Friday, October 11, 2013

Phil Chevron - RIP

Sad news came this week that Phil Chevron, guitarist for the Pogues, as well as legendary Irish punks Radiators from Space, lost his battle with cancer at age 56.    I had the great fortune and honor of interviewing him last year when the Radiators' "Trouble Pilgrim" was released here in the states.  I figured rather than try to write some kind of eulogy like everyone else, I'd re-post that interview here as tribute to his life, his body of work, and his well earned reputation as a lovely man.  Thanks to big John Murphy of Shite 'N' Onions for setting it up.  You can read the article here.

It's been well over a year, I know.  I keep meaning to write, I've started and stopped more times than I care to admit.  I don't know if it's writer's block, inertia, too much going on elsewhere, or what.  All I know is I've neglected this blog for far too long.  I'll be writing more very soon.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Milestones and Mandos

Things are now steaming right along with the wedding plans, now that we've found a venue.  We're getting the guest list together, planning out the centerpieces, and everything else that goes along with it.  This is going to be a DIY wedding and we're hitting up yard sales and thrift stores like crazy to get stuff we can re-purpose and up-cycle into decorations and other things.  If what we're planning becomes reality, this is going to be some party.  And due to popular demand (okay, a bunch of my cousins made sad puppy eyes when we balked), we're making it costume optional.  We were iffy about it, but finally said yes.  I'm confident we made the right decision.

I passed my one year anniversary with very little fanfare, which is just fine.  Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of it, and it is a milestone.  But it's also just become how I live.  I don't even think about it much unless I'm around other people drinking, and even then I'm not wishing I was.  Hell, I've even participated in a few discussions about favorite beers and whatnot, without suddenly frothing at the mouth and heading to the local for a 12 pack.

What I haven't been doing since I moved is going to meetings.  Part of that is just the normal cycle of me getting distracted from a routine.  But part of it was my own conscious decision to go a different way with this.  Well not so much different, but I feel like I've gotten what I needed from the meetings, and now I'll take it from here.  That's not a comment on anyone who does feel the need to continue, it's just the path that works for me.  I know folks who done it both ways and succeeded.  And if I feel like it's not working, at least I know I can go back.

So, in the last few weeks, I've had a couple of days that just completely got away from me.  Try as I might, I just couldn't get out of my own head.  There was no particular reason for it, and I was at least able to recognize what was going on.  But that didn't stop it from happening anyway.  It kind of caught me off guard, which never used to happen.  Used to be, I wouldn't even notice it because it was just a familiar feeling.  The melancholy and ennui had a way of just becoming, and I'd simply let it happen with only a slight desire to snap out of it.

Those kinds of days really make me appreciate how far I've come in my ability (not to mention desire) to avoid letting my mental health issues consume me.  They also remind me how important it is that I stay vigilant and on top of it.  And Jess has been amazing throughout.  She doesn't hesitate to confront me about it and make sure I'm not drifting off.  She's constantly telling me that I keep her grounded.  Well she's keeping me above ground and out of the black holes.  It's no wonder I'm marrying this lady.

And on a lighter note, Spitshiner now has a Facebook page.  Check it out and get on the bandwagon now.  There really does seem to be somewhat of a buzz around this band, and the few shows we've had have been really fun.  We've got another one coming up this Sunday at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain, which is all-ages and free (and will also have BBQ food!).  Also performing is Riki Rocksteady and the Arraignments, Matt Charette, and Max Jeffers.  Hopefully we'll have a few more shows this Summer, then we're planning on having a four or five song CD available when we play the Boston Tattoo Convention over Labor Day Weekend.

I'll leave you with a sample of some of our music, recorded at Union in Allston.  It's me, Jenna, and Josh performing one of his originals, "Heathens and Harlots."

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Springtime for Something Something Something...

"That beard ain't fuckin' around" - Tim McIntire
Wow, I didn't really mean to take so much time off from the blog.  Part of it is a slight case of writers block, and part is just due to lots and lots of things going on and changes.  We're still in Worcester, we still smile when we see each other, and the cat still alternately drives us nuts and makes us laugh hysterically.  Plus, we're becoming eBay moguls, having decided that we could use the money certain of our unneeded things can bring in more than the things themselves.  Seriously, why do I still have hockey equipment?  I haven't played a game in...oh, let's see...DECADES.  And books we haven't read in years and probably wont ever read again.  And a few other things.

Still searching for a good venue for the wedding.  Well, we haven't really been searching much of late.  Life is pretty hectic right now.  I think we're probably going to have to go with a traditional hall after all.  We would have loved to have held it in one of the really unique, funky artsy spaces in Worcester, but many of them aren't equipped for events like that, and some were fairly lackluster in even getting back to us at all.  Oh well.  And we got a lead this weekend on a place very close in Worcester that might just be perfect for what we want to do.  Fingers crossed.  I'm pretty optimistic, and once this part is settled, the rest should be rather simple, because we already know what we want.  We just need to know what kind of space we're going to fit it into.

Jess and I played our first official gig last Friday, and despite the hectic and erratic nature of our practice schedule, it seems like we did pretty well.  The owner of the venue liked us, so hopefully we'll get our own night there sometime soon.  Thanks to Jim and Maryann Power and PS Rock for having us on the show.  We ended up pulling off two half hour sets of some traditional Irish, folk, and a few of Jess' own original songs.  I played mandolin in public for the first time, and managed to not quite butcher the harmonica intro to "Dirty Old Town."  One of the things people really seemed to like was the fact that we harmonize well.  I'm going to give all the credit to her on that.  A one-time music major, Jess has areal ear for those kind of touches.

My own solo stuff has taken a back seat of late.  I'm not all too upset about it, but I do want to start kicking that into gear again.  My other new project with Josh and Chad from Beantown Boozehounds (as well as the Snipes and Taxi Driver) just got booked to play all four nights of this year's Boston Tattoo Convention.  We've been using the name As the Crow Flies, but found out recently that there are several bands of different genres using that name as well.  So we're on the hunt for a new name.  We plan to have at least four or five songs recorded for a CD that we'll put out to coincide with the festival, and possibly a t-shirt as well.  Things are really starting to come along there, and everyone seems to be pretty psyched about it.

My daughter is finishing her first year of college this week.  I really can't believe it.  It seems like just last month we were moving her into the dorm.  She's done so well and loves it up there so much.  My confidence in her is proving to be entirely justified.  Plus, we can talk Doctor Who now.  Win!

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my gastric bypass surgery.  My initial loss was around 140-150 pounds.  Since then I've gone back up a little, back down a lot, and back up a little again.  I'm working once again on getting back down and maintaining that, but overall I'm pretty happy with where I am in general, and it looks like my employment situation is about to improve big time (yeah, I know I'm counting chickens here, but it does look good).

So there it is.  Not all that Earth-shattering or exciting, but I didn't want to leave this site untouched for too long.  Well, I already have, but no longer.  I haven't even told you about...eh, it'll wait...




Monday, March 19, 2012

Lot's of Fingers In Lot's of Pies

I knew I'd been slacking on posting here for a little bit, but has it really been over a month?  Yeesh, well, I've been relatively busy.  Working on music, making wedding plans, looking for a new job.  This bee has been busy.  I've also managed to get out to a few shows, so it hasn't all been running myself ragged.  Add to that the fact that I have nearly 300 days of sobriety under my belt, and things are going really well.  Oh, and I'm almost through season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so there's been progress on several fronts.

I addition to my own solo stuff (nothing booked yet, still working out my set lists and practicing and such), and the duo Jess and I have been working on (and will be showcasing at Galway Bay pub in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on April 27th, *pluggity plug plug*), I've got a couple other projects in the works.  One is an all original acoustic band called As the Crow Flies with current and former members of the Snipes, Beantown Boozehounds, Taxi Driver, and other Boston area bands.  We've practiced a couple of times, and it feels like it's going to be a lot of fun.  They played a few shows already prior to me joining, but we're really getting everything together now, and will probably start making a serious push towards bigger stages this summer.

The other is an acoustic, traditional Irish trio called the Kilmainham Three, with fellow Gobshite travelers Paddy Putnam and Amanda McCue.    We played our first two gigs this past week at Dunn Gaherins in Newton, which were fairly well received.  We're in need of a small PA system and a few mic stands, but other than that we've got a fairly low-overhead part time job if we can get a few more pubs in our circle.

I've also sat in with the Gobshites a bunch of times in the last few weeks.  I'm not going back full time, but it's nice to see everyone now and again, and the shows have been fun.  My favorite of them has to be the Punks For a Princess benefit at F├ęte in Providence, with the Mahones, BarRoom Heroes, and Sharks Come Cruisin'.  Just a total blast from start to finish.  If you haven't seen BarRoom Heroes yet, well, you've probably got plenty of time, because they're like fourteen years old.  But you should do so immediately, because they're really really good.  And their mom makes awesome cupcakes.  They also lent us the use of their drum kit that day, so I'm very grateful to them as well as somewhat in awe.  I wish I had my shit together enough at their age.

I'd never heard of Sharks Come Cruisin', but they were a really nice buffer between the loud, snotty punk of BarRoom Heroes and the "Acousticelticore" of the Gobshites.  Normally they have drums and a fiddle and melodica, along with electric guitar, but they went acoustic three piece this time around, and it worked just fine.  I'm definitely going to have to catch one of their shows.

Our set went really well, I thought.  The sound at the club is great anyway, and they really had us mixed well.  And everyone just seemed to lock right in with each other.  I didn't even get my usual leg cramp after three songs.  It was a just a raucous, all out good time for those of us on stage, and it seemed like the crowd fed on that.  One of the best Gobshites shows I've been a part of in recent months.

And the Mahones, well, they were the Mahones.  When they first pulled up to the club, I couldn't figure out who the new girl was, until I realized that Katie (accordion and vocals) has cut off most of her long long hair.  It was really cool to see them again, and they turned in a blistering set that night, dedicating songs to each of the other bands on the bill in turn, as well as to the Solys (Punks For a Princess organizers).  And the benefit had the added...um...benefit of raising a lot of money for a little girl who needs a cochlear implant.  It's good when you can have a great time with some of your favorite bands, and do some good as well.

All in all, it was a really great day, and along with these other new projects, I'm feeling totally energized.  If I can find a new job and a decent venue for the wedding within the next couple weeks, I'll consider myself ahead of the game.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Needs Must...But What Do We Really Need?

A quick update: Success (of a sort)!  I managed to find a pharmacy that could fill my scrip.  Unfortunately, the scrip had expired by the time I did.  I'm getting a new one this week.  Hopefully they'll still have it.  I've temporarily handed over all the powers of the Executive until such time as I am ready to resume the responsibility (What I wouldn't give to have my own Josh, Toby, Sam, C.J., and Leo.  And Donna...hmmmmmm...whuh?  Oh, sorry.  Let's move on.).

Anyway, life keeps a-moving.  Plans continue to be made for the wedding, which will be in October.  We've more or less picked a venue, and we're now negotiating the guest list.  Neither one of us being particularly traditional (except when it comes to Celtic music), this is going to be a pretty low-key affair.  Think of a Halloween party that just happens to be taking place at the same time as a marriage ceremony.  We may even decide to make costumes optional.  I wonder what the Misfits are doing that day...

One of the things we talked about is the fact that, really, there isn't all that much we need.  We've got kitchen stuff, china, linens, appliances, etc., so it's not like we're starting out fresh (although, if it were possible to register for a Swiss bank account, we'd be open to advice on how).  Obviously, if someone wants to buy us something, we'd be grateful for the gesture and the gift.  Who doesn't like getting presents?  We've registered for some fun things at Amazon, and will probably do the same with Target, for our older relatives who aren't as web-savvy.  What we're asking people to do is make a donation to one (or even all, if it's within your means) of these three charities.

My folks have been giving to My Brother's Keeper for years.  They met the founders while on Cursillo (which, for those who don't know, is a religious retreat).  They are the very definition of practicing what you preach, providing furniture, clothes, food, and other essentials to low income families in need.  They do these things in the name of their Christian faith.  Now, I'm not particularly religious, and I'm not a fan of evangelicals (not that they are, I'm just saying).  But I've always held that, if your faith gives you comfort and inspires you to do good works, then more power to you.  You could not find a better example of this than My Brother's Keeper.

Jess' family has given to Boys Town over the years.  If you've seen the Spencer Tracy/Mickey Rooney classic, you pretty much have an idea of what their deal is.  Since that film was made, they've expanded their services to meet the needs of the times, and they're now open to all families, not just boys.  They've also expanded from one location in Nebraska to several regional centers, including one in New England.

Jess and I chose Punks for a Princess, an organization founded by my friend Tony Soly.  They started in 2008 in response to the heartbreaking loss of his 7-year old niece, and they give money to various charities helping children in need.  There's actually a campaign going on right now on the Indie-Go-Go website to help raise some funds to cover some of their administrative costs.  They're looking to raise at least $5,000.00, and as of this writing, they have 25 days and just under $2,000.00 to go.  If you're into punk music and paraphanelia, they have some really neat premium incentives for certain dollar amount donations, so check it out.

We've got a lot of good things in our lives, not the least of which is each other and our families.  And the things young engaged couples usually ask for, we pretty much already have.  The things we absolutely need are things that only we can provide for ourselves, so why not make our day a time to help those who need it most?

Make the donation in our name, your own name, or the name of someone you want to honor.  All we ask is that you take a look at what these organizations have to offer, and give till it feels good.  That's more than enough of a gift for us.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

What It Must Feel Like to Be a Pinball

Have you ever been in a situation where you're stuck in a bind between two different people or companies, each blaming the other for holding back or preventing something that will help you with a problem, and neither of them offering any kind of solution or even trying to show the least amount of empathy?  Just think what it would be like to have that He Said/She Said taking place between two massively large and powerful entities.  That's what's going on right now for people who need to take Adderall to treat their ADHD symptoms.

There is currently a nationwide shortage of Adderall, and the pharmaceutical companies are accusing the federal government of limiting their ability to make more.  The government counters that the industry is holding back in order to raise prices.  The end result is that those people who depend on this drug are forced to either go searching around to several pharmacies in search of it, and do without until it's found, or switch medications to something that may not be as effective and carries different side effects.

I'm one of those people, and speaking on behalf of all of us (Because I'm sure they would have all elected me for this if they'd have been able to focus a little better), I'm here to say I DON'T CARE WHO'S GODDAMN FAULT THIS IS, JUST FIX IT!

Oh.  My.  Giddy.  Aunt.  Is there anything more frustrating than dealing with organizations who, were they fulfilling their purpose, should be helping you, but are instead taking the hands-off approach and pointing at the other one, saying "It's his fault"?  I'm sure there is somewhere, but I sure as hell wouldn't be able to recognize it because I just saw something shiny over there.

I'd been on a couple other meds before, and things were starting to get a lot better for me then.  But once Adderall was introduced to the mix, it was like night and day.  Unfortunately, because it's so effective at helping one's mind focus and sweep away the cobwebs, an even bigger contrast is going from having it to not having it.  When you haven't taken it, things you didn't even realize were a problem start to improve measurably.  But once that supply is gone those things seem even worse.  I think I've been relatively lucky in that the last couple of times I've had difficulty getting a scrip filled, it's only lasted a day or two until I could find it elsewhere.  Not so right now.  I've been out for nearly two weeks now.  Unfortunately, so has my pharmacy, and every other pharmacy in the region.  And there have been repercussions.

In the last several days, I've experienced intense confusion at home, at work, and in at least two near-miss incidents while driving.  I've had conversations with people in which I couldn't have told you what they'd just said if you'd threatened my life.  Now, you can argue whether some people are actually worth paying attention to.  But when your job requires active listening skills?  You pretty much gotta give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Switching medications is definitely an option.  But like I said before, switching can be a tricky business.  Not all ADHD meds treat things the same way.  My doctor is reluctant to switch me because the Adderall's been working so well, and I agree.  But when there's no Adderall to be had?  I don't know, in a case like this, if it's necessarily true that some medication is better than none.  Given my doctor's hesitance, I think she's inclined to agree.

So while a fairly large chunk of the population is worried beyond worried that all of the progress they've made will wash away like a sand castle (a scenario made even more troubling once one knows what better actually feels like), the people in the position to actually do something about this are shuffling their feet, shrugging their shoulders, and saying "Yeah, doesn't look like it's going to get better any time soon."

Great, well you folks just continue twiddling your thumbs.  We'll be over here, trying to  figure out why the VCR isn't cooking our Lean Pockets.

Or, you could just get off your asses and fix it.  It really is just that simple, assholes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Sound of Our Town(s)

One of the really great things I've been able to do lately is go to more shows around Boston, Worcester, and Providence, and reconnect with old friends that are still around, and also meet and hang out with folks who weren't around during the Pleistocene Era, when I was in high school and college and going to shows.  There are a lot of great bands out there that came along after I'd stepped away, and a whole bunch of the bands from my days, and some from before that (hello, F.U.s!), are starting to play out again, for fun, nostalgia, or what have you.  It's definitely a good time to be around the New England punk scene.

And the last couple of months have been a boon, at least for me.  Street Dogs, Lenny Lashley, the Lyres, Classic Ruins, Toasters, Ska-Prest, the Snipes, Brunt of It, Frank Turner, The Locals, and many many more bands have blown through here.  And that's not even counting the shows I didn't hear about until it was too late (The Damned), or the shows I couldn't make because I was at another show (Bosstones, various shows at the Midway, PVD Social Club, Ralph's, the Middle East, etc.).  There have been just a plethora of shows and going's on around the area in general.  And I'm working my way back into it faster than I thought I would.

Of the shows I mentioned above, I can't think of a single one that was disappointing in the least.  And there are a ton of shows coming up that I am determined to get to, come hell or high water.  In the near future, I'm going to be devoting a fair amount of this space to promoting, and then reviewing, those shows, particularly the ones that feature local acts.  I want to give as much of a spotlight as I can to the huge amount of talent in this area, and hopefully do my small part to get folks out to see these bands that tear up the local clubs every week.

And things are starting to move a little more on my own front, musically, as well.  I now have at least three different projects going: My own solo stuff, some duo music with Jess, and an as-yet nebulous group of people looking to maybe do the band thing again.  Dates will be announced very soon for one or all of those things.  Actually, Jess and I will be appearing at the Galway Bay Pub in Pawtucket, Rhose Island on April 27th.  Hopefully there will be more people there that were at Leitrim's.  I think it should be fine, as the pub is right behind McCoy Stadium, the home of the Red Sox' top minor league affiliate.  I'd guess they get some good crowds during the baseball season.

I'm still going to write about mental health and other issues, as they still figure large in my life.  And there are some things going on in that arena that bear commenting on (*cough*nationwideAdderallshortage*cough*).  But I think expanding the range will make this a more enjoyable exercise, both for myself and others.  Hopefully, I can expose you to something new.  And hopefully, you can do the same for me.