Saturday, January 26, 2013

The English Beat Land in Huntington



1/25/13 07:06 Heading to Stony Brook
It’s hot on the train and my head feels heavy from the extra beers I had last night.  The English Beat played at the Paramount in Huntington.  It gave a chance for elder hipsters, punks and skasters to get out on a week night.  I was excited when I learned the Scofflaws were opening.  Back in the eighties I saw them a couple of times.  Back then they were known as the New Bohemians.  Eddie Brickell’s management paid $600 to buy the name and in ’88 they transformed into the legends they are.  Eric picked me up at the Huntington train station.  Before he came I saw a young man carrying an instrument case, wearing a black suit and tie.  I asked if he was playing that night, and he said he was.  Jared is the trombone player for The Scofflaws and has played with them for the last couple of years.  I was curious if they toured.  These days he said they still get out, but don’t go too far from the New York base.  It’s not worth it.  I ate a light dinner at a Greek restaurant.  The air was freezing. It was so cold it took my breath away even though it was a short walk.   Inside The Paramount it was empty, maybe twenty of us were scattered on seats and around the open floor.   I was worried this would be a dead turnout, but gradually more people came in and when The Scofflaws hit the stage there were about a hundred or so.  There was another opening band from Long Island, RPS who was… alright.  They are known for playing reggae as per their web site.  You need to have style to play ska.  The RPS boys were dressed down and looked out of place. Honestly, The Scofflaws could have handled being the one and only band opening for The English Beat.  “Sammy” Brooks the singer and sax man had excellent stage presence.  He grew up in Huntington and shared a story when he was a kid, a group of his friends tried to sneak in the theatre (when they played movies back in 68) to see The Beatle’s Yellow Submarine and were caught by the manager who eventually let them in  to watch the film.  I’m dying on the train, I have the sweats and I feel my stomach bubbling.  I didn’t drink too many beers, but enough to send me over in hangover lethargy and regret.  The English Beat hit the stage.   I thought the black man was Ranking Roger, but it was not.  His name as we learned and he repeated was Anthony, who kept the crowd dancing and calling back and forth (I looked it up, his name is Antonee First Class) When he called out, who likes the eighties? I got pissed.  The show at that moment became an oldies show.  Yes, let’s waltz back in time…to the good old days when the threat of Margaret Thatcher or a nuclear war was eminent.  It was an oldies show since the last time The English Beat released a new album was back in…1982?  Special Beat Service which I received as a Christmas present when I was 16? Face the fact, it was an oldies show and I am paying the price for a late night at this moment.  I will have waves of energy and others like now when I am slinking in my seat.  The seats are filling up on the train.  I feel like I will heave if I had the opportunity.   Trying to tell my body I have an hour or more to get into the office. 

Saturday 15:08 Home
I need to wrap up this entry with the performance of the English Beat.  There was only one original member and  Dave Wakeling’s voice was perfect, he smiled and shared some antidotes with the crowd, but with his accent it was hard to decipher what he was saying, except I thought he said they shouldn’t have to pick on Thatcher anymore.  His smile barely left his face, bowed a few times after some songs and thanked us for coming out.  He even said, “God Bless you.”  That was nice in a different way since I rarely hear it at a concert, more often it’s after a speech from a sensible politician.  Songs?  Mirror in the bathroom, Jeanette, Sole Salvation, Tears of a Clown, I Confess, Safe it For Later - which the extended though it didn’t need to be extended.  They played some songs from General Public, Tenderness.  After the concert my intoxicated mind made the decision to get Wakeling’s autograph on my ticket.  I asked if he can sign it and he apologized since he didn’t have a pen, but like a good man, he found the pen and came back to the edge of the stage.  The security guard blocked me and Dave smiled and made a joke, come on…Dave signed my ticket and I stumbled off in the frigid winter winds in my light leather coat.  Thank you to my brother-in-law and my sister for allowing the man a night out.  We had a good time and plan on starting a band.  Look for the Dead Beat Dad’s on tour this summer or was it a drunkards dream.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

From Long Island to DC to witness President Obama's Second Inauguration


1/22/13 18:26 on the train Northport



How was the inauguration?  There were some who saw my pictures on Face Book.  I should sign in today and check what was written.   The comments, the likes... There are those who check on FB as if it is a lifeline to the world.  I’m not there and don’t want to be.  You can say this is a contradiction since I linked the blog to FB.  There are some stories I will post and others that will remain in the hidden chambers of these files.  So how was it?  Four years ago there was a different excitement in the air.  Those of us in the crowd of almost two million would say it was a festive occasion.  I didn’t feel the same.  Maybe since we had tickets?  Maybe since we expected Joe and Diana to join us as well as my son?  Amanda was in Boston?  Sunday night; I was stressed out.  I was even thinking maybe we can skip this thing and watch it on TV.  Who needs the stress?  Four years before, we dealt with long lines from the Metro station, long lines getting into the station, long lines onto the platform, onto the packed train and shuffling for blocks like zombies on packed city streets in DC. That was then.  I had everything planned, we leave by 7 - the latest.  Park the car and get into the station.  We bought our Metro tickets already - to save time.  If I can’t park the car in the lot, I will bring it back to the hotel and jog the two miles to the station.  Okay, I was a little obsessive about this thing.  I would do it if necessary.  It was not necessary.  I parked the car and we walked right up to the platform and felt like this was going to be easy.  It was not as easy as I thought.  Humanity swelled in the streets.  The crowds for these events are compacted and squeezed like herds of animals down into the narrow industrial strength steel fences, kept off the grasses and kept contained. Not to say we were going to get in trouble.  We were hoarded through metal detector devices. I was waved with a wand held by a lesbian who asked me if I had a belt on.  Yes.  Her mechanical voice sounded as if she was spat out from boot camp a few days before.  Yes, it’s a belt.  That’s my zipper.  The alarm went off.  It’s closed.   No bump.  It’s cold.  To feel any peace of mind, the ongoing concept of threat was subdued.  Silhouettes of sharp shooters, peered down from the peaks of roofs.  It was a warmer day than fours ago.  The sky was grey for the most part.  But this is one event in history - where humanity intermingles within inches, there is no such thing as personal space.  No need to freshen one’s breath as I encountered numerous wafts of digested meals on warm breaths.  We were told to go from one entrance to another and from there I was mixed with a group of young men who cussed on about how they were attending Yale - obviously trying to impress some younger women around them.  Bella was shocked with the language they were using.  What can I say my love? She is ten and the term asshole, makes a real impression on a ten-year old's imagination.  This is the same place where we were mixed with the exclusive company of mink coats, private designed wardrobes, hair styles that were expensive and molded for hours, and when set among the anonymous souls -  looked downright - outright ridiculous.  Did you pay a lot for that contraption? Why bother?  Did you tell your girlfriends you were going to see the President?  Why?  There was one point when we waited to cross the street, waited for a good twenty minutes till my eye balls rolled in urine, I was crying holding the pee and when we crossed we ran like the fools.  Well I couldn’t run.  A woman fell in front of me and when I went to help her up a guy shoved me off her, not too rough of a shove ‘cause I would have swatted him.  Let’s be civil here.  I made it to the barren Porto-Potty and released the steamy stream into the weird blue color abyss and felt a relief like no other.  When I came out to find my patient family waiting they were not there.  Instead I was staring at the blank faces of strangers, their eyes rolling in urine, waiting for their turn of glory.  Ali and Emma and Bella were gone.  Seized up by the tide and washed into the ocean of heads and coats and oblivion.  I went back and found a spot near one of the statues, with a view of where the speech would be given. I calmed myself since my calls were not going through - nor the texts.  I imagined getting back to the car and waiting in the cold parking lot since I could not reach Ali.  Till one message came in and we were only twenty yards away from one another.  I didn’t see them till the President was speaking.  Not that they could see what I saw, but I regret they were not with me.  Emma would have had some excellent shots since she brought her camera.  While the speech was going on, I became friends with those around me.  There was a young black boy who I helped to sit on the railing and an older black man who needed to rest against the railing since he had an ailing back.  For some reason he reminded me of my Father-In-Law.  We were all strangers and yet one unified family as we listened to history project over the loud speakers and into our hearts.

Thank you for reading this


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Morrissey Saves The Night on Long Island





What do you mean you’re going to the concert by yourself?  I thought Chris was going?  Mike?  Frank?  Dave?  Shar?  Eric? No, they all couldn’t make it and it was very short notice.  The day of the concert I asked if they’d like to go.  The night before Amanda gave me the look when I mentioned we were going to the concert. What?  You don’t want to go?  Not really, it’s one of those things you get excited about when you first hear of it and then…not really.  I understood.  There is something about getting back into the routine of life, it’s still early in the year and I’ve been back to work for a little over a week.  Amanda is on her college break.  When I saw Morrissey was playing on CW Post, I felt it was a good opportunity to see a local show and an artist I have never seen before.  The Smiths were one of my favorite bands  and I still listen to them from time to time.  See radioHead’s cover of The Smiths on YouTube… going back to my ancient days - I remember Marjorie Eisenberg bringing home their first record and playing on the player in their living room, the wooden floors, the sparse furniture, boxes of matzos in the closet.  The album was on Rough Trade Records, the label was silver and the cover was maroon.  It was sparse as well, but the music captivated me.  We sat in the room and listened to the whole thing after school.  It’s one album and a memory which I will cherish.  I tried to speak to Marjorie yesterday, these days she owns Permanent Records in Brooklyn and I wanted to tell her I was seeing Morrissey.  She wasn’t at work, but the clerk asked if he could help me.  No, I’m a high school friend and I wanted to say hi.  She’ll be back tomorrow.  So I left work later than usual and picked up a vegetarian burrito on account Morrissey is a vegan and a downright activist for the animal rights movement.  I read reviews of other shows.  I should be prepared for a violent anti-meat film which plays on the screen behind the band, while they perform Meat in Murder…Meet your Meat. What was one of the first comments a member of the audience made after the film?  "So does this mean you don't eat eggs?"  Are you serious?  Morrissey shook his head and must have assumed we were all ignorant.  "Why do you care?" He asked her and took the mic back before she could offend him any more.  The scenes in the film were gruesome, but he has me contemplating my next decision for lunch.   I went to the show by myself, parked in the parking lot outside the Tilles Center at CW Post and walked in and down the stairs.  I was surprised by the ancient ages of the audience. I fall with full force into this category.   From speaking to Mike Fallon when the suggestion to  scalp,  “You’d see some despondent fifteen year-old in the parking lot who’s holding up a sign, no one in the world understands me except Morrissey…give him the extra ticket. “  I didn’t see the lad.  There is one song I wanted to hear, Shoplifters of the World…and this was the opening song.  My only weakness is a desperate crime; my only weakness is well…never mind…never mind.  I love that line.  You listen to it and analyze what desperate crimes did he commit?  Shoplifting?  Maybe the song inspired, Wynona Ryder?  Morrissey’s voice was weak at times and in perfect pitch as the set and show progressed.  In fact for most of the set he was on.  He made a comment regarding the break from his last tour, which he called off and now was back.  For the haggard Smith’s fan, there was an eclectic mix of songs.  For the Morrissey worshippers, I confess I did not know each song the band performed, there was the Ouija board song and many others, but I am not an adoring fan, but I can see how one can fall for this performer who adores his fans.  He easily walked from side to side, shaking hands, wiping his sweaty palm on his pants after slipping his hand into a sweaty palm, and taking flowers, receiving hugs and yes, giving hugs from both men and women.  Oh, Mother…I can feel the soil falling gently over my head…his whipped his microphone cord like a whip many times, appearing like a stoic Spanish bull fighter…how often does the performer ask the audience if they have any comments?  He handed the Mic down, and the first comment, can we hear your best New York accent?  He took the mic back and said, Next and handed the Mic to someone else after asking the fan, “Do you know the name of the drummer? Previously, he introduced the band…”No,” was the answer.  At this time there were calls from the audience, I love you Morrissey…” The typical adoration for the demigod on the pulpit.  I was warned to be prepared for a quasi religious experience.  And it happened.  They broke after the set and came back on and Morriseey mentioned not having a tooth brush and sharing it and then the religious episode…the opening of How Soon in Now…and I related to the song so well in my old age.  I am the son and the heir….more fans rushed the stage, a corpulent man who wore bright underwear was hauled off the stage, a boy of 14 with a smile on his face as he ran to the man and handed him a note and a hug…after all of these years I felt strangely the same in the darkness as the lights poured out into the crowd.  So close to the emotions of isolation, the same way when I was younger.   I walked into the Tilles Center on my own and left on my own and went home…but this time I didn’t cry.  I curled up next to my wife who was snoring.  I wanted to tell her everything about the show…
The show was 90 minutes…
Opening act was Kristeen who thanked the twenty of us for being raised properly since we clapped for her.  Her music reminded me of the bands I glazed over, Missing Persons and such.  But she is a solo artist, no need for a band for her.  Kind of makes the argument stand that all those synth bands were not musicians, they were artist who stood on stage and looked pretty under the lights.  Kristeen had an impeccable voice that radiated the room like an opera star.  I hope she plays with a band the next time she swings through and has a dress she doesn’t need to adjust ever second….
There is a set-list on the web for the show:
Shoplifters
Irish Blood
Alma Matters
Still Ill
You’re the one for me fatty
You have Killed me
I’m throwing my arms around Paris
Speedway
Action is my Middle Name
I know it’s over
Ouija Board
Maladjusted
One day Goodbye
The Youngest was the most loved
Meat is Murder
To Give
November spawned a Monster
Sweet Tender Hooligans
Let me Kiss you
How Soon is Now

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Let's start a new country


1/1/13 10:05 Ronkonkoma

For the past twenty two years I have spent New Year’s Eve with Ali and her family.  Honestly, there are times when we’re driving there on New Year’s Eve and think of the parties, the lunatics and fireworks, and packed crowds in Time’s Square, but this is one family tradition we are maintaining.   When her grandparents were alive, we’d spend the evening at their house, eating Christmas cookies, having a hardy Italian meal and playing Italian cards.  Nana had a tendency to cheat.  Last night Ali held back a card and won a round.  After the ball is dropped, the first morsel of food we eat for good luck is Italian sausage which cooked in the oven a half hour or less.  The oily thick scent of simmering meat and popped champagne poured in wine glasses are prepared for the countdown.  Since Nana and Pops passed, we have spent New Year’s Eve here, at my in-laws.  We keep the tradition, we have the meal and play the cards, and the following morning wake up as if it was a Sunday morning;  looking at the peaceful world of their sleeping neighbors.  There are some changes this year - Ali made breakfast this morning, in the past her mother would make it.  I have not seen my mother-in-law this morning.  The house is different as well, they expanded the kitchen, a table with bar chairs are around it and a small TV plays in a corner - CNBC.  We discussed politics, the fiscal cliff…Hilary Clinton, our family, for instance what happened to so and so’s son and where are they now?  I woke up thinking this can be any other New Years day.  But each New Year brings all of us the opportunity to make changes. I can take a step in a positive direction; I can make some transformations and set new goals. 

For instance this Christmas break has been spent with my family, but also I worked many hours in my room editing the novel.  If you bought the novel from the publisher; I am sorry.  Sorry that they would consider it worthy for publication.  Sorry you spent your money – all twelve of you.  That includes the conductor on the train.  I will apologize to each of you.  There were so many mistakes, and edits - which were clearly not my doing.  Sentences had simple misspellings.  vague sentences would float in the middle of a page.  There was the poor grammar which I know is not my strongest aspect of my writing, but a knowledgeable editor will make corrections.  It was not uncommon for me to cringe and get pissed off - roll my eyes thinking how and why would anyone publish it?  Did they read it?  My book would be the perfect example - why many E-Publishers are not professionals.  The one who accepted the book - cared about one thing, selling books not about publishing good works that were worthy of their readers time or consideration.  I take responsibility as well, I was looking for a publisher who printed books as well as E Books.  I should have scrutinized the book before they said it was ready.  And I am grateful they did not promote this book or that many copies sold.  It's embarrassing.  It’s in my past.  Thank you Danielle for an exceptional job at editing – you made this work more polished. I will be more diligent than letting this go with fly-by-night operation.  I have learned a valuable lesson.

The past year and a half have been difficult for my family.    But it is in the past.  My wife is free of cancer.  My youngest had her tonsils removed with the hope that her epilepsy will be diminished perhaps alleviated altogether.  So I am looking forward to this year.  I am keeping a positive attitude and have set some goals. 
One of my goals is to forge a closer relationship with my son.  We share little with one another.  There is no catch in the back yard since he doesn't want to have a catch.  Rarely is there a time when it’s just the two of us.  Two weeks ago after the first service at church, I found Joe sitting in the hall where Sunday morning classes are.  He looked bored, just staring at the wall.   I had twenty minutes before the second service where I was the reader, and asked Joe if he wanted to take a walk to the beach.  Our church is more than 200 years old, behind it are acres of county preserved woods that lead to Mount Sinai harbor.  At first there was the usual reluctance, wanna go for a walk? “Naahhh,”  Come on…we can find the witch’s house.  I knew this would entice him and he appeared to have no other options since his friends were not around. 
We walked through the chilly woods, stepping over large stones washed up and rolled in the path after the rain storms.  It was a little tricky to walk over them since they were covered by leaves.  We had a deep discussion on religion, death, heaven and he said, “I forgot the word…it’s a long one…” 
“Reincarnation?”
”Yes, that is the one.  Tomo (our new kitten) reminds me of Elphaba (his cat that was hit by a car) and I think it may be her, he does a lot of similar things as Alphaba did.” 
I thought of my response but didn't say it, animal species have similar behaviors, the lions clean themselves the same way a residential cats does, but this would have been cold.  I was impressed my son considered reincarnation and saw his cat in this kitten.  I remember walking to high school  and looking at the robins in the grass and thinking what lives they lived before they were birds.  We discussed Hinduism and Buddhism.  

“Well, God has given us the gift of life and he put us here to serve a purpose."
  
Joe is the artistic type, he reminds me when I was his age and could spend hours drawing, and sketching or day dreaming about a movie or story I wanted to create.  The winds were light, but I knew we needed to head back to church. 
  
While we walked up the hill back to church I asked Joe, “Do you think God punishes people for doing bad things?” 
“No, he said, Isn’t that what some people believe?  There are two books in the Bible and one believes God punishes.” 
“Will, it's sort of true, there is the New Testament which describes the story of Jesus. And the Old Testament which is what you’re referring to.  They believed you had to follow ancient laws and if you did not, you would be punished.” 
“Jesus is God’s son,” Joe said. 
“God is love.  He gave us his only son. He is and the difference between the two books, the old describes the messiah coming and the new tells the story of Jesus and those who believe in him, their sins are forgiven.”
We headed back into church where Emma and Bella were downstairs waiting to watch children in the nursery, I asked they come up and sit with me if there are no children.  Eventually they came upstairs and we sat in the last row.  When it was time for me to read I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss what a deep conversation I had with my son.  I read and looked out at their faces from the pulpit and blessed the reading….