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,'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,

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...