Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Feelies play a rare gig on Long Island

Sunday 4/27/14 19:29

Mike Sweeney a friend from work has told me for years how he loved The Feelies.  Have you ever heard of them?  Of course, but I couldn’t tell you a Feelies song since none of their albums or singles sold very well.  This was a band which influenced other artists, like REM and Sonic Youth.  Mike asked, so many years ago, ever seen them?  No.  And it was a shame since they broke up for move than fifteen years.  But back in 2009, I saw them play an REM cover (Carnival of Sorts) at the Carnegie Hall show which consisted of various bands and artists covering REM songs.  To this date it was the last time REM played together.  It was also one of the first reunion shows for The Feelies.  The band has the reputation of playing infrequently.  The last time I heard they were in the area was last summer when they played the final sold out shows at the now defunct Hoboken landmark; Maxwells.   A few weeks ago, I found out The Feelies were playing at the WestHampton theater.  Cool, they are on Long Island.  I have to go.  My friend Jeff and I drove east.  It was the first time for me at this quaint venue which promotes and eclectic diversity of acts.  I’ve been intimated by the costs for the tickets.  For instance Natalie Merchant is playing there in a few months.  The cost per a ticket for her show is in the range of $130.00.  I’d love to take Ali, but we can’t afford it. Last night Jeff and I sat in the second row which accounts for the clear pictures for a respectful $35.00 each.   It was not close to sell out.  There were empty seats on the sides and even in the front row.  I would assume there were about a hundred of us in the cozy and warm theater which had carpeted steps and wooden banisters; as if we slipped to somewhere in the distant past.  It is immaculate inside. Not a seat was corrupted or abused by hostile punks or intoxicated seniors who are looking to recreate a delusional magic they erupted decades before.  I was a little disappointed by the lack of an audience.  It was so quiet before the band took to the darkened stage, everyone could overhead some fella a few rows behind us proclaim in a fake accent - in that classic SNL skit -I mean early eighties skit - Joe Piscabo, “You’re from Jersey?”  Between songs as the band tuned their instruments or powdered their hands, it became silent in the dark room except for the same character who made comments such as, “It’s so quiet in here, like we’re in a church.” Others called out so they could be heard by the band, “You guys sound great…really.”  Alright, enough, let’s enjoy the moment of silence before the open chords of the guitar break through.  Brenda Sauter, bassist would say thanks after each song.  But there was little banter or even gestures between the members of the band.   They seem cold towards one another, as if they were just going through the motions of playing. There was no introduction or sharing or stories of their illustrious past, there was no need to discuss the past.  The band played the past and present from a scarce catalog of more than thirty years, but only recorded five critically acclaimed albums together.  Glenn Mercer and Bill Million were perfect together even with broken strings - they did not need the glances towards each other, they were spot on.  As they played, they warmed up, danced about the stage.  There was not an opening band.  There was no need for one.  The band captivated us for close to three hours, played an REM cover, Shaking Through. Covers by the Velvet Underground and The Beatles (Me and My Monkey) I just hope they discovered a venue last night and will consider returning to it since it appears they have played in the same venues for the past few years.  Brenda said between a song; “You have a beautiful town.”  But maybe next time we can bring a few more of our arses into a Saturday night in Westhampton and fill up the plush maroon seats and share the joy of this band.  Then you too can hear our beloved wise ass from the rows behind us; plead to the sweaty performers who slowly came out for a third set, “Stop it already, I need to take a piss!”

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

New Day Rising

Easter 2014 17:32

This morning Ali and I woke up fairly early for a Sunday, say about 5:15, put on our clothes and headed out to Cedar Beach to attend Easter sunrise service.  When we approached I was surprised by the number of cars which were parked neatly in rows, which is a common sight for the summer at the beach, but assuming as I did; there will not be many of us, I was pleasantly surprised.  Reverend Diane and the other minister from another local church greeted us and turned to watch the sun cast its gentle light on the morning water.  The sky was glowing.  The service began.  We sang Cat Stevens or as he is known today, Yusuf Islam, Morning has broken.  Jeff had his acoustic guitar and Jamie from the choir led the small crowd which sang in broken harmonies in the early morning winds…we have begun.  A new day is here.  A call for us to transform from our darkness like Jesus did, bringing us life everlasting.  And I prayed for Amanda up in Boston, since this is the day before the Boston Marathon and just over a year from the bombings.  Lord bestows peace.  The city shakes off the fear and remains united.  I thought of Husker Du and one of my favorite albums, New Day Rising as well as the song. I prayed this morning for my friends who are suffering from their own conflicts and lack of love and rubbed Ali’s back, grateful she was there with me.  It’s Easter and we can change from our ways and make a new start, not just for Easter but in this season as long as we are open to be transformed.  When we came home, Ali went back to sleep since she did not sleep well last night.  I read my daily chapter, today it was Romans chapter 12 which contains the following verse (2) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  I have a post- it- note on my desk which is from the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, “What I really need is to get clear of what I must do, not what I must know except insofar that knowledge must precede every act.  What matters in to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I do, the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me…” May this season, bring blessings to you and your family and may we all find what God wills us to do - with compassionate hearts.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Is Roger McGuinn an exceptional musician, an American treasure...or a paranoid celebrity?

4/12/14 20:33 Home

On Thursday night I drove to Bay Shore from Port Jefferson.  I’m at the end of my rope with my GPS which I bought a few years ago.  It has the annoying tendency to bring me though all sorts of side roads and through every street light which just happens to have ability to sprint to red when I approach.  On a rare occasion I don’t mind the scenic view.  I get to see small hamlets in Pennsylvania where I travel for work, and if I have the time - I truly appreciate the faded architecture, quaint towns with empty benches on deserted sidewalks, stoic tree lined Main Street... but the GPS gives and takes.  It does not filter.  I have been in places where share panic creeps up and I pray to God to let the lights turn to green and please keep the car running.  Don't stop!  The GPS was up to some old tricks on my journey to the Bolton Center.  The good news I made it on time for the Roger McGuinn show.  I can’t complain, and on the way back home I let my sense of direction lead the way and made it home in good time.  Before I write about after the show, I have to share some thoughts.  For instance you’re waiting for the story why I feel Roger McGuinn may suffer from a severe dose of paranoia or perhaps it’s something else he’s battling with?  First, the Bolton Center is a very intimate venue, less than 265 seats, the back rows rise up so you’d need to walk up a flight of stairs to get to your seat unless you’re in the VIP section.  For a little place - you can’t go wrong taking a hike.  I took my seat, middle of the theater and scanned over the rest of the sold out crowd, I was one of the youngest. The seats were compact and had an elbow in my sides for the first half of the show.  Even a dirty look couldn't stop the physical contact.  Anyway, I should be one the youngest. This was a Roger McGuinn show for God’s sake, the man was one of the Byrds, the singer, the leader for all of those classic albums.  1965...the year I was born. He is not from my generation.  He came out playing, “So you want to be a rock n roll star,” on his Rickenbacker.  His voice was crisp and his playing blew me away.  The set which was roughly two hours with a fifteen minute intermission.  The show was presented without flaws and was full of insightful stories of how the Byrds started, from their name (Thanksgiving) to the legends they worked with and the side-notes behind their songs, the Dylan classic, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, which was the first “rock” single Columbia released.  The now classic record company was very conservative.  The story behind his single for the Easy Rider soundtrack is classic, Dylan wrote some lyrics on a napkin and Peter Fonda who starred and directed the movie brought it to Roger.  When Fonda came to his house with the napkin, he told Roger, Dylan said, “Let McGuinn work on it, he came make something out of it.”   The story how they came to write 8 Miles High was funny, and as he played the opening, he said he filled it in with some John Coltrane and Andres Sagovia…  Chestnut Mare, and songs off Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Turn, Turn, Turn. There unique Irish folk songs, old time ancient maritime songs from whaling ships as well as more stories.  He played the 12 String guitar as well as acoustic and banjo.  As the show progressed and as I felt in awe for the supreme musician.  I know it sounds like bull shit, but honestly - I felt it was an honor - to be in his audience.  McGuinn is an American treasure.  I was amazed at his mastery of the guitar.  And I mean it.  I’d like to see him again.  Alright, so you may know I like autographs.  I heard McGuinn does not come out after the show to sign at his merchandise table.  There were some signed CD’s and posters for sale. Not too expensive, but I brought an album with me which I left in the car. After the concert I head out to my car which I parked behind the theater.  I sat down, turned the key and looked at my album.  I felt that tug; he’s still here and you can wait outside and…maybe get him to sign it?  I walk over the stage door in back and figure; I’ll knock and see if I can get this done.  There were two guys standing off to the side.  I bang.  “What are you doing?”  I was going to see if I can get this signed.  “No, you can’t do that; you’re going to piss him off!”  Will he come out there?  “We’ll see…just wait.”  While waiting with the two other men who were younger than me, I heard their stories they exchanged with one another, meeting Sting and Bono, seeing President Carter last week.  One of them tells us - he has more than a thousand autographs and pictures.  Let’s call him Celebrity.  I feel this is a good sign, since Celebrity knows what he’s doing and I’m going home with signed album.  He shows us pictures of him and Sandra Bullock, Robert Deniro, Brad Pitt. I kid you not.  How do you?  He was coy,“Friends tell me where to go.”  It was getting later and getting a little cooler standing outside in the night air; a truck is backed up to the stage door.  One of the employees for the theater opens the stage door and tells us, “He’s not signing.”  Celebrity tells him, “I just want a picture, I can ask - right?”  The employee shrugs his shoulders giving us the impression, we don't get it...Roger McGuinn is a different guy, he’s not doing anything.  Keep in mind, there were…one…two…three of us.  That is all.  Not a big crowd to swarm over the rock n roll star.  What’s up?  But remember I read McGuinn does not sign.  His wife, Camille is his manager and as I learned – she is his main security guard.  I encountered her direct and blunt orders.  She does not let anyone close to him. Before the brief sighting outside with the legend, his instruments were packed into the truck.  Celebrity tells me, “Don’t try to shake his hand.”  I nod.  I get it; he’s a musician and does not want my big claws to squeeze too tight and perhaps bust a knuckle or something.  I get it.  The back door opens and his wife, all 5 foot 6 storms up to us, waving her index finger, shaking her head,  “No, it’s not happening!  Good night!”  Being the tallest of the three, she comes up to me… gently but sternly pushes me away.  Why?  I ask her.  I just want one autograph.  And this is what she repeated over and over which shocked me, “It’s too dangerous.  It’s too dangerous.  No!  It’s too dangerous!”  While I am being pushed away, I see the hunched over rock n roll star escape from the open stage door and flee into the waiting truck, his door closes and he is secure.  Who is this?  I saw this once before when I saw President Obama in Philadelphia.  That’s another story.  This is Roger McGuinn, 1965, The Byrds, Turn...turn...turn...and his wife (maybe she was a former security guard and likes the role of enforcer) she gets in the truck and they drive off.  Roger waves.  That was nice.  I waved my album back to him and asked the rock star, just one autograph?  The truck drove off.  Celebrity calls his wife a bitch.  No, I don’t think so.  She was tough.  She loves her husband and wants to protect him.   And I tell them as they walk away, McGuinn is from the John Lennon generation.  And they walk away not knowing what I was trying to convey.  Take a look at what happened to Lennon.  Mark David Chapman, was one Lennon’s fans.  Maybe Roger is not taking any chances?  Even if it was only three of us; I’m sorry to have encountered such a negative reaction from him and his wife.  Most of the artists I meet are grateful for the recognition.  Not for Rock N Roll star, who does not have to sign anything or say a word.  I understand.  Wave to the crowds.  All three of us who stood there driven by vanity.  It was a lesson learned for me as well.  I should have enjoyed the show and went home with my album, and respected the privacy of the man and his wife. 

Dang, I still had some questions I wanted to ask him for this blog.  Oh well…

Thank you for reading this

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sharing Garden: an organic garden, in which all of the crops will be donated to a local food pantry

4/6/14 20:40 Home

Today, I read in front of the church, I do this about once a month which gives me the opportunity to sharpen my public speaking.  Today’s reading what a bit of a challenge Ezekiel Chapter 37 verses 1 through 14 which is long and starts with the title, The Valley of Dry Bones. The prophetic message was…well…sort of disturbing and sure - it is also hopeful.  From bones comes the flesh and with the flesh...breath.  I started with a brief introduction to the prophet, putting him in the company of Isiah and Jerimiah.  I’m not writing about the reading, although I will have to share with you as I walked back to our pew I saw Bella who gave me a thumb’s up. This is the same child who earlier - did not want to scoot into the pew to give me room to sit. She defiantly said; she didn’t want to move - she liked her seat - she had a better view of our handsome new music minister, a young man from Stony Brook University.

I want to keep a record of the organic garden we have at our church.  All of the fruits of our labor will be donated to a food pantry.  Those who are less fortunate can have organic and locally grown food.  Yesterday, I met the insightful and warm Iman Marghoob who is helping plan what the crops and will participate in the management of the garden; which is named Sharing Garden.  After leaving the house, as low grey clouds churned in the spring winds just a few hundred feet above the earth, I met Iman a little after 9:00.   She asked where the rest of the volunteers were.  The plan I had was to get together with her and discuss the layout of the garden as well as have some direction since I was expecting close to 12 volunteers who arrived at 10:00.  We had eight from a girl-scout troop and Jim Hennessey who was vital for repairing the wagon as well as Jeff Klauder and family.  Jeff’s wife, Mel is very knowledgeable about the species of plants and I have to say, was the hardest worker, pulling up weeds, tossing the dirt bombs with green tails into the wheel barrel with such precision -barely missing anyone close to her.  The girl scout troop jumped to work and were directed by Iman and their leaders as I went around with a digging fork, which is not the same as a pitch fork.  Most of us common folks refer to the fork looking instrument that we have in our garages or sheds at a pitch fork and now you’re like me –we know these are digging forks.  The pitch fork has thinner tines and used more often for lifting clumps hay.  The digging fork is used for lifting clumps of weeds or very good for pulling up potatoes, and as we discovered with a thrust of dirt – some soft beets which were unearthed from last year’s garden.  There is enough sun on one half of the garden and the second half will have assorted vegetables which do not require too much sun.   It’s a project I felt compelled to do.  The girl scouts plated pea seeds against a fence.  We marked sections, 5 x 5 with a 1.5 path.  This will be organic so it means removing any plastic walkways and instead using wood mulch.  We are planting seeds and with attentive care - the plants will sprout as the days increase in light.  So, to some who may be reading this - no more basketball; my Saturday mornings will be shared with other hands in the soil of our garden. Like I said, this will be a journal of what we can grow together; to share with our friends at the food pantry.  If you'd like to join us, please bring your own tools, clearly marked and most important - good thoughts of hope when walking through the garden's gate.

Six Months since I saw my wife due to Covid

  9/6/20 19:13 Home Tomorrow will be six months since my wife and I waved goodbye at the airport in Mexico City.   I planned to work in Me...