Saturday, December 17, 2005

Merry Christmas........Everyone




I played at my first Christmas party of the year yesterday. It's just not Christmas without a Christmas party gig. This one's always a little different. A friend of mine, whom I've played with many a time, has a guitar playing brother who works for a local company. There's a couple of drummers from the same company so once a year a band is formed........loose....fun.....unpredictable. I never know what song is gonna be called out. I can't remember the last time I played Ozzy's "Paranoid"......oh ....that's right.....NEVER. Till yesterday. It's a kick playing with guys who don't play out all the time. Lots of enthusiasm. And because it's their company, lots of enthusiasm back. This is our fourth?....fifth?....year with this group so the cast of characters has become familiar. We know who's gonna grab the mike and start singing as things get.....cheerful, who'll be wearing the Santa hat, who will be on the floor....who will be on the table. Fun group.
This time of year cuts both ways for me. I have wonderful childhood memories of the Christmas season. I also lost both my parents on New Years Eve. So it's one of those smile...and reflect...at the same time kind of things. The commercialism that has become Christmas is repulsive on so many levels. And all the radio talk about using the term Christmas, not using the term, to set up or not to set up displays ........c'mon. The celebration of the solstice (to my mind, the beginning of summer....if you really stretch it) goes back to some pagan ritual, anyway. Look, I don't know what Jesus "was." But he seemed like a guy with an innocent message. Love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, do unto others, etc. Not bad. And not so easy. Eight years at St. Mary's Grammar School knocked most of the Catholic out of me. (I could never buy into the hell thing) But is is called CHRISTmas, so why not give him his due?
People have too much time on their hands. Who has time to make and circulate petitions, march with signs, call talk radio shows and be on hold for an hour? I'm just trying to pay my rent, get through life and finish (start) my Christmas shopping. I did go to a couple of demonstrations in college but to be honest, it was to meet girls. And in college, you're supposed to have time on your hands.
If you haven't seen A Christmas Story, (and why not?), it'll be running for twenty four hours starting Christmas Eve. WATCH IT !!!!!! It's got it all....Red Ryder BB guns, tongues stuck to flagpoles, Christmas dinners gone bad.....a story from a more innocent time. Of course, there's always A Very Brady Christmas. Am I the only one who had the hots for Florence Henderson? She was no June Cleavage...er....Cleaver.....but still. There's A Christmas Carol (Alistair Sim version), The Grinch, The Chipmunks, A Wonderful Life, The Breaking Bonaduce Christmas Special. That last one doesn't actually exist....but it should.
Take a few minutes, if you think of it, to stroll around ouside that day. Before company comes, or before you take off to Grandma's. There's a feeling in the air. You can smell it....sense it....wrap it around you like your favorite old coat. It's...... peace. Enjoy it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cold as a........


Man, the first snowfall of the season and I'm already pining for summer. It's just that the older I get......the less I like the cold. Again my grandmother was right. When I was a kid I could stay out all day in the cold. Now I'm actually warming up my car.....and not for the car. One time I fell through the ice in Greenbrook Park. My pal Billy slid down the slope yelling at me to grab his leg. Well, it was only about two and a half feet of water but I appreciated the sentiment. After a two mile walk home I was about as cold as I'd ever been in my life. Remember the Twilight Zone....or was it Outer Limits....where the astronaut came back to earth and could never get warm? The coffee was never hot enough, the shower was ....well...you get it. That's the way I was. My grandmother....remember her?.....made me some hot chocolate that I sucked down in a flash and I couldn't get the bath hot enough. Submitted for your approval.
I got over it. But I've discovered something in the last few years. If you're dressed for it, the cold ain't half bad. I was alway one to just grab a jacket and roll. I guess it was a childhood of dealing with galoshes and hoods and trying to fit everything into those St. Mary's closets and they'd never dry and..... on and on. I do a lot of walking these days. Ya know what the secret is to staying warm? Layers. Lots of 'em. And walking fast. I won't set any records for time spent in the cold but an hour, hour and a half I can do. A blue sky and sun don't hurt. And after...man...it feels good!!
I spend a fair amount of time in NYC and I've never understood the homeless situation there. Sad, sure....but how about getting on a bus or thumbing a ride (check out an earlier blog) to Miami. New York is cold, man!!!! There is nothing colder than downtown where the buildings create these wind tunnels that darn near blow you off your feet. Try a ferry ride. That'll snap you to.
Two weeks till Christmas. That means the winter solstice, doesn't it....the shortest day of the year? Which means that the next day, the days start getting longer. And theoretically, warmer. Then, one day you get that first whiff of....dead skunk....no...no ......spring!!!! You know that smell. An immediate flashback happens. Apple trees, baseball, beaches, sunburn, mosquito bites, poison Ivy. But, I digress. I find myself in a bit of a quandry. I want to rush the winter along, but with it goes..... my life. As my grandmother...remember her?........ said, the older you get the quicker the years go by. Ok...I get it. So rather than curse the cold, I'll put on some longjohns. C'moooonnnnnn......solstice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

"The Times, They Are a' Changin"


Thanksgiving week....2005. In the words of the late, great Mickey Mantle, " If I'd known I was gonna live this long I would've taken better care of myself", or something like that. Moved out of Lucy's, back to my apartment, got laid off, got re-hired, solo gig this weekend, dj gig in two weeks, house on the market, have to find new digs, and if that's not enough....I'm in charge of bringing the shrimp for Thanksgiving!!!!!!! Actually, that's the bright spot. Thanksgiving to me has always been one of those kick back, fun holidays. I've hosted a couple of times, with mega help...and it's still fun. Not a whole lot of hoopla or commercialism or things you have to do, at least as a guest. Show up on time, bring something, watch football games you care nothing about and....EAT!!!!!!!
I'm lucky. My radio show always falls on Thanksgiving. (For you surfers that's www.wdvrfm.org Thurs 6am - 9.) This means I get to play Alice's Restaurant, of course, and pontificate on the meaning of the day. Which is what? Hey, it's called Thanksgiving!!!!!!! C'mon even the most cynical, depressed of you out there must have something to be thankful about. I've had a challenging eight or nine months, but life is still pretty good. Good friends, family, eat regularly, sleep soundly and get to write and record music. I don't get a salary for that but.......hmmmmmmm. Did you ever hear the expression "living in the moment?" It's not easy. We're always thinking about the next thing. If this or that happens everything will be wonderful. That's probably never gonna happen. I look around my apartment and see all the music and recording equipment I have and I can finally say, alright, that's it. But then it's..... now I have to get better transportation to lug it around. What's wrong with us.?!?! Try the in the moment thing. I was walking down a wonderful NJ trail the other day. The sun was shining, the leaves were changing, and I had to force myselt to be there.........not into next week. No, it's not easy. Moments come and go quickly.
Thanksgiving 2005. Am I thankful? You bet. I've made it this far and it's up to me...and only me....to make the rest as good as it can be. That thing about what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger works. Yeah, I've had some roadblocks lately. Not as many as a single mom living on the street in India, or New Orleans, or NYC. Our own obstacles are important to us...and they should be. But stepping back and taking a look around can do a person a world of good. Ah....perspective. My mom had a circulatory disease that went on for ten years and resulted in both of her legs being amputated before it finally killed her. What's my cross to bear? I have high blood pressure. WAAAAAAHHH!!!!
Find something to be thakful for this Thanksgivng, this week, this year. It's there....somewhere.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

This Land Is Your Land


A few years back I took a much needed sabbatical. Great word.....sabbatical. Could mean anything. This was a two month solo cross country trip. One of the best times I've ever had. Kind of a "Travels With Charlie" meets "Easy Rider" thing. Left NJ just before Halloween, stopped in my old college town of El Paso, Texas, visited some relatives in Phoenix, Arizona for a few weeks...... up and down the California coast...... back to AZ by way of Vegas........ met my future ex wife there for a trip to the Grand Canyon...she flew home and I drove back to Jersey...... with a stop in PA to visit the future ex in laws. Not nearly enough space in blogdom to relate all the adventures. But this trip had a kind of spirituality to it........as if my "guardian angel" came along for the ride. For instance, on the trip from Phoenix to San Diego ( Death Valley is aptly named) my brakes were wearing out. Finally made it to the coast and screeched into one of those seaside motels. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a sign proclaiming "Brake World." Actually it proclaimed "Dlrow ekarB", but some pads and fluid and I was on my way the next afternoon.
I wound up in San Francisco and toyed with the idea of continuing up to Alaska but the line had to be drawn somewhere. Just last year did a ride from Eureka to San Fran following a twenty six mile marathon with a friend through the redwoods. (Another story for another day.) Did the Haight Ashbury/Grateful Dead run, but a stop I had to make on the way back down the coast was the Ken Kesey/Merry Pranksters house in La Honda. I refer you to "The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test." It was just a few miles off the beaten path and damned if rainbows weren't comin' out the windows. Did a tour of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon......that guy had way too much cash.......rode an earthquake in Morro Beach, talked life with a couple of hookers in Vegas (didn't partake), saw "The Flamingos" at a small bar in The Sands, and back to Arizona for a while. I think I'll have to save the Grand Canyon with the future ex wife for another day. That was a mystical trip. She just got remarried last weekend and I still consider her one of my best friends.
A cool sidebar to the trip home was a stop at Meteor Crater in AZ. D'ja ever hear of this place? Way off the beaten path. And a big hole to boot. You have to walk through the Meteor Crater gift shop to get to the main attraction. But well worth the trip. A little bit of the moon right here on earth. And....they tell me....it could happen again.
Sabbaticals? I recommend them. And roaming around this country isn't a bad way to kill a few days, a week, month. It's a big place and everyone, at some time, should see it. As Woody said,"This land was made for you and me.'

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

It's Like Ridin' A Bike


As mentioned in a blog gone by, I learned to ride a two wheeler at age three...or there abouts. Anybody I could grab to give me a push, I would. I have a distinct memory of my brother pushing me up Monroe Ave in Plainfield, and I guess I was getting cocky, 'cause when I turned to look back he was a block away waving at me. Of course, I immediately fell. But I was resilient and determined and ride I did....like the very wind !!!! I had lots of adventures on bikes. I hadn't thought of some of my bikes until this very moment. What a flashback. We used to play this hide and seek type game.... in teams..... and on bikes..... called Ring O Lerio. One team would get about twenty minutes take off time and then the chase was on. The way you knocked one of them out of the game was to smack their tire with your tire....in mid chase. A dicey proposition. Riding the hills in Greenbrook Park was exciting.....especially Suicide Hill. You had to actually cross a road in mid hill with no time to look for anything. If my mother only knew. A new guy moved into the neighborhood and on his first trip down the "hill" we forgot to tell him about the huge root on one of the bends. Maybe the hardest I ever saw anyone go down on a two wheeler. Got a lot of mileage out of that story.
A friend of mine had a paper route in my next town and I'd go along sometimes riding on the handlebars. He'd go screaming down this hill and make the turn just missing the far curb. We'd both be screaming the whole way. Manly screams, of course. Two on a bike took a little practice. The handlebars, the crossbar or the rear fender were your choices. Or one on the seat and one standing and pedalling. My least favorite way. Another friend of mine had a bike with no seat and no brakes. Ouch !!! These were the days when bikes had individualities about them. Before the "English Racer" or"ten speed." But man, I could still fly pretty good on mine. One day I was cruisin' down Rivercrest Dr and here he comes...this big old nasty German Shepherd ripping across the lawn after me. Well I wan't too concerned. I knew he was tied up.... but....what?......not today!!!!!! He was off the lawn, into the street and the chase was on. Adrenaline's a wonderful thing, isn't it? He was gaining till he was about four or five feet behind me, then it was an endurance contest. Neck and neck for about a block, then he started slipping away. Feets don't slip now. Made it.
I used to have an apartment in Somerville, NJ right over a drug store at the corner of Main and Bridge Sts. Not exceptionally interesting, except on Memorial Day. The Kugler Memorial Day bike race.....or whatever it was called ...would happen. One of the biggest races in the country, right through town, and I was on the main corner!!!!!! Man, I was popular that weekend. Now that's ridin'.......and crashin'. Nothin' like the sound of a hundred and fifty bikes going by you at thirty mph. 40?...50?....I don't know. But fast.
I have a mountain/all terrain bike now, mainly for cruising the trails of Hunterdon County for nothing more than fun and exercise. The flatter the terrain, the better. Every now and then, though, I'll get off the beaten path and be a kid again for awhile. I love that feeling when you finally jump off and your legs feel like rubber. You manage the cool dismount and then almost collapse. Ahhh, well. When you're a kid your bike is like...well....it's like a guy's horse was in the old west. Your best friend. Your mode of transport. Your ticket to adventure, romance, "here to there." You could tell a lot about a person by the kind of bike they rode. The generics of the bike of today, I fear, have taken that away. Climbing aboard one is so familiar to everyone it's got its own signature. "It's like ridin a bike!!!!" Well.... I don't know, man........nothin's quite like ridin' a bike.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

All You Need Is Love


Where would movies, songs, books, art, etc be without the theme of love? Where would we as human beings be without love, or the promise of it? It'd be a sad, much less interesting life, wouldn't it? I had two girlfriends in kindergarten. They didn't know they were my girlfriends but that hardly mattered. I'll leave out their last names but Susan was the bombshell and Kathy was the cute, but really cool one. I learned an important lesson that year. Cool, sweet, nice, sincere, funny will win out over hotness in the long run. Goodbye Susan.
My first real girlfriend happened in the eighth grade. And wouldn't you know she lived in the same neighborhood from where I'd just moved? Dang!!!!! I met her on my first gig. I was thirteen and playing guitar with "The Esquires" at my friend's basement bash. How we were gonna get through the night on three songs was a mystery but it didn't matter. The guitar worked!!! I would commute from Piscataway to Plainfield by bike a couple of days a week.......about an hour and a half ride...and live for Sats. Guitar lesson in the morning, wandering around downtown Plainfield, then meeting Debbie for some serious movie time. The Strand Theater had a great balcony in 1966. I saw Goldfinger four or five times and still can't tell you why that woman (Ursula Andress?) had to get painted to death. Getting home was always an adventure. My mom would drop me off at the lesson and then I was on my own. My ties were slowly moving from Plainfield to Piscataway. And meeting Debbie was only locking me back in.
Turns out....get this....she was also a guitar player.....and could smoke me on my best day!!! But she had a secret. She was already in a cool band with gigs and, for the time, great equipment.
I never could figure out why she didn't tell me. Maybe it was the tail end of that women shouldn't be as talented as men thing. Weird. We'd do most of our communicating by phone during the week and I should have known something was up when I played "Day Tripper" for her and she played it back to me smoother, faster and....right. I realized later when we'd play together, she'd play down to my level.....to not embarass me?....I don't know. She never did come clean. I had to find out from her mother!!!! When I walked past her bedroom and saw this great amplifier she said it was her cousin's and looked really nervous explaining it...and.....I BELIEVED HER!!!!
Debbie and I eventually went our separate ways and I settled into new friends, bands, school and...... new girlfriends. There is nothing like the feeling of a new infatuation......learning all about someone...the way your heart does a flip when you see them coming. Anything beyond that is gravy. No wonder songs, poems , operas, paintings have been dedicated to this nutty emotion. Love. It's as good as it gets, man. Countries have been lost, wars have been fought, murders have been committed..... Mick Jagger, Mother Theresa and Leonardo DaVinci have been brought into this world.....because of it. My kindergarten pals taught me to look beyond the facade and into the person. Not easy, being a human male, and I've fallen into the trap more than once. But sooner or later the cream always rises to the surface.
I will always believe in the fabulous institution of love......from "All You Need Is Love" to " Love Stinks." I've never cried.....or laughed....so hard because of it. I've embraced it, cursed it, celebrated it, regretted it....and searched for it. Once again I have to quote the poets of my generation. "And in the end....the love you take...is equal to the love....you make." Well said, lads.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Hmmmmmmm"


I used to play frisbee in the hall of my college dorm. If you could get the disc to fly all the way down without hitting the walls it would make an audible hum. You could feel it. Perfection. Ever have any days like that? I hope so. I was playing some neighborhood football when I was about sixteen and having one of those days. I was catching everything, tackling everybody, intercepting, running, scoring...... I even made one of those on the run over the shoulder catches and outran my buddy who I could never keep up with on my best day. I was a football machine. Same time frame, different sport. This was a local baseball game. I was a lefty playing shortstop and it was like I had glue in my glove and thunder in my bat. I hit a home run that seemed to have gotten caught in the jet stream. Man, it just kept on going. Some years later I had a gig on Christmas Eve at a Jersey bar that had kind of become our second home. The guy who I outran in that magical football game was playing rhythm guitar. This was a cool honky tonk called The Pittstown Inn, in Pittstown, NJ. I live a stone's throw from the inn now and though it's been "upscaled" since 1976, I can still hear the music when I go in there. We always rocked this place, but this was one of those nights. Lots of friends we hadn't seen in awhile...just jammed to the rafters. We couldn't get off the stage at break time........nowhere to go!!!! Everything we played just flowed. Vocals, music, atmosphere. It was a frisbee humming down the hall.
The wonderful thing about these experiences is that they come out of nowhere......unexpected........from the ether. Out of all the hundreds of gigs, baseball games, football games , why were these to be the ones that went down ? And were they really that special or just seem that way in the romance of retrospect? I had other good games, good gigs. But during those particular times I remember an overwhelming feeling of confidence.....invlnerability.
In grade school one time a weird thing happened. We had one of those magazine drives. According to how many dollars you sold, your name went into a hat and the winnning name drawn got a stuffed animal. No big deal except...I won....and I knew I was going to win. My name was in there eleven times which was on the low to middle end of the scale. I was in the process of closing the classroom windows with one of those huge rods. Remember those? As the teacher was pulling the name....my name...I handed off the rod and started walking up to claim my prize. A couple of seconds later my name was read and I was already there. Pretty cool. Confidence, man.
These kinds of things happened maybe a dozen times in my life. You're in a class that you know you're gonna nail. You meet this woman that you know is really gonna dig you, even if she's way out of your league. You're gonna snag the ball, hit the note, win the prize. Sometimes the stars are just right. Somebody saying this moment....this night....is for you. Grab it, appreciate it.......remember it. I appreciate and remember these moments more and more. But they're different now. I was sitting out back the other day and a humming bird flew by and stopped right in front of my face. I felt like I should know....realize something about this , but after a few seconds it hummed off. A frisbee with wings. Fast wings. As I get older things take on a significance, a spirituality that I wouldn't have thought about years ago. I like it....... appreciate it. If only I could remember it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Let The Sun Shine


Labor Day has come and gone. I really had a good couple of end of summer weeks. A few good gigs, a dinner blast with the family, some shore time with my sister and her family......some shore time with Lucy and her family. Righteous. Summer's still here, though. September and October are great summer months.....usually. I hasten to say, however ........I can smell fall/winter. You know that first change of season whiff you get? It's invigorating post winter but a little foreboding pre winter. Or is it just me. I'm becoming less and less of a winter person. I can still have a good time rolling around in the snow, it's just thad I'd rather roll around on a beach. Or take a walk in the woods. I took a bike ride last weekend down a wonderful path here in Hunterdon County, NJ. The weather's been stellar!!!!! I was drawn to park the bike and sit by the river more than once. I found a great spot where you can sit almost below the river; reach out and scoop up handfuls of water. Where the heck was everybody? Don't they know there's water here?!?! The attraction for a Pisces is mind bending.....healing........spiritual......FUN.
I've really had a chance for some thinking, meditating, writing, squirrel watching, duck feeding... lately. We.....I need that. I've been writing songs and working on a cd. I don't really care what happens in the end, I'm diggin' the process. Is life picking up steam, or is it me? I've had a nutty job for the last six months and stopping to smell the roses is mandatory. It should be for everyone. My grandmother used to tell me how things "quickened" as you get older. I didn't quite get it then. I do now. We're here for such a blink. It's amazing that Einstein, Edison, The Beatles, Jefferson could do as much as they did. It seems like it takes me so dang long to catch on.....but I don't realize it until after I catch on. I swear if I could get paid for dreaming, I'd be making loans to Chase Manhattan. Maybe that's what this go 'round is for. To look around, get the lay of the land, and be ready to spring into action next time. One can only hope.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The National Past Time (A Day In The Life)


How many times have you heard about, talked about or read about somebody's first trip to the ballpark? Remember Billy Crystal in "City Slickers? " That was MY trip to Yankee Stadium!!! I was ten years old in 1962 and I remember my father coming home from work and pulling the tickets out of his brown leather bomber jacket. A lot better than a Snickers. You coulda knocked me over. Man, I held those things, turned them over and over, tried to figure out the seating.......whew!!.
"The Day" was one adventure after another. The bus ride from Plainfield, NJ to the Port Authority in NY, to the Horn and Hardart automat for lunch..... to the subway ride (on two different trains) up to the Bronx. Each of these is a story in itself. But....the Bronx. When the D train came up over that rise....well Holy Cow! There it was; huge, majestic......crowded. "The House That Ruth Built." Somehow my father seemed to know where to go. We passed the vendors and the small brass band, squeezed through the turnstiles and......we were in!!! We could hear the muffled roar of the fans as balls sailed through the air during batting practice. The inside of the stadium was a mass of humanity and sounds as we followed the huge circlular trail in search of our gate. And now here it is...... you've heard it a dozen times before. As we passed each gate and I got brief glimpses onto the field, something looked.......odd. Oh my God. Yankee Stadium was in COLOR. I mean gorgeous green, rich deep brown, white bases and lines., and, of course, pinstripes. After our small black and white tv, This was almost too much to take in. And that's a feeling modern kids will never know. It was a flippin' jaw dropper.
We got to our seats and let the barrage of peanuts, programs, hot dogs, soda, pennants etc begin. I know my dad was on a budget, but I don't remember wanting for anything. The smell of cigar smoke wove through the stands and to this day reminds me of a Bronx day in 1962. I don't really remember where our seats were but they were close enough to see faces. Yogi, Mickey, Roger, Moose, Bobby Richardson, Tom Thresh. ........they were all there. And so was Jimmy Piersall. Remember him......"Fear Strikes Out?" That was a bonus. He even did us the honor of geting into a bench clearing brawl that started with some fans in the right field stands harassing Jimmy and finally jumping onto the field.....much to their ultimate dismay. I can still see so clearly the black infield dirt flying off Yankee cleats as they met the Cleveland Indians in right field. Wasn't much of a rumble. Baseballs players are notorious for their non brawls. But the image was indelibly imprinted on my ten year old brain. I don't remember who won the game....or the brawl, but Johnny Blanchard smacked two out of the park, and Jim Bouton was throwing pure smoke. Man, it had it all!!
The trip home was anti-climatic, but my neighborhood status soared. I'd made it. The first one. I felt like George from "Of Mice And Men" as he related the rabbits story to Lenny. The boys.....and girls..... never tired of hearing about "the trip." I didn't even have to embellish all that much. I'm not a parent, but I can appreciate the impact we have on creating kid's memories. You have to recognize the moment. A backyard catch, a fishing trip, a new guitar chord, a walk in the woods. They're all potential life changers. I could tell you a story about each one of these. And ......I probably will.

Friday, August 05, 2005

"If I Could Get Down To The Sea Again......"


I went tubing down the Delaware last weekend. Lucy's had this yen to get on the water and being a Pisces it doesn't take much to get me on board. There's a place right across the river in PA that does all the work for you. Thirty minutes away, five bucks for parking, twenty bucks for the tubes, walk the cattle lines, a fifteen minute bus ride and into the river, baby!! We opted for the four hour cruise and it is nothin' but maxin' and relaxin'.
What is it about water that's so....familiar. Is it the old back to the womb thing? As a kid I was always the first guy in the water and the last to get out. My mom used to have a tough time getting me out of the bathtub!! Remember the way your fingers would get all white and wrinkled? That's the way they looked last weekend in the river. What is that, anyway? Around age seventeen I took up surfing. I was never any good at it but it was another excuse to spend hours in the water. Sitting on a surfboard out in the ocean at sunrise or sunset is ......primitive........a little bit dangerous and.....bonding. The ocean is a cure all for many ills. A friend of mine would get all kinds of skin maladys from the standard poison ivy, oak, etc....to stuff we would just call jungle rot. Nothing too serious. He'd always say,"If I could just get into mother ocean." I've adopted that saying over the years and it still holds up. I learned early on that the salt water of the Jersey shore was great for hangovers, zits, rashes of all kinds and attitude. Getting on to the beach, that first charge into the water, jumping over the first few waves, then making the perfect dive under a wave and coming up on the other side......well.....there's a certain art to it that only comes with years of practice. Don't get me started on the ins and outs of body surfing.....getting your face jammed into the sand......mouthfuls of salt water.......crashing into strange knees. Man, that's good. (Sprinklers, Slip n' slides, water balloons........remember them?)
We had a couple of pretty good quarrys in our area. Quarry swimming was a little more dicey. Unknown terrain, cops....an occasional drowning. But a chance to jump off a cliff. Who can pass that up?!? One time a few friends and I took a two day canoe trip some years back. The first night we're out in the middle of nowhere. We pull over, climb up a way and set up camp. In the middle of the night the ground starts shaking ....we see a bright light coming at us....take us home Jesus!!!! Turns out we set up camp about twenty yards from a train track. But....we survived. Great sunburn that weekend, as with most of my adventures with water.
Lucy seems to have the same affinity for water as me but doesn't seem to realize it....or make a big deal out of it. Like it's just a natural thing. And it is. She gets in water and a....what.......calm?.......gentleness?..........acceptance comes over her. It's great!!!!! I was watching this show on PBS about birth, from conception to delivery. The shots of the baby inside the womb are amazing. Surviving in liquid......almost more fish than human for a long time. And sure as hell not wanting to leave. Explains a lot.
Some of our best movies are about water...and fish. Moby Dick, Jaws,The Old Man And The Sea, Poseiden Adventure, Titanic and on and on. It seems at one time the earth was one continent surrounded by water. I give you CONTINENTAL DRIFT. How 'bout Water World. Horrible movie, but at the same time.....comforting. I don't know. The Standells..."Dirty Water". .....one of the most recognizable guitar licks of all time.
The Jersey shore has cleaned up considerably in the last twenty five years. Mother ocean is nothing if not resilient. She gives us so much. I'm glad we can help out when she needs it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mea Culpa


So the Pope arrives at JFK, comes down the stairs of his private jet and walks up to his limo driver. He says to the guy,"Hey look, I never get a chance to drive anymore. Whaddaya say you let me take the wheel for the way back?" The driver's a litle taken aback and says,"Gee, Your Holiness, I don't know....I could really get in a lot of trouble here.......and it's been a while for you......I... don't think so." They go back and forth and the driver gives in. Sure enough they take off and the pope's a little heavy on the foot and not a great driver in general. Coming down the Van Wyck Expwy, they get the attention of one of New York's Finest. The cop approaches the car and notices who's driving. He excuses himself, goes back to his car and calls in to his Sergeant. He says, "Uh, Sarge, we got a situation here ......got a limo stopped on the Van Wyck........it's a VIP. Not sure what to do...... I don't want any incidents, if ya know what I mean." The Sarge says,"What, an actor, politician...?" "Bigger," says the cop. "Well, Elvis and Sinatra are dead .....how big is this guy,?" says the Sarge. "Look, the cops says, I don't know who it is, but the Pope's drivin !!!!!!!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ahhh, They Can't Hurt Ya'



This day started off a little differently. Almost checked out. Got your attention? It was a really nice morning. Got up around eight. Blue sky. Plenty of sun. A couple of hours to kill before work. I was all set to paint the deck.... at least the part Lucy left, and looking forward to the experience immensely. I used to paint for a living.....houses, garages, rooms, carports....decks. Painting's very therapeutic...soothing. It was also a good gig to combine with playing music at night. Good hours, plenty of sunshine, a day off when I needed it. So I was pumped. Did a few sections and was ready to move on to the bulk. Arranged some furniture and plants and was giving the deck a sweepdown....when it happened. Did I mention I'm allergic to bees?
I was doing a gig last Sunday with a country band I play with now and again. It was a company picnic in a grove behind a bar. As we're setting up this bee keeps hounding the drummer.......I mean... on him. So he's asking me for some help and I'm explaining as I'm snapping a towel at him that I really shouldn't be doing this.....allergic and all that. During the break I'm relating the story of when and how I discovered this peculiar allergy. But I digress.
I'm giving the deck a sweepdown and realize I'm taking a few stings here and this could be trouble. I jet into the house, out the back door and to my car to grab an Epi Pen that I hope is in there. This is a self injectable, whack yourself in the leg setup that's supposed to pull you through these episodes........adrenaline or something. I get back in the house and sit down on the couch.....starting to recognize the symptoms....hard to breathe........things getting...."slow". This is where it gets weird. I'm looking towards a part of the room where I have my recording equipment. Watching guard over the stuff is the Carole King album "Tapestry". I leave it leaning on the recorder in the hopes that some magic will jump from the grooves into the machine....an osmosis kind of thing. She's got a great new cd out, by the way. So as I'm bonding with Carole and forgetting about injecting.....everything stopped. I don't think we realize it but there's really no such thing as total silence. You........ I........ can hear (feel) our heart pumping, blood rushing through our veins, and that abstract kind of ear hum. I always thought that was the sound of the universe. When it stops, man it's quiet. And there I sat. A peace fell over the room. And then. I don't know. Did I pass out? Leave the planet? The next thing I felt...heard.... was a whack on the side of my head. Kinda like my football coach would give me. Not painful, just an attention grabber. A thud through my helmet. Or kind of like that jump you get when you start to doze off in a chair. Always embarassing if somebody sees you. Now I'm back, I grab the Epi Pen and jam it into my thigh. OUCH !!!!!!!! Within three seconds I have a headache to beat the freakin' band. And those sounds? They're baaaaaack !!!!!!
I don't move for about forty five minutes. The head stopped pounding, the vision cleared and a dull hangover type feeling sets in. I recognize this feeling. I had it the last time I cheated the bees out of their ultimate revenge. At that time the doc said I was lucky to still be here. Next time could be different. Location of the stings apparantly makse a difference. Both times in the feet.....long way from the heart. Got an additional one in the hand this time. Nasty little buggers. Ya know, I'll go out of my way to throw an ant out of the house...alive. But I've gotta admit, I enjoyed unleashing a load of Raid on the bastion of the bees.
A couple of hours later I was getting ready to walk to work and picked up the trusty Epi Pen. I couldn't help but notice what it said on the side.....exp Aug /2003. Oops.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Bell Has Tolled


My friend Carol died over the weekend. Things are in full swing for a "celebration" on Sunday, with a more private service for the family on Mon. I want to put together some kind of....tribute......remembrance..... for my radio show this week. These are always kind of touchy. You try to have a reverence without being too maudlin. I usually find what happens...... happens. You can't plan or fake sincerity...grief.......love. She was way too young
.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"It Tolls For Thee"


A friend of mine is lying in bed dying of cancer. Carol's the wife of the keyboard player in my band. The band I'm leaving. Tom and I have played together on and off for about twenty five years. I actually knew Carol before Tom. She used to work at a convenience store in Piscataway, NJ in the 70's. I'd pop in from time to time and some casual flirting would ensue.
This is Carol's second go round with Cancer and it's really starting to piss me off. I saw her a couple of weeks ago and she was not doing well. A group of us shared some food, beverage and songs and Carol really seemed to be enjoying herself. About a year ago she came to a gig and at the end of the night I gave her a hug and told her we all loved her. She seemed so touched I almost felt guilty..........like I was saying hey, we all know...It'll be ok. We knew it wouldn't be ok and now she's in bed with a morphine drip waiting for the light. I've always been a good listener, and Carol was an enthusiastic communicator. I rarely saw her these days, but when I did I'd pull up next to her, ask her how she's been, what's going on...and sit back. She had such an innocent way about her.....beautiful eyes. .......the last of the hippie chicks. It's been a tough go for Tom and their two kids. I was talking to Tom today and pre-arrangements are under way. Some old friends and lots of music. I hope I can to bring something appropriate to the table.
I've lost a few friends in the last ten years or so. Always strange....reflective. I'm no spring chicken but 40's/50's seems too soon. I fear it less and less. I'd still like to make a bigger mark.....but......wouldn't we all. The over riding, all important, mamma jamma, kingfisher, hit you between the eyes message seems to be............. "Be good to each other." Brilliant, huh? Did anybody else ever say that?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Name Game


Here's a limmerick I wrote in ninth grade English class:
With Ron on drums and Mike on bass
And me on rhythm guitar,
And George who sings while Rock plays lead
The Plague is going far.
The plague was my first Piscataway band. I moved from Plainfield, NJ to Piscataway, NJ in 1966. The Plainfield bands all had a hard musical edge.....Stones, Animals, Yardbirds etc. The Piscataway bands were more instrumental, lighter......Ventures, Jan and Dean, Surfaris. My job was clear.....conversion. We met somewhere in the middle. I always dug that name....The Plague. Our drummer's father volunteered to get us five hundred business cards. Oooooweeeee!!!! One day at practice the dad showed up with the package. And there they were....five hundred band cards with "The PlagueS" emblazoned on them. "No!!....the Plague....not Plagues." He didn't get it, but we went through them quick enough and he got it right the next time. The best of intentions.
I think a band name is important. In a word or two you should get an idea of what the band's about. By the time I was with the plague at the the ripe old age of thirteen, I'd already been through The Esquires, Bobby and the Bandals, Teddy and the Teabaggers and a few that didn't make it to the name stage. I was never in a band with a name that I could get %100 behind. Just too damn particular. Some later band names were Society's Child, The Best of General Milz, Wichita Straw, Freewheelin', Sundown, Firecreek, Whiskey Lane, Freight Line, Sidewinder, Walking Wounded, The Movers.....et al. One of my favorite names was my drummer buddy's band, The Split Worm Hibernation Day Band. Ahhhh,the 60's were a wonderful era for monickers. All these names convey the era or style of music/attitude......no? If they don't....they should. For the last year I've been doing a solo gig in addition to band stuff. It's weird seeing your name on a poster, marquee, in the paper........especially if you're not a look at me kind of guy. I used to hide under the table when "Happy Birthday" was directed at me. Frightening!!!!
But the playing's what it's all about. For fun or profit, being able to pick up a guitar and noodle is ..........spiritual.....contemplative........ fun. I also realized early on that girls pay a little more attention to the musicians. Why everybody doesn't do this is beyond me. Of course, then I'd be out of a job.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Daze Gone By


Remember in the late 60's/70's when hitchiking was a legitimate form of transportation? It made every trip a little more of an adventure. My buddies and I would do the one guy hitchin', three guys in the bushes routine. If we all got out there together we had a little temptations step that seemed to move things along......or at least raise a smile. In my college town of El Paso, Kelly and I turned it into a sport. We called it "Hitchin' For Chicks". Politically incorrect I know, but it was a different time. We'd actually turn down rides from anyone except, well.....chicks. One night we got to our favorite corner and there were four different groups of guys lined up to start thumbin'. Damn degenerates. Another era comes to an end.
Another pretty cool Texas hitch was Easter break.......EP to LA. The guy I was going with didn't have much hitchin' experience. I kept telling him what a grueling trip this could be....hours.....days crossing the desert. He didn't seem fazed. We got picked up in about five minutes by a guy going to LA. Really made me look bad. We were going to see his girlfriend in Hollywood. I was telling him...ok ...this is where it gets tough....living by our wits and guile. The girlfriend got us into a mansion in Laurel Canyon for a week. Skunked again. One day the three of us were hitchin' in downtown LA. A taxi driver stopped to pick us up. Even after we explained that we had no money he still insisted we get in. He was a Mexican gentleman and seemed like the happiest guy on the planet. He took us to a small restaurant somewhere in LA, where he was apparantly well known, ordered lunch, bottles of wine, cigars. yeah....CIGARS!!!!!!! We kept insisting we had no money. He finally looked at me, gestured around the room and asked me if I ever heard the phrase,"Mi casa, su casa". He didn't leave any money and none seemed to be expected. I've since used that phrase many times He finally took us where we had to go, dropped us off in our drunken stupor and didn't take a dime. Which was good....'cause we didn't have a dime. I like to consider myself pretty streetwise. That cab driver knocked some of the wise out of me. I sure wish I'd gotten his name. Now we were broke. Things were sure to get nasty. We got jobs as gardeners in our mansion for a couple days and flew back to EP first class. So much for a tough lesson.
Back in Jersey the hitchin' continued....to school, to work...for fun. After I had a car for a few years, I tried it again...but it wasn't the same. A bygone era. In this day and age hitch hiking's taken on a grim aura. People sometimes don't come back. I had a couple of dicey calls, but nothing too serious. And I'm sure my college pal has nothing but rosey memories of his experience. At least we got a ticket from a Texas state trooper...but even he was friendly!!! For some reason I can't really remember the rain or the cold.....the long wait between rides........sometimes not getting rides. Thank God for selective memory, and age. It's much more romantic this way.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Another fine mess.......


Ya' know how everybody says we all complain about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it? Many things in life are like that. I had a great set of friends in high school. A group of girls and guys who.... sometimes "hooked up"..... most of the time, not. Lots of experimenting, concerts, surfing, music, and conversation. A lot of the conversation seemed to revolve around how life sucked in New Jersey and we couldn't wait to get out. My griping was half hearted. I kinda liked Jersey. But to prove some kind of point I applied to the Univ. of Texas at El Paso during my senior year. And......uh........I got accepted. Whoops!!! I don't feel real good about that decision now. I left my mom in kind of a bind with a disabled husband and my grandmother. But she went along with the plan and got some insurance cash every month to boot. She'd even dribble me out some now and then. I say that with love and affection. The woman could stretch a buck.
So I'd get that proud feeling in my chest when the topic of my leaving would come up. The girls seemed a little more interested......my buddies seemed a little.....awed....unbelieving. We'd been through a lot since I moved to Piscataway in 1966. I was nervous, excited and wanting to get on with it. It sunk in once I signed that loan for $1000.00 . That was a lot of cash in 1970!!!! But it happened. One last bash the night before and I was on a bleary plane ride to Texas. Culture shock? Whoa!!!! Driving somewhere you get a gradual sense of where you're headed. A four hour flight snaps your reality. From the greenery of Jersey to the mountains and desert of El Paso. Stunningly beautiful but.....different. I was suddenly thrown in with guys from all over the country; and a pretty cool group from El paso who couldn't wait to get out and go some where interesting like....New Jersey!!!! It was an interesting few days as hierarchys and cliques evolved. And all in a very natural way. An even more interesting semester followed and I'd be honored to tell you ....some of it. But not now.
We are adaptable creatures. You know that feeling when you're in the car or walking down the gangway. Those last looks, goodbyes....trying not to let anybody see the redness in your eyes? But then you turn your head around and.....you're gone. On to the next adventure. It's an amazing feeling. We've all had it. It's a lot like the feeling you get on that last call to your sweetheartart...and you know it's done. That big sigh comes out and it's....frightening, lonely, sad and.....liberating. A new day dawns.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I Was Only Kiddin'


The more I reflect on it, the more I'm convinced I had a really great childhood. I can hold my own in any conversation regarding the Stooges and Rascals, cartcon dialogue, 50's/60's TV shows, and movies of the day. Remember Million Dollar Movie? I don't know if that was an east coast phenomenon or not. The same movie would play Mon through Fri and twice on Sat and Sun. My poor aunt had to sit through Rodan, King Kong , The Crawling Eye, and The Thing more times than she'd care to admit. But as much tube time as I had, the other side of my brain remembers baseball, in all it's neighborhood forms , football, beaches, bicycle adventures, fishing, home made rafts. a scrape or two, friends , solos, libraries and, of course, music.
So which was it? I've gotta thank my parents for the amount of freedom I was given. I learned to ride a two wheeler at age three and it was all over, baby. Had an interesting mix of friends....geeks, shady, smart, jocks. I could always relate to anybody, on some level. Hell, we're all here at the same time. What're the odds of that? And in the words of Jim Morrison,"No one here gets out alive."
Plainfield, NJ was an evolving town in the 60's. Racial tension, the beginnings of flower power, garage bands on every corner. All of these segments impacted me in one way or another. Man, there's a lot I wish I could do over. Adolescence should really go on for about twenty five years. There's just too much happenin'!!!!! Thank God we'll get another chance. What?......you don't believe that?
A wknd off coming up. No gigs, no commitments, no nuttin. Hope to kick back with a friend or two, put the finishing touches on some tunes, and..... who knows.... maybe rent Rodan for old times sake. Later.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Summertime Bluze


Had a good gig over the wknd. A Private party at Union Gap condos. (Central Jersey) Good crowd, good food, some libations and a good rockin' dance floor. Just when I think I'm too old to play Midnight Hour one more time...... This shot is of a solo gig I do now and then. Not as much fun as the band but a lot more challenging.
The mid summer blues are kickin' in. I think some shore time is called for. Don't misunderstand. I'm not a depressing guy..... I just get a little reflective now and then. Never lasts for long. And so it goes. Some body surfing, a sausage sandwich and a ride on the Wild Mouse....I'll be in the pink. I've been going to Seaside Heights, NJ my whole life. My mom's bridge club used to get a week down there when I was a kid. It was actually right down the road in Ortley Beach, but you could see the ferris wheel from the porch. Had some of my best times at Ortley. As I got a little older I developed a fondness for the quieter beaches. But it's always nice to be within driving range of Seaside. Nothin' like the sights, sounds and smells of the boardwalk. Years later I'd play at a place about a block off the boards. I'd run up between sets , spend a little cash and make it back in time to play "Amy ".
Water's alway played a good sized role in my life......Pisces and all that. Oceans, ponds, lakes , pools, rivers. They're invigorating, healing and a hell of a lot of fun. All this talk of water is making me thirsty. Later
Ted

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Skewed Look At Life


Grasshopper walks into a bar. The bartender looks at him and says,"Ya know, we have a drink named after you. The grasshopper says,"What, you have a drink named Murray?"

A termite walks into a bar, sits down and says to the guy next to him, "Hey, is the bar tender here?"

A guy walks into a bar. He's got a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender says, "Cool, where'd you get that?" The parrot says,"I don't know...it started as a wart on my butt !"



Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Life Off The Fast Lane


So up until a few months ago I was a Limo driver in the NJ, NY, PA area. I'm now doing an office gig for the same company. After ten years on the road ........set hours are.....challenging. Nice folks, fairly interesting work....but the freedom of the road is gone. This is exactly why I left the corporate world some years back.
You know that search for contentment we're all on? I realized early on mine couldn't be found in $ s. Maybe the old hippie mindset wouldn't allow me to see past a lot of the ridiculous insanity of the corporate world. Again, a lot of great folks., but feigning desperate interest where there is none ain't easy.
But life goes on and contentment comes in many forms. A rock garden...watching nature......wet kisses......and playing my bass. It always comes back to playing my bass. A private party this wknd....and about 100 yards from home. How good is that? Playing two interesting Jersey clubs next wknd. Somerset Hills Hotel with The Movers and at The Landslide with a country band called Sidewinder.....some more old friends. The Landslide's where I first laid eyes on Lucy about two years ago. I wasn't even gonna go out. Did an afternoon gig at a cocktail hour.....some celtic music with another old pal......and got a call to come out to The Landslide to see a hot pedal steel player later on that night. Went, met, and life took another unexpected turn. I'd just been out of a long term relationship for about six months and wasn't even looking. Ain't that the way it always is.
Radio show tomorrow morning. Not feeling real great. But.....life goes on.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Welcome to my blog?


I don't think I even heard the word "Blog" before about a month ago But it sounds like good therapy .....and it's free....so what the hell.
I've been a musician since Feb of '64. Hmmmmmm....what happened that day/night?? Two words. Ed Sullivan. I really haven't been able to concentrate since. Guitar through junior high, high school and college. A late nite visit to a music store on Rt 18 turned me into a bass player around the age of 21. Full time for about eleven years. Still at it part time.
I play with a five piece 60's stlye dance band called The Movers. Mainly around central Jersey. Do some moonlighting with a country /bluegrass band. About a year ago I started doing a solo gig....playing guitar and using some home recorded background tracks. During the day/evening I'm in an office gig with some fine folks moving people from here to there. More about that later.
Thursday mornings (6am - 9) I do a radio show on WDVRFM, 89.7. Streams at
www.wdvrfm.org. I've been doing this for about twelve years. Another good group of people and....good therapy. Lots of music......... 60's, country and southern rock, folky singer/songwriter and the musings of an aging hippie.
That's about it for now. So...HELLO!!!!!! And let's do this again real soon.
Your Pal,
Ted
Damn...this is cool. I look forward to pouring my guts out on the page. Anything to help deknot de brain.