Friday, December 29, 2006

Later Than It's Ever Been

New years 2007. Who would've thought we'd make it this far? 2007!!!!! That sounds like we should be flying around in cars and having robots do all the housework and....and....I don't know......future stuff. I remember when I was a kid and thinking of the year 2000. I thought, "Well....I'll be an adult with a wife and kids. And wear a fedora and have a jacket with patches on the sleeve and smoke a pipe." Y'know like Jim Anderson and Ward Cleaver father. Didn't happen. Except for the married part for a while. The "new year" is one of those wonderful times. It's like spring training in baseball. Everyone's going to the playoffs. Everyone's batting .333. Everyone's turning perfect double plays. And then the season starts. I think the problem with New Year's resolutions is we tend to get a little carried away. Instead of trying to lose twenty pounds and walk five miles every day, how about five pounds and two miles three times a week. A lot more realistic. But there's something about a fresh start, isn't there. New baseball season, new job, new girlfriend, new car, new.....YEARS!!!!!
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I lost my parents on New Years Eve. About ten years apart. Go figure. So that night has always been a little weird, a degree.
I've spent most of the last thirty five New Years Eves on a stage in some bar/party being the "entertainment." And I liked it that way. Once you get past the early years of drinking till you barf, forcing a good time with your pals, and sometimes really having a good time with your pals....I'd just as soon be out making a buck or staying home with a friend or two. I've spent "the night" in a freezing Times Square, a stage in Bermuda, an emergency room, around a poker table, on front porches banging pots and pans.........just like you.
And then there's the countdown. When you're the band on New Year's there's a lot of pressure to get the count right. And there's always someone who jumps out around 11:45 and starts counting down. 10! 9! 8!....... Once that gets going it's impossible to stop. So I've always just rolled with it. But then ten minutes later there's Dick Clark on tv live from NYC and....hey....what the....? Uh.....happy new year.....again? And the playing of Auld Lang Syne and the kissing of someone and trying to have money in your hand. I think that's an Irish thing. One New Years Eve I was playing at the Dunellen Hotel in Dunellen, NJ. At midnight this girl comes up to the stage and plants one on me Well....did you ever have a boa constrictor crawl down your throat......with your girlfriend observing from the audience. That was a long ride home.
I remember one New Years Eve ('67 - '68?) when one of the boys got so snockered we had to bring him home in a wheebarrow and unload him into the back door of his parents house. I can still hear his sister's shrieks. Man, we howled over that one. Another New Year's my pals and I rode around in my Volkswagen looking for, but never finding ,a home for the night. Six guys singing Auld Lang Syne in a cul de sac in Piscataway. A Boone's Farm Apple wine....... and whatever else was floating around......... toast... and hello 1969.......'70? Y'know I still remember that one. We laughed a lot!
So what does 2007 mean anyway? It's just a number some guys decided on one day. And the Chinese are WAY ahead of us. But it comes at a good time. What with the cold and the fuel bills, and wet feet but....did you notice the days are getting slightly longer? Hello summer!!!!!! I heard a song lyric today that said,"Twilight is the loneliest part of the day." I'd agree. Except maybe I'd add ...."a winter's twilight."
I had a really nice Christmas. I intend to have a really nice New Years Eve. (No gig this year...anyone need a band?) And I'm a'gonna have a great 2007. Why? 'Cause I said so. It's that easy. I'm gonna drop five, walk more, finish my cd, get in a good band, date Pam Anderson......uh.....get in a good band.
Here's hoping your '07 is filled with dreams come true. Health, happiness....puppies, body surfing, snowball fights, trivial pursuits Lots of it. Give it. Receive it. It's all you need.
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Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Fall back"

Today was a good day. We put the clocks back an hour here on the east coast last night, so I started off already ahead of the game. Today had everything. Music, cooking, old friends, wildlife and the NJ countryside. Got a beef stew going around ten o' clock. My mom's recipe. I jazz it up a little but after about four hours of slow cooking it's basically unrecognizable. At one point in my life I almost became a chef. Had the papers all filled out for the Culinary Institute of America up in Hyde Park but....well....didn't do it. And I'm glad I didn't. D'ja ever whack yourself in the eye with a spatula? And don't get me started on the nefarious meat thermometer. I see you sitting in the drawer....just...waiting. Almost finished up a song I've been recording for about a month. Just can't quite seem to lock it in. I know there's a groove there somewhere. But enjoying the process. Again, that being in the moment thing.
Got calls from two old pals. The one ....of many...beautiful things about the computer explosion is the ability to re connect with old friends via e mail. You can talk to people and yet....not talk to them. Perfect!!!!!! One was a lady from the old neighborhood who's now married and has five....ouch.....five kids. And is still crazy about her husband!!! Man, if you can find that.....! The other was an old school chum who says he's heard my radio show. He said he never thanked me for showing him around his first day at Piscataway HS. I can't say I remember, but he does. Gave me a good feeling.
It was WINDY here today. Branches, chairs, garbage can, little dogs flying through the air. "We're off to see...." Around four or so a calm settled in and I took to the streets. There's about a two and a half mile stretch of country road in front of my home that gets a little busy but is as scenic as anywhere I've ever been. There's a part that has hayfields on both sides of the road that extend out to mountains and with the leaves changing and the half moon just appearing and the sky a blazing really made me thankful to be right here....right now. I took a short walk into one of the fields and sat down. Never could resist a no trespassing sign. Then laid down. (or is it lay?) I was about as content as I could imagine ever being unti I felt a pair of eyes on me. Now I couldn't remember the raccoon rule. Is it the rabid ones come out at night...or in the day? So we were eyeball to eyeball about five feet apart. By this time I was feeling pretty social so I said, " Hello Mr.......WHOA!!!!!!!! Did you know raccoons could jump? Straight up. And then....gone. Guess he wasn't rabid.
I made my way home, picked up a few loads of branches from the lawn and had a heaping bowl of beef stew. I feel a groove comin' on so I'm gonna attack this tune one more time. Yeah.....this has been a good day.
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Saturday, September 30, 2006

"You say goodbye...and I say hello"

I turned on my heat for the first time last night. Never a good sign. Between the heat and the rain the summer seemed like a washout. No big highlights this year. I got down the shore once. Heading down to Sea Isle City ...not far from Cape celebrate a anniversary with some old friends today...after a gig at a company picnic. As usual, a gig is causing me to be the late arrival again. I remember driving down to their wedding lo' those many years ago. I'd played at The Capri in Somerville that Friday night in 1976 with my old band Freewheelin,' (That's an old band shot of me and the boys from around then....every mother's nightmare) and my buddy and I hopped in my VW and headed down at two o' clock in the morning. Hit Cape May before we realized we'd missed the exit. I thank God every day for getting my pals and I through those days fairly unscathed. Looking forward to seeing some old friends.
And said goodbye to an old friend last week. My Aunt Catherine, aka Katrine, passed away Sept 20th. (She's scattered thoughout my blogging) I was tapped to do the eulogy and I think....hope...I captured her. The funeral was at St Mary's in Plainfield, NJ. Katrine was baptized, married and laid to rest there. I tried something a little unorthodox and everyone seemed to get it. Katrine was always trying to get me to sing as a kid, even though she couldn't sing a lick. "Take me out to the ballgame" was her tune of choice. I was pretty shy about it. Sometimes I'd go in the other room and belt it out. Most of the time ....not. So I ended my eulogy with a solo, accapella version of "Take me out"....from the pulpit of St Mary's church. Oh, the memories as I looked around that place. I made it through...lump in the throat and all...and held the last note long enough so Katrine could hear it. Rest well, old friend.
And said goodbye, I guess, to the summer this week. Y'know...turning the heat on and all. But I'm a big fan of that indian summer thing and I still see some sand and surf in my future.....don't I? Hit the batting cages in Raritan yesterday. They looked so lonely. That's always a pretty good guage of how old I'm getting. I still refuse to go into the slow cage. I start in medium for two tokens worth and on to the fast cage, baby!! The fast cage was throwing a nasty slider that came in on me. The perils of being a lefty. But I adjusted and managed to impress a couple little kids. It's not that tough when the ball's ALWAYS in the same place. Caught a funky little carom right where guys hate to be hit. But I'll be danged if I'm gonna start carrying around my old cup. Ow.....Ow....! So a nice blister, a sore shoulder, hands a little wobbly and all in all a not too bad batting cage experience.
I'm gonna change the strings on my old Martin today. Make 'er look and sound good for the shore jam tonight. Always a good day when I get to play bass and guitar in the same day. Hopefully, thirty years later, I can find this place on the first shot. Saying goodbe...saying hello. Old friends. Is there anything better?
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

C'mon....lighten up.......

A gentleman was brought in front of the judge for the crime of killing an animal on the endangered species and protected list....the California Condor !!!!! Now, the judge was a fair man but also an environmentalist known for his lack of sympathy in these kinds of cases. After reading the charges the judge looked up and said," I don't look favorably on this sir. Could you possibly have anything to say in your defense? "
The man said,"Your honor, your reputaion precedes you but if you'll hear me out I think you'll agree I had no choice but to kill the condor...given the circumstances."
The judge said, "Go on."
"Your honor," the man said, "I was hiking in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains when I took a tumble and severely sprained my ankle. I found that I couldn't walk and spent three days out in the elements before I was rescued. As I was expecting to be out for just a few hours I brought only water and a small amount of food.... which quickly ran out. On the morning of the third day my hunger got the better of me and I managed to snare the condor and under these circumstaces felt I had no choice but to consume the bird. I deeply regret having to kill this beautiful creature but, your honor, I sincerely felt it was a life or death situation."

The judge removed his glasses and staring straight into the man's eyes said, "It is, indeed, a crime that one of this country's most magnificent creatures...the very embodiment of the grandeur of the American west...had to perish. But sir, your story has moved me. I see your actions were taken to sustain your life and I can find no fault with that. This case is dismissed. But having said that, I have to ask you. What does a condor taste like?"
"Well, your honor," the man said,"it's kind of a cross between bald eagle and spotted owl."

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Thanks for the memories

My aunt Catherine....aka Katrine..........has been in a nursing home for the last few years. Considering she's hovering around her mid nineties she's in pretty fair shape, except for a nasty case of alzheimers. My grandmother suffered from this for the last few years of her life and besides the tragedy and hopelessness of the situation it provided some surreal comic moments. Because my father was partially paralyzed with a stroke and my grandmother was...not my grandmother, and my mom was working full time, I stayed around as much as possible. I was playing music full time and my schedule was...uh...irregular......but I'd spend many nights at the Piscataway homestead. One night I came home after a gig...around 3 am or so...and the dining room table was set for a feast. The best china, settings for.... oh... I don't know, ten or twelve. Problem was...there wasn't a holiday in sight. My grandmother was at it again. I figured I'd take it down the next morning but by the time I got up it was gone!!!!! And I don't think anyone believed that I'd actually seen it. Gram certainly wasn't going to confess. Sometimes she would take off and man, could she motor. She could barely get across the living room but get her on the open road...dang!!!!!.People would bring her home...usually a neighbor, unless we spotted her first. One time our next door neighbor and his son brought her home and she seemed unusually......"chagrined." She was a little embarassed but said, "Well, it finally happened." I said, "What happened." She said," The (neighbor and neighbor's son's name deleted for legal purposes) took my maidenhood." Well my old man started laughing so hard his teeth almost shot out. And after the dog ate his first set he had to take care of these. My mom just looked stunned and it was time for get to the gig. Pronto! She spent her last days in a nursing home and, mercifully didn't stay there long.
My aunt, on the other hand, doesnt seem to want to say goodbye. Even though I know she'd like nothing better. Katrine and I were good pals as I was growing up. After her husband died she came to live with us on W. Sixth St in Plainfield, NJ. She eventually gave up half of her part of the house to my grandmother ...remember maidenhood...? Some creative redesigning led to a full, pretty happy home. No wonder I've always felt more comfortable with women. Now I get it. And they smell much better than guys. She and my mom would sit out on the screened in porch, down a cold one or two and...commiserate. She taught me how to tie my shoes (age five), shift gears on a '54 chevy , (age ten), how much better butter is than margarine, (my mom wasn't too happy I learned about that), how to peel and cook shrimp, and the rules of when and why you hit the other guy with the high beams. She'd let me watch the good stuff on her tv, side with me on putting off bedtime, and let me pal around with her in general. The woman was a hazard behind the wheel and not real light on her feet. She had a habit of hitting the deck and took a few trips to Muhlenberg Hospital to get a stitch or two. My father...the guy with the teeth..... was her brother and was on the Plainfield Rescue Squad so he could always pull some strings. She had a great sense of humor about herself and a laugh so unique that today only I can duplicate it. And now she sits in a nursing home not knowing where she is or why she's there. I don't drop in on her nearly enough but when I do...with a little work.... I can bring her back to Sixth St for a little while. Or to Ortly Beach, where my sister and I would make beer runs from the house to the beach for Katrine, my mom and their buddies..."The Bridge Club." One of the clubbers had a house on the beach and she'd cut us a deal for a week every year. Husbands, kids...the whole deal. That's where I learned to play Gin Rummy... discovered that two bucks doesn't go very far on the boardwalk and to never...NEVER...pour beer in a milk glass.
Every now and then on my radio show I play a song from former Jersey boy John Gorka called "I don't feel like a train anymore." One of the last times I went to see my aunt I walked in and said, "Hey Katrine!!" And she said,"I don't feel like Katrine anymore." Can ya see the irony? I started laughing and she started laughing and, oh my God, the two of us were doin' the Katrine laugh like a coupla nuts. Well, we have to be our best... for our moms, dads, aunts .....etc....etc. They were there for us.
A friend of mine who has a parent in a nursing home said to me, "Ya know, it's funny....we start out in diapers and we end up in diapers." I have to tell you I got kind of a chill up my back when he said that. But because I was raised on Mad magazine and Zap comics and National Lampoon and SNL......and nuns...(oh man...more women...) I had to start laughing......chortling....gagging!!!! Just like Katrine would've.
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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Let the sun shine......would'ja please?'s August's hot....and I'm adjusting to life in my new digs on the Musconetcong river. Y'know, I'm no better looking, wealthier or brighter than I was three, five, ten years ago but..... to use a term I can't hear without making a wisecrack or rolling my eyes.....I'm in a pretty "good place ." Again it comes back to attitude. Not the same kind of attitude I'd written about in an earlier entry.... the face you put out to the world. But your inner attitude. What you have to live with all day every day. How many times have you heard "stay positive, "or "look on the bright side," or the one about the"glass half full ?" Dont bring up the one about life "giving you lemons,".......that still makes me cringe. I like to keep at least one foot in the real world.
The fact is adversity is a way of life. And it's all relative. As I write this, Israeli, Iraqi and Lebanese homes have been blown apart and family members killed or maimed. American soldiers are checking into Walter Reed hospital preparing to receive artificial limbs....or.....not checking in at all. Makes that egg McMuffin that came out cold or the backup on the Garden State Parkway not seem so earth shattering.
Maybe it's that I'm getting older and all of a sudden the "light at the end of the tunnel" doesn't seem as far off as it once did, but I'll be dipped in #%&%* if I'm gonna walk around negative and depressed. Y' know people like that? Everything's someone else's fault. The world's against them. WAAAAAAAAA!!!! Who's fault is it that I'm not living in a million dollar home or driving a jag. I don't know...let me see...... uh....hmmmm.....ME!!!!!!! Not that I even crave those things...honest. Right now I'm living in a six hundred dollar a month apartment and driving a Saturn and I'm probably more content than I've ever been. It's a great pad and there's water about fifty yards away!!!!!!!
I love those positive sayings you run into. They're all true. If we could only do it. It's like losing weight. We all know how. Don't eat so much and get some exercise. Cut down on junk and bring up the fruits and vegetables. Wow...what a revelation. That'll be forty five dollars. Didn't say I could do it...but I know....we all know what to do.
I get daily life wisdom's sent to my e mail from a guy named Joel Osteen. I've mentioned him before. He's one of those Sunday preachers without the bible thumping. I'm as cynical as it gets when it comes to these guys but he's always driving home the message, stay positive, this'll be a good day ahead, let the other guy cut in front of you (I'm paraphrasing) and....say it out loud...uh....but not when anyone's around. I kind of stumbled on this philosophy a few years back and danged if it doesn't work. It doesn't have anything to do with religion but you can certainly throw that in if you'd like. When you get in your car and take off for work, or even on your way to the bathroom, just put a positive spin on what's ahead and where you are. And here's the secret. Do it everyday and do it no matter how you're feeling. Yeah....lie to yourself if you have to. Eventually a sense of calm will settle over you. It's ok to still get depressed. When I feel the blues coming on I like to relish it, wrap it around me, really feel sorry for myself...and then....let it go!!! Or try to. Not always easy. But you CAN change your attitude.......if you're aware of it. And exercise really helps. If you're a little down, take a walk for fifteen minutes, jump on a bike or stand up and do fifty jumping jacks. Ahhhh...... the endorphine rush.
Hey man, life's alway gonna try to beat you down. A year and a half ago life gave me a good ol' kick in the butt. For about two weeks I was as depressed as I've ever been. Poor, poor pitiful me. (I still have the hots for Linda Ronstadt) Then one day I just had enough, shook it of and carried on. What're you gonna do?!?! My mom had a long degenerative illness that eventually killed her. And took two of her legs in the process. She'd always laugh when people would come up to her when she was in her wheelchair and tell her how brave she was. She'd say, "Hey, what choice do I have ?" She had her depressed moments, but for the most part (I can't believe I'm gonna write this)....she made lemonade. OUCH!!!!!!
Alright, so what'd we learn here? JUST TRY IT. No matter how you're feeling tomorrow...when you're on your way to.... wherever...and before you hear the news on the radio...just just tell yourself...out loud......... how lucky you are for____________, what a good day this is gonna be, how youre're gonna cut the other guy some slack and..... keep smiling. The shrinks are saying that just the act of a smile sends a positive signal to your brain. Or maybe I made that up. I don't remember. But y'know what... it's contagious. Try this everyday for a month. At least people might think you're really weird. And that alone is worth the price of admission.
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"A Summer Place"

The 4th of July!!!!! Does this mean the summer's half over? I haven't even gotten a toe in the ocean, eaten a greasy sausage sandwich or had a ride on the "Wild Mouse." C'mon!!!! Slow down!!!! This is another one of those holidays that doesn't call for a whole lot of effort on our part.....unless you're holding the barbecue. It's also a holiday where the meaning sometimes gets lost. A few hundred years ago some folks got together and decided they'd had enough of King George and his taxes. A lot of brave, committed people died in the next few years. And here we are. Like Christmas, Memorial Day, Easter, Thanksgiving.....we forget. Try to squeeze in a minute or two to reflect on what the 4th is all about. It'll give you a proud feeling in your belly.
I've had a lot of rockin' 4th's. From selling flags in the Plainfield parade, to a variety of band gigs, to almost blowin' my fingers off a number of!!! For twenty two years I had a gig at the Piscataway HS football field..... with the same band. It was sad watching family members "fall away" over the years. Some wonderful memories...that I think I just want to keep in my head. Today I'll be playing at Solitude house in High Bridge, NJ. with a couple of friends. Second year in a row. New tradition? But back to the Plainfield Fourth of July parade. This was a big one. The Philadelphia Mummers would show up!!!!!!! Those boys rocked. One parade in particular stands out. My father was on a float with the Plainfield Rescue Squad..... my future guitar teacher was on a float playing with "The Chevelles" (soon to be "The Critters"...... remember "Younger Girl?" Sure you do.) And I sold a flag to a girl I'd be sitting with in the balcony of the Strand Theater in a few weeks. A box of flags worked almost as well as a guitar! The Chevelles came back to the Rescue Squad after the parade and performed. What a day. Life was never quite the same.
I just moved to Bloomsbury, NJ over Memorial Day wknd.....right on the Musconetcong River and a few miles from the Delaware. Last week mother nature let us know she's still around. The neighbors assured me we wouldn't get flooded out and they were right. A lot of other people weren't so lucky. Most bridges between Pa and NJ flooded . A mess all around. And I had a gig cancelled. Woe is me.'s all relative. I'm a big believer in the count your blessings thing. Try it.
So life has taken another turn. This is fun, isn't it? As I look back I can almost see a hand guiding me from here to there. I can never see it at the time, but reflection is a wonderful thing. When you look at the big picture.... things work out. Not always the way you'd like....but it seems....for the best. I've always liked the idea that life is a cosmic joke, and this is merely our time on stage. I still have a lot of questions.......
Well...have a hot dog, suck up a cold beer, wave some sparklers, put your arms around you family and friends and remember a group of incorrigible rebels who roamed the forests of the east coast lo' those many years ago. Thanks boys. Happy 4th of July!!!!! Le's do it again next year.
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Friday, June 09, 2006


Ted Lyons
Folk/Rock, 60's R n R, Originals

"Summer's here and the time is right for dancin' in the street."

Sat, June 3rd & Sat June 17th, 7 pm - 10
"Christie's", Rt 31, Glen Gardner, NJ

Tues, June 20th, 7 pm - 8
Manville Public Library, Manville, NJ
(w/The Plum Run Band )

Sat, July 1st, 8 pm - 11
Raubsville Inn Rt 611, Raubsville, PA

Tues, July 4th, 2pm
Solitude House, High Bridge, NJ
(w/ The Plum Run Band)

Fri, July 21st, 7 pm - 10
"Christie's", Rt 31, Glen Gardner, NJ

Fri, July 28th, 7 pm - 8
Main St, Somerville, NJ, "Concerts On The Lawn"
(at the library)

Sat, Aug 5th, 6:30 pm - 10,
Luigi's Rancho, Rt 519, Belvidere, NJ

Fri, Aug 11th, 7 pm - 10
"Christie's", Rt 31, Glen Gardner, NJ

Sat, Sept, 9th, 5 pm - 8
Holland Twp School, Rt 519 Milford/Holland, NJ Twp,
(w/The Harrison Brothers Band)

Sat, Sept 16th, 6:30 pm - 10,
Luigi's Rancho, Rts 519 & 46, Belvidere, NJ

Fri, Sept 22nd, 7 pm - 10
"Christie's", Rt 31, Glen Gardner, NJ

Tues, Oct 10th 7 pm -8:30

Manville Public Library, Manville, NJ

w/The Plum Run Band,

Fri, Oct 13th, 7 pm - 10
"Christie's", Rt 31, Glen Gardner, NJ

Fri, Nov 10th, & Fri, Nov 24th, 7 pm - 11
"Christie's", Rt 31, Glen Gardner, NJ

Fri, Dec 15th, 7 pm - 11

"Christie's", Rt 31, Glen Gardner, NJ

Sat, Dec 23rd, 6:30 pm - 10

Luigi's Ranch-o

Rt 46, Belvidere, NJ (just west of 519)

Listen in Thurs mornings 6am - 9 on WDVR 89.7 fm & 91.9 fm
(streams online at

Contact :

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"I KNOW I can still hit the curve"

"The greatest risk is taking no risk at all."This (in my own scrawl) proudly hangs in my kitchen taped to a cabinet door. I'm not sure when or where I first heard this....or even if I got it right... but AMEN Lord, I'm a believer!!!!!!!! As Soupy Sales might say, "Now what do we mean by that?" What we....I...mean by that is that the fear you experience just before you jump off that cliff is nothing compared to the regret you'll have for the rest of your life if you don't. Got it? The older I get the less inclined I am to worry about what people think. Not the jumping off the cliff stuff. That never really bothered me. I still have a nice scar on my foot from being the first one off the cliff at Chimney Rock Reservoir. Not quite as deep as we'd thought. But we moved down a few yards and all was cool. And I only bled for five or ten minutes. I had a definite crazy streak going through me as a kid/young adult/older young adult. Putting me, my body, on the sweat. Putting "me" on the line....challenging. Public speaking, performing, being in the spotlight....these are my "cliffs."
I think the turning point for me was around 1985 or so. I had a job that would take me into NYC once or twice a week and If I had time to kill I'd usually wind up on 48th St.... guitar store capital of the world. Well this one day I'm parked by Manny's Music and I notice a sign on the door of the Cort door to Manny's...... Open Auditions for "Cats" 2pm. How many different roads do we have the opportunity to take in life? If you went to that college instead of this one, took that other job, asked HER out, played with the other band, went out, stayed home, original, extra crispy.....STOP!!!!! This concept can boggle the mind. But we're not static creatures. Move we must. Some (me) just a little slower than others. A lot of times I feel like I'm living life in a THIS move is really changing....CUE THE ORCHESTRA! It's usually not, but is! And sometimes when you feel like you're just going along for the kill a few hours...BAM... that's the one that whacks you.
So around 3:30 I'm on stage at the Cort Theater with seven or eight other guys. Did you ever feel like you were in a roomful of tuxedos..... and you were a pair of brown shoes? This was just like you see in the movies. Mine was the third group to go out. Stage lights in your eyes and disebodied voices coming out of the audience area. I was wearing jeans and a t shirt so when the "voice" asked me to do a pirhoutte... I Just looked at all the latex and sweat bands and leg warmers up there on that stage with me and started laughing. I mean...c'mon! My girlfriend at the time was a ballet dancer so I knew what he wanted, and I could've given him my three stooges pirhoutte that I'd do for my buddies in my living room after a night out but I didn't think this was the time or place for that. But before I could do much of anything the "voice " said, "What're you a singer?" "Uh, yeah, I'm a singer." And I launched into the only song that seemed appropriate. "They say the neon lights are bright, on Broadway....on Broadway." Great acoustics in that theater. My mantra has always been, (and I've never been afraid to share it with anyone who wants to listen)..... if you're gonna make a mistake....make it LOUD! I let it rip and the "voice" let me finish a whole verse and that was all I really knew anyway. So with a florish and a bow and a mighty "hi ho Silver"...oh...and a disembodied "We'll be in touch".... my group left the stage. Can you believe it? I never heard from them. I had some nutty notion that I may have fit just a "type" of cat they were looking for. I didn't apparantly....but I might have. And there it is! I've never regretted for a minute going to that audition. It makes a pretty good story and sure beats the feeling I'd have carried around if I didn't.
I hate to say " the older I get" again, but the older I get the more aware I am of roads, opportunities. They're all over the place. Sometimes you need help to see them. I started doing a solo gig about a year and a half ago because my friend Lucy wouldn't let me not do it. I like to think I would have eventually done it anyway, but who knows? I wasn't really frightened the first time out. More like....well hell, this can't really be happening. I'm a bass player. I need people on the stage. I...I....surreal, man. Then the first tune. First, second, third set. Night over and...survival. Now about twenty gigs in I'm diggin' it. And what's the worst that can happen? Kinda the same feeling on my first radio show. As the Star Spangled Banner was playing I'm imploring my feet to like the wind!!!! But the movie was to stay there, stumble through a radio show and thirteen years later I'm still at it.
Sure there's things we can't do. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to find out where the line is. I'd love to be the Yankees center fielder. Impossible, I know. But I'll bet if I was driving up the Deegan Expwy in the Bronx one day....and there was a banner hanging outside the Stadium that said "Open Call For Centerfielders".......I'd pirhouette in there and....Hey!'s my movie!! Peace.

Monday, February 27, 2006

"Hey, beats the alternative..."

I had a birthday last fifty fourth to be exact. Hey man, it just happened. No hoopla. Did my radio show in the morning. Went to work....came home. A friend took me out to dinner a few days before. Got a couple of wishes the day of. I'm not good at mentioning my birthday. I don't like a fuss...... I think. But you know that feeling you get...... that by the end of the day if your birthday hasn't really "happened" you get a little depressed? I've been lucky. I've had all kinds of birthdays. A couple of surprise parties...three .....and one I even helped plan. Not my idea. The other two I suspected strongly. Had a heart stopper one time. When I moved from Plainfield to Piscataway in eighth grade my pal Jimmy Lyons (no relation) threw me a humdinger. Not birthday related but still a tongue swallower. It almost didn't come off 'cause he was having a heck of a time getting me to his house. But he pulled it off. Alright Jimmy.
This last one I had a solo gig the day after. It was at a cabin in the woods of Hunterdon County that an organization called The Arc turns into a coffeehouse once every few months. It's a wonderful room for a bash. Nice wood stage...great acoustics. Reminiscent of any "sock hop" you ever went to. (Did I just write....sock hop?) They bus the crowd in so it's empty ten minutes before showtime, then packed for two hours, then empty ten minutes after showtime. I liken it to a Fellini movie. Nice crowd and the Arc folks are great. I was sitting there about an hour one around....a lot of creaking and wind and cold. A wave of depression settled over me like a fur coat. And that's not me. But this time I wore the coat for awhile.... and then the buses pulled up, the music rolled, packed up, hung a little with the Arc folks and left feeling....satisfied. My father and I used to have this birthday ritual. I'd bust on him for getting old and he'd say, " Hey, beats the alternative." Amen. I've come to terms with"the alternative." I never bought into the whole punishment, burn in hell thing. You're telling me, (I'm talking to all my old Catholic school teachers now) that if I missed church on Sunday I'm gonna burn in hell for eternity? ETERNITY!!!! That's a long time! And this from a God who loves us. Could you imagine...... But I love watching a good Sunday preacher. Not because I buy into it, I just enjoy the snake oil salesman part. A good chunk of the message resonates. It's just the messenger I'm not too sure of. How 'bout Jimmy Swaggart? Now that's entertainment. He brought his message with a sountrack. What a great band...and all Peavey equipment. He's a cousin to Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley. Unfortunately he had a little trouble in a hotel room somewhere down south but hey.... we're only human. That's the problem with too much finger pointing. Eventually it points back. There's a guy out there that I kinda like named Joel Osteen. He wrote a book, "Your Best Life Now." He's a Sunday preacher who doesn't bible thump a whole lot and just has a positive message. Give a little. Be good to your friends, neighbors, kids.....and stay positive. I'll buy that. Now don't disappoint me down the road, Joel. "Fame....I'm gonna live forever........."
But you know what's even better than celebrating your birthday? Celebrating the birthday of someone you really care about with that someone. Getting the right gift....the right restaurant....hotel....B&B......HAAAAA-AAAAAAY!!!!!! Nothin' better.
Y' know, I like being fifty four. Everything about it. I like "now." I like current music, my current job, women my own age, where I live, friends my own age. Hopefully all of these things will move to the next level...SOON!!! Reflection is good....necessary. But you don't want to be Patty Duke in "Valley of the Dolls" wandering around a bar trying to convince people that you used to be somebody. Of course, first you have to be somebody so that won't be a concern for most of us.
I got together with a couple of old friends over the weekend. We played some old songs, laughed about old times, drank some beer, ate, belched.....all the stuff guys do when they're on their own. Man, I'm glad I went..... almost didn't. There's nothing better than being around people you have a history with. You can't get away with anything.
Birthdays. Ain't they a kick in the butt? "Talkin 'bout my generation", "When I'm sixty four", "Don't trust anyone over thirty"..... HA!! "One for my baby...and one more for the road." ....dogs....cats. "In my life....I've loved you all."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

That's Right......I'm Bad

Attitude. You can have attitude without confidence, but confidence begets attitude. How 'bout that? "Young man, you'd better change your attitude"...... "Boy, that chick's got an attitude".......Mr T.... BA..... Bad attitude. I learned early on that attitude can make or break you.
I went to St Mary's Grammar School, Plainfield NJ, in the late fifties and early sixties. Plainfield, like the rest of the country, was feeling the beginnings of social unrest. Here was my plight. From about third grade on I used to walk home from school.....about a mile or so. The problem was that students from Hubbard Junior HS and Plainfield HS were walking in the opposite direction..and they didn't seem to like me too much. Maybe it was the uniform, but everyday it was something. Spit on, robbed, punched or just harassed. I got pretty good at smelling trouble and knowing escape routes. Did you ever see the Seinfeld where George discovers that if he walks around looking angry and agitated all day no one bothers him. It works!! If trouble was coming my way I'd kind of look down...not away.....and mumble to myself. If anybody said anything I'd give them my Elvis sneer and a look that said, "Hey, I got no time for you, pal!", pick up the pace a little and keep an eye out for a convenient escape route. I'd be dealing with this every day so I was used to it, but about half the time a friend or two would be with me and they'd be a little nervous. If a "situation" was developing they'd say, "Teddy, do the Rin Tin Tin story." I don't remember the story now but I'd start talking and gesturing and they'd all be listening intently, apparantly oblivious to anything else and we'd usually skate. Attitude.
It got to the point where I'd abandoned the escape routes, except in dire circumstances, and instead used guile, cunning, chutzpah and, of course, attitude. I found that a bloody lip is preferable to that feeling you get in your stomach when you cut and run. But a good escape from a no win situation can also bring a bit of satisfaction...discretion being the better part of valor. I remember so clearly a snowball throwing incident. This was after I'd moved to Piscataway and my cohorts and I had just unloaded and were getting ready to fly. For some reason I didn't run. I stood my ground on the frozen outfield of the Knollwood School baseball field and watched my friends take off, their frozen breath in the air spelling the words, "Move it, jackass." I wasn't coming this time. Don't know why. The first pursuer flew by me and here came his pal right behind him. I wasn't looking for a fight. When you're fourteen and the competition is seventeen or eighteen you try to avoid that. I was simply gonna adopt a certain attitude and explain to the gentleman that we merely....WHAM!!!!! Y' know, Daffy Duck was right. You really do see stars. The next thing I knew my buddies were standing over me laughing hysterically. They'd escaped and I had a fat lip. But I didn't have that feeling in my stomach
You've heard the term "adrenaline rush." D'ja ever feel it? It is so cool. There are bushes and fences I've leapt in the back yards of Plainfield and Piscataway that I never could have cleared without the big A. I've outrun guys on the football field who should have caught me but for the surge. It's like your body goes into fifth an angel is giving you a gentle push and lift. It's really very spititual. As adults we usually don't get a chance to experience a good adrenaline rush. Or if we do, once again it's in dire circumstances. Clear! Clear!
One of my favorite expressions is "pick your battles." This just means make sure it's worth it. Do you really want to argue with the grocer over how he's bagging? Or with your girlfriend 'cause she's ten minutes late? Maybe you do. You could be arguing with everybody all day. C'mon! And most times you can avoid a situation with...attitude. Y'know who had attitude? Superman. Not George Reeve, the TV Superman, or, as far as I could tell, the comic book
Superman..... but the Saturday morning cartoon Superman. My father and I would watch George Reeve and be amazed that all he did was put on a business suit and a pair of glasses and everyone was fooled. But the cartoon Superman lowered his voice, adopted a swagger, did the little hair thing and look out bad guys. Apparantly the radio Superman's whole persona was attitude. Makes sense.
I have a profound respect for men like Martin Luther King, Gandhi.....Jesus.. They knew they were in for a whuppin' but faced it without raising a hand. Passive resistance. The biggest man with the biggest club can't beat that. I don't think I would have had the nerve to walk with a group of demonstrators down a Selma street in the sixties. That takes a certain breed. People with foresight, a ton of guts, a feeling of "right" and, of course, attitude. The people with the hoses....the clubs...the dogs....knew they couldn't fight that attitude for long. If you've never seen the movie "Braveheart", rent it. Everyone has fear. Some just cover it better than others.
I've sat in with a lot of different bands or played by myself over the years in situations where I knew I wasn't
as prepared as I should have been but attitude's always pulled me through. Show no fear! (this works with angry dogs, too) I used to say faking it, but that's not really it. It has to be in there somewhere or you wouldn't have put yourself in that situation to start with. You take a deep breath, chug on through and when it's over, whatever the result, you won't have that feeling in your stomach. Everyone's got hurdles to clear, some larger than others. But they're usually not insurmountable, nor as high as they look. Attitude. Anybody here......seen my old friend Martin?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

If you LOOK like you know what you're doin'......

A few years back two pals and I had a band called The Firecreek Band. Not a great band, but mobile, huge repertoire, and an easygoing familiarity that kept egos in check and brawls to a minimum. We were together darn near twenty years, on and off. Side projects would split us up for awhile but sooner or later the call to action would come. Lots of interesting times with those boys. We played a lot! My friend Tom, whom I met while I was playing with the aforementioned Freewheelin, checked out in '98. Way too young. He used to come see the band....yadda, yadda......Firecreek was hatched.
But this isn't about Tom, or Firecreek, but about confidence. In the early eighties we were lucky enough to get a two month gig in Bermuda. Ever been to Bermuda? Perfect. Expensive.....but perfect. We were playing at a place called The Robin Hood Pub. John Lennon used to hang out there while he was living in Bermuda working on Double Fantasy. The title comes from a flower in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Many a break time we'd sit in the "John Lennon " booth and.....contemplate. The movie "The Deep" was filmed there. The manager of the pub got a gig working as a gofer on the set.....and picking up Jacqueline Bissett every morning. I wish I could tell you more about that. Nick Nolte would get snockered and sit on the front steps of The Robin Hood and cry. Yeah......good times! My point........ah....confidence.
Right around the time we were playing there the Men At Work song "Down Under" came out and was huge. A guy who would hang out at the Pub soon started bartending there and we got pretty close with him.....a real likeable sort. We'd be messing around with "Down Under" and Grant would kind of be singing along and we finally convinced him to get up and sing it on stage with us. Hell, everybody else was! The first time he snuck up and hung around the back of the stage with his back to the audience...barely audible. But he got a great response 'cause everyone loved him. We were playing six nights a week and the Grant thing would happen almost every night. It would start with one or two people doing the "Grant Chant" and soon the place would be rockin' and we'd have no choice but to kick it in. The Robin Hood was more of a locals place but the cruise ships would dock two blocks away and baby give me a roomful of happy tourists egged on by happier Bermudians to make the night move. Grant was a phenom. Enter....confidence.
Grant would let the first couple of half hearted "Grant Chants" go over his head and just keep serving. When the chant hit its stride at some point, an unspoken thing would happen between us and Grant. We knew it was time and " dada." But Grant.....MAH MAN!!!!!!!! First he'd put on his shades. Then he'd to the stage......slowly......., snatch the mike off the stand and command the front of the stage as the crowd would go wild! Some comments to the room, maybe an intro of the band and.... Elvis meet Sinatra meet David Lee Roth meet....Grant. So what happened? Feedback. Large, spontaneous, sincere feedback. I have a picture of this scene and I taped our last night there so now I have proof and you know what? It ain't all that great....but you really had to be there. 'Cause was great. We encouraged him, the crowd encouraged him....the other bartenders weren't that crazy about it, but they rolled, and Grant became one with his confidence and did it, man.....and did it well!
It's amazing what a pat on the back, some positive reinforcement (sure...a little alcohol may have been involved), and confidence can do for a guy. You think you can! Most of the time, anyway. The lesson? Encourage!!!!! I don't know where I heard it, but I have, taped to my kitchen cabinet, the words, "The greatest risk is taking no risk at all." It's kind of become my mantra in the last few years. You know that feeling you get when you should have tried something..... and you didn't. Not for me, man. You rock, Grant!!!! Now pass me that vegemite sandwich.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Highway To

Music has been such a huge part of my life, from neighborhood shows, ala The Little Rascals, to a stint with the St. Mary's Boys Choir, to bands, bands, bands. My first "professional" band was with a with a group called The Wichita Straw Band, which quickly evolved into Freewhweelin'. That was when I dropped the guitar and started playing the bass.
It's amazing how little incidents.......a left here....a right there.....go out.....stay home.........can put such a spin on your life. The year was 1972. The place was Highway Music, East Brunswick, NJ.......closing time. Rock, Mike and I spent a lot of time that summer playing guitars, surfing, throwin' and going to keg parties......and enjoying everything that went along with that scene. Everybody and their sister played guitar but soon it came down to the three of us. We were actually working up set lists and considering giving this a shot. Flash to Highway Music. I'll be forever grateful to the sales guy for staying open a little later that night and letting us grab and play. Mike and Rock pulled a couple of guitars off the wall and for some reason.... I grabbed a bass. We plugged in, started playing Johnny B. Goode and I can't explain the ease and the comfort level I felt. You have to be able to recognize a good epiphany when it happens. They're rare. This one kicked me in the teeth. On the way home I was having a hard time explaining what had happened. I was dry mouthed, kind of stunned...remember your first kiss?........ yeah, like that. The next day I bought a Fender bass and about a month later a Fender Bassman amplifier . We got our old drummer from junior high school (I refer you to the "what's in a name" post) and stumbled through a few gigs. And you know what? Girls still liked musicians....even bad ones. YAAAAAYYY!!!!!!
Mike left and went to grad school, as did Ronnie, our drummer. We ran into Lew, a wonderful fiddler. Then Joe, another high school bud, joined us on guitar....a few starts and stutters...... and Freewheelin' was hatched. We played as a semi electric four piece for awhile until one night at a place called The Gypsy in Long Valley, NJ we recognized our future drummer.....Panama Ed......and had a pretty good run for a few years. We were lucky...old friends, liked the same kind of music, and the country rock scene was rollickin' in NJ at the time. We drove to gigs together, ate together, lived together. (It's amazing how quickly crabs can spread though a house) and still play together, in one form or another, every now and then. We'd always stick a few originals in the sets and some label interest developed. But the business end was not our strong suit. Agents would talk to us about tightening up the stage act or dressing better.....the music was fine....but.....we'd always glaze over at that point. Over the years we've thought we probably blew a golden opportunity. But the truth is...better bands than us have come and gone and always will. No regrets.
Freewheelin's last gig was at The Red Fox Inn in New Brunswick, NJ. I thought.... ok.... I got this out of my system, now it's back to school and reality. Well, wouldn't you know. During the night a woman comes up to me, tells me she's a singer in a band and they guessed it.....a bass player. That was twenty five plus years ago and it's never stopped. You see, you can't swing a dead cat without hittin' a guitar offense.....but, I've discovered over the years, bass players are at a premium. Why I reached for a bass on the wall at Highway Music that summer night I'll never know. The road that's followed has not been........ prosperous. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.