Saturday, October 3, 2015

Yester to Now

When I started this blog it was admittedly by (relative) force, as we were asked in a college course to start either a wordpress of blogspot page to "review" the usability, clarity, and aesthetics of website homepages. While this analysis of web ergonomics did yield its own form of unexpected positives, (most notably the opportunity to turn Dr. Propen on to Vusi Mahlasela and who can forget Denny Basens' burns-so-good Batman "sightings" remark, leaving the class in fits of laughter and me in a rare moment of speechlessness), I considered it largely just another means to a 3.8. A foot stone on the path to the vague, yet well regarded, BA in Professional Writing. Another note on a college epitaph to let atrophy much like my knowledge of the rhetoric of Voltaire. (I was always more of a Quintilian guy.)

Anyway, the point is, other than taking some pride in the name "Yesternow," plucked from Miles' "Tribute To Jack Johnson," I put next to no stock in the venture.

You don't have to be Francis Bacon to pick up on the appeal of the name. To me it implies a sense of reflection while living in the present. In a sense you're not so much dwelling on the past as you are trapping it in the amber for you to save for yourself. It's like a scrapbook, but what I think is cool about it is that in the blog post you're already kind of providing a commentary on past events. A blog, if handled right, is like a scrapbook of a scrapbook. I'm hard pressed to think of a more charming microcosm of a thought. I'm smitten with it, truth be told. Plus, given my overall lack of coordination with scissors, this seems like the only scrapbooking option for me.

In large part, it's with this entirely over-romanticized thought in mind that I picked up this blog again after the course was complete, but the other reason was a little more personal.

A great many things have been said about me over the course of my life. Fortunately, a lot of it positive. I have my family and friends to thank for that. I believe you're a reflection of the people around you. Two things said to describe me that I tend to cherish.

1. You're the kind of guy that if you pulled up in a parking lot with John Coltrane blaring out of your car you would seem like the most interesting and bad man on the planet, but if you pulled up with Jay-Z blaring out of your car it would look like one of the most uncool things ever.

Nobody covers the entirety of the suave - awkward spectrum quite as thoroughly as I do.

2. You're the kind of guy where if something in a movie is meant to make the audience laugh out loud, you'll chuckle and if something in a movie is meant to make an audience chuckle, you'll laugh out loud.

I admit I shared the first one mostly just to have it in writing, but the second one was really one of the most important factors in me starting this blog. I knew that I, like everyone, would have moments that I'd remember for the rest of my life. I knew that I'd remember high school theater performances, Rhapsody concerts, great days on the basketball court, good buzzes, first loves, successes, Dave shows, etc. but I was terrified of losing the moments that lead to those highs. Genuinely scared. It wasn't enough to remember the night Sean Taylor left his coat in the bar in Astoria in heart of the winter. I wanted to remember the bar we went to before it and what may have happened to set the whole night in motion. I didn't want my life, as active and entertaining as it was (is) to become a series of connect the dots with dots equaling memories. I don't want to remember moments. I want to remember what I thought and how I felt in those moments. I considered it very important to me.

So Yesternow became kind of a bi-weekly reflection on what was going on in my life. Through the blog I was able to connect the dots on my terms.

With that said, as weeks and, dare I say it, years have gone by, life's pace picks up and it becomes a little harder to summarize something as chaotic, monotonous, fun, depressing, uplifting, challenging, inspiring and, indeed, beautiful as life in four to five paragraphs of sometimes-clever anecdotes and Sean Taylor stories.

Since the last time I've written here I've traveled the world, laid roots for a career, or at the very least a hell of a stepping stone to one, met new people I've come to love, lost touch with some others, and grown to regard some old friends as nothing short of family. I have loved, I have cried, I have grown, seen concerts, sipped beers, seen friends get married, given toasts, planned trips, seen my first gray hairs pop up. I have laughed and been so grateful, and I have stared down demons I didn't know I had.

It's impossible for me to sum that up in any coherent way, but I've come to realize that I need this blog. I need the opportunity to connect the dots on my terms.

I want to re-open this blog on somewhat of a weekly basis, but I want to change up its format and tone a little bit. I want to share with you special times as they happen; those posts will still be there. I can tell you that next weekend I'm Gettysburg bound to see Sharnell and "B" get married and you know I'm going to have to share that experience with you here. With that said, I also want to treat this as a platform where I can share stories, be them from a week ago or fifth grade. I think it's no accident when we have these memories float through our minds. I want to document those as much as I do the current events, so to speak. I also want to post some more serious posts as well. I know that's phrased terribly and I don't want you all the think that I'm suddenly going to bring about a black cloud to this blog. That's not what this blog represents, but in short, life has its hurdles and maybe if occasionally I shared one of mine, it can help someone else get over one of theirs.

Thanks for reading.

Song of the Day: "Everybody Has A Dream" - Billy Joel
Jazz Song of the Day: "Embraceable You"- Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Time Will Tell Us Who Is Trying To Sell Us

A very specific story drives back to these pages. (Posts, I guess, but pages sounds cooler and makes me feel more like an author.) I made it out to see Matisyahu last night for the first time since 2008's Ram's Head visit, where his family and friends were in attendance and consequently, we were treated to an extra special and extended set. That was the night that this duo of buds were inordinately excited to see the Flobots and, much to my puzzlement, chanted the name of their album repeatedly before the group was even on the stage. Now, as it turns out, their premature praise was warranted, as the Flobots exceeded every expectation I had and about six months later, when I stumbled upon a free Flobots show in Vermont, I was indeed the guy chanting the name of the album before the group even made it on stage. I made and lost a few friends that night, needless to say. 

Anyway, I will get back to the Matis show, but first there are a couple of other things to skim over before jumping into, as my weekends of late have actually entailed much more than catching up on sleep and work. A rousing four weeks ago, I made it out to the land of the swimming Whittys and soccer playing Pappases (man that's cool pluralize... seriously, try to say it aloud without smiling), Baltimore, Maryland. The one and only Nick "Lord Baltimore" Pappas was kind enough to open the doors of his kingdom to me as we went to check out the beautiful Camden Yards and see our beloved Os in action. The game itself was nothing much to speak of, as we were thoroughly trounced by the grinning Indians of Cleveland, 9 to 0. Truth be told, I caught an intentional nap late in the game that carried me straight through the seventh inning stretch. I eventually rallied. The Orioles did not. A shame to be sure, but with the great company of the Lord and the ever kind, gracious, and all-around awesome duo of Poppyseed and Emmy, it was hard to be blue for too long. In truth, at one point the game had become so listless that our group ventured to help me in playing what can only be considered the most pathetic game of Name That Tune in all of history. Not worth going into in detail, but let's just say they were very patient with me as I sang the same three notes over and over again trying to place the name and artist of a song that we never did figure out. Also, Nick and I got the chance to re-enact the now infamous "Bud Light drone." As noble a Camden Yards tradition as singing along to John Denver, in my opinion. 

After the game, we said good-bye to Greg and Emmy and Nick and I went back to his place to play some basketball. To an extent, home court advantage came into play, but it would be a diservice to Nick not mention that he actually kicked my butt in some L-O-R-D games. Won't happen twice...

Poor Nick, one of my best friends on this planet, mentioned many times throughout the day how excited he was to have someone in town to talk and watch basketball with. At the time the Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and Pacers were very much raging and a game was taking place that evening. We definitely took care of the basketball talking. It was the watching that proved more difficult than anticipated.8:30 pm struck, put my feet up in the family recliner, watched the Pacers score the first four points of the game (a couple of nice jumpers by David West), and promptly went out like a light and slept straight through the remainder of the game. I felt so bad and continue to apologize to this day. The Lord, as you would assume from someone with that nickname, handled it with the utmost class. A solid billiard session and an impromptu visit to my aunt in Delaware, put a nice bow on a very solid weekend. 

The following weekend featured yet another thrilling excursion for which I stayed conscious the entire time! *fist bumps self* I ventured with yet another gentleman of lore, Matty Matura to see Dave Matthews Band. Each Dave concert is special, for sure. With that said, what made this show extra special was that this time around, DMB is strumming two sets of great tunes. One acoustic, one electric. Also, this was my first sojourn to SPAC (Saratoga). One of the great Dave venues. From a musical standpoint, the band was on point of course. My analysis of the show is not why your reading this blog, so I won't go into too much detail, as it would be a post in and of itself. Very quickly, I got my first "Pay For What You Get" which I was elated about, got my first "Say Goodbye" which next to a particularly choice "Dancing Nancies" was the highlight of the show. Also, I don't think there's anything in music, much less DMB, that gives me chills more than the vocal build/riff that Dave goes during live renditions of "You Might Die Trying". Awesome. 

From a venue standpoint it was actually pretty straightforward once you got inside, but what made it incredible was the fact that you were parked very literally in the grass of this beautiful park environment. Easily the most fun I've had prior to a show. Great meeting new people, playing music, sipping brews, and playing frisbee. In one of the highlights, or lowlights depending on how you look at it, of the day, Matty and I stepped up on the  Kan Jam court (Court? Field? Playing area? Zone?) and made it clear when we were introducing ourselves that we were good friends and we would be playing as a team, known each other from high school, etc. So after a great deal of talking each other up, it's finally our turn to step up. Right out of the gate, Matty proceeds to use two hands in slapping one of my tosses, which we all know is a no-no. It drew a hushed ire from those around us and I was quick to mention that we weren't actually that close.... Just kidding, Hydro. 

When we actually got in to see the show, Matty and I actually split up a bit, as I hit it off with this great group to my right and Matty branched off with another, more existential group to our left. I spent the show in the front row of the lawn section listening to tunes with good people. Matty wound up spending the show with a group intent on listening the the music and discussing the microcosm that is "life." I think I got the better end of the deal, but we both left with stories we'll tell for the rest of our lives, I'm sure. We spent the whole show within eye contact, so I consider the experience a shared one. 

Lastly, a fight broke out during "Crash Into Me." I didn't even think that was possible. 

Okay, now we find ourselves back full circle at the Matisyahu gig. The man is very talented, just to lead with that and it was great to see him again. In a rather cool twist of fate, I caught a drumstick at the show and got about as excited as a seven-year-old opening his first Gameboy on Christmas morning. Hopefully that puts things in perspective. 

The show is great, moving along, and again, through a series of rather deft dips, dives, and swoops. I find myself in the front row of the show. (All modesty aside, I'm deceptively smooth when it come to things like that.) We reach a point towards the end of show where Matis addresses the crowd and says that "we need some people up here." At that point the backstage area pours out and floods the stage. In addition, these two girls to my right (admittedly much prettier than I am) slide through the security gate and hop on stage. Now again, I'm deceptively slippery and not one pass up this golden opportunity, I, too, slide my rather "slender" frame through the blockade and hop on stage. I groove for a good 15 seconds before I realize two security gentlemen neither as slender or friendly-looking as I we coming at me (to their credit, pretty casually, I don't want to paint them to too negative a light) "urging" me off the stage. I'm no hero and I accomplished what I wanted. I hopped right of the stage without coaxing and/or struggle. I was promptly escorted out of the main audience area and watched the remainder of the show... wide right... where the sight line was kind of bogus, but the sound was still great. For what it's worth, I apologized to the security guy, explaining that he asked for people up on stage. I saw people hop on and I wanted to be a part of it. The guy understood and actually apologized himself. It's amazing how many doors open for you at these places when people realize you're sober and rational. I wound up hitting it off with the security guys and we had a decent time watching the rest of the show. 

Great, great time. 

One final note here. I guess this would qualify as a soapbox moment, so brace yourself, but I don't quite mean this as vehemently as I'm sure this comes off in type. As I'm sure most know, the Rangers recently had their memorable post season run brought to an end in the cup finals. I noticed a great deal of Ranger fans lashing out at "bandwagon" fans and essentially perpetuating a kind of fictitious "turf war" over who was wearing the red and blue first. I mean, I understand that bandwagon fans very much exist, but I don't really see the point in calling people out on something like that. The fact is that the local team was playing some great hockey and had the chance to join the annals of history. I don't see why you would try to make that experience exclusive. It was a special time for New York and I for one was of the opinion of the more the merrier. I'd be pleased that the sport was reaching such a wide audience and that the team was a part of something arguably bigger than the sport. I mean, you true fans know who you really are. In my opinion, that should be enough. What's cool is I'm sure that a lot of true fans were born through this playoff run and I'm sure they'll be lamenting every three game losing streak during this upcoming season. That's pretty sweet, I think. 

I feel I have the right to say this as a Mavs fan. In 2011, we very suddenly became America's team as the nation watched intently as we clashed with the then despised (not much has changed, but back then the animosity was at a fever pitch) Miami Heat. Very suddenly, there were a lot of pro-Dirk voices sprouting up from near and far. You and I both know people were more rooting against the Heat than rooting for the Mavs, but at the end of the day, it was great to have the support and I knew who I was as a fan. It was great to have people along for the ride. 

The way I see it, as long as a bandwagon fan doesn't try to sound like an expert overnight, welcome to the party. We'll leave the light on and the door open for you. 

Song of the Day: "Desert Sunrise" - Brett Dennen
Jazz Song of the Day: "Body and Soul" - Gary Burton

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's Not A City, It's An Equinox

Warmest salutations during the coldest of winters dear friends and Whitman enthusiasts in the midst of self-celebration before they say "So Long!" (I promise that's as funky as the post gets.)

A great deal has come to pass as 2013 took its final bow and welcomed 2014 into our datebooks, but while it pains me to no small degree to all too casually skim over holiday homecomings and festivities, good times with good friends, a Phish show, Felice Brothers show, and a meeting of worlds in Philadelphia for New Year's Eve, not mention some creative facial hair presentations, I must with a heavy heart fast forward to this past weekend. A weekend spent in lavish fashion darting around the NYC area in celebration of Whitman (just kidding), in celebration of the birthdays of two dear friends, Rich and Becky, and then one day with Grebe..for no reason at all...because we're tight like that. 

When this past Friday's proverbial work whistle blew I braved the elements in the freshest of Dirk jerseys (likely the lone glimmer of vanity in my life) to see the Dallas Mavericks (my team since Fin-dog donned the blue, green and ten gallon) take on the recently surging Brooklyn Nets, embarrassment at the hands of KD and the Thunder notwithstanding. While this occasion alone is worthy of much pomp and circumstance, I was also able to share the game with my good bud, Rich Arleo who agreed to catch the game with me in celebration of his birthday. Never one to hide his true colors, Rich was clad in the orange and blue of the Knickerbocker true. Our seats were pretty great, I must say, and we had a great time taking in what turned out to be a great game, and unfortunately for Mavs fans, the game of Mirza Telenovic's young career. The lone upside of the game was my coining of the phrase "Mirza-rable." A play on words I hang my hat on proudly to this day.  

To keep the basketball talk brief, we missed a ton of free throws and had about four fouls in the final four minutes and a glaring technical on Dirk. Not to sound like a doubting Thomas *slaps knee*, but even though we only lost by one (a last second three by Monta made it look a bit closer than it was) you never really got the sense that we were going to win. Meanwhile, just a couple brief train rides away, Melo was dropping 62 on the usually pretty stingy Bobcats. Go figure. Nonetheless, always great to see the Mavs in person and the quality of Rich's company nearly goes without saying. 

One thing of merit happened at the game beyond the game of basketball as early on the game, this young and seemingly quite brash cat made mention of the seats in which Rich and I were, well... seated. He said to his pals that he thought their seats were *gestures to Rich and I* right here. We, of course, paid him little mind until he addressed us directly and asked us if we were in the right seats, a perfectly legitimate question. We said we were and then the guy proceeded to say in a very condescending way (like we were five years old) Are you sure?" I definitely wasn't angry, as that's too strong a word, but I was a little miffed about how this guy was going about finding his seats, trying to make us look foolish pretty intentionally. It was the sweetest of poetic justice when the usher checked out his tickets as he continued to point to our seats and notify him that he was three, count'em three, sections off and escorted him to his seat. I wanted nothing more than to walk over to him in the middle of the game and ask him if he was sure he was in the right seat, but cooler heads (and the fact that I never found him again) prevailed. 

Prior to the game, Rich and I grabbed some suds at what can be considered my only Brooklyn staple, The Black Sheep Pub, a place that has never failed to provide me with friendly faces conversation and memorable stories.This time was no different, as Rich and I had the chance to catch up, I ran into a friendly fellow Mavs fan, (We travel pretty well.), a stopped on a dime and greeted a momentarily confused Christina Oswald, and I met a bizzaro version of myself. Well, maybe not a bizzaro version. The only tangible pop culture analogy that comes to mind is that episode of "Friends" when Joey finds his hand twin. For the record, though, I played it much cooler than he did. I was in the fabled Black Sheep Pub, or as we regulars call it "The Sheep" (Nobody calls it that...what are ewe doing tonight?...I wool be there) and making my way past the foosball table, where four guys whom I can only assume were longtime buds were involved in a spirited game and one of the guys scored and the guys cheered, his opponents cursed him etc. a real authentic and crudely charming moment when it happened. In the middle of good natured calamity, this one guy says clear as a bell: "Boy you really shot that from afar," and my heart instantly went out to him. I had found my "hand twin" as I'm always the guy to take a perfectly cool time and add just the right amount of lameness to it with some silly expression or word choice that is just subtle enough not to ruin the moment, but noticeable enough for everyone to silently acknowledge. Against all odds, my friends love me anyway. I have once been described as this: "Poli, you're the only person I know that can pull up with Jay-Z blaring out of your car and make it seem not cool, but you're also the one guy in the world I know that can can pull up with Miles Davis coming out of your car and make it seem like the most badass thing the world." It's a unique gift I've been cursed with, ladies and gentlemen. 

The post game festivities brought yet more bar-hopping and stranger greeting and the chance to meet up with Jamie, and I slept through the entire search for a parking spot, which apparently was pretty involved. The next day was largely spent in leisure, I must admit, as I even caught a nice nap during the Islander game, but not before a trip to the bagel store worthy of an Onion article. 

Rich and I out minding our own business getting some food when this very pretty Russian twenty-something walks in to the deli in search of a cappuccino. For some reason this girl asks the cashier which cups she should use for the drink and he simply points to the coffee cups right next to the machine and mentions how their grouped by size. Handles the question like a pro. At that point two gentlemen gesture to the cups, just in case she loses her way in the three foot trek from the counter to the coffee pots. She then proceeds to tap the button to release the drink and instead of holding it down seems to be under the impression that the machine should dispense the drink automatically. The cashier explains that the button must be held down to dispense the drink, (a revelation to us all) as yet a third gentleman jumps in to demonstrate this wonderful and vexing bit of technology. Believe it or not the plot thickens ever still as it turns out that the machine is merely dispensing hot water instead of caffeinated goodness. At this point the entire establishment is invested in the situation unfolding before them and will not rest until this attractive, but seemingly dim, woman gets her beverage. The cashier swoops in deftly from behind the counter with a new container of mix to make the drink properly as yet another gentleman joins the fray to ensure that the container is inserted into the machine correctly. At last, much to the relief of all involved, this woman gets the cappuccino she so desperately craves, takes a sip as well wait on tenterhooks with baited breath for a sign that all of this work wasn't for naught. Alas! The lovely babushka is dissatisfied with the final product, insisting that the meticulously made libation was "too sweet" and discarded the cup (she took a medium, by the way) accordingly. The cashier offered to refund her the money only to be reminded that she had not yet paid in the first place. The fact that she almost left that deli three bucks richer is a testament to the power of beauty and I can only be thankful that I was immune enough to these aesthetic charms to sit back and take notes. Plus, my hands were full at the time. 

Chris, Leo, and Chris Carey made the sojourn in to see Rich for his birthday on Saturday. It's always a pleasure to see those guys and get good laughs in. I bid farewell to them pretty early in the night as I went to meet up with Grebe before heading over to "Fat Baby" (I kid you not, that was the name... and I was smitten with it) to align with Becky and friends to celebrate her birthday. The night was similarly a great and hazy time with Grebe, Becky, and Tara and Kathleen, whom when I do see is always a pleasure. I don't doubt Becky had a great time and it was great to share it with her. The conditions outside were quite snowy and the communal/dance floor was of some sort of stone and when soiled by the un-wiped feet of bar patrons became quite slick...

I know it seems like I'm planting the seed of telling the story ending in someone taking an untimely spill, but I assure you, unlike myself on the subway prior to the Phish show, and unlike the poor dude who fell like a ton of bricks into the chest of an unsuspecting Zach Sacher during the Felice Brothers gig, no one lost their footing on this night. However, I did come close. 

... At one point I was talking to Kathleen with my hand just casually on her shoulder as we weren't as much talking to each other as we were shouting into each other's ear. While in this position there was a brief moment where my feet did kind of lose traction and swim of their own accord on the floor. For the entirety of this brief moment, which I'm sure seemed like an eternity to us both, I put the full brunt of my 155-pound frame on her shoulder and watched in horror as her face morphed from one of a smile to one of confusion and discomfort. For some reason, I felt it best to ignore that this happened all together and resumed speaking as if nothing had happened. She was pretty classy about it, but there was about a ten second period where at least I was pretty mortified and I'm sure she wasn't close behind. Good times...

Grebe was kind enough to let me crash at his place after some very late night snacking and we awoke the next morning and began our day with, simply put, the best coffee I've ever had at this little Vietnamese hole in the wall coffee shop. Seriously, the best. The process, I fear, I'll botch in explanation, but they seemed to grind each bean individually and had pour the hot water over the top of it. Sounds simple enough, but somewhere in the process, greatness was added in a heaping portion. Grebe and I grabbed two cups a piece and a Vietnamese brunch in between. I learned my lesson from the Malaysian bistro and didn't ask for anything "extra spicy." A great meal. Always great to let Grebe take my taste buds on a world tour. Grebe and I then spent the day taking a heck of a walk to the high line (the first time I'd seen it) and, man, it was awesome. I mean, it was the dead of winter and we were freezing and it was still a beautiful. In the spring and summer when the fauna ("a shot from afar" saying) is in full bloom, it must be unreal. Can't wait to see it then and when the extension is complete. On the way back, this poor girl did indeed slip on some ice on the sidewalk and fall flat on her rump. Grebe and I helped her up and collected her belongings, after partaking in the outright involuntary "OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH!" which let's the faller know that indeed we saw her moment of embarrassment, and those within earshot know that they missed something noteworthy. We then congratulated ourselves for being such good Samaritans and noted that if we were on "What Would You Do?" we would have been lauded for our conduct. Maybe the Dirk jersey isn't my only glimmer of vanity.

A bit more to the Grebe visit, I suppose, but a lot of it stems from just us conversing (largely about things Grebe used to "not be a big believer in") and the fact that Grebe took the time to chase down a woman to take our picture rather than just moving on and asking someone else to do it. Not much to blog about, but I can only close this piece by saying it's always mind expanding to speak to Grebe and offers a nice buzz, so to speak. I am very fortunate to have spent such special moments with special people this past weekend and I owe them the world for being an oasis in the middle of life's madness. 

Until next time. 

Song of the Day: Close to Honesty - Good Old War
Jazz Song of the Day: Revillot - David Weiss & (Yes, Jamin, an ampersand) The Point of Departure Quintet

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Rhapsody Post

For just about a year now I have been avoiding the posting a retrospective post about my time in York’s a cappella group, Rhapsody. Part of the reason for that was just because I had no real context to do so, not having been back to see the group in over a year. Mostly, though, I just didn't want to rush into a nostalgia piece that at least I would consider near and dear without really grasping the context of my life without it. I realize that’s not necessarily the clearest sentence.
 I guess the best kind of analogy I can come up with is when Vh1 tried to capitalize on the success of their “I Love the (Insert Decade Here)” by doing one that focused on the early 2000s some years back. The show rang as pretty stupid because they were referring to things and trends in pop culture and world events that were still a bit too fresh to really pass judgment on. If someone graduated from high school and one month later said, “I can’t believe the person I was in high school,” unless that person has a heck of a story behind their lives, you’re going to be secretly rolling you’re eyes at them.

Anyway, in the wake of a splendid weekend catching up with good friends and Rhapsody alums and seeing one incredible Rhapsody show, the timing at last feels right to scribe somewhat of a Rhapsody Reflection. (Here comes the thesis statement) In this post I’m going to REALLY BRIEFLY describe the show and what it was like to be back and whatnot, but no one would want read me spilling my guts about that (for too long anyway). The primary purpose of this post will be to list, in no particular order, my top 10 favorite Rhapsody moments of all time. I feel like this is a much more fitting tribute to my four years than me blathering on and on about how much people and the experience meant to me. Only an absolute sentimental fool would write about that.
The people and experience of Rhapsody mean the world to me (hopefully you laughed at that). I would hope that goes without saying. I arrived in York pretty much just on time for the show and I was pleasantly surprised by just how many alumni made the trip. You all know whom you are, and me attempting to run down the list of who was there and just how great it was to see them would be a paragraph in and of itself. The three things I will say are that you would never know Emily was there because she didn't have her ID on her, I’m fairly certain Allison and I have planned for ourselves a very lucrative career in show business, and I still find Jaci insufferable.

The group sounds incredible. It’s just that simple. A bunch of new arrangements and a ton of talent in the group, to say the least.  The group has grown quite a bit since when I was a part of it, which was the long term goal, of course. (I won’t get into the ins and outs of this.). It is great to see the changes that both Jaci and Tyler and other e-board members have made to keep the group active and growing in the right direction. The numbers have greatly increased and you can just hear the difference in the layers, and admittedly in a couple cases, quality of the sound. One comment I made to the one and only Greg “Poppyseed” Sullivan post-show is just to take the time to imagine how awesome we could have made the already quality “In the Air Tonight” sound if we had 8 to 10 male voices instead of 5 to 6. It was really eye-opening and the whole experience blew me away.
The arrangements were far and away some of the most high quality and complex I’ve ever heard and the group handled them wonderfully. The buzz word of the night was “layers.” I can’t stress enough the quality of the sound.  The group even had a couple of scatters among them, which, of course, got me incredibly hyped and longing to hop up there and trade some fours with them. I feel like when the first cat started scatting, I felt the eyes of just about every alumnus in attendance dart to me to see my reaction. I dug it. I dug it.
Like I said, the sound was incredible and I know the word choice is strong, but I really felt blessed to be there with good friends and a great group. I mean, it may be all in my head, but I swear when I saw them perform and some of the things they were doing musically, I could almost pick out where members past and song renditions past kind of influenced a song’s sound and feel. Maybe I’m being a little too romantic about it, but I really don’t think so. I really picked on a sort of ripple effect of generations. Shout out to Greg for having two arrangements withstand the test of time.  With that behind us, let’s get to the list.
The following list consists of my favorite Rhapsody memories. With a couple of exceptions, I wanted to limit this list to group events and milestones. Lord knows, if narrowed it down to memories with individual members of Rhapsody and the inside jokes and whatnot we’ve shared, this list would go on forever. Also note, for the 10 memories I’m about to list there is about another 100 that make honorable mention and another thousand great moments that I’ll never remember. Simply impossible to do justice in a blog post all of the gifts this group has given me.

Again, in no particular order:
It only seems appropriate to begin the list with the way I heard of the group. Not as serendipitous as you might think. Incidentally, this story also serves as the first time I ever spoke to Addy DiFabio, who wound up being a good friend indeed. This is a story that I’m sure haunts me much more than it does her. Anyway, here it goes: It was my first semester of college of college and I was walking into my first or second day of Opera Theatre Workshop, my one musical elective at the time that I picked to break up the monotony of common core courses that were not even yet focused on my major. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever been one to be stuck in shell since about sophomore year of high school, but nonetheless, I was still very much in a reserved feeling everyone out mode socially and the only person in the class I really opened up to at all early on was a sweet girl named Raisa that sadly enough I don’t think I’ve spoken to since the class wrapped up. (Looking back I laugh at how much time Sharnell and I spent in the class without saying a word to each other. We missed some golden opportunities.) Anyway, one of the group’s leaders at the time (I’ll leave out the name because it’s not the most flattering story.) was talking to someone else about how Rhapsody was hurting for some male voices and saying things akin to “I would take any guy with a pulse and so on and so forth. I was pretty cool with the rhetoric at first. I mean, I appreciated the honesty. It’s not so much the desperation of the group that turned me off. What turned me off was moments later when she came up to me and said, “Hey kid (not asking for my name), you should sing for Rhapsody, we need guys and at this point we’re willing to take anybody with a penis (Yesternow milestone: First use of the word “penis.” Take note.) She carried on her sales pitch of sorts and, while I’m not necessarily one who needs to be wooed, it was just a really abrasive and condescending invite to join the group and frankly, if that was any indication of what the group was like, I wanted nothing to do with it. I came up with some excuse about how I couldn’t read music and was borderline tone deaf (a stupid move in hindsight because over the course of the class I would eventually have to sing) and I was here more for the acting training. She eventually backed down and moved off and I leaned over to Addy, to whom I had never spoken a word and said, “Between you and me, I actually can read music.” Addy replied, “Oh yeah? Why did you say you couldn’t?” I said unabashedly, “I don’t know her too well, but that was pretty obnoxious. That group sounds like an absolute shit time. (I would pick this moment to be one of the 20 times I cursed in my four years of college.) For a good 15 seconds, Addy says nothing. After the silence that I didn’t realize was awkward elapsed, she said very calmly, “Well I’m in it, so…” At that point I wished I had a literal shell to crawl into and immediately thought, “Way to go, Tom. That’s one friendship you’ve ruined off the bat.” Pretty comical to look back on that now and remember just how vehemently against joining Rhapsody I was for a while. It was my roommate, Steve, who wound up joining and changing my perspective on the group. Among the many things in college that wouldn’t have happened were Steve not my roommate, try to imagine four years of college where I never set foot in a Rhapsody rehearsal. Madness.
The “Large Hat” theme for a concert, as much as it was my half-baked brainchild, really was more of an intentionally bad idea that took on a life of its own. With varying degrees seriousness, for three and a half years I stood on my soapbox calling for large hats, easily the silliest thought I could come up with. I was shocked when the group actually elected to run with this idea, given how I was the idea’s biggest supporter and even I went back and forth on just how seriously to take the idea. If we had the time and skills, I wanted to build a giant hat above the stage that Rhapsody could collectively be under as we performed. Sadly that never came to fruition, but it was a great time nonetheless. I’ve got to believe the group threw me a bone there to get that theme selected, since it was my final gig and all, but I’d like to believe they had a great time with it, too.

3.       As much as the Large Hat theme was kind of my own little piece of satire on the idea of a concert theme, the Clue Theme was indeed a true masterpiece. Creating our own little murder mystery on stage was one of Rhapsody’s first forays into the idea of having a show within a show (a mantle which the group has taken on quite aptly I must say). We used the board game/movies’ classic characters, along with a few others we made up along the way (Agent Orange being my personal favorite) to create a pretty legitimate storyline that involved candlesticks, rope, revolvers, and even some audience participation. The original plan was to have the entire event result in a one-song “Hodge” *cough* Hodge reunion, but unfortunately some of the original Hodge members were a little touchy about that, which you have to respect. It was easily the most legit theme ever, I don’t mind being immodest about that. I do, in hindsight kind of regret that we didn’t take some photos in costume to include in the program instead of just a name listing and introducing ourselves at the start of the show, but other than that it was straight up sweet and I’m glad we saw the idea through and did it justice.
Ah, but alas, not all of my exploits resulted in triumph. I’ve had a great many lowlights that while in the moment felt excruciating, have shaped some of the funniest memories I’ll ever have in general, not just in this group. If you thought the story with Addy was bad, never have I ever shoved my foot in my mouth as deep or as hard as the following moment…  Rhapsody was in the midst of auditioning solos for the Michael Jackson Medley. Now, chances are if you’re reading this, you’re quite familiar with the audition process; everyone tries out, the group votes, the top two vote getters go out in the hall, the remaining members discuss the two options, everyone votes again. Well, with this particular tune, there were multiple solos up for grabs and instead of treating them all like individual solo auditions, which would have taken forever, and would have kind of eliminated the opportunity for a member who got one solo to try out for another, (I realize that sentence might not make any sense. You’re going to have to take my word on that one. It would have been tricky.) we kind of let everyone sing for anything and everything they could want at the same time and selected based on that big picture sample size. As a result, we were sending out two people at a time for solo deliberations while other solos were still undecided even though people had auditioned for them already and the final two were listed on the board. Essentially, we narrowed down the final two in every solo and then started to send those duos out to deliberate one at a time. That hodgepodge of a backstory that nearly does justice to just how messy that audition process was, leads us to a point where Courtney and someone else are out in the hall and we, as the remainder of the group, were left to decide who would have the solo. We went back and forth for a while and whathaveyou and at last, Renee definitively states, “I liked Courtney, I think overall she nailed it.” I, with no inhibitions whatsoever, jumped right in and said something to the tune of, “Yeah, I feel you, but did you hear her on that ‘Billie Jean’ solo (a solo we hadn’t decided yet)? She absolutely killed it. It wasn’t even close.” Now for a split second I’m wondering why Renee suddenly looks crestfallen. Then, for another split second, I’m wondering why the room suddenly fell silent. Then for yet a third split second, I’m wondering why absolutely no one other than Renee is looking me in the eye. As a matter of fact, Sharnell and Nate were freaking me out with how intensely they were looking STRAIGHT AHEAD with this kind of spaced out expressions on their face (I later learned they were trying not to laugh.) I used my fourth split second to look at the blackboard behind me to notice that the second name listed under Courtney’s on the “Billie Jean” solo was none other than Renee Murray. To say my blood ran cold would be the world’s largest understatement, as I immediately felt like a horse’s ass as I apologized profusely and muttered more expletives to myself than I ever had before. Renee, of course, was a class act about it, although I’m sure part of that had to with the fact that I was likely as red as a fire engine. Eventually, the group kind of sputters back to somewhat normalcy, but I’m still pretty distraught. Tyler eventually leans over and says, “It’s okay,” to which I say, “I just feel like that was one of the rudest things you could ever do to someone.” Tyler, keeping things in perspective and being a realist says, “Oh no, it was… but you didn’t mean it, so there’s nothing to be said really.” From that point on, the wounds began to heal.

My history with arranging tunes is that of crests and troughs. Over the course of my tenure, I took the time to arrange three tunes, Portugal The Man's "Colors," which came out pretty poorly, The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" which I'll give myself the benefit of the doubt and call a solid "average" arrangement, considering everything I every arranged was all by ear and involved less formal looking up of chords than they probably should have in hindsight, and The Police's "Walking on the Moon," a number which sputtered out of the gate, because the arrangement was a pretty simple one in the first place, and plus a lot of my musical philosophy was to say "Here's the arrangement, this will give you idea of what we're shooting for, but I don't want to put the song in a cage, so just kind of have fun and do what you feel." That kind of generalization about an arrangement while still calling for a quality sound (That is to say that my/our standards for the sound of the piece were not as passive they sound.) was a bit of an adjustment for some of the members of the group and I give them all the credit in the world for continuing to work at it and eventually nailing it. This favorite memory pays tribute to the first time it finally clicked and an otherwise very repetitive and basic arrangement finally hit its potential. I remember being in the middle of the track and thinking, "Holy Christmas, this is actually swinging." The truth is, I very nearly forgot to jump in on the fade out part just because I was so lost in the rest of the tune. I remember reaching the end of the tune and hearing some murmurs of approval from the group and Diane, as she often did, said aloud what everyone else was thinking: "That sounded different this time. That sounded awesome, I get it now. POY everybody!" Really validating and just plain cool. I suppose I'm as biased as a guy can get, but while it was nowhere near our most consistent song, when that song was on point, I genuinely believe it was the most underrated track in our set. 

6 One place where picking up arrangements by feel was never a problem was in the guys rehearsal room when the guys and girls split off for their gender specific tunes. I recall with great fondness how hard the girls worked as they pounded away gathered at the piano to crank out an arrangement which, don't get me wrong, always wound up sounding incredible, but the male portion of our group, which I labeled "Zoop" ( a moniker nobody but myself actually stuck to) about 11 out of 14 times just kind of hopped into a piano room, came up with a general idea, kind of said "Yeah that's a good base, and then we're just kind of going to see where the music takes us. Against all odds, this philosophy worked like a dream, as we casually cranked out solid renditions of tons of tunes with a little bit of musical intuition, a ton of creative liberties, and just the desire to have a good time singing with each other. That kind of attitude was contageous. I remember one of the eleven times thinking, "Well that wasn't very good after all," but even so, you've gotta love that percentage. One of our more formal song sessions came I believe my freshman year, when we were to nail down a version of "In the Still of the Night." Let's be clear, I couldn't be the musical director of a kazoo choir, so I give Greg all the credit in the world for taking it upon himself to lead us. With that said, this was in 4/4 and the bass part opened up on beat 3. Now, instead of counting us in like "1-2-3-4 1-2 *Begin*" Greg kept counting like 4 to 5 full measures aloud before giving us the 1-2 *begin* and unintentionally faking us all out and frankly wasting a lot of time. This became as entertaining as it was annoying, as I've never seen so many people genuinely annoyed at someone without being able to stop smiling. On top of that, there was a point of the song where the tempo dropped suddenly and Greg very dramatically called our attention to this by flailing his arms, holding them out in front of himself a la Frankenstein and saying on pitch with a wild look in his eye: "Watch me. Watch the ritard." We all know what word that sounds like and we all know that not very PC, but I can also tell you that we meant nothing malicious. We laughed for the better part of five minutes. "One cannot help but smile when Greg is musical director."

7. Tis the season for freezing cold weather. There have been three very generous people who, over the course of their time in Rhapsody, were kind enough to drive me back to my respective dorm/house after nearly every rehearsal, a service which value spoke for itself in the winter time. Those people who deserve my utmost thanks are Aimee, Jade, and dare I say it, Jaci. Jaci's wheels were extra special because, quite simply, the car was a tiny, tiny little blue vehicle that could barely fit a driver inside much less passengers. Yet, day after day, week after week, Jaci Sharnell and I crammed into that glorified clown car. Believe me, a warm, albeit cramped, two minute ride home was always better than a 15 minute frigid walk home with plenty of leg room. I more so felt bad as Jaci apologized on behalf of her car on a nightly basis. Good times. I miss those rides. Anyway, this care was a very distinct dull blue color and one day I happened to pick up on the fact that Jaci was dressed head to foot in the very same color of her car. Knowing me in general, especially given the nature of Jaci's and my friendship, I leaped at the opportunity to make a snide comment about the coincidence. However, I then noticed that I, too, was dressed to the toe in the very same hue. At that point our wheels started turning and we came up with the plan to take a photo of ourselves seamlessly camouflaged on the hood and in the car. To this day, it remains one of my favorite snapshots. 

9. Speaking automobile travel and finely crafted and effortless (Jade slips). One year, Rhapsody had this idea to wear our Rhapsody shirts, which read, "YCP Rhapsody" (we're a creative bunch) every day for five days leading up to the concert. Needless to say, Friday was a little rank. Anyway, the reason I bring up the occasion is to explain why Sharnell, Aimee, and I were all wearing the same shirt when we rolled up to a thrift store trying to find some secondhand items for our concert costumes. All is going well and we're actually all set to leave, waiting on line to check out, when we're approached by a very curious and pleasant woman who notes our matching shirts and asks what they are all about. We mention that we're a singing group and I guess we kind of took it for granted that we looked like college students. She then asked, "Are you guys from the prison?" At that point I think we all thought she was messing with us. I mean, these shirts weren't the most stylish, I guess, but they sure as heck didn't look like orange jumpsuit equivalents. Now, thankfully none of us laughed all that hard at the idea and we just kind of chuckled and said no. She insisted noting the YCP and thinking it stood for York County Prison. She then said that her husband was in the jail (I want to emphasize there's nothing wrong or funny about that), but then she asked if we knew her husband even though I think we made it clear we were from the college. At this point all three of us are in a weird, is she messing with us, or is she serious kind of mindset. One of the most entertainingly confusing exchanges I've ever had. 

9. On our way to a Rhapsody Halloween party, I'll never forget poor Aimee running a stop sign and getting pulled over by campus police. Fortunately no one in the car had sipped a drop of alcohol (yet), so other than the inconvenience of getting our night held up some, there was no real negative to the situation. What was awesome about the situation is that there were several people crammed in a car dressed in Halloween costumes. I couldn't help but smile as Aimee, dressed as Lucille Ball, handed over her ID, and I smiled even wider as one of the public safety officers leaned into the car and said aloud referring to my costume, "Oh, he's Two-Face, awesome." (Much more than a guy in a suit, Steve.) And truthfully, I just about lost it fantasizing about the scenerio of one of the officers speaking to Sharnell, who was dressed as a male pimp, complete with fake facial hair.

10. No Rhapsody post (at least one written by me) would be complete without the mention of one simple syllable, which, from very literally nothing, came to certain define my time with Rhapsody and also somewhat of an era of the group. That syllable being: Ants. Never has a song had such a tangible impact on my life, as even just about a decade before I ever set foot on the York College campus the music of Dave Matthews Band shaped my beliefs and attitudes on music and life about as much as a bit of pop culture can. I remember kind of passively mentioning to Brett one of my first couple rehearsals that a lot of these songs we were singing were decidedly pop based. I just kind of posed to him that we should start working on some getting some different, but still recognizable songs and genres into our repertoire. Brett agreed and mentioned that there were more songs in the now infamous file cabinet and on a break during rehearsal I dropped in to see what I could find. Now, just so you know that this wasn’t the perfect fairy tale finding, the first song I found that struck a chord with me was Aeroplane by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was told that arrangement was a bit more whack than it seemed. (I wish I wasn’t paraphrasing… “whack” needs to make a comeback) I then found Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” and was told that the key was never quite right and that they’ve tried a couple of times to get it going, but it always failed. Now, admittedly if you told me that two years in, I probably would have lobbied for it harder, but this is about my fourth rehearsal with the group, and I don’t even know the songs in the existing catalogue yet, so I set it down and don’t ruffle any feathers. Then I see it and did about a triple take. I ask the group about that song and again it is more-or-less quashed, although less vehemently than the other two. Probably foolishly, I push the issue asking why it’s so bad. The arrangement looked pretty clean to me.  At this point Caitlyn makes it clear that it’s not so much the arrangement that stinks, it just kind of always sounds lame with the solo. At this point I know in my head that one way or another we’re going to sing this tune. I again say that we should give it a try and am not meant with any enthusiasm for yay or nay votes. It is at that point that Dennis “Gloves” Madden (Yes, that Dennis “Gloves” Madden) sees what I’m holding and lobbies for the track as well. Two passionate yeses versus 13 or so indifferent shrugs had us auditioning the track a couple weeks later. The rest, as they say, is history. I take great pride in the fact that I was a big part of bringing a song back to life.  And I’m flattered and amazed that the song kind of precedes my reputation well after I’m gone. I’m even more flattered that most Rhapsodians seemed content to retire the song with me. I hope that’s not the case, though, I would love to hear someone else’s take on it. The only thing that I admit sounds kind of cool is if the song remains dormant as an homage (again, an homage I’m not worthy of in the first place) until no one in the group has even heard of me, only to be found by some other kid who pushes for it like I did, and I get to see it as an alumni five years from. That’s what Rhapsody is all about. The sum being greater than the whole and a never ending cycle of good times, good people, good music, and great memories. Thank you to everyone I’ve met over the years. I hold you very dear (except Jaci), it was a once in a lifetime experience I was proud to be a part of.   

Two honorable mentions to the time we visited E-Town for a take a stand against violence against women fundraiser and that guest speaker said something amiss. I'm sorry to be vague here, but I don't want my words taken out of context, so I'm going to settle for a subtle nod to those who know to what I'm referring. Also, to the time I was in the house of person A and person B, both female, and Person A and I were assigned the task to find Catchphrase in Person B's room. I said aloud that I was not comfortable just rifling through a girl's belongings. Person A said, "Relax, it's Person B we're talking about here. She has nothing to hide!" As she said this Person A opened a dresser drawer to reveal a box of pregnancy tests. "Except that" said Person B, as I excused myself from the room.

Song of the Day: Dumpster World- Band of Horses
Jazz Song of the Day: Just For The Record- Dave Weckl Band



Sunday, December 1, 2013

When In Rome, Avoid the Use of Cliches, Off Kilter Jokes About Pisa, And Quoting Your Own Tweets From Weeks Earlier

Earlier in November, a ten day stint abroad in the "Eternal City" brought about the culmination of months of hard work and headaches as the much ballyhooed (I feel like that word was invented for this very event) Celebration of Success finally took place. 500 plus of our company's finest descended upon Rome, Italy and I don't doubt that the city will never again be the same, I know I won't.

Before we even set foot on Italian soil, I must make mention of one brief note concerning our inbound flight. Now, me being as well versed in travel and sarcasm as I am, I was in awe of the fact that there were individual television screens in the back of each of the airplane seats. I went in expecting nothing but a bag of peanuts and was holding out hope for the complimentary cocktail, but of course had to keep my poker face intact as the wonders of technology again eclipsed my wildest expectations. The only reason I bring up the silly televisions on the plane is for the following story to have some context.

Being that I was flying on an Air Italia flight, it should be no surprise that was seated next to an Italian guy around my age that I had the pleasure of speaking to a bit (years of high school Italian paying immediate dividends) and he was watching "The Shawshank Redemption." At first, I, much like you never gave it a second thought, until I suddenly had a though occur to me that soon consumed the entirety of my attention. Bear in mind that on a nine hour flight you have some time to dwell on the little things...

What exactly does Morgan's Freeman's voice sound like dubbed over in another language?

I implore you to halt your reading for a moment and really let this idea sink in. For in Morgan Freeman we have an actor whose voice has become as distinct and embedded in pop culture as the very roles he portrays. For a spell I toiled with the idea that Morgan Freeman was secretly the most multi-lingual man in the world and simply provided his own voice overs in a very "Inception-esque" kind of way. I think we can all agree that in a perfect world that's the way it should be. Anyway, as much as this may disappoint a few of you, I couldn't bring myself to spoil that fantasy and figured I could only be let down by the reality of the situation. I never did listen to Morgan Freeman in Italian. Ignorance is bliss; smooth, velvety, dulcet toned bliss.

Fear not, I'm not going to over-generalize here, but Rome was/is a wonderful place. The business aspect of the trip was indeed a bunch of hard work, but it was also largely considered a resounding success. I met some wonderful people over the course of the trip that I can't wait to see again and a couple people I'm really relieved I only have to work with once or twice a year. The plus side of the trip was that when you were working you were really working your tail off, but when the group had downtime, you had downtime, provided you didn't run off to Venice for the day. I got the chance to see all of the sights Rome had to offer, including the Trevi Fountain, Keats Museum, and Colosseum, among other things. With that said, oddly enough I never got a photo of  the Colosseum, as I kind of assumed I would get the chance to get my Kodak on during one of the couple of tours we'd planned for the group. Lo and behold, both times the tours came about, I found myself busy with something work related and unable to attend. A shame, but although a picture is worth a thousand words, the memory is worth a lifetime.

I made it a point not to look like a tourist as much as possible and refused to walk around with a map in hand. On one occassion, this resulted in me walking from the front door of my hotel, getting somewhat (quite) turned around and somehow winding up at the Colosseum. There was the most fleeting of moments where I was thrilled at my serendipity of stumbling across one of Italy's wonders of history and archetecture, but no sooner was I crushed by the latent realization that I had really strayed from the beaten path and had an eternity's walk before me to get back where I needed to be.

The way ancient history and modern metropolis collided in Rome has to be one of a kind. It's wild to see ancient ruins across from a main street and H&M store and some of the worst parking situations you've ever seen. Seriously, I think you were better off in a horse and chariot in certain areas than trying to zip around in these mini-cars they had rolling around over there. The food spoke for itself. I'm not going to turn this into a culinary blog, but let's just say everything was fresh and put all Italian food I've ever had to shame. It was great to speak Italian again for the first time in years. It certainly came in handy when speaking to locals and the bus drivers. After about a week I was starting to really get back in the habit, but I can't lie, a lot of my communication (with the exception of three notable instances) consisted of me choking out hackneyed Italian and being greeted with polite smiles saying "I know what you're trying to say, we can speak English now, if you want." Grazie.

This next bit I seem to have a hard time putting into words, because in print it sounds like the most obvious statement...ever. Brace yourself...

The Pope is a big deal in Rome.

There, I said it, it's out on the table. To clarify, obviously the domicile of the leader of all of Catholicism is anything but inconspicuous. I expected a great deal of religious gravity and whathaveyou in the area, but I guess what took me by surprise is how the papal presence seemed more like the Beatles rolling through town than the figurative right hand man of a deity. Seeing Pope calendars, hats, posters, key rings etc. didn't necessarily offend me, but it certainly took me aback. When I was outside the walls of the Vatican, I felt more like I was outside of a sports stadium. Totally surreal feeling. I will say, seeing/hearing about people clawing over each other trying to get a good look at Pope Francis, while babies were handed off like footballs to get blessed by the man did seem a little juxtaposed to his teachings. Wild stuff.

For anyone making their own travel plans to the area, for what my opinion is worth, I really fell in love with the Piazza Navona area. A little expensive, but some great shops, cafes, and street performers in the area. Beautiful fountains and just a great vibe in the spot as well. An underrated Russian population in the area, too.

Overall an exhausting but rewarding time in Rome. As fun as it was, I'm happy to have it in my rear-view mirror. The nightlife was solid, too, but I'll save those stories for when I see you in person. Great to get to know our people.

Song of the Day: Schism-Tool
Jazz Song of the Day- Truth is I've been scouring YouTube for jazz renditions of "Pure Imagination" of Wonka fame and have been ensnared by a few of them. These versions are my collective song of the day.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"You Got Lucky This Time"

Simply put, the past few weeks have made my life seem deceptively interesting, as I've logged yet another Phish show, a much ballyhooed meeting of worlds in Rome, Italy, and an extended city stay, which indeed made me look about as worldly and carefree as Jacques Cousteau, minus the pruning. Attempting to catalog these three weeks in one post would be a fool's undertaking on my part, so therefore I will attempt to chronicle and cut these past three weeks into thirds (conveniently enough) and fill you in on all things existence.

With that bit of pretense aside, we will now jump into the date of November 1st, as I went straight from work to my second home of Astoria to, as is custom, visit and catch a night's rest at Ben and Deanna's. It is often that I laugh about how when I had barely a penny to my name I found the money and time to get to Astoria with friends about once every two weeks and now, with all modesty aside, I have the money to make that trip daily and simply the different direction life has pulled our group have made such gatherings and trips a rarity.

This trip had a twist, however, as while I was indeed in town for the Phish show in AC the following evening, I made it a point to arrive a day earlier in order to christen the new abode of a freshly donned Astorian Kevin Montgomery of York College infamy. Now, Kevin was well aware of my plans peruse his pad, but others present at the housewarming shindig considered my arrival quite spontaneous. As a result, I'd like to believe pleasantly surprised a great many York and Lancaster faithful that had sojourned from near and far to wish Kevin well including, Doug, who made a point of telling me he had been enjoying the party's festivities long before I arrived, Addy, the great stilted one, Brett, and of course, my one and only partner in shenanegans, Steve Murillo. In addition, Ben was kind enough to make the journey with me, which was thrilling because I never feel like there are enough activities that connect York with Long Island. The bottom line is I had a great time seeing some of my best friends and took a cliche, but nonetheless cherished photo with all York alum atop an Astoria rooftop.

Special shotout to Adam Stamm, a great friend I met in my brief time in Lancaster. My best and most sincere wishes to Adam, Kevin, and Nick on their new digs and continued success and good times within and beyond those walls.

Following the houseparty, Ben and I made our way back to his place and I had a conversation with he and Deanna, which I admittedly have little recollection of. As my head hit the pillow, I had faint thoughts that we were going to track down video evidence of Abe Vigoda's Halloween escapades, but my mind and body had other ideas, as I passed out like a light.

I wish I could say I awoke after a restful slumber, but it was indeed the call of duty that stirred me from my sheets at a most unenviable hour. It seems that one of the trips I'd planned had not had their group booked for a night at a hotel in Boston that evening. To say I wasn't feeling so hot would be an understatement, but what was a bit more the proverbial (in this case) head, was that the arrangements were pretty spontaneous and not the result of a screw up on my part. In other words, if I were up early and under the weather as a result of me messing up some arrangements, I wouldn't be thrilled, but at least I would know I made my own bed. The fact that this early morning work was thrust upon me through no error of my own was frustrating to say the least.

With that said, I'm not trying to throw my own personal pity party, as these things happen in both business and life, but I truly felt bad for one Ben Kraus, whose laptop I had to borrow in order to complete the multiple tasks before me. This laptop could only be accessed through the use of his specific fingerprint, so, long story short, I had to bop into his room on at least three separate occasions to get him to (re)activate the laptop for me, disturbing both he and Deanna a great deal as a result. I did do their dishes after the seas had calmed as a 'thank you' (I had stumbled into the aftermath of chili night), but I feel my best efforts of gratitude fell short. A thousand apologies.

After all had woken of their own accord, I very casually brought up my vague idea for a Phish shirt (as all of the best Phish shirts are homemade) entailing the universal men and women's room sign detailing the sleeping positions outlined in Phish's brief ditty (Ben wouldn't like that I called it a ditty) "Lengthwise." The idea quickly took on a life of his own as we were waiting out the arrival of Jeremy anyway, who would obviously be joining us for the trip...

Tangent: Recounting the ins and outs of this would be a silly, but Jeremy showed up in Astoria a bit later than all would have expected and cared for, and as a result Ben was a little hot under the collar. Nothing about that is funny, but when Jeremy did arrive and mentioned he had an EZ-Pass, he was a little unclear as to whether the device would work. Ben essentially let the car know that if the EZ Pass were to fail and Ben were to get pulled over, we would have to get to work promptly on Jeremy's obituary; Again, not a laughing matter. However, when we rolled through our first toll without any negative repercussions and Ben very flatly and unappreciative-ly said this post's moniker, I couldn't help but be tickled to death. Speaking for myself, it broke any residual tension and I knew we were in for great night.

Ben and I went to a shop to grab a quick t-shirt in order to bring my vision to life, where we waited on an inordinately long line with inordinately abnormal people. Yet again, Ben Kraus' reaction to the situation makes it worth all the hardship as he makes in clear that waiting on that line had been excruciating and he came very close to ditching me at the store and in addition he felt entitled to not wait on line. Now as much as I sound like I am bombing on Ben, I can't say my thoughts were dissimilar, but his willingness to say whatever is on his mind at any given moment is at most admirable and at the very least entertaining.

As if I needed proof, Ben and Deanna then displayed just how much they're some of the best friends I have in the world. The mornings events had finally caught up with me and was overtaken by the desire to sleep. Ben and Deanna were kind enough to keep and bring my vision alive as I napped quite peacefully, that is until Ben stepped on Deanna's foot, but that's another story all together.

Once we got to the show, we enjoyed it quite thoroughly, as the group has really been a pocket lately. I feel like if I went into too much detail about that I'd be out of line, because I feel like DMB is the only group I have the right to really critique, but their renditions of "Funky Bitch" "Theme From the Bottom (a first for me)" "Tweezer" Down with Disease (believe it or not)" and Character Zero" were simply awesome, and the rest of the gig was equally groovy. The one thing I will say is that it was my first time seeing the group indoors and it was cool to see them in that sense because it felt as though people had gathered more for the music that the atmosphere, if that makes any sense. A great time with all involved.

After the show, we did indeed toil around the casino scene, being in AC and all. Regrettably, I did lose 200 bucks. Not a thrilling feeling, but I lost it playing four card poker. My only true regret is that I don't think everyone I was with knew it was a game of luck and I think they thought I lost 200 bucks because I wasn't good at the game. Suffice to say, my pride hurt more than my wallet and if this post accomplishes anything, let it serve as the clarification that I lost my chunk of change on a game of chance.

Following my beating at the hands of fate and fortune, we met up at a karaoke spot, where I admit I dabbled in The Police's "Walking on the Moon" (briefly interrupting a girl clearly trying to get a record deal out of her showing) and fell in love with Rihanna's (probably not spelled correctly) "Man Down" which Deanna and I quoted ad nauseum for the remainder of the trip. The rest of the trip was largely uneventful, but did include a grilled cheese incident and a point where elevator doors stayed open a bit too long, which I'm glad Laura witnessed with me. Essentially there was no room for this guy on the elevator, but the doors stayed open for a solid 20 seconds as we awkwardly stared at the poor guy seeking passage on the vessel. You kind of had to be there, which is why I'm being a bit vague about it, but it really was a highlight of my time.

Great times with all, as Phish shows and circumstances never fail to disappoint. More to come concerning Rome in the coming days. A big thanks to Ben, Deanna, Emily, Laura, and a freshly showered Jeremy for making my time so wonderful.

Song of the Day: Ringo - Umphrey's McGee
Jazz Song of the Day: Solar - Keith Jarrett

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lavishly Bohemian

I have played these chords before. It is with my tail between my legs that I return to you, a prodigal son, who at last has the time and inclination to set about carving the rhetoric of everyday life that in hindsight seems anything but ordinary. My life has evolved at the expense of the very outlets that set these wheels of advancement in motion in the first place. It is with this post I apologize for my absence and promise never to leave for so long again. 

To put it much less pretentiously, "Hey, how's it going?" 

It has indeed been a spell and it's rough to put the past half a year in perspective period, much less in the context of a blog post, but I'll be brief. 

I'm currently at the reigns of a Project Manager position for an established International Company.involved in the business of education, and indeed it is an business... and it is indeed an education. Why did I feel like Al Capone after writing that sentence? 

You'll excuse the cloak and dagger routine with these job specifics, but I'd rather not this post or any other content of mine pop up on any unsuspecting Internet searches. Other than gratuitous spelling errors and a rather questionable phone of me in a giant cowboy hat milking a Grebe donned in a cow-costume, I have nothing to hide regarding my Internet fingerprints, but at the same time, I'd rather at least strive for a shred of privacy. 

The bottom line is that I'm fortunate to be involved and excelling in an incredibly interesting business and have had the privalege and opportunity to work with and get to know people from all over the world. The implications of such a globally interwoven workplace unfortunately results in a job that can very much immitate a 24/7 obligation. As a result, sleep is at a premium and creative pursuits that once sustained me and indeed, in some cases, had succeeded in taking on success of their own have fallen, not necessarily by the wayside, but certainly to the proverbial back burner. Such is life and growing up and that's more bitter than sweet some days, but when it comes down to it, I'm thrilled to have gone from running customer service at a local Stop & Shop, to running business trips to Boston and planning trips abroad. Plus, my office is a really supportive place filled with great people. As cliche as it sounds, at the end of the day, my job is to help kids see the world and shape their futures. I'm not saying I go into work singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" everyday (or any day), but I can't help but endorse and admire that idea. It feels great to have gotten where I am on my own steam and to have my hard work rewarded. 

Honestly, I know that your favorite posts of mine to read entail playfully over-analyzed anecdotes, but I simply can't even begin to cover the scope of these months in that regard. I continue to have great times with great friends and this new position has allowed me to appreciate just who is important to me and just how important they are. I thank them for that. 

The good news is, I am going to make a conscious effort to be more involved on this blog and with the NBA season fast approaching, re-immerse myself in all things roundball. I'm working on a new project and hoping this winter (when I've been told my job finally relaxes some) I'll be able to get "Horseplay" galloping again. (See what I did there?) The only true disappointment of this new chapter of life has been having to cut the cord on that project as it was genuinely starting to blossom. Ideally, this winter will give me the chance to rectify that. Anyway, consider this the boring welcome back piece and do be on the look out for more posts in this medium, basketball, and creatively as I continue to reach for the brass ring of a life perfectly toeing the line between commitment and contentment. 

Song of the Day: Granny-Dave Matthews Band-Live at the Gorge '04"
Jazz Song of the Day: Autumn Leaves-Keith Jarrett Trio-Live at the Blue Note '95