Sunday, June 11, 2017

That's life..........

I feel like I was born at a perfect time. Maybe everyone feels like that. I hope they do. I was just old enough to watch the formation of the sixties with the innocence of pre pubescent eyes. Music was everywhere. The Everly's morphed into Jan and Dean into Motown into Dylan explosion.
   I was fortunate enough to have been playing guitar for about four or five months before the Beatles turned everything upside down on that snowy February night. Now I was calling the shots. At least till everyone caught up; which they soon did. My guitar teacher was a folkie and The MTA and Walk right In and Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley had been ok but now when McCartney sang, "She was just seventeen. You know what I mean," I wanted to know what he meant!! I played at my first party when I'd just turned thirteen. We had three or four songs we could stumble through including an elongated version of Gloria. Just three chords and the truth, man. That was a big night. Playing onstage a corner of my buddy's basement. And experiencing my first kiss. I want to shake the guy's....or girl's....hand who invented spin the bottle.  Life was becoming a lot more interesting.
   I played guitar in a number of bands through Junior HS and HS taking a sabbatical during my first year of college. I'm not sure why. When I started playing again there were a lot of really good guitar players around...and very few bass players. Hey Ma, look! I'm a bass player. I have to thanks the sales guy at Hi-Way Music in East Brunswick, NJ for staying open a little later that night and allowing Mike, Rock and me to make some noise. My first attempt at bass. It felt natural and easy. Within a week I had a Fender Music Man bass and a Fender Bassman amp. Our search for a bass player was over. Life is full of crossroads. It was end of summer and I'd been offered a job from a high school friend who was managing a company in my home town of Piscataway.  I hadn't finished signing up for school yet. And I had a fairly low draft lottery number. We were practicing a lot and we decided to go all in with the music thing. Ah....youth. A lot of unhappy parents.
   I didn't get drafted, didn't take the job and for about the next ten years played the NJ music scene. Again the timing was right . Urban Cowboy was happening and our rock.... was the thing. That band  eventually wound down and I was ready to pack it in. On the night of our last gig, at The Red Fox inn in New Brunswick, NJ, I was approached by a woman who asked me if I'd like to join their band. And so it continued. Of course, bands come and go and I wound up playing everything from bluegrass to new wave to blues to wedding material and all that encompassed, with lousy bands, good band and great bands of all shapes and sizes including a few forays into musical theater. Leader Of The Pack was a hoot. I faked my way through that  one. I told the director I could read music. I couldn't. About halfway through the run he came up to me and said,  "You can't read music, can you." ( can't) "Well....just keep doing what you're doing. (ok).  Annie Golden, Ellie Greenwich and Darlene Love came to see the show on the last night.  It was so much easier being in the band in the show than being the actor in the show. I saw lots of throwing up . After our first half hearted attempt at stardom didn't pan out  I was never really interested in anything more than making a living playing music. I thank my parents for always having a room ready when called for. An early eighties two month gig in Bermuda finally led me back into the work force. But I never gave up part time music. Now I drive a limo by day, do a radio show one day a week and gig maybe two or three times a month. For the last few years as a solo player. Hello guitar. Where ya been?
   I have to tell you I wrote this entry mainly  Self serving? Yeah. I guess so. George Harrison sang, "You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been."  Just a little taking stock. Roads not taken. Opportunities missed. Or not. I'm trying to keep it all straight. I have this strange feeling that I can see the end. Not in a bleak maudlin way. But in a bright celebratory way.  We all want to feel as if we've made a difference. Left a mark in some small way. I know a number of couples who've met and gotten together at one of my gigs. A few wound up married!  I've gotten many calls over the years on my radio show about how a song I played or an anecdote I told stirred a memory or made a difference.  Is it curing cancer? No. But as Robert Redford said in The Sting after they'd conned the guy who killed they're friend out of half a million dollars, "It's not enough......but it's close." Sometimes close is all we have. I was doing a solo gig at a restaurant about a year ago. A young Asian couple was there for a couple sets. As they left they handed me a napkin. On it was written, "I loved the music. Thank you for giving us good time!!" Smiley face. It's framed in my music room. Is it enough? No........but it's close.     Peace.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

A sailor's life for me!


  I've always believed that in life, we need something to look forward to. A vacation.... day off......concert....gig. Something. An adventure. As you get older adventures become progressively less...... adventurous. Last summer I took a solo kayak/camping trip to Round Valley Reservoir in NJ. One night. Danger level. Slight. The communing with nature/introspection/ fun level. High. Although I have a nice scar on my hand from falling into the fire ring in the middle of the's a small price to pay.
   I've had my share of cool adventures. One of the cooler  was a sail from Cape Cod, Mass to New York Harbor. Circa late 70's, summer, around July 4th. Remember the "tall ship" thing? This adventure was with a former girlfriend, her two bosses and their two boys. We'd rented the sailboat (with motor) and a captain and his wife. The boat was a good size wooden rig from the 40's named "The Flying Fish." The story goes it'd been featured in a Hollywood movie and was a favorite of some old Hollywood celebs. I can't verify that. The deal was a sail to Lady Liberty and we could be as involved as we wanted in all aspects of the sailing process.
   The first night on board was uneventful. Good food, drink and camaraderie. I was feeling like an old salt. Where the HELL is my parrot.  Took off the next morning and the trip across Cape Cod Bay was rough. Really rough. If you tried to get up you almost immediately crashed into something. I was having a ball. The other passengers....not so much. At one point I could wait no longer. The head (bathroom) beckoned. I made it down the stairs, got flung onto a bed and thought I could just about rebound to the bathroom door. As I reached for the door it crashed open discharging its occupant into the opposing wall with his pants still around his knees. That's probably graphic enough. I guess I've laughed harder but I can't remember when. We were rockin n' rollin'. Our hosts weren't too concerned. It was rough but they'd seen rougher. We pitched in toting barges and lifting bales almost getting tossed overboard in the process. Everyone hung in. Made the best of it. Lotsa hootin' and hollerin.' And no one chummed!
   Things calmed down and by evening we made it across the bay. It took a little longer 'cause as it turned out a lobster trap had hooked onto us for the ride. With lobsters. My friend decided she'd had enough. Being the chivalrous dude I am I accompanied her to a little vacation spot her sister had rented on the Cape. The next day I hopped a bus to Newport and planned to hook up with the Flying Fish to continue the adventure. The harbor in Newport was crammed! You could almost walk across the decks out to the ocean. There was a small motorboat ferrying people from the dock out to their respective boats. I told them to keep an eye out for the "Fish" and indeed they eventually spotted her. Boats are female....right? They gave me a lift out and the back slapping and beer cracking commenced. One of the tall ships was anchored not too far from us. A replica of either the Nina or the Pinta. Don't remember which but it was pretty cool. And small. It gave me a new respect for Columbus and his gang. Talk about an adventure.
    The next day we were cruisin'. Shanties were being sung, knots were being tied,  pirate language abounded until......the engine took a crap. We spent about eight hours in dry dock as the Captain and his mechanic buddy, who fortunately was fairly close by, worked their magic. At this point one of the guys and his son jumped ship They said it'd been  fun but they'd just had their fill. And then there were six. The mechanic came along for the rest of the trip. He was a real sea dog. We took showers via these solar warmed water bags. Then a plunge and an attempt to grab the boat's rope as it came by. Got it on the first shot. Almost everyone did. (we went back for him)  It was a beautiful evening as we started down the Long Island Sound.
   And then it happened. The adventure. Everyone checked out for the night and it was just Ahab and me. He was pretty well wiped out and asked me if I'd like to take the wheel. I did. A quick lesson on how to stay on course...landmarks, stars etc and I was on my own. As a Pisces could I have been any more at home surrounded by all this water?  Peaceful doesn't quite say it. The moon, the stars....the steady hum of the engine.... the rhythm of The Flying Fish gently slicing through the waters of the Long Island Sound..... and time to reflect on and enjoy..... everything. Every now and then Ahab or the Captain would stick his head up to make sure we were still afloat. Other than that it was me and the Flying Fish working our way toward NY Harbor. Past Huntington Beach at the tip of Long Island and past towns I recognized from the morning rush hour traffic reports. The night just went too fast.
   By late afternoon the State of Liberty came into sight along with Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria and about a thousand other crafts of all shapes and sizes. Quite a dinner party. Lots of new friends and one of the coolest fireworks display I've ever experienced complete with tugboats 'a sprayin'. I wish I could tell you how I got home. Not because of any substance abuse.....I just don't remember.
   Adventures. They get smaller as we get older. You just have to pick 'em and choose 'em. A trip to the batting cage/driving range becomes an adventure. An evening stroll to the local baseball field to watch six innings of walks and errors becomes an adventure. A  day of body surfing or a ride on a  roller coaster becomes an adventure. A walk around the neighborhood with someone you love....becomes an adventure. It starts up here. (I'm pointing to my head.) And in here. (I'm pointing to my heart.) Search it out. And please....don't ever stop!    Peace.