#225

now playing: vh-1 classic

welcome to my 225th post.

i know this to be my 225th post, because the new blogger interface tells me how many there are every time i come here to pontificate.

ever since i left work today, i’ve felt this sense of calm that feels untruthful. i know, for instance, that i have to go in to work at some point this weekend and wrestle with the backup situation. but that doesn’t seem to bother me right now.

today, i finished the lions’ share of work on the guitar gallery section of my site, and i’ve gotta tell ya, it’s a bit overwhelming to look at the page with all the thumbnails of all the guitars i own and realize that every one of those belong to me. i kinda wonder where they all came from.

granted, they’ve been accumulating for over fifteen years, and every one of them has a purpose, their own character and their own reason for being part of the stable…but it just seems like a bit much. i would never have thought that there were that many of them.

i spent two weeks, literally, working on the pictures in photoshop, removing the crap in the background and trying to make the color represented in the pictures as close to the instrument as possible – then putting the pages themselves together…even though they’re nothing special, static HTML pages, it’s still time consuming.

met jayda’s new “steady” tonight. he’s a good kid.

talked to samantha for a while, too…shanna seems to be getting back to her old self, although she’s not too happy that she might not get to participate in cheerleading until august, after the spectre of her kidneystone situation has fully passed over her.

mike from shame came over after work, brought me a disc of roughs from the record they’re working on in philadelphia with shelly yakus. they’re doing great work. they’ve re-recorded some songs from previous records, which seems to be common for bands who feel as though they’re in a position to break new ground with an upcoming record that hasn’t been travelled with previous ones. garrison starr, for instance, seems to feel as though she has to record the song “superhero” on every fucking album she does. i like the song, i really do. but what does that prove?

anyway, mike is stopping by in the morning on the way to the studio to pick up a rickenbacker 12 string copy that i have to use on the record…so i should do the smart thing and take my ass to bed.

instant stress headache

now playing: shane nicholson, “nice to be here”

dylan stated this week that he wants me to move to nashville so that he can come with me.

interesting that he brought it up…i talked to charlie for almost an hour on sunday about this and other things. and the fact is, it’s been on my mind ever since the near-miss audition i didn’t have a few months ago.

i’ve given some mental space to the inevitable ross geller, pro-and-con, “she’s not rachem” list* that i haven’t made yet, but have outlined in my head…in both directions, even. pros and cons of staying, pros and cons of going…since it wouldn’t necessarily be the same list with the columns reversed in my case.

hell, let’s take a stab at this. the pros and cons of staying put, as it were…

jayda and i haven’t really talked a lot about it, but it’s a given that she wouldn’t move there. and the thing that would prove to be equally distressing is that there’s no clear cut plan that wouldn’t create animosity on her part. she has a very tight social circle at school, and i couldn’t pull her out of that…and i don’t think she’d be very open to jerking her summers around either. were this to happen, it’d probably be the building of a wall between she and i that would never come down. this (along with the loss of the situation we currently have, in terms of proximity and visitation and such) is the single biggest factor in this decision. none of the others even come close.

wendy has a very real shot at a full time job at the library where she’s working – she enjoys working there, and it’d be a huge feather in her cap. i don’t think wendy harbors intentions of living here the rest of her life by any stretch, but i think this job would be a huge factor in whether she opted to stay here or not. and, of course, i’m somewhat gainfully employed at the moment, and there’s no guarantee that this would continue to be the case…the first thing i did when this possibility came up was to scan the job listings in nashville, and there were seven pages of listings under IT. As such, it doesn’t look as though it’d be terribly difficult to find something for me – but i’d have to go down there prepared for the possibility that this might not be the case.

the fact is, i’ve been here for fifteen years now, and i’ve put down roots. i have a healthy circle of friends, i have a job that i enjoy most days, my kids are here, i have a musical community here that includes a great band, a lot of fellow musicians who respect me and my abilities, and a top notch guitar tech and an amp repairman that i’d probably be lost without…these are the kinds of comforts that one accumulates as they linger in one spot for a length of time.

i don’t think that it’s so much a fear of change as it is a sense of impending loss. not just loss of a great chinese food place and a guy who knows all my guitars inside and out, either. whether i want to admit it or not, i’ve grown pretty comfortable here.

maybe too comfortable.

the ass-kicker here is that the only thing that makes it necessary to leave is that i need to be where the work is doled out to be considered a serious contender…that’s the way it works. in places like nashville, there are so many talented players that there’s just no reason to consider an out-of-towner unless there are mitigating factors that make them attractive for some reason or other. charlie and i talked about this, too…he was telling me about his friend mark prentice, who played on his record, and a conversation they had about what happened when he moved out from arizona. he said that he had a lot of talented friends back home who were constantly asking him if he could get them work on sessions or on the road, etc – and inevitably, he’d have to tell them that he couldn’t, because they weren’t in town, and that the work didn’t wait for them to come to it, they had to be here and ready to work. i can’t imagine that any other employer would be that much different – why hire someone from a thousand miles away when a perfectly suitable candidate is right down the street? someone who’s packed and ready and can be on the bus tomorrow, as opposed to someone whos’ gotta get into town from somewhere else before you can even suss ’em out?

the fact is, you gotta be there to play the game.

but the question that raises is – is this a permanent thing for me, or is it just something that i want to experience before i shuffle off this mortal coil? and, if it’s the latter, how much am i willing to sacrifice just to have that on my resume?

hell, what if i hate it? what if i think that road work sucks ass?

boy, oh boy…not hard to work oneself into a frenzy over shit like this, is it?

* the list, as made and discovered in the episode of friends that lead up to ross and rachel finally hookin’ up….you know the one…

resilient

now playing: the answering machine backlog

among the things in life that are best left to others to endure, methinks, would be the experience of being bedside when a small child comes out from under anesthesia.

i’ve never been under, i have no idea what it’s like for an adult – but tonight i got to see the effects it has on a child, and it’s not pretty. according to the nurse in the post-op ward, it happens to almost every child that comes out from under general anesthesia.

i don’t know how one maintains a grip on their sanity, working in an environment like that.

anyway, i bring this up because my ex-girlfriends’ daughter was in surgery tonight, having one of two kidney stones removed. there’s no way i wasn’t going to be there for that, so i went straight to the hospital after work and was there when she came to.

her behavior as she shook off the anesthesia could only be described as akin to that of a heroin addict after several days removed from the dope…she was trembling uncontrollably, her lower lip quivering as if she wanted to cry but couldn’t. she kept sticking her tongue out, saying “i can’t breathe” when it seemed as though she meant that she couldn’t swallow…i could hear the rapid rise and subsequent drop of her heart rate on the monitor next to the bed.

after roughly twenty minutes of that, she began to slowly calm down and succumb to the morphine that they put her on almost immediately after coming out. she finally let me give her some ice chips to moisten the sandpaper that someone had obviously swapped for her tongue while she was under…about 45 minutes after having awakened, we were wheeling her back to her room, where an eleven-months-pregnant orderly was waiting for her to help her back into her bed…

“obviously, you’re the medical professional here, and i’m just going on instinct, but i think there’s an offhand chance that you may be expecting in the not too distant future…”

break the ice. get ’em on your side.

actually, all the staff that i met there tonight were excellent – good bedside manner, very professional…shanna’s roommate is a girl whos’ had constant urinary bacterial infections since birth. i was talking to her dad, who said that it was something akin to having the ubiquitous kink in the garden hose occur in your urinary tract. samantha said that the conversation scared her a bit, and made her realize that her daughter was much further up the curve than some of the other kids there.

i remember, back when i began working on my first album of original music (several years prior to OMA), i used to come home from gigs and there’d be these half-hour, hour long infomercials on VH-1 for St. Judes’ Childrens’ Hospital. the first ones i saw were narrarated by danny thomas – and later by his daughter marlo after he passed away. i’d sit there in my living room at 3:30 in the morning watching these incredibly brave children, listening to their parents talk about what their kids were going through, and what their odds of survival were, and how brave they were…as often as not, i’d have my own daughter asleep on my lap, having awakened not long after i’d come home from a gig – and i’d sit there and watch these kids fighting for their lives with tears streaming down my face…

kids are the most resilient force on the planet, i think.

they have to be, to find their way in this world.

blessed

now playing: frog holler, “least most wanted”

wendy’s grandmother passed away over the weekend.

the last time i saw her was when we went up for her aunt pattys’ wedding…i specifically remember sitting with her in her apartment, looking through family pictures that must’ve gone back over fifty years. she gave me the nararrated, guided family history as we looked through them.

she was unstoppable. she did her share of complaining, as do most elderly folks…i think i’m starting to get some insight as to the source of the aches and pains that plague folks as they start to age – i’m miles away from 40, but i seem to be noticing of late that i don’t have the stamina or the energy that i had not that long ago. but “nana” seemed to give the pain its space and move on. the day she died, she called patty to tell her that she had gas and wouldn’t be able to go kayaking with her the next day.

pretty damn spry for an 83 year old woman.

so…all this means that wendy is headed north, both for her nana’s funeral and for her cousins’ graduation the following week.

friday i drove all the way to pottstown to surprise my all-but-adopted shanna with tuition for cheerleader camp. i had talked to her mom a bit earlier in the week, and she had told me about how her daycare was doubling over the summer and that her rent was going up…and that she was selling something to try to help defray the costs of camp. i personally had no need for the cookie dough kits, or whatever they were…and i hadn’t done anything really nice for shanna for a while – so i paid for camp for her.

and, as is usually the case in my life, no good deed goes unpunished.

got a speeding ticket on the way to philadelphia this weekend – for $115…just a few bucks shy of what i gave shanna’s mom for camp.

i got a chuckle out of it as i remembered later that some years back, todd and i were standing on south street eating pizza when a woman approached us and asked for money to buy tampons. a woman, i might add, who was many years removed from the last menstrual cycle she’d had, if i had to venture a guess where her age was concerned.

as she walked away from us, she turned and told me, “god will bless you tonight”.

that night, on the way home, i got a ticket for making a U-turn prior to getting onto the ben franklin bridge.

blessed, indeed.

light at the end of the semester

now playing: tom petty, “straight into darkness”

well, i think i’ve said it before, but i’ll say it again…at no time in my life have i ever looked forward to school being out as much as i am this year.

another late night last night, helping dylan work on his recycled lap steel guitar and his civil war battle sketch project..

i finally sent him to bed at 1 am.

this morning, he was so tired and disoriented that he got up and put a pair of my pants on to wear to school…and had to be told that he had the wrong pants on.

i’ll bet we both sleep good tonight.

i remember this time of year when i was his age…the short day on the final day of school, the triumphant ride home on the bus with all the windows down…i seem to have this really vivid memory of sitting across the aisle from tammy daniels, whose house i used to be able to see from my front porch but was still a half mile away…that woulda been around seventh or eighth grade, i think…

roxy music comes to mind, too, for some reason…

it’s not the heat that gets ya…it’s the….

now playing: kathleen edwards, “mercury”

wow….power outage.

i was over sitting at one of the desks in purchasing and the whole plant went black. all the servers were on UPS units, but a lot of users in our UNIX system lost data when their PC’s went dark.

doesn’t do much good to have a server on a UPS if the terminals attached to it are going to conk when the lights go out.

anyway, water under the bridge there.

i’ve taken on a pretty huge photo editing project of late…i’m trying to finish my website, and one of the things i want to include is a photo album of my instrument collection. i finally finished taking the pictures last weekend (took three separate sessions, due to battery issues), and now i’m pulling all of them up in photoshop and editing them for the site.

through this process, i’ve become painfully aware of the mistakes i made while taking the pictures.

for one thing, i now understand the use of black backdrops in photography studios in a way i didn’t before…i was originally going to photograph the guitars against a white wall, sitting on a bureau covered with a white dropcloth. i thought this looked neutral enough, and would be consistent for all the instruments…but after editing some of the photos, i decided instead to use the software to remove the guitars from their backgrounds entirely. this decision notwithstanding, i also noticed that in a number of the pictures, i could clearly see the reflection of the white tabletop area in the finish of the guitars at the bottom of the instruments. it appeared at first as a “ghost” shadow across the bottom of the instruments that i thought was a quirk of the camera…but then it became a little too consistent across the board – i was seeing it in a large number of the pics (especially the newer instruments with a lot of life left in the finishes, and in the black guitars especially).

instead of reshooting, i’ve been editing out the shadows during the cropping and light adjustment process…and it’s been interesting. i can’t believe how long it’s taking. when i’m sitting here, using the airbrush or clone stamp tool to clean up the pixelization that ultimately happens along the length of the necks of the instruments, it seems like every guitar i own is a 65″ scale length with a 48 fret neck (that’s abnormally long, for the non-guitarists among my 4.6 loyal readers). the other problem that i’ve found is that i can’t rely on using the “wand” tool to remove the backgrounds from the pictures…because i used a white background, i’m finding that the wand sees the binding on the necks and bodies of the guitars as being part of the background in certain instances, and it removes the binding from the instruments at the same time it allows me to “paint over” the wall and the bureau as i’m editing the pics.

sheesh.

in over a week of doing this on a somewhat sporadic basis, i’ve managed to finish less than half of my collection. i haven’t really been able to commit huge chunks of time to it, but there are just volumes and volumes of pics…my collection is approaching 70 instruments if it isn’t there already.

i don’t know if i can recall a time in my life when i was ever as psyched about the end of school as i am this year.

and yeah, that does include my own academic career.

dylans’ trials and tribulations have been pretty front and center this year, and i’ve been more involved in his academic life than i ever have this year. it’s been project after project all year long, and they’re finishing with a bang. as we speak, he’s reciting a Maya Angelou poem from memory in front of his class…he had a project called “webquest” that he had to finish earlier in the week, and he stayed up on tuesday night until almost midnight working on it…then i woke him up at 5:45am the next morning to finish it so he could turn it in on time. he has one other project involving a series of drawings that he has to finish as well, and there’s also the “junk jam session” project.

this one involves making a musical instrument from at least three recyclable materials. it has to be functional and playable, and he has to describe how it works…

sooooo….

we decided to make a lap steel guitar from a two-by-four, a milk jug and a piece of aluminum foil. (and, of course, some various and sundry guitar parts..)

we’ve been down to keith’s shop a few times to partake of his generosity in allowing us to use some of his tools to assemble the instrument, and it’s gonna kick some serious ass. it’s not gonna be pretty, but it’ll work. (it is made from trash, after all)

we gotta finish it tonight, though…it’s due tomorrow. we’re gonna call it the “sly-D” guitar (note the clever juxtaposition of the spelling of the name with what the guitar is for…i kill me).

i’m gonna take everyone out to dinner when this is over to celebrate the reprieve from project and homework hell for a few months. good riddance.

summer is here…obviously.

i was thinking last night as i went to bed with the fan humming away on the nightstand next to me…how did i ever survive as a kid?

growing up, we had no air conditioners in our rooms…maybe a fan, if that. we played outside most of the time…and i used to complain now and then about the heat and such, but i don’t remember ever being as miserable as a result of the weather then as i am now.

summer, for me, is bullshit. it’s one long sweatfest full of uncomfortable moments, grumpiness, and just general misery as a result of the relentless, sweltering humidityfest that is summer here. i hate it.

i never thought i’d say that, but i’m realizing it’s true. i fuckin’ hate summer.

i spend the majority of it indoors, with either a fan or the AC on, and i don’t really go outside unless i have to for whatever reason. i seldom do anything routinely recreational during the summer unless it’s a sport or something that would create a sweaty environment regardless…i don’t find anything recreational about perspiration soaking through my clothes and running down cracks and crevices that we won’t mention by name here just to poke through a flea market or hang out at penns’ landing or anything of that ilk.

i just can’t be bothered. not feelin’ it. sorry.

part of this, for me, is rooted in the recent extinction of spring and autumn.

they just don’t exist anymore. we go straight from “don’t leave the house without your jacket” to “don’t go out there without your sunscreen” in roughly 36 hours or so. it’s freezing, and then it rains a few days, and then it’s miserably friggin’ hot…in the space of about a week or so.

i played a gig with stone road this past weekend in a club with no air conditioning. at all. just a fan pointed towards the back room.

i brought a change of clothes and a towel, because i knew. i knew what the deal was gonna be.

and i sure did sweat my ass off…

but it’s ok…everything is fine. just drop those styrofoam peanuts at the curb with the trash and hop in your SUV and go about your business. after all, we didn’t have anything to do with this….

did i mention it’s friggin’ hot outside?

wednesday mornin’ comin’ down….

now playing: john gorka, “night is a woman”

just wanted to say that i haven’t died, haven’t ended up in the hospital, haven’t walked into traffic or anything of the sort…

i have, however, just finished reinstalling windows on my home PC, which had developed too many quirks to mention, and i’m working on a number of projects at work which have precluded my having much of anything to say.

not that i don’t have anything to say, of course…

today, i had to wake dylan up before me to sit him down in front of the computer to finish a homework assignment due today.

i doubt that he has any idea how mentally exhausting it is to constantly look over his shoulder the way i’ve had to lately.

anyway….i should probably put him back on track….he’s getting out of the shower, so i have to resume the position…

whirlwind

 

 

now playing: john gorka, “my new neighborhood”

 

i knew this day was gonna suck, i just wasn’t sure how much.

lately, everyone needs a favor of some sort. a computer for this test program for the board shop, update the software that this computer uses for diagnostics, a special laptop with a serial port to run a DOS program that has historically run on a now-defunct x386 PC on someones’ test bench…

…it just never seems to end.

now, one of our salesmen has developed an outlook express anomaly that i can’t seem to duplicate on a machine in-house, and he’s in wisconsin, trying to read his email via the webaccess app, and is crying about it because it’s “cumbersome”.

i have so had enough of the crybaby parade that never seems to end here.

it seems to me that i work for network support…which insinuates (in my feeble brain with limited logical capacity) that we support the network…not the idiots who can’t seem to find their way around it. of course, i know the latter to be the truer statement, but it’s a notion i cling to in times like these.

i’m actually thinking about starting a blog specifically to address this particular aspect of my life…so i can rededicate this space to more personal matters.

maybe – maybe not. we’ll see.

anyway, guitars are taking over my house.

as this venture gets further underway, as capital becomes available and purchases are made, it’s becoming a real task to get from the front door to any destination past that point. it has become even more important to start taking an inventory of the items that clutter my home and starting to make some decisions about what goes and what stays.

it’s just that it’s such a huge undertaking that it never seems to get off the ground.

i’ve started a short-lived habit of getting out of bed on saturdays, showering, and going to hang out at keith amos’ shop for a few hours in the afternoon. he has a teenager there on weekends whos’ building an acoustic guitar as a class project, and he’s doing a damn good job. i’m jealous.

last weekend, i met another local player who i felt an almost immediate kinship with…great player, good chops, likes all the right players – and is just a joy to be around. the lot of us (myself, keith, dylan, and our new buddy, lil’ ragu) shot the breeze for most of the afternoon, and i went to see his band that night. they’re tight – really tight. he’s got some serious chops, too. it was a hoot watching him play. he’s not a rockstar, by any stretch of the imagination…in fact, he looks like someone i would have met at one of the infamous nocera family reunions…but he has a kind soul to go with the talent that he’s come by.

i could see keiths’ shop turning into a High-Fidelity-esque hangout for derelict guitar players like myself on saturdays…it’s that kind of hang.

my custom stratocaster should be done next week – it’d be done in time for the weekend, but keiths’ off on vacation as of today.

i can’t wait to tear into that bad boy.

lots of thoughts clouding my brain this past week, lots of stuff to sort through…i think that, in twenty or thirty years, that the days in which we live right now will be studied and discussed and analyzed and held up in much the same way the sixties are now. we are standing smack dab in the middle of a whirlwind, and the world around us is begging us to do the right thing.

continuing to turn a deaf ear to it is going to be our downfall.

from TIME magazine…

The Perils of a Righteous President
Faith without doubt leads to moral arrogance

By JOE KLEIN

After his grudging public apology for the behavior of U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, George W. Bush attended a ceremony commemorating the National Day of Prayer. His remarks there were, as we have come to expect from this President, a stirring mix of humility and certainty. “God is not on the side of any nation, yet we know He is on the side of justice,” Bush said. “Our finest moments [as a nation] have come when we have faithfully served the cause of justice for our own citizens, and for the people of other lands.”

The words are wonderful, but such sentiments are easily corrupted. Faith without doubt leads to moral arrogance, the eternal pratfall of the religiously convinced. We are humble before the Lord, Bush insists. We cannot possibly know His will. And yet, we “know” He’s on the side of justice—and we define what justice is. Indeed, we can toss around words like justice and evil with impunity, send off mighty armies to “serve the cause of justice” in other lands and be so sure of our righteousness that the merest act of penitence—an apology for an atrocity—becomes a presidential crisis. “This is not the America I know,” Bush said of the torturers, as if U.S. soldiers were exempt from the temptations of absolute power that have plagued occupying armies from the beginning of time.

As the nation suffered the disgrace of Abu Ghraib last week, I traveled through Turkey and Jordan—our staunchest Islamic allies in the region—and talked with moderate politicians, businesspeople and military officials. Most found Bush’s moral talk either duplicitous or fatuous. “Liberate Iraq? Rubbish,” said a prominent Jordanian businessman. “You occupy Iraq for the strategic and economic benefits. You are building the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. Halliburton and Bechtel are running everything, at enormous profits. And then I watch Bush on Al-Arabiya and all I see is his sense of moral superiority. He brings democracy and freedom to the barbarians. But who are the barbarians? Even before the Abu Ghraib pictures, we saw male soldiers searching Iraqi women and humiliating Iraqi men by forcing their heads to the ground.”

The President’s moral convictions are, no doubt, matters of true faith—and the Jordanian businessman is a member of an authoritarian establishment with much to lose if Islamic radicals or, faint chance, democrats take charge. But Bush’s moral certainty almost seemed delusional last week in the vertiginous realities of Iraq. A distressing, uninflected righteousness has defined this Administration from the start, and it hasn’t been limited to the President. Bush’s overheated sense of good vs. evil has been reinforced by the intellectual fantasies of neoconservatives like I. Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz, who serve Bush’s two most powerful advisers, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. It was neoconservatives who provided the philosophical rationale for the President’s gut response to the evildoers of Sept. 11: a grand crusade—yes, a crusade—to establish democracy in Iraq and then, via a benign tumbling of local dominoes, throughout the Middle East. Those who opposed the crusade opposed democracy. Those who opposed the President coddled terrorists (according to recent G.O.P. TV ads). They were not morally serious.

But democracy doesn’t easily lend itself to evangelism; it requires more than faith. It requires a solid, educated middle class and a sophisticated understanding of law, transparency and minority rights. It certainly can’t be imposed by outsiders, not in a fractious region where outsiders are considered infidels. This is not rocket science. It is conventional wisdom among democracy and human-rights activists—and yet the Administration allowed itself to be blinded by righteousness. Why? Because moral pomposity is almost always a camouflage for baser fears and desires. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neoconservatives share a primal belief in the use of military power to intimidate enemies. If the U.S. didn’t strike back “big time,” it would be perceived as weak. (Crushing the peripheral Taliban and staying focused on rooting out al-Qaeda cells wasn’t “big” enough.) The President may have had some personal motives—doing to Saddam Hussein what his father didn’t; filling out Karl Rove’s prescription of a strong leader; making the world safe for his friends in the energy industry. The neoconservatives had ulterior motives too: almost all were fervent believers in the state of Israel and, as a prominent Turkish official told me last week, “they didn’t want Saddam’s rockets falling on Tel Aviv.” At the very least, they were hoping to intimidate the Palestinians into accepting Ariel Sharon’s vision of a “state” without sovereignty.

Abu Ghraib made a mockery of American idealism. It made all the baser motives—oil, dad, Israel—more believable. And it represents all the moral complexities this President has chosen to ignore—all the perverse consequences of an occupation.

before i forget it happened…

during one of our routine late-night drives that the kids enjoy so much….

…the radio is on, and it’s been somewhat quiet, from a conversational standpoint, for a few minutes…

i’m starting to assume that they’re falling asleep.

commercial….

“…it’s called the aurora. it’s the hair removal system that you’ve been waiting for…..”

from dylan’s corner of the back seat:

“…yessssss!….”