Saturday, August 27, 2011

I Have Existed For Years, But Very Little Has Changed

A tremendous time in the Astoria/NYC area this past weekend that I will certainly get to in the coming paragraphs, but a few quick notes before I divulge such information.
Jay has finally found himself a pair of high-top shoes that run him much less of a risk of tweaking his ever-questionable ankle. As a result, we've been playing some ball again for the first time in a while as well as refining our respective "Coop" impressions that appear to be transcending the confines of the blacktop more and more recently. That is to say, it's become more and more applicable everyday situations, which is a scary thought. "My bad, my bad, my bad, you already know."
Anyway, I admit I brought up Coop for my own enjoyment, (I just enjoyed doing my impression straight through my sharing of its importance.) but I bring up Jay's footwear for a very specific reason.
Jay is at a very special point in his relationship with his sneakers. I say the word "relationship" very intentionally. There is nothing quite like breaking in some new footwear. The hop out of the box gleaming, and inviting; beauty wrapped in lace(s). For a while you take good care of these shoes. You're extra-careful not to step in mud or other various semi-solid debris that can potentially soil the luster of these new kicks. (Let your imagination run wild on that one.) and in some cases you may even devote the time and energy into cleaning these shoes at the end of the day.
But this relationship is a two-way street. These shoes offer their literal support to your everyday transportation needs. In addition to ensuring the safety of ankles, these fresh sneakers provide versatile footwear for most any social situation, be it as formal as hitting up a classy bar on a weekend, or sitting around with friends watching Celino and Barnes commercials (more pleasant than you might think). These sneakers work and play as hard as the person who wears them. I think the world can learn a lot from the symbiotic relationship. Of course, eventually the sneakers wear down through no fault of anyone and they become basketball shoes, casual shoes, junk shoes, and finally, Mugsy's chew toy. That's pretty much where the relationship analogy ends and, in hindsight, it's pretty bleak... Here's hoping your relationships stay in the "fresh-kicks-zone" (trademark pending).
This past Friday, a bunch of friends and I gathered up in Astoria and the city to see Medeski, Martin and Wood, or as Jay put it, "The Wood Band." Jay and I made the trip in with Ben and, as is custom with most any trip Jay and I make together, eventually the tunes started flowing. Jay and I pretty casually starting singing through "Stand By Me" and after a brief pause Ben chimed in and informed us that the guy who wrote that song died about two days ago. The car was pretty solemn for a couple seconds, but after an appropriate bereavement, Jay started singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". Ben started chuckling and when we asked why, he stated the following: "You're not going to believe this; you're gonna think I'm joking, but the guy who wrote that song died like 3 days ago." The car spent about a minute reflecting on how wild it was that Jay would sing those two songs in a row like that. I then urged Jay not to sing any of our originals for fear he'd blacklist us into passing away in short order. No one sung a note for the remainder of the trip.
While on the ride I was excited enough to see MMW when I suddenly got a call from Emily explaining that through the complexities of Hurricane Irene and her postponement of nights 2 and 3 of the DMB Caravan, she and Grebe suddenly found themselves with an extra ticket to tonight's festivities. I naturally jumped on the opportunity to attend and now had two shows to look forward to. Just when I thought I would go my first summer without Dave in 4 years, the hands of fate interceded. More on that later.
The MMW show was incredible. To see such awe-inspiring musicians up close was a real honor and pleasure. The group was so tight and just packed a monster sound. I feel like really great music has no real words to describe it. That's what makes music as magical as it is, so I'm sorry if my explanation kind of leave you hanging, but sometimes "incredible" is all you can say. Nothing puts the limitations of language in perspective like the sublime extremes of emotion life offers.
Anyway, the group had DJ Logic with them, as well as this guy Cyro Baptista, who reminded me of Frank Zappa and may well have inspired the title of this piece. This guy was just wild and just had like a unending supply of percussion instruments crude, dare I say household instruments. The man had every thing from bongos to squeak toys to pots and pans and a washboard. The different sounds he was able to produce were really impressive. Check him out. While it was a museum, rocking out in close quarters were pretty well encouraged. Jay chose to do so next to a large black man in a blue polo. Definitely my second favorite image of the trip.
There was one point during the jam where call and response seemed to be appropriate and instantly everyone in our group looked at each other and knew we were all thinking about Edwina and her drumming from the Velvet Lounge. We all mouthed an "I said, I said" to each other, and I send one out to Wong too since he is among the most passionate responders. The fact that we all thought of the same thing at once was really a cool moment.
After the MMW show I hit the subway and went towards the Staten Island Ferry to get to Governor's Island. To get to the ferries I needed specifically, there were no real signs to point the way. Also, I tried to take a shortcut through Battery Park, which is not lit at all... at all. I promise I would admit if I got lost, I didn't. But suffice to say it took me about ten minutes to walk to a place that if they had some signs and some gosh darn lights I could have made it it two.
I met up with Grebe and Emily and they were on the other side of this portable steel barricade, which by that time in the night was just a formality. I hopped the bar to where they were and, to my surprise, was quickly scolded at a distance by a cop who told me to hop back over, which I did without a word. Here's where it gets interesting. The cop keeps talking and I can't hear him, so in my head I'm kind of torn. I'm not sure whether it's worse to walk towards the cop in that situation or to turn my back on him if he's still addressing me. I opt to walk towards him which was apparently a bad idea because I see two staff members get up and one of them walks to me and says to turn around so I don't get in trouble. I do that without a word and the ferry ride goes on without a hitch, but apparently I dodged a bullet of some sort. I know that's a rather anti climactic ending, but for the sake of my permanent record, I'd rather leave you disappointed with my story rather than be due in court at the expense of something more interesting.
We walked into the venue while "Crush" was going on and it was a hell of a greeting. I was bummed to have missed "LITHOG" and "Shotgun", but other than that I think we walked in at a real peak in the performance. I saw my first live "Granny" (thank heaven, it only took six times), "Blackjack" (doing a really cool extended version of late) and Dave's first encore was a cover of Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane" (breathtaking). The band rocked it, and based on audience reviews we walked in while a mediocre performance was finally starting to gain some traction. I loved it. I don't really get how people are big enough fans to post on these fan-boy message boards about the band that they clearly love and then are so critical of the group and experience. I can see being blue about song selection, but other than that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all. All in all, a great time I won't soon forget.
The ferry back included a man taking random photos of people. A man whom Grebe gave a dose of his own medicine, and a man who really enjoyed grilled chicken in his Italian food.
After I got back to Astoria, I called Jay to see where everyone was. I was greeted by Sean Taylor's quite chipper voice in the background: Is that Tom? Tell him he's an asshole." With that one joyous utterance, I was assured that the night was going swimmingly and had been quite eventful. It says a lot about a friendship when you can call somebody an asshole and leave them feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Good to see you too, Six-foot-two-asshole-on-the-beach-in-the-hurricane-smoking-a-cig.
I had gone to bed by the time my friends got back from their evening festivities, but I was roused enough by their entrance to trade some small-talk and the last things I heard before I passed out was Sean Taylor saying "even when he's half asleep, he's still so damn clever". That made me happy. And Jay saying, "Deanna, you didn't have to spray him in eyes." That made me nervous.
We awoke and beat out the weather for the most part. As Jake was walking us out, he mentioned that he was going to turn back and hurry Sean Taylor out the door. Jay and I looked away casually for no more than two seconds. When we looked back just as casually, Jake was flat on his backside grinning the most sheepish and innocent grin I've ever seen. The moment of silence was broken by Jay asking, "What happened?" We had no idea he had fallen. That was the best image of my trip.
Which begs the question: If a Jake falls in Astoria and people are there to hear and see it but don't, what the hell just happened?
Song of the Day: I Did It-Dave Matthews Band
Jazz Song of the Day: Make Peace- Metheny Mehldau

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sometimes It's Easy To Be Myself. Sometimes I Find It's Better To Be Somebody Else

Let me just say that I'm sorry for the recent dearth in posts. It has taken a solid week to get my other projects up and running, but at last, things are settled enough to create some new material. I want to make a conscious effort to keep the blogs and other stuff separate, like I don't want to advertise one blog on another, so this will be the only time I type this; bear with me.
If you're interested in NBA ball, make sure to look up my other blog you can find on my blogger profile. My creative writing blog is on wordpress called "Poli Poetica" if you dig. Check out my Facebook "fan-page" (Again, I hate that term. I would never call you my fans, just my friends.) and/or my twitter @Poliwastaken. Also, if anyone else with a wordpress knows how to make the thing list the posts by name rather than by month that would be helpful. Thanks.
Okay, let's get down to it.
This past week I had the pleasure of heading to the city to see Bon Iver with my sister. While I'll get to the show in a bit, I feel it's important to recap some moments of the city trip itself. We left for the city straight from camp where nothing but blue skies beckoned our arrival. As tempted as I was cue the Ella Fitzgerald rendition, it would seem that my celebration of good fortune was all too premature. Lo and behold, on the train the rain began to tumble, changing the soundtrack of my life from Ella's "Blue Skies" to Rhianna's "Umbrella". Being as fueled by testosterone as I am, I stubbornly refused to pay ten bucks for an umbrella I would likely never use again. I initially felt pretty good about my decision. We only had to walk about ten blocks from Penn to the restaurant we wanted hit up and it was only water, after all. However, about five blocks into the trek, it went from pouring to darn-I-can't-believe-I-forgot-my-boat-at-home. The walk was much less pleasant, but I kept a pretty positive attitude about the whole thing, I just felt a little like an ass walking into the restaurant looking like I just took a swim. It took a great many paper towels to make me look presentable, but overall, I wouldn't change much about it.
The place we ate was "Southern Hospitality", which, in part, I think we ate at because Noelle thought there was a one in a million chance we'd see Justin Timberlake feasting on his down-home cuisine. No such luck, but the food was very good, I must say.
After the meal, Noelle was willing to humor me as we went to "Birdland", the jazz club, for drinks until it was time to leave for the show. Unfortunately, the place was closed, but I did get a snapshot outside of the place, much to the pleasant chagrin of my friends in or around the great city of Baltimore. Don't worry, I already know: The real Birdland never closes. Rest assured, my friends, lesson learned.
Thankfully the rain had dissipated, so we were able to toil around the area for a spell. I went looking for an orange Knicks hat in Modell's. Apparently, they're harder to find than you might think, I'll get it next time. We stopped briefly at Ripley's Believe It Or Not, which, even in the lobby, has some freaky stuff in it that you might not believe... wait, I don't get the name. Anyway, it was all pretty cool, but outside they had this kind of mannequin with his face all folded up. It sounds gross in type, but it's more of a comical messed up face than a tragically scary one. Kind of like John C. Reilly as opposed to Mickey Rourke. (Not for nothing, but that's the second off-hand comment I've made about his appearance in the past week. That feels like at least one too many.) Anyway, I didn't see this mannequin on the street right away and when Noelle said, "Look at that!" I looked casually to my left and saw the dummy, said okay, Noelle, I will, and looked to my right and saw the mannequin that I mistook for a real person in the moment. I swore and jumped about five yards into the air in fright. I suppose it was I who was the dummy in that instance. Noelle got a good laugh, so I suppose all was not for naught.
At long last, it's time to discuss the show. I hate to be a downer, but I fear there is less to say than you would imagine. Justin Vernon is a monster and the show was transcendental on all counts. It was absolutely brilliant. The difference in sound between the first two albums is quite noticeable with "For Emma" being subdued, stripped, and beautiful in simplicity. The new album has a few more musical layers to it, as he now rolls about nine deep in his band. It was cool to hear a full band's take on some of the older songs and the difference in sound was quite noticeable and lovely. Highlights were Wolves, Blood Bank, and Perth, but honestly the whole show was overwhelmingly tremendous and I was moved to a mist during Wash. Just beautiful music all around. Even a Bjork cover, just when you thought you knew everything. It was especially cool to hear the songs transition into one another, by no means did the concert sound like a continuous track, but there were a lot of interludes and postludes that worked beautifully together to really set up the mood for those transitions well. It also gave the band a chance to showcase themselves as individual musicians. Not too much more I can say about the music quality. The venue was small and beautiful as well. The United Palace Theatre doubles as a church pretty unsecularly and the architecture and intimacy fit the music well. What a scene. What an experience.
On a rather short digression (Holden Caulfield would be pleased) camp ended last week. Good to have another year in the books. I spent the last week of camp showing them Frisbee games like Kan Jam and Ultimate. I don't know why, but I was surprised none of the kids had heard of these games yet. My ten-year-old partner, Brandon and I only lost once in the five days we played, and ultimate lagged sometimes, but overall it was a positive experience. At one point I freaked out a kid because I shouted, "I got, I got, I got! You stick your man!" The kid just froze and I dove over him to try and make the play. I honestly don't remember if I was successful or not, but I do know we took a thirty second time out for me to collect my bearings. What a game.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to the Collins house for a quick visit to see Amber and Kaitlin. The Collins family was quite generous and kind in opening their home and arms. It seems all they wanted in return was a little vocalization. A debt, regrettably, that was never quite paid. It was unfortunate to be involved in a scene where music was kept under a bushel, and I secretly wished the Hebros were in tow to rectify the situation, but the time was tremendous. It was great to vibe with Amber and Kaitlin again and we spent some time in the pool. The time started out care-free enough, until I lost my blue glasses in the blue water of the blue lined pool. Mr. Collins, I imagine in an attempt at comedy, shut off the pool light mid-search. When he went to turn on the light again, it wouldn't work. Not only were we searching for the metaphorical needle in the hay stack, but now the lights weren't even on. After a good 20 minutes, after the bulk of those in attendance gathered around the pool's edge to aid the search, after the light situation had been mended, the glasses were found. I could not be more grateful to those who helped. I felt a bit like a horse's rear for derailing the good time in such a way and Amber kicked me in the head, which, knowing her, was intentional.
We went to the the Brewery for a bit that night and took in an impromptu Afrodjmac show. Enough said, I think. A good time with good people. Much to our disappointment (and Wong's), Gallo was closed.
I've been poking around with the bass recently during my jam sessions with Jay, Matty, and Adam. Jay and Matty have been really great about teaching me, and I dare say I've been a pretty quick study. It's been a real growing experience to add this facet to my musical education and repertoire, for lack of a better term coming to me at the moment. I'm surrounded by a lot of talented friends.
A final story involving a very special phone conversation I had with Jay this past Saturday. I had called Jay casually enough, seeing what we were up to that evening. The following is a chronicling of his response.
Jay: It sucks man, I'm out here working a sweet sixteen, but I might be home around midni- Oh, it's a deer. Hey there, little deer. Woah! Two deers, wow.... three deers, holy shit. Four deers! Are you guys seeing this right now?! FIVE DEERS! Poli, I gotta call you back..."
Now, I can only assume that this was quite a serene experience, or the does were fixing to surround and attack him ala Genghis Kahn (not pronounced like you think). I was a little rattled when he never called back and feared the worst, but he later informed me he was fine. I bring this up because, while Jay was nowhere near the verge of tears, it was the closest thing I've ever witnessed to a true life reenactment of the "Double Rainbow" experience. The way his excitement built, combined with the entropy of the event made it one of the funnier phone conversations I've ever shared.
Busy times, my friends. Thanks for sharing them with me.
Song of the Day: Gloria-Van Morrison
Jazz Song of the Day: You're Blase-Louie Armstrong

Friday, August 5, 2011

Would You Not Like To Be Okay?

Okay, so the real point of this post is to let you all know that I'm going to be getting a few things going over the next week. I plan on creating a strictly NBA blog entitled "Roundball Recitative: An Artisan's Guide To Brick City" and a blog to showcase more of my creative works (fiction, plays, etc.) entitled, "Ours Poetica."
I'll be starting up a facebook "Fan" page (I wish they were called something different than that. It makes me seem like I think I'm a big deal, or something.) to keep you all abreast of new works in all mediums: basketball (Brick City), creative works (Ours), and life musings/misc. (Yesternow). I appreciate your readership immensely. When I make these things available, please sign up and tell your friends if something strikes you. Through this page and my twitter, I'll be letting you know of different open mics I'll be speaking at and in the near future (not quite this week, but sooner rather than later) I'll be creating a Youtube channel for oral presentations of my poetry. I'll keep you all in the loop via the fan page, but be on the lookout if your interested. I'm trying to get my voice out there at this point and I'd love your help.
I know that my true friends are not limited to those who read this blog, but I don't text (that was a joke... kind of). Your support and caring for me over the highs and lows of these years have meant the absolute most you can possibly imagine. Words fail me. I thank you and can't wait to share with you these new endeavors of mine and hopefully share the fruits of the labor with you as well.
Now, with the self indulgence behind us, I'd love to leave you with a simple re-telling of a conversation I had with a 7 year-old the other day.
Kid: Guess what my cousin found last weekend.
Me: What?
Kid: He found the tip of an elephant trunk. (He meant "tusk" but I don't want to misquote him.)
Me: Wow. That's pretty exotic. Where did he find that?
Kid: Jersey
I don't think there's much commentary I can add to that.
Song of the Day: Heaven And Hell-Black Sabbath
Jazz Song of the Day: Full Time-Regina Carter

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Like A Swan That's Here And Gone

Like it or not, the internet has changed the face of communication forever. Most obviously, it has changed the way we interact socially, evidenced by you reading this in the first place, me posting it on facebook, me still not being entirely sure what the point of a tumblr is, etc.

However, it's increasingly apparent that the internet has become more than a place for fantasy sports, looking up music videos, and untagging yourself from unflattering candids. Programs such as Thinkature and many others have made the world of business of all kinds, not just stocks and other stuff loosely based on Michael Douglas movies, thoroughly immersed in the online medium as a means of finding and sharing information, recruiting and interacting with others in a professional setting, and doing a lot of jobs effectively. Indeed, the value of the interface the Internet offers a workplace is proven as businesses, government agencies, and, I assume, schools make the effort to become paperless institutions over the coming years. Time frames vary, but sooner rather than later. My question is: Will increased reliance on the Internet result in a more formal and greater "standard of language", if you will, online in all mediums.

Now, language is eternal and ever-evolving. There is a reason why "unfriend" is now a term largely recognized, 'their' can apply to a singular person, i.e. "The student lost their pencil on the subway." And there's a reason we don't say thou and thee... usually, though I'm quite guilty, espessially when buzzed enough. But while the knowledge of the basics of written language are still used to an extent. It seems as though proper English usage is limited to the world of academia. Even then, take it from me, it wasn't all that intact. With the changing expectations of online communication, the value of written language by a society as a whole may again be on the rise.

Are we, perhaps, standing on the precipice of a Renaissance of digital language as the contexts in which we work with online media shift from recreational to professional? Surely we will never live in a time where the final "OMG" or "brb" has been texted (barring, of course, an Armageddon undoubtedly associated with some sort of Kardashian wedding), but to live in a time where "texting language" (which has a real name that I specifically learned about Sophomore year but can't think of for the life of me) such as l8r lmao, stfu, is an endangered species and coherent and complete sentences are encouraged with fragments and offensively poor grammar is frowned upon online may not be too far out of reach.

Already the clever commercials of un-hip parents and grannies saying "idk, my bff, Jill." have become passe. On one hand this could show just how deeply this style of language has infiltrated our lexicon, but on the other, no longer is this digital language a positive gimmick worthy of being exploited for commercial gain. The tides of change may well already be in motion.

I'm curious if the contemporary state of digital writing will become as much of phase in an adolescent's life as sucking your thumb, or rebelling against your parents, or whatever other cliche milestones of youth you'd like to toss in my top hat of generalizations. (Yeah, it's a top hat... deal with it.) That is to say, kids behave and communicate in this way because they don't know any better yet and will eventually outgrow it.

Even if I'm right, this transition would take place over the course of at least a couple decades at a near negligible pace. However, even if I'm wrong, it's interesting to ponder.

Somehow at camp today, someone asked who the blue guy that Grover used to wait-on on Sesame Street. I knew it was Mr. Johnson. The kids and overhearing counselors were a little surprised at my intimate knowledge of the Street. I quickly explained that for one of the pieces I wrote senior year of college, I wrote a story about what it would be like if a few of our favorite muppets took a trip to the psychologist. First of all it was really cool to look back on my childhood in that context, Secondly, I explained that while most of my peers spent finals week looking up very academic things, I spent hours on muppet wikipedia doing equally important research. As a result, I'm pretty well versed on the ins and outs of Sesame Street. You might say I have quite a bit of street cred. To this day, it remains one of the things I've written that I hold pretty dear. Also that semester, I wrote a story about Disney Princesses and Jasmine getting fat. I did a similar amount of research, and likely got a similar amount of strange looks in the library.

However, my favorite moment (least favorite at the time, but now it's fine) of public research was when I was searching for a Sports Illustrated cover to use for my senior thesis. Yet, no matter how innocently I phrased my image search, all that came up were the swimsuit issues and the models associated with them. Obviously, they were in some pretty suggestive poses and I remember a few audible grunts of displeasure from my peers as I can only wonder what they thought I was up to in the middle of the public library. I was pretty embarrassed, but like, laughing at the same time at the ridiculousness of the situation. An interesting memory I won't soon forget, nor will the people in the library I imagine.

Anyway, long story short, after that I was inspired to make muppets out of pipe cleaners with the kids, I chose Oscar, while other kids took on Elmo, Zoe, and Cookie Monster respectively. I was pretty pleased with the final product. One of the few times I've ever felt proficient in art.

If you're interested in those stories, I'd be happy to send you a copy for free. If you want me to make you a muppet, I'd be happy to for a small fee. I smell a career path.

gtg ttyl ilu... jk, but srsly... htc.

Advice of the day: Fail is not a noun and 98 out of a hundred times, your life is not epic. Please be quiet.

Song of the Day: We're Not Gonna to Take It-Gov't Mule (Obviously a great Who track in its own right, but to let Warren Haynes have his take on it really takes it to another level.)

Jazz Song of the Day: I Found A Million Dollar Baby-Dizzy Gillespie