Wednesday, July 04, 2018

We Hold These Truths.......

    Happy Fourth of July, 2018!!! This 4th finds the country as divided as I've ever seen it. I've read about the division/rancor of times past......pre Revolutionary War, Civil War, the ugliness of earlier elections etc. In MY life....this is as bad as it gets. Unfortunate. I've always believed  in supporting the president, whoever he or she may be. Not a popular concept. When my guy loses it's akin to when the Yankees lose the World Series. A quick "dang," a deep breath and....back to life.  "We'll get 'em next time."

Imagine....just imagine.....if we all sucked up the loss and got behind Bush, Clinton, Obama and...dare I say it...Trump.....without constantly throwing tacks under their tires. Maybe their ideas would fall flat. Maybe not. This does not mean throw out the nature of checks and balances. Always keep an eye on the man behind the curtain. But enough with the distraction! Clinton/Lewinski, Bush/National Guard, Obama/Birth Certificate, Trump/Da Russians. C'mon man. We all know each side gets angry when their guy loses and wants their side in at any cost....but can we just move on? This American experiment is going pretty well so far. Not perfectly...but pretty well. Here's what I told my anti Obama friends back then and what I tell my anti Trump friends now. Relax....breathe......there's another election around the corner. Live your life, love your family, climb a tree, pet a dog.... another dog.
    A large part of our problem as I see it is there's no serious dialogue. There's talk of dialogue but we're not really listening. I like the old adage about why we have two ears and one mouth. You get it. I'm sure you've been in a situation where you're making what you consider to be a valid point but you can see the other person not really absorbing what you're saying and just itching...ITCHING to start talking again. At this point I should confess I'm a moderate. WHAT!!!!????  You mean you try to see both sides of an issue and make a semi intelligent  decision based on....facts?! Or your personal core beliefs combined with facts?! Yeah. I try. Truth is a tough thing to find these days. I admit I can't find it. Lots of gray out there. And that's usually where the truth... or truth parts resides.
    Try this social experiment sometime. Sit down with one of your liberal friends and one of your conservative friends (assuming you may have one of each) and moderate a conversation. Your job? Shut up. The rules are one person speaks until his/her point is made....with NO interruption. The other person takes a beat or two, considers...CONSIDERS.... what was said and responds. And you can't start with, "Yeah, well what about.....?"  Respond to the point. I submit you can't do it. Maybe for a minute or two but then it will ultimately deteriorate into sound bytes.
    Politics is a dirty business. I've met politicians on a local level and politicians on a national level. No matter what their aspirations are going in, they ALWAYS wind up selling a little bit of their soul to a compromise. In their defense they have to.... if they're eyeing a higher office.  I saw this early on at a local level and it was an eye opener. So the cynic/realist in me assumes that Assemblymen, Congressmen, Senators and....higher ......probably have/had somewhat good intentions but not much soul left. And that, just the way it is. If you've watched the Sunday morning news shows you can see how everyone is scared "s.....less" to answer a question. Deflect!!!! The media scrutiny doesn't help. The slightest faux paux will follow them for the rest of their career. If they're liberal Fox will spin/edit it and if they're conservative CNN will spin/edit it. No debate here. Truth. Sorry if you're offended. Um....not really. You can substitute CNN and Fox for left and right media outlets. They ALL do it  to different degrees. I enjoy going back and forth watching the anchors contortions to make the headline fit their "truth."
    Having said all this I gotta admit I'm enjoying the Trumpster and his antics. I like a lot of what he's done and raise my eyebrow at other things. But I'm mostly enjoying the feigned outrage on the left. (In fairness, I also enjoyed the feigned outrage on the right during the Obama administration.) I'm a National Lampoon, Mad Magazine, Family Guy, SNL (when it was funny) kind of guy; warped, edgy sense of humor. I still laugh at ethnic jokes....even when they're directed at me. Irish. I wouldn't dare tell one. I'd have to move....change my name...! Just about nothing offends me. I mean really offends me. Not the knee jerk automatic offense we see daily. Poor baby. When did our skins become see through?   I saw a FB post this morning where a young lady was ranting that everyone should speak Americanish...all the time. The Canadians....The British. Everyone!!! Cuz this is the language of the future!!!!!  In my job I meet many millennials.  Bright group but many are....confused. I was chatting with a young man a few weeks ago who was earnestly trying to convince me that the French had won the Civil War. I like to play along in these conversations for the entertainment value. Just for fun I said I thought the Civil War was fought mainly on American soil. He said,"Sure, 'cuz after the War of 1812 President Hamilton freed the slaves  moving the war over here before it went back to France."👀  He was so proud I just had to say,"O man, I forgot that. It's been awhile. Thanks." And there we are.
    Ah....entertainment value. It can't be overrated. I remember at the first, possibly second debate  (don't let facts get in the way of a good point) when the question came up,"Is there anyone who will not back the Republican nominee?" No one raised their got it....Donald. Let the show begin!!! I met the Donald on a few occasions. Likable guy. But...they're ALL likable or they'd never get elected. At first I'd think, "Please, just keep quiet....stop tweeting......just improve the

economy and infrastructure." That's what he does. Now I say, "Let it rip...keep pissin' people off the ultimate contrarian...tweet....tweet....tweet! (I don't tweet so I never see them.) Lack of class? I guess...but unfortunately there's a lack of class everywhere. And I say again.....entertaining.
    And so my fellow Americans, on this day, a day we celebrate the invention of the hot dog by the great Dr. Frank N. Furter which, coincidentally, the Hessians were muching on when Gen George S Patton crossed the Delaware into Minneapolis and surprised them that Thanksgiving morning, thus turning the tide of WW 1, remember the last words of the late great General George Custer who reportedly said...."What the....?"
     But seriously my brothers and sisters....I hate (and I hate the word hate) to see friends losing friends over this microsecond of cosmic history. C'mon man. Stop. It all shakes out. Maybe not here. But somewhere. I'm sure of it. And to those feeling disenfranchised..... I hope next time your guy wins. I promise I'll support them post win...or maybe even pre win. Then we can all watch the OTHER side's righteous indignation.
     Now stop....take a breath.....consider..... and wait five seconds before you say, "What a freakin'  douche bag!" Feel free to leave a comment....or not. But if you better be in Americanish!  Or I'm really REALLY gonna be offended!  Happy 4th.      Peace.         

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Just my imagination.......runnin' away with me!

     As a Greenwich Village poet once wrote/sang, "The times, they are a' changin'." True. Then again, the times are always a' changin'. Sometimes for the better...sometimes for the worse......depending on your POV. I'd argue that the times are a' better compared to say 12th century England. Medically, technologically....not much of an argument. These days a cold, an infected tooth etc are probably not gonna kill you. As a serf on a medieval fiefdom ya takes yer chances.
    Technology is a double edged sword. I enjoy blogging, youtube, facebook but don't tweet, use instagram or any other social media. That's not to say I may not in the future. As a musician I love my harmonizer, effects pedals, compact PA system and the ease of home recording. And instead of having to move a needle back and forth on a record or spin a cassette to a desired location I simply say, "Siri, get me the chords and lyrics to Don't Let The Sun Catch You Cryin'" and  twenty five choices pop up on my phone/computer including youtube guys willing to painstakingly walk me through every chord change and nuance. Yeah....I'll take that over back in the day. In an earlier blog I included a bit about a Twilight Zone scientist whom Rod Serling leads back to a simpler time, as per his wishes, only to be completely frustrated that he can't do much with the antiquated equipment of the era. Hijinks ensue and he and Buster Keaton are led back to the wonderfully technologically superior 50's.
    The downside I see is a loss of connection....humanity.....imagination. A few years back I was driving a couple of young girls to the airport. They were in the back seat on their phones. Lots of giggling and elbow jabbing and I could see that they were having a conversation via text. They were right next to each other!!! On the other hand, if they didn't want the old hippie in the front seat to overhear their worked. I'm slowly getting sucked into the text world.  It does make it easier to not talk to people. Even easier than letting the answering machine take your messages. Remember that?
      I'm  popular with the kids in my family. I mean the really young ones They call me Ted and are not sure what my connection here is. But they know I'm always willing to roll on the floor, play hide and seek, climb a tree,  make a fort, crank up the music, eat ice cream right out of the carton and..... grandma seems to like me. And I guess that's enough.  I've never quite....grown up. It can be a problem. But one I embrace and refuse to apologize for. I have a theory. I think it's because I never had kids of my own. You have a life. You have kids. You start living their life. They become adults, move on and you get back to your life; looking back over that span of your kid's life to your old life as some kind of distant memory. Like a line with a chunk out of the middle. My line/life is uninterrupted.  Thus....the man/child. By proxy I've become a father and a grandfather. Not the same as the real thing but a lot of fun.
     But with all the devices kids have, alone time with their imagination seems to have taken a back seat. They'll certainly have the technical expertise to get through this life adventure but something will be....missing. I get, "I'm bored" a lot. When I reply," What....I'm here to entertain you? I'm your personal clown?," they don't even get the Goodfellas reference.( Sigh....)   When I suggest they read I get, " a book?" (Sigh...again....) Here comes the when I was a kid thing. When I was a kid I could amuse myself for hours with a rubber ball and front steps. Or a basketball and a hoop. Or exploring the woods behind my house. Add a buddy and we could take these adventures to the next level Make a raft or a go cart, become soldiers in a WW 2 battle ala"Combat,"or just have a catch and create any number of baseball oriented scenarios. And it continues to this day! I've missed many a NJ Turnpike exit because I've been involved in a personal daydream. Playing bass with the Boss 'cause Gary Tallent got held up and can't make the show. Or shipwrecked on a desert island and the different modes of survival I must employ. Does anyone else do this or am I a complete freak. Rhetorical. 
     I had an imaginary friend. I don't mean a blotter induced 1970's  college dorm imaginary friend but a friend I could see and hear and interact with. I was 4, 5, 6 yrs old and could summon Soupy out of the large radio in the living room. Remember those? It was a piece of furniture about four feet tall with radio, short wave and a turntable. Soupy was a bear. He stood upright, had a tie and a pork pie hat and a wise/wiseguy way of talking; like he was a little too hip for the room. Apparently no one else could see him but now and then, at my insistence, an extra chair would be set up at the dinner table and indulgences would be made. To this day I'm not sure if Soupy was real or an undigested piece of potato. Angel? Long gone relative? ET?  One day he just stopped showing up. And I "forgot" how to get him to show up. And then I just....forgot. But lately, for some reason, Soupy's been on my mind. My past and present seem to be getting closer; like they're gonna meet at some point. Weird. Imaginary friends, I've learned, are normal. Whew!
     Calvin and Hobbes was a comic strip I could relate to on so many levels. Calvin was a precocious, sensitive, kind kid who had a stuffed tiger, Hobbes. Hobbes would come to life when no adults were around. He would participate in Calvin's adventures and, at the same time, be a kind of conscience. Calvin was me. And Like the time Calvin speed ate boxes of chocolate frosted sugar bombs cereal so he could send away for a propeller beanie that he was sure would allow him to fly around the neighborhood. Upon arrival and assembly the propeller promptly snapped. Hobbes walked Calvin through the disaster and repairs were made. Out to the backyard, beanie applied and Calvin was....was....walking. Because of course, beanie hats can't really make you fly. Much like the printing kit Kellogs sent me that did nothing more than get ink all over the place and pretty much fall apart. But I enjoyed the frosted flakes. 
   I've included below an article I ran into in cyberspace. I don't know the author or its origin. It's an adult Calvin on his deathbed and a last conversation he has with Hobbes. Be warned. If you're anything like me, you know, Pisces, watery, sentimental.....  have tissues at the ready. 
     PS My "granddaughter," Alyssa just asked me if I'd help her make an obstacle course.
 Let's rock!!

"Calvin? Calvin, sweetheart?"
In the darkness Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years. Calvin struggled to open his eyes. God, he was so tired and it took so much strength. Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed. At the foot of his bed stood his wife. Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, "Did... did you.... find him?"
"Yes dear," Susie said smiling sadly, "He was in the attic."
Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll. Calvin could not help but laugh. It had been so long. Too long.
"I washed him for you," Susie said, her voice cracking a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.
"Thank you, Susie." Calvin said.
A few moments passed as Calvin just laid on his hospital bed, his head turned to the side, staring at the old toy with nostalgia.
"Dear," Calvin said finally. "Would you mind leaving me alone with Hobbes for a while? I would like to catch up with him."
"All right," Susie said. "I'll get something to eat in the cafeteria. I'll be back soon."
Susie kissed her huband on the forehead and turned to leave. With sudden but gentle strength Calvin stopped her. Lovingly he pulled his wife in and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips. "I love you," he said.
"And I love you," said Susie.
Susie turned and left. Calvin saw tears streaming from her face as she went out the door.
Calvin then turned to face his oldest and dearest friend. "Hello Hobbes. It's been a long time hasn't it old pal?"
Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll but the big furry old tiger Calvin had always remembered. "It sure has, Calvin." said Hobbes.
"You... haven't changed a bit." Calvin smiled.
"You've changed a lot." Hobbes said sadly.
Calvin laughed, "Really? I haven't noticed at all."
There was a long pause. The sound of a clock ticking away the seconds rang throughout the sterile hospital room.
"So... you married Susie Derkins." Hobbes said, finally smiling. "I knew you always like her."
"Shut up!" Calvin said, his smile bigger than ever.
"Tell me everything I missed. I'd love to hear what you've been up to!" Hobbes said, excited.
And so Calvin told him everything. He told him about how he and Susie fell in love in high school and had married after graduating from college, about his three kids and four grandkids, how he turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on. After he told Hobbes all this there was another pregnant pause.
"You know... I visited you in the attic a bunch of times." Calvin said.
"I know."
"But I couldn't see you. All I saw was a stuffed animal." Calvin voice was breaking and tears of regret started welling up in his eyes.
"You grew up old buddy." said Hobbes.
Calvin broke down and sobbed, hugging his best friend. "I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry I broke my promise! I promised I wouldn't grow up and that we'd be together forever!!"
Hobbes stroke the Calvin's hair, or what little was left of it. "But you didn't."
"What do you mean?"
"We were always together... in our dreams."
"We were?"
"We were."
"Yeah, old buddy?"
"I'm so glad I got to see you like this... one last time..."
"Me too, Calvin. Me too."
"Sweetheart?" Susie voice came from outside the door.
"Yes dear?" Calvin replied.
"Can I come in?" Susie asked.
"Just a minute."
Calvin turned to face Hobbes one last time. "Goodbye Hobbes. Thanks... for everything..."
"No, thank you Calvin." Hobbes said.
Calvin turned back to the door and said, "You can come in now."
Susie came in and said, "Look who's come to visit you."
Calvin's children and grandchildren followed Susie into Calvin's room. The youngest grandchild ran past the rest of them and hugged Calvin in a hard, excited hug. "Grandpa!!" screamed the child in delight.
"Francis!" cried Calvin's daughter, "Be gentle with your grandfather."
Calvin's daughter turned to her dad. "I'm sorry, Daddy. Francis never seems to behave these days. He just runs around making a mess and coming up with strange stories."
Calvin laughed and said, "Well now! That sound just like me when I was his age."
Calvin and his family chatted some more until a nurse said, "Sorry, but visiting hours are almost up."
Calvin's beloved family said good bye and promised to visit tommorrow. As they turned to leave Calvin said, "Francis. Come here for a second."
Francis came over to his grandfather's side, "What is it Gramps?"
Calvin reached over to the stuffed tiger on his bedside and and held him out shakily to his grandson, who looked exactly as he did so many years ago. "This is Hobbes. He was my best friend when I was your age. I want you to have him."
"He's just a stuffed tiger." Francis said, eyebrows raised.
Calvin laughed, "Well, let me tell you a secret."
Francis leaned closer to Clavin. Calvin whispered, "If you catch him in a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich as bait he will turn into a real tiger."
Francis gasped in delighted awe. Calvin continued, "Not only that he will be your best friend forever."
"Wow! Thanks grandpa!" Francis said, hugging his grandpa tightly again.
"Francis! We need to go now!" Calvin's daughter called.
"Okay!" Francis shouted back.
"Take good care of him." Calvin said.
"I will." Francis said before running off after the rest of the family.
Calvin laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. The time to go was close. He could feel it in his soul. Calvin tried to remember a quote he read in a book once. It said something about death being the next great adventure or something like that. He eyelids grew heavy and his breathing slowed. As he went deeper into his final sleep he heard Hobbes, as if he was right next to him at his bedside. "I'll take care of him, Calvin..."
Calvin took his first step toward one more adventure and breathed his last with a grin on his face.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"Sounded like a ball......."

     I played in the Little League World Series. Well, not THE Little League World Series; the Plainfield, NJ Little League World Series. Year? 1962. I was on the Braves. Our side of town was the National League and the other side was the American League. We were pitted against the dreaded Indians. Plainfield had the minor league and major league according to age, ability etc. This was the minors and we were pumped. I wasn't sure why I was playing shortstop as a lefty. But mine was not to reason why. I was doing some pitching earlier in the year. Ya know that feeling when you're in the zone? When our coach was trying out pitchers I was throwing smokin' strikes with a little jump on them. I don't know where that came from. I started the first game and proceeded to hit the first two batters. Pals of mine. So much for the "zone." I could still bring the heat but never knew where the ball would wind up. I settled in as the occasional relief pitcher, first baseman and shortstop.
   The season wore on and we kept on winning. As a team we were in the "zone." And we were. The "World" series! Our field on the corner of Rock and Myrtle Ave was pretty cool as these fields went. Outfield fence with advertisers. Dugouts. Bleachers. But the field on the other side of town....Seidler Field had....LIGHTS!!!!! WHAAAAATTTT!? And....infield grass! Now here was the rub. The managers were given the option to use players from the majors. We went with what got us there. The  other side didn't. I always thought our manager made the right decision. Even though the outcome was pretty well sealed. The first game was on our field at Rock and Myrtle. I was starting at shortstop and batting second. We took the field and I settled into self defense mode as these guys were hitting rockets to short and third. Caught some. Missed some. Never saw some. We didn't fare much better on offense. Bobby grounded out to second on the first pitch. I stepped in and suddenly it seemed like the distance between home and the pitcher's mound had shrunk. This was one big boy. But as our coach said, "He puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like you." Really? That old nugget? Never saw the first pitch. The ump screamed, Striiiiiike!" I said, "Sounded like a ball." No reaction. He was throwing straight fastballs so I just dug in and swung. Cracked a line drive toward second that this guy with a two day growth reached up and grabbed. So that's how it was gonna be. We lost 22 - 0. We'd get 'em next time. Well....maybe not.
   Next stop...Seidler field. Under the lights! Man, did that feel cool throwing it around pregame under those lights. The first Indian batter...all six feet of him......drilled a line drive toward me. I leaped and it smacked into my glove. One away! That was pretty much the highlight for me. Their pitcher was good but not as good as the last guy. They only beat us 18 - 2. They won the third game and the Plainfield 1962 World Series was in the books. To our team's credit there was no bellyaching. We gave it our best shot and against all odds.....lost. I made some plays, committed some errors and got one hit.  Some of the parents weren't too happy with the way things went down. Mine were cool.  The awards dinner at Clinton School was a little awkward. We picked up our trophies and ate some rubber chicken. Standing on the stage with the Indians the size/age difference was obvious and their players seemed a little embarrassed. I went in thinking we were the ones who were going to be embarrassed but lo and behold we were standing "tall" and they seemed a little....slouchy. Even their coach. He who laughs last...right? Everyone in the room knew what was what. A life lesson? Dance with the one what brung ya? I don't think a situation like that could happen in the politically correct atmosphere of today; even playing field and all. If I remember correctly I think the Indians even got bigger trophies. I hung on to my trophy for many years but somewhere along the line it disappeared.
   There's something about that David vs Goliath thing that everyone has to face at one time or another. I moved to Piscataway in eighth grade and joined the wrestling team in ninth grade. I  had never wrestled and never even saw a wrestling mat until I walked into the wrestling room off the Conackamack junior HS gym. Up to this point I thought wrestling was the stuff from Washington we'd watch on Saturday nights. But I enjoyed it and got into great shape.'s the rub. There's always a rub. I weighed 132 lbs. The 136 lb slot was filled. The 141 lb slot was filled. I'd be wrestling at 148 lbs. Ouch! I managed to not get pinned for the first few matches. On the bus rides back the coach would go through the matches. When it got to me he'd say, "Lyons, what can I say. You deserve the purple heart." I had no interest in a purple heart. I just wanted to  wrestle a guy my own weight and see how I could have done! A few matches down the road I had to wrestle the state champ from the year before. Lots of slaps on the back and well wishes during the day but we all knew the grim outcome. The very next week I had to wrestle the guy who had beaten the state champ a few weeks earlier. Dang. Pinned. Back to back weeks. So....where's my purple heart? life's not fair? Everyone doesn't get a trophy.....? I can't blame the coach. He wanted to win as many matches as possible. I was the best guy left for that slot. I guess that says something. My teammates knew. And that's what really mattered.
   The Plainfield Little League World Series and Piscataway wrestling matches were challenging....but mostly fun. And nothing serious was going to happen. We lost a game. I lost a match. So what. People have bigger challenges; gone up against greater odds with real consequences. Cancer. Single moms. Single dads. Displaced families in the middle of war zones.  Challenges. My mom had a rare circulatory disease that eventually killed her. But not before taking both of her legs. Challenges.
   What sent me down this road?  I'm in Ocean City, MD this week and  doing a lot of reflecting. I enjoy reflecting. It reminds you where you've been and where you may or may not be going. I'm 65, have high blood pressure (under control) and still carrying around 20 - 25 extra lbs. But....I went paddle boarding, did lots of swimming, body surfing, rolling around with kids and

rode the most challenging ride on the OC boardwalk....."The Slingshot." I can also do a handstand, cartwheel, went skydiving recently and can still walk, run and ride a bike as far as I want. This isn't bragging. This is me saying thank you. For no apparent reason .... I'm healthy. I haven't done much to stay healthy but here I am. Some aches and pains but so what. Every morning I say a prayer to..... God? The universe? Whoever's listening. "Thank you for this day and for my continued health." I mentioned my mom. I had a friend/bandmate who died of colon cancer at 41. One of a handful of friends who've left the planet too early. We're all just hangin' on by our fingertips, man. Fragility of life. Many close calls....too many to mention but....still here....healthy....happy. The song goes, "I wish I knew now what I didn't know then." Well, I think I know now what I didn't know then. I mean....I could write a freakin' book! And so it goes.         Peace.........
(Get it?)

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 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 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 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 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 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 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." ( 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  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'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.