale, but I asked myself from my seat, how did he weave it, was it off the top of his head? Did he formulate something so unique in from of all of us, sharing it with the radio audience who were shallow breaths in the distance? It had the immediate impact, but it must have been practiced, the players knew when his story was winding down, they appeared from the sides of the stage. And the tale was over. So how does he do it? I think Mr. Keillor has the unique gift to tell a story. The musicians in The Guy’s All Star Band were incredible, they played some songs before the show began, and the crowd was worked up and out walked the casual story teller with the long red tie. It’s Saturday night…I was there in Town Hall, right there from the Lodge, stage left and so close I could see his facial expressions as well as the each of the players on the stage. It’s Saturday night. I would like to see if the show can continue without Mr. Keillor. Can it? The show began it seems as a goof when GK was in his mid thirties. He’s slowing down. He can’t stop, can he? Royal Academy of Radio Actors were hysterical, and for me was the real thrill to watch them perform, making back-ground music, small talk, the first skit with Heather Massie as a pseudo hippie psychic poet (was that Patty Smith) was a classic as an upset stomach rose to life out into the audience but it cut short by some professional editing just before it heaved. Heather I assume is a regular on the show and had such poise. Nellie McCay is stunning. What a spirit she has, her rendition of The Flamingos I Only Have Eyes for You was…different as her sax player cried out like as baby and Nellie strolled around the stage pretending to ease the “baby in her arms” and yet it was comical. She belted out The Beatles, I’m So Tired which was stripped and raw, smacking us on the side of the head, with a fair warning, take her seriously. “I give you all I got for a little piece of mind.” If you have not heard the show, take some time and listen to real players and souls on the radio. If you have the chance to see the show: GO! Sit back watch a play of words and emotions that only a true story teller can conjure from the Midwest or Minnesota or somewhere hovering over across the West.