Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"Calamity Makes Cousins Of Us All"

It can be said that a blog is a contemporary pulpit with the blogger being a sort of digital preacher with the powers of anonymous judgment and spell check at his or her disposal. Please do not view the forthcoming blog post as such. While most of my blogs tend to center around Sean Taylor's latest blunder while featuring other playful anecdotes of varying resonance and a chance for me to showcase my latest vocabulary word (obstreperous, if you're wondering), I wanted to use a post to speak about something a bit more pressing to our nation and something, obviously, of much more gravity in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

Again, I haven't a soapbox and would have no desire to stand on one if you offered, I blog about this black eye in human history admittedly because it does raise some interesting talking points that I think most everyone would at least feel the need to reflect upon for themselves, but mostly because it's a way for me personally to talk about something without dwelling on something. Like it or not, this tragic story, with the brief yet ironic reprieve during Christmas, has been the be all end all of media since the event and it has brought to the forefront of immediate decision and action some of the more polarizing and pressing debates in America today in statutes of gun possession and access to mental health care. Stances on these issues are vehement and firm, but for me, it's not so much about agreeing upon what's right going forward, but more about agreeing that what occurred was so wrong.

In hindsight that wording may be misleading. I mean, I'd like to believe that nobody out there really believes that the murder of defenseless children is "right", I'm referring more to the events aftermath in the sense that this event was so jarring that it motivated even the most casual of newsreaders/watchers to react and call for change one way or the other. Its compelling and almost a shame that it takes such cold moments of tragedy for people to realize the connectivity that binds us all together. The human experience is a fragile one.

The thought of banning guns and essentially repealing the second amendment sounds solid in theory. In a Utopian world, no guns would equal no gun violence. Come to think of it, a Utopian world wouldn't need guns at all, but as you surely know, we live in anything but a Utopian world. I agree that the notion of more guns equaling more safety is about as assbackwards as a notion can get, but I'm also of the opinion that just because there's a law against having a gun, it doesn't mean that guns and gun violence will disappear. I feel like if a person wanted a gun badly enough, they'd find a way to get one. Your natural argument would be "if that repeal saves even one life, wouldn't it be worth it?" That argument kind of shuts me up, I admit, but I do stick to the belief that you wouldn't actually be doing all that much to alleviate a no-win situation by abolishing the right to bear arms.

The much more glaring issue this shooting leaves us eye to eye with is that of mental healthcare for people in this country. I won't dignify that man by mentioning his name, but if society had more affordable outlets to give him the help he so clearly needed, maybe this blog post wouldn't be written right now. Even to that end, who's responsibility is it to ensure he gets that help he needs? At what point do we police each other to differentiate between shy, socially awkward people, to those who truly have darker motives and deeper issues? It's one thing to say that a person needs help, but another for that person to accept that they need help. People should be provided the medical help they need and it should certainly be easier to get help than a gun, but at the end of the day, every incident like this is more or less subjective. Lumping other autisics, and even gun owners, into this guy's world and mindset is perhaps unfair, but also hard to avoid, at least while these social wounds are still so fresh.

One thing that troubles me immensely is some of the verbage surrounding this event. About how this event is unprecedented, one of a kind, and one of the worst tragedies of it's kind in American history. I mean, this massacre WAS all of those things. I guess I just kind of don't like the tone of the media coverage because it kind of loosely implies that if a student went into a high school and shot other students it would be a little easier to understand, cope with, and get over and would by now be more of a local story than a national one as America's families send up one more prayer for those families and returns to normalcy. I don't think that implication is in my head, but I also don't exactly know how I would change that. I guess I'm just bitter about the degree to which violence has become so commonplace in our society that we meet events like this with a moment of silence and relative apathy.

I don't have answers for these issues and I don't presume to have any. If issues had cut and dry solutions, they wouldn't be issues.

This is not so much my tribute to the 26 who died so senselessly. Despite best intentions, I feel like any attempt to capture the scope of the Sandy Hook shootings in words ("26 angels, valliant heroes, God's children, other more poetic turns at tribute) don't exactly ring insincere, but certainly fall short in just about every instance I've encountered. There's no excuse for what happened and regrettably, even less explanation. Some things happen in the world that just break your heart in every possible way and are bigger than words. I struggle to wrap my head around it to this day, especially as we leave Christmas behind us.

I guess, rather than a tribute to Newtown, this is my appeal to society to motivate a change that goes beyond gun laws. There are people in this world who need help and while we all have our own problems in life, as cliche as it sounds, be the change you want to see in the world. No one's a saint and I'm certainly no exception, but I genuinely believe that making a conscious effort to keep an open mind, heart, and hand to others can go a long way. Don't let this Newtown massacre have happened in vain. A social moral conscious towards our fellow man is the only fitting tribute we can give those we have lost.

Song of the Day: Once Upon A Time-Smashing Pumpkins
Jazz Song of the Day: Acknowledgement-John Coltrane

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happiness So Pure As This Is Surely Worth The Making

On September 11th, 2012, perennial journeyman of live, dare I say "eclectic," music, Dave Matthews Band released their eighth studio album, Away From The World; a multi-dimensional album further cementing DMB's legacy as one of the most versatile and unique bands on the contemporary music scene. For the first time since 1998's release of Before These Crowded Streets (Not including the semi-informal release of 2002's Busted Stuff), the band reunited with longtime producer, Steve Lillywhite to create an album showcasing just how much this band has grown since its humble beginnings in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Simply put, Away From The World is out of this world.

With the formality of that all-too-obvious wordplay that you knew was coming out of the way, let's get down to business. Dave Matthews Band has long since '92 proven that they are far more than your  sandal-wearing, hemp-digging band of "Hillbillies on Acid," providing what has now, scarily enough, become generations of fans with a one of a kind songbook with the depth and dexterity to satiate most all musical tastes. Away From The World seems to bring what used to be an intriguingly vague, yet pronounced, fusion of rock, jazz, bluegrass, and folk music full circle, culminating in a cleaner, more easily defined sound showcasing arguably even more elastic creativity.

Where Butch Taylor on the keys kept this group immersed in the pudding of quai-genres, Tim Reynolds' presence on stage and in the studio gives this band a decidedly more rock-based sound, exemplified throughout this album and live shows alike, most notably as he shreds through hard hitting "The Riff." The vision of a unified horn section brought about prior to Big Whiskey's release has made a full and seamless transition to the studio as, rather than trade solos, Rashawn Ross and Jeff Coffin set the table for a larger sound and facilitate interplay between themselves and other band members, giving each song a sense of depth and cohesion not as easily found in earlier DMB work. Reserved fade outs on both "Mercy" and the uke-driven "Sweet" and a scorching, intricate arrangement on the rich "Gaucho" frame this album in a different light than any of its predecessors. With that said, Jeff Coffin's tight grooves on both "Gaucho" and "Belly Belly Nice" prove that while they no longer fit the mold of your stereotypical "jam band," DMB still has the chops to take their tunes off the beaten path and cut loose. Indeed, this band is very different both physically and in mentality from the last time Lillywhite produced them, but rather than try to force a "Crash 2.0" kind of sound, Lillywhite and the group quite aptly acknowledged the many sounds this band has explored over the years and captured a sound that puts all those years and songs into perspective.

While entirely coincidental, it's hard not to look at 2009's Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King outside of the shadow cast by LeRoi Moore's untimely, unfortunate death. While a musically phenomenal album, with the exception of "Shake Me Like A Monkey" and "You & Me" the album features largely ominous subject matter, giving the album an intrinsic wounded sound of great gravity. Away From The World appears to serve as the flip side of the Big Whiskey coin. While the album opens with the pulsing guitar riff of "Broken Things", a sound and song title that appears to set us up for more of the same melancholy sound, Dave quickly pulls the plug on the blues with a soaring chorus "Oh my love is set on you," proving to be the catharsis of the album, giving the listener license to look up, in a sense, and appreciate life's positives, an emotion continued by the wildly catchy "Belly Belly Nice."

Inception-esque tangent: Track 2, "Belly Belly Nice", sounds suspiciously similar to track 2 of Big Whiskey's "Monkey" and features the first mention of Jack And Jill since "What Would You Say," Track 2 of 1994's Under The Table And Dreaming. Who says Radiohead has this big-picture-meanings-in-the-music market cornered?

"Gaucho" features a heavy sound and lyrics providing perspective on the many chapters and shortcomings of humankind (as Dave tends to do sometimes) proving that this album is anything but all sunshine and levity, but even the darker tracks on the album appear to have the underlying tone of hope in their delivery (enter chanting kids). Stripped ballads "Sweet," "Belly Full," and budding single "Mercy" resonate most on this album and are arguably the benchmarks for the unified, flexible sound of the band going forward. In addition, "If Only" is a swooning R&B groove that sounds like it could have been crooned by Marvin Gaye himself.

The album's closer, "Drunken Soldier" is the cherry on top of this musical sundae, featuring intricate guitar, tight horns, and as many layers as the album itself. The track resolves into into a sleepy, chillingly smooth transition into a likely unintentional nod to Pink Floyd's "Breathe" and a likely much more intentional mention of a "satellite." This humble homage to themselves has the effect of giving the listener a feeling of looking down from above at a retrospective of a band whose music has shaped lifetimes. It seems obvious that Dave Matthews Band used this album to look back on their careers... their lives... in much the same way. Away From The World features a Dave Matthews Band mindful of where they've been and excited for a future where their best music may yet still be to come. One can only hope they don't stay Away for too long.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Buckle Up!

The backdrop of an unfortunate end to an improbable post season run by the Baltimore Orioles seems ideal for the recounting of a trip to Camden Yards to take in the final home game of the season for the birds. 

I was fortunate enough to make the journey to baseball's "mecca" with my good friend and bird of a feather, Chris Carey (the originator of the above quotes) and Rich Arleo, very much not a fan of the black and orange, who displayed his displeasure with a bold showing of New York team pride. Rich donned his Yankee cap, which is pretty much expected for any and every sojourn we make together, and took his fandom to the next level when he wore his Mark Sanchez New York Jets jersey. Considering there are places in New York where you couldn't get away with wearing that jersey, he was making a bold statement, indeed.

Promptly upon entering the car, Chris made sure to tell us both to "Buckle Up" as this was the new slogan for the Orioles as they came down the stretch of meaningful October baseball. This comment was expected (if he didn't say it, I would have), but we resolved to try and use the phrase ten times before getting to Baltimore, with the only catch being that we didn't want to force the issue and say it for the heck of it. The gauntlet was laid down.

Almost equally as promptly, Chris packed a lip, citing that it was his way of coping with long drives and minutes later Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" popped on the radio. For but a moment we questioned whether or not we wanted to venture such an intense tune so early in the morning. We came to the conclusion that if it wasn't too early for chewing tobacco, it wasn't too early for Phil Collins. The track appeared to set the tone for the entire day. We made the right choice.

Not the best roots to lay for a story per se, but Chris made unbelievable time getting there and back; incredibly impressive. At one point during the ride in, we spied a massive bird of some sort chilling in a cage in the passenger seat just watching the traffic glide by. Consequent Birdland jokes were traded and after imagining the bird saying buckle up to its driver, we were all the more closer to both the great state of Maryland and our "BUCKle Up" goal. As we pulled into the city, we caught a glimpse of a perhaps inevitable traffic sign reading, "Buckle up for safety" and, while not the most creative of endings, considered our "buckle" goal reached. 

Stating the obvious here, but as questionable as the outter parts of the city may be, the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore is really a pretty special place that definitely has it's own distinct feel. I equated it, perhaps not quite eloquently enough, to having a Down Port kind of atmosphere with a big city activities list. There's a little of everything there, including a life-sized robot in the image of the tallest man in the history of the world that can rise from a seated position very, very quickly. More about Baltimore's extra curriculars in a bit.

The park itself is nothing short of incredible. If you haven't seen it, be sure you do at some point. I mean, there's that old time feel that I guess every ball park has to an extent, just because it's the nature of the game to take you back in time to something perennial, in a sense, but Camden Yards' brick construction right in the middle of a very populous city really takes the feeling to the next level. Even the vibe at the park was something special. You could tell that A. We weren't in New York and B. The Oriole fans were still a bit unused to being on the winning end of a baseball game. Even the people who stopped to heckle Rich a bit for his attire did all but apologize for it afterwards. (Including the guy who Tebowed in front him.) This truly was a team and fan base that was just happy to be here. One of my favorite shirts I saw while at the park seemed to sum up the attitude of park and its people perfectly as it combined the name of Oriole third baseman, Manny Machado, with a popular "Lion King phrase to say "Hakunamachado." No worries, indeed, what a scene.

One of the other great aspects of this trip was the fact that a few friends from York were also at the game. Lord Baltimore himself (and his peach shorts) took the time to dwell amongst his masses, taking in the game with the lovely Lauren. As if things couldn't get any better, Greg "Poppyseed" Sullivan and Emmie were also in attendance and fortunately, Rich, Chris, and I were able to go sit with them after learning there were some open seats in their section. This move proved most helpful, as we were initially seated next to a nice enough family, but a family with two young kids with them that were clearly more interested in reading books than watching the game. It wasn't exactly conducive to the kind of baseball atmosphere we wanted, so we were relieved Emmie and the Seed swooped in with the seating arrangements.

While not nearly the sore thumb Rich was, Emmie was dressed in neutral colors as a sign of support for the Red Sox. Needless to say, she had a long day as the O's pounced on the Sox like bird seed and pretty much never looked back. At one point, while the Yankees were down large to the Jays and the Jets were in the process of being shut out by the Niners, Rich, sandwiched between Chris and myself proclaimed, "This is my hell." At which point, I told him to "buck up". We didn't exactly make that day easy on him, but considering the Yanks came back and won that day, it's hard to regret it.

After the game, the announcer at the park notified us that the Angels were in the final inning of their game, which, if lost, would clinch a postseason berth for the Orioles. They threw the game up on the big screen and fans and players alike lingered on the field and in the stands respectively to see how it would all pan out. The buzz in the place was electric. Even Rich admitted that this moment had the potential to be really cool. Sadly, the Angels pulled it out and while the O's did clinch later that night, we didn't get to witness and partake in the celebration. Hard to be too upset about it, though, following the victory.

After the game we toiled around the harbor for a while and grabbed a bite to eat with Greg and Emmie. As we walked through the harbor, I noticed a replica pirate ship that I suppose they used for tours or something. I thought it was awesome, until I realized that the cannons actually worked. The thought of midday cannon fire and pillaging is a little alarming, but these cannons only shot water at those on land. To be fair, These guns didn't reach very far inland, but even so, I have to say if I was just strolling around enjoying the day and I was nailed with a water cannon, I don't think I'd take it very well. After it was clear we were out of shot range, we saw a street performer doing her thing. Towards the end of the show, she tried to mount a huge unicycle after turning on the entirely appropriate Rocky theme song. She messed up the first time, but played it off well, stretching and restarting the song. She had played it off like it was a gag. She messed up the second time and grabbed a drink of water and restarted the song. Again, really over selling it like it's all part of her schtick. She screwed up the third time and does more the same, which you expect because of the comedic rule of three. She screws up a fourth time and even then you think it's a part of the gag because she wants to stick it to the know-it-all in the front row referencing the comedic rule of three (namely, me). But then she fails to mount it for a fifth time and doesn't take the time to restart the song. At that point the crowd realizes it's not part of the act and it gets really tense really quickly. The crowd got pretty silent and the theme song now seems like cruel irony. It was awkward because they call it a unicycle for a reason, there's not much someone else can do to help you out. After about eight tries, she finally got up and the crowd erupted nearly as passionately as after the O's win.

Greg and Emmie left after the meal, leaving Chris, Rich and I to wander about ourselves. For a while we were just walking and talking and what have you, until I realized we were walking away from any sort of tourist area and were entering something akin to the dark forest of Legends of the Hidden Temple lore, except there were no trees and no talking rock. Whether or not there were Mayan temple guards lurking about...I'll never know. The comedy of this moment is tough to describe, but we very nearly wander aimlessly into a much less friendly area of Baltimore.

Later that evening, we met up with Nick (Lord) and shot some pool and played some ping pong. It got pretty intense and I think we all wound up sweating a little more than we'd like to admit. It was a great casual hang out to put the cherry on the day. Great to catch up and share old times with Nick and I'm glad Chris and Rich were there to share it with me. The trip was unforgettable and I'm thrilled to know that the Buck Truck is poised to bring Baltimore baseball back to its winning ways. *flaps arms like wings* See you next season.

Song of the Day: Conventioneers-Barenaked Ladies
Jazz Song of the Day: Raju- John McLaughlin

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Ruggedly Refined

I wanted to take a post to honor the life of Professor James Valiant and extend my sympathies and condolences to his family and friends, as well as my York College peers who share grief in his passing.

Professor Valiant was indeed one of a kind. I'll never forget seeing him for the first time during my freshman year Opera Theatre workshop and considering him pretty imposing. A straight-postured bearded man who entered stealthily from stage right of Wolf Hall, smiled without showing any teeth and nodded slightly upon being introduced, and largely never said a word unless spoken to. When he did speak, I was a bit taken aback by how truly soft spoken he was. Having spent a great deal of my social/academic hours (especially at that point in my life) amongst music and theatre enthusiasts, a social circle which at times, no offense, seemed to center around competitions for attention and as a result, was anything but quiet and conservative, Professor Valiant seemed to clash with that perhaps unwarranted generalization. However, his demeanor was not that of a timid man, but of a confident and self-assured one. His reserved demeanor did nothing but add more weight to the thoughts and opinions he did express.

Professor Valiant was anything but an overly serious man as well. He was, as you would expect, a very clever guy, who every now and again would catch you off guard with a little pun or observation of some sort that would (at least in my case) send you into a fit of laughter. I think his wordplays were more situational than anything else and would be tough to relay via this blog, but I will share one time when I walked in on a conversation he was having with other students regarding his weekend and he said something to the effect of "one of my friends got married and I'm still trying to piece together the weekend. Yesterday I wasn't exactly up for the piano." His polite way of saying that he got totally smashed on Saturday was incredible and made him all the more relatable to his students. Not the drinking aspect, obviously, but his openness and willingness to share of himself. I feel like this is almost cliche to say about the deceased, but Professor Valiant was a man who truly seemed to have a joy for life and the wisdom to know when to work hard and when to sit back and enjoy it a bit.

His talent leaves me at a loss for words as a painist, vocalist, and overall performer. His turn as Elijah in the oratorio by the same name was moving to say the least, and his abilities as a pianist and organist were incredible to see and hear. The thing I believe I'll remember most about Professor Valiant is his willingness to teach and share with anyone who would care to learn.

To be fair, Doctors Woodfield and Muzzo were also beyond generous with their time and efforts with me as a musician and I'm left in awe of the fact that they continue to bring that passion for teaching and improvement to York College with them everyday, but as a non-music major with quite simply a passion for music, I always kind of considered my advancement in music kind of secondary to those within the major. That's not to say that I didn't bust my hump in my musical endeavors and milk all the knowledge I could out of these great professors during class time, but I kind of figured that the out of class time would be reserved for those paying for the music space and trying to make a future living out of it. When professor Valiant complimented my voice freshman year and asked if I wanted to work with him on some things, I quickly said I was a writing major, essentially giving him cause to help out someone else. He aptly replied, "so what?" and we went to work later on that week and a couple more times over the course of my time at York as performances with Rhapsody and otherwise came up. His desire to go above and beyond to help me made me want to go above and beyond and meet his (again Muzzo and Woodfield included) expectations. That kind of attitude is contagious and was everything you could want out an instructor and to a degree, mentor.

Professor Valiant's personality was so unique that Dennis and I took to forming a scale of ruggedness with his name at the top. Other notable names on the list he beat out were Kimbo Slice, Grimace, Popeye the Sailor Man, and the inscrutable Chuck Norris. When we told him about this list, he laughed heartily and gave the same humble nod I'd seen on the first day I'd met him.

In short, I know of few others as classy, talented, and professional as Mr. James Valiant and his impact on my life, as brief as our interaction was, will never be forgotten. In truth, I considered Professor Valiant a role model, which I feel are harder to find at 21 after you've found your own opinions and voice in the world, but I think that's just further testimony for the quality of Mr. Valiant's character. His passion for life, sense of humor, open heart, and ability to leave the stage on the stage and be a listener off of it are qualities I try to live by every day. Professor Valiant personified, in my opinion, how a man should conduct himself and I'm honored to have known him and grieve with the rest of my classmates and peers.

Song of the Day: God Bless The Child-Blood Sweat and Tears
Jazz Song of the Day: Spanish Fantasy Part III-Chick Corea

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Love's Humble Veneration

As I'm sure most who care enough to read this blog already know, my grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago. Much like I did when my grandfather passed, I wanted to pay tribute to her likely in the one way I know how, by devoting a blog post to her memory. I had the honor of performing her eulogy and, for once, I think I said it best the first time. The following is a loose translation of the words I spoke for her largely off the cuff. I thank my friends and family for their support and once again it was my privilege to speak on behalf of the memory of Evelyn Policastro.

My grandparents had always been people of routine. That is to say that even when I was very young my grandparents always seemed old(er) in their actions and lifestyle. A great deal of their life hinged upon shopping at various stores like Caldor and Kohl's, where my grandfather would alternate between waiting for my grandmother in the car and waiting for her in the store where he would chat up most any salesgirl who would listen in his own "youthful" way. My grandparents went to bed at eight and woke as early as four in the morning. They would eat their meals at the same set times everyday and unless they were on vacation, had a doctor's appointment, or were visiting the family, they never strayed from this routine.

I've always felt that this routine spoke volumes about their character and their relationship with one another. The fact that they could relive such repetition each day and still find joy in life and each other is something I can't help but be envious of in a strange way. As kids (speaking for Noelle and myself) we never grew weary of our grandparents' monotony and always considered it a real treat and almost vacation to be with them. Again, I feel that speaks volumes about the special dynamic my grandparents had and the warm atmosphere they built around themselves.

Anyway, I bring this up in order to set the stage for what will always be my favorite memory of my grandmother. As the preceding paragraphs dictate, I'm sure, my grandparents were never, even in my youth, very physically active people. With the exception of what I would only call "flashes" of memories of playing ping pong with my grandfather back before I even started school, and admittedly frequent walks around the Manorville area, my grandparents were largely, albeit pleasantly, sedentary people. Until one fine summer's day when we found a bird laying in the street.

There I was, no more than 10 years old in the back seat of my grandfather's car, likely en route to another shopping session when my grandfather noticed a bird laying right in the middle of the street. Somehow I was elected the vehicle resident orthologist and was told to go see if it was alright. Now, even at 10, I was no idiot and said there was no way I was touching that thing with my bare hands. As if she'd been prepping for this moment her whole life, my grandmother swoops in with a glove from the front seat (this being the only car I know of where the term "glove box" was taken literally) and now it seems I have nowhere else to store my short straw and have to bite the bullet and check on the bird. My grandfather was kind enough to step out of the car with me, but didn't go much further as I approached the bird cautiously, with my only intent to move it out of the road and harms way. After much stalling and what I'm sure was less minutes than my imagination would have me believe, I reached out and touched the bird. My touch was apparently quite healing as the now mended fowl sprung to life and flew out of my reach like a shot.

What should have been a fitting end to an uplifting, underwhelming story took a strange turn indeed when the bird flew directly into the open car window and fluttered about the automobile with my grandmother now flailing wildly inside it. Moments ticked by with the bird not leaving and at last in was my grandmother who flew the coop, opening the car door and sprinting down the street faster than I had ever seen her move. This sudden burst of passionate athleticism was enough to send my grandfather and I into stitches and I can't think of a time where he's ever laughed harder. The incident left such an impact on me that I recall it wasn't until the next day when it registered how bizarre it was the bird flew in the car at all. I was more focused on my grandmother's aftermath for quite some time.

Beyond that my memories of my grandmother were, while no less meaningful, largely stereotypical, I guess. The spoilings of great food at all times, being slipped two bucks for no reason at all every two or three visits and a friendly face, heart, and ear of love and support, and so on. My grandmother was always one who put her family before herself. This characteristic combined with her intense interest in things in my life that I considered pretty mundane is something I will always admire. Many of our phone conversations consisted of her asking what I was up to and me casually replying that I was going to play basketball or to rehearsal or something, and by the end of our talk a always was left feeling pretty amped about what I considered so pedestrial just minutes before. Yeah, I am going to play basketball/rehearse and it should be a lot of fun. She was, in a sense, an instrument of perspective that helped keep life's simple pleasures in scope. For that I couldn't be more grateful.

Being a victim of dementia, it was tough to watch her mind decline over the weeks and months, especially as the end grew closer. Further elaboration on that would do nothing but dreg up the wrong kind of emotions and tarnish the legacy I'm trying to honor, but I will say that I take great comfort in that even as her health declined, she never lost her childlike wonder for life and intense love for her family. I can't help but consider that a blessing of some sort and I'm relieved she's no longer in pain.

My family faces many changes going forward as a whole and as individuals. I have mixed feelings about these changes, which I think is okay. I'll always take solace in the fact that even if it was only for a little while, my grandmother brought out the best in my family and brought out the best in me. I thank her and love her for that.

Song of the Day: I Can't Quit Her-Blood Sweat and Tears
Jazz Song of the Day: Mexican Hip Dance-Horace Silver

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Nobody Smokes Games Anymore

The one and only Stilts providing the impetus for this title as I see him for the first time in months and he promptly critiques my cigar choice (a very rare dabbling of mine). It was nice to see him, too.

Just to get it out of the way for family members and concerned friends who were unaware I enjoy cigars, I want to quantify just how rare these occasions are. I've smoked a cigar a total of four times in my life, including the time referenced above. Once casually playing poker, once at Lake George, once on the porch of the 727 to celebrate graduation, and now this Counting Crows show, so we're not talking "I only smoke on the weekends in social settings, so I don't have a problem," we're genuinely talking about special occasions, of which this concert fit the bill. If you don't believe me, you ought to see me hold one; I'm definitely not the smoothest with it.

Anyway, this past weekend sent me on what I would consider my equivalent of a modest vacation as I hopped to the sometimes aptly named "Dirty Jersey" to visit a couple of buds and more importantly, see the Counting Crows. Initially, I had only planned to set up camp at the Madden house, courtesy of Where Did You Get That Corn's own, Dennis Madden, see the show, get some sleep and hit the trail on Monday morning to the island so long they had to name it after an adjective. However, chance would have it that both Denny (different person than Dennis) and I had off on Monday and seeing as how he was a comparatively short 45 minutes away, I decided to visit with him as well.

With construction going on atop the George Washington Bridge, I decided to take my life in my hands take the BQE towards Jersey, and I couldn't be more pleased with the decision. On a clear day the BQE affords some of the most beautiful views I've ever seen. I don't want to get overly sentimental about it, for fear of over paraphrasing Sufjan Stevens, but it really is a kind of like a time capsule of America where you see kind of the past and present of innovation and Americana come together on one really busted up and borderline poorly planned roadway. There's a pretty obvious metaphor there, but me recycling it won't make it original. I recommend the journey to anyone.

That feat of urban scenery aside, the rest of the trip to Dennis' was pretty uneventful. I pulled up and we went about our tradition of PJ Wellahan's (spelling likely wrong) before loitering around his slice of suburbia and hopping the Patco to America's capital of something unpleasant, Camden New Jersey and the conversely beautiful SBC concert venue. Kevin, Brett, and his sister, Caitlin, were in attendance taking in the whole of the xpn fest, which the Crows were closing out that evening. Great to see Kevin again, with a great tan, and of course, Brett, with his less flattering sun-induced freckles. (That'll show him.) Sadly, the confines of their work schedules, combined with a rather lukewarm interest sent the pair to the exits before the Crows took the stage, but nonetheless, great to see them for a spell.

Now to talk about the show. The show, quite simply, was a revelation. In hindsight (all two seconds of it) that word choice might be a little over dramitic (In this blog? Imagine that.) but that's really what it was. It opened my eyes to facets of the Counting Crows' music, and also my biases as a concert goer. In terms of their music, I went in expecting a sound not to be found on their albums. Youtube clips and relatively passionate fandom had led me to expect a sound only kind of based on the groundwork of their studio sessions. A sound that kind of took on the form of almost a spoken word reading where the band provides the background of familiar chords and rhythms so that Adam Duritz can kind of take the sound and song wherever he wants to go. To an extent, I was right, as I've never seen a performer interact with the words he was saying a passionately as Duritz (though, to be fair, most frontmen are also playing a guitar that prevents truly "cutting loose" for lack of a better term), but I was floored by the true musicianship behind him. Don't get me wrong, all you have to do is listen to the albums to know the band is talented, but the amount of solos and improvisation taking place on stage was a real surprise and well...revelation. The best way I can categorize it, is to say remember when I was upset Incubus played rote tracks of their greatest hits? That's what I expected from CC and was totally thrown a curveball of musicianship from vocals to bass. Very pleasantly surprised in that regard.

The Counting Crows also provided something I've never encountered as a concert goer. I realized that I am a concert attendee of extremes. With Wilco being perhaps the only exception, I've either gone to shows where you either sit down and shut up (Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Bon Iver) or you dance all night like an absolute fiend until they kick you out, or Keller Williams plays so long that you concede defeat and hobble out of the venue exhausted (Incubus, Phish, DMB, etc.) Sure, all those high energy groups have cool down numbers here and there to keep the crowd and themselves fresh (except Oasis, I recall that being an hour and a half of face melting with no training wheels for those ill prepared), but largely the band comes out, jazzes you up, pumps the breaks a few times to avoid the burn out and finishes with a flourish. The Counting Crows are the first group I've seen where people are just as excited to here the ballads as the jams, A Long December being the classic example. My point is, while the band's energy was undoubtedly high, the show was filled with dynamic shifts that kind of served to temper the intensity in the crowd. You'd get a couple of upbeat numbers and then the band would pull the plug and play a slower song the crowd would be just as happy to hear. As a result, a lot of the show left people just kind of standing and watching the group. (Novel idea, I know.) The result of that is a very disinterested looking audience when in fact the opposite was true.

I was disappointed not to get "Cowboys" or "Round Here" but "Another Horsedreamer's Blues" and Rain King" were absolute showstoppers and hearing "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" and "Ghost Train" back to back was a heck of a consolation. My only lament is that the group waited until the very end of the show to truly blow the roof off the place and give the audience license to groove. With "Rain King" and "Hanginaround" to close out the main set, I made up for about an hour and 15 minutes worth of immobility and likely danced the length of half the lawn, but just like that, they were gone. I guess the goal of every show is to leave the them wanting more, but I feel like the Crows did that to the point of annoyance. Suffice to say they really peaked in the late going.

The true end of the show came with a genuinely classy mention of a local charity fighting to put an end to physical abuse of women and empower victims and then a pretty genuine appeal for those in attendance to vote and take pride in their nation and be the change and whatnot. Those moments always seem to strike funny chords with me. I mean, far be it for me to say that musicians shouldn't hype their causes and what they think is important, but it's hard for musicians and celebrities not to come off a little preachy when they, in their comfortable lifestyle, stand atop a very literal pulpit (or podium, I guess is a better word) and appeal to the masses to change the world. With that said, I think Adam seemed pretty darn sincere and when the concert closed with "This Land Is Your Land" I won't exactly call it moving, but it wasn't as trite as it could have been. I see a lot of similarities in our stage presence and even writing style. He seems to have a good heart and head on his shoulders. A great show from a group I'd jump at the chance to see again.

The visit with Denny was equally memorable and quite a gift to tack on to a great Sunday, but largely untypable, just because on paper all we did was go to BWW (really into acronyms today), where Denny was reminded of the day of the week, and shoot some hoops on both wet and dry areas of a basketball court, but I share a unique friendship with both Denny and Dennis, where we can do next to nothing and still leave with memories that will last a lifetime. Happy to spend that time with them and I look forward to them and other Jersey, PA, and Maryland friends making the journey to NY for a good time. *cough*

Song of the Day: Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)-Monsters Of Folk
Jazz Song of the Day: Oop-Bop-Sh'bam-Dizzy Gillespie

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Phourth: An Appeal to the Vanity of Ben Kraus

Rule number one of writing is to know your audience. Well, no, I guess rule number one of writing is to have a point and hope that one hand kind of washes the other (the point leads to the audience... you probably knew what I meant; you're smart people.

Anyway, time for the long awaited Independence Day Phish Concert post. Phish shows are kind of like an entire world in and of itself and it was a real pleasure to take in the experience with Deanna, Sean Taylor, Ben, and Jeremy, who was kind enough to leave his free orchestra level seats to take in the last bit of the concert with us.

I'm nowhere near as qualified to breakdown the music of Phish as I am Dave Matthews Band, but there are certainly some notes I'd love to make. The band was beyond tight. I mean, it's almost like they define what it is to be on the same page musically. To have such a jam/free sound still come off so clean every single time is almost frightening. They crammed 33 tracks into the night and, for my money, didn't miss a beat on one of them.

What I really love about Phish shows is obviously the music, but I can honestly say that something bigger than the tunes goes on at their shows. Don't worry, I'm not talking about some hippie mysticism of a higher power or anything, but simply put, I've never seen a more interactive show with more people uniformly, yet uniquely, invested in what occurred on stage. You can imagine, I'm sure, at a show like that you're going to run into some characters in varying states of sobriety, but in the middle of all this seemingly randomness, there's a literal pulse to the people and vibe there that really makes everybody everything.

I know I've taken that last paragraph could have easily been taken from the greatest passages of Thomas Wolfe, but electric kool-aid aside, I've never witnessed such a positive version of a mob mentality in my life. The closest comparison being Boston Garden during the Lakers/Celtics playoff game when Leon Powe received an ovation I'll never forget.

At this show you have a ocean of tie-dye, Americana, and homemade Phish shirts (including an incredible Harry Hood one made by Deanna), a man holding an American flag with a peace sign embroidered on it, waving it the majority of the show. I'm not even sure he had a seat. You have Sean Taylor and I finally in matching neon green headbands. You have fans of all shapes, colors, and sizes singing along and (to quote Wolfe more directly) "grooving on their thing" chanting at the right parts and the glow sticks, balloons, and beach balls being flung into the air at musical climaxes. I equate the experience to people who go see "Rocky Horror" and chant and shout certain things during the movie or production. It's kind of a way for experienced phans to make the show their own. It's a cult and underground following in its truest form, depending on how deep you are in the pudding. (Should be the last reference, minus a potential nod to day-glo) And all the while, the band just sustains this experience with tunes and lights almost casually, as if they are just a vessel for this ultimate display of humanity.

Proof of this nearly inexplicable synergy came near the end of the show; actually, during the final number before the encore (Slave To The Traffic Light, for anyone curious) when the cloudy (though truly beautiful) night finally gave way and displayed an awe-inspiring yellow moon casting its glow on the venue. When this occurred, the whole crowd literally erupted with joy. The moment seemed so scripted that I actually leaned over to Deanna and asked if I missed something on stage while I was distracted by the moon. When she confirmed that everyone was riffing on the moon, I got some pretty intense chills.

Another cool moment was when strictly by coincidence, the only time I saw fireworks out on the water during the whole show was during a barber shop quartet rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner". I mean, you can't script that kind of stuff.

Don't get me wrong, if had to listen for one band for the rest of my life, it's still Dave. They're my favorite and have molded me into who I am as much as a facet of pop culture can. And, not that anyone asked, but if I had to listen to someone's tunes for 24 hours with no breaks, it'd be Paul Simon, but for my money, for all the GREAT acts out there, if I had to pick one band to see live for the rest of my life, I'd see Phish. I'm honored and humbled to have shared the experience with my friends.

The lone downside of the experience is, once again, I was left hanging in my quest for "Punch You In The Eye" (my favorite song of theirs), but other than that the band was top notch. The set was great and I encourage you to look it up. For me to have three highlights is really the understatement of the year, but...

1. "Avenu Malkanu" sandwiched between renditions of "The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday" was easily one of the most beautiful things I've heard live. I was kind of overwhelmed and it was a really prophound (see what I did there?) moment that was the apex of the night three songs in. Incredible.

2. My first witnessing of a "tucking" during the first cover of "Purple Rain" since '99. We partied like it (Prince nod), and a vacuum solo to boot. For once Youtube is mightier than the metaphorical pen. Dig for yourself.

3. "Harry Hood" took the second set to a whole new space.

But again, the whole show delivered and had me, and consequently everyone, engaged from Tweezer to Tweezer.

Until next time, this is Tom on behalf of Friar Tuck.

Song of the Day: Jailhouse-Sublime (Summer is here and so is summer camp)

Jazz Song of the Day: The Chief-Billy Harper

Saturday, July 7, 2012

You Picked The Wrong Place To Sit

This past week brought about my third visit Gamehendge as Phish visited the sandy shores of Jones Beach and, somewhat surprisingly, left the "Round Room" off the set list. I can't wait to get into the show, but I have a couple notes that I want to bring up before we take that journey.

The one and only Wong and his enigmatic hair returned for a weekend of Long Island leisure. Unfortunately, my work schedule didn't allow me to really spend all that much time with him and as, a result, I'm left with merely whispers of some stories to be added to the annals of Wong lore and a glimpse of some illuminating photos that seem to paint the picture of the occasion quite aptly. As much as it seems I did indeed miss out on the party, that's not to say we didn't have our own fun on the Friday night he came through.

Now, excusing the abrupt shift in the discussion, this Wong visit came with it's own very small, but nonetheless momentous accomplishment. A milestone that I don't want to blow out of perportion, but is worth mentioning. I, Tom Policastro, went to see the film "Ted". Now, some of you are thinking, "big deal, you and millions of other people", but we're talking about a man (at this point), a 23 year old man who is terrified of Chucky, freaked out to no end by Furbies, literally sprinted out of the room at the end of one of the "Santa Clause" sequels when Martin Short brings these giant grinning toy soldiers to life, had to have American Girl dolls removed from the guest room of a friends house before going to sleep and finally, a man who STRUGGLED (but did, for the record) to make it through all of "Toy Story 3". The difference between the third and the first two being that the toys had never been evil before. I mean, Prospector Pete wasn't exactly a moral compass for our nation's youth, but there's a difference between I'm going to chase you down to keep you here and a little toy internment camp with a bruiser baby, and screeching monkey watch...monkey. Seriously, the shit is ominous.

Anyway, with all that said, let's not make all that big of a deal out of it. It was a stoner comedy with all too familiar voice of Peter Griffin, so I knew what I was getting into and wasn't exactly biting my fingernails. I'll admit that I got really tense when I first knew Ted was going to come to life. I was a little concerned that if they made it creepy as an attempt at comedy, the joke would be lost on me and I'd wind up clinging to Becky and Wong (who drew the task of sitting next to me) like saran wrap. I am relieved to say that the scariest part of the movie was a truly disturbing performance from Giovanni Ribisi and I can't recommend that hilarious film enough. Although, I did cast some eyes about when Mark Whalberg and the bear were fighting as if to say "this is my nightmare."

After the film, Matty, Becky, Wong, Roo, and I retired to Matty's to relax a bit. I think stories that start out with "so, we were drinking" are rarely half as interesting to a listening or reading audience as they seem to those who lived it, so I'll be brief, but it's worth mentioning that we played quarters and I had the brilliant idea of initiating the rule that if you got passed by the shot glass three times in a row you had to take a shot of tequila. Wong sat between myself and Matt Matura. Suffice to say Wong picked the wrong chair to settle in.

Now, a quick work story before I let you go. I feel like I leave everyday with a story worth telling for better or worse. Most are more quick oral stories not worth the time it would take to type them, but every now and again you get something blog worthy. I give you the following. I'm at the register going through the tediousness of ringing groceries when I hear a rather shrill "Ah dammit, Jerry you always do that when I'm leaning on the cart." She was referring to herself resting propped up on the shopping cart and "Jerry" subconsciously pulling the cart forward to move up on the line and essentially pulling the rug out from under her and sending her forward, kind of like when you have those dreams when you're falling. There's no real danger of falling, but the sensation is there. I see before me a couple consisting of a rather large man and a rather small woman. Jerry seems unmoved by his wife's lament and in response to his indifference she absolutely rams him with the cart. At this point, my shirt flies up over my mouth to cover my smile as I bite my tongue bloody to keep from laughing. Jerry doesn't flinch at the blow and with my smile veiled, though eyes probably saying it all, I go about ringing them up. One of the first items I ring up for is some meat, which the woman asks whether in came up as $3.99. Jerry is blocking her from seeing the screen for herself and his face is stone as she asks him what the price is repeatedly. It is at this point I realize that Jerry either has the absolute best sense of humor in the world or is completely miserable at home. I finally jump in myself and tell her the price of the meat and she thanks me. That alone would have been enough for me to hang my hat on as the moment of the day, but then, in an unprecedented stroke of fate, he pulls the cart forward again and, again, sends her forward. If looks could kill that whole grocery store would be in the obits section. At that point, I lost it and again pulled up my shirt with chuckles clearly escaping. After the order they both thanked me with smiles and the woman gave a look as if to say "do you see what I have to deal with?" That gave me the sense that the preceding ordeal was kind of the dynamic of their relationship, rather than there being any real trouble in paradise and gave me the real freedom to kick back and laugh at the situation. Jerry's my hero and I'm suddenly looking forward to my next relationship (the poor, poor girl).

Great to see Wong and be in, (albeit in a rather menial position) a workplace where I revel in moments like the preceeding and socialize with a great cast of characters everyday. I've learned that you can't put a price on that. Look for a post tomorrow about the Phish show.

Song of the Day: Bittersweet Motel-Phish
Jazz Song of the Day: Cheek To Cheek-Ella Fitzgerald

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Who Keeps Quoting 'Take The 'A' Train' in the Back of the Venue?

A much overdue, but no less heartfelt, recap of the Dave Matthews Band show of last week. As you'll soon read, if you didn't already live/swim through it, it poured throughout the whole concert and among the many consequences of being soaked to the bone, I was left with a cold which made writing, even about such a great occasion, unpleasant. Weekdays filled with illness and a weekend filled with adolescents in semi-formal wear and father appreciating has pushed this post to the here and now. Let's get to it.
Clearly, this show had some big shoes to fill when held up to the Randall's Island experience. For Rich the show was about redemption for a hat, and time, nearly soiled by ketchup and errant footsteps. For Jamie, it was about a first time chance to see DMB and making it a night to remember forever. For me, it was about secretly hoping that history repeated itself and that I was quick enough to outrun Rich should it come down to it. We drove separately for a reason, you know?

As mentioned above, the weather did not cooperate with the festive potential of being in the parking lot before the show. The tone in the lot was naturally pretty subdued. A pleasant subdued, but subdued. The usual crowding about cars with DMB favorites playing, a few tents, and a whole bunch of rain ponchos were present, of course. A few people were even venturing some drinking games, but largely everyone huddled in their cars or under their open trunks. I was pretty cool with the atmosphere because I'm actually not really a big believer in the traditional pre-concert buzz. With the notable exception of seeing 311 at the very same Jones Beach venue many years ago, I'm more of a couple-beers-tons-of-water-pregamer. The only real bummer is that usually you (at least I) try to mill around a bit and get to know your neighbors some, play some frisbee or some tunes etc. The rain didn't exactly make that impossible, but it made it much more desirable to kind of fall into apathy and wait for the gates to open.

Rich, Jamie, and I were, in a sense, saved from our own good time by one of Rich's co-workers at (your source for all things local and newsworthy where, contrary to what some may say, they attend every event on which they report) who was kind enough to invite the three of us over to their gathering a few spaces over. The spread they had there was one of a kind. Panninis (spelling?), sandwiches, and sushi all ordered from delis and restaurants in our area. They were more than willing to share anything and everything they had. I resisted the urge to weep openly and pig out and limited myself to a sandwich slice, some sushi (which is growing on me), and a Bluepoint IPA that I couldn't help but sip even though I had been fighting the very same cold that came back with a vengence the very next day.

In addition to being fed well, this was kind of my first occasion to spend a long period of time with an older generation of Dave fans. I admit I didn't pick their brains as much as I wish I had, but I didn't want to be the stranger who tried to dominate the conversation. With that said, I did talk to them a bit and it was great to hear about some of their experiences with the band both recently and "back in the day". One of the guys had a collection of a few live albums released about the same time as "Remember Two Things". I was pretty darn jealous, as you will not find these albums in your local FYE and you probably won't hear some of those older songs (Blue Water, for example) ever again. It was a real highlight for me just to look through those records. It was like opening up a scrapbook from a time you're too young to remember, but know all about it through secondhand stories.

With a full stomach and being out in the elements anyway, I ventured across the lot to meet with some friends from Miller Place, a couple of whom were experiencing their first Dave show. What an awesome feeling. As with a lot of bands (and I guess any) seeing them live is a whole new experience to hearing even a recording of a live show. I don't doubt they enjoyed the heck out of it and I hope they're as hooked as I am.

Anyway, the only real story to tell from the lot, other than unrivalled generosity, is an unfortunate situation that drew from me a rather piteous laugh. Rich's co-worker was beyond stoked that Fitz and the Tantrums (a name whose cleverness dawned on me later than I'd care to admit). I didn't listen in on the whole conversation, but apparently he was getting deep into those guys (a pretty interesting modern Hall and Oates sound, in my opinion) before he even knew they were opening the show he was attending. Fitz being there was kind of the whipped cream on the sundae for him and I'm not exaggerating by much when I say he was as excited to see them as Dave. Well, time goes by and... goes by and... you get the idea, and everyone is still in the parking lot. I lean over to Rich and mention that he's probably going to miss the opening act. Apparently, no one in his party was ready to leave the good time yet and he wound up missing out of the show he lucked out in getting the chance to see (for free, if you think about it). I wish I had a better follow up on his reaction, but I can only imagine he felt pretty bad, at least in hindsight. When I realized what happened to him, I took it harder than I probably should have. Poor guy.

The show itself was simply great. The set list, on paper, is kind of out of a dream. For the audience's part, the venue doesn't have a lawn setting, so there were only pockets of people standing up in true DMB show fashion. That's always a struggle in that venue. I remember being, quite possibly, the only two people standing at the Who show I went to see the Beard, but I also remember everyone seeming to be on their feet for Phish at the same venue years later. Anyway, the sit down venue made the crowd energy scattered, but definitely present. However, the venue coupled with the constant drenching did make the energy tough to keep up. The band, Jamie, Rich, and I did our part, though, and the band played high energy numbers while the three of us kept moving in the nosebleeds.

The band kind of has a whole new sound. I mean, the sound always seems to be tweaked with every new tour, especially as new faces enter (Tim, Jeff, Rashawn) and old ones leave (Butch and sadly, Roi), but this is the first incarnation of the band that I would almost say is a whole new band covering Dave songs.

The elements of improvisation are definitely still there. Jeff and Rashawn traded fours on Grey Street, Jeff killed You Never Know, and Boyd and Tim were, as always, ever present while Carter smiled above them like some omnipotent bus driver with a recently emptied bathroom, but the songs were almost condensed for the most part. For example, #41 was played without a single horn solo, and there was no reference from Dave or crowd alike to #36 during Everyday. That alone signals a change in philosophy, in my mind. The band has really taken to heart the idea of a horn "section" as they were present in nearly every song and the band kind of has a sound that's easier to define at this point. It's kind of a rock band with horns and a violin that can jam out when they want. This feels like a natural evolution that you had to expect at some point (Phish kind of does the same thing right now), but this band has become a beast that has a whole new sound and as a result, genuinely sounds tighter than ever. My notes are not meant to be a negative, and the difference between DMB of 2011 and DMB of 2012 is not night and day by any means, but the band has clearly underwent some changes in mentality, I'd like to think for the better, but no Jeff on #41 (as incredible as Tim was) was as close to a disappointment that this band has given me live.

I mean, musically, I feel like I could scribe a whole new post. This section may bore some, so I'll be brief and if you want to hear more, you can definitely ask.

1. Seven into Minarets into Grey Street to START. Good Lord, you knew that band was going to try to make up for the nasty weather and keep them engaged in a big way. I was shocked to hear Minarets live; a first for me to witness and even hear. I only have the studio cut and an acoustic version on my pod. With those three songs, I considered my ticket worth the price. Grey Street, Sweet, and the never played Trouble With You were the only songs I was dying for. Thrilled I got one out of the deal. Real edge to the sound.

2. Mercy was the only track from the anticipated album they played and a great cool down after Cornbread. This is one song I'm glad they didn't cut short and the band riffed enough to stretch it to about the 6 minute mark. A lot of layers to the song that I feel I dug more in the rain. Dave pulled a Neil Young going from guitar to piano mid-song. Really tight unified sound. Gives you a sense where the band is heading, and I like it.

3. Don't Drink the Water mid-show, not unheard of, but a first for me. Cool.

4. Everyday- pretty straight-forward. Boyd definitely did his thing, don't get me wrong, but Dave was kind of full speed ahead and I didn't hear the crowd engaging in any "Honey, honey". Likely the most underwhelming, but solid versions of the song I've heard. Last time they played this song in the New York area, Vusi Mahlasela came out and sang some. Maybe I got my hopes up and that's influencing my opinion. I should note that this is the first song where I really started picking up on the new condensed sound I was talking about.

5. Stay or Leave-Another perfectly timed mellow song. Hit the spot. I love when they give you a song you didn't even know you craved so bad.

6. After #41 I was literally wondering if Jeff was under the weather or something. You Never Know quashed that theory and Jeff totally went nuts. A real old fashioned jam session. The crowd was never more involved, in my opinion. To an unbiased listener, probably the best track of the night overall. My favorite was Grey Street and Minarets followed by this track, but I'm far from unbiased.

7. Crush-Awesome sound and always great to hear Fonz open that up on the bass. Again, more of a horn section with Boyd taking the lead, for better or worse. A song that showed how much you can take Carter's brilliance on the skins for granted. Awesome, though. Proof that "condensed" is not synonymous with "bad".

8. Rapunzel-Might be my favorite live track of theirs of all time. Love how the wheels fall off the jam for that darker section only to come back and party hard in the end. This is one song where there are never any words for. Hear it. Love it. Get more of it.

9. Great encore with Granny to lead off. Always have a soft spot for this song since the first time I heard it on Listener Supported. Band cut right to the chase. Great song and great rendition. Watchtower (which some fans who take themselves too seriously said was the saving grace of the show) really was a great way to cap the night. Fonz quoted Tool's Schism in his intro solo... enough said. The energy is always high for that. Love having Tim there to really be that bridge between Hendrix did and what Dave does with it. Dylan wrote a hell of a song.

On a non-musical note, I have started putting pen to pad on the sequel to Horseplay. Really excited about it and I think the first three of the series are going to come pretty naturally and hopefully quickly. The four others I have outlined, we'll see, but bottom line, it's great to be working with these characters again and this may well be the first anticipated release of my writing career.

Song of the Day: She Love Me So-Anthony Green
Jazz Song of the Day: The Power of Water-Orchestre National de Jazz

Monday, June 11, 2012

Still Waiting on Eric

What follows is the blog post before the blog. While I've been writing my whole life, I must say that this is the first life event that I've ever experienced and felt the urge to chronicle using the written word to ensure that each memory was trapped in amber for eternety. This monumental event was my second Dave Matthews Band show ever and as I prepare to embark on my eighth show on Tuesday, I felt it appropriate to share this initial account on Yesternow to show where it all just about began. I'll be attending the show tomorrow with Rich, who was with me at this show and had a tough day, all the more reason to share this with you now.

My only note of warning is that tenth-grade Poli wrote this. Tenth-grade Poli's word choice in some spots are borderline embarrassing in some spots. No, I didn't fancy myself half as big of a hippie as this piece suggests, I guess I just kind of got caught up in the moment and I'd like to believe I've since found a happy medium between "far out" and "good day, sir". The conventions of writing, I think, were also quite lost on me then, not that they're all that found now.  With that said, it'd be a crime to toil with the writing and I hope you enjoy this time capsle. As always, this is dedicated to Rich and Grebe, who made this day very special.

My smile grows even wider as we stroll towards Randall’s Island. We vibe with some ladies from New Jersey while haggard looking dudes sell cheap looking water for a dollar. Each shout has a rhythm and ring to it. As though they hear the music that we can’t hear yet. We slide inside and see the stage. The fire dancer has started the party without our trio as we find a shady spot to settle and wait for the magic. We take in the scene, a whole lot of food vendors are charging five shells for water, and even be and I explain to Rich the finer points of the jam band flow. Meantime Grebe and I do battle over Phish and Dave Matthews Band for jam band supremacy. Rich feels uncomfortable in his Yankee ensemble when surrounded by a sea of unkempt hair, hemp, sandals and tie dye. He does not stray far from me as Tea Leaf Green hits the stage and slams our senses with a far out blend of Phish like riffs with a country twang. The rumble of the crowd’s roar pales in comparison to the rumble of our stomachs as we cave in and buy some ten dollar gyros and cop a squat on our blanket. Some jerk glides over to a muscular Guido looking guy and asks to purchase some “gardening supplements”. When the man refuses, the jerk’s crew literally throw stones at the man’s girlfriend. I kid you not. The man erupted and a verbal and shoving fight ensues inches away from our awe struck faces. Security is lost in the haze of the music that plays. My eyes stray from the ensuing brawl to catch a glimpse of Grebe, eyes wide, twitching nervously as he hovered over his gyro as though he were an eagle protecting its young. I laughed at this marvel, and even harder as the fools were escorted from the concert area. We saw two friends playing catch with a football. I have to be honest; one friend was not too great at the sport. He would stand straight armed and tense as the ball floated down towards him. He stood rapt with the gaze of a dog waiting for food to be dropped from the dinner table. However, often times the ball would bounce off his hands as though they were bricks. We shared a chuckle at his expense, not something I’m proud of. However, then we saw a blue moon as the 19 year old managed to snag the ball out of the air and proceed to do a corny dance the likes of which even I had never seen before. After he stopped seizing he threw the ball back flimsily to his friend and repeated the process each time Lady Luck smiled upon him. We didn’t feel bad about laughing at him anymore.

            The Yonder Mountain String Band was a pleasant surprise. I had never heard of them but their quick honky tonk instrumentals including a distorted upright bass was a new spin on a style of music I was still relatively new to. The closest thing to describe them would be sounds likened to a fuller Grateful Dead, with no horns or vocals. Regrettably, I caught a few Zs as Slightly Stoopid performed. But before my snooze I lent my ears to their first song. It was fly no doubt, but the loud screaming and frequent use of swear words seemed to almost interfere with the laidback atmosphere of the concert. Their enthusiasm for their music was to be admired though and I considered it to be a positive experience. I was roused by the roar of the crowd as Government Mule blazed the stage. I’ve always been so so on Warren Hayes, digging his riffs but not so much on his vocals. His live show was no different as each song sounded the same to me. The monotony was interrupted however, by quite simply a drunken middle aged man chasing after a beach ball as if it were his true love and he could not understand why she was bouncing away from him. Then the real magic began as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones sent a wave of relaxation to the audience with amazingly chill tones that featured the bass styling’s of Mr. Victor Lamonte Wooten. Best bassist ever. Enough said. There was a teen next to us who partied a little too hard a little too soon. He spilled his heart, soul, and a little bit of hot dog on the lawn. The crowd in the vicinity then fell silent. (It was eerie, a wonder I’ve never witnessed until that day, and have not experienced since) as a portly woman unknowingly wandered into the pink puddle. At the point of contact the crowd said OOOO! In unison, ourselves included, almost as though it were instinct. The woman scampered off, with a look of horror on her face. My soul sways to the strum of the banjo and thump of the bassline until I hear another thump next to me. This one makes a squishy noise. Rich jerks his body as though he were in shock and shaking loose the cobwebs. My eyes are drawn to Rich’s brand new white hat purchased the day before. A hat which he had gone to great lengths to protect for the day. A hat which now had a large red glob on it. We had been ketchup bombed. Rich grew angry to say the least as his face changed its color to a hue more like that of his hat’s new stain. Another bomb flew to our left and Rich put his hat down on the blanket to keep it safe. Within moments his plan backfired as the hat was stepped upon by a long haired lanky penguin looking teen who muttered a half hearted apology as he marched forwards towards the stage. I froze in the shock of what has just occurred. Rich is now enraged and spikes his hat in frustration while uttering words under his breath I dare not repeat on this page. I couldn’t understand or hear half of them anyway as I was cackling mercilessly at the fact that Rich’s hat went from brand new to completely ruined in a matter of thirty seconds. Grebe chuckled as well as he tried to calm and console the angry beast. Rich’s temper was cooled as DMB hit the stage and pleased us with melodies and rhythms the likes of which cannot be justly explained. I sent my sober eyes to the skies to see the smoke rise and the stage in a haze. But sight didn’t matter, only the music that formed itself into one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

As a side note, we actually got pretty lost on the way home. It's a amazing how back then I kind of left that out, but if this happened today I'd probably talk mostly about the drive home with the concert being a footnote. Once again, see you Wednesday.

Song of the Day: Grey Street-Dave Matthews Band
Jazz Song of the Day: Zona Mona-Flecktones (Not jazz, don't whine)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Too High to Want to Come Down, Too Old to Want to be Young Again

My goal with this blog was really to let it cool for a while and kind of reset with writing about current events. I found that too often of late I was writing things far too past tense for my liking. While, indeed, everything I write on here is past tense, otherwise this would be an equally inconsequential psychic blog, there's a difference between saying "last weekend this happened" and "this happened about a month ago. Incidentally, I was planning to start up the blog again after I attended 7th or 8th (really should've saved the ticket stubs) DMB show on Tuesday, giving me something both current and classic (in the sense that I've listened to those guys forever) to write about, but I've received a very rare Yesternow request, all of which I try to honor, to write about my play being performed. I have less to say about that at this point than maybe I should, but this is a chance to complete a perhaps overdue miscellaneous post prior to Tuesday's show.

Again, this took place well over a month ago, so excuse my skimming, it's not exactly all a blur, but obviously it's not as fresh as it once was. I can't speak about the play without mentioning the week before when Steve Murillo blew into PA on a train in which we have many a memory. It was great to see him again for the first time in months, which is pretty significant considering we grew up in the same town and by genuine accident, wound up going to the same college (I decided first, for the record) and out of convenience and not wanting to risk the crap chute that is the freshman roommate pool, lived together for what turned out to be four years. It's amazing what kind of a bond is between us now that I'm sure to which a great many people can relate. Living with someone for any extended period of time is going to have its ups and downs and Steve and I were certainly no exception to that rule, but I look back on that time now and realize there's no one I'd rather have made the journey with and it's genuinely amazing how much deeper and stronger our friendship is as a result.

Over the years, like with most friends, Steve and I have developed a sort of shorthand communication with each other that centers around inside jokes, and at this point, kind of just body language and different grunts, which is a little scary. I only bring up the previous paragraphs to give Steve a bit of a nod, but also to provide some perspective on how long it had been since we'd seen each other. Anyway, what I've taken three paragraphs to say is that I recall three separate instances during our time with our friends in York where the room kind of stopped what it was doing and just kind of stared at Steve's and my semi-alcohol fueled gibberish and, I can only imagine, wondered what else was in the can we were sipping. Our only response was, "its been awhile." I certainly look forward to catching up with him again, even at the expense of some more quizzical looks.

Fast forward to the following weekend and it was showtime. Friends and family from all over the area came into York for the premiere, if you will, including some friends from my then workplace, Lord Baltimore and Lauren, Jamin and Brit, Sharnell and Jess, the illustrious Gloves, my parents, and too many others to name that were still on campus. Also, a bunch of cats out of the area called to wish me well. It meant a lot that they took the time to share the experience with me.

The show itself was phenomenal, to see something you wrote with (obviously) your own vision come to life and notice those subtle differences where cast and director make the play their own is immensely intriguing. I think the most rewarding feeling was the fact that people seemed to like it. I realize that I'm kind of on an island with a lot of my humor. Rich Arleo said it best the other day when he said, the little obscure things that people chuckle at tear you up." I was a little concerned that my wordplay and reference centered humor wouldn't translate well to a stage accustomed to plays centered around swear words, Twilight, and York references. Turns out people dug the show just fine and to hear them laugh as hard as I did/was was a real confidence boost.

Now, I've been fortunate enough to do my fair share of performing with music and acting throughout my years and the praise I've gotten from that has been humbling and (let's be honest) feels awesome, I'm only human. With that said, to have people pull me aside to compliment my writing in various fashions and ways probably one of the best feelings of my life. To have my writing acknowledged by circles outside of my friends and writing was absolutely unreal and kind of a dream come true. I won't be getting into specifics, but I will mention one instance where someone was talking about the show with Doug Forrester and saying how much they liked it and it was uniquely funny etc. and Doug said something to the effect of "Yeah, Poli's a pretty... pretty funny guy. I can only imagine the kind of humor that's in that... in that play" in a tone that was neither derogatory or complimentary. That was one of those "obscure" humor moments that tore me up.

Back to the present, upon my arrival home, I was pretty fortunate to land a job as a waiter at a local restaurant. As relieved as I was to have work, it turns out that most of the business they received was at the bar rather than at tables. I had days where I went into work and had no tables, which meant that I was essentially working all day (about a collective hour of which, I admit, I spent standing around) for about 20 bucks. I have next to nothing bad to say about the experience and my bosses, and if life were all loyalty, I'd have stayed there to help them out as a thank you for the opportunity, but the bottom line is that I'm no longer 16 and have bills to pay. Unfortunately, I had to leave the job upon getting another one at the local Stop and Shop (where the money is at least consistent). Until two months ago, I'd never left a job until the seasonal work was done, or the place was out of business and suddenly I've left two jobs in as many months. It was a strange feeling to have to leave the restaurant out of necessity. We did, of course, cut ties on good terms, but nonetheless, I've never left a job where they physically kind of needed me there and I couldn't reciprocate that feeling. I feel terrible about the situation. It was kind of one of the few decisions I've had to make to kind of be selfish and look out for myself. As much as I feel bad, there was no other decision to be made.

So, I've moved on to Stop and Shop, where you see the best, worst and strangest in people. To be honest, the job is a little tedious, but the time flies and in my opinion, it's kind of everything you could want in a job that's not going to become your career. With the exception of screwing up one of the three checks I've been given at the register and taking a day and a half to ring up a balloon because the customer was gripping it by the proper bar code. (One of those moments where I gave her a heck of a look that said "C'mon lady, I know that's on me, but you could have met me halfway on that one.") the job is going well, and at the risk of sounding complacent, I'm kind of content with riding out this job and my camp gig until September before hopefully moving to round 2 with the real world college degree job. As I mentioned, I see some spectacles in there that I'm sure will inspire many a post in the future.

It's a great gig where you get to vibe with people a bit, I had a great conversation with the black guy who popped in and we somehow we got caught up in a running joke about making sure the bags stayed kosher and we both laughed near to tears leaving these two high school girls (and this guy's wife) to look at us like we were nuts. Then there was one kid who was a little old to be sitting in the shopping cart and when it comes time to pack the cart with the groceries, his mother tells me to "pack around him" so I'm literally stacking various perishable foods around and eventually on this kid while he's indifferently playing his game boy. Strange.

Then there was nearly a fight on my line when this one woman kept asking me questions while not helping me bag the groceries I'd been scanning. The woman to here right suddenly legit shouts "Jesus Christ, let's go!" For a brief moment, I thought she was yelling at me and Lord knows what I would have done as I'm fielding this woman's rather inane questions. It turns out she was pissed at the questioner for not helping me bag was seeing red because this woman was leaving me to do all the work (not that it's hard) and on top of that kept interrupting me. Fortunately, the other woman (out of fear, I'm positive) ignored the situation and went about her day eventually, but I almost got caught up spectating as these women came to blows. The woman after the questioner wished me luck as she helped me bag and was a lot more ticked by the lack of help than I was. Nonetheless, I appreciate the support.

Finally, on what turned out to be my last day of training, I'm paired with this woman who seems nice enough, but really didn't say much. Partially, I think, because while not really the fastest yet, I largely knew what I was doing at the register, and partially for lack of social caring. Anyway I'm checking away and out of the corner of my eye, I notice this woman getting whiter and whiter. It was like the opposite of tanning. I keep glancing over intermittently and, lo and behold, after a couple of minutes I hear the wretch and splash that can only mean one thing. This woman has hurled. This has, embarrassingly enough, happened in front of everyone, including my superiors, so I don't feel the need to report that this has taken place. I just kind stare at the scene for a couple seconds and then resume checking the items. I resist every impulse I've ever had and DON'T call out "clean up on aisle five!" A true test of self-control, by the way. (I figure I'll wait until I'm in the union to make those jokes) and carry on as usual. About 20 minutes later, a manager comes by and seems shocked that I'm working by myself and she says she had no idea no one had stepped in for the fallen soldier and as a result, I no longer had to train.  You know the old adage, one woman's misfortune is another man's ticket to his own register password.

Special edition post tomorrow. Other than that, see you Wednesday.

Song of the Day: Don't Forget-Brett Dennen
Jazz Song of the Day: Turning Into Blue-Gretchen Parlato

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Chicks I Dig are Flakes

The title is irrelevant, though true, just to warn you. I will likely change it eventually, but nothing immediately comes to mind and this ought to get me some impulse reads.

Boy oh boy, it feels strange to set down again to muse in this medium for the sake of musing. A great deal of my absence can be contributed, in part, to the tolls of a 7:45-5:15 writing-centric workday taking the buzz out of sitting down to type for a bit. The remaining blame can be given to my lack of cable and no real means of tracking the NBA to the extent that I'm accustomed. I feel like I've said that monologue before, but it kind of bears repeating, I suppose.

Anyway, when my grandfather passed away, (I swear this is not a bring-you-down post) I kind of wrote a blog  post following the actual passing and proceedings that didn't refer to that tough time, just to kind of keep my posts chronological, even in tone, and mercifully short(er). Well now, I'm going to do the opposite and write about my recent exodus from the Amish-land in this post and scribe a separate post that will take you through my past two weekends in York, full of lifelong memories.

Right, for those not in the loop, and those coming to the latent realization that the previous paragraph did indeed say that I have left Pennsylvania... I have left Pennsylvania. To put it really simply, my time at Clark Associates was among the most growing times in my life. Through that job, I learned much about the true nature of the professional post-grad environment, gained true post college independence in terms of living truly alone and fending for myself during the highs and lows and day-to-day issues of said independence, and learned a lot about my own character and what I want out of a work environment and job description going forward.

In short, while I met some great, supportive, and welcoming  people, the job just wasn't a fit for me. I think the nature of a retail environment in general, is kind of a "be quiet and perform" kind of place. Don't get me wrong, I believe in a work-first-and-hard-play-later-and-harder atmosphere (Just to be clear, by "play harder" I mean play basketball, read, and listen to jazz, while spending time with friends and catching a buzz about once every two weeks. I don't want people thinking I've suddenly become some sort of party animal), but I think an environment where you can literally count on your fingers the amount of words you say to your co-workers is, right off the bat, not really my scene. I was not, by any stretch, failing at the job. I will admit that I did screw-up pretty boneheaded-ly on one occasion, but overall, I was really doing okay with the job, considering my experience level. With that said, it just got to a point where I was drained before I even walked into the building most days.

I will say that I believe another reason the job kind of wore on me was not so much that it was a high-pressure job, but it was also that I was kind of socially living for the weekends. Don't get me wrong, "lonely" is a strong word. I definitely met some great people in my excursions in the Lanc, and even found a watering hole (also mentioned previously) where I was known on a semi-first-name basis (Godspell didn't catch on, thank...God.), but I don't think I ever had enough of a support system or important enough activity schedule to kind of truly take my mind off the job. So, in a sense, I was going to work, coming home and thinking about work while trading basketball opinions with some nice enough people at the bar, and shooting some hoops every now and again. After a while, the repetition just took its toll and I realized that I needed to make a change. I thought for a good week about what my next step would be and finally decided to talk with my boss to let him know where my head was at.

I told him a lot about what I thought of the job, obviously not as much about my leisure time, but he agreed that the particular brand of stress brought about by this retail work environment strongly conflicted with my personality and kind of nullified some of my social and creative strengths. Much to my surprise, that was about as unflattering as the conversation got. He noted my work ethic and talent that I did posess and admired my accountablity and desire to succeed. It was then that I kind of took the conversation down the road I knew we were on and essentially said that I could no longer look him in the eye and say that this company and business is a good fit for me. We then spoke some more and he said some really moving things that I'd rather keep private (not that we wept in each other's arms or anything, but it was a very human moment that I'll always remember) and I formally gave my notice and he thanked me for giving it a shot and let me know that if I needed a referral, he'd be happy to write it. To be honest, that meant more to me than anything else said before in that conference room. I was working in a field where people would tell you if you were dirt without blinking an eye. The fact that in the face of that atmosphere, I was offered a positive word whenever I needed, meant worlds to me as a person and professional. I admit, it's very rewarding to know that my character was apparent in that place. It never crossed my mind that I was leaving as a failure, but any doubts I did have were wiped clean in that moment.

As I've basically already said, in the past two months I have grown as a man by leaps and bounds. I'm back on Long Island not entirely knowing what my next step will be, but I feel as equipped to take on that question mark as I've ever been in my whole life. You know, I thought I meant this after I got my college diploma, but now this statement takes on an even deeper meaning: Bring on the months of waiting tables or working at Stop and Shop. I can look anyone dead in the face and say that I have absolutely nothing to prove. I acknowledge the fact that I had the 8 to 5 life in my grasp and said "no thank you" but I also know that I've taken one step back as a wiser man to hopefully take that much bigger of a step forward.

I thank absolutely everyone at Clark Associates for their help, support, patience, and kindness during my time there. I wish you all the best and thank you for the positive impact on my life and experience I'll never forget. Also, a thank you to my friends and family for their support and sharing in the tough, but right, decision with me.

In closing, my favorite Clark memory will always be Jake scolding the spider and Emily swooping in with a less forgiving stapler.

Posts about my previous two weekends to follow, including a visit from a man who knows what my boxers look like better than most, Steve Murillo, and a bit of theatrical history.

Song of the Day: She's Electric-Oasis
Jazz Song of the Day: November-Noah Preminger

Monday, April 2, 2012

He Who Covers All His Bases Runs Nowhere

Every city is static, every planet a barstool.

A couple of weekends ago, my family took the time to toil on the soil of Lancaster and check out my digs of work, play, and miscellaneous. It was solid to see them and show them around as best I could. However, old habits, it seems, die hard. I met my parents in York for perhaps one last time as I had the chance to check out Courtney and Renee's recital and my family, always one for culture and the advancement of the arts, was kind enough to join me. It was great to see some friends to sprinkled in the audience, but mostly it was tremendous to hear Renee and Courtney perform in their own element. Admittedly, due to a mixture of apathy and WVYC commitments, with the exception of the "rugged" performance of "Elijah" I hadn't much heard either one of the lovely ladies sing tunes of the comfortable confines of the melopop provided by Rhapsody. It was a real pleasure to hear their performance for more refined audiences and they both really did a great job.

Following the show, I bolted pretty quickly to seize as much of the day as possible in Lancaster with the folks. I actually had a nice little day planned for us, but intermittant rain forced us to doctor our plans a bit. The weather did anything but cooperate, as it was rainy at best throughout the duration of the visit. Plans to visit the Central Market were ruined, and Marion Court was a shell of itself in the gloom of clouds and drizzles, but nonetheless I think I showed them I live a pretty modest, but active life here in Amish country.

The night of their arrival, I wound up spending the night in their hotel and it seems that life in the Lanc got a little too active. Apparently, while I was away, a now former-roommate with a questionable past fell in with some old friends and old habits and wound up making quite a mess for himself. When I arrived with family in tow the next morning, you could tell something was up, but my current housemates and even the guy who I later found out was in the process of being evicted kept everything really mellow, I guess, out of respect for me and my family. I really do appreciate that. The only reason I even knew something was up was because there was an uncommon amount of traffic upstairs where I live. That's usually a place that's pretty much visitor free, unless I'm the one letting them up. I wish the guy the best in getting back on his feet and I only bring this up to point out the extremes of good and...not evil...(at least not in this case) I guess, thoughtlessness? that people are capable of. A really strange moment in hindsight. A lot of layers to it.

One spot I did venture to show my family in the safety of the light of day was my weekday watering hole known as the House of Pizza, where we dared to nosh a bit while Baylor was getting its camouflaged teeth kicked in by America's favorite uni-brow and the rest of the Wildcats. No hiding from that I suppose.

Shortly after halftime of that game, which might as well have been the final buzzer, I said goodbye and after catching up on the subtle commotion of the early mid-morning and adjusting to life alone on the top floor once again, I headed back to the House to watch the second game. When I entered, Jeremiah, the kindly bartender, pulled me aside and said, "Man, you're lucky this place was dead when you brought your family in here." Truer words were never spoken and apparently I had dodged many a bullet that weekend.

In other news that I more or less broke sufficiently on Facebook so I'll provide the redux version here in the blog. As I was casually scrolling my rarely checked upon YCP email account, being paranoid enough to look in there about once a month to make sure something of importance hasn't slipped in like, you know, a complete revocation of my degree, I came across a hidden gem of an email that explained that my Western of a year ago had been selected to be performed in YCP's One Act Festival. I wasn't exactly doing back flips (I played it a little cooler), but I was and am definitely pumped to see Horseplay come to life with the help of talented actors and a director. I look forward to a special time with all of my friends in York as we see it together. I've learned that the three men who inspired three of the cowpoke in the piece will be setting aside their obligations to attend this Western Tour de Farce. A gesture that certainly means a lot to me. I look forward to all of my friends sharing this special moment with me and getting a glimpse into a more blue area of my sense of humor that rarely makes an appearance in my more typical social/comedic interactions. If you want to know more about the play, dig the Facebook event, or get in touch with me. I will leave you with this, the fundamental question of the piece is this: Did he fuck the horse, or not? Happy viewing.

In a turn of events that can only be categorized as surprising, I have missed the playoffs in both of my fantasy basketball leagues. In one league my top two picks were D. Rose and Al Horford, who, this season, make Greg Oden look like Cal Ripken. In my other league, the injury bug bit at a time I could ill afford and I wound up missing the playoffs by a game. I give myself credit for playing meaningful basketball late in the season considering I played the last 4 weeks without TV. Very important in fantasy and striking while the iron, and players, are hot. However, it's hard to view the season as anything but a disappointment considering I was the defending champ (when we played for free). All is not lost however, as I've had an uncommonly good run in the field of bracketology and stand to win the work pool with a Kentucky W tonight place in both leagues I have money vested in should Kansas eek one out. So, I'm taking the good with bad and essentially using my winnings to pay for my NBA blunders, with maybe money for a green tea or two when the dust settles.

Once again, happy viewing.

Dare I say, some poetry in the works? Stay tuned.

Song of the Day: "Son Of Sam"-Elliott Smith
Jazz Song of the Day: "St. Thomas"-Sonny Rollins