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Archive for July, 2010

The new batch

July 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Working on new songs.

Lyrics come first. I’ve got 10 complete sets.

I’ve found melodies for 2 so far (I’ll tinker with the lyrics for meter’s sake…or maybe re-write them all at this point). And I’m satisfied. I really think this is my best batch of songs. And I know it’s my most important. I have a clear goal. I’m not going to rush anything. I have no time line and no expectations other than creating something I can listen to a year from now without cringing. And maybe sell a few.

Any maybe have a little fun. Messing about with notepads and pens and guitars and microphones should be fun. After all, it’s referred to as “playing music”. That’s what musicians do. They don’t “work music”. I’d rather do this than work, although it must be said that it might be even more fun if I could expect checks in the mailbox. Alas, not just yet. Greedy git I am. Gotta pay off the Gibson jumbo from a few years back. Still sounds good though no matter who owns it. That’s the nice thing about guitars. They ignore technicalities. And they’re portable. My brother recently brought his to Honduras to sing “Los Elephantos” to kids for 10 days. Now that’s a gig.

Listening to Paul Thorn’s “Pimps and Preachers” as a type. I love a guy who can write cool rock and roll songs about religion and survive in the ring against Roberto Duran, a man who once punched out a horse. Something special in that combination methinks. You write a song called “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love” and you’re pretty special in book.

It’s impossible for me to create my own music without immersing myself in the diversity of my Ipod’s 8000 songs. I don’t want to leave anything out.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you care.

In a bit…

–tf

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Vacation?

July 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Vacation. I believe that’s what it’s called. Just back from one. The beach kind.

I don’t like the beach. But my kids love it. Not much of a dilemma when it comes to your kids. You just go and make the best of it. And I did. If you can’t enjoy yourself watching your kids smile from ear to ear for a week straight, it’s probably time for a med check.

One of my problems with the beach is that it’s far away. For Scrantonians, anything further than Wilkes-Barre is far away. And we booked the dreaded Saturday to Saturday thing. Half the east coast would be heading to the same place as me. What’s supposed to take 4.5 hours took 7. The car was packed so tight my rear window was obstructed by a boogie board. The kids were hungry. They were thirsty. They had to pee. Where we there yet? What road are we on again? What state are we in? Didn’t I just pay a toll? I swear I paid the same guy. Maybe we’re driving in circles? But all works out in the end. A GPS is, after the Ipod, man’s greatest invention. Just follow it blindly, like someone in an Orwell novel. Maps? Ha! Maps are bourgeoise. A GPS device might seem like it’s making fun of your driving, but it always gets you there.

So we arrived. The good part about taking hours longer than anticipated was that our room would be ready. Only it wasn’t. Your room is never ready. They always act like they’re surprised you actually showed up. How long does it take to make a bed and run a sweeper anyway? Five hours should be sufficient. The lobby is now filled with sweating masses of people, all miserable and wanting nothing more than to be given a room key so they can start drinking. The line stretches out the door into the parking lot. Kids sprawl on couches in the lobby, whining incessantly. But it’s vacation….a “quest for fun” as Chevy Chase once called it. so nobody snaps. All is kept in good order, and eventually we drag our gear up to our room, immediately realizing that the place is dreadfully short of elevators. You hit the button and can run across the street and grab a pizza before the door opens. At one point a little kid had a mini-fit in front of the open door and by the time his father had calmed him, the door had closed. Nobody said anything. We were all so battered there were no words. Things had to get better.

And of course they did. You settle in. You learn the lay of the land. Where the food is. Where the drink is. Where the shopping is. You learn to treat money as an irritant. If you actually consider how much you’re being gouged, you’d be eating Ramen noodles all week. And you can’t have that. So, ATM machine anyone?

The beach. Water was fine. Waves a good size. It’s very crowded but you carve out your little space and wonder why you’re the only one having trouble with your umbrella. Kids love the water. Maybe too much. I’m a nervous wreck. I keep looking for fins. Can’t help it. Some punk kid is wearing a “Jaws” t-shirt. Thanks kid. But I’m out there, getting tossed around like a piece of wood. People are sorta staring at me ’cause I wear my Chuck Taylors in the water. But I think they’re just jealous they didn’t think of it first. I’m not gouging myself on sharp shells. And those water socks look kinda gay on a guy. I see a lady running the shore line wearing a “ain’t no party like a Scranton party” t-shirt and call to her but she either doesn’t hear me or ignores me ’cause I’m wearing Chuck Taylors in the water. Whatever.

Loads of states represented in the parking lot. Two stand out. Hawaii. What the hell? And Kentucky. The KY license plate said “where we love our children”. Hmmph. That’s a bit….er…insulting to the rest of us no?

Temps hovered in the mid 90s all week. At night they dropped to the mid 80s. Not a hint of rain. Not even clouds. The heat was unrelenting….and us pasty faced Scrantonians soon looked like undercooked steaks. My nose actually fell off but luckily there was a new one underneath it. I’m home 24 hours and sand is still pouring out of my sneakers. I’m sore in body parts I can’t identify. I don’t really walk anymore. I shulffle. Like someone using an invisible walker. But I knew this is temporary. In a few days, I’ll be all rested up from vacation and need another one.

I actually miss it. The sound of the sea. The salt air. The seagulls. The look on my girls faces when they fleece me out of  yet more money. They know there’s nothing I would not do for them…..and they proceed accordingly.

The ride home was much easier. We left very early to beat traffic, and the girls immediately went to sleep. They awoke around Wilkes-Barre.

“Almost home” I said.

And I meant it. Wow, I guess it changed me.

In a bit…

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

44

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Today is my 44th birthday. I noticed more pain than usual getting out of bed this morning. More gray in the beard. More shuffling.  More thinking and less doing. More planning and less following through. More expecting the worst and getting it. More blind without my glasses. Need the Ipod volume up even louder to get a good buzz. Money disappears quicker. My kids sucker me into things and they don’t even have to try anymore. I just want to give them whatever they want. Maybe it’s because I adore quiet. Or maybe I love my kids so much I can’t stand to see them not smiling. When you get old a pretty smile from pretty little girls is worth 1000 miles.

I make up my mind really fast now. It’s just that I keep changing it once I make it up. I don’t think this is the same as being indecisive. I think it’s just getting old. I have 5 siblings, and I always seemed to be way younger than all of them. All of a sudden I’ve caught up. How did this happen? When my Dad was my age Nixon was President. I remember Nixon being President. When I was in high school it was considered cool to listen to Bryan Adams and LeBron James was not born yet. The world has gone mad. Everything is too loud and too crowded and too expensive. It pays to be young, assuming you’ve got some sort of freakish talent. Otherwise, being young is sorta like being old without the aches and pains. It’s a day to day struggle…..stay above water….stay under the covers as long as possible….stay indoors unless you want to get mugged by a polar bear in desperate search of ice……stay hydrated…..stay employed until somebody in Mumbai gets paid 1/10th your salary to do twice as much work…..stay out of airports unless you have days to kill, and turn on red, except here. If all else fails you can still wear your Chuck Taylor’s. They never go out of style, although they double in price every 10 years or so.

My hair hurts. That’s when you know you’re getting old. My idea of exercise is to get the mail. I dream all the time but wake up and can’t recall the details. Athletes and musicians I used to hang on my wall when I was a kid are dead now. I can remember not having remote control. The first remote control I did get had a wire. I used to listen to the radio. How sad is that?

High school classmates are grandparents. My daughter is about the same age as the Iraq War. I still wear clothes that are older than both of my kid’s combined. Most people my age have been married multiple times. I can still remember when people used to send letters in the mail. The kind with a stamp. I can recite the dialogue to “Jaws”. The dark circles under my eyes are so pronounced that yesterday my daughter asked me if I was wearing eye-liner. That’s a bit freaky.

So I’m 44. Old perhaps. But lucky to have loved ones who look so close.

In a bit…

–tf

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Cooperstown

July 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Just back from a weekend visit.

Cooperstown makes you feel like a kid again. It reminds you that baseball is still a great game despite the many attempts recent idiots have made to fuck it up. And it reminds you that any game that pays such reverence to it’s own past is worth giving 2nd and 3rd and 10th chances too. The needle hanging out of Barry Bonds’ and Mark McGwire’s ass cannot diminish the sensation of walking into the hall and coming face to face with the locker of Honus Wagner, or the bat Babe Ruth used to hit his 60th home run in 1927  (The Babe swung a telephone pole….and Wagner’s glove was not much bigger than his hand).

The lifesize statue of Buck O’Neil on the first floor? Being able to sit inside Hank Aaron’s locker? Seeing how capable Ty Cobb’s spikes are this many years later of giving off huge hints of menace? And all this for less than $15 with your AAA discount. There’s no bigger bargain in sports. And the small, quaint, lovely village of Cooperstown is the perfect place for all this. If the museum were in the heart of Manhattan, or some other such mega-metropolis, I’d find it difficult to give a shit. But Cooperstown? It just fits.

That doesn’t mean that the village hasn’t gone a bit nuts, however. Tacky t-shirt shops litter every few paces…all selling the same things at the same silly prices. Greasy, overpriced food (and more ice cream parlors per square mile than anyplace I’ve ever seen). Dumpy hotels and motels gouging the visiter, albeit with a smile. No parking. Surly full-time residents who’ve clearly had it up to here with obnoxious crews of 12 year old Little Leaguers on field trips. But all forgivable surely. Better to be annoyed than ignored when it’s time to make up the town budget.

The hall itself is not overwhelming. It’s actually smaller than I anticipated. And remarkably unpretentious. They use technology, but it’s not overwhelming. To walk into the room with the plaques on the wall is as simple as it gets. The greatest names in the game. Laid out evenly. By induction year. It’s like being in church.

“There ain’t much to being a ballplayer. If you’re a ballplayer.” Honus Wagner said that. Wagner was a bowlegged Pennsylvania coal miner with huge hands who just happened to be one of the greatest players who ever lived. So good as a shortstop it’s said the pebbles he scooped up with the ball arrived along with his throws to first base. There is nothing not ordinary about Wagner. A dirt poor kid from the wrong side of town, toiling in the dark for a chance to play a boy’s game. We look at him and say….”I could do that”. We can’t obviously. But Wagner, Cobb, Hornsby. They weren’t 7 feet tall. They weren’t 275 pounds. They stick out only on a ball field. What’s missing is that immense gulf between us and them, which is why there is so much pleasure even in typing the names. Today it’s different. These guys had to get jobs when the season was over. How great is that?

I’d love to go back. I spent a lot of time thinking of my Dad while I was there. He’s gone 3 months now. Feels like 3 years on some days, and 3 days on others. Time makes little sense. Pop took me to Cooperstown 30+ years ago. I wore my Cincinnati Reds cap…being a huge fan of the Johnny Bench/Pete Rose teams of the mid 70s. Dad was a huge Brooklyn Dodger fan. He told me of Jackie. Pee Wee. The Duke. Nights of listening to Red Barber on the radio. Days soaked in sunshine at Ebbet’s Field. My Dad’s uncle managed an apartment building where some of the players lived. He got Pop a ball signed by Dolph Camilli. For years Dad kept it in his underwear drawer. I don’t know where it is now. I need to look for it.

Today when someone asks my favorite team my answer is one that disbanded in the late 1950s (Los Angeles? Please…) I guess I abandoned the Reds when they started to lose. Right now I couldn’t name a single player on the team. But I can still reel off the Big Red Machine line-up. Bench. Perez. Morgan. Concepción. Foster. Geronimo. Charley Hustle. What great names. The envy of fiction writers.

Fathers and Sons. Pop, it was a cool trip. I wish you were there. But then again….you were.

Gonna get myself an obscenely overpriced throwback Pee Wee Reese jersey for my birthday. You’d love it.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Morrison Zeppelin et al

July 2, 2010 Leave a comment

I read all the time. I mean ALL the time. I take a book when I drive in case I get stuck in traffic.

This is all good, except sometimes I want to read and not think. I want the literary equivalent of eating potato chips in front of the TV.

For this, I choose to read about rock stars. Mostly dead ones, since live ones aren’t nearly as interesting. I don’t even have to like the music being dissected, as long as the person who made it was a dissolute, drug infested, drunken sex fiend. A sociopath with lots of money is always worth a few hours reading about.

So I was at the library yesterday and actually got 2 books. One on Led Zeppelin and one on Jim Morrison. Jimbo is endless fascinating of course, mostly because there are pockets of really stoned people out there who still consider him a “poet”. I do think the Doors made some great music, but nearly all of it was written by guitarist Robby Krieger and driven by organist Ray Manzarek. Morrison served mostly as an appetizer for young girls, with his low slung leather pants and brooding movie star looks. The problems started when Morrison started taking himself way too  seriously. He was treated like a “poet” because he called himself one…..which was the same reason the Who’s “Tommy” was treated as an “opera”. And Morrison was drunk 23 hours a day, which is part of the poet handbook.

I’m in no mood to argue the artistic merits of “Moonlight Drive”. Personally I think Krieger was a better lyricist, but Robby looked silly in leather pants and had really bad hair. What makes great reading is how much of an asshole Morrison was. He treated everybody like shit. He was physically abusive to women. He dissed his family. He secretly married one girl while living with another. He took every opportunity to crap on everyone else’s plate. And he was able to drive a spike through Oliver Stone’s head….’cause Ollie made one of the most over-the-top and pretentious rock movies ever about him. Which is really saying something. Val Kilmer played Morrison. It’s not a comedy. At least it’s not supposed to be. But I hadn’t laughed so hard since “Caddyshack”. Kilmer spends 2 hours with his eyes half closed and threatening to fall over. Nailed Morrison perfectly.

Hopeless drunks are a pain to be around, and never seem quite as funny in person. This is why the surviving members of the Doors have spent the last 40 years sticking to the old “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all” adage. Well, there’s the royalty checks too. Morrison may not have been the artistic driving force of the band, but he sure as shit became the reason the boys all subsequently became obscenely wealthy.

Morrison died in the bathtub too. At least that’s the story everyone is sticking to. A bit to close to Elvis dying on the ‘loo for me. But it sounds better than saying Morrison’s liver just exploded. He was 27 when he died, and looked like Keith Richards after a really bad night. Never has a rock star aged so much in so short a period of time.

I was trying to figure out when it is that all teens go through their Doors phase…..when my wife saw the book I was reading and said…”my boyfriend got me the Door’s Greatest Hits on cassette when I was 15″. That answered my question.

Morrison is buried in Paris. Some cemetery that used to be famous for planted poets. It’s infamous now for the Morrison groupies who come to shoot-up and drink and boink each other and draw all over his grave while reciting Kreiger’s lyrics thinking they’re spouting Morrison’s “poetry”, all working towards turning a place of supposed rest into backstage at the Whiskey a Go Go circa 1967.

But still. It’s fun to read about. And I haven’t even gotten to the Zeppelin book yet. I’d rather listen to Morrison’s drunken ramblings than be subjected to Page and Plant’s pillaging of old blues riffs. These two ought to be in jail for making millions off the backs of Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon. But they sure knew how to have a good time with broads. Plus as an added bonus when they got really bored they dabbled in the occult.  So at least I’ve got something else to look forward to when thinking is too hard.

In a bit…

–tf

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