Saturday, October 03, 2009

Star Trek...Bruce Lee.....Wisdom

So I got a new guitar last week. It's a Breedlove acoustic/electric and it's like a little slice of heaven. I started doing some solo gigs again and I had to make the move. For a good acoustic guitar these days you have to be looking in the $1,000 range. I was going for a Taylor and had just about decided on one when Mr. Breedlove crossed my path. A done deal.
As I was paying for my guitar at the Guitar Center counter I flashed back to a Saturday afternoon at Gregory's music store in Plainfield, NJ. I was twelve, the year was 1964 and my mother decided she'd spring for my first guitar. Eighteen dollars....with case. The strings were so far off the neck you could....well...they were really far off the neck. I loved that guitar. Developed some real healthy callouses with that baby. About a year later I got my mom to go for my first electric guitar...with case and amp. It was a $50 Crown guitar and a $30 Kay amp and life has never been the same. But the thing with guitars, amps and any musical equipment is.... you always need something else. My problem is I can never 100% focus on one thing. Bass took up a good chunk of time but there was always guitar, dobro, banjo, pedal steel, girls, drums, harp. Jack of all....master of none. Would I do it differently if I could? Probably not. But for now the focus is on the acoustic guitar and learning and refining things I should have learned and refined a long time ago. I was never one for practice. I could and can always play for an hour or two at a shot just for fun which I guess translates into practice. But the serious guys I've met over the years do about six hours a day. Can't do it. The solo venture I've re embarked on has a different slant this time. No backing tracks...just me and a guitar. Very liberating, frightening and a lot more enjoyable. We'll see. Still playing bass in a couple acts and got to play drums last week in a local bar. HOOT!!!! But still looking for that one real solid, steady bass gig. I'm starting to believe it ain't gonna happen. I don't mean Madison Square Garden. Just a 3 or 4 times a month money making, music making, thumping band. I've had it a few times in this life and it spoils you.
But man, I can't complain. Life is good on the river. I wonder where'd I'd be if I'd stayed on the corporate track. A lot more in the 401K but, I'll bet, even more gray hair, an ulcer and a lot of what ifs.
I am one lucky son of a gun. I've really managed to live life, for the most part, on my own terms. If I live too long things could get dicey. But if I take a final bow about when I should, things should be just fine. I had a friend who got through life without ever having a real steady job, lived with his parents till well into his fifties, got some inheritance when they passed away and then died a few years later. I'd always tell him, "Just're gonna have a tough road in the end. What're ya 401K? You'll see!! Well he had the last laugh. Not my choice, but that's what makes a horse race.
As Bruce Lee once said, "The choice is yours, my friend." (He also said, "Be like water." Always liked that one.) I have arguments with some of my liberal friends about this. I've always been a bleeding heart liberal but as time goes on I'm bleeding less and less. Anybody can do anything....if they so choose.....and are willing to work for it. I'm convinced of it, I've seen it, it's my credo. Is it harder for some than others? Is life sometimes unfair? Is the playing field slanted? Do you hate people who ask questions only to answer them in the next sentence? Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. The question always comes back to me, "Then why aren't you on the Forbes 500, loudmouth?" Never desired it. Period. Believe it or not.
I have an earlier blog in here somewhere about roads taken and not taken so I'll leave that alone. But I like the alternate universe theory that says we live out every possibility somewhere...sometime. Ah...time lines. The things of which Star Treks are made? And the wonderful thing one can say...... with absolute ain't so. So, I guess somewhere, sometime, I am.....was..... will fielder for the NY Yankees. And I do look good in pinstripes.
(Scroll down for updated info on Carrie)

Friday, July 03, 2009


Linda's daughter, Carrie, is in a hospital in South Jersey. She had complications after delivering a baby girl two weeks ago. She's extremely critical. A large cloud is hanging over life. Please pray for her. Thanks
( Pictured:Carrie, her brother Michael and Linda)
(1 month later, July 19th)
She made it! A long road ahead. Thanks for your support and prayers. It's meant everything!
(Oct 4th, 2009)
Carrie's still in the hospital because of insurance red tape. Probably going home next week with a with a visiting daily nurse. Waiting for the call for a small intestines transplant at The University Of Pittsburgh. Hurdles still ahead.
(Oct 31, 2009)
Carrie's been home and back in the hospital three times. Currently back in Cooper Hospital in Camden. The longest she's been able to stay home without problems developing is about four days. Currently gall bladder problems resulting from her TPN. Waiting for the word from Pittsburgh to go for the evaluation and then transplant. Thanks for your prayers and inquiries.
(Nov, 24, 2009)
Linda and Carrie have been in Pittsburgh for a week and a half now. The insurance issues between NJ, Pittsburgh and Ohio (where Carrie will be staying with her brother, post evaluation) have been a nightmare.Thank God Linda's been on the case correcting everyone's mistakes and making sure things get done. Some of the problems are severe...... like NJ insurance and Pittsburgh insurance unable to decide who will supply her TPN, the intraveneous nutrition that she has to have ten to twelve or more hours a day. She's had to miss a couple of days here and there because of it. Not good! Just one instance, of many, of beauracracy gone wild! She's had some tests and is getting ready for a two week evaluation process . She was in patient till today and is now out patient for the evaluation. Then.....provided the evaluation goes in her favor.....we wait for an available small intestine. As of today Carrie and Linda are living together in housing near the hospital for families of patients. Here's to peace in Pittsburgh!
Dec 30th, 2009
Carrie and Linda are back from their third trip to Pittsburgh. Miles....and miles...... The evaluation is over and now Carrie is, or shortly will be, on the list for a small intestine. The co ordinator seems to think it won't be long.
Jan 19, 2010
Carrie and Linda left for Pittsburgh today at 4:30 am. Carrie has to have some tests that she probably should have had while she was out there during previous visits. She was due to be put on the transplant list anytime and just got the word a few hours ago that she's been listed. Now we wait for the call for an available small intestine. That'll be a good day for us and, unfortunately, a sad day for someone else. Whomever you may be......thank you. So Carrie's there for the duration. She'll be staying in Ohio with her brother, Michael, and his fiancee. They're about an hour away from the hospital and that's a good thing. Once the call comes in she's got to be at the hospital asap. Linda's been a trooper. A great mom and a wonderful partner. We're all lucky to have her in our lives. Seven months ago I promised Carrie this would all be over by Feb 19th. I don't know why I blurted out that date but I just realized that was my grandmother's birthday. Hmmmmm......
Feb 1, 2010
Had the first false alarm last Saturday. In the morning we got a call that a small intestine would be available sometime that day. I had a gig that nite and as I was packing up...around 1 am, I got a call from Linda that Carrie was on her way to the hospital and things were moving. Linda lef, drove all night and hung out at the hospital all day Sunday. The surgery was set for 4 pm. Around 3 pm the doctors decided the match wasn't close enough. The intestine was from a fifteen year old boy. Quite a reality check. His liver would also be donated.
March 13, 2010
This past Tue night the call came in. Linda took off for Pittsburgh around 10 pm. The surgery started around 11 pm and continued till around 11 am. Carrie has a new small intestine, said goodby to a gall bladder and appendix and is doing great this morning. God bless the donor (a nineteen year old Alabama boy) and family. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. A long recovery to come. But this is one feisty chick! Thanks for all your inquiries, prayers and support. Peace.
March 27, 2010
Carrie celebrated her 28th birthday on Mar 17th. She also had another surgery that day to remove a hematoma. She had a second surgery the next day to stop some bleeding. Since then she's responded extremely well to the new intestine and the future looks good.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's ALL small stuff

Around 1990 I was working at a Tae Kwon Do school in NJ. I'd just left the ulcer inducing fast track of the corporate world and my teacher offered me a gig. I'd warm up classes, teach a few, sell memberships, sweep the floor and do whatever it took to help Master Kwak keep two schools running. Master Kwak exemplified what I though a martial artist should represent. He was calm, reflective.........meditative breathing exercises were part of every class........and extremely skilled in his art. He would only demonstrate his skills during student tests but some of his techniques and breaks were amazing. He had a dry sense of humor, appreciated mine and was a good friend during the time I trained and worked with him. I broke my hand on my black belt test and I remember when I walked into his school with a cast on my arm he looked like he was gonna cry....then laugh...then cry.......ah.........the ultimate yin and yang.

A few weeks later I was preparing to move out of the area and leave the school. I was nervous but excited and Master Kwak and I had a sitdown. He was always good for some words of wisdom. For some reason life keeps reminding me of this conversation. My mom has just died after a long illness. We'd sold her home and I was leaving with no prospects except my band gig...which was doing pretty well at the time. Master Kwak sensed my apprehension and showed me something he'd drawn on a piece of paper he had in front of him. I'd seen it around his office but never thought to ask what it was. It was the Korean character for crisis. He told me the word is made up of two meaning danger....and the other meaning opportunity. Ahhhhhh.....grasshopper. I can't escape it because that reference never fails to appear at the exact moment of crisis/danger/opportunity etc. Harrowing, or at least, uncertain times, upon reflection, usually turn out to be worth the trip. I've had a few life challenges, just like you, and at this point I can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing. If everything didn't happen as it did I wouldn't be And this is right where I want to be. There's still things to do......hopes....dreams.......become a better brother, uncle, friend....partner. And that's what keeps life exciting. The old what the hell is gonna happen tomorrow thing!?!?

I dig getting older. Is that weird? I see things so much more clearly than when I was twenty or thirty. One of the biggest lessons is don't sweat the small stuff, because ultimately it's all small stuff. I can't take credit for that but it's my mantra. Another bit of wisdom I try to live by is the Serenity Prayer. I'm certainly not a religious guy in the traditional sense and not much for traditional prayer but I carry a lot of spirituality around and this one hits home. Google it. How did I become acquainted with it?
The nuns in my grammar school would hit the parents up for the occasional ride to Convent Station, NJ. This was kind of like the mother ship for the Sisters of Charity. My mom got the call one day and I was recruited for the drive along. Turns was my teacher!!!!! I guess I've been more uncomfortable but I can't remember when. As a thank you she gave my mother a small plaque which had the Serenity Prayer on it. My mom seemed very moved and told her that the prayer had always been one of her favorites. I thought she was just shinin' her but apparently she meant it. That prayer hung around the house for the next thirty years. I guess the vibe has passed on because like the sage words of Master Kwak, the Serenity Prayer always seems to pop up right when it's needed. I finally caved and put my own computer generated prayer together, framed it and it's in my music studio helping me to find the divine inspiration needed to write a top ten hit. That and Carole King's Tapestry album. Basically it tells you to be aware and ready when life comes at you. Recognize a good opportunity, etc. Good advice anytime. Clever one liners make life so simple, don't they? If we all lived by the bits of wisdom delivered by the Asian cartoon character in the NY Daily News.....usually right next to the racing would be beautiful. Every day he's got a gem. It's usually something about open your mouth less and your ears more. I'm stunned that the climate of political correctness in this country has allowed him to continue.
I really hate political correctness. It's just so righteously phony. I remember when Howard Stern was being interviewed by Tom Snyder and lambasted for all his politically incorrect, insensitive and usually right on the money comments. Howard's point was that everybody says or at least, thinks, this stuff. Tom said, "Yeah, but not when the mics are on." Hmmmmmm. I paraphrase..... but you get the point. Knock it off!!!!!! We can take it!!!!!!! Family Guy's my new favorite show. It doesn't apologize for anything and I love that. We're all the family guy to a point..We just don't have the nerve to admit it. Me included. I also love you tube and I'm on facebook. DON'T ask me to Twitter.
Well, a great thunderstorm/hailstorm just started so I have to get outside. First one of the season. And my electricity's bound to go out as it always does so I'd better save........
PS Gig this wknd Fri, Apr 3rd at Tiff's, Rt 31, Clinton NJ with The "High Bridge All Stars." Showtime around 9.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I can't believe I'm still here. So....what's next?!?

I moved a mile and a half downriver last month...and have a new roommate. Y'know, you get to a certain age and stop questioning things as much as you used to. Ten...twenty years ago moving in with a girlfriend would have been a huge emotional crisis deserving of months of thought... what ifs...etc. Linda said she could make a comfortable home for us. No pressure. I took her word for it and danged if she hasn't made a wonderful home for us. I like to think I helped, but when it comes to window treatments and rugs.....and home stuff...... I'm like a new born pup blindly struggling in the dark. She MADE curtains. Well, not curtains.... but those things that hang at the top of windows. All I know is I heard a sewing machine and....BANG....things on windows. I came home one night and there's a long rug in the hallway. And it looks just like the rug in the living room! What ? How? (Did you know that the hall rug is called a runner? Go figure)
I have all my recording stuff set up. ITunes has said I can send them my music goes on. Gotta find a band. This is the longest I've gone without a steady gig and it's a little scary. I've been doing some pick up gigs here and there but I need that steady thing. Looking at a calendar and seeing Fris and Sats blocked out is a reassuring feeling. Particularly the way the economy is. I've always used music as a second source of income and there's no time like the present. I can't remember when I wasn't in a band. How do people not be in a band? What do they do?

I went to see some old pals the other night. The Doughboys. Great sixties style band. The drummer was on my little league team, the bass player was my paper get the idea. They're from my old hometown of Plainfield, NJ. They're a couple of years older so we never hung out back in the day but they were neighborhood guys who got a jump on the band thing around 1965 or so ......played for a number of years ....reformed a couple of years ago and there you have it. Same song list. Same lineup. Very Yardbirds. (See Yardbirds pic. Can you name them....hmmmm?) Their guitar player, Willie, had some problems and died two years ago......great guitarist. Another guy slipped in and.... gig on, boys. This place I saw them the other night used to be called The Hullabaloo in the 60's. NJ had a chain of Hullabaloos. One of the guys from The Doughboy's had a poster of them playing there...on the same 1967. I used to go there all the time to see some great local bands. At the time the best I could do was high school dances, parties, etc.
I played full time for a number of years and the thing I remember most is how proud I felt when people asked and I would tell them I was a musician. It always got a reaction. And you could see that look in their eyes as they hearkened back to their high school band, or the marching band, or even piano lessons from the lady down the street. That look of....what if.......? But don't worry.......the grass is always greener. You're right where you're supposed to be. I believe that.

Right now I'm pretty sure I'm right where I'm supposed to be. Living on the Musconetcong River in Finesville, Warren County, NJ, with a beautiful woman who, for some odd reason, seems to really like me........ watching the geese and the birds, and the occasional fox....searching for that ever elusive perfect band.......writing music.....hustling people around by day....entertaining...or not....people on the radio one morning a week........thanking God for putting me right here, right now....celebrating my health...trying to treat the world and the people in it as well as I can...... and being extremely optimistic about the future. Why?......... WHY NOT?? Peace.
PS Gigging at Mrs Riley's in High Bridge, NJ the Sat before St Patty's day with some old pals. C'mon out. I'll buy you a green beer.