Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hey, Mister Spaceman....

I'm gettin' itchy to meet a galactic neighbor. The time feels right. Don't ask me why. The question of extraterrestrial life comes up fairly regularly in my conversations; I guess because I probably instigate it. The last two or three times it's come up I was met with the response, "I don't think there's anyone out there." That's amazing to me...because I'm so convinced they ARE out there. Maybe it's all those Saturday afternoons watching pods turn into people or trips to a Forbidden Planet or even laughing at Plan 9 From Outer Space. Hey, even an eight year old kid can see they changed Bela Lugosi's mid flick. And now it's it's night..uh oh.... day again. Or maybe it's the late night radio shows I've been running into. Ninety percent of that conversation I don't buy into. I can't say they're wrong. I always say, and will continue to say, ANY THING'S possible. I just....don't buy into most of it. I'm not even sure we've ever been observed or visited. I'm just sure they're out there. All those great Sci fi movies, as cool as they were, always left me a little cold. I mean, I wanted them to land in my back yard.

Then the question comes up, "Well, why haven't they visited us?" The simple answer is I don't know. No one does. But I have a couple of theories. One is distance. Earth like planets have been discovered a few stars away from us. Ten.....fifteen years ago the big question was,"Are there any other planets out there?" Now we know there are. Many. That doesn't mean there's any kind of life out there....but it doesn't mean there isn't, either. But to get to the closest one, traveling at or near the speed of light, is a generational trip. And that's just tooling around in our own cosmic neighborhood. And the ability to reach anything close to the speed of light is a long way off. Talk to Einstein. So barring the invention of warp drives or wormhole shortcuts or inter dimensional pathways, it may simply be a matter of leapfrogging our way across the galaxy; a colony here, move on, a colony there, move on, etc. And once we get done with the two hundred billion stars in our galaxy, we can move on to the two hundred billion stars in each of the two hundred billion other galaxies. That' a lot of planets, man. And take these numbers with a grain of salt. Give or take a few billion either way.

My other theory is maybe they've been watching and observing for a long time but have no desire to interact. Could it be we're.....boring? Maybe it's that Star Trek prime directive thing where they can't interfere with a species' natural evolution. Or they're just sizing us up; sittin' back and watching.....seeing if we're gonna make the cut. Maybe whoever's in charge of this whole eternal universe thing set it up so we CAN'T reach each other. He's given us the tools to cruise around our own cosmic block but no further. As if to say, "Look around, have fun, but tend to your own garden." You can almost see the girl's camp across the lake...but not quite. Curiosity, the latest Mars rover, took off this morning. It's exciting stuff. But TOO SLOW!!! Can someone please invent impulse power NOW?!

I love watching Nova or tales about the evolution of the universe on the History Channel but the frustrating thing is it always turns out the same. Maybe they're there. Maybe they're not. It's like watching the guys chasing the ghosts. Just show me video of a ghost standing there, wouldja. Not something in the dark at the end of the room for a second and a half that's probably a reflection or a shadow. I guess they can hear it saying "Get Out," but all I hear is static. And I've got a wild imagination. I definitely heard John say,"I buried Paul" at the end of Strawberry Fields. When I was fifteen that was a head turner; till I found out he meant Paul was buried in the mix of the album. Dang, skunked again. So we seem to think they're out there..... but....... the old back and forth.

That doesn't stop me from going out at night and throwing out an open invitation to the universe. So far, no response. I don't think anything landed in Roswell, I don't think there's been any alien abductions ...or autopsies. I don't think the government knows anymore than anyone else. And if they do....quit worrying about the panic in the streets scenario. We can handle it. I think.

This quote has been attributed to a few different folks, Isaac Asimov among them. I like it. "The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine." Put that in your phaser and fire it. Peace.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Then...and then...and now.....

Well..... here we are once again. Mid August. A remembrance of a little party that went on in Bethel Woods and was named for the nearby town of Woodstock, NY. Can it be forty two years?!? I didn't go to the show in 1969. I did go this weekend. At my age you have to grab your adventures wherever you find them. My band had a gig at a wedding "celebration" in a town about a half hour south of Bethel Woods....two and a half hours from my home in NJ. I had it in the back of my mind that I might stay in the area that night and visit the site the next day.
This was a good weekend. Had a good gig with the boys at a local pub Friday night. I left plenty of time to get to the Saturday gig 'cause I figured I'd probably find myself off the beaten path a few times. I did. But with the aid of some good samaritans I found myself back on track and in plenty of time for the gig. It was a good bash! So we're lined up in three cars to pull out afterwards. They went right. I called an audible and went left. Some locals had given me the info I needed to carry out my pilgrimage. I got a room about fifteen minutes up the road in Monticello. Woodstock....Bethel Woods was about fifteen minutes further north.
The next morning I ventured out and soon I was at .....WOODSTOCK...!!!!!!!...aka The Bethel Woods Music and Arts Center. A huge rock with the logo beckoned me to come in. (Cue CSNY..."By the time I got to........") There was a kid working at one of the parking lots waiting for the crowd for a show that night. I asked him who was playing and he said,"Nobody I know." Turns out it was Blood, Sweat and Tears, Tommy James and the Shondells and The Family Stone...minus Sly. Everybody I know. I wasn't sticking around anyway and just needed directions to the site. He seemed a little foggy on what I was looking for, even though it was only a quarter mile or so down the road.
At this point I have to say a nice job was done with the preservation of the concert site. The drive in from the main road was idyllic and empty. I got to the end of the road, a little past the Museum and on my right....there it was. No one around. I mean no one. And this was the anniversary weekend! I turned the corner and pulled in. Tiny little parking area. It was an overcast day and the surrounding countryside was geen, expansive and....smelled good. An arbor led the way in. I'm not sure but I think pixies were throwing flowers in front of me. I came out to a large rock with the Woodstock logo and a list of all the bands and a few words about the weekend. In front of me was Yasgur's farm. Just to the left was the footprint of the stage. The hill that had been filled with half a million people lo those many years ago went up and out and all around from there. Gardens and a few small seating areas and the ghosts. (the wind?) I've heard the complaint that "they" (the man?) won't let you on the site anymore. Well there's a fence preventing you from walking down to the stage. But even the fence is a tasty wooden Woodstocky type fence. And it's ALL the site, anyway. I climbed over the fence, walked in a ways and took a seat. Power to the people, man.
I sat there for about forty five minutes and a real sense of the spiritual wrapped itself around me. I felt like I was in church. But it was starting to get a little weird. As it should. Was it my imagination or was that The Who I was hearing? Whoa. That's definitely The Who. Turns out it was a sound check from one of the concert venues a few hundred yards away. Dang! A few "" confirmed it. (Stay away from the brown acid!) As I was leaving I had a nice conversation with a couple folks who snuck in while I was "praying." They were from my neck of the woods here in Jersey and said they come up every year. I asked them where all the hippies were. They said camping used to be allowed on the site (there's the man with his boot on the back of your neck, AGAIN!!) but had been moved to down the road where a friendly tavern owner allowed camping on his property.
I wasn't gonna stop at the museum. But I did. And I'm glad I did. After you wind your way through the Bethel Woods gift shop ($45 tie dyed tee shirt, anyone?) you wind up in the museum, which is really laid out well and very cool. One big theater and a few smaller screens, lots of lounging areas with big bean bag chairs,the magic bus, posters, memoribilia, interactive stations, and a recording booth where you can leave a remembrance of.... whatever. So there I am, forever in posterity in the little recording booth archive at the musem in the Bethel Woods Music and Arts Center. I was the only one in the Theater watching the Woodstock documentary (akin to Charlton Heston in The Omega Man. Google it.) and the only one sitting in the back of the Magic Bus for the tour. All in all, very tastefully done......and peaceful.
As I was pulling out of town there was the road with the strange name my jersey pals told me about. I pulled down the road and entered 1969. My brothers and sisters. All ages and sizes. Lots of gray. Lot of peace signs being thrown at me. Lots of music, campfires and hippies. And there it was. A taste of the "feeling." I headed home.


I started my Woodstock adventure blog back in August and finished it today. Sept 11th. As I'm writing this, the tv's on in the background as the names of victims of that day are being read by family members. The reading's been going on for almost three hours.
That morning I had just dropped someone off at Newark airport for a flight he would never get on. As I was leaving the airport, heading west on Rt. 78, billowing smoke filled my rear view mirrors, just as Stuttering John busted into Howard Stern's studio to announce that a plane had crashed in to the World Trade Center. I knew I was done for the day, and probably the rest of the week.
I watched the images from my apartment in Pittstown, NJ. I got there just in time to see the first tower fall. The thought of the lives lost, and the manner in which they were lost, made me physically ill. My first thoughts weren't of who did it... or let's get the bastards... or did we bring this on ourselves.....etc. I thought of little girls whose fathers wouldn't be coming home. Of wives who'd be wondering where, exactly, their husbands were at that moment. Many never finding out. Brothers looking for sisters, nephews looking for uncles, workers looking for co workers. Cars parked at NJ commuter rail stations that wouldn't be picked up for weeks. Did I know anyone in there? I did. It was just hard to think of revenge in the wake of so many innocents gone. I get into downtown NY regularly and the fact that the Freedom Tower has taken ten years to get going is .....discouraging.
The last few days have been filled with documentaries and various news reports of Sept 11th. The images never fail to bring up the emotions of that day. I'm glad I'm not the guy who has to come up with any answers. I don't have any. Just an ache in my heart for our....their....your..... loss. Almost four hours. The reading of names continues. They're up to S.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Women....Cant' live with 'em.........

Women are smart, beautiful, good under pressure, smell good and make our life as men a lot easier. There. I said it. The secret's out. I've always gotten along well with women. They're easy to talk to and I've been told they have an easy time talking to me. I always take that as a compliment. I remember on a gig break at Lily Langtry's in Old Bridge, NJ (They had a full size stuffed bear in the lobby....Judge Roy Bean and all...) I was shooting the breeze with a nice lady. As I was getting up for the next set she said, "Hey, I've known you for ten minutes...told you how much I much I make...after taxes.....what I paid for my house after a small much that was....where I live and where I work. You ought to be an interrogater. I didn't even know how much I was giving up." I'm paraphrasing, but that's close. She left and I never saw her again. Maybe she thought I had too much on her. But this scenario has happened to me many times over the years. I don't try. I'm just....curious.

So I guess I'm easy to talk to. That's nice. Of course, sometimes I'm not interested and that's where my meager acting skills come into play. But generally, I like listening. How many times have broken hearted girlfriends of pals of mine poured their hearts out to me so I can make it all better. I can't tell them the truth. But I always tried to soften the blow.

I like women. I've managed to stay friends with ex girlfriends and my ex wife. That says a lot about them. I don't mean to give the impression that's a long list. It's not. I'm flattered...and amazed that any woman would want to be associated and seen in public with me. In high school I had a lot of girl "friends." That came in handy when I had my eye on someone and could send a gender friendly pal in to lay the ground work. Can that backfire? Sure. But that's the fun of it. But then I'd have to be the middle man for them. Can that backfire? Sure. Feets do your stuff.

As long as I can remember women have been there. My mother was there at my birth. My grandparents lived next door to the first house I remember at 616 Monroe Ave, Plainfield NJ. My grandmother and I became fast friends and I could always depend on her for a couple of cookies or a soda. My grandfather taught me how to play checkers, cards, field ground balls and about the importance of being able to hit to all fields.

My parents bought their own home around 1958 - 9 and after her husband died my aunt shared the place with us. Another woman I could always drop in on for a snack or some TV.

How many King Kongs, Son Of Kongs, The Things, The Crawling Eyes (Hey....It's an eye!!!! Poke It!!!!) etc.....did poor old Aunt Catherine sit through. She seemed to enjoy it and didn't mind telling me when my time was up.

My grandfather died in '60 and my grandmother moved in. Some architectural changes and I had my three favorite women in the same house. Lots of escapes. No one ever knew where I was. They just assumed I was ok. And there was my sister to keep me honest. We all had many summer nights sitting on the screened in porch as they knocked back a couple beers and watched the neighborhood comings and goings as I tried to decipher the female language. I don't remember my brother or father spending much time out there. We all needed our escapes. I tape recorded some of those evenings but they've slipped into the ether.

Once The Beatles and music took over I had a perfect escape in my grandmother's bedroom. She had....a record player!!!!! And man did she get sick of Twist and Shout! Years later, when I'd be leaving for the gig she'd always say, "Now you have your banjo?" I gave up trying to explain it was a bass and just said, "Yeah, thanks Gram."

My brother was eight years older and my father was either working or volunteering ....(escaping...?) the Plainfield Rescue Squad. So it was me and the ladies most of the time. I've always said that I think I'm half chick. All these....feelings......make them stop!!!!! I had the best of both worlds growing up. Lots of guys to play baseball with, make rafts, climb trees, get into fights, irritate girls and just generally barely escape death every day. There were also lots of girls in the neighborhood that we had no problem hangin' out a point. " What?.....You wanna play football with us? I ....don't think so."

My mother, aunt and grandmother are no longer around. Many times I've wished I could go back to one of those summer nights on the porch in Plainfield and join in the conversation. They....we.... laughed a lot. They were very generous to my friends. Post baseball games there'd always be lemonade for everyone. My grandmother spent the better part of an afternoon making her famous "Yum Yum Cake" for one of my pals. We just hung around waiting. A crowd gathered and that cake didn't last too long. I haven't run into that cake since.

West Sixth St. was a cool, everyone watched each others back kind of neighborhood. My father applied first aid to many, my mom chauffered and my grandmother cooked. My aunt was willing to chauffer but nobody'd get in the car with her. Except for me. I miss them. They weren't Jane Wyatt or June Cleaver.....but I miss them.

And so it goes. These days I'm lucky to be sharing life on the river with a beautiful, smart, caring woman whose four kids, I hope, appreciate her as much as I do. Hey guys! Let's tell them that every now and then. Peace.