Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Auld Lang Something-or-Other

I spent quite a bit of time in hospitals earlier this year.  Not very happy memories, those, but necessary.  And in their own way, they helped me gain the forward momentum I needed to fight my way out of my dark fog and confront my mental health issues, as well as fulfill the promises I've made to myself and others.  My creative fire is back, I have renewed enthusiasm for the future, and I've gone over seven months without drinking.  And the EMTs were nice enough, so there's that.  I think it's safe to say that life got exponentially better as the year went on.  And as 2011 winds down, I found myself yet again visiting a hospital a couple of times this past weekend, but for an entirely different (and joyous) reason.  More on that as I'm given the go ahead to post about it.

So far, I've still only got the two completed songs, by which I mean lyrics only.  I'll figure out the music soon enough, and then the other half-finished/sort-of-started songs.  And then I can use Garage Band to make them a reality and post them on my Facebook page.  I seem to have all kinds of folks willing to help me find places to play, and the set list has been growing as well.  The few times I've performed have been well received, which serves to reassure me that my decision to go it alone was a good one.  I'm not going for rock star status, just well thought of entertainer status.  Don't get me wrong, if someone wants to offer me some kind of deal, I'd be more than happy to consider it.  But being a middle aged man, I'm fairly well certain that that ship has sailed.

Christmas this year was pretty fantastic.  The people around me, the mood, the fact that I'm actively working on the future, and the terrific news that my daughter became a Doctor Who fan/made Dean's List in her first semester all contributed to Holidays that were indeed happy (and as God is my witness, I'm still not sure which of those two things makes me prouder).  I think everyone did a pretty good job with presents for each other and such, and I was truly blown away by what I received, but honestly, I'd still have been happy if I hadn't gotten anything.  It was just that kind of Christmas this year.

I still get a little overwhelmed by things and freeze up every now and again, but I have people in my life who are willing to help guide me through those times, as well as a roster of professionals to help me better recognize when those times are coming, so that I can arm myself against them.  Jess has been a huge part of that.  I still have days when the fog threatens to take over, and sometimes my brain and my mouth have different agendas, but her support, patience, and love have been immeasurably helpful and healing.  Doesn't hurt that we occasionally share a frontal lobe.

So I'm closing the door on 2011.  For all of its' pitfalls and frustrations and heartache, I feel like I'm happier and more comfortable with myself than I ever have been.  I have a lot of people to thank for that.  If you're reading this, chances are you're one of them.  So thank you, and I'll see you after the ball drops.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My My My...

Turns out my last entry is now the second most popular post on this blog ever.  Like the current reigning champ, I've gotten a lot of feedback about it, both online and privately.  Many folks agreed with my basic point, which has nothing to do with what people should be allowed to say, but instead not freaking out when someone says something intended to wish you well.  Some disagreed with me and were very thoughtful and respectful.  And some completely ignored my central premise and decided to snark it up and be nasty.  To the first group, I say thank you for your support.  To the second, thanks for the opportunity to exchange ideas, and I wish you a very Merry Christmas.  To the last...well, you can just blow it out your ass.  I'm not going to bother arguing with someone who'd rather lambaste me for what they want me to have said, than discuss what I actually wrote.  If you're that bothered by nothing more than what I have to say, you are welcome to stop reading.  Keep looking for sinister motives in everything people do and say.  I'm sure you'll find them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Surprise Cat Blog!

Just 'cause I feel like it...

Not...Sure...If...Serious...

So Saturday went well, or so it seemed.  I did four songs, with Jess handling the guitar part for two, and my friend (and former Gobshite mandolin player) Nason playing on the other two.  I made a last minute decision that I just wasn't confident in my own playing to subject a room full of friends and strangers to it.  I'll get there.  I've already gotten interest from a couple different clubs and booking agents, so I'm working on adding more to the set, and also toiling feverishly to improve my mandolin playing to virtuoso level.  Or at least convincing myself that, really, my playing is fine, and I should just shut up and do it.

On to today's notion.  And my apologies up front, but this one may, in fact, be considered a rant by some...

I'll be the first to admit that I can sometimes get sidetracked by a minor detail or offense, when I should be focusing on the big picture.  I recognize it a lot more these days, but it can still happen.  That's why I'm glad to have people in my life who are willing to snap me out of whatever nonsensical obsession I'm engaged in at the time.  And just as important, I'm more willing these days to listen to reason and see the forest again.

I don't know why apparently no one at Fox News has that type of person in their lives.  Someone to stop them and tell them "Hey, it's really not that big a deal,"  or "You know, it's going to be okay, we'll get through this."  Or maybe even "HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS MEAN ESSENTIALLY THE SAME GODDAMN THING, JACKASS!!!"

Holy hell, can we maybe dial it down a bit with the "War on Christmas" nonsense?  Nobody, NOBODY, is trying to kill Christianity by saying "Happy Holidays."  This is a completely manufactured scandal, designed by people who never pass up an opportunity to be offended by something.  I can't imagine what childhood trauma would make presumably educated adults rage over how to properly wish someone glad tidings.  Who has that kind of energy?

For the record, if you happen to come across my path, you can say either phrase, as well as "Happy Hanukkah," "Joyous Saturnalia," or even "Merry Kwanzaa" to me, and I promise I will not bite your head off for it.  My most likely reaction will be "Thanks, you too!"  I just have too many other things to worry about besides a two word phrase meant to be good wishes from someone.  And for that matter, the people at Fox probably do as well.  I'm guessing this is just their way of not dealing with those other things.

So, to sum up: Regarding "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," or any other iteration thereof, it really is no big deal.  Calm down, have some nogg, eat a sugar cookie, and say "Thank you" to someone who's attempting to be friendly.  If your biggest problem in life is whatever it is the kid at the CVS register says to you as he bags your shampoo and can of Pringle's, maybe it's time to reevaluate exactly why this time of year is important to you.

Oh, and my Amazon wish list has been updated.  Just throwing that out there...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Well...Um...Hmmmm...

This is one of those times when I definitely want to post something, if for no other reason than to stay productive and keep exercising those muscles, but I can't narrow my topic down.  The vast majority of what I've written about in this space this year has been personal.  But there's really nothing much to update.  I moved, check.  Brought the cat with me, check.  Doing my own thing musically, check.  Need a bigger paycheck, check.  It's pretty much the same as it's been lately.  One or two things have disappointed me recently, but you know, that's what karma's for.  I haven't written much about any current events.  I think there are plenty of places where people much smarter than I am can give insight into the state of things today.

Remember a couple years ago, when those survey things were all the rage on Myspace and Facebook and in the blogs?  I did a bunch of those, even though I was most definitely not the target audience for them.  But at least they were a kind of writing exercise.  My answers tended towards the snarky and sarcastic, which was due mostly to the fact that I was still trying to write for my standup act, and I wanted to practice writing good, short jokes.  I'd do another one, but the way text slang changes day by day, I don't know that I'd even be answering the question I think I'm answering.  I only just found out that FTW also means "For The Win."

I guess everything I do, though, unless it's specifically for publication, could be considered a writing exercise.  So maybe I really shouldn't be too concerned with my topic or whether it's weighty enough.  That's just my bastard of an internal editor (Let's call him "Smedley"), trying to stifle me.  I think my problem is that some of my posts this year have really resonated with some folks, and so now I'm trying to live up to that every time, like a bar that I've set for myself.  Well even the best hitters in baseball only succeed about four out of ten times, so what am I doing pressuring myself like that?

Eh, whatever.  It's more or less natural for self-doubt to creep in, even when doing our best to strangle it, right?  Even as upbeat as I've been about my creative pursuits lately, I still feel sometimes like I'm going to make a fool of myself the next time I'm on stage or something.  Luckily, I'm no longer taking in any fool-juice, so hopefully that improves my odds somewhat...

Speaking of the next time, I am again going to plug my appearance at Leitrim's in Worcester this Saturday.  I'm not sure exactly what time I'm going on, I'm guessing somewhere around 10ish.  Still toying with my set list, but I would say it'll be equal parts traditional Irish and punk covers.  And maybe a special guest or two will hop up and join me for a couple of songs.  I've also been invited to pick a Thursday night to go down to Beatnik's Bar in Worcester and do some pickin' and grinnin'.  More on that as it develops.

Insert pithy closing line here...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Geekery and Getting Used to It

First off, Movember is now over. I want to thank those who made their generous contributions to my page this past month. I'm not sure if you can still donate, but as far as I can tell, the link still works. If you can, please do. And I guess enough folks like the 'stache I grew for me to decide to keep it, for at least a little bit. I think it looks okay. I may re-introduce the chin component for an actual Van Dyke, but I want to mull it over a little before I decide.

And so a new chapter begins. I find myself much calmer right now, as I turned in the keys on Sunday and got the last of my things out of the apartment. I'm a bit melancholy to leave the area, but it's not like it's a three day drive if we want to head back down to visit some time. And who knows, we may end up settling there eventually. There are still one or two matters to deal with to finalize everything, and that might get a little dicey. But for the most part, it's done. With three days to spare.

I know it's not that huge a move, but it does feel a little odd to be a resident of Central Massachusetts, after spending my entire life in the Boston area and suburbs. I don't think I've ever been so landlocked. For someone who likes being near the ocean so much, to be heading in the opposite direction does strike me as funny. Maybe it's only funny to me, but there it is. I don't know why that is, though. I'm still relatively equidistant from Boston and Providence, although a little further away from both than I was before. I still work in the Boston area. I really can't put my finger on it, but there's definitely the feeling that I've crossed some kind of threshold. I'm not saying that as if it's a bad thing. It just feels...different.

I did get a surprise this weekend, however. Jess and I went to a local author's day at the Worcester version of Annie's Book Stop (I don't know if it's only in Massachusetts or not, but if you don't know, it's a chain of franchised-owned used book stores.). One of the local authors just happens to be our roommate, and I will now throw in a plug for her book, An Ever-Fixéd Mark by Jessie Olson. You can buy copies at local book stores, or directly from her. It's about vampires, and doesn't have Robert Pattinson, so you know it's good. Kids, get permission from Mom and Dad first. This ain't no Twilight, fo' sho'.

So while there to support our friend, I discovered that this particular Annie's is owned by a couple who may possibly be even bigger Doctor Who fans than I am. The didn't just have the current series of books. They had the New Adventures series (which followed the end of the original show and features the 7th and 8th Doctors), plus all the old Missing Adventures novels. They also had an immense selection of the Big Finish audio plays. I've never seen those in any store, EVER. I have a few, and I had to get those online. This place had shelf after shelf of the Doctor Who plays, as well as all the audio spinoffs, and a separate area for used copies.

I don't think I've geeked out that hard in decades.

So that was definitely a good omen for my move, I think. And I'll throw in another plug here for my solo show on the 10th of this month at Leitrim's Pub in Worcester. I'll be doing a set between sets of the band PS Rock, fronted by my buddy James Power. Expect fun, and at least three instances of fumble fingers during the night.

They keep calling Tedeschi's "Country Farms" out here. Is that weird?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Moving/Music Blog

My alarm went off this morning, and was answered by a round of cursing which could only be described as encyclopedic.  I'm not particularly a morning person anyway, never mind the morning after I've consumed a staggering amount of tryptophan.  I count myself lucky, though, because with all that's going on in this economy, I have a job that requires I work the day after Thanksgiving.  And it doesn't hurt that I'm also not at the mall being shot or pepper sprayed by idiots who are willing to injure others in order to get half off an Xbox.  It's a goddamn TOY, stupid.  Get some perspective.

This weekend sees the completion of my (and Finn's) move to the Woo.  Most everything has been packed up in boxes.  we're getting a moving truck to get everything we can out tomorrow, and then getting the last of it and cleaning up on Sunday.  Considering the difficulty I've had with the landlord (oh yeah, he never did fix the toilet, garbage disposal, front door, porch light, or leak in the roof), I'm not holding my breath to get the security deposit back.  Which doesn't mean I'm not got going to try and collect it.  I think he knows by now that I'm fairly well versed on the laws in this regard.

But that's not what I'm concentrating on.  I'm focused on the move, settling in, and keeping things rolling in the right direction.  I've been offered a short solo set in December (details to follow), and I'm adding more songs to my repertoire.  I'm definitely being influenced by guys like Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan, not to mention Billy Bragg.  My song choices most certainly veer towards classic punk and alternative.  I know that's not necessarily groundbreaking, but I've never claimed to be any kind of pioneer.  I like what I like.

And today, for those of you keeping score at home, is day 180 without a drink.  Six months.  This calls for a song.



Happy weekend...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Left Bank of Central Massachusetts

I forgot to mention the other day that, after reading up on the rules for Movember (15 days left!  Save the Nuggets (TM)!), I had to modify my entry, because a Van Dyke doesn't count.  It has to be a mustache.  So what I did was eliminate the hair directly under my bottom lip to create what I like to call the "Lemmy" look.  Of course, my daughter was able to bring me back to Earth by telling me I look like Hulk Hogan.  Thanks kid.  Oh, and by the way, you're gonna be a commuter next semester.  Not so funny now, are ya?

I was at my therapy appointment last night, talking about my upcoming move to Worcester, extolling the virtues of the burgeoning arts scene there, when the realization struck me: I'm actually getting very enthusiastic about this.  Not that I wasn't looking forward to living with Jess already, not to mention how grateful I am to her and her roommate for even offering me this option.  But in the last few months, I've gotten to know some of the more active participants and organizers in the area, and it seems like people are just bursting with enthusiasm about how they can get everyone together and really make a combined effort to promote arts, music, theatre, and local writers.  Given my rekindled interest in nearly all of these things, it's like a perfect storm of opportunity for me to really dive in and make it happen.

Sunday's event would never have happened for me if I weren't in a relationship with Jess, so I feel like I have something of a head start.  I also have experience and, if I do say so, a modicum of talent.  So Jess helps get my foot in the door, and then it's up to me to get the rest of me over the threshold.  It doesn't hurt that she's been a very enthusiastic champion of mine from pretty much day one (Thanks, beh-beh!).

Long term, I think we're both still planning on ultimately settling back in North Attleboro Center (but not the same house, natch), but Worcester really is going through a kind of arts and culture renaissance right now, and it's not a little exciting to think that we'll be a part of it.

I know I've mentioned the title "Whisky Witch" when referring to Jess, and I did happen to note that she was pouring at the event on Sunday.  But I really should throw a plug in here for her services.  If you're someone who wants to learn about whisky in its various forms and styles, or even if you're someone who's an old hand and wants to find something new, you really need to get in touch with her.  She is to whisky what Wine Spectator is to wine.  I'm not even exaggerating.  I've seen more than one person who firmly stated that they didn't like whisky walk away with a new drink of choice.  She's that damn good.  And she has a blog that is in desperate need of updating (because she's also a very good writer), so I'm going to link it here in order to light a fire under her butt about it.

Don't worry, I haven't fallen off the waggon (180 days as of a week from this Friday.  That's six months for those of you who don't believe in long division.), and she actually doesn't drink all that much, either.  She's a connoisseur who does her research well and responsibly.  Look her up, she will teach you something new.

And with that, I say good day, sir...

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Week Full of Saturdays

Back from vacation.  A very nice, slow-paced, relaxing vacation.  A week full of Saturdays where, for the most part, I didn't have anywhere I had to be at any particular time.  Originally, there was a trip to Ireland planned for the week, but that had to be scrapped for financial reasons, unfortunately.  So it became a welcome opportunity for me to just relax, recharge, refocus, and re-a bunch of other things.  Jess was off as well, so we were also able to do some planning and preparation for the move in two weeks.  I also got to spend some time with my daughter and hear more about the incredible things she's doing in college.  I really shouldn't be at this point, but it seems I'm still wowed by her continued accomplishments.  And I have no problem with that.

My Movember campaign started off well, but has sort of lost steam.  After an initial flurry of contributions, nothing for the last week.  I understand, the economy is tough, and this time of year in particular is chock full of different organizations vying for your charitable dollar.  Hey, the whole reason I'm doing this is because I don't have the money to give to any or all of the very worthy causes that are asking for help right now.  I wanted to do something, and this seemed like an interesting way to do it.  So I'm not going to pound down anyone's door asking for money, but if you have the means, I'd really appreciate it.  I'll post a picture of the 'stache on the page later today.

One not exactly bad, but still kind of sad thing happened last week as well.  I made the decision to leave the Gobshites.  There's no acrimony or animosity, I'm not angry at anyone or full of spite or anything like that.  I think I just need to strike out on my own for now and see what happens.  I'm learning a lot of new instruments and writing lyrics, and I have some idea of what I eventually want my sound to be.  So I figured I'd explore that and try to develop it.  Am I a bit melancholy?  Sure, the last three years have mostly been a blast.  But I'm excited as well.  I will always be grateful to the Gobshites, and Pete Walsh in particular, for reigniting the musical fire that I feared was buried for good a long time ago.  And I've had the pleasure and privilege of playing with and meeting some fantastic people who've played a huge part in my growing self confidence, self esteem, and recovery.  Thanks to everyone with whom I've shared a stage, a memory, or a pint.  You've all been a huge influence, and I look forward to sharing my new direction with you.

Speaking of which, last night was my first ever solo performance, at Secret Society Tattoo and Art Gallery in Worcester.  My nervousness manifested itself in a pounding headache that showed up just as I was about to start.  How did I do?  Well...everyone told me it sounded great.  Unfortunately, all I ever hear are the mistakes.  I think it was good that I was more or less the background music for the art exhibit, because it helped me get the first one under my belt without the additional stress of having the entire focus on me.  I tried to make it a mix of traditional Irish songs and tunes, as well as some punky folk stuff.  And Jess joined me for a couple of songs as well (in between commanding the attention of the whisky connoiseurs in the crowd), which for me were the highlights of the evening.  I'm working up a list of songs I'd like to cover, as well as starting a couple of new songs of my own, and trying to pluck out some music for the two I've written so far.

I've also got my fingers crosed at the possibility of new employment in a much more creative atmosphere, and I'm working on getting caught up with everything, packing, and weeding through the crap that I've been lugging around for years, both in the physical and metaphysical sense.  I think it's going to be an interesting 2012.

Oh, and the cat says hi...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Happy Movember!/Friday Music Blog

Okay, so I'm taking part in a fundraising effort called Movember.  Each November, men grow their mustaches to help raise awareness and money to benefit men's health issues, specifically prostate cancer, and other cancers that affect men.  I even have my own page for the cause here.

I've decided to go with the Van Dyke, because I think just a mustache on me would look goofy.  Also because my beard shows the red highlights, which people don't get to see too often.  That's the Irish Viking in me.  I haven't posted a picture on the site yet, but that's coming soon, probably even later today.

Now, lest you think this is just an excuse for me not to shave for a month, let me tell you my motivation.  In 1997, my father was diagnosed with throat cancer.  After getting all of his options for treatment, he chose a very rigorous course of radiation which, over five weeks, completely nailed it.  It left him both physically and emotionally drained for a while, but he beat it.  In 2009, a spot was found on one of his kidneys.  They couldn't get to the tumor itself, and so the kidney had to come out.  This year, another spot was found in his lung.  This time, they could remove the spot, which they did.  Each time, it was a different cancer, unrelated to the previous occurrences.  Each time, they got it all.  Each time, he had some part of his body invaded; first by the cancer, then by the treatment.  Each time, he took it like he takes just about everything: Quietly, determinedly, with little to no complaint (that I ever saw, anyway).

Cancer took his older sister when I was 14, and his youngest brother a few years ago.  He was eight years older than I am.  Two years ago, because of my family history and at the recommendation of my doctor, I had a colonoscopy which found a polyp that, had I waited, would most likely have become cancerous in a few years.  My family's got skin in the game, literally.

So I'm growing my Van Dyke for November to try and help.  I know the last few years have been a financial train wreck for a lot of folks.  If you can, please click on my link and donate.  Or get involved yourself (yes, women can participate too).  If you can't, I completely understand, and you don't have to avoid eye contact with me.

And now, for your dancing pleasure (and because I saw him at the Middle East this week, plus he's mustachioed/bearded as well), I give you Frank Turner:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Making Like A Tree...

It snowed this weekend.  Snowed.

SNOWED!!!!

It's October.  And last night it was freezing cold and snowing.  Shut the front door (I usually say this with one hand on my hip and my finger waving in the air).  Okay, it's the end of October, but still, there are still leaves on the trees.  I'm not ready for this.  Ugh.

Oh, and by the way, the next person that says "So much for global warming, huh?" in front of me gets a face full of angry bees.  Never mind where I got them.

Normally, I'd roll with something like this.  It's snow, I live in New England, it's not like I'm entirely new to the concept of white, fluffy precipitation.  In truth, the real hardship for me this time around is that the heat in my apartment hasn't been working.  I have a small space heater, but it just barely keeps my bedroom somewhat warmish.  I found out the heat wasn't working nearly two weeks ago, and notified my landlord immediately.  Until yesterday, zero action and a lot of talk.  Unfortunately, when it comes to this kind of thing, this is more or less par for the course.  November will be my last month in this house, and it seems like he's in no hurry whatsoever to fix anything that's wrong.  Some of these problems have existed for at least a year.  In the case of the heat, I'm pretty sure he knew he could be held liable for damages if he didn't do anything.  Otherwise, either he doesn't know the laws, or he's hoping I don't.

His problem with me, and I completely understand this by the way, is that I've had trouble making the rent on time this year.  Believe me, it's not because I don't feel like it.  Nothing would make me happier than to be able to make the rent deposit on the first of each month like clockwork.  No worries, no bullshit.  I've already gone into my difficulties in finding ways to supplement my income.  It's made things stressful for me financially, which is really the only negative thing in my life right now.  I mean, at least I have a job.  But I'm definitely part of the 99%.  So yes, I have no argument with him regarding my rent being late for the last few months (although last month it was paid on time, actually a few days ahead of time).

My problem with him, which he doesn't seem to get, or doesn't care about (or more likely a combination of the two), is that as diligent as he is about collecting the rent, he definitely doesn't carry that sense of urgency over to keeping the house in good repair.  He's made threats to do things he's legally not allowed to do (And made them via text message, no less.  Hello, lawsuit), and retaliated in very petty ways when I've pointed that out to him.  He's put the house on the market, so I have no faith that he'll actually address the other problems with the apartment.  I'm actually convinced that he never wanted to be a landlord in the first place.  I'm guessing he bought the house with the intention of flipping it, and when he couldn't do that right away, resorted to renting it out to pay the mortgage.  He never had any intention of dealing with the things that landlords have to deal with, and is trying to get away with doing things around here as cheaply as possible, or not at all.

So this will be my last month here.  I'll be shacking up with Jess and her roommate for a bit to save some money and catch up on things as much as I can.  But I like the area I'm in, and want to find another place there as soon as I can.  Jess likes it too, and so maybe down the road we'll both be settling there.  In the meantime we're getting things together and getting the cat accustomed to his new surroundings.  It sounds more stressful than it really is.  I'm also working to come up with a set list for the Secret Society gig.  I talked with the organizer last night at the Cirque du Noir event in Worcester, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Moving out, moving in, moving on.  Putting the bad mojo behind me, getting new ideas and acting on them, and letting my freak flag fly unfettered by the self-doubt that's plagued me for nearly my entire life.  And I've passed the five month mark of sobriety.  Lots and lots and lots of good things.  More to follow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Drawing A Blank Deck

So it seems all I needed to do to find blank skate decks was type http://www.blankdecks.com/ into my browser.  Who knew?  As it turns out, Jess did.  I think I'm going to order just one now, and see how it goes.  They have pretty cheap bulk deals, too.  And and AND, they have old school style decks (from the days when they were a little wider, and not all the same size and shape).  Sweet.  I haven't actually skated since college, so I'm not sure about the standard shaped decks these days.  Does that make me a grumpy old man?  "You kids, with your narrow decks and your hot rods and your MTV!"  I don't think I'm that bad, I just like what I like.  Nevertheless, I am open-minded about it, and will likely try one in the near future.

Still looking around for some kind of drawing course.  There's really no adult learning center in my immediate area, unless I want to get my CPR certification or a nursing license.  There are classes in Providence, but that would only work well if I were working in the city.  It'd be kind of a pain to get out of work in North Quincy and have to truck on down to my class every week.  But as I'm going to be spending at least a couple of months in Worcester after November (more on that later), I did find some stuff in and around the area there.  And I'm trying to sketch as much as I can in the meantime, so as to shake off the rust.

I read a lot of tattoo magazines, and some of the art in them is just incredible, and it's really lighting a fire under me to ramp up my own artistic efforts.  I don't know that I'll ever be as good as the work I see in the magazines or online, but it'd be neat to have a piece of flash that I designed show up on someones arm or something.  And maybe, down the road, I'll pick up a tattoo gun myself and try it out.  Who knows?

Today is a new moon, which means new beginnings, and personally, it's also day 150 of my recovery. What does this all mean?  I think for me, it means it's time to refocus on keeping up with the changes I've made in the past five months, and decide the next steps to take.  I want to do everything, all at once and forever.  But I know from experience that that kind of thinking can very easily stop me in my tracks and overwhelm me.  So I need to find some way to strike a balance between all of my pursuits, so that all of them get a chance to breathe and grow.  Just as I need to get back into exercising my physical muscles, I need to let my creative muscles have some time on the treadmill, so that I don't let them atrophy again.

And then I want to go to Europe...

Friday, October 21, 2011

They See Me Rollin'...

Cool article on Boston.com yesterday about artists using skateboards as their medium.  I haven't been as diligent regarding my drawing as I had hoped to be.  I may be taking on too many things, or I just need to organize my time better maybe.  With all of the new music, writing, and artistic endeavors I'm taking on, or want to take on, it seems there aren't enough hours in the day.  It doesn't help my scheduling ability that my day job doesn't have a set schedule.  I'm hoping that will change soon (as always).  But the skateboard-as-canvas things is really interesting.  We all used to have skateboards that had graphics on them.  Among mine were a Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp (the one on the left), a Skull Skates Hardcore deck (couldn't find an image online for that), and a Skull Skates Gang Green deck.  All but the Hardcore deck remain, the other two having been stolen.  Alas.

You can get blank skate decks, and maybe I could organize a group of folks to get together to have an arts and crafts day involving skateboards.  Might be fun.  Maybe Secret Society will give us a showing.  And that reminds me to throw in another plug for my upcoming solo gig there on November 13.  It's the opening for their latest show featuring mixed media work by Rosemary LeBeau.  It'll be my first appearance in public playing the mandolin, so please be gentle if you come see it.  I'll also have the whistles and bodhran at the ready.

Speaking of plugs, the Gobshites have a Kickstarter campaign going to raise money for the Ireland trip project.  We've got Richie Ramone (of the Ramones) and Cait O'Riordan (original Pogues bass player) as the rhythm section, and the CD will consist of all original songs.  The working title is "The Whistle Before the Snap."  If you can, click this link to pledge.  If not, I understand, you don't have to avoid eye contact with me.  We're trying to get $5,000.00, and we have 14 days to go.  If you do pledge, there are a lot of cool premiums depending on the amount.  Please check it out if you can.  Unfortunately, scheduling and finances prevent me from going over with the rest of the band, so I'm going to have to record my parts back here.

I think I might have mentioned this before, but I'm seriously considering building my own bodhran.  There are a few sites online that have instructions.  The only thing I need now is time and materials.  My dream drum is way out of my price range at this point, and I think it'd be a fun project.  Just have to figure out where to get a decent goat skin, and what kind of wood I want to use.

Went to a really great show last weekend in Providence to see the Usual Suspects and the Uprisers, featuring Todd Radict on vocals, as well as former members of the Bruisers.  Didn't find any video for the Uprisers, so I'm going to close with this old Radicts video from the 80's.  Don't let the door hit you in the face...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another One About Music

Add electronic bagpipes to the list.  The band bought a set a few months ago, and they were given to me to figure out.  Because they're electronic, I don't need to work on breathing technique, so it's just a matter of getting the fingering down.  I predict virtuosity within a week.  Give or take a year.

I'll be doing my first solo acoustic performance next month at Secret Society Gallery and Tattoo.  It's an opening for an art exhibit, and I'll be the background music.  Jess will be pouring whisky, as usual, and maybe I can coax her into doing a song or two with me.  I'm actually kind of excited and very nervous at the same time.  I've never performed solo before, so this is going to be a major hurdle for me.  Plus, the fact that the art on the walls will be the main focus of the show means any mistakes or flubs I make wont seem so glaring.  I'm thinking, obviously, of doing some traditional Irish reels and jigs on the whistle, maybe a few a Capella songs, accompanying myself on bodhran, and some mandolin.  If I decide to do Wagon Wheel, which I most likely will, I'll need to bring the banjo as well.  Otherwise the second verse makes no sense.  I don't know that there's any pay for this, but again I'm not worried about that so much, because I'm using this more as a learning experience.  But maybe I can get Jeff or Danny at the shop to work out some kind of trade deal...

Heh, kidding.

Not really.

But I'm also thinking maybe I should get some business cards or something, because if this works out well, it could mean another avenue for me creatively.  I've written lyrics for one or two songs over the past few years.  I'd like to start writing the music to go with them.  I get tunes in my head all the time, but I don't know how to write them out on a staff.  I try to figure it out on the whistle sometimes, but for whatever reason it doesn't translate.  It's tough being a musical genius with no understanding of theory.

Heh, kidding.

Not really.

Okay, this time I really am.

Have some of this:

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Music Blog: Positive Reinforcement Edition



ZOMG!!!!!!!1!!!1!  Scary skinheads!  Lock up the valu...wait, what did he just say?  "You've got a friend"?  Who do they think they are, friggin' James Taylor or something?!?

*sigh*

Nobody lives up to their stereotype anymore...

Monday, October 03, 2011

Triggers

I was listening to Chris Titus' "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding" CD last night, specifically the bit where he talks about his mother's death, and the fact that he couldn't really deal with it until all of his memories of her came back in one instant while eating dinner on an airplane.  It made me think of things in my own life that have triggered memories at unexpected times.

A few years back, I was working in downtown Boston.  I was also living in the city at the time, so I took the subway into work every day.  On nice days, I could get off at Park Street station and walk through Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden every morning and afternoon.  I really enjoyed that part of my day.  It was definitely a better way to get to work than sit in traffic or stand in a cramped train moving through dark tunnels.  It was also a lot healthier.

One afternoon, while walking past the playground on the Common, I saw a little girl and her parents heading toward the swing set.  When the girl realized where they were going, she broke away from her parents and started running to it, absolutely elated, all the while shouting "I wanna swing!  I wanna swing!"  It was such a genuine moment of pure, innocent joy, that I just couldn't move from the spot I was in.  I stood there, watching, for several minutes.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I even teared up a little (Which isn't as strange as it might sound.  It's not all that unusual to see someone standing by themselves and crying on the Common.  Most folks probably just assumed I was a well dressed homeless person).

The whole scene brought up such a powerful memory of my own daughter at that age, and how enthusiastic she was about absolutely everything she did.  I've written this year about her going to college, and about coming to terms with the fact that she's now an adult, and no longer my little girl.  Those things are all true, and I've found that I'm actually having an okay time of it, because I know she's got a good head on her shoulders and she's smart and resourceful.  Of course I've been thinking about her childhood, and the memories of all the fun I tried to make sure she had, the lessons I hope she learned from me, and also of all those things I'd love to have a chance to do again, or even do differently.  But nothing has ever triggered such a strong emotional reaction as that one day on Boston Common.

Now that she's a month into her college experience, I find my confidence in her ability to adjust to this new lifestyle is entirely justified.  The little girl who was so enthusiastic about everything she did is now the young woman who runs her own life and has managed to navigate a whole new world.  We've helped her with moving and supplies, but she's taken it from there and is thriving.  I'd like to think I've had something to do with that.  And I hope she stays as enthusiastic as the girl who put all that she had into the first 18 years of her life.  It's one of the things I've tried to learn from her...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cool Story Brah!

I forgot to mention this in my post about wanting to open a book store, but this is National Banned Books Week.  I first became aware of such a week when I was working at a bookstore in a mall in Taunton.  I was still in college, my mother was a high school reading specialist, and she explained what it was all about.  Being the idealistic youth that I was, I thought it would be a great idea for my store to put up some kind of display to commemorate it.  I was a little taken aback when they were hesitant.  There was all kinds of talk about having to run it through corporate (we were part of a chain) and would this turn people off, et. cetera.  For the life of me, I couldn't understand why they weren't embracing the idea (I know, young and naive).  Why wouldn't a bookstore, of all places, want to celebrate the First Ammendment?

After a little back and forth, it was decided that I could put up a display.  But not in the front window display area.  I was to create my tribute to thought on the wall behind the registers.  Fair enough, I said, at least they're letting me do it.  I think the front window was devoted to kids' Halloween reading, like R.L. Stine and such.  I contacted the American Library Association to get some materials, including posters and some pins to give out, and a list of the then top 100 banned or challenged books in the US.  I hand wrote bookmarks for each book on the display, detailing the nature of the ban or challenge.  I purposefully included books that were pretty popular, or books that most people wouldn't think of as being all that controversial by authors like Roald Dahl. C.S. Lewis, and Judy Blume, as well as the Bible.

I think the management was hoping it would just be something small that no one would notice, but it definitely got attention.  Folks took pictures, sometimes with me standing in front.  And not a few people, having made it up to the register to check out, decided to buy one of the banned books on the wall as well.  The managers were, shall we say, tepid in their acknowledgement of the display's success, but I was thrilled.  I had stood up for the freedom to read, write, and think whatever you wanted.  And I did it in a mall, no less.  I even kept one of the posters to hang on my bedroom wall when the week was done.

Looking back, I think that may have been the catalyst for me wanting to open my own bookstore.  The fact that I was hosting my college radio station's punk show helped inspire the idea of combining books and records (not exactly a revolutionary concept, I realize).  As I flesh out my idea a little more, I'll keep posting updates.  And of course if/when this ever becomes a reality, you're all invited to the grand opening.

Now Dance...

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Walk in the Clouds (of My Head)

First up, thanks to big Johnny Murphy at Shite 'N' Onions for reposting my Shamrock-N-Roll blog on his site last week. It's always nice to find out that someone likes your work enough to associate their name with it.  And he's asked me to do an interview and album review for the new Radiators From Space CD (Phil Chevron of the Pogues' other band).  John's one of the really good guys in the Irish rock scene, and I'm glad he's got the confidence in me to do this.  Go raibh maith agat, sir.

I like walking through my downtown.  I've started doing it a lot lately, both on my own and with Jess when she's down.  It's a cool little three or four block strip of different kinds of businesses, services, and stores.  And hair salons (Sweet Christ, there are a lot of hair salons.  You can't go half a block without smelling burning hair.  After a while it's kind of soothing, actually.).  There's a tattoo shop, a few restaurants, bars, a couple of sub shops, an alternative food market, a witchcraft supply store/gift shop, a thrift shop or two, a novelty store/head shop, et. cetera.  Pretty standard fare for a blue collar, working class town.

Like most small(ish) towns, there are also one or two empty storefronts along the way.  Some of them still have the signage from what used to be there.  One or two show signs of someone renovating for a new business.  Every time I see one of these places, no matter where I am, my mind starts to wander, and I think about what I'd do with the space, given the chance.  It's sort of my own version of the old guidance counselor question, "What do you want to do with your life?"

The only thing I've ever really concluded is that I'd like to open a book and music store.  And it would likely lean towards the alternative/underground/punk sensibility, both in my choice of stock and in atmosphere.  Really, I've wanted to do this since college.  Of course, this is back in the late 80's/early 90's, and even then the independent book store and record store (Yeah, I still call them record stores.  I also still use the term "album" to describe a band's newest release.  You can't change me, so don't even try.) was an endangered species.  But you can still find them here and there.  And if a tattoo shop (next door to an insurance agency) and a witchcraft store (that isn't in Salem), not to mention a store devoted entirely to yarn, can survive these days, why not a place where folks can get music and literature that's a little bit off the beaten path?

I know,  know...it's hard to start your own business, most small businesses don't survive, blah blah blah...  Well so what?  It's not like people haven't been trying to discourage me from doing what I've wanted to do for most of my life.  I decided to stop listening to them, and now I'm writing again, performing again, and setting goals again.  Am I going to do this tomorrow?  No, I've got other things I need to take care of first.  But if, 20 or so years later, I still keep coming back to this idea, then that must mean something.  It could mean I'm an unrealistic daydreamer, or it could mean that this is what I was always meant to do.  I'm going to go on the assumption that it's a little bit of both, with an emphasis in the latter.

I've been wrong before, and I'm still alive.  Sometimes, you just gotta get over your fears and do it.

I'm still never going bungie jumping...or eating mushrooms...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Coincidentally, This is Also How I Feel About Chicken

Been a little dry this week, but I saw this on a message board I frequent, and...um...wow...



Thanks to Big Duane at Sailor's Grave for sharing this with me, that I may also share it with you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Snap, Crackle, Pop, Creek, Ow...Plus Friday Music Blog

Here's a tough thing to admit:  The other day, I actually strained my neck while yawning.  Go back and read that again.  Yeah, you weren't seeing things.  Strained.  My.  Neck.  While.  YAWNING.  Good grief, seriously?!?  Am I just getting old?  I'm only 42.  It's not like I'm completely inactive.  Anyone who's been to a Gobshites show knows I move around plenty, either up front dancing or behind the drum kit wailing away on the skins.  And I was hitting the gym pretty regularly at work for a while there, until the building management ended up leasing out the rest of the floors, so getting to use the machine you want is kind of a pain in the ass these days.  I did just get an offer to sign up at a gym near me, and I'm seriously considering that.  I've been there before, and I really like the place.  And ten bucks a month is a pretty sweet deal.

I've said it before, I actually like working out.  The whole feeling of release and exhaustion after a good workout is very satisfying, not to mention the whole endorphin rush thing.  The issue with me, given my distractability, is my difficulty in getting back into the routine after it's been interrupted.  But I know I have to keep up the pressure on myself, because flabby ain't sexy, and it's really embarrassing to have to tell the ER nurse that you hurt yourself while turning over in your sleep.  If one's body is one's temple, mine is definitely leaning towards Buddhist.

And it's Friday, so it's music blog day too.  I'd have to say that Street Dogs, despite my schoolgirl crush on Stiff Little Fingers, arguably had the best set of anyone at Shamrock-N-Roll last Saturday.  They're coming back to Boston in December for "Wreck the Halls," and I'm pretty sure we've already got our tickets.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shamrocked, Part 2

This weekend was pretty exciting.  The Gobshites played Shamrock-N-Roll Festival in Bangor, Maine with headliners Dropkick Murphy's, as well as Stiff Little Fingers, Street Dogs, the Mahones, Chuck Ragan, and the Parkington Sisters.  We were part of the local band "Undercard" that included Pubcrawlers, Bar Stuards, Beantown Boozehounds, and the O'Tooles.  Our set wasn't until 3PM, but we had to be there at 10 in the morning, which meant leaving the house at 5.  Ah, the life of a rock star.  Due to a couple of last minute cancellations, I ended up playing drums (And a HUGE thanks to the O'Tooles for letting us use their kit.  Lifesavers, so y'are!), and we borrowed Travis from the Pubcrawlers (Another big thank you) to play tin whistle.

It was a long day, but boy was it fun.  The local bands hung out in the field behind the "B" stage, and it was like a cookout without the grill.  Everyone brought their amber-colored liquid of choice (mine, of course, was iced tea), and Jess went into teacher mode and organized the snacks along with the Pubcrawlers' ladies (Who brought sandwich making materials.  We brought plenty of crunchy stuff, plus popcakes and Nutella.  We definitely made some converts that day.).  Everyone came out to watch each other's sets, and there was actually a pretty decent sized crown there from the start.  We've played festivals where no one really shows up until the main acts start, so it was nice to see folks supporting the local acts too.  It definitely added to everyone's energy on stage, which resulted in some really fun sets from everyone.

As for our performance, well, it could have been better in my opinion.  But nonetheless, we were well received.  Actually, the crowd seemed to appreciate everyone, which was nice.  For some reason, I kept dropping sticks.  I don't know if it was exhaustion from the long drive or what, but my right hand just could not seem to get a proper grip on the drumstick.  Weird.  Plus I could barely hear the rest of the band, so I don't even know if I was playing in time.  Oh well, it's punk rock, it's not supposed to be pretty.  At least I had the Nutella handy to wash all of my frustrations away...

The main stage started up around 6 or so, with the first act being the Parkington Sisters.  Not an act you'd typically expect to see at a show like this.  But what they lacked in sonic boom-ness, they made up for in profanity.  There's just something about a hot chick that can wail on a fiddle and swear like a stevedore.  I've been listening to a lot of rootsy music lately, so they were a welcome interlude.  Not everyone liked them, but Jess and I did, so they made at least two fans that day.  Mahones were up next.  We opened for them in Boston last Summer, but I unfortunately had to miss that show, so this was actually the first time I'd ever seen them live.  Wow, they put on a great show.  Their whistle player is simply amazing, and their accordion player was lively and leggy.  Mama's got a squeezebox, indeed.

Chuck Ragan had a good set, although I had gone to get dinner during much of it.  His low growl and emotion really drove his folk punk songs.  I need to pick up some of his music.  We've played with Street Dogs before, and they're about as good a punk rock band as there is nowadays.  Mike and Johnny really know how to fire up a crowd, everybody was moving and having a good time during their set.  If they come to your town, make sure you don't miss it.  For reals, these guys scorched the stage.

The band I was most excited to see was Stiff Little Fingers.  Punk rock legends.  Northern Ireland's answer to The Clash.  As with the Mahones, I had to miss the show we opened for them a few months ago, so this was a second chance to bask in the glow of one of my all time favorite bands.  They pulled out almost all the hits.  I found myself singing along like a twelve year old girl at a Justine Bieber concert (No, I'm not linking to his website.).

We didn't stay for the entire Dropkick Murphy's set, because by then we'd been walking around and rocking out for nearly 12 hours.  So I missed the acoustic part of the show, and the part where Ken Casey stepped on my friend Gina's head (She's fine, she actually got kind of psyched about it.).  I've seen them many many times, and they're a great live act, but we were totally spent and decided to call it a night.  Luckily, Jess has family not too far away, so we sacked out there with two of the biggest dogs I've ever seen and a kitten with double paws, who seemed and acted like a long lost relative of Finn.

Sunday's drive home was long, but fun (I retained my Punchbuggy crown), and we ended the weekend at Secret Society Tattoo and Art Gallery in Worcester.  They were having an art opening for a local artist, and Jess was pouring the whisky (she spells it without the "E", so I will too).  The food was good, and I met some cool folks from the Worcester arts scene.  Jeff Gemma and Danny Gunns, the guys who do the ink slinging there, were in attendance (Jeff is actually the owner), and it was a cool, laid back way to finish the weekend.

Tonight, the Gobshites try out a new drummer, and we're playing out on the deck again this Friday at Mick Morgan's in Sharon.  Last time there was an absolute blast, so I'm definitely looking forward to this show.  Stop by and say hi if you can.

Souveniers are available in the gift shop...

Friday, September 09, 2011

Awesome Celestial Spectacle, With Strings


5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation from stephen v2 on Vimeo.


As a kid, astronomy was a hobby of mine, fed into by the fact that noted astrophysicist and naturalist Chet Raymo's son was one of the kids I regularly hung out with.  So I always like photography or video or animation that concerns stars, planets, and other such phenomena.  This video was made by taking thousands of still photos from the Cassini orbiter and compiling them to make a "video" ofthe fly-by.  Happy weekend, enjoy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Once More, With Feeling

"But if you're all about the destination,
The take a fucking flight.
We're going nowhere slowly,
But we're seeing all the sights."
-Frank Turner

I've started, stopped, and restarted this post several times in the last two days.  I've written a paragraph or two, deleted it, and then deleted the next two or three attempts at an opener as well.  I've gone against my own new rule of no longer letting the editing take place in my head over and over.  "What's the problem?" I keep asking myself.  "You know how to do this, why are you being so skittish?"  I have no reply.  I had a great weekend, celebrated (almost) 100 days in grand style, caught up with old friends, made one or two new ones, played about as well as I ever have, if not better (despite blowing out a reed on the harmonica), and helped usher in a new chapter in my daughter's life.

So here I go again, because in the spirit of what I've tried to make my life about recently, I refuse to simply give up and run away.  I've invested too much in myself and my well-being.  And quite frankly, I'm worth staying with it until I get it right.

Labor Day weekend saw the Gobshites back up in the Catskills at the Blackthorne Resort.  I haven't been there since Memorial Day, when I gave my demons free reign for the last time.  It was, in the vernacular of the addict, my "Jackpot."  I'm still hearing stories about things I have no memory of doing.  I'm still apologizing to people for my wanton recklessness and cringe-worthy behavior.  In many ways, I'm still beating myself up about the whole thing, reliving the weekend, and wishing I could go back and make different decisions.  But of course, I can't do that.  All I can do is move forward and try to atone for my prior bad acts somehow.

So I was a bit nervous about going back up, but not overly so.  I was excited to introduce Jess to the Blackthorne, and the Blackthorne to her.  She'd already met one or two of the regulars online, so she just needed to to put some voices with the names and faces that have presented themselves to her in recent months.

As chance would have it (or maybe it was Karma), we ended up in the very same room where, 96 days previous, I had lain crumpled up in the bottom of the shower and made the decision to stop drinking once and for all.  Full circle, as it were.  The Universe was giving me a chance to get it right this time.  We'd brought a cooler full of iced tea for me and Tab for her, and enough people knew the deal so that I wasn't tempted with free pints left and right.  Was it weird to be there watching everyone lift their stouts and cheer while I (literally) tea-totalled it?  Sure, a little.  But I'm used to being around people drinking, and it hasn't been a problem.

As per usual it was a raucous, fun-filled weekend, with lots and lots of music and laughs.  Jess met the crew, the crew met Jess, and everyone had a good time.  For us, the weekend had to be cut short in order to get back home to Massachusetts so we could help my daughter move in to her new dorm room.  I was a commuter in college, so I never experienced the organized chaos that is moving day.  A veritable mosh pit of students, parents, and their stuff greeted us on Sunday morning (after a two hour nap preceded by a three and a half hour drive home, and another hour or so from home to Salem).  We managed to get everything into her room in two trips.  A stop for some last minute supplies and a quick stroll down by the waterfront, and we were on our way back home to relax and annoy the cat for a while until we both passed out.

We spent yesterday at the 10th annual Boston Tattoo Convention.  I've never been to this one, and it was by far the biggest convention I've been to (of the four).  Tons of artists and vendors, and terrific artwork and a definite feast for the eyes.  Neither of us got any work done, but I got a lot of business cards and a bunch of idea for future ink.  Just need to improve my cash flow situation, and I can expand the gallery into new wings...

I woke up this morning with 100 days under my belt.  I feel great.  I still (STILL!) need to get into a regular workout routine, and find a way to supplement my income, but the past 100 days have seen a slew of changes in my outlook and perspective, not to mention my health, both physical and mental.  Am I apt to fall back into negative thought patterns?  Sure, life's not a faerie tale, and bad moods happen.  But 100 days is nothing to brush aside.  I'll be celebrating a little more tonight, and looking forward to the next 100 days.

And the 100 after that, and so on...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Streams of Unconsciousness

I have a tendency to not remember my dreams.  Every once in a while, a snapshot or a short clip of something will enter my mind, and I'm guessing it's a snippet of a dream I've had recently.  Lately, I see myself swimming and there's a dolphin next to me.  I have no idea what that means.  Maybe I'm going to Florida soon.  Or maybe I need to cut back on the seafood.  I'm sure there's a book out there somewhere that could tell me.  Or maybe I can talk to someone up in Salem on Sunday, when we move my daughter into her dorm. 

Which reminds me:  Last time we were up there, one of the shops had a sign out that announced "Readings Today by Barney."  Really?!?  I'm sure he's a nice guy, but how can I put my faith in a seer named Barney?  I'd be too worried he was going to try and steal my Cocoa Pebbles when I wasn't looking.

I wish I could remember my dreams better.  I'd imagine they're pretty interesting.  Actually, my very earliest memory is lying in my crib, with the Bunker Hill Monument looming outside my bedroom window in a very threatening and intimidating manner.  Given that the monument is in Charlestown, and my crib was about 35 miles south of there, I'm pretty sure this was a nightmare.  Could be why I get a little freaked out around very tall structures and such.

I do have a weird sort of clairvoyance ability, but it only applies to music and films.  Stay with me.  I can't tell you how many times I've been thinking of a song, or a movie, or even a particular episode of a TV show, only to hear or see it played on the radio or TV within a couple of hours.  And I'm not talking about songs from the Top 40, or popular recent films or shows.  I'm talking an album cut by Lou Reed or Dinosaur, Jr., or an old episode of M*A*S*H, or some movie from the 80's that everyone thinks was directed by John Hughes but was in reality just a John Hughes ripoff (I'm looking at you, Real Genius).  Maybe it's just a freaky coincidence, or maybe I have some kind of power over broadcasting signals.  Could I have the power to control program directors minds?  That'd be odd,  little scary (If you've ever met a broadcasting program director, you'd know why.), and probably wouldn't qualify me for my own comic book.  No one ever talks about the lame superpowers.

I'm pretty sure the cat is starting to learn words.  Yesterday, I swear I heard him say "Mama."  And damned if he didn't watch me do something goofy in the bathroom this morning and go "Wooooow", in a very sarcastic manner.  AND, he's learned how to grip things like he has an opposable thumb.  He can open cabinet doors.  Don't look at me like that, I have witnesses.

Gobshites are in East Durham, New York this weekend.  We'll have Paddy and Colin from Falls Road (formerly from Killrush) on drums and banjo, respectively, so it's going to be a very good time.  Really looking forward to seeing some folks and enjoying a good old hooley.

Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Riding Out the Storm (With a LOT of Help from My Friends)

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene came through the area this weekend.  It didn't do nearly as much damage as we were expecting (although Connecticut and Vermont seem to have suffered some pretty serious casualties).  Aside from a lot of leaves and branches on the ground, it turned out to be little more than a windy, rainy day.  A good day to stay in, bake cookies, eat (organic) junk food, and catch Jess up on the first season of Torchwood and the second season of the new Doctor Who.  She's still dealing with the departure of Christopher Eccleston, but between her roommate and I, we'll make a Whovian out of her yet.

In all, the weekend was pretty great.  We started out by catching Great Big Sea outdoors at Boarding House Park in Lowell on Friday.  Great night for a show, and a terrific performance by those guys, as always.  Alan Doyle is one of the best front men I've ever seen, and the whole band always seems to be having a great time.  Saturday was spent stocking up and getting a haircut (not to mention taking note of my 90 days without a drink), then trekking down to Cranston to visit my friend Kevin Borowski at his tattoo shop, Iron Hand Tattoo.  I haven't seen Kevin in about 18 years, and since then he's developed a very good reputation as an artist, specializing in traditional style ink.  I definitely need to go down there and get something from him, if I can get an appointment (The guy he was working on told us he had to wait three months for an appointment.  Hopefully there's a separate list for former band mates...).

So riding out the storm was the order of the day Sunday, and we did it fairly well in my humble opinion.  It's usually easy when it's right there in front of you, and you can see the wind and the rain.  Other types of storms are not so easy to ride out.  I'm talking, of course, about the ones in your mind, whether they be because of depression, finances, addiction, or whatever other non-meteorological cause.  Navigating the various gales and high tides of a psychological storm requires a team effort most of the time.  I'm not talking about professional health care providers, although those definitely do help.  I mean the people around you.  The ones you see and spend time with and confide in and love every day.

This weekend, the Gobshites head back up to the Catskills to play at the Blackthorne, as we do every Labor Day weekend.  You may remember that, last time we were there, I hit my jackpot with alcohol.  This time around, I'll be 96 days sober, and playing better than I have in a long time.  There will be plenty of temptation around me, so I guess that's a storm that I'll have to sail through.  But it'll be much much easier this time around, thanks to the crew of folks I have around me.  Let the hooley begin...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Music Blog: Musical Style Mashups Can Be Fun Edition



I love it when artists adapt something outside their style into what they do.  That's one of the reasons I love Me First and the Gimme Gimmes so much.  The Carolina Chocolate Drops are seriously talented, each one a multi-instrumentalist.  This version of Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style" sounds like it could have been written this way.  Enjoy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Frank Turner



Heard this song in a video on tattoo artist Myke Chambers' website, and decided to look him up on Youtube.  If you're a fan of Billy Bragg, you'll dig this, and look for his other stuff.  Apparently, he's toured around with Green Day and the Offspring, but I don't think I've ever heard any of his stuff before.  New music is teh awesum...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pickin' And a-Grinin'

Monday's post was a bummer.  Yup.  It was written in about 20 minutes, during a time when everything was hitting me all at once.  And actually, I added the first paragraph after I'd written everything else, because even I recognized the pity party I was throwing.  Depression is a tricky bastard.  Therapy and medication definitely mitigate a lot of the complications and symptoms, but even then, depression can find a cat door in your mind and sneak in to ruin your day.  Obviously, if there are legitimate stresses in your life, nothing short of a controlled substance or an amber-colored liquid is going to make you forget about it, no matter how much more "together" you seem to be to your loved ones.  And those options really aren't open to me any more.  There are days when all I want to do is punch depression in the face.  A lot.  Of course on those days, it takes all the energy I can muster to get out of bed, so it's kind of a Catch-22.

Ah well.  Yes, I'm stressed about some stuff, and yes, there's no permanent solution yet in place, however I am working on it.  But guess what?  Me and Jess are gonna learn the banjo.  And I'm sorry, but you just cannot be depressed when you're playing (or listening to) the banjo.  It's physically impossible.  I've tried.  Banjos just go hand in hand with a good time, no matter what The Deerhunter has conditioned us to believe (And by the way, the bad guys in that film weren't the ones playing the banjos.  Just Sayin'.).

Irish music got me into traditional instruments, but I've been getting into a lot of Bluegrass lately, too.  Definitely loving stuff like Old Crow Medicine Show, Alisson Krauss, and the Wailin' Jennys, but also some folks you might be surprised by.  Right now, I'm a little obsessed with Steve Martin's The Crow CD.  Sure, we all saw him in the 70's, with the white suit and the rubber chicken and the banjo with the arrow through his head, and we thought he was all wacky.  But have you ever just sat down and listened to him play the thing?  You really should, because that dude can shred.  Even on some of his comedy albums, he'd throw in an all-banjo track, and while I never really paid attention at the time, I go back and listen to those tunes and I really appreciate the incredible musicianship it takes to play like that.

One person you've probably never heard of (unless you go to the Catskills a lot, or have ever seen Derek Warfield's Young Wolfetones), is Damaris Woods.  She plays the tenor banjo, and she may be quiet and reserved offstage, but when they let her go, she can deliver.  Her solos have stopped me in my tracks at the Blackthorne, where I'll be seeing her again this Labor Day weekend, along with Black 47, and the Gobshites (I'll be the one drinking water and iced tea on stage.  It'll be kind of hard to miss me.).

The Gobshites have had some great banjo players over the years.  Pret Woodburn, Dave Robichaud, and most recently Paddy Putnam, have all been a ton of fun to watch on stage (and sometimes off).  Paddy is generously giving his time so that Jess and I can learn at least a little of his genius.  I'm still having a ton of fun with the mandolin, but I'm trying to cram in as much as I can of everything these days.  I guess it's a musical addiction.  Could be worse, right?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Same Old Song and Dance

First off, I want to say that I had a great weekend.  It was a nice time of getting away (to the water!), spending time with both Jess and my daughter, meeting new friends, celebrating a momentous occasion, and relaxation.  And the fact is I'm very optimistic about some things right now.  VERY optimistic.  AND, today is day 85 without a drink.  So all good news there.  But even at the best of times, there's always something nagging in the background, making sure that, no matter how good I feel right now, I shouldn't count on that feeling to stick around, because there's a monkey wrench heading towards me...

It's coming, quickly, and I can see it just off in the distance.  There's no avoiding it, nor a chance to get out of its' way.  All escape hatches are closed and battened down, with only a brick wall behind me.  Are there lifelines?  I can't really tell, there's a light blocking my view above.  I suppose there are, there always seem to be, but I'm feeling a little too anxious to try and reach for one.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm worried that I'll make a grab and have it yanked away.  Or worse, what I thought was a lifeline turns out to be a python.  I close my eyes, brace myself, and whisper "Here we go again..."

It's a week and a half until the end of the month.  Which means the beginning of next month, which means the rent's due, and I have come to the end of yet another month without being able to find any way to keep the twin bullies of worry and shame away from getting at my psyche.  If it's getting boring for you to read about, imagine how boring it's getting for me to talk about.  Not boring, that's the wrong word.  I'm not sure there is a word to describe how I feel about it at this point.  But it's always there, even on my better days.  It's going to be there, until I can pull myself out of this rock slide that slows down about the middle of each month, and then starts up again in the last week or so.

I've taken steps to try and kill the beast more or less permanently, and hopefully I'll have some good news on that front soon.  But even with that, there's the end of this month to deal with, and I'm once again straining my finances and juggling bills and wants and needs in order to avoid, somehow, humiliating myself yet again in order to keep a roof over my head for another month.  A few years back, for similar reasons, I went through what I thought at the time was the worst year in my life.  Things were bad on almost all fronts.  Emotionally, financially, and nearly everything else-ally, I was struggling to get myself out of a rather deep hole.  This year, while not a loss on all fronts in many ways, seems to be trying to compete with 2007/2008 for the title of Most Trying Year of My Life.  And even with my emotional and psychological well being making huge strides (Thanks to modern chemistry, therapy, and perhaps most of all to a certain Whisky Witch), the financial troubles I'm having seem to be picking up the slack.

Good Lord, how much longer can I possibly stand this?  And what's it going to take for the Universe to cut me a break in this area?  I've gotten help, but I'm starting to feel like an ass, hat in hand all the time, hoping someone will bail me out.  I really don't want to be bailed out, but all my efforts over the past several months have come up short of putting myself in a position to take care of all of this on my own.  Can this really be where I am at this point in my life?  Have I done something so bad as to deserve to be here, frustrated and scared?

This is what my mind goes through in the last two or so weeks of every single month lately.  I'm tired.  I'm bored of it.  I really need it to change.  Now.  I deserve better.

Come on, Universe.  Just this once...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Elbowing the Gatekeeper

So, did anyone think to click the link in the title of yesterday's post?  If you did, and you watched after school programming on channel 56 in Boston (or pretty much any other UHF station that ran the Banana Splits and Brady Bunch reruns in the afternoon) growing up, you might get a kick out of that link.  Do the words "Come back here!" ring a bell?  If not, click it anyway, and see what the rest of us experienced.  I was feeling goofy, so I just kind of threw it in as an Easter Egg.

Anyway, not much to update, but I still feel like writing for some reason.  And who really needs a reason to write, anyway?  There's a book called The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, that I used to try and follow.  I may go back to it at some point, because I liked a lot of the ideas and exercises in it.  One of my favorites was the Morning Pages.  Every morning, right when you wake up, your write out three pages in a standard size notebook.  And that's three pages, both sides.  And it doesn't matter what it's about.  It could be total gibberish, it could be three pages worth of "I don't know what to write," but you have to fill all three pages.  And then you put them away and don't look at them for, say, six months or so.  And only you get to see them, they're not for anyone else.  It's an exercise in just emptying your brain and unclogging it, for lack of a better phrase.  It's supposed to be stream of consciousness.  You might come up with something brilliant in there, but that's not really the point.  The point is to get your mind working, right at the beginning of your day.

I did those for a long time, and it definitely works.  Just the routine of doing it every day gets your mind working creatively.  It didn't take the place of any personal journaling I was doing, although some elements of that would no doubt appear in the Morning Pages.  I found myself writing more in general, which really helped me build my standup act.  And it also reinforced an idea that I'd seen in other books on writing, which is that you can't do the editing in your mind.  When you first come up with the idea, you should write down everything you associate with it, no matter how silly or useless it seems to you at the time.  Or, to quote Jon Vorhaus in the Comic Toolbox, "Kill your ferocious editor."

You can't let the words get all trapped in your brain, you have to get them out on the page first.  Then you can start editing and paring down to what you're really trying to say, and how all of those ideas fit together (or don't, as the case may be).  That's the biggest hazard for me in any creative process I try.  I let my doubts about what I'm doing act as a gatekeeper in my mind and stall any efforts to get anything out and on the page, or sketch pad, or whatever other medium I'm using.  That I now recognize it seems to me to be a good sign, because that means I can elbow that gatekeeper out of the way and just plow forward.  It doesn't always work, but it works more than it used to, and that's a good first step.

Have I mentioned lately that I'm enjoying the hell out of this new mandolin?  I'm telling you, I think I got my three favorite birthday presents ever this year.  Between the mando, the MacBook, and the TARDIS mug, I really can't help but smile when I think about how great the day was.  Not just because of the presents, mind you (Although they were definitely awesome.  Just saying.).  The fact that family and friends were there to celebrate with me, and I got to play music, and have an actual birthday party for the first time in years, made this year's occasion a real bright spot in a very challenging year.

Please exit single-file, in an orderly fashion.  Thank you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Snipets

I have another earworm for you.  I've had the song in my iTunes for some time now, and I've actually played with this band at Shamrockfest in Washington, D.C.  But lately for some reason, I can't get it out of my head.  My girlfriend says this might beat out "Code Monkey" by Jonathan Coulter.  Great, now they're both fighting for attention in my tilt-a-whirl of a brain.  Anyway, here's the "Worst Pirate Song" by Ceann.  You can thank me later...



Got a new tattoo (Courtesy of Jess again.  I'm starting to wonder if she just likes to see people jab me for an hour...) this weekend at the Art Riot Expo in Boxborough, Mass. from Mariah of Providence Tattoo.  It was kind of a spur of the moment thing, but I'm really pleased with it.  Pictures are up on Facebook.

I also took my daughter up to New Hampshire and Shogun Tattoo, to get her very first ink from my friend Jamey Proctor.  She was nervous as hell beforehand, but she took it like a trooper.  It helped that what she wanted wasn't all that complicated.  And she's already got another one in mind.  It begins...

I managed to get through my rent emergency crisis this weekend with the help of my family.  And on a positive note, I had an interview yesterday, and requests from two other companies to interview today.  Hopefully soon, I can breathe at least a moderate sigh of relief.  It's been a trying year thus far, to put it mildly, but I really feel like things are starting to turn around on all fronts.  It's a cautious optimism, but it's optimism, nonetheless.  Trying not to get my hopes up, of course.

Get Rhythm...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Q: How Is My Piggy Bank Like a Seashell?

A: If you hold it up to your ear, you can hear the ocean...

I feel like a broken record sometimes, when I talk about my problems with money.  Right now, I am once again in a situation where my back is against the wall.  I have no money whatsoever, and my rent's overdue.  My car payment's overdue.  My cable and phone bills are overdue.  My car need s new brakes and whatever the hell else is necessary to get it to pass inspection.  And I have no money.  Since about February, I've been seriously looking for ways to supplement my income in order to afford the rent that doubled as of May 1st.  I signed a new lease for one year last December, and I intend to honor it.  Am I being foolish?  Probably, but I really have no other place to go.  I don't have the money for a first and last for a new place, and even if I did, then I'd have the money to pay my rent for this month, so what would be the point of moving?

At first, I tried looking for a new roommate.  But the only serious inquiry I got from my online postings came from someone who would be moving here from the other side of the country, and  really didn't want to meet my new roommate on the first day they lived here.  I had also come to decide that I really didn't want a new roommate anyway.  I didn't want to have to share my place with someone I didn't know, and I wanted to try and live on my own.  It's been a struggle, to say the least.  No doubt it was a factor in the ramping up of my drinking problem.  As my worry over paying my bills got worse, the desire to escape and numb myself got greater.  And so I ended up spending money I didn't have to self-medicate.  Genius!

In June, I sold most of my old vinyl records.  I hated to part with them, but I needed the money more than I needed to have them sitting in my house, particularly since I haven't had a turntable in years.  The ones I sold were pretty good, and I was a rock star at Newbury Comics in Norwood for a few weeks.  I've also got a sizable comic book collection that, thus far, I haven't found a buyer for.  Again, there will be some books I'll hate to part with, but they don't help if they just sit.  I'll keep some of the graphic novel and trade paperbacks, because I still enjoy reading them.  But the comics have to go.

I also used to collect hockey and baseball cards.  I have no idea if anything I have is of any value, but those can be sacrificed for the cause as well.  I'm not particularly sentimental about any of those, to be honest, so fare thee well, Lefty McWatsisname of the East Podunk Thumbscrews.  I hope the space you took up in my house is at least worth some cash.  Same goes for you, Bruiser LeKneepad of the Inuit City Mukluks (Okay, that was redundant and gratuitous.  But it made me laugh, so get your own damn blog if you don't like it).

Of course, one obvious solution would be to get a new job that pays better, or at the very least a part time job.  Trust me, I'm trying that too.  You know what I found out, though?  Even for part time jobs, they want you to apply online.  Really?!?  For  ringing a register?  I suppose they feel cheated out of the opportunity to ignore applicants the way full-time employers do.  Yet I keep searching, but the problems I have getting part time work are my full time job schedule, which can change week to week, and the necessity of going to meetings for my recovery, as well as the fact that one of my therapists can only see me during nighttime appointments.  So getting a new full time job (or attempting to squeeze more money out of my current employer, which is less likely) becomes my primary solution.  I didn't get the job I interviewed for a few weeks back, but I got three calls last week from prospective employers, two of which were unsolicited.

So things are still precarious, financially speaking, but possibly looking up.  I haven't yet seriously considered installing a virtual tip jar here, but the thought has crossed my mind.  It's starting to get tiresome, this situation, but I've now got some hope.  The odds should be in my favor, right?  I mean, the universe can throw you only so many curve balls before you start adjusting your swing.

Batter up.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Somewhere, Beyond the Sea...Or At Least Close to It

I've spent a lot of time in Salem lately.  More than I have in years.  I think the last time I was there it was for a radio promotion for WCGY.  17 years ago.  Now that my daughter will be moving there in less than a month, I definitely want to get to know the place better.  I like old port cities like Salem and Portsmouth because they have a distinct character.  I'm not particularly nautical, but cities like that tend to appeal to artistic types for some reason.  And Salem, of course, has all the witchcraft lore and pirate history to go with it too, which I find fascinating.

Like I said last week, the issue of spirituality has been looming in my thoughts, mostly spurred by my recovery.  Again, I'm not an atheist, I just don't know what's out there.  I'm not interested in being saved by anyone or shown the true light or anything like that.  I'm trying to find my own path.  And I definitely feel a connection with places like Salem.  Is it being close to the water, and all that symbolizes?  I don't know.  Like I said, I'm not a boater, and I haven't been to a beach-other than to watch a fireworks show or just to walk out on the jetty-in years.  I like the smell of chlorine when I'm swimming.

But water definitely evokes the idea of life, cleansing, and renewal.  At least for me it does.  And being near the water just feels right to me.  I don't live near the water right now, which is okay, because I think if I did, it wouldn't have the same meaning to me.  It wouldn't have the same power to make me feel the way I do when I have to travel to it in order to spend time there.  It's easy enough for me to get to, which is good, and probably the main reason I don't live anywhere that's landlocked.

Maybe I'll move closer when I retire.  By that time, I could probably use some renewal.  Hell, I could use it right now.  This hasn't been the best week for me in a few ways.  No, I haven't had a drink, and I haven't really felt the desire to (well, if I'm being honest, I can't say I haven't at least thought about it).  But the beginning of every month seems to bring with it a host of anxieties and worries.  I have a few leads on improving my financial situation, which hopefully don't all turn into mirages.  And as always, I have my incredible support network.  And I realize life isn't always-or even ever-supposed to be easy.  I just wish it weren't this hard seemingly all the time.

Mostly inactive week for the Gobshites.  We're playing a house party tomorrow night, and I'll be joining in a seissun at the same house during the day (and possibly playing the mandolin in public for the first time).  Next weekend, we're at one of our favorite places to play, the British Beer Company in Cedarville, Mass.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Frid...er, Monday Music Blog: Happy Anniversary Edition

 

Forgot to post a music blog on Friday, but as it happens it's MTV's 30th Anniversary today, so it all evens out.

Chill...

What a great weekend, both personally and for the Gobshites.  Saturday night was one of the two best shows we've played in recent memory.  It looked like we were going to be down a few members, with me getting behind the drum kit.  But at the last minute, a few old faces came out to join us, and the result was a raucous, rollicking good time.  I made my live debut on the harminoca (and by most accounts, acquitted myself well), and even the songs we were a little rusty on sounded pretty damn good. I actually knew it was going to be a good night from our fist song, when I saw a guy walking in singing along to "Hurry Up Harry."  We definitely left them wanting more.  And seeing as the gig was about 15 minutes from my house, it was a relatively early night.

Saturday afternoon, I got to celebrate my daughter's 18th birthday with an early dinner at Lorenzo's in Middleboro, Mass.  This restaurant has been our destination of choice for all kinds of family celebrations over the years.  I missed out on the cake and ice cream on Wednesday (her actual birthday) because I had to work, but we had a good time on Saturday, and I got to give her a couple of books to open (Her big present this year is her first tattoo.  I couldn't be more proud.), and Jess gave her some gift certificates for places around Salem, where she'll start at the state University in the Fall.

On Sunday, after sleeping in a bit and a quick grocery shopping trip, Jess and I went up to Salem to pick up a wedding shower gift for her cousin.  We also took the opportunity to walk around a bit and poke in some of the stores.  Jess knows her way around the city, so I basically follow her lead there.  The artist who did my claddagh tattoo now works at a shop there (and also owns the local Ben & Jerry's franchise in town).  I was able to reconnect with him a few weeks ago, and I plan on having him do another one for me soon (I actually have ideas for my next five pieces, and who I want to do them).  We also checked out a couple of the witchcraft stores (natch), and played a little skee ball down at the willows.  I totally rule at skee ball.  I wonder if there's a pro-league around somewhere I can get in on.

The weekend ended with a show at TT the Bear's in Cambridge, with us opening a bill that included the Trabants and a band from San Francisco called Diego's Umbrella.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stick around for the Trabants, but Diego's Umbrella made their first appearance in the area a memorable one.  Those guys really put on a dynamite show, and we were simply blown away.  Check out their web site, and try to see them if they come to your area any time soon.

Today is the beginning of another month, which brings with it all of the worries and concerns that come up at the beginning of every month (rent money, etc.).  While I'm still biting my nails over that, the effects of the weekend have definitely had a calming influence over me.  Tomorrow, or even tonight, I'll probably be freaking out a bit over money.  But right now I'm happy and content.  I have a lot of people to thank for that, but Jess and my daughter (and to a certain extent, the cat) did a lot of the heavy lifting of my mood, even if they didn't do anything consciously to help out.  Just having them around and in my life has improved things a thousand-fold.

Tonight, I go to a meeting, get home, light up some incense to spur a little creativity, and grab the mando.  And the whistle.  And maybe even the harmonica.  I wonder if the cat knows how to back me up on bodhran...