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SING A SONG AND MAKE IT GOOD 


I open the box brimming with old cassettes; most are clearly labeled with familiar half-legible scribbles, the style of which I chose when I was old enough to do so, as a giant fuck you to those who cracked my knuckles with a ruler if my cursive wasn’t up to snuff (but that’s fodder for another missive).  Other tape shells remain blank, anonymous, suspect.  Not having looked at them in a while, they seem curiously out of step with digital technology, yet their warm familiarity draws me back full tilt, as if through a time machine (music cue: “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” by Pink Floyd).  There’s volumes upon volumes of C60’s and C90’s, as if they were breeding while I wasn’t looking.  My heart jumps at the possibility of unearthing, revisiting, editing, digitizing for posterity. 

Coming across one marked In Heat, I pop open the case, slide the tape into the player, power up and let it rip.  At one point during the brash 90’s, I arrested my editing routine and rightly so; these were times of unabashed rawness in popular music; a period when Nirvana’s brittle assault elbowed Michael Jackson’s gloss from Billboard’s number one spot. As a result, the entire session revealed itself, or close to it, replete with between-track banter, false starts, coughs, cackles and some wrong notes.  At times, they would prove to be the more treasured parts of the sessions than the songs themselves. 

I hear the sound of the cable violating the guitar; sounds being born – then, the 007-inspired riff and finally, that voice, belching lyrics either written minutes before or during a hazy all-nighter, perhaps somewhere in between. The period we recorded this, somewhere in the mid-1990’s, would be our most fertile one as musical partners; where his phrasings and playful utilization of different voices coupled with my riff production and tonal experimentation took the music to another level. The groove is scintillating and our mostly unrehearsed harmonies on the chorus, ones we’ve spontaneously spit up so many times before, leave me dumbstruck. It occurs to me that there’s so much life in these recordings, something that would prove to be ironic later on. Turning up the volume, I am consumed with the breadth of our creative synthesis; a wonderment not easily explained yet naturally discernible. I’m literally swimming in the center of our music; anthems bred by the unique intersection of two varied personalities; smiling, laughing, reveling in the magic we’ve managed to spin for over 30 years. Then it hits me. 

He’s dead, I remember.  This is never going to happen again

As if on cue, I awkwardly press the stop button and experience a coldness surging through my torso, an emptiness racing toward my gut.  I freeze. Then, I cry.  Again. 

We met in fourth grade.  I’m uncertain how, but for a friendship that’s endured precocious peaks and crestfallen valleys for almost forty-two years, there’s bound to be some details swept by the winds of time.  Ours was an intimate one; as close as two straight men can experience.  We shared a few life cycles of space and time and even more significant was the added layer of manifesting a bountiful musical alliance, all of which is no small feat. 

So, on a cold Thursday night in February 1984, rising from boredom and armed with little else than a left-handed guitar (played backwards), scattered, random ideas (written sloppily), a beat-up boom box (which ate tapes) and two open minds (rendering some bizarre arrangements), a musical entity curiously named Cold Cuts was born (we were both into lunch meats at the time). During thirty-one active years of making music, we recorded literally hundreds of songs and held an uninhibited, spontaneous work ethic where all things were considered, restricting nothing.  This meant that we could exercise unreserved creative freedom, and we did.  Many people talk about Kevin’s painting talents and indeed, he was a gifted artist, but I can tell you with great certainty that it was Cold Cuts, an open source outlet informing all other branches of his artistic wizardry, that elicited in him the most bliss, fulfillment and gratification. 

Conversely, and possibly by virtue of his candor, it would also prove to be the creative tendril that would dial up his most formidable insecurities, possibly because of his raucous (read: clever) wordplay and partly due to his paralyzing fear of failure.  This brings to mind our second attempt at a live performance (the first and only complete gig was at his apartment under controlled circumstances in the midst of a drunken party).  We were so confident, even cocky, that we would dazzle our audience.  We chose an outdoor venue and prepared; dressed in outlandish outfits that would make a costume designer blush and employed a toy rhythm machine to play along with. 

As we made our grand entrance up the stairs of the Alpine Boat Basin picnic area, I perceived the stunned faces of on-lookers, recoiling in disbelief as we brazenly soared into our opening rap, “Walking through the woods with a knife in my hand,” strutting around like some emotionally-challenged Beastie Boys imposters. To make matters worse, our “drummer” decided to abruptly switch tempo midpoint during our second song.  We negotiated our way through a few minutes more and were graciously rewarded for our efforts by sheer silence.  Stone-faced, we retreated, swiftly making our way back down the stairs. We didn’t mention a word of it for the remainder of the day.  The following day, however, when the subject was broached, I told Kevin that I believed we were ahead of our time, that mistakes happen and it was really no big deal.  But Kevin was convinced that he utterly failed and would never move past it to obtain any resolution (during one of our final conversations, we reminisced about that day and I was still able to sense his uneasiness about it).  From that point forward, Cold Cuts, by and large, became a secret society where only a few elite members would be enlisted to contribute. 

But the recording sessions were quite another story.  I recall making plans to sleep over at his place (where the bulk of the early magic took place) so that we could engage in marathon sessions. We’d create, break for dinner, create more and eventually pass out from the joy of it all. Then, we’d wake up and do it all over again. Our symbiosis was at once exhilarating and exasperating (I was well aware of his idiosyncrasies by this point, and he mine). Still, the abundant output was undeniable. The crime of this story is that not a note of it was ever released to the public and it should have been, because in the wake of 70’s punk came the post-punk/alternative movement of the 80’s and 90’s, continuing to this day with even more experimentation and genre-melding, providing a blank canvas for artists to weave their own style and realize their distinct voice, clearly Cold Cuts territory. 

But even more significant than the product was the process; the sheer delight we reveled in painting our canvas. I can’t tell you how many phone calls we shared in the early days (this is before even dual cassette players for duplication were commonplace), holding the phone receiver up to the speaker and rewinding certain parts repeatedly because were laughing so loud we’d miss them. And as my father, who never understood Cold Cuts from the onset, eavesdropped and deemed us “totally tasteless”, we delighted in inadvertently using that label to motivate and amuse us until the end. Our exuberance never faded, even until recently; there was always an underlying cheer factor associated with our sessions and most of the time, this alone was ample reason to keep doing it, even when the relationship became strained or when I was making music more with the substance as opposed to the person, a hard truth to negotiate that became an increasing factor toward later years. 

Hence, it wasn’t all gumdrops and rainbows. Hardly. I can recall specific times of utter turmoil where we didn’t speak for long periods of time (I tricked myself into believing that all close friendships warranted a break in the action every now and then for the overall health of the relationship – at the time, this was done for all the wrongs reasons, including inflated ego and immaturity;  however, of late, the constant presence of drugs made it virtually impossible to maintain anything resembling reciprocity).  Particularly during the past decade, there was an impression of edginess and helplessness resulting in repeated self-destructive acts, more pronounced than ever.  And I was front and center for it all, donning many hats – psych ward transporter, blood mopper, holistic consultant, unqualified therapist.  I suppose the politically correct thing to say is that I wouldn’t have changed a thing, but given the toll this took on us both, I wouldn’t have hesitated to alter certain aspects.  Despite all the aforementioned, ours was an enduring friendship whose profundity survived career changes, failed relationships, family turmoil, multiple relocations and death of loved ones, weaving through our musical mojo, making us near complete. 

And now it’s gone. 

After some months of disconnection toward the end of his relatively brief and tragic time on the planet, we did manage to experience some closure through a few light conversations.  In fact, a few hours before he fell unconscious, we had planned to make a pilgrimage to our favorite vegetarian eatery coupled with a trip to the Jersey shore to look in on his ill mother.  I knew something was amiss when he revealed to me that the doctor informed him that there were “a lot of things wrong,” as he coined it, but failed to elaborate on what those things were, even with an open space to express them.  In a way, it was expected; you just can’t treat your body like a trash can, consistently feeding it junk food, alcohol, pot, prescription and street drugs, nicotine, stress and negative reinforcement from those around you, at times simultaneously, without eventually perishing; it was merely a matter of time, regardless of the technical cause of death. Luckily, he did continue to practice his art, gifting himself with some reprieve from the demons that kept luring him back.  Most likely, he tacked some time on his life doing so. Sing a song and make it good, indeed. 

The fact remains, however, that my friend has left us, and as a result, any future efforts to burn genius together has expired with him, and that just sucks, but as I edit our stockpile of recordings, his contagious energy lingers. In the coming days, months, possibly for the rest of my life, I will always be informed of Kevin’s hefty contribution to my life – his tenacious loyalty (he typically championed my efforts, even outside the sphere of our own), passion for merry-making (if laughter translates to prosperity, Ido believe I’m a wealthy man), boundless talents (“doing” Cold Cuts has unequivocally been one of the greatest joys of my life so far) and much more to be revealed.  And yes, even through his self-annihilation and subsequent death, gifting me with a more acute appreciation of life. Life, for the living, wishing he was. 

Eventually, I return to the task of archiving our music, listening intently with new ears; ones that survive him, ones that have yet to know how to listen without welling up in sorrow. Sifting through, I find some unmarked sessions; these prove to be the last recorded a few years back. Attentive and with new allure, I wonder if he remembered.  One particular session, the final in the series, sounds exceptional, like Cuts of yore. It’s all there – the fuzzy riffs, instinctive harmonies, belly chortles; the immediacy of the process.  Then, some curious banter, “This is a happy song”, followed by an uncharacteristically dissonant vocal harmony (if you can dignify it in such a way) with an eerie chorus: “I die, you die, they die, we die;”  a premonition, perhaps? Or merely an apathetically dribbled verbal conjugation, yet another shared cringe-worthy flashback of classroom terror.  On tape, laughter threads the track, possibly at the absurdity of coming full circle but more likely at the uneasiness of its truth. 

Next, silence, then “Let’s go get some ice cream.”  I ponder all of this – the wordplay, the content, the timing, the lack of completion, the compare-and-contrast element of dairy treats and death. I pause, chuckle, speculate, yet all I come up with is “I hope there’s ice cream where you are.” 

And I’m pretty sure you’re laughing at that.

RECORDING SESSIONS AT CHATEAU SAZZ - DAY 4, 8.21.13 (It's Lonely Out In Space) 



Space can be lonely, but loneliness ignites and permeates from within.   It is born of ego.  Only spirit is refuge.  From spirit blossoms all things virtuous - love, peace, creativity, selflessness, service.  It is not virtuous to suffer.  Suffering is optional.

This is what I learned today.

So, I fed my spirit with some guitar playing and a bit of track recording, a bike ride in nature, raw foods and a sunset hike over a majestic lake.   And enjoying the usual nighttime cricket symphony.  Mmm...

Self-care is the first item on the menu.

Heading back tomorrow.  Will miss the Sticks and the magic it spins.  So grateful.



RECORDING SESSIONS AT CHATEAU SAZZ - DAY 3, 8.20.13 (Bike Wheels On A Gravel Road) 



I'm writing this missive overlooking a big clear moon and enjoying a symphony of crickets.  Ah!

Surrendering fully this morning, I decided to take a little R&R and unmount the pressure.  Headed into town for breakfast and light errands, then onto The Barn to see if I could procure a free loaner bike (this area is so radically cool!).  Once mounted, hit the Walkill Valley Rail Trail and headed due north.  Bridges, farms, and endless green layers lined the wooded trail as my path crossed with many friendly faces and well wishes (have I expressed how ultra cool this area is?).  Mental note: finish school + internship and explore places to live and work 'round these parts. Expressed much gratitude for my good fortune and in time, headed back. There was work to do.



Arrived late afternoon and was fully rested and spirited.  Fired up the 24 track and within a few hours finished (seemingly) all acoustic guitar parts for every song, including a finger-pickin', country-lickin' instrumental theme ditty (last time - this area is sooooo cool!).  More on that later.  As for tomorrow, the amplifier hums...



What (mis)adventures will our hero get on Day 4?  Stay tuned...



RECORDING SESSIONS AT CHATEAU SAZZ - DAY 2, 8.19.13 (Black Cows & Bad Coffee) 



Interesting day, toggling between bliss and grief.  Channeled all the energy into the tunes.  Covered lots of ground as I commited washes of guitar tracks to tape.  Most acoustic parts done.  Will then transition to electric tomorrow as the ol' Jazz sounds rich in the neck pickup with a little tremolo or vibe.

Some new techniques inherent to the 2488 learned today.  Some are just left as questions unanswered.  All the same, ploughing forward...

Drove into town for some quiet coffee house contemplation and found myself right smack dab in the middle of an open mic (how could I not bring my guitar?).  As they were winding down, I put my name on the list.  Hey, an opportunity, right?  Wound up using some dude's classical, soft yet lush, which was no match for the urgency of my pipes.  In other words, it felt unbalanced.  Fair reception for Die and How Do You Feel (maybe they weren't up for a philosophy lesson?).  Untimately, glad I took the plunge.



Along the way, passed a pasture of black cows.  Must have been at least 50 of them.  Stopped to take some photos and was spat at by one unfriendly, camera-shy bugger in the bunch (even after I lectured my ethics to her). Perhaps she doesn't speak vegan?  Later on, learned that they were part of a beef farm.  I can see her point...

Thanks God for surrender.  Without it, I'd be packed up and headin' home right about now with my tail betwen my legs.  Life is good.

'Til tomorrow...



RECORDING SESSIONS AT CHATEAU SAZZ - DAY 1, 8.18.13 (A Toyota's Worth of Baggage) 



Spent the better part of Saturday packing - music equipment, clothes, food.  Remembered everything (a miracle, since the car was packed!) save the frozen bananas for raw smoothies (isn't it always that way?).  Still, amazing day. Full of appreciation.  Peaceful drive north beginning at 1.30 with gratitude calls along the way.  Arrived in New Paltz area at 3.30 or so.  Pit stop @ Karma Road for a banana-walnut muffin and a quick spin around town before arriving onsite (the meandering roads up here are dynamic and magnificent!).  

BTW, The Chateau is a quaint country cottage in the heart of the Wallkill sticks.  Nothin' but damn crickets! (Thx, Sazz!)



Unloaded the ol' Toyota and immediately set up.  Put aside time for the slight learning curve in getting acquainted with the new 24 track.  In an hour or so, was up and running. Recorded most of a song called I've Got You, complete with acoutic guitar, bass and dry Univibed Jazzmaster electric.  Rounded out the evening with some raw herbed sunflower seed pate, a raw green smoothie and yeah, some of that fat muffin! 

Will commence tomorrow for a full Monday's worth of sonic goodness.  Stay tuned!

OPEN LETTER TO JONNI WADD 



Dear Jonni,

"Totally tasteless".

29 years ago today we convened in your mom's old basement apartment at 371 Garfield St. to hang out and smoke pot. Little did we know what was to emerge from that simple, fun session would shape our musical future. And oddly enough, the words that formed at my father's lips after hearing our music was our battle-cry; our motivation to keep the faith, no matter what others thought or said.

From the siren of the police car just outside your window that we instinctively decided to tape to begin the session, the die was cast. I picked up your backwards-strung acoustic guitar and began to strum unique pseudo-chords, you sang and moaned your bizarre, creative lyrics, pressed the record button on your old boom box and cranked out YP, Appointment, Turkey Roll and others. We even used your kitchen sink's running water as a syncopated rhythm track. Nothing was off limits. We jammed, laughed, taped and played it all back, knowing little of what we had truly done. We were 21.

Through the years that followed, we expanded our arsenal and our repertoire, jamming each Thursday for a while and penning more bizarre lyrics, adding drum machines, keyboards, electric guitars, electronic de-vices. We gave our sessions album names - (fill in the blank) Cuts, whatever we were into at the time and were downright smug about it. We began multi-tracking, which offered an entirely new palette of sound. When we didn't have a rhythm track, we used an empty water bottle and a bag of potato chips. When we didn't have lyrics, we used a newspaper or grocery list to recite or howl the day's events over an interesting chord progression. We made some seriously drug-addled videos and performed a gig and a half only to never returned to the stage - we were too outrageous and innovative even for ourselves. I see that clearly now.

"Hey Jonni, wanna jam?" was our cue to let the tape roll and let the night and our own creative prowess take us where we hadn't been before.  The exchange was evident as the songs came seemlessly and effortlessly;  lyric meets riff, rehearse once, tape, then onto the next song - lather, rinse, repeat. We adopted a work ethic which, though at the time unbeknownst to me, is eireely poignant for me today - let it flow and let it go.

And now, here we are, on the 29th anniversary of that fateful night. Cold Cuts has shaped the way I play guitar and write songs. It gave me the safe, creative outlet I needed to get me through some hard times as a young adult and has afforded me the gifts of joy, confidence, experimentation and brotherhood along the way. Through all the bands I was ever a part of, joined or lead (and there were many!), Cold Cuts has outlived them all and endured. We're still making music after 29 years. There's something to be said about that.

I salute and honor your endless stream of innovation, articulation, brilliance and absurdity, your willingness to try anything musically for the sake of the song and most significantly, your support and belief in me as a guitarist, writer and musician, even at times when I didn't believe in myself.

And though we opened the door to our sessions on only 3 different occasions (Nappi, Eryn & J9), we are now letting the world in, as it should be at this time. May the upcoming year bring more joy, prosperity and abundance to our lives and continue the creative flow of the world's most fun, outlandish and expressive band, Cold Cuts.

Happy Anniversary, Brother.

xo
Dee

YOUR BLOOD 




I mopped up your blood today.


Yes, your blood, like my blood, and his, and theirs. I hadn’t planned on such merrymaking. But your blood summoned me, like an old compadre - so customary, cordial, scattered. I didn’t want to respond. Rather, I preferred recoiling into seclusion - well, getting the hell out of there, really, but I stuck around anyway.

It’s presence perceptible without sight, poignant without smell. I jolted the padlock once and pried open the old door, remaining cognizant of it. Still, it was a chance encounter when I happened upon it - rust draped on curtains, sticky brick thickets on sooty wood floors, pale crimson-adorned mats, like the kind our parents procured at department stores when we were younger.

What enticed you to relinquish your blood to the world? Such secrets are to be kept. Only children are granted pardon for this, their reckless abandon skinning knees and braising brows. But you? It takes audacity to dance in such close quarters with death, to spill your robust wine on any surface that will accept it, to litter your abode with it’s breadth.

Amidst the recklessness, I pinpointed the mop and scrubbed, rinsed, repeated until your room fell silent, fell untarnished, as if God signaled me to cease, your one abhorrent act obliterated even if momentarily.

Just momentarily.

Can something so disconcerting ever be fully eradicated, it’s frenetic energy lingering longer than even you will? For the sake of those whose residence follows yours, I surely hope this is the case. Because the blood has a life of it’s own. Savvy, holds information that spans generations, cleanses, cures, recalls, restores, breathes life. Life, for the living.

I wrung the mop dry, the ruby-tinged liquid cascading toward the hollow drain, your grave torment rinsed clear and away, fixing my gaze upon the absurdity of it all. Washed my hands in similar fashion as I didn’t want to take you with me. Heaving a sigh, I drew a long cleansing breath, wrenching the heaviness of this selfless act from me, jerked the latch, swung open the door and departed, the scene clear, like a movie set. Is this how you envisioned it for those left behind?

What force led me to your door? How did I know you were suffering in silence? Your blood spoke volumes without muttering a word. It told me, and I knew.

Thankfully.

In the end, the blood unites us, your blood and mine and hers, and theirs. Because like tears, all blood taste the same...

Bitter, tender, harrowing.

THEY PAVED PARADISE: A SHORT PLAY FOR HUMANS 

 


Act 1:


“They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.”

Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell, 1970

It is a cold, bleak, soaked morning as I peer over my city-suburban landscape. Barren, though rooftops fill my view. Something is missing; something which transcends early morning java chat over office desks, social media posts, war highlights and desktop weather alerts.

Act 2:

“There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees.”

The Trees, Rush, 1978.

Enter, stage left:

Her name is Joya (or so we named her). Her liberal appendages swaying with the wind, blessing us with summer breezes, sprinkling us with tiny drops to alert us of the impending storm, and gifting us with a green panorama, shrouding the sullenness of weather-worn shingle gray and chipped brick. She, as all others like her, is divine in presence, majestic in aura and the clincher in my decision to reside where I do. Unfortunately, with a sheer arrogance only rivaled by utter ignorance, we have momentarily forgotten about the natural world and all it offers and as a result, she falls victim to the blade and to the disregard, the fear and the clock, and in the time it takes this country to get it’s meathooks into American Idol, she is reduced by small men with big toys though mostly by society at large.



Act 3:


“…Endless rooftops from my window, I felt the gloom of empty rooms on rainy afternoons.”
Circumstances, Rush, 1978

Enter, stage right:

His name is Kenneth. His creative essence is palpable, surging through his hands, onto the canvas, paper, guitar, microphone – magically transforming whichever medium he chooses. Stained, blood soiled sheets litter his disheveled quarters, a by-product of the looming twilight he retains, deeply. These two irrepressible forces wrench at his core, simultaneously at times, until finally his fragile eggshell gives way and he falls victim to the blade and the disregard, the fear and the clock and is slowly reduced to gaping wounds, shattered dreams and lost hope.

I feel the loss of them both, profoundly.

He survives, she doesn’t.

Act 4:

“It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong.”
Nature’s Way, Spirit, 1970

We have neglected compassion, for the Creator’s gifts, for our fallen brother & sister. Our attempts at understanding fall short at times, or miss the bull’s eye completely, and we, in turn label, categorize or worse yet, turn, imperceptive for fear of seeing something in ourselves which may tug at a chord in the hollows of our inner sanctum. How can our eyes witness so much beauty, so much light and not be blinded? We have been conditioned to ignore grace in favor of indifference and accept rigidity in place of love. Stories are handed to us in bitter mouthfuls, each one more leaden than the last and we swallow as whole, inquiring of none.
When the smoke clears, we either 1-slay the dragon (in the name of fear), 2-allow the dragon to slay us (in the name of victimization) or 3-make peace with the dragon (in the name of serenity) so becoming diminished over time, reduced to a mere blip on our radar.



Act 5:


“Ice blue silver sky fades into grey, to a grey hope that, oh, yearns to be, starless and bible black.”

Starless, King Crimson, 1974

As I settle into the night calm, my heart fills with love, an austere lesson of compassion and a call for forgiveness at the foot of the mountain, to the service of my fellow humanoid, animal friend and Mother Earth, for one grave slip down the abyss and I could be in a similar quagmire. I am drawn to the fortuitousness of these two seemingly unrelated events, both of which rented real estate in my body today and occurred within hours of each other. Their link is a lesson for us all, for the future of humankind, for right now.

Regrettably, she didn’t have a choice about her survival.

But we do.


Curtain Call:

No trees (or humans) were harmed in the writing of this article.

NOSTALGIA: FRIEND OR FOE? 




There’s no good music anymore.


This statement, along with “I don’t listen to anything past 1980” was conveyed to me by an old bandmate regarding rock music a few years back. Judging his statement harshly, I immediately deemed him as “stuck in the past”. Surely, if one were to critically view the state of our present music culture solely based upon the Billboard Top 40, I tend to agree with his argument. Conversely, if you look deep enough, there’s always existed the counter-culture (beatniks and then, hippies) and even the counter-culture to the counter-culture (punks), presently (and vaguely) known as the alternative. Also, as a result of the ever-changing face of rock music, in many ways there’s never been a better time to seek out new, interesting, diverse, genre-defying music, but this is a topic for another article.

If I were to succumb to his words, I’d never write another song, pluck another note, slap another beat or sing another melody for fear of nostalgia (or, if you prefer, the “good old days”) casting such a foreboding shadow as to obliterate anything proceeding it. But face it; every generation has their glory days, and rightly so, no matter how ridiculous this seems to the generation preceding it. I’m thinking in particular of a time I was in a bar in the mid-90’s where a group of then 20-somethings were singing along boisterously (and perhaps drunkenly) to Brian Adams’ Summer Of ’69. Being the musical snob of yore, my immediate thought was “how goofy, couldn’t they pick a better song?”.  My next thought was “back in MY day…”. You get the picture.

But what is it really that draws us back into nostalgia’s warm inviting arms? Is it the security of its’ familiarity? Are we inherently comfortable with things we know, places we’ve been? Is it more difficult to boldly stand before the future with an open heart, not knowing what lay ahead? As a result, do we grow more complacent with age?

We, as humans, tend to romanticize the past, at times rewriting it, twisting it so it fits neatly into our own vision of who we were, who we are and who we wish to be. I’ve heard others say that there won’t be anything like “blank” again (fill in the “blank” with your favorite pop culture memory). Perhaps that’s so, but history has proven time and again of our evolution as opposed to our de-evolution (though the new wave band DEVO (whom I love) and the mass media (whom I don’t love) would have us believe otherwise).

Before any type of therapy or recovery, I used to perpetually dream of going back to my childhood so I could relive it. Though I do recall the carefree lightheartedness of that era of my personal history, in reality it was underscored with physical, emotional and psychological abuse, pain, fear, shame and perpetually living up to someone else’s unrealistic expectations, all attributes any clear-thinking adult would steer clear of. In the unearthing of my sordid past, I now know of my desire to time travel. Feeling robbed of my childhood in many ways, my desire was to relive correctly a misspent youth knowing what I know now, which of course is impossible, but understandable given the circumstances. So, perhaps that’s part of the lure.

Recently, I had the privilege of reuniting with some old bandmates I hadn’t seen or heard from in 30 years. Clearly we were different beings in our late teens than we are now. For one year after finding each other on Facebook (and after much reminiscing), we planned a reunion drawing up possible set lists and posting old videos of bands we once covered (which in large part weren’t available to view pre-cyberspace save late night TV). It was all too exciting, really, and a real jolt for my nostalgic tendencies. I envisioned it all in my head: we were tight, powerful, loud and ready to rock, just as it was 30 years ago. Or was it?

Truth be told, I can’t recall EXACTLY how we sounded all those years ago (there are no surviving recordings at the time of this publication). Sure, I recall the feeling of it all - that I had enormous fun and I’d like to think that even at the tender age of 19, I had enough talent and discerning taste to not be a contributing member of a band that couldn’t play or that sounded bad. Nevertheless, nostalgia swiftly took the wheel and I was along for the ride, because in my head, 1-we were a force to be reckoned with (which may or may not have been so) and 2-we are STILL a force to be reckoned with (less likely so). So, we finally set our date, booked our 2 hour slot and for 2 weeks I rehearsed, fretted, obsessed, dreamt, obsessed some more and prayed and meditated a whole lot. Then came the day.



Sparing the details, it was great to be back in the fold with guys I spent an important part of my formative years with.  It was great fun and the music wasn’t bad for being churned out by four rusty latter-day metalheads but the biggest thrill for me was the late night catch-up segment afterwards at the greasy spoon down the road. Over late night grub, we talked not only of olden days but of our present endeavors and topics both musically and un-musically related, the ties that bind us so apparantly present.  I felt a ping in my heart as we departed, vowing not to let another 30 years go by without speaking. What I find so striking about this is that if you take away the link to our respective adolescences (which, in fact was short in regard to time spent together), we’re just four men leading very different lives who happen to play music. Once that link is replaced, we become united in brotherhood, sharing a solidarity which will always possess value, truth, warmth and significance. So, to what extent of that experience is nostalgia playing a role and what portion is reality? And does is really matter in the end?

Shortly after our get together, one of my brethren declared “I felt so nostalgic” which prompted me to dig deeper. The human psyche holds onto so many of our life experiences (all of them, really, though some more readily dialed up than others), it’s difficult at times to know when we’re dealing with old stuff or new feelings (as one program of recovery states, “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical”). In cases of nostalgia, I submit that as long as we don’t allow it’s alluring, false-sense of reality to grip us into submission and invite us into permanent residency, then who’s to say a little time traveling isn’t good for the soul?

TRAVELING THROUGH BIRTHDAY TIME AND SPACE 


Date:
6.2.11
Location: Seaside Heights, NJ
Weather: Sunny, 82 degrees and windy as a mother (but no clouds whatsoever)

In time-honored tradition, I decided to make the trek to the shore, as only Jersey-speak can lay claim to.  This was to be in honor of, well, me, celebrating the anniversary of my entry into this particular physical plane.

But let's rewind the cassette a bit, shall we?  At 12:10 on the morning of, I cast forth into the universe these 3 things: 1- my new website, 2- the 1st single from my new album, 3- the announcement of my birthday, all happening concurrently.  Yes, the ol' hat trick!  Never have I regarded me or my art in such high esteem. See, my past is sordid at best, but, alas, we're not there, we're here and all roads converge here, literally and spiritually, as evidenced by the above testimony.  So, here is where I'll place my focus.



Exciting as all this is, it proved to be just the advent of a star-studded day, replete with many cameo appearances; winding through many emotional peaks, most of which I'll dub as gratitude, elation, love, grace and spirit.  With a soundtrack of summer-themed songs fizzing out of my crackling speakers and blasting me through time and space, I proceeded southbound. But I'll spare you of all the fragments of the day which only I'll find interesting.  Rather, here's the cliff notes:
  • Woke to some heart-tugging FB/email birthday blessings, some of which contained some very positive and encouraging feedback regarding the new single, Let's Do It Again.
  • Met a waitstaff at a corner grub joint (Nancy) who originally hailed from the Bronx (yo!).  Hence, we engaged in some Bronx-speak (yo!).
  • Gifts I so humbly, proudly and graciously accepted: an uplifting video of universal themes to begin the day (props to Meira!), calls from my brethren and sistren Electric Friends as well as my new homies (Mom included) at the Center (including a rousing rendition of HB, as only seniors can sing!), all containing the sheer beauty of the spoken word of love and appreciation.
  • Even procured a free drink at Sbux!


But the greatest of these today arrived in the form of the spiritual equivalent of a house call from my dad.  You see, my dad passed from this life a little over 5 years ago and though I have forgiven myself and made peace with him in the process, our relationship wasn't without strain most times.

But today, and possibly for the 1st time since his passing, he came to visit, fully; that is, his core presence was wholey felt, as if he were riding shotgun or better yet, tandem, as I was on my bike.  No words were exchanged - for they were unneccesary.  I understood fully the reason for his visit and I accepted, with a brimming heart at first, and then, with grace.  In short, it was clear that he was there to witness me as I now witness myself - through the eyes of Source, with all the love, support, respect, acknowledgment and pride thereof.  Truly, this was a first in our relationship and as he saw me, I saw myself, and vice versa.  I felt complete, knowing I was in good company, finally.

Mind-blowing, to say the least.



Last, it is neither my intention nor motive to compare and contrast (though I realize it is by virtue of contrast's presence which enables us to more clearly see our best), but the light with which I coursed through my day today (and lately, on the whole) was a fresh experience for me and as a result,  I feel the dawning of a shift - from standing in the hallway to the opening of a multitude of doors ahead. 

Indeed, it was red-letter birthday, possibly the greatest.

October 2018

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