Monday, October 31, 2011

Making Like A Tree...

It snowed this weekend.  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 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 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?!?


Nobody lives up to their stereotype anymore...

Monday, October 03, 2011


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...