Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Friendly Monster

                         ( This is a story written by my pal Alyssa Sumner. She's eight yrs old.)




There was a monster .  In the forest he had a home. There were two little kid's and they made a deal  to go into the forest  . And if one of them screamed they lose  .It started to rain and fog up. They saw a big large black thing .They both  screamed  really loud and ran out of the forest .The monster tried  to tell them he was friendly but it did not work out very well  .The kid's  said," I think that was a monster ." So every night they would have bad dreams.  On Monday they went back in the same spot to tell the monster they were sorry .The monster came . They tried not to run. They both said," I am sorry" and the monster  said. " Okay do you want to be friends?". The kids said yes .So every night they would have good dreams about the monster. The next night after their parents went to sleep they went out in the forest . And they went to sleep  at the monster's wood house  "This is big, said the kids . And why do you think it is so big because he is big." He had an extra bedroom.
So in the morning before their  parents woke up they would go out during the day and play ball  . And same thing at night . The next day they found out that they were going on a vacation . So
very early in the morning they went to the monsters house to tell him that they were going .They came back on Wednesday and when they went home they threw their bags and went to the monsters house . But he was not there and they were only going for fourteen days. We thought he left with his family so they did not worry.  But now they were worried because  he was gone for  sixteen days. Even more days then they were!  Maybe he needs our help. We've been looking for him for two days now . Lets just wait. Maybe he stays with his family more then we do . It has been six days so we went looking for him. We found him. He was in a factory. They got him home and gave him food and lake water and he was okay. Now we went home and my parents hugged us and kissed us  because we were in the monsters house for 22 days .And we lived happy and loved. So did the monster.


So when  we went on  vacation together we told our mom and dad about the monster . They were scared just like us . But when we went we went on vacation they were fine,


                                                                   The End     

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Oh....You got a problem with me?!

    " I got a lot of problems with you people!!!!!!" A quote from Frank Costanza as the airing of grievances was about to begin. The group was about to celebrate "a Festivus for the Restofus."  Feats of strength to follow. (It always comes back to Seinfeld)
     We seem to have a lot of problems with "you people" today. Pick your group. Hilary - Donald, black - white, immigrant - native, liberal - conservative, Yankees - Red Sox, Stones - Beatles, crunchy - smooth. Wars have been fought over such things. Have you read Gulliver's Travels? Worth your while. The cartoon (see left) is also very cool. But I just can't be that passionate all the time. I guess that gene bypassed me. I was fairly passionate about learning to play the guitar, bass, drums..... and the whole British Invasion music scene. I was more than fairly passionate about one or two bands that I was in, women I've been lucky enough to fall in love with and cool dogs/cats I've known. Cruelty to animals can certainly get my Irish up. (It's ok. I'm Irish)  But that Abbie Hoffman, Gloria Steinem, run for political office, save the whales kind of passion.......zoom!....over my head. I think the whales should be saved. I think women  deserve equal pay for equal effort and I applaud the men and women who've made the commitment to run for political office. It's expensive, invasive and just can't be much fun. I've met a number of
politicians over the years and observed that their main job seems to be running for, obtaining and keeping political office and doing/saying whatever it takes to that end. A few have even discreetly admitted that to me.  Still, it's a commitment. And I've found that they're usually very likeable people one on one.
     In my job I meet a lot of "corporate types." At one point I was a corporate type ridin' the fast track. I realized  quickly that I didn't have the temperament, interest, desire.....passion...... for doing everything it took to climb the ladder. Thus, I've opted for a life of calm, music, the road, airports, hotels etc. Of course, it's a trade off. Peace vs financial security. Worth it?  I've recently turned sixty five. I'm not so sure. But as Don Corleone said, "This is the life we have chosen." And I'm ok with that. I have to be.
     But the corporate types I meet have a lot of problems with "you people." In this case you people are the kids coming out of college and into the work force. Millennials. I have the opportunity to have forty five minute conversations with this group and it can be.....eye opening. I've heard the word "entitled" bandied about. (I don't think I've ever written "bandied" before)  I met a young lady a while back who was fresh out of college and ready to start her career. She was interviewing with NJ pharmaceutical companies. I thought, "Well, that's a noble undertaking. Fighting cancer and other debilitating diseases right on the front lines." And thankfully great strides have been made. The cost of bringing a drug to market and the impact on the public.....you and me........ is another discussion. So I mentioned the nobility of her decision and she enlightened me with the salary range of each of her steps for the next thirty years. Enthusiastically! I said, "And you can actually change the world!" Her response? "I guess...." Her main gripe was that she had to show up every day at eight thirty to a corporate office location. She didn't think that was fair. She wanted to work from home.... ☹.  I replied, "The bastards!!!" She agreed.
     Now maybe she was the exception. Upper management doesn't seem to think so. I was in the student union at Barnard college, uptown Manhattan,  post 2017 presidential election. There was a board posting that therapy dogs would be made available to anyone who felt disenfranchised or otherwise traumatized by the results of said election. I wonder what the guys who survived the Normandy Beach landing or years in a Vietnamese prison camp would think of that. But I'm just an observer. I report. You decide.
     Which brings me to "vocal fry." You know about this? I think it started with the Kardashians. That low growl speech thing. Yes. I watched early Kardashians. Like all the reality shows it started out interesting then evolved into bad acting, ala The Osbournes and Breaking Bonaduce.  Danny and Ozzy......now THAT was entertainment. When Danny Bonaduce skateboards down that LA hill ignoring all traffic, stops at the liquor store, pours a pint of vodka into a half empty Hawaiian punch container and downs the whole thing in one gulp....well.......you can have your "Twelve Angry Men," but that's must watch TV. And don't get me started on Ozzy trying to figure out the remote or the garbage disposal. "Sharon!!!!!!!" The vocal fry on women is kinda sexy. On young guys? Creepy.  I was playing at a local restaurant last week and overheard a conversation among two girls and a guy. The guy had vocal fry. The girls didn't. Weird......and creepy.  
     I think we owe just a little bit of props to our grandparents and parents for getting through the depression and a couple of world wars. Waddaya think? Just a little? They were a tough, resilient group. Of course, they had no choice. And we as humans tend to rise to the occasion. I hope we still can.  I've had some  tough times. We all have. But I've never been really hungry, usually had a place to sleep (even if it was a beach or the back seat of a VW) and never had to dodge bullets. Well there was some shooting in my backyard in Plainfield, NJ in 1966 but I don't think that was directed at me. (Ma! I'm on board with that moving thing now!) I've also been hearing the word "Snowflake" lately. It's amusing how all the news shows gravitate to the same hip words at the same time. Me? I wouldn't call anyone a snowflake. But if I did and your feelings were hurt.....I know where you can get a therapy dog.          Peace.
    
    

Sunday, June 11, 2017

That's life..........

  
I feel like I was born at a perfect time. Maybe everyone feels like that. I hope they do. I was just old enough to watch the formation of the sixties with the innocence of pre pubescent eyes. Music was everywhere. The Everly's morphed into Jan and Dean into Motown into Dylan into.......an explosion.
   I was fortunate enough to have been playing guitar for about four or five months before the Beatles turned everything upside down on that snowy February night. Now I was calling the shots. At least till everyone caught up; which they soon did. My guitar teacher was a folkie and The MTA and Walk right In and Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley had been ok but now when McCartney sang, "She was just seventeen. You know what I mean," I wanted to know what he meant!! I played at my first party when I'd just turned thirteen. We had three or four songs we could stumble through including an elongated version of Gloria. Just three chords and the truth, man. That was a big night. Playing onstage ...well...in a corner of my buddy's basement. And experiencing my first kiss. I want to shake the guy's....or girl's....hand who invented spin the bottle.  Life was becoming a lot more interesting.
   I played guitar in a number of bands through Junior HS and HS taking a sabbatical during my first year of college. I'm not sure why. When I started playing again there were a lot of really good guitar players around...and very few bass players. Hey Ma, look! I'm a bass player. I have to thanks the sales guy at Hi-Way Music in East Brunswick, NJ for staying open a little later that night and allowing Mike, Rock and me to make some noise. My first attempt at bass. It felt natural and easy. Within a week I had a Fender Music Man bass and a Fender Bassman amp. Our search for a bass player was over. Life is full of crossroads. It was end of summer and I'd been offered a job from a high school friend who was managing a company in my home town of Piscataway.  I hadn't finished signing up for school yet. And I had a fairly low draft lottery number. We were practicing a lot and we decided to go all in with the music thing. Ah....youth. A lot of unhappy parents.
   I didn't get drafted, didn't take the job and for about the next ten years played the NJ music scene. Again the timing was right . Urban Cowboy was happening and our music....country rock.... was the thing. That band  eventually wound down and I was ready to pack it in. On the night of our last gig, at The Red Fox inn in New Brunswick, NJ, I was approached by a woman who asked me if I'd like to join their band. And so it continued. Of course, bands come and go and I wound up playing everything from bluegrass to new wave to blues to wedding material and all that encompassed, with lousy bands, good band and great bands of all shapes and sizes including a few forays into musical theater. Leader Of The Pack was a hoot. I faked my way through that  one. I told the director I could read music. I couldn't. About halfway through the run he came up to me and said,  "You can't read music, can you." (um...no...I can't) "Well....just keep doing what you're doing. (ok).  Annie Golden, Ellie Greenwich and Darlene Love came to see the show on the last night.  It was so much easier being in the band in the show than being the actor in the show. I saw lots of throwing up . After our first half hearted attempt at stardom didn't pan out  I was never really interested in anything more than making a living playing music. I thank my parents for always having a room ready when called for. An early eighties two month gig in Bermuda finally led me back into the work force. But I never gave up part time music. Now I drive a limo by day, do a radio show one day a week and gig maybe two or three times a month. For the last few years as a solo player. Hello guitar. Where ya been?
   I have to tell you I wrote this entry mainly for....me.  Self serving? Yeah. I guess so. George Harrison sang, "You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been."  Just a little taking stock. Roads not taken. Opportunities missed. Or not. I'm trying to keep it all straight. I have this strange feeling that I can see the end. Not in a bleak maudlin way. But in a bright celebratory way.  We all want to feel as if we've made a difference. Left a mark in some small way. I know a number of couples who've met and gotten together at one of my gigs. A few wound up married!  I've gotten many calls over the years on my radio show about how a song I played or an anecdote I told stirred a memory or made a difference.  Is it curing cancer? No. But as Robert Redford said in The Sting after they'd conned the guy who killed they're friend out of half a million dollars, "It's not enough......but it's close." Sometimes close is all we have. I was doing a solo gig at a restaurant about a year ago. A young Asian couple was there for a couple sets. As they left they handed me a napkin. On it was written, "I loved the music. Thank you for giving us good time!!" Smiley face. It's framed in my music room. Is it enough? No........but it's close.     Peace.
  

Sunday, June 04, 2017

A sailor's life for me!

  

  I've always believed that in life, we need something to look forward to. A vacation.... day off......concert....gig. Something. An adventure. As you get older adventures become progressively less...... adventurous. Last summer I took a solo kayak/camping trip to Round Valley Reservoir in NJ. One night. Danger level. Slight. The communing with nature/introspection/ fun level. High. Although I have a nice scar on my hand from falling into the fire ring in the middle of the night....it's a small price to pay.
   I've had my share of cool adventures. One of the cooler  was a sail from Cape Cod, Mass to New York Harbor. Circa late 70's, summer, around July 4th. Remember the "tall ship" thing? This adventure was with a former girlfriend, her two bosses and their two boys. We'd rented the sailboat (with motor) and a captain and his wife. The boat was a good size wooden rig from the 40's named "The Flying Fish." The story goes it'd been featured in a Hollywood movie and was a favorite of some old Hollywood celebs. I can't verify that. The deal was a sail to Lady Liberty and we could be as involved as we wanted in all aspects of the sailing process.
   The first night on board was uneventful. Good food, drink and camaraderie. I was feeling like an old salt. Where the HELL is my parrot.  Took off the next morning and the trip across Cape Cod Bay was rough. Really rough. If you tried to get up you almost immediately crashed into something. I was having a ball. The other passengers....not so much. At one point I could wait no longer. The head (bathroom) beckoned. I made it down the stairs, got flung onto a bed and thought I could just about rebound to the bathroom door. As I reached for the door it crashed open discharging its occupant into the opposing wall with his pants still around his knees. That's probably graphic enough. I guess I've laughed harder but I can't remember when. We were rockin n' rollin'. Our hosts weren't too concerned. It was rough but they'd seen rougher. We pitched in toting barges and lifting bales almost getting tossed overboard in the process. Everyone hung in. Made the best of it. Lotsa hootin' and hollerin.' And no one chummed!
   Things calmed down and by evening we made it across the bay. It took a little longer 'cause as it turned out a lobster trap had hooked onto us for the ride. With lobsters. My friend decided she'd had enough. Being the chivalrous dude I am I accompanied her to a little vacation spot her sister had rented on the Cape. The next day I hopped a bus to Newport and planned to hook up with the Flying Fish to continue the adventure. The harbor in Newport was crammed! You could almost walk across the decks out to the ocean. There was a small motorboat ferrying people from the dock out to their respective boats. I told them to keep an eye out for the "Fish" and indeed they eventually spotted her. Boats are female....right? They gave me a lift out and the back slapping and beer cracking commenced. One of the tall ships was anchored not too far from us. A replica of either the Nina or the Pinta. Don't remember which but it was pretty cool. And small. It gave me a new respect for Columbus and his gang. Talk about an adventure.
    The next day we were cruisin'. Shanties were being sung, knots were being tied,  pirate language abounded until......the engine took a crap. We spent about eight hours in dry dock as the Captain and his mechanic buddy, who fortunately was fairly close by, worked their magic. At this point one of the guys and his son jumped ship They said it'd been  fun but they'd just had their fill. And then there were six. The mechanic came along for the rest of the trip. He was a real sea dog. We took showers via these solar warmed water bags. Then a plunge and an attempt to grab the boat's rope as it came by. Got it on the first shot. Almost everyone did. (we went back for him)  It was a beautiful evening as we started down the Long Island Sound.
   And then it happened. The adventure. Everyone checked out for the night and it was just Ahab and me. He was pretty well wiped out and asked me if I'd like to take the wheel. I did. A quick lesson on how to stay on course...landmarks, stars etc and I was on my own. As a Pisces could I have been any more at home surrounded by all this water?  Peaceful doesn't quite say it. The moon, the stars....the steady hum of the engine.... the rhythm of The Flying Fish gently slicing through the waters of the Long Island Sound..... and time to reflect on and enjoy..... everything. Every now and then Ahab or the Captain would stick his head up to make sure we were still afloat. Other than that it was me and the Flying Fish working our way toward NY Harbor. Past Huntington Beach at the tip of Long Island and past towns I recognized from the morning rush hour traffic reports. The night just went too fast.
   By late afternoon the State of Liberty came into sight along with Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria and about a thousand other crafts of all shapes and sizes. Quite a dinner party. Lots of new friends and one of the coolest fireworks display I've ever experienced complete with tugboats 'a sprayin'. I wish I could tell you how I got home. Not because of any substance abuse.....I just don't remember.
   Adventures. They get smaller as we get older. You just have to pick 'em and choose 'em. A trip to the batting cage/driving range becomes an adventure. An evening stroll to the local baseball field to watch six innings of walks and errors becomes an adventure. A  day of body surfing or a ride on a  roller coaster becomes an adventure. A walk around the neighborhood with someone you love....becomes an adventure. It starts up here. (I'm pointing to my head.) And in here. (I'm pointing to my heart.) Search it out. And please....don't ever stop!    Peace.
  


  

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Do the right thing? I can barely tie my shoes!


Have you noticed that people are now starting their sentences with the word "So"....followed by a thoughtful pause? "Dr. Jones, what's big pharma's response to the latest criticism regarding the increase in the cost of prescriptions to senior citizens?" (Dr. Jones) "So,...we feel... yadda yadda....."  Or "Senator, How will the new tax plan affect the constituency in your home state of Minnesota?"  (Senator) So.....given the current state of the national tax rate vs yadda...and.....yadda." At first it sounded kinda cool. Now....not so much. There's a little bit of a cringe factor every time I hear it. It comes across as a stall tactic. Like "That's a great question, Bob." Does he/she really think Bob just came up with a great question?
    I remember when I came home from college for Christmas break circa 1970. I was talking music with one of my best pals. He said, "Yeah...I just can't get into Crosby, Stills and Nash." It sounded foreign and a little pretentious. But soon I was referring to the things I couldn't "get into." And then it's in the lexicon and one day you overhear your parents saying it. I can "get into" hip phrases, like the above, "now, not so much"..... but the stalling "so"....not....so much?
   So.....I've been doing a radio show every Thursday morning for the last twenty four years. Post current election I've had a few interesting experiences. A gentleman called me about two weeks after Donald Trump ascended the presidency. He said he'd been a fan of the show but could no longer listen as I was obviously a Trump supporter. Now...I play music, relate some goofy tales and might make a political comment once every.....well....I don't remember, and then, usually just as a chuckle. As a reference, my voting record has been Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, McCain...and...I'll leave it there. I ain't that political! At first I laughed till I realized he was serious. I told him I appreciated his listenership and support and directed him up the dial to another show he may enjoy. A week later. A WEEK! I got a call from a woman who informed me she could no longer listen to my show as I was obviously a Hilary supporter. I thanked her for her listenership and support and directed her to a station up the dial that she may enjoy. I just don't have the energy to argue about this stuff. No one's gonna change any one's mind! People now immediately believe any sound byte that supports their side. And there's enough information out there to support any argument from any angle on any given day. I tell my friends on the left the same thing I told my friends on the right eight years ago. Relax. It'll be fine. Live your life. You'll get another chance.
    I never did get this "wanting the president to fail" thing. With Obama or Trump. That just gave/gives me a creepy feeling. Maybe this'll turn out ok. Maybe it won't. That's why we have elections. Hey man, I'm just plodding through life trying to pay my bills every month. If I get to play some music every now and then, sit out back in the sunshine with my dog or just hang out with Linda and enjoy laughing at this nutty world while binge watching Netflix........ well....that's good enough.  And who the hell has time to go to  protests, marches, etc. Again, that paying the rent thing. If you feel you must...I applaud you. I went to a couple Vietnam war protests back in the day but if I'm gonna be honest....it was to meet girls. Also, I had a low lottery number and thought there was a good chance Uncle Sam would be sending me on an all expense paid trip to Southeast Asia sometime that year. It never happened. I've always regretted that. Not at the time ...... but more recently. I have this feeling I let somebody down. This country's been pretty good to me. And I've been lax in the effort department. How 'bout a do over?  Now that I know how it works, I'm ready.
    Remember the movie, "Do the right thing?" I never saw it. But I've become a proponent of the concept. A drummer friend of mine bought some maracas which turned out to be crap and broke fairly quickly. He brought them back to the store. The sales guy said, "Waddaya want me to do?" My disgruntled pal said, "I just want you to do the right thing." The sales guy swapped them out for a better pair at no extra charge. Do the right thing. That stuck with me. I've since made a better effort to do the right thing. To TRY to do the right thing. I fail...often. But less and less. And the more conscious you are of doing the right thing the more that feeling in your belly will remind you when you're not. I was about to list a bunch of what might be the right things you can do but you already know them. And it's mainly little things. As you're throwing something in the trash and you notice more trash a few feet away chuck that in, too. As Ed Norton said, "The small details, Ralph." (I'm RICH! Nawtin, get the bag!) No one under fifty will get that.
     On the aforementioned radio station I've had the opportunity to train a number of people. It's diversified programming and the question always comes up, What should I play? What's a popular format?" The answer's always the same. It has to be. Play what you like....what you know.... and let your audience find you. 'Cause whatever you play someone's gonna think you're a Hilary supporter and that other guy's gonna think you're a Trump supporter. Someone's gonna hate the Stones and someone's gonna love the Stones. I'd get a call every once in a while from a guy who'd open with, "Turn that crap off!" Well, I'd tell him how much I missed him and, of course, would proceed to turn that crap up! I do miss that guy. He was so.....disgruntled. Gotta respect that.
And there you have it. Some Brain (K)nots for a Sunday afternoon. Agree....disagree. Doesn't matter. Cuz...my water bill's due. AGAIN!
Good luck.        Peace.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A "Rock" Of Ages

"There is a path, no simple highway
 Between the dawn and the dark of night
 And if you go, no one may follow
 That path is for your steps alone."
Freewheelin 1975


   This is a verse from the Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia tune "Ripple." I've heard this song broken out at different poignant life moments. Funerals, weddings, graduations, openings, closings etc. My best buddy, band mate, road co pilot...Rock.....passed away in a Connecticut hospice yesterday. Liver complications and post cancer problems were the main culprits. From all accounts he faded away peacefully in his sleep. It's been a tough road. As his friend/brother I can say he brought it on himself. He seemed like he was working towards this end. If his liver was a cartoon it'd have a big wide mouth on it screaming STOP!!! And so it goes......
  I met Rock when I moved from Plainfield, NJ to Piscataway, NJ. in 1966. Age thirteen. I was already in a Plainfield band but distance dictated a new road. My neighbor, Ronnie, got a set of drums and put me on to a guitar player who lived down the road. Rock. I remember sitting in Rock's bedroom watching him play some surf instrumentals. This was a far cry from the British Invasion stuff I'd been playing. He had a Stratocaster copy and didn't miss a note. I was impressed. We grabbed Mike to play bass and George, a local lady killer to sing and front and The Plague was born. We settled into a cross between The Beach Boys and The Yardbirds winning an audition for our first gig at mine and Ron's junior HS, Conackamack, conveniently located around the corner from our houses. Ronnie and I were standing outside the school that Friday afternoon when Rock finally appeared over the hill frantically pushing a wheelbarrow containing our PA/guitar system, a Univox amp Rock's mother bought that supported two guitars and two mics. Decked out in high roll and Beatle boots, as we were, he was a sight to behold.
  Band battles, local parties and dances followed but the plague came to a close as high school began. Rock disappeared into a girlfriend and only made sporadic appearances. Once he appeared at my house on a Saturday afternoon to borrow my English Leather Lime. Remember that stuff?  I told him he could have some but the bottle had to stay as I needed it also. He wasn't happy with that. After a visit to the bathroom he left in kind of a huff. I had a brief suspicion and went up to check my English Leather and there was the box right where it should be. That night I was heading out and went for the lime. The box was weirdly light because the BOTTLE WAS GONE!!!!! In that moment I may have been capable of murder. But by the time I saw Rock again I was calmed down and had come to appreciate the slick move. Bravo. Rock was an only child and  we'd run into him at the weirdest times; movies, baseball games, and he'd usually be alone. I didn't really get that till later on when he mentioned how he envied us all having siblings and got used to doing things alone. He was always a popular guy but was just as comfortable alone as he was in a crowd. I guess.
  He was always surprising me. Like when he played Romeo in a High School production, English accent and all. In later years he could always bring the house down with the "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks" monologue. He also became a defensive end for the Immaculata HS football team. He wasn't big but he was quick. One of my proudest moments was during a neighborhood football game when I outran Rock for a touchdown. I guess I was really on and he was a little off. He said, "Ya got me on that one." First and last time. But I remember it like it was yesterday.  
  Fast forward to our early 20s. Rock reappeared as a single man as guitars were broken out and the Plague was reborn. His mom, Fran, again sprung for a PA system and practice space in their basement.  Lots of beer, homemade wine via Rock's dad, Harry, different aromatic substances and music, music, music. The Plague was now The Wichita Straw Band and eventually Freewheelin'. Rock and I survived a road trip to Denver in his MG Midget and a VW trip to Tucson with two other pals. He got a VW Camper and gigs were on. Some personnel changes as guys took different paths and Freewheelin' had a pretty good run on the 70's NJ club scene. We opened up for Blackfoot, a raucous Native American band at The Final Exam, where we were warned to not be too good and don't play over our time. These guys were scary. But at the end of the night they invited us onto their bus for a helluva party into the wee hours.  We opened up for Sauce at the Strand Theater in Plainfield; the same theater where Rock and I had double dated when we were fourteen. Full circle.  Lots of miles, gigs, Grateful Dead concerts, recording, chasing women.....sometimes catching them.....sometimes running from them..... and eventually sharing a band house in the hills of Hunterdon County.
  I was proud  to be asked to be Rock's best man but he soon felt the call to leave music and join the real world. He was a born salesman and eventually owned his own company. Just as we all figured he would. My father used to say, "That guy could sell ice to an Eskimo." He was Eddie Haskell....but likeable......without the nasty Haskelly stuff. A sincerity shone through. He had a beautiful daughter Christine, from his first marriage and two boys, Tim and Adam, from his second. He'd also been doing some gigs with Adam who sounds just like him. I visited him in a Hartford hospital on Thanksgiving Day and  got to see him enjoying his new granddaughter. I had a little alone time with him and got to tell him I loved him. He responded in kind, I gave him a kiss on the cheek and left. I think those long business lunches and road time contributed to the problems I mentioned earlier....and yesterday he said good bye. His wife Donna has been through it. A real trouper and a wonderful partner.
  So many stories left out. The sit down lawn mower. Playing and joining in bar brawls. Being invited to practice on his first wife's family's property and how that turned out. Not good. Bad dates. Good dates. Hitch hiking adventures. Chases in the snow from irate drivers who's just been pelted with snowballs. Cuttin' out on the check. (not proud of that) Cuttin' out on each other. An infamous Piscataway tradition. Break downs at 3 o' clock in the morning on a winter highway.
  Rock had a good heart. He was always cool. Even after I dropped his Gibson SG and the neck snapped he wouldn't let me pay to have it fixed. As he'd always say, "Hey...shit happens."  We didn't talk as much as his career rolled but I still would get that occasional message or text that would start with, "Remember that time".....Remember that guy"....."Who was the guitar player that night"....."Who did that song".... and on and on. And when he was in the neighborhood on a sales visit there was always time for a long lunch at a favorite haunt. Man, did we laugh! I asked him to be an usher at my wedding during one of those lunches. (my  brother got the best man spot) In his Rock way he said, "Yeah, I guess I can suit up one more time."
  He was a pretty good rhythm guitar player, a good singer, a very good banjo player and an excellent front man. "Don't forget folks, the more you drink, the better we sound." "This is an old Chinese song we'd like to do called tun ing." Just a couple classics. But most importantly, he was my brother....my friend.  There's a hole in my life, my....our.... hearts, that will eventually be filled by lots of good memories. But for now....just a hole. In the words of the late great Jimi Hendrix, a quote that Rock, and I, liked to summon up every now and then, "If I don't see you in this life, I'll see you in the next. And don't be late."         Peace..........
 
National Hotel 2004
 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Still here....somehow.......

II
  I just turned 64. I swear I never thought I'd make it this far. When I think back to some of my "antics"....well.......I'm thankful I'm here. I'm a slow learner. I'm just starting to get it. Well, maybe around 50 I started to get it. I'm a Pisces. I'm a dreamer. If I could get paid for dreaming I'd have a mansion on the hill. The thing is.....I never wanted a mansion on a hill.
   We've all seen the posts regarding the "dangers" we survived as kids. Some real. Some....not so dangerous. Kids rolling around in the back of a station wagon with no seat belts is ,,,,fun?.....dangerous? Walking to school by yourself? No bike helmets? Etc and so on. You decide. There was a big drainpipe we used to walk through in Greenbrook Park in Plainfield, NJ. Went on for hundreds of yards. I later found out that gas was released through that pipe in regular intervals. Cheated death again. Falls through the ice, exploring new and old deserted buildings, cutting through cemeteries, flying down hills across roads on bikes with no brakes, On and on.
   In my job I meet lots of parents. The job seems to be....keep the kids occupied at all time! Early school starts, sports, sports, sports and hours of homework seem to be the norm. College tours are starting in sophomore year. I decided I wanted to go to The University of Texas at El Paso in my senior year. I applied, got accepted, secured a $1,000.00 loan (this covered tuition, books and dorm...with a meal plan), my mom co signed and I was off. Never went to see the school. Mom bought me a suitcase for HS graduation and gave me a ride to Newark Airport in September. See ya at Christmas!
   I was....am.... lucky. As a kid I feel like I had it all. Good home life. Family dinners every day around 5:30. Friends. Baseball. Lots of freedom. Adventures. Plenty of alone time. (That Pisces/dreamer thing), TV, choir, altar boy, and later...uh oh.....musician.  My popularity increased. Maybe the intense competition was there, but if it was....it went right over my head. I know this is sacrilege but I never minded coming in second. And it made coming in first that much sweeter. Competition, from what I observe, has reached an intensity that I, and my pals never experienced. Again. Better? Worse? I guess it depends on the singular experience. But the world has become more intense, more competitive.
   Stupidity also entered the picture later on. Driving to the gig with four guys in a VW camper with no seat belts, loaded with equipment, beer and bags of weed.....probably not a good idea. Ditto for the ride home. The danger factor just never crossed our mind. Really. Or hitch hiking from El Paso to Hollywood. Hitch hiking  was the mode of travel in the 60's and 70's.  But again....survived. Most of us. Some dangers we bring on. Others are just out there. And that's life on planet earth. As long as lessons are learned along the way...and there's still room for Bugs Bunny and the Three Stooges........I'm cool with it.