Monday, January 13, 2014

As Close to a Rant As I Have Ever Posted And Hopefully Ever Will

I generally maintain my blog on an "up" note, because that's also how I choose to approach my life. But, that being said, there are certain types of people that really crawl under my skin a little bit....not much, but enough that I would remark on it....and that is people who feel that they are in a position to pass judgements on other people. 

I see it all the time, and maybe more lately than ever. But to illustrate what I'm talking about on....neutral ground, I'll refer back to a column in the New York Post back when Heath Ledger died, written by some so-called journalist (whom I won't bother naming) who clearly has no moral high ground, nor any insightful knowledge into the guy's life, to judge or even comment on it. What happened to Ledger & the aftermath aren't even any of her damn business....although keeping New Yorkers, etc, buying, reading, and seeing ads in this toilet-paper tabloid IS her business. And ultimately, that's what's going on here.

The poor guy was DEAD, and his body wasn't even COLD yet, and she's sitting in judgement of him, like she does to so many people every day. I remember reading that, and thinking that this sort of "death by misadventure" could have happened to people I've known and loved....and if she would have written a column about any of them, I would have HIT the fucking ROOF! I bet this columnist probably doesn't have any friends at all, much less friends who might have been in a position like that. So much for empathy. However, deep down inside, this person must feel that she's far beneath this talented actor who fell victim to a substance addiction, and likely, depression...and perhaps has her own skeletons in the closet that nobody would even venture to care about....so maybe it makes sense.

And speaking of friends....I've never met any of the ones she refers to, but...I suspect that they were probably devastated at what happened to him. Do they need this thrown in their face, especially so soon after the fatal incident? How about his wife and child, whom she so classily refers to in her column as well? Do THEY need to see this crap? I don't think so. The sort if feigned outrage is so transparent, isn't it? It simply doesn't add up.

I'm bringing this up to illustrate a point. With Social Media seemingly being a permanent fixture of many of our lives, some people just needs to hear a piece of gossip, make a judgement on it, and then broadcast it as fact (and maybe even tweak it...just a little - they have to get their own editorial in there, you know) to whomever will listen, so to speak. And there's always an agenda to it, just as there is with the aforementioned tabloid trash-peddlers as well as religious crank-jobs. And oftentimes, TOO often, people will believe anything they read. It's laughable, more often than not, and usually reflects badly on whomever is perpetuating it, but....that doesn't make it any more pleasant, does it? In fact, it's pathetic and fucking embarrassing to even know about.

I personally choose not to pay much attention to it.  Most of the shit-talkers and gossip-mongers that hang out in the rural outSKIRTS (no pun intended) of my (usually-solid) circles are filtered out of my feeds, so....I can just choose to avoid that noise, more often than not. I do hear about it from other people, but....I don't usually let it get to me. I mean....who the hell cares?!

But it does beg the question...why the relentless insistence on constant negativity?  Is it jealousy? Envy? Bitterness? Stupidity? Lack of talent? Lack of direction? Lack of focus? Lack of progress? Mommy/Daddy issues? Feelings of inadequacy, perhaps? All of the above? I don't know, because....well, I am not that way, so...I cannot relate.

Maybe it's because I was so relentlessly bullied at school when I was growing up, by a lot of hypocritical people who came from families with "good, Christian" values. You see a lot of that from religious extremists of every denomination, and they often sound like the columnist I referred to above, after a fashion. As Neil Young once sang, "Don't forget what your good book said." And, within the context of what I'm talking about here, the good book said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."  I remember that from Catholic school, and I'm not even religious!

Sure, I'm no saint, and I'm no prince (and I'm certainly no PRINCE!) but....I do try to improve myself. And, more often than not, I err on the side of dwelling on & accentuating the positive, if I can help it. Sure, I've made lots of mistakes, many of which aren't worthy of repeating, but....I'll say this: those of us with the most checkered pasts often make the best friends and confidantes....because the most self-aware and intelligent of us know that WE DON'T HAVE ANY RIGHT TO JUDGE. And that fact, coupled with the fact that those of us in that position have often "been there", will often inspire trust and confidence from our friends. Anyone who's watched Sex & the City might understand the concept. (Yes...I like that show & always did! Judge away!) And if there's anything I've ever wanted to be for my friends, it's been to be one of their best. I am many things, and many of them may leave something to be desired, but jaded and judgmental, I am not, and refuse to be.

I learned a long time ago that being bitter or indignant towards the successes and fortunate events of other people only winds up hurting yourself. And, the same goes for wishing for or gaining satisfaction from the missteps or unfortunate events of others. And, to that point, dwelling on the weaknesses or shortcomings that you perceive (whether reasonably & accurately or not) in others, rather than in yourself, really isn't fair...even to one's self....because we all have our own problems. And, to me, these are merely very convenient ways of blaming everyone but one's self for one's own troubles. 

Does that mean that we have to LIKE EVERYONE?! NO!!! But we also don't have to constantly talk shit on them either.  And if I've lost a close friend or two in the past few years, you can bet your sweet ass that this sort of thing had a LOT to do with it, at least from my end of the spectrum...and a colorful one it is! 

There just comes a time when there's no getting through to some people, but I guess that's a blessing in disguise. Being free of dealing with the burden of trying to be around someone like that is like the weight of the planet Saturn off your shoulders....as well as the fucking rings! And it also frees up your time to hang out with other people who can take life more in stride....which can be very enlightening and inspiring, indeed. There's always a light if you look for it, but you often have to be in the darkness to see it, I guess.

That's about all I have to say about it. I'm now going to go back to my regularly scheduled transformation of chicken shit into chicken salad!!!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

....and to think that they had to cut down trees to make the toilet paper that we threw up into the trees.....

This one takes us WAY back....

I was NOT the popular kid back in high school. I got a multitude of shit for being different, and it was mostly unpleasant to say the least....but in retrospect, it almost makes me feel honored at this point....but that's another story.

There were a LOT of trees in my family's front and back yards....and for some reason, during my sophomore year, it seemed like a weekend wouldn't go by without some jerkoffs toilet-papering the trees. After this happened a few times, I grew tired of it....and it just so happened that I heard through the grapevine who was behind these toilet papering shenanigans. I aimed to retaliate!

So...I got a couple of my friends together, and we went to the grocery store and bought....well, a SHITLOAD of toilet paper. The funniest part was, when we went to pay for it, my friend Dan said to the lady behind the cash register, "Um.....yeah.....we all REALLY have to GO!" Ahahahahahaha!!!!!!

This douchelord who was the target of my wrath lived on the outskirts of town, in a fairly heavily-wooded area. PERFECT! And nobody was home. EVEN BETTER!!!  

We papered the entire area around this crankjob's house with meticulous artistry!!!! And none of us could hold back our laughs as we did so. It was fucking hilarious!!! I can see, now, why those shaft sanders had so much fun in MY yard! HAhahahaha.

The best part, though, was running back to my friend's car, and driving by, to examine our handiwork. It was gorgeous! All of that toilet paper, waving in the trees like ghosts in the breeze! It still warms my heart to think about it!

Anyway....please don't squeeze the Charmin!




Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Winter's Tale or Just Another Metaphor For Life

This one goes back a little bit....

....to right after I graduated from college, and moved to smack-dab in the middle of an Arctic Tundra known as Minneapolis, MN....right on I-94, equidistant from Uptown and Downtown, if you're familiar with the area. I had a view of the modest skyline of Downtown, and found the sound of the traffic from the highway to be comforting for some reason.

I digress.....

I was looking for what the Replacements would call, a "Goddamn Job", when I came across an ad stating that a local dinner theatre company was looking for musicians for a Patsy Cline revue....I think it was called Closer Walk with Patsy Cline. They wanted a drummer who could also sing vocal harmony parts. "What the hell", I thought, "I could do THAT....and, I might LEARN something....and....who's going to have a COOLER first post-college job than THAT?! NO fucker, THAT's who!!!" I called the number in the ad immediately, talked myself up a bit (no shit), and set up the audition for that Saturday.

I remember it being colder than witch's lingerie closet that day. No matter, I got in the pick-up truck & drove to the suburbs for my audition. This would be a good time to mention that I was a TOTAL CHEAPSKATE when it came to keeping the tank filled with gas....so much so that I found myself tempting fate very often (much like our good friend Kramer). Well, this was NOT a good day to do that, as I admitted to myself when, right on the goddamn highway, with the gas gauge on "E" (usually my favorite letter, but perhaps not in this case), the engine just....petered out. I got out of the truck and tried a little trick that I used to use when this would happen, which was to take the gas cap off & keep it open. For some reason, this would often allow me to start the damn truck up again, and coast to the nearest gas station. Yeah....it didn't work this time, and I was getting late for my audition.

I grabbed the gas can (which, now that I think about it, I should have kept FILLED) from underneath the topper, and flagged down someone who was nice enough to drive me to a gas station (which was less than a mile away, of course) to get some gas. When I got back, I poured the gas into the tank, and then I reached for my keys......which....weren't.....there.

Yup, there they were....in the ignition, where I left them. And of COURSE I locked the goddamn door...and the other one. FUCK!!! WHAT the HELL was I going to do?! I was now more than fashionably late for my audition, and I didn't have any time for this crap! 

So....I did what any other enterprising, red-blooded, young American Rock n' Roller would have done. I crawled underneath the topper.....got on my side....brought my leg back with an angle so my boot heel was aimed just so.....and, with all of my might, I KICKED IN the middle panel of the back window!!!  Then I reached in, grabbed my drum sticks, and with them, flipped the lever on the side of the door and unlocked it. Then I grabbed the blanket that I had back there, and covered the seat with it (as there was no sense in getting cut by broken glass).

I finally pulled into the theatre company's offices, apologized profusely for being (at least) a half hour late, and explained how much of a DUMBASS I was!! Thankfully, they were totally cool about it. 

I did my drumming/percussion audition, my singing audition, and my doing-both-at-the-same-time audition (despite being as winded as Holy Hell).....

And.....to make a long story not QUITE as long......

....I GOT THE GIG!!!!!  BOOM!!!!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Are you happy, now?!!! How about....now?!!! Or.....NOW?!!!! or Some Fast Food For Thought

"Every time I think of happy I think of h-a-p-p-y. It's a funny word. I think of slaphappy. What's happy? There are feelings of well-being and comfort and peace, love, of feeling assured. I guess I was happy the day I got my Tome Mix cowboy spurs when I was six years old -- but on that same day my great-grandmother died, so..." - Al Pacino, Playboy Interview, December, 1996

I remember reading this when I was working at the Greyhound Bus Station, back in WisCONsin, a few years before I split to New York City. It really opened my eyes up, because I could relate to what he said 100%!

I remember being at my dad's funeral when I was 7-years-old, right? It just so happened that my new best friend was having his birthday party on the same day. After the service at the church, everyone gathered for refreshments or whatever in the church basement. And my Mom asked my sister-in-law if she would drive me to the birthday party. Her line of thinking was, "The funeral is over-with, so why does he have to hang around? He might as well go and have some fun with his new friends...." So, of course, I went to the party in my little suit & tie, and ate cake & ice cream, and I think I even talked about my dad a little bit with my friend's mom. You, know, it was alright. I think that, in hindsight, it was extremely cool of my Mom to have me go to that party.

Was I happy?  Probably not, but...I  probably laughed a lot. And....THERE's the rub!

But, essentially, what Pacino is saying, and I'm sort-of echoing, is that....for many of us, happiness seems to happen according to whatever the last thing is that happened.  I stubbed my toe....so I'm pissed....but, then a friend said something hilarious....so now, I'm happy! That's usually how every day goes for me. I have some wild mood swings every now and then, but I've never really found any sort of sustainable happiness, I don't think. But, with that said, I've found EVEN LESS sustainable UNhappiness. And I think that's probably the whole point, at the end of the day. If you find yourself feeling more good than bad, when it all boils down, you're probably coming out ahead.  I guess, it's all relative and subjective...and up to each of us as individuals, according our own experiences in life and our consequential perspectives, to suss out the difference.

It's funny, though. I know rich people who are miserable, and poor people who seem happy, and vice versa. I know married people who are happy, and some definitely not so much, and ditto for single people. I know happy drunks, and I know sober people who make me want to jump off a bridge. I know successful people who are thrilled as all HELL with their accomplishments, and those who don't appreciate anything...even themselves and their own hard work. I know people who have had some awful, traumatic shit happen in their past, who seem to have gained some kind of peace with it, and people who at least claim to have had smooth-sailing all the way who are totally lost. I've certainly seen content people who have struggled all their lives and and I've seen people with diamond-encrusted golden spoons for miles who are incorrigible at best. So, in summation, there's absolutely no blueprint!

(Now, granted, nobody REALLY knows what has happened in someone's past, no matter WHO they are or WHERE they came from...not to mention that nobody has a right to judge). 

So, money doesn't buy happiness (but I'll take it). Marriage & relationships certainly don't, necessarily (but the right ones will certainly help, if you can find them). So what is it? Drugs and alcohol? Nope. Big parties, every night? Hell no. (Not that there's anything inherently wrong with any of those things, either). 

Is it about having great people close to you? Now we might be onto something with that, for sure, at least in my case. No matter how many friends you have, what really matters is that the people close to you are real, and there for the right reasons...and for you be the same way to them. I've been extremely lucky in that regard, and hope my friends feel that they have been with me. Not everyone might agree that having people close to them contributes to their happiness, but...I just can't relate to that, and I'm someone who needs my alone time as much as the next guy. Love and understanding rank highly with me.

I also think that it's just as important to feel inspired, engaged, and moving forward with your hopes, dreams and aspirations, and to feel like you have some kind of place carved out in the world, and that you are moving forward....or at least that's important to me, for sure!  And these things can evolve and change over time. Hell, part of growing is about finding new interests, new ambitions, and new talents....and new ways to apply your knowledge and experiences that you rack up all the time. I don't know if it's this way for everyone, but, again...for me, it's unquestionable.

When you sift through all of the bullshit, I think it's about self-awareness and how that coincides with the reality of this fucked-up world around us. And I think that the more time goes on, and the more rapidly the world changes, the more often it is demanded of us to adapt....and sometimes, that's a large pain in the ass. But, what are the options? Few, at best?

There's another conundrum that occurred to me the other day. I hope that we aren't faced with just two choices; to either wind up being jaded, cold, and callous.....or in a perpetual state of arrested adolescence?!  Shit, if given that choice, clearly, I'd choose the latter, but I hope that perhaps we can come up with something better than that!

I don't have any answers.....just more and more questions. If anything, I'm just thinking aloud, trying to make sense of everything that brought me to where I'm sitting right this very moment. 

But....you know, it's not bad....not bad at all.

Bundle up, everyone.....


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

All Is Not Entirely Lost or New Albums That I Got Into This Past Year....And Some Reasons Why!

If life is a big movie (and I often think that it is), the soundtrack is often the most important components of it in terms of context. That's a fancy-pants, bullshit way of saying that I love music, which is probably well-understood....the operative term being, "No Shit!"

But I heard some cool shit this year, which never ceases to surprise me, because....there's not a lot of new acts coming out that speak to me, and I usually assume that the ones whom I have connected with are dried up of their inspiration. But, thankfully, my lack of faith sometimes proves to be misguided. 

So here are some new albums that I bought this year, which, now that I scan the list, seems to consist of artists I've listened to for years, but at least I'm being consistent.

1. Placebo - Loud Like Love

I must admit, I wasn't expecting much from these guys, and I'm not sure why. They have, for quite awhile now, been able to be counted on to deliver at least a handful of great songs, on each of their albums that they have been putting out for the last 15 years or so. I guess I lost touch, because I wasn't even aware of their last album (Battle For the Sun, which is also pretty good).

Anyway, this new album of their is definitely their best and most consistent collection of tunes, for my ears. Brian Molko sings for us a near perfect collection of excellent love songs (except for one, which I loathe, and won't mention again) from different contexts and perspectives. The title track, from the church-bell sounds of the opening guitar strains, is purely blissful and breathtaking, which is always a good way to start, isn't it?. "Rob the Bank" is decadent, daring, and sexy. "Hold On to Me" is exactly what it sounds like: I think, which is a sincere, passionate plea for love's preservation.

But it's the dark and heart-wringing songs that I've always preferred from these guys, and they are in abundance on here. "Exit Wounds" is clearly about the self-sabotage caused by passionless sex, and it's miserable....and it's good! "Bosco" is a touching, tender, confessional ballad, about one's shortcomings, weaknesses, and deep flaws....and how love saves one from all of that, in spite of it all. It's honest, evocative, and very genuine.

But the centerpieces of the album, for me, are two of the best break-up songs I've heard in years, which is saying something. 

 "Million Little Pieces" is an honest, fair, and impassioned plea for understanding why one has to leave love behind. When Molko sings, "Can't you see I'm sick of fighting? Can't you tell I've lost my way?" he surely sounds like he means it, and knows exactly what he's talking about. I do too. 



"Begin the End" is more just as direct, and honest, but also, a more pointed assertion that it's all over, but, at the same time, it's careful not to be cruel...all over Stefan Olsdal's ghostly guitar line. "...God knows I tried, But there's nothing you can do to change my mind, And I don't enjoy to watch you crumble, I don't enjoy to watch you cry. But make no mistake." Molko doesn't mince words here, but you can tell it hurts him as much as it hurts anyone...and if you've experienced the position he's in, it might hurt you too, but you won't stop listening to it. I imagine that this must have been an excruciating song to to write. Maybe that's one of the reasons why it's my favorite song on the album.



The only other thing I can say is, I don't know how these guys are going to top this album, but next time, I will be listening for sure!!!

2. Mark Lanegan - Imitations

This was my most anticipated new album of the year. I mean, what could possibly be better than a brand new album of Mark fucking Lanegan covering these crooner classics? Fucking NOTHING, that's what! I mean, first of all, Lanegan could sing a melody reading the goddamn ingredients from a box of CHEERIOS, and make it sound deep, sincere, & mournful. That's why, arguably, he's my favorite singer.

You couldn't have asked him to pick a cooler collection of tunes either. From Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht's "Mack the Knife" to "Lonely Street" (made famous by Andy Williams) to the theme to the James Bond film of the same name, "You Only Live Twice", to John Cale's "I'm Not the Loving Kind"....Lanegan hits it on the head every time. Hell, he even covers Nick Cave's "Brompton Oratory", and MATCHES it! I shit you not!

My favorites are:

"Pretty Colors", made famous by Franks Sinatra....



....a KILLER version of another of my favorites, (and frequent Lanegan colaborator) Greg Dulli's "Deepest Shade".....



....and last, but certainly not least, a STUNNING version of the old Jazz standard, "Fallen Leaves" (that I've listened to 42 times, just on my laptop alone) that is simply above and beyond compare. I wonder who the beautiful bird is that he's thinking about when he sings a song like this. "But I miss you most of all....My Darling..."



What the hell more do you want me to say?

3. Goldfrapp - Tales of Us

Guys.....if you REALLY like a girl.....like, REALLY dig her....and you have gotten her home a couple of times, and you are both having a great time.....put this album on next time.

The music she does is absolutely stunning. This is probably the most consistent set I've heard from her so far. It puts me at ease.





4. The Replacements - Songs for Slim

If you have the audacity to ask me why, the first answer is, IT's the FUCKING REPLACEMENTS!!!!!

When former 'Mats guitarist Slim Dunlap fell ill from a stroke, Paul Westerberg & Tommy Stinson got together with drummer Josh Freese to record a handful of cover songs for a new EP in order to raise money to help Slim out with his hospital bills.  Former drummer Chris Mars declined to participate, but did the painting that wound up being the album cover.

A great band, and an act of love for a good friend? I'm touched. 

And it's fucking GREAT....I mean, come on! It's the FUCKING REPLACEMENTS!!!!





5. Depeche Mode - Delta Machine 

Arguably, Depeche Mode have been more prolific, consistent, and have had more longevity, than any other band of their era. This album does nothing to dispel this assertion.

Martin L. Gore is still churning out inspired, evocative, compelling, and, for my ears, very relevant tunes, and....David Gahan still presents them to us in a way that has depth and meaning. I'd say that's pretty damn good, after 13 albums and 32 (now 33) years. I hear that they're still a hell of a live act, but....of course, I missed their NYC shows this past Fall.





6. Jason Isbell - Southeastern

Jason is, arguably, the best American songwriter of our time, especially in terms of that sort of "Classic Americana" sense. That's a lofty claim, indeed, but one that his work consistently justifies.

I felt this way every since I saw him w/ the Drive-By Truckers at the Warsaw in Brooklyn, maybe...8 years ago. His song "Decoration Day" was bringing me to tears, while the girl I was with was bitching at me about her goddamn broken shoe! It wasn't as funny at the time as it seems right now.

He has since gone solo, and his songwriting has only gotten deeper, more mature, more honest, and more personal. I saw him play at the end of this past Summer outside of Lincoln Center on a Saturday afternoon. It was like a corkscrew to my heart, and I loved every second of it. 

I feel like, if a Rock n' Roll Heaven exists, Ronnie Lane, Gram Parsons, Ronnie Van Zant, and Townes Van Zandt are passing their whiskey bottles back and forth, and saying, "This Isbell guy is pretty fucking GOOD!" 

 



7. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away

I've been a massive Nick Cave fan for a LONG time, now. He has earned his wings as being one of those artists whom I will always be a fan of, no matter if I dig all of his work or not.  His output for the last 10 years or so hasn't set my pants on fire the way had had previously for quite some time, which is to be expected, more often than not.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear some really cool songs on this latest album of his.  I've been trying to put my finger on what it is that I like so much about this set.  Cave has always been a sort of eclectic artist; he has a lot of range, from the Leonard Cohen-style crooning love ballads, to Avant-garde, against the grain, often-aggressive nightmare dreamscapes, to a lot of Delta Blues-inspired, dark and twisted, dynamic narratives. And what he did on my favorite songs on this album, is sort of synthesize ALL of these components into something really unique, and, for lack of a better term, FUCKING COOL!!!!

But, don't take my word for it....







8. Michael Monroe - Horns and Halos

From the first time I heard the opening vocal lament at the loss of what New York City once was on "Ballad of the Lower East Side", I knew that this was going to be a special album. And why shouldn't it be?  He has a KILLER band consisting of Monroe's former cohort in Hanoi Rocks, Sami Yaffa, HIS former cohort in the more-recent incarnation in the New York Dolls, Steve Conte, my cousin in the legion of black-haired Rock n' Rollers, drummer Karl Rockfist, and, in time for the writing/recording of this album, former Backyard Babies guitarist, Dregen. With a band consisting of all of that stellar talent, writing and playing on your album (as well as a hell of a good bunch of guys), how could you go wrong?!!!

Well, evidently you CAN'T!!!!

This is Monroe with his best and most inspired performance I've heard in a LONG time. From the afore-mentioned "Ballad..." to "Stained Glass Heart" to "Eighteen Angels" to "Half the Way" to "Ritual", we have, here, probably the tightest, most powerful slab of PURE ROCK N' ROLL I heard all year.  We don't get a classic set of Punk n' Roll wrapped in HUGE melodies and hooks, yet with a modern kick in the face like this, NEARLY often enough, anymore.  Which is sad....but....

These guys delivered. My hat is off to you, Homeboys!!!





I was going to write about some older albums that I missed when they got released, but got into this past year at this point, but this has been long-winded enough, don't you think?!!  I sure do.

Later....

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Here's to a whirlwind of a 2013, the soundtrack that underscored it, and high hopes for 2014 and beyond

2013 was a year that I will never forget. It included some of the most breath-taking highs, heart-destroying lows, and enough mid-levels to at least give me the ability to take a look around, reflect, and deal with it all. 

When the smoke clears, I usually like to emphasize and accentuate the the positive aspects of all of it, and approach life under the assumption that all of my experiences ultimately make me come out ahead.  I can only hope that I'm correct in that assumption, but so far, so good!

For example....a couple of bridges had to be burned this year, and that was really a crying shame, because that rarely has to happen in my world. Those of you that have known me for awhile know that. But, as they say, old doors close, and new ones open....so, consequently, I forged some AWESOME new and close friendships, and deepened a lot of the preexisting ones. And I have been having the time of my life, in that way! You all know exactly who you are, and I love you all to straight to hell and back. Would that qualify as a silver lining? Only if it has a golden surface! Hahahaha!!! Anyway, I'm grateful for that beyond any 75-cent words I can write here.



I also connected very deeply with someone so disarmingly beautiful and inspiring beyond description. And even though our time together has been relatively short, at least for the time being, it was very substantial. My perspective of the world over, as well as the world inside my heart of hearts, has been forever altered. The fact that I now know that someone like this person exists in the world, no matter where, has restored so much within me that I had long-since thought that I had lost. My time with this person has been so indispensable that I couldn't possibly imagine my life without it, nor would I want to. Again, I am eternally grateful.



Rock n' Roll?  Fuck yeah!!! 2013 started with the Dirty Pearls' first US tour!  I retook to the road like a second skin to be sure!!!  I loved not caring about what day it was, or even what time it was, save for what time soundchecks and shows were!  The long drives with my homeboys, listening to Howard Stern and watching stupid movies like HALL PASS and being at the butt-crack of every joke, seemingly, in human existence (which, of course, I don't mind...the operative term, of course, being, "TOUCHE', DOUCHE'!!!"). I loved my long walks by myself in almost every city that we played in, with my headphones on, getting lost in new places, great music, and impossible-to-foresee adventures! And the shows...I mean, at every gig, the band got more tight and ferocious than we were at the last one! Los Angeles....Vancouver....Iowa City...Las Vegas...Kansas City...Oakland....Chicago...Portland....etc....w/ friends and family at almost every stop! Playing in front of some of my oldest friends and immediate family in St. Paul was fucking TOPS....but singing happy Birthday to my MOM from the stage was even better!!!! Talk about beaming with pride!!! 



It was also very inspiring to watch my good friend kick ass the way she does onstage in front of houses packed to the gills with thousands of people....and having her point at me and shout, "HOMEBOOOOOIIIIEEEEY!!!" in front of those thousands pf people!!!! I doubt that my face ever blushed that many shades of Fire-Engine Red in my whole life!  But more importantly, it was just great to see this huge production, complete with excellent musicians, etc, going on, night after night. It's clearly a lot of hard work, but....it's great to see how my friend from the old bar's hard work came to fruition. It's great to see people make great things happen, and it inspires me to strive to do so as well.



It broke my heart a little bit when the tour got cut short a month early....because I really started getting into being a road dog.  I also wondered, and still wonder, what might have happened had we been able to stay out for that month. I think that it would have been a lot of fun, and surely there would have been great gigs, but....one can't really dwell too much on what didn't happen, by God! Plus, I got to go to my good friend's very spectacular and awesome wedding, which I had been sad that I was going to have to miss, so....there's that silver lining once again.



The Summer was a rough one, here in New York City. There was a collective black cloud that seemed to shroud everything.  And it certainly wasn't only because many of us lost our favorite meeting places, but....that fact certainly didn't help matters. I really didn't have the substantial tragedies that some of you, my best and brightest, had, but....I certainly always felt for it, and for you, for sure. 



With that said, that bummer of a Summer led to the most awesome Autumn that I can really remember. Not least of which was....I had a week-long (at least) birthday celebration that would have killed 15 normal men, from just the intensity and frequency of the laughs alone! I had SO much fun....and I HAD to be out that many nights in a row, because I was fortunate enough to have THAT many people to celebrate with! And if you were there....well, you know! And it was soon after that when I met someone that I mentioned above....



And the holidays? Forget about it....the celebration continued.....that's for sure. But it wasn't just a big, superficial drunk fest. I think that a lot of us were, more than anything, just celebrating our lives, and living each moment for its own sake. And they were good times!



As far as 2014 goes....so far, so good, I suppose. I have extremely high hopes for it on several levels. And a lot of things are really up in the air, and as it always is in life, could go in any direction. All I can do is worry about what I can control. I'm not the type to make "resolutions", because those seem to be made to be broken. I do have aspirations and goals, though. I'd love for the band to get back on the road, should the opportunity present itself. Aside from that, I certainly want to this to be my most fruitful year, creatively speaking, so....I want to keep writing songs, both by myself, and maybe even collaborate with some people. I also have other creative ideas that I want to explore. I really want to diversify my creativity, and make some cool shit happen. None of us are getting any younger, but....that doesn't mean that we can't create opportunities for ourselves, and maybe even some success. Wouldn't that be fucking AWESOME?!!  I think so. And my favorite thing to do in this world is, in my own way, to make things happen!!!!



PS-I was going to write this about my favorite music that I got into this past year, but I'll probably do that tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Maybe Pat Benatar WAS right

I've come up with a theory about dysfunctional relationships...

...but before I do, here is a disclaimer: I'm NOT talking any ONE relationship
or any ONE person, or even only my OWN situations...but patterns that I've seen
with quite a few people over quite a long time, myself included. I think about
these kinds of things a lot.

Anyway, my observation is....

...that one person (or sometimes both people) in the relationship say/do fucked
up things to the other, and create multitudes of drama out of thin air, for
seemingly no real rhyme or reason.





But, I think that this sort of behavior is rooted this line of thinking: They
figure that if someone is willing to put up with all of THIS bullshit...from ME,
then he/she must REALLY LOVE me!

It must be rooted in some lack of self esteem; they don't realize that there is
enough to love about them without an international crisis happening once every
week or two.

It's too bad, because it ultimately puts a huge strain on the person on the
receiving end of it, and therefore, on the relationship. And relationships are
hard enough as it is. The result of this winds up being that NEITHER person in
the relationship winds up having their needs met. And then the real trouble
begins. As Greg Dulli once sang, "Resentment always goes much further than it
was supposed to go."



And you know, maybe it works for awhile. If you love someone, to the point at
which their pain is your weakness, you probablly WILL put up with the shitstorms
that happen all too often.

But eventually, something will give....and that means that someone throws his/her
hands in the air and gives UP. And then, everyone gets hurt.

And it's too bad.



The only silver lining comes from learning from it and moving on & hopefully doing
better next time, should there be one. If you love someone, or even like them,
the whole point should be that you enjoy being around each other, right? I always
thought so.

But, I know that shit gets WAY more complicated than that, and...well,
there's the rub, right?

Again, I say all of this with no malicious intent, judgement, or ill will toward
anyone. Hell, I'm hardly perfect and am not even close to being an expert.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Welcome To the Concrete Jungle....or.....My First Night Out On the Town in NYC!

All of you who know me know that I know my way around the big city, & that I've had my share of late, late nights...but that I generally am able to keep my shit together.  (I'm knocking on wood as I write that, hahahaha).

This was not always the case, and I'm going to tell you a funny story to illustrate that.

It was approximately a year before I moved into town. I had never, ever been to New York City in my life, and knew nothing about it, aside from what I read about 10 times in PLEASE KILL ME. I had flown here with my good friend Dan (my oldest friend from back home, for lack of a better term). We crashed at his sister, Julie's apartment on the Upper West Side. (Julie would later become my sort-of "Rock n' Roll big sister" when I was a new kid in town, for which I am eternally grateful). We had a big dinner and a few beers the first night we were here....but we couldn't wait to get our asses out to the East Village/Lower East Side to....immerse ourselves in the perceived coolness that was there. 

Yeah, right.

So, we got on the Subway Train and went downtown, not really knowing what the hell we were doing or where the hell we were going, but knowing that we wanted to hit Coney Island High and the Continental, etc. I'm sure that we looked just as clueless as we were at the time. I think we went to the Continental first, and had a couple of Heinekens and shots of Jagermeister (my combo of choice at the time. Yuck!), and probably very obviously ogled at the girls there, etc, whom I'm certain took no notice of us. I hope not, anyway, hahahahaha!!!

Anyway, we headed around the corner to Coney Island High, and the dude at the door (who was that?) said that there were psychedelic bands playing upstairs, or some shit. That was good enough for us, so we headed on up, ordered ourselves another round, and checked out the band, whoever it was.

Soon, we started getting a little bit drunk, when some attractive black-haired girl started talking to me. I should have known from the start that it was too good to be true, and that I was being played, but I was much younger and more naive, let alone a stranger in a strange land. It probably didn't help that I mentioned that I didn't live in NYC....I think I recall her response being something along the lines of, "No shit!"

Pretty soon, this chick started dancing with her arms around me, and, of course, I thought that I had hit the jackpot! I was probably thinking, "Party time in NEW YORK!! I think I LIKE this place!!!"

She was dancing behind me, while, I suppose I was waving my hands in the air like I just don't care, or something to that effect. And I didn't....until I felt her hands around my waist...unbuckling my BELT!!!  To make matters worse, this chick started pulling my PANTS down!  

Luckily enough, even in my advanced state of refreshment, my reflexes were sharp enough that I was able to fight her off without being disrobed and/or overexposed, the operative term being, "Listen, you crazy bitch, leave me the fuck ALONE!"

And of course she looked at me with her faced crumpled with disdain, and yelled, "FINE, BE THAT WAY!" before she and her friend walked out the door. It was then that I noticed Dan laughing his ass off.  I re-buckled by belt, and probably suggested that he shut the fuck up, and come with me to the bar to get another beer!

Before long, we walked over to Bleecker Street Bar for some reason, and continued with the merriment, and basically had a good time...albeit less eventful.

But the story doesn't end there!

We decided it was about time to head back to Julie's place....at GOD know's what time, but I suspect it was close to NYC's bar time of 4am. We grabbed the Subway to head back to the Upper West Side. I guess somewhere along the way, the booze and energy of the Big City got the best of me....because the next thing I knew, I was being nudged awake by this little Hispanic Good Samaritan Dude who was sitting next to me (thank you, Sir, whomever and wherever you may be). I looked around, and Dan wasn't THERE! Dude said that he had left!

In other words, I had passed out during the train ride, and Dan walked off the train, apparently assuming that I was walking behind him. He didn't notice that I was sitting there catching up on some much-need rest until he was off the train and the doors had closed! 

I was scared shitless, because I I was drunk, alone, and didn't know my way around to save my life. So, I did the only thing I could think of TO do, and I got off the train, grabbed a payphone, and called Julie (whose #, luckily, was in my pocket. I had no cellphone yet).

"I DON'T KNOW WHERE I AM OR WHAT THE FUCK TO DO!!!" I exclaimed, as I heard Dan laughing his ass off (AGAIN) in the background. 

She told me, between guffaws, to just jump in a cab and have it drop me off on the corner by her building. 

"Oh....well.....ok, then!" Simple enough, right?

When I walked through her door, we decided that, in light of the hilarity that we had experienced that night, just one more round of Heinekens was in order, despite my exhausted state.

CHEERS!!!!

It seems so long ago.....yet it doesn't....you know what I mean?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes, a bar isn't just a bar....or nothing lasts forever

So, the "Clubhouse".....known to most as St. Jerome or St. Jerome's...has closed its doors for good.

Now, some people would say, "Jeez, Man....what's the big deal? There are thousands of bars in New York City....go hang out somewhere else! It's just a bar! GROW UP, already!"

Well, it's not that way, exactly.

This is a place where, for over five years, I've made friends, forged alliances, worked, played, relaxed, laughed, screamed, wept, sang, pondered, dreamed, danced, and had a lot of great times, whether I liked or remembered them or not. I also had many, many, many, MANY beers with a lot of great people....some who went on to fame & fortune, and others whom I'll never see again....but I love them all. If you're reading this, you're very likely one of them, and you know damn well that I mean it.

It started, for me, one deep, dark night a little over five years ago.  I'd just gotten out of an "unhealthy (to say the least) relationship", and had just started The Dirty Pearls with my homeboy, Tommy London.  I needed a new home base, a new watering hole....a new CLUBHOUSE! My good friend Luc Carl (the man who started the whole goddamn nightmare) was bartending, and after a couple of "Happy Meals", I asked him if he needed any djs there.  He told me that if I wanted to do Sundays, that they were mine.  "Fuck it," I thought, "I'll do fucking Sundays, then!"  It was a good start.

My first Sunday there, I walked into the bar, and this tall, thin gentleman was behind the bar. "Hey, Man," I said, extending my hand, "I'm the new dj." 

He shook my hand, and very smarmily, answered, "Are you gonna play....anything GOOD?!"

I walked to the booth to set up, wondering who this wise ass thought he was.  I started playing the shit that I play, and got to talking with him.  After two rounds of Budweisers & "Warm-up" shots, I discovered that who he thought he was, was Mr Brian Newman, and we became fast friends after discovering a mutual love for Thin Lizzy and Lynyrd Skynyrd (and it was Newman who brought in the neon Thin Lizzy sign that remains there to this day (?)). We've been friends ever since, and have both grown a lot since those days.

Those Sundays weren't always the most popular or packed night at the bar, but there was always plenty of Rock N' Roll, drinks, and good company to have a great time with.  You could always expect some cool fuckers, or others, to stop by, and when I would arrive at 10:00 pm on Sunday night, I always wondered who it might be.

Sometimes, who it would be was a dude who wound up being, essentially, the "House DJ", and one of the best drinking buddies & all-around stand-up guys you could ever meet, Mr Ian Eldorado. I don't know how we got to be such great friends, but I know that it involved Budweiser and Jameson, and vintage Rock n' Roll t-shirts....and it still does!

Luc, Tommy, Newman, Ian, and I wound up becoming the "Rivington Rebels", a sort-of mobile drinking & hanging out club who often hang out at St. Jerome, and on the Lower East Side in general. We are, maybe, reminiscent of Alice Cooper's Hollywood Vampires in the 70's, that would hang out in the secret loft upstairs at the Rainbow in L.A.  

So...that's the early jist of it. 

The Clubhouse has changed in this way and that way since the early days, as life always does.  That said, there has been a spirit that has remains constant, and that comes from those of us who convene there. Some people have called it, "a scene", which is fine....I know that many scenes have been made there, whatever that means!  Tommy went deeper and called it, "a community", which it most-certainly is.  To me, though, I feel that it's in my blood at this point....so...to me, it's closer to a family.  It certainly means enough to us for the Dirty Pearls to have a song about the place that we play almost every time we take the stage. I, for one, can't get through the 4-count intro on my h-hat without feeling like I'm in the corner stool with a smile on my face.

That isn't something that you can get at just any bar that opens down the street.


That's why it's the end of an era.

All of that being said.....is it the end of the world?  No.  All of us who have been a part of it will likely be bonded by the common experience that we had & shared in the place.  And, surely, we will find other places to listen to Rock N' Roll and watch the night fold and unfold 12 or 13 times.  We will all continue to....do amazing and cool shit in the early part of the evening, and then celebrate later 'til the wee hours....then call each other the next day, and ask what the hell happened. Keep your phone on.

The Clubhouse is closed! LONG LIVE THE CLUBHOUSE!  Or, as I wrote on the bathroom wall, "OUR GHOSTS WILL DRINK HERE FOREVER."








Thanks for all of the good nights, great friends, and many, many drinks!

Marty E.

PS-I write this with all due deference to, besides everyone I've mentioned before, to Jonas, Kelle, Stinks, Carlos, Bryan, Starlight, Dustan, Gigi, David, Ashley, Kelly, Conrad, Niko, Yoshi, Breedlove, Seth, Danae, Josh, Wolf, Necktie, Seth, Christian, Adam, Jess, & everyone else I hung out & had drinks/laughs with.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

GOING OUT!!!



I go out all the time.  More often than not, I'm out at least 5 nights a week.  There are two reasons for it. 

One reason is simple: I'm addicted to FUN.  Call it a state of perpetual adolescence if you'd like, but that's a lot of what life in the big city is about for a lot of us. 

The other reason is slightly less simple: to promote the band and support what other people have going on.  I call it "productive drinking." (There's a great enabling term for you).  The truth of the matter is that it works. In any kind of entertainment business, being out there and socializing is a key to getting to where you want to be.  A lot of people don't understand that....but then again, perhaps they don't want to be where I want to be.  God Bless.


The ironic truth about it is, when I'm promoting and socializing....I'd much rather be playing & performing.  But the promoting and socializing part is essential, I feel, to get to a position where you're playing every night. Such is the duality of the core of the Big Apple.

What's really funny is that after I've PLAYED a show & sweated my way to the inch of my life...I want
to fucking CELEBRATE with my friends who are experiencing this crazy shit with me, and live it up to a job well done....and that includes ALL of the promoting, socializing, playing, and performing.  For me, that's all part of the job!  But....you already knew that.


To extend upon my point before about "productive drinking", etc....if there isn't either something to promote or celebrate....going out is meaningless. Sure, it's great to hang out with your friends, but....having purpose in your life makes you a better friend in the first place.

This town is made of random acts of kindness....the kind that nobody tells you about.  You know, because you've been the one who did the "acting", or someone else did for you.  Those "acts" come from people who, generally speaking, are happy and enjoy life, which, again, is why most of us are here in the first place.  For me, the hard work, as well as the celebration thereof, are keys to happiness. It's really fucking important, and it is this fact that keeps me from getting too jaded.  Remind me that I said that the next time you see me acting like an asshole out there, hahahahaha.
 


The bottom line is that I still think that it's a great gig if you can get it.  You just need to maintain some sense of balance.  But that's another story.

Let's have a drink, shall we?



What the hell is that noise?!!! or The Sounds of Summer in the City

(All song clips in this entry are songs that I was listening to at the time I'm ranting about. Coincidentally, most of it came out at that time too. Thank GOD, whoever he/she is. Music marks history, but is above & beyond it at the same time. More importantly, it's a great soundtrack).

"How can you STAND the NOISE?!!!"

"I just couldn't HANDLE it.....NO!"

"WHAT the HELL is GOING ON here?!!"

I hear it all of the time, and, frankly, I suppose I do understand the sentiment....even though sometimes those quotes are about ME.

(Sorry about that).

But, as I've probably told you....I flew into town with five suitcases that literally bruised my shoulders...only to wake up on my friend's floor (where I was very happy to be -- see previous blog for THAT story....it's a good one). I remember waking up, thinking to myself, "Holy shit! I'm here, and I'm alive....and I don't even know what that means!" I was about to grow, because I had no fucking choice!



I showered & scanned the Village Voice for job, apartment, and audition ads, like so many others undoubtedly did that day (there was no Craig's List yet, and certainly nothing resembling Social Networks).

The last thing I heard before I walked out the door ...made me think....."What the FUCK is THIS annoying HORSESHIT playing OVER and OVER again?!!! Sheee-IT, Man!!! Could you SWITCH it UP at least?!!! Play something ELSE that SUCKS, perhaps, but is DIFFERENT!!!"



Yes, it was the Mr. Softee Ice Cream Truck....and yes, I was a newbee.....but holy shit, that spooked me out! 

Anyway....



I walked to the train, and heard some bird call me, "Billy Ray Cyrus", because of my leather cowboy hat that I was wearing at the time.  "Welcome to New York", I was thinking.  I was also wondering why the bird who said that didn't recognize a ROCKER when she saw one...or maybe she did, liked what she saw, & was trying to get me to give her a second look.  I had a much thinner skin then. Looking back, that was a good one!

Soon, I found my way around town, in that relative sense. If you want to know what they mean by, "Do or die," then chuck everything for the big city, like my homeboys and I did....then come talk to me, because I want to hear your take on it! Everyone's experiences and perspectives are different, and totally valid.

But the sounds on the streets, in my speakers, and in my head....never have been lost on me.  They represent a time & place...from the sound of the dude cursing & payphone & slamming the receiver down so hard that he broke the damn phone (if you see a broken payphone, you know what I mean) to the sound of the 8am subway train on my way to my first job in town (This AT THE DRIVE-IN song still sounds like the A train arriving on 44th & 8th) to....the sounds of hookers cat-calling at me on my way home from striking out at Doc Holiday's after drinking a shitloads of Pabst Blue Ribbon & Jim Beam.



I'm in a completely different place now, but these songs, when I hear them, bring me back in different ways. They can make me feel uncertain, or tired, or wistful, or irrationally determined, or melancholy, or scared, or desperate, or clueless, or whathaveyou.  It makes me think of the state I was in back then, when I really didn't know what to expect from one minute to the next.  It was an extremely exciting time, in a lot of ways.  I think that it took a lot of courage to jump head-first into the belly of the beast, as they say. But I did it in such a state of suspended animation, as if I was watching a someone else go through all of this crazy shit.....shit that I don't think is so crazy now, really. 



I mean, think about your life.....and all of the experiences you've had that you can remember.  Wouldn't your life be different if you took away ONE of them?  (I'm not referring to the irreparably shitty ones, of course. We can all do without those). You wouldn't exactly be YOU if you didn't have them all filed upstairs.

What's funny is that, NOW, when I hear the Mr Softee truck & all of it's inane noise, or when I see some half-drunk dude playing air-bongos on the sidewalk along with Salsa Music blaring from his car at 6pm on a Friday, when he presumably just got finished with work, or I hear the sirens going Nowhere North of Nowhere every day.....I don't mind so much.  It reminds me of where I am, and that I'm well on my way with succeeding at what I came here to do.  It's many years and miles away from the deafening silence of the Midwest, which I was scared to leave, and even more terrifed NOT to.

So....BRING THE NOISE!!!!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Some shit that I wrote this past Spring....and yes, I changed the name of my blog

I started work on something that I wanted to turn into a radio show this past Spring.  Of course, I lost focus & sort-of tucked it into the back of my mind.  I dusted it off today, and decided to revamp my blog with it.  Here's is my first dispatch. You can still think of it as a "Fucker's Lament" if you'd like, for it surely is!



DISPATCH #1. 4/17/12.  "So this is Spring!"

It's Spring-time in New York City, and everything feels like it's about to go batshit crackerjack. Everything goes up a notch. Even more "exclamation points" are used out in the open, in every context that you can imagine!!!!!!!

 

"If you scandalize my name, Then you scandalize yourself." (Ray Davies)

I don't think of Spring in terms of all of that "rebirth" shit. I think about it in terms of, "GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR!"  Let's call it, "positive pressure." 

It's the time when you see a lot of freaks, everywhere. It's fucking awesome, yes.  But it becomes a game of "freaks going batshit", and I often suspect that I might be playing! But everybody plays their own way, we find, and other people play by their own rules, just like you do.  They aren't all fair either.  They're a lot like life.

There's an arrogance with New York, that I sometimes think can bring out the best in some people, the worst in others, and both in most.  Such is the duality of the core of the Big Apple.
*

*I kind-of ripped that off from the
Drive-By Truckers-Three Great Alabama Icons

If you don't let your ambition overwhelm your being so far that you use yourself up...or constantly act like a dickhead...you're doing pretty well.  And remind me that I said that the next time you see me.

I feel sometimes as if I jumped off the cliff as soon as I got here, and I'm spending a whole lot of time in the air.  That's where I live. 

I hit the ground a lot, but I bounce back up, due to to many circumstances. The whole point is to stay in the air as long as you can, no matter how low you fall. Jim Carroll once wrote/sang, "It ain't cool to sink that low, Unless you're gonna make a resurrection." But let's face it, flying by the seat of your pants successfully requires a lot of good circumstances and luck. Fly away.




What's crazy about staying in when there are 12 parties going on is that you wonder what you're missing out there....yet lots of times, when you're out there, you're thinking, "Ah....THIS SHIT AGAIN?!" Sometimes you're at the 12th party of the night (morning, to many of you) and you wonder why the HOLY HELL you bothered....but who the fuck is keeping track?     


I've been out at least 5-6 nights a week for the last 5 years.  I have taken exile from the bars & clubs of NYC for 3 nights in a row.  My conclusion?  I sometimes regret going out, but I never regret staying in.

I thought so!

Such is the duality of the core of the Big Apple.

Spring, and every other season, is a lot of fun when you're confident about the future. The different seasons might each represent a reason why you go on with whatever it is that fills your life.


That confidence takes discipline, wisdom, and brain damage to maintain! There's a nagging feeling that you're either astronomically fucking brilliant, or you've lost your mind to such a nullifying degree that you're a lost cause.  There's a razor-fine line.

There's that fucking duality again.  Most people get fucked in twos, so I guess that makes sense, right?





 

I've always erred on the side of whatever the hell I want, at the end of the day. And my faith in my ambition is fueled by doing what I want, having a good time, working & playing hard, and hoping for the best.  It's been a fun ride.  But you don't necessarily want to spend your whole life in the gutter, you know?



I think it's all about being as balanced as humanly possible, between working, being creative, having fun, and keeping your head above water, at the very least....in the air tonight.  I hate Phil Collins, but he had something in that tune.  I can feel where he was coming from on that one. (But screw him anyway - I'm not posting that song).




Wake up, have fun, kick ass, or fall flat on your ass trying!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Crash Course in what you will find in NYC in one afternoon.

When I first moved to NYC, 12 years ago, I used to go an internet cafe on Bleecker Street (it's still there....right across from John's Pizzeria, which is my favorite) to apply for jobs and look for apartments, and find a band....which are very daunting tasks when you're new in the city, to say the least.

On one particular day, I was doing my thing like any other day. I'd put my backpack underneath the table I was sitting at. In this backpack were my resumes, a walkman & a few mix cassette tapes (again, they were very lean times, and it was in 2000), notebooks with lyrics, and a folder with all of my resume copies as well as job/band/apartment leads -- basically, a bunch of shit that I NEEDED, but wouldn't be worth jack shit to anyone else.

As I got up to leave, I reached underneath the table....no backpack. I looked....and it was gone. POOF! Clearly, someone had pulled a fast one, literally, right under my nose, and stolen my backpack. Great. I was SO pissed off, but mostly, I was pissed at myself for allowing that to happen.

I went back to the apartment in Hell's Kitchen that I was renting a room in, and watched tv, still very pissed off. The phone rang. It was some dude who worked at a diner down the street from the internet cafe that I'd been at. He said that he'd found my bag in the bathroom, and asked if I'd like to come down and get it.

I went to the diner, grabbed my bag....and there was NOTHING missing. I ordered up a cheeseburger, and asked the dude at the counter how they'd found my bag. He said that some dude who appeared to be quite shady (probably a junkie) had come into the diner....gone into the bathroom for several minutes....then left. He apparently realized how worthless the items in my bag were (to him) and left it there.

On one hand, some asshole had stolen from me....on the other, someone else was kind enough to return it to me.  I had fallen prey to the anonymous thief by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and been blessed with the kindness of a complete stranger, both in less than two hours.

Welcome to New York!

Monday, February 20, 2012

If I Had Known What I Was Getting Into....or....My First Day In New York

I rolled into town feeling like a cold caller trying to sell beige slacks on June 1, 2000, with about 3 grand (in checks & money orders) rolled up in my sock, over a hundred pounds of luggage on my bruised shoulders, and little the fuck else.

I flew in from Minneapolis after spending the one last night with my ex-girlfriend, and leaving my best friends & life as I knew it...and there was no turning back. (I that believe you CAN "look back" every once in awhile - to reflect, which is what I'm doing here).

On my flight, I remember the pilot saying through the loudspeaker, "Ladies & Gentlemen.....uuuuuuuuummmmmm.....if you look to the left of the aircraft.....uuuuuummmmm.....that's Lake Erie...."

It was then that it occurred to me that I didn't know where the fuck I was going to be in a day, much less a week, a month, or a year!  Sure, it sounds exciting and romantic, and all of that crap....but when it's right in front of you face like a burning jungle, it's more than a little bit daunting and pretty fucking scary!

Well, I arrived at LaGuardia, and grabbled my luggage (consisting of a hockey bag that resembled an overstuffed burrito, a backpack, a case with my snare drum, sticks, and kick drum pedal....and I think I might have had my cymbal bag with me as well), and grabbed a cab to Manhattan.  I was to go to the acting school where my good friend Alfredo worked and attended classes, grab the keys to his apartment in Bay Ridge (in South Brooklyn) and head to his house. So I rolled into this old brick building on Jane Street, with all of my crap....which I left in the stairwell (I figured, if anyone wants to carry this shit, go right the fuck ahead and steal it) and walked past all of the acting students.  Looking like the dark shadow of death's understudy, I walked up to the desk.

"Hi....my friend Al should have left some keys in the desk for me.....??????"

The old hag behind the desk squinted, took a look at me, pulled the desk drawer out, gave it a way-too-quick once-over, and dismissed me with, "I'm sorry....there's nothing here!"

Stunned, I asked, "Are you SURE? Can you please look AGAIN?"

"I JUST DID....there's nothing HERE!"

I began to panic.  I tried to call Al, but he wasn't picking up. 

I didn't know what the fuck to do....I was beyond exhausted, and I didn't have anywhere to go, really. I was in a strange, ENORMOUS, cold, new place that I didn't know my way around yet, and I was weighed down with everything I owned in the world.

It then occurred to me that another buddy of mine, Lenny, was making the same move that I was, and he had emailed me his new # a week beforehand.

With nothing else to do, I called Lenny....thank CHRIST he was home.

"Hey Man....how are you?  I'm completely SCREWED!"

"Well....that sucks, Man," he said, "....well....do you wanna come hang out for awhile?  I'm in Astoria, but...."

I grabbed another cab, this time to Astoria, in the North-Western part of Queens....with a feeling of suspended animation, and also fucking RELIEF, that I at least could be under a friendly roof with all of my crap for at least the rest of the afternoon.

I rolled up to his apartment (which was either on 30th Ave, 30th Street, or 30th Road) and he was unpacking boxes....so I dropped my extra baggage in front if his front door, and fell into a chair.

Lenny, very nonchalantly asked, "Do you want a beer, Dude?"

It's your friends that pull you through.

I eventually got a hold of Alfredo late that night, and he apologized profusely, and said that I should head to his place. He also told me that his keys were, indeed, at that acting school of his, and that the wench at the acting school felt badly about missing them.

Anyway, I packed my luggage on my aching back and walked to the Subway for the ride to Al's house.  What's funny about that, is that Lenny lived on Ditmars Ave in Queens, which is where the N Train starts.....and Al's place in Bay Ridge Ave, in Brooklyn, was, to make a long story short, near where it ends.  So I took the yellow line for the 2 & 1/2-hour trek.

(Let's recap....I'd taken a cab from LaGuardia to Greenwich Village.....then got in a cab from there to Astoria, then took the train all the way from there to Bay Ridge Ave.  My route that day basically was in the shape of a gigantic number 4!)

It was after 2 am when I finally got to Al's house.  Before I crashed out in my sleeping bag on his floor, I called my Mom.

"I thought I'd hear from you a long time before now....where have you BEEN?"

"I'm too exhausted to tell you, but let's just say my shoulders are, literally, black & blue."

"OH MY GOD," she exclaimed.

I told her I would call her the next day, and I proceeded to pass out on the most comfortable floor I've ever laid my head upon.

This was only the beginning....and it still causes explosions in my mind to think about now.  But, if I'd known then what was waiting for me after that, I'd have told you it was all worth it.  And I'm here to tell you that it was!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I Sold My Soul For a Song....or at least I should have....

Slim Dunlap, the former guitarist from the Replacements, had (has) a song on his first solo album, The Old New Me, that just might be the best song you've never heard.  It's called "Taken On the Chin".  It carries a lot of meaning for me....and I'll tell you why!

At the end of my college days, I used to see Slim play in a local coffee shop all the time. He showed up with his acoustic guitar, and served his songs straight up with no bullshit, but with a very affable vibe. He had a great rapport with his audience, because he presented himself with a wisdom and good humor that made him come off like Ronnie Wood meets Bob Dylan (for lack of a better way of describing it).  I imagine that Izzy Stradlin' might have pulled up a chair and joined him, had he only been there. He was so cool in a very sincere sort of way. 

Anyway, introduced this song, "Taken On the Chin" by relating a story about how he had once gotten clocked in the face and knocked down right on the street on Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis, by some random dude.  Across the street was a police car, and Slim said that he walked to the car, and told the cop sitting in it that he had been assaulted and demanded that the perpetrator be arrested.  The cop looked him up and down, then looked at the other guy as he was walking away, and said to Slim, "....taken on the chin...."

Then he played this song, and it kind-of floored me because the lyrics described how I felt and where I was at the time.  "You call this a hell hole, 'Cause you can't call this a life, The only forgiveness you'll find here's at the edge of a knife.....and it's taken on the chin..."

And he meant it too, which made it mean even more to me, and I started thinking about my life and what I wanted out of it a little bit more deeply because of it. I was in that limbo faze where I didn't know what the fuck to do, but I knew that I was going to have to do SOMETHING, and was scared shitless.  Scared of staying where I was, and also scared of leaving.

A couple of months later, he played with his band at a Rock N' Roll bar I regularly guzzled beer at with my homeboys.  It was on some holiday weekend and it was raining, and the place was severely lacking in its usual numbers.  I recall that I was in some pissy, whoa-is-me kind of mood that day, and was drowning my sorrows about some most-likely insignificant horseshit of the day.  Then I heard Slim say into the mic, "This song is called 'Taken On the Chin'', so....I grabbed another beer and got my ass in front of the stage. 

Again, there was hardly anyone there, but he still gave everything in his heart and soul to his performance and his songs, especially this one, and it really impressed me.  And I learned a very valuable lesson.  Whatever bullshit I was getting down and out about didn't fucking matter, because....THIS guy was playing his heart out, no matter how many people were there, and no matter who the fuck they were, because he was doing it for HIMSELF.  I realized that I was going to have to do the same damn thing, in my own way and context.

And you know what?  I believe that I always have, and can often recognize when others have too. I appreciate that sort of thing.

Anyway, here's the song.



Does it sound to you the same way it sounds to me?

Marty E.