Monday, October 31, 2011

This Blog Post Is Double Breasted

A happy Halloween to all from this Winter Wonderland known as the east coast which is contradicting the time of the season more and more with every flake at rest on the autumn ground. To be perfectly honest, my particular slice of the Long Island suburbs had no snowfall and therefore has a climate much more befitting the night of fright, but from what I hear of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other areas of New York, the same cannot be said of their situation. I had the pleasure of spending Halloween weekend in one of those less fortunate areas of New York, as I went with friends Astoria, Queens. The following is the account of a night and following day that will live in infamy from this day forward.

This past weekend, not only were we celebrating the one night of the year you can dress like a buffoon and be hailed for it, but it was also the one and only Deanna's birthday. We spent a fair amount of time and Ben and Jake's place where we had miscellaneous good times. I do have to say that my puns were on point that night. Not one to toot my own horn unless we're talking about NBA knowledge and opinions, I would hope that fact alone would vouch for the validity of my ego stroking claim. I mean, anytime Grebe is dressed up as a cow and Sean Taylor is dressed up as a dog, you're going to have some material to work with, but I was really outdoing myself, even by my standards. It would be overkill if I told you a few of them, but I do want to share my favorite of the night:

Jay's costume consisted of a fetus (complete with a nipple, disturbingly enough) attached to the side of his head. The wig which, relative to nothing, made him look a lot like Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees. Anyway, Jay, at one point, said something negative in jest. I replied, "I don't like your defeatist attitude." (Of course, pronounced de-fetus-t) I laughed to no end, and fortunately I wasn't alone.

For her birthday, Jay and I, with genuinely awesome back up voices from the group, performed a rather off the cuff, but pristine, rendition of "The Monster Mash" which we doctored a bit to better suit the birthday occasion. A tremendous time. Various other jams took place as Jay and Ben Kraus, appropriately dressed as Bob Dylan to match his sharp counterpart, Edie Sedgwick, portrayed by Deanna with a very convincing wig, jumped on the harmonica which he happened to have handy. Jake and I traded some rhymes, where I took the time to reference both Wilson Chandler and James Harden, much to Jay's udder delight. (That was a Grebe cow pun. Not the best, but better than a cow pie.)

After that we decided to brave the elements and head out to a bar where costumes were abound. I quickly made friends with a girl named Tamika. It was great to talk to her, for sure, because we wound up with a whole lot in common (appreciation of sports, jazz, fear of the letter "c", etc.) but our initial introduction had its hurdle. I asked who she was for Halloween, she gave various hints, I eventually guessed Columbiana (a recent movie about a girl who kicks butt that I don't think very many people saw), she corrected me, saying she was Rosario Dawson's character from Sin City. I promptly replied "wow that's an old movie at this point." I said it in such a way that was not at all sensitive, supportive, or appreciating. She justifiably just stared at me for a second and I apologized after realizing how impulsive I'd been. I must have seemed like quite the judgmental ass who was wearing nothing but a giant foam cowboy hat; not exactly the kind of costume in which you should take yourself too seriously. We shared a hearty laugh about it and spoke for another 10 minutes or so before I slid out to be with my friends. In one of the more moving moments of my life, my friends later raised a toast to me. Not too much to say about that other than it was a really awesome thing to do that I really wanted to take the time to thank them for.

We stopped at a second bar for about ten minutes. Nothing of note was happening except for a girl named Monica celebrating her birthday. Happy birthday, Monica, you're birthday is now immortalized in semi-permanent form on the Yesternow blog for all its small, but passionate, readership to acknowledge. HUZZAH!

(Did he just say huzzah in all capital letters? Is he drinking? Does he really think we care? Is Conan new tonight? Did I remember to lock my car?) All compelling questions, dear reader.

Anyway, the third bar we went to was really quite poppin'. (I don't think I can pull that word off) We had a great time meeting new people. For the record, I don't think there is any better wingman than a guy with a fetus on his head (strength in numbers). In all seriousness, Jay and I had a great time getting to know new friends.

Now, by no stretch of my rather active imagination do I consider myself a ladies man, but apparently there was another sheriff in the bar who was rather envious of the attentions I was receiving and he pulled a VERY FAKE ORANGE gun and starts kind of playfully instigating his dislike of me. It was mostly hat envy, I'm sure. I just took Joan, Jen and the others away from the scene and nothing really went further. I do believe that the guy, while far from being cool, was trying to joke around about the situation and was just either too drunk or socially inept to do so properly. Jay was pretty bothered by the exchange and hopped in to call him out and make him seem foolish. I hung by to make sure it got no further than that and it didn't and we carried on our night without further incident. In hindsight, I probably should have been more upset about it, but I was having too much fun otherwise and it's probably for the best of the whole situation that I let it roll off my back the way I did.

Eventually, the bar wanted to close so we were politely kicked out of the place. In the hustle to gather everyone together, we lost track of a few people, including our own friends much less the new ones we'd just made. (Between you me and the wall, kind of bummed I didn't grab Joan's number.)

It wound up being Sean Taylor (a dog mind you), Jay, and I finding our way back to Ben's place. We were going a way that neither Jay nor I were familiar with and wound up trusting Sean Taylor unleash his inner hound and follow his nose to lead us back to the pad. For a while it felt like the blind seeing eye dog leading the blind, but I have to say he did get us back in one piece, but not without some episodes along the way.

Now the entire walk home, Jay and I were had the uncontrollable urge to help our fellow man. The whole trip Sean Taylor kept lamenting how cold he was. Every time he did so, I insisted he take my coat. He never accepted, but as I sign of protest I walked home with no coat on myself. If my friend was going to freeze, by God so was I. Also on our trek, there was a guy around our age packing up these chairs at the end of the night. He was struggling to do so and a few of them were falling. Jay and I asked him if he needed some help. He distinctly said no thanks and we distinctly ignored him and helped him stack all the chairs. He was very grateful. No one was going to get in between us and a good deed that night.

At one point, Jay and I grew concerned about the direction we were going and wanted to grab a cab for ourselves just to be sure. Sean Taylor was adamant he knew what he was doing and for the record, he was right. Nonetheless, we stopped a cab and were greeted by two friends literally pulling a third out of the back. Now, this guy was OUT. We're not talking can't walk, we're not even talking can't stand, we're talking positively out in an unintentional drunk coma. As soon as the friends drag this guy out, he immediately slams flat on the sidewalk without even reacting to it. His boys are saying that he has to get up and are trying and failing to drag him on the sidewalk and get him up. Jay and I did not bother to help them, for they were beyond saving. As we went to hop in the car, we realize that the slumbering brother had hurled all over the back of the car. The cab driver tried to coax us to stick around while he cleaned the inside. Naturally, there was no way we were getting in that car. The driver said that all he needed was some alcohol to clean it up with. In my last pun of the night I said that it looked like alcohol caused this situation in the first place. We got out of Dodge and Sean Taylor got us home.

Ben Kraus let us in the apartment and immediately Sean Taylor bit the hand that housed him and laughed at Ben's attire, a double breasted jacket. Sean Taylor soon found himself in the doghouse, if you will. An d apparently quite the debate took place after I fell asleep as Sean knocked the double breasted look and Ben made fun of the "football pads" in Sean's sweater. The whole while, Jay laughed unabashedly while Sean Taylor threatened to punch him in the face. I wish I could be your primary source on this story, but by all secondhand accounts, it was incredible and Deanna has it on video which is wonderful news. Some moments deserve to live on forever.

The following morning we had planned to leave at a reasonable time, but it turns out Sean Taylor had forgotten his coat at one of the bars we went to and his car keys were in the coat pocket. A moment that was as inexplicable as it was unfortunate. We spent the day retracing our steps and hoping that at least the keys were turned in. No such luck... and no sign of Joan either.

Notice that the man making fun of the jacket last night had no jacket at all the next day. Also notice that the whole time Sean Taylor was saying he was cold that night, neither Jay nor I asked him where his coat was.

As if things couldn't get worse, Ben Kraus had blown a tire on the way to dropping off Deanna and needed Jake's jack to fix the flat. We all lent a hand and got the tire fixed with relative ease as soon as we figured out where, specifically, to put the jack. While we were struggling briefly, Deanna hung out in the car and was enjoying the show. After a while we realized that something was amiss and no one knew where Sean Taylor was. I wish I could say that wasn't a common occurrence, but I can't. After a couple minutes, we realized that a giggling Deanna had a guest in the car that was none other than Sean Taylor, grinning and in her Edie wig. To say Jay was mad is kind of an overstatement, but the combination of Jay's frustration with the jack, an empty stomach, and a loafing and grinning Sean Taylor whose missing keys were the only reason we were still in Queens in the first place, was a little too much for Jay to bear and he lost it a little bit, threatening to put his face in mud, powerbomb, and frogsplash him simultaneously. For a few minutes, Sean Taylor was in a worse situation than the jealous sheriff, but cooler heads prevailed and the tire was fixed.

I feel the need to mention that the entire morning Sean Taylor was white as a sheet, sweating profusely, and really not feeling so hot in the least. My heart went out to him. After the tire switch, we went to a diner and feasted in style. Over the course of the meal, a much improved Sean Taylor mimicked Ben and Deanna's expressions of affection on a very uncomfortable Jay, who did not want anyone leaning on his shoulder, much less Sean Taylor. (On the plus side, Sean had long since removed the Edie wig.)

Having no luck finding the keys, Jay and I left for home with Jake while Sean stuck around waiting for AAA. I feel like even though this is one of the longer posts I've written, I'm still only scratching the surface of this trip. All I can say is that it was wonderful and memorable and I'm glad to have shared it with those I care about.

Song of the Day: Lorelai-Fleet Foxes
Jazz Song of the Day: Blue In Green-Miles Davis

The Beggar And His Typing Machine

Over the past couple of weeks I've been trying to connect with a young entrepreneur out of Las Vegas by the name of Paul Carr. He is beginning a project called The New Gambit which will essentially be a one size fits all news outlet for e-readers like the kindle and iPad. Despite previous blunders, his new start up has a real chance to be successful because he's being well-funded and the media outlet which he's trying to corner lies in the grey area between Internet communication and literal hard copy publishing.

As a result of this news outlet not being so easily classified by either Merriam-Webster or, The New Gambit can transcend the partisanship and commercialism that has, unfortunately, infiltrated a great deal of our media sources both in news and entertainment. The New Gambit would be the first of its kind and, as a result, will have no boundaries in terms of what the voice of the publication will sound like, and what the Gambit will choose to do with that voice. I, maybe falsely so I admit, kind of equate the project to the literary equivalent of transitioning from the now seemingly archaic AM and FM radio to XM radio where the muzzles of self-expression are removed entirely.

What also makes his endeavor unique is the fact that he wants this news to not only be informative and thorough, but also humorous. As Paul puts it, he'd like "'The Economist' as written by 'The Daily Show'."
A couple of weeks ago, Dave Roman of Socialkind and quite an active blogger in his own right, forwarded Paul a mock cover letter that I wrote mostly to blow off some steam. Paul surprisingly reached out and said he felt there was a space in the start-up for me somewhere, but he was unsure just where.

Since that time I've been relentlessly communicating with Paul and sending him samples and letters about once a day trying to draw another response out of him and take this communication to the next level. I've been sending him a couple posts from here, some fiction work, and a few NBA articles that I hope illustrate that I can be informed, yet funny and conversational while educating and sharing my opinions with others. You know, just kind of letting him get a sense for my voice.

Recently I've kind of realized that perhaps taking The New Gambit into the sports world is more my vision than his, so I've been kind of branching out of my comfort zone and writing some pieces based on actual current events and messing with them a bit a la The Onion. This has been an incredible challenge to me because:

a. There's not much news in the world today that's worth smiling about
b. I have about 300 more LeBron jokes than Obama jokes, though Herman Cain was helping to bridge that gap for a while.
c. While I will be egotistical enough to say that I do believe I'm a pretty funny guy on my best days, I really never set out to be funny in my writing. Whatever humor that does come from my writing is really more of a reflexive side-effect of the story I wish to tell. These satirical articles that can be found on my wordpress account at were really probably the first pieces of writing since "Horseplay" that I approached with the mindset of please be funny...ready, go! It's a real adjustment for me.

With that said, I think you can tell I'm kind of new at the satire genre, but they came out pretty darn cool. Even if nothing comes of this, it has been cool to kind of tap this area of my creativity and I look forward to keeping up the what-I-hope-is-good work.

As nice as the experience will be regardless, I'd really like for this persistence to pay off and I'd love your help. My correspondence with Paul has been a humbling and growing experience which I feel is important for any professional, but with that said I still believe with 100 percent certainty that this is a project I can be a serious asset to and, if you don't mind, here's where you come in.

If you read my blog on any or all platforms with any sort of consistency, would you mind telling me why? What is it about my writing or personality that makes you care at all what I have to say and read more time and time again? Again, I'm thrilled with your readership, and I don't need the proverbial pat on the back or proof that what I'm writing is as special as the people who read it, but I fear Paul Carr would require such proof. Now, so as not to overrun his mailbox (or worse, have nothing show up in it at all), please don't email Paul Carr directly, but it would mean the world to me if you took the time to write something that can be as simple as two to four sentences that explains what makes my voice worth reading to you.
Please send your sentences, paragraphs, letters, novels, (kidding) to, and know that unless I have your direct permission after asking you, I will not be sharing your name or email with Paul Carr or anyone else. Thank you again. If you're interested, please do look up information on both Dave Roman and Paul Carr as they both will undoubtedly be changing and shaping the future in which we'll live.
Thanks, my friends.
Song of the Day: Have You Seen The Saucers?-Jefferson Airplane
Jazz Song of the Day: The Wizard-Albert Ayler Trio

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thankfully The Girls Upstairs Don't Have A Balloon

Worlds did indeed collide and a reunion of sorts took place this past weekend as I met up with South Dakota's own, Jade Van Kley; best known for her sporadic but memorable guest appearances on WVYC's "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Where Did You Get That Corn?" Jade was blowing through my relative area as she toured with her good friends of Paradise Fears, who are opening for a little group called All Time Low on their "Rise and Fall of my Pants Tour." Paradise Fears, who over the past two years or so I've had the pleasure of casually getting to know and spending some time with, were kind enough to have me along for the gig and I can't thank them enough for their generosity.
The majority of this post will refer to the concert itself, but just to get the journal-esque portion of the post out of the way: It was great to see Jade again and catch up for a while. We caught a long lunch at this place called "Hot Bunz" (Naturally, it seemed appropriate.) and with the exception of her spacing a bit on the pronunciation of Myk Sno's name and her insisting on using this terrible New York accent in public with strangers, we fell right back into the old ebb and flow of our friendship, including her blaming me for the slow loading speed of her phone that afternoon. She was back alright. The only thing missing was an appearance from her bunny, The Cylinder. Even if she was good at the New York accent (which she wasn't) she couldn't get through saying anything worth tawking about with a straight face. It was unreal, I'd have had a ball with it on the radio.
From about 4:30 to 6:15 I was on my own while Jade and the crew prepped for the show. I took the time to hit up a couple bars and flex my Dale Carnegie skills to make some new friends. The first bartender I spoke to seemed eager to talk, but only about how she couldn't eat too much before Halloween in order to ensure her ability to fit in her Playboy bunny costume. As you can imagine, that conversation wound up getting stale pretty quickly. I went to a different bar and had better luck.
Eventually it was time to head into the venue. It felt pretty cool to walk by security with a VIP pass, but once I got to the actual performance area that's pretty much when the too-cool-for-school vibe kind of died down. The overwhelming majority of those in attendance were girls from 14-16 years old. I'm still a little too young to pass the time in the quiet corner with the few parents who came to see the show, so before the show started at least, I was kind of in no man's land, or more importantly, no people my age land. It wasn't too bad, though. I did exchange some very simple pleasantries with the people next to me and I had some time to check out the venue, which was small, simple, but pretty cool. Kind of like the Lizard Lounge of Lancaster for anyone who's been there, but a little more of a rec center with a bar feel. The place is called the Paramount and they're doing a good job booking some solid groups to play there. Apparently, Warren Haynes was there a couple of weeks ago. I don't how I missed that but I was pretty inconsolable for a good five minutes or so upon hearing the news.
Speaking of booking good groups, here's a sign of the times and the audience in attendance. The venue had these giant screens where future acts were advertised. When All Time Low flashed on the screen, the crowd went wild. When Taking Back Sunday flashed on the screen, the crowd went wild. When the Pixies and Bonham's son's Led Zeppelin Experience popped up on the screen, absolute crickets.
I'm not knocking the bands they did cheer for at all, just because I'm not the biggest fan of the music doesn't mean they should be any less respected for being out on the road and giving people the shows they want to see, but the day when Zeppelin and the Pixies get no pop from a concert audience that is clearly in the habit of cheering for what they like is a sad day for Long Island, America, and the world. I admit it's not like it's the real Zeppelin, but it's their music endorsed by the original band being performed by one of the original's own son with a bunch of other really talented musicians. The homage to the music itself is worth "wooing" about, even if it's not the real thing.
I also admit that I didn't get into the Pixies until my sophomore year of college beyond "Where Is My Mind?", but the sound of the Pixies is like that of a direct predecessor to this kind of alternative music that the crowd was there to see. I'm a little shocked that the Pixies aren't as big as the Beatles to enthusiasts of the All Time Low kind of genre, whatever you want to call it. As Mike Ditka would say, "C'mon man!"
Paradise Fears opened the show and did so with amazing gusto. The entire just grabbed you by the metaphorical (thank God) testicles and didn't let go until they were through with you. They were all over the place in the best way possible and supplied quite the adrenaline fueled groove to start the night off right. The 15 year old chicks we thrilled, along with some of their more maternal counterparts. It was a great show I enjoyed quite a bit.
Unfortunately after that the show kind of deflated for me, but there were a couple of songs here and there by the three other groups that performed that I got into, but for the most part that particular section of the alternative genre is just not my scene. I will say that all of the groups were immensely talented and it was an incredibly positive experience. I will say that the bands do keep the energy way up and that can be really infectious in a live setting. I respect the heck out of that from any group.
All Time Low was the headlining band at the show. Naturally, with a name like that I had to temper my expectations for the quality of the show as a whole. Everything I said above applies: high energy, not my thing, much respect etc. At one point they brought two service men on stage to get a nice pop from the crowd, definitely a classy move on their part. I loved it and got as loud as I'd been for Paradise Fears for the first time since their performance early in the evening. With that said, I did have one issue with the show.
I first want to clarify that I feel like the idea that these people, musicians, actors, and celebrities as a whole have an obligation to our youth to be role models is ridiculous. A person, regardless of their fame and stature has to answer to no one but themselves and/or God, depending on what they believe. Ideally, they would have enough respect for themselves and those around them to behave decently, but if they don't it's sure as hell not society's place to reprimand them. We're the ones who put them on a pedestal. If you don't like the actions of you're role model, find a new one, or believe in yourself. The fact that society looks to celebrities to set examples for our youth before themselves is wild. I realize that today behavior is arguably shaped by media as much as, if not more so, than parenting, but nonetheless, it's not a celebrity's job to keep our nation's youth on the straight and narrow, much like it's not the job of a teacher to pick up where parenting is absent and/or failed, but that's a separate story altogether.
I bring this up because All Time Low hops on stage and says various incarnations of "what's up motherfuckers?" and "where's the beer after the show?" and cursing this, shit, fuck, etc. These are not necessarily things I would say to any crowd, much less one filled with such youth as I mentioned before, but I'm genuinely 100 percent cool with it. Like I said, you need to be who you are as artists and whatnot, but then it gets weird. The stage is filled with bras that girls keep throwing on stage, and the group keeps referring to there being a lot of great boobs and sexy girls (and so on, I'll spare you) in the audience. I don't want to make what they said sound too gratuitous. I mean, it's not like they were scumbags or anything, but still, to be in a room filled with essentially children, 90 percent of which had to be up for high school and I'm sure middle school the next morning and make such open references about their sexuality and how it appealed to these 21+ year old men was just plain creepy. Again, it's not like they were sending open invitations back to the tour bus or anything. I don't want to make this into too big of a deal, but the confusion that a few moments in this show caused in me was undeniably a little sickening. They seem like decent enough guys and everyone I had the pleasure of meeting was really genuine and cool to be around, but that one bit was just plain weird and negative to me.
Don't let that last bit of debate fool you, I had a great time at that show and was, once again, thrilled to be a guest of future music changers, Paradise Fears. After the show, I bought Jade a beer following her turning 21 at midnight. She promptly spilled that beer all over the place before even catching a buzz to blame it on. Jordan of PF (I like how I waited until the last paragraph to take the time to shorten that.) came by as well and as soon as I saw Jade was well on here way to having a 21st birthday to both remember and forget. I hit the trail and headed home following an embrace and a warm thanks to her and the band.
Halloween in the city is on the near horizon. Look for a blog cataloging the experience.
Song of the Day: St. Stephen-Grateful Dead
Jazz Song of the Day: The Eraser-Christian Scott

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Menlike Gods At Rest Within The Tableau Of Loved Ones

My grandfather passed away last week. I wanted to take the time to dedicate a blog post to his memory by sharing a couple stories. I'd rather not talk about the wake and services period, much less on a blog for public viewing. I will say that I had the opportunity to give his eulogy, which was a tremendous honor that I'll never forget.
There are many people, especially within my family, who have had their lives impacted significantly by my grandfather, Jim. I do have to say that one of the things I felt was pretty exclusive to his and my relationship was our mutual appreciation for life's bells and whistles. In a sense, he and I were the same in that we could find some silly little observation that no one either understood or cared about hilarious enough to laugh about in ten minute segments over the course of a couple weeks. I will say that the generation gap at times hindered our ability to laugh at the same bells and whistles, but I feel confident in saying that there was a mutual understanding of this similarity between us that ostracized, yet endeared, us to our family. No one else quite thought of life the way we did, and from that acknowledgement we formed a strong bond and love for each other that unfortunately was becoming stronger than ever since my graduation from college.
Among a couple of his quirks (just for you to get to know him a bit) was telling strangers of all shapes, colors, and sizes that he was a mere 21 years old given that he was born on a leap day. Such an oddity of space, time and coincidence never failed to amaze and amuse him, and he loved to share that while the rest of us were unfortunate victims of time's cruel march towards the future, he only aged once every four years.
He also collected toys and dolls and placed them all over his house to amuse himself and my Grandma. As I grew up, I watched the dolls and toys dominate a wall, then a stairwell, then a basement, and eventually, an entire home. Now, those of you who really know me are likely wondering how I ever set foot in the house in the first place. I never told him how much the toys freaked me out and just how deep the waters of my phobia ran. He got too much joy out of adding to his collection and sharing it with others for me to dare saying a word about it. When someone you care about finds a passion that makes them happy, you have to embrace it. Plus, there's that whole bit about respecting your elders. Suffice to say, though, I kept my eyes on the steps in front of me whenever I had to use those stairs. I found out a couple of years ago that while not quite to my degree of discomfort, my grandma also didn't always appreciate the collection and had a hard time eating "with all the dolls staring at {her}" The sacrifices of love, my friends.
Hopefully that gives you a bit of an idea as to what kind of man my grandpa was and makes this post interesting enough for you all to enjoy. Strangely enough, my favorite memory about my grandpa involves a story that I wasn't actually present for, so I figured I would tell that one and a story in which I was more directly involved.
My grandparents live (now obviously just my grandma, but it's a reflex to refer to them as a unit. For the sake of the story, go with it.) in Manorville right near the game farm (It might be called the Long Island Zoo now. I'm not sure.) where you can find all sorts of farm animals, deer, gators, bison, peacocks, etc. One day, when I was no more than 6 or 7 years old, my grandpa mentioned that he had found a back way to the back-end of the deer field through the patch of woods that faced his condo development. If we ventured to make the trip, we would get an up-close and personal look at the deer without having to pay for admission (thinking like a Policastro). Essentially, we would be able to face the crowd looking at the deer from the game farm and get our own view of the animals. My sister and I readily agreed to make the trip with him and we set out on a rather crisp, but beautiful autumn day. To be honest, I can't remember a time in my life when my grandparents weren't chronically frigid, so my grandpa tossed on a rather no-nonsense winter coat while my sister Noelle and I donned less arctic outerwear.
My grandpa didn't really emphasize just how much of a trek this was, as we left behind all semblance of a woodland path and wound up soldiering through some really dense woods and some really tall grasses which, given my age and directly proportional lack of height, were taller than I was. I remember distinctly having a close encounter with a thorn bush that nearly engulfed me. Naturally, Noelle got quite a bit of enjoyment out of that. Naturally, I don't doubt I was already plotting my revenge. Despite the rural scenic route, we did make it to the deer and had a good time bidding them to come over and say 'hello' with mixed success. Eventually, we'd had our fill of inter-species interaction and bid adieu to the does. Which left us with one problem. How on earth do we get back?
That's right, ladies and gents, the three of us spent the better part of at least an hour wandering aimlessly in the grass that was taller than I was. We had completely lost our sense of direction and given that this was a bit before the the cellphone invasion, we were truly off the grid. Now I think the fact that we had planned this trip early enough in the day that we weren't at risk to losing daylight is that only factor that keeps this childhood memory a positive one rather than a suppressed brush with death (like the ill-fated "squirrel quarrel" incident). Time was indeed on our side, at least in that sense.
Grandpa was doing his best to keep our spirits up by singing various different ditties that we'd learned to sing with him over the years. I don't think that was too hard though, I think Noelle and I were still a little young to realize just how serious being truly lost is. Bear in mind that this was well before the release of "The Blair Witch Project". It was before the "Lord of the Rings", too, so it never dawned on us to ask the trees for directions.
Eventually, we came to this kind of pipe that gave gave grandpa some sort of idea as to where we were and we were bid to cross it. (Whoever came up with the over the river and through the woods anecdote clearly left out the pipe crossing balancing act in their description of how to get to grandmother's house.) Noelle and I did so pretty easily as we just kind of crawled across it. My grandpa had a much more difficult time with it and fell a good five feet or so into this miscellaneous brush. (It reminds me now of my struggles to cross the YCP creek.)
My grandpa was still young enough that him falling like that could still be considered the cream of the crop in physical comedy. I won't speak for Noelle, as she was a little older than me, but I was still young enough to consider the fact that my grandpa might be hurt a sheer impossibility and just one of the few instances of grown-ups proving themselves imperfect. I laughed hysterically and fortunately, grandpa was okay, climbed out of the little pit, and we got home a short time later telling grandma about our adventure.
Now, I know it's bizarre that my all-time favorite grandpa memory was something I'd never seen, but I was directly a part of it.
Throughout high school, I was quite active in musical theatre. ( *dons spontaneous surfer accent* Chicks did it, bro.) My Junior year, we performed Godspell in which I had the pleasure of being Judas alongside my brother from another mother, Matty Matura, as Jesus. (Despite the role he was given, he's my brother from another father, too... why is it near impossible to make a good immaculate conception joke? That's my new project, I think.) The role I was playing isn't relevant, but there are far too few Matty references in this bad boy. Anyway, one of the things we did as a drama club was create our own bios for the audience to peruse while waiting for the show to start and keep as a memory or whatever.
I admittedly don't remember the specifics of the show itself, but I can only assume that the first act ran smoothly enough seeing as the only in-show drama screw ups I remember is botching a "Tommy" entrance and a horribly timed attack of puberty during the run of the same show. Also, there was a random gunshot from the backstage area mid-show during Ragtime, but I had nothing to do with that.
Anyway, the first act seemingly went fine. Then Mr. Kramer (our director) enters the backstage area and calls my name out immediately. That's never good and while not the end of the world, usually means your mike is off, or your underwear is showing. Bottom Line: Something you did wasn't part of the plan. Mr. Kramer walks up to me grinning wildly (although you can only tell from the way his beard bends unless he's right in front of you; I got pretty good at using his beard to judge his mood) and grabs my shoulders and asks, "is your grandfather in the audience today?" I nod in the affirmative. "He's a wonderful man," he says and walks away. I'm a little perplexed, but inclined to agree with him. Following the show I get the lo-down from my Aunt Debbie as to what provoked Mr. Kramer's compliment.
Apparently, the copy of the bios that my grandpa received was missing the page that listed mine and right as intermission started, he walked to the top of the auditorium, quaint as it was, and approached Mr. Kramer to find out why it was missing and get a new one. Despite the protests from my Aunt and other family members who offered their own bios to him and pleaded with him to ask an usher for a new copy. My grandpa was undeterred and approached Mr. Kramer directly, which is a bit like telling President Obama to fix a pothole on your street. While firm, my grandpa wasn't rude about the situation and Mr. K apologized and had someone bring him a new copy right away. After talking with him about it later, I guess Mr. K got quite a laugh out of the ordeal and so did I after hearing both he and my family members (including my grandfather) recount it from their perspective.
Perspective is just what the story gave me, as it really personified just how much of a caring, unique, and charmingly stubborn man my grandfather was. I mean, it's easy to micro-analyze everything he said and did now that he's passed, but I genuinely never forgot that story and his reaction. It was one of life's bells and whistles that has provided me many a ten minute burst of laughter over the past many years, and will continue to do so.
One of the last things my grandpa ever said to me was:
"If there's one thing I've learned in this life, it's that if it doesn't break no laws or hurt anybody
you've got to do what makes you happy in life."
With that sentiment in mind, I dedicate this post to his memory and thank you from the deepest part of me for reading. It means a lot to me, and I'm sure it means quite a bit to him as well.
I love you, grandpa. I'll see you everyday.
Song of the Day: Top Rankin'-Bob Marley
Jazz Song of the Day: Every Time We Say Goodbye-John Coltrane

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin"

I'm likely the only one bothered by this, but I wanted to take two seconds just to point out that on the computer I use 95 percent of the time, I can't go back and edit my posts once I publish them. I have no idea why that is, but I feel it worth mentioning. I'd like to think that with the exception of one or two guaranteed typos in each post, they're pretty clear. Maybe I should edit them more carefully than I do before that first and only publish, but I get excited to share the posts with you and kind of don't... (awkward silence in type-form)
The post on my grandfather is still forthcoming, I've been working on other things like creative stuff, job apps, and trying my damnedest to get my father into Californication so I have someone to watch season 5 with in January. I plan on doing the post tomorrow, so look for it then.
The following is a quick post making its way to my blog simply because it's a little too involved to be a facebook status. I'm hoping I can get an 'Amen' or the secular equivalent by the time the post is through.
I've recently noticed a lack of variety in the "Thank You" card industry. Now, I'm not referring to style diversity. Having obviously been in the market for such a card recently, I can attest that you can find conservative, neutral-colored cards that will remind you of Hillary Clinton's wardrobe, classy cards with fancy script and flowers all over them, and ones with cute little animals that will melt your heart before you even open the card. What seems to be missing from this particular genre of cards are the subtleties of more casual gratefulness.
I mean, sometimes all you want to do is say "thanks" not "thank you". It seemed as though every card I picked out, even the more wacky looking ones with cartoon lettering and those same cute animals wearing sombreros and whatnot, seemed to give thanks in a really profound way for really life altering good deeds. I was just trying to say "thanks for the ride" and every card seemed to imply "thanks for taking that bullet for me, I'll grab the next one as soon as you're out of that hospital bed."
I propose a clear "appreciation scale" for thank you cards. A likely color-coded system that will accurately measure the magnitude of the gratitude (I like that) you wish to give the receiving party. This scale would range from: "Thank you for stepping in front of that train" to "thanks for spitting that lotto ticket" to "thanks for putting out that spontaneous house fire that formed while I was busy wrestling that grizzly bear" to "thanks for setting up that job interview" to "thanks for coming to the wedding and for having a star named after us as some sort of convoluted metaphor for our 'everlasting love', you cheap jerk" to "thanks for helping me move" to "thanks for the ride" and right on down the list until you get to situations where a simple high-five or bro-hug will suffice.
I suggest a similar scale for "sorry" cards called "Degrees of Apologies" that can range from "sorry I didn't step in front of that train" to "my bad for puking on your shoes, there's a reason I don't drink vodka; although you should probably blame Lloyd for bringing the pinata and making me drink that stuff anyway."
These are just my thoughts. I hope you see my point. If you do, thank you. If you don't, I'm sorry. Either way, the card's in the mail.
Song of the Day: I Need To Know-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Jazz Song of the Day: I Wanna Ride You-Medeski Martin and Wood

Sunday, October 9, 2011

With All The Songs To Sing When We At Last Return Again

With this blog, and I guess any personal online periodical, there's always an imaginary line drawn between the personal life you share and the personal life you don't. Three days ago, my grandfather died and that accounts for my lack of posts on any "Poli" (trademark pending) platform in a good while. Please don't be offended or taken aback if I never told you. I didn't really tell anyone unless they asked why I couldn't hang out. I didn't really want to bring other people down and I doubt very much that in the mysterious hereafter my grandfather suddenly had the desire to be technology savvy enough to consult my facebook to confirm I was missing the heck out of him, so I played the whole situation pretty close to my chest for better or worse. With that said, those of you that did hear about his passing, I thank you for your well wishes and support through the time.

So, I feel like talking about the ins and outs of the situation and various ceremonies would be emotionally taxing on both of us, but I did want to take a blog post to recount a couple memories and pay tribute to him in my own way. However, I also want to keep these posts in a somewhat chronological order. The bottom line is, with respect to my grandfather, I'm going to write this post as if nothing has happened. I wanted to preface the piece in this way just so it didn't look like I was ignoring the situation completely. Look for a post in the near future regarding his passing and until then, enjoy this one.

This past weekend I had the awesome opportunity to revisit my collegiate stomping grounds (I say that like I'm 50, but it's only been 5 months.) of York College. Armed with an Arizona green tea, judged by "Where Did You Get That Corn?" to be the greatest American deal since the Louisiana Purchase, I made the great sojourn with the Sachers (sanz Zach) who were off to visit Rosalie, who's just getting acquainted with the space I've come to love and call home for the past four years.

I respect the hell out of the way the Sachers run a road trip. They equip themselves with a variety of snacks and various libations and settle in for the long haul. Everyone was able to reign in their fluids until we were just outside of Harrisburg (a camel-like skill I inherit from my father) and we actually stopped at the same rest stop at which I lost my headphones sophomore year of school. They weren't there anymore.

Anyway, we made great time and talking with the Sachers is always a great experience. They needed some help bringing some random freshman essentials i.e. soup, ramen, and soda, up to Rosalie's room so I had the chance to take a look at York's new dorms. They might as well be a hotel. Don't get me wrong, I had the time of my life freshman year, but living in Laurel Hall was equivalent to setting up camp in a concrete box with plumbing. It had a couple of windows through which one could easily whisper "suck a cock" in the anonymity of the night. (It was one time.) The domicile was pretty basic. These new dorms are anything but.

Carpeted hallways, elevators, no distinct odor of bodily waste, common areas with cushy chairs and microwaves for community use, hand sanitizer, caviar serving butlers with quaint non-oppressive British accents... okay, that's a stretch, but the digs were unreal. The rooms themselves are pretty basic, and the bathrooms won't stay spotless for long, I have to admit, but still...

I wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, expecting my return to be emotional or anything. Like I said, it has only been 5 months, but I was shocked at how normal it felt to be there at first. It didn't feel like a visit, is what I'm saying, it just kind of felt like my summer was a little longer than everybody else's. I took the 10:30am walk over to Dennis' house, the confines of the 7-2-7 being kind enough to house me, and was reminded that on a Saturday in York College "morning" does not begin until noon. I found not a creature was stirring at the place until I roused Dunn from his slumber and he opened the door. Dennis was cajoled out of his nest a short time later and joined us. Having seen Dennis a couple of weeks ago, we didn't have all too much to catch up on, so I hopped over to Ben and Jake's to find Ben Scott hard at work cleaning up after what at the time could be presumed to be a homicide. Fearing for my well being, I agreed with everything Ben Scott said occurred. As much as I could make out, the story went like this:

Jake felt as though Ben's freshly made sandwich looked a little dry for his liking and, being the great friend he is, took it upon himself to moisten the midnight snack with a dousing of your finest light beer. Ben was so appreciative of the gesture that he sought a glass from the once closed cabinet and requested Jake wet his whistle with him. In his eagerness to share the brew, Ben put a little too much mustard on his toss and the glass struck and shattered on Jake's head. Jake insisted the incident wasn't a big deal and to prove it, offered him multiple beers in quick succession.

Short story: Jake soaked Ben's sandwich, he got pissed, threw a glass at his head cutting him open, after a thorough examination from everyone but a doctor, it was deemed okay that Jake go to bed. Fortunately, he woke up okay the next morning. It was good to see that not much had changed in my time away.

After becoming an accessory to the crime and helping dispose of the evidence, I went over to the indoor fall fest at the GC to catch up with Rhapsody. It was great to catch up with them and due to their lack of basses for their scheduled performance, I was able to sing some tunes with them. I think it was an experience that I enjoyed a lot more than I would have you believe. The only drawback was Mike Adams taking multiple photos of the performance. As much fun as it was, I'm not sure how I'd feel about showing up on the school website post-graduation. Again, I don't mean to present this as a negative experience, but it was a little on the weirder side. Words kind of fail me to describe this, but overall it was a great time I wouldn't trade for much.

I do have to say, the one and only, Justin Rivera, made the experience that day. He sees me and feels the need to tell me that he's going to be late for the performance. I kind of laugh because I'm no longer the guy to tell those kinds of things, and when I was the guy to tell those kinds of things, he never told me those kinds of things. I figure whatever though, old habits, or lack thereof, die hard. We both laugh it off. Then however, about ten minutes later he asks me where Rhapsody is meeting and what songs they were singing. At that moment the situation went from a mistake any Rhapsodian could make to something that could only be carried out by Justin Rivera. I, again, told him that being not a member of the group, I had no idea where anyone was meeting and when. He again laughed in the spirit of admittedly charming apathy and we sought the group together. Truly one of a kind, but I figure as long as I don't get any Sunday night texts on Long Island that he's going to be late for rehearsal, all's well that ends well.

The weekend worked out nicely in that it happened to be Joe Mayes' birthday. A lot of people came out to celebrate the occasion. It was great to catch up with so many people at Murph's. Prior to heading over, I met up with Sharnell and Jess (two of my favorite people) at Jaci's (not so much) and we caught up and whatnot and after a few backhanded insults to Jaci, it really felt like I was home again and we went over to Murph's.

A lot of us spent the evening lighting up the dance floor, which was a lot of fun, and Nate was wearing purple, which is a gift that keeps on giving. At one point a song which Carly apparently liked quite a bit came on and in her efforts to make it to the dance floor as quickly as possible, she nearly hurdles poor Joe, who was nursing soreness from the day's Frisbee tourney and struggling to get out of her way in time. Joe's few moments of clear discomfort with a grinning and uncaring Carly behind him was easily one of the funniest visuals I've seen in a long time and a highlight of the trip.

After a good while of dancing with everyone, Jess and I eventually wound up pairing off. I think it was a pairing we were both grateful for because I was running out of both gas and creativity for dance moves and we both had a distinct understanding of the 5 to 10 second transition period of dancing from one song to another. I had a great time with her and the rest of the crew and I left them with the sight of Jaci walking away backwards into the night. While anytime Jaci is moving away from me is worth celebrating, this was additionally special.

I then hopped over to Brett's to see some more friends, including the briefest of Czar sightings. The party was soon broken up by the cops, unfortunately. However, this was the first time in my life I saw a student cop interaction go by the book, so to speak. In my limited, but no less established experience with cops busting up parties, either the cop has seemingly been kind of a jerk, or some loud mouth punk tries to be tough and ruins the name of most all other college students. In this case, the cop simply said to get out and leave your beer or you're going in cuffs. Perfectly reasonable, he's got to do his job, and the kids really did leave in a quiet and orderly fashion. I mean, I saw some kids stuffing beers in their coats as they ventured into the night, but for the most part, the transition was a smooth one. It was warming to see a cop interaction handled so calmly by both the police and the students. It gave me faith in humanity in a subtle way.

I then when back to Matt's and had a first experience with Drunk Driver, (it's a card game, relax) I told a story that centered around a desert journey to a river of Jello while beards got tangled and people buried themselves in the sand while one poor soul continually offered to remove his shirt. Needless to say, after that it was time for bed.

Sunday was chill, went out to dinner with Brian and Sharnell. Always great to see and chat with them. Then the piece de resistance... Rhapsody practice. It was tremendous to be back and I was welcomed with a classic Nate sandwich, which is the highlight of any man's day. The group sounded great and to sing with them was a real privilege. The group was kind enough to blow the dust off Ants for the new cats (who all seem cool and nice) and we sang some old staples for returning alums. The highlight of the rehearsal however, was easily the spontaneous "Lion Sleeps Tonight" jam session. To have everyone get so immersed in something we just made up off the tops of our heads took me right back to my favorite times with that group. It was incredible. Words fail me for the second time. The new group was very welcoming and I thank them truly and deeply.

The next day, I caught a ride to Philly with the Czar; always a better time than I'd like to admit. We even made a quick stop in Port Deposit (not very cryptically named) and with the exception of a rather underwhelming well (pun wasn't intended the first time I said it, but by now... yeah, it is) sighting, I had a great time talking with Mr. Heaps about past great Baltimore Bullets, Wes Unseld, and Black Jesus, "The Pearl". I love talking about the old game man, a lot of fun. Amber and I spent the trip discussing, among other things, rainbows, the impossibility of excreting an actual brick from your backside, and the finer points of stripping as hobby and/or profession.

A trip to York I won't soon forget. Hoping to go back in late November, but if not, definitely this spring. Thanks again to everyone for catching up with me.

That Tuesday I had a featured poetry reading at a local coffee shop. It went really well and Jay was kind enough to lend a hand and we performed some spoken word and Marley songs. People really seemed to dig it, and with the exception of an aptly placed "chosen one" from Jay that very nearly through me off my game for good, everything went according to plan. The night was capped off with an ode to the one and only Sean Taylor, which is the best cherry to place atop any night. Look for a hard copy of that piece and a few others to make their way to the Internet as soon as tonight.

Song of the Day: Lenny-Stevie Ray Vaughan
Jazz Song of the Day: Only the Lonely-Keith Jarrett Trio