spring 1997 – the sequel

now playing: michael mcdonald, “i can let go now” (…on repeat all by itself in winamp)

this week feels like spring of 1997 all over again.

crumbling relationships, uncertainty, simultaneous fear and excitement about what the short-term future holds, trepidation and possibilities – the similarities are evident all around me.

ending a relationship that wasn’t supposed to end. moving back to the city. steeping myself in a musical endeavor. renewing my effort to try and bridge a gap in my relationship with my kids (although circumstances there couldn’t be more different than they were almost a decade ago, when i did this the first time).

i can feel every nerve ending in my body right now, and it’s freakin’ me out considerably.

i don’t recommend this path as a method of jarring oneself loose from a deep funk to anyone…but if you must, i can tell you that it works….although the end result may be worse for you than whatever pre-existing funk mighta been.

i have so much shit to do that i can’t think straight. my “to do” list is three pages long. reading it makes me physically dizzy.

and while i realize that, at the end of all this, things will be better for all concerned, the generalness and complete lack of clarity as to what that means is somewhat frightening.

i’m trying to combat that by painting small pictures in my head of what my life is going to be like in a few weeks.

for instance, the bus terminal is only a half dozen or so blocks from the new place. on days when neither kid obligations nor gigs come into play, i can take the bus to and from work and save on gas.

i can clear the balcony outside my bedroom and take the easel out there and draw or paint if i choose to…or sit out there and play guitar and annoy the neighbors (since my reggaeton chops are pretty dismal).

i’ve been focusing on all the work that the place needs to meet even minimal decor standards, and that’s just making me tired. my shoulders hurt just thinking about it.

never someone that i’ve looked to for nuggets of wisdom (although if you want a bad pun, she’s the second person you should see), the woman i share an office with came through with a gem earlier this week.

she said that when she started down her own personal descent into the disintegration of her marriage, she heard from someone that there is always one person that you’d never have thought you were terribly close to that would come through for you in a big way, and that there’d be one person that you were certain would be in your corner that would prove to be a disappointment. no matter how well you thought you knew them, you’d find this to be the case with at least two people. she said that she found it true with her, and i think i’ve already found it true with myself – although it’s early yet….i’ve been mistaken about this kind of thing before. but i have found a great deal of comfort in renewed relationships with a couple of people that i’ve either been out of touch with for some time, or whom i’ve never really explored anything deeper than an acquaintance…so that’s been an unexpected pleasant surprise.

entries are short these days, and time dictates that they be so. this will change in the not-too-distant future. i have lots going on and plenty to say about it….

…just not right now.

opdyckes’ law

now playing: jackson browne, “sky blue and black”


so there are a million little things that i need to get done before i vacate the premises here, and one of them was to scan jayda’s feature article in the reading eagle so that she can get to it. i figured that some of the folks who stop by here on occasion might be interested, so here goes:


you can go here for a larger version of it.

i was on the phone for a while with my old new hope buddy, jerry opdycke, for a while tonight – seems my entry from friday seems to have spooked a few folks, and i’ve got a couple of people emailing and calling to make sure i don’t have the barrel of a gun in my mouth…understandably so, i suppose. i think the fact that the site was down all weekend because i forgot to switch my debit card when i changed bank accounts might have added to the mystique somewhat, hard to say…aaaanyway..

jerry informed me that my mental state can be attributed to opdyckes’ law of unequal redisbursement – which is to say…and i quote:

when the shit hits the fan, it never flies off the blades in equal proportions.

there’s a lot going on here. the total of which i might go into a fraction at a time, but i’ll spare you all most of it. suffice to say that everything seems to be happening at once, and even my newfangled to-do lists aren’t much help in keeping on top of everything. all the wisdom being sent my way is that it’s a speedbump and that i’ll be back to normal once i’m settled into a new place and i’ve had time to digest everything, but i know from my own experience what “settling into a new place” entails. i’ve certainly done it enough to know by now.

i took dylan with me to look at a place tonight directly across from city park – dylan fell in love with the place…in fact, he’s probably already packing. which, knowing dylan, is saying something. now it must be said that, as this place sits right now, it should have about two months’ worth of work done to it before anyone even considers moving in. when we walked in, we both kinda froze in our tracks. it looked like a weird combination of the brady bunch house and any one of a multitude of haunted houses from scooby-doo.

tudor beam ceilings.
fireplace with turquoise tile.
orange shag carpet.

honestly, austin powers would have thought that this place was completely over the top. but i have to say, it has potential. the layout is cool, the rooms are big, and the dining room is big enough to serve as a studio, if my hands are forced (which they very well may be). heat, hot water, and trash are included in the rent, it has central air and a washer/dryer that they’re leaving there for us…

and there’s one other thing that i damn near soiled my pants over when i saw it, and i dare not discuss it here, and i won’t mention a word of it until this scenario has played out and somethings’ been decided here.

but when i mention it later…you’ll know what i’m talking about.

i’m going to try to go back tomorrow with jayda (who missed this trip because she was at a RACC event with Reading Musical Voices), so she can get a look around and have an opinion on the proposition at hand.

in the meantime, i need to get through all the shit on my desk and pack what i don’t need…then i can get through the rest of the house as i go. i’ve actually made quite a bit of progress already tonight.

it’s a small thing, but i’m taking whatever i get these days.

you wouldn’t like me when i’m angry…

now playing: melanie doane, “i can’t take my eyes off you”

there was a blog that i used to link to a while back that got lost in one of my template rennovations – today i had occasion to seek it out again, because i felt as though i found today’s candidate on my sojourn across the street at lunchtime.

the title of the blog was people who deserve a beatdown. after my experience today, i felt compelled to hunt it down again, and sure enough – it’s still there in all its sarcastic, irreverent glory.

were i a contributor, todays’ entry would read something like this:

parked in the front of redners’ warehouse market in a spot specifically reserved for “elderly and expectant mothers only”, there sits a white chrysler minivan with the windows rolled down (it’s barely cracking 50 degrees, by the way), with AC/DC blasting from within its bowels. in the drivers’ seat there sat a thirty-something lifelong NASCAR enthusiast who was obviously taking a break from his pizza delivery route or his job at the 7-11 counter…you see guys like this all the time around here – his profile was something akin to an eggplant with arms…not a single curve from his chin to his beltline, ever expanding downward. bald on the top, mullet sprouts in back, scraggly beard.

and here sits this guy, windows down in his minivan (the sheer antithesis of rock and roll, in and of itself), elbow out the window of his LoveMachine, blasting his preference in music for the benefit of all the centenarian bingo rangers who frequent the store at that time of day. i didn’t see a handicapped placard or plate on it, but i’m assuming that his malignant flabbanoma might’ve qualified him to park where he was. because, to the best of my knowledge, ignorance hasn’t been declared a handicap yet.

when that happens, they’ll have to blue-line the first three rows of parking spots in just about every lot in this county.

i smiled as i walked past the Bouncin’ Jukebox Of Love back to work, picturing myself pulling the “elderly and expectant mothers only” sign up from the asphalt, bruce banner style, and beating him about the head and non-existent shoulders with it.

being stupid, in and of itself, is bad enough. when you have to go out in public and wave your stupid flag for all the world to see…then you deserve a beat down.

sorry for something

now playing: jackson browne, “in the shape of a heart”

i seriously can’t wait for this week to be over.

i’ve gotten caught up in this perpetual toilet swirl these past couple of weeks, and nothing is really pointing towards any kind of improvement right now, either.

dropped over $220 to replace the rear tires on the trooper last week, only to have to throw another $700 or so at it this week for other stuff – thus went the majority of my relocation fund. oh, yeah – i’m moving soon. very soon. sooner than later. which means that i’ll be shutting the studio down temporarily, perhaps longer – depending on how this whole thing plays out.

after this past month, i’ve given serious thought to putting the whole thing on the block and calling it a day. i’ve thought about it at length every day for some time now. when i weigh the good things that i take away from participating in this “hobby” (and that’s all i can really call it, if you put it in its proper perspective), they have been handily outweighed by the burdensome characteristics of allowing it the space it takes up.

i’ve somehow become insanely envious of people who go home at the end of their day and eat dinner and park themselves in front of their television until they go to bed for the night…taking time in between to mow their lawns, pay their bills and taxes, change their oil….shuttle their kids from activity to activity without the pressure of other outside shit rushing them through what their real priorities should be.

“everyone i know whos’ famous is sorry for something,” stevie nicks said in an interview once, “and for me, it’s that i never married and i never had children.”

i married. i had children. two great kids who essentially raised themselves while i was trying to figure out where my dreams fit into my life…and sixteen years later, i’m nothing if not miles further from whatever it is that i hoped to accomplish than i was when i set off down this road.

jayda turns sixteen tomorrow. the day after that, dylan turns fourteen. there are days when i feel as though they’re both strangers to me. it’s not their fault – they’ve done as i did at the same point in my own life…they’re working with what they have, and doing the best they can. neither of them are promiscuous crackhead columbine cases, to the best of my knowledge…but i think that says more about the kind of people they are than it does about the kind of parent i’ve been.

y’know, i had quit for a while…in a sense, anyway. i threw in the towel and played with a cover band for quite a few years, and life was okay. i enjoyed it. i’ve had a steady day job for years now, and it fit into that quite well. i’d go to the occasional rehearsal, play on weekends, and all was well.

in fact, the only thing i can say unequivocally about this past two decades i’ve spent as an erstwhile songwriter and performer is that every time i’ve tried to take steps in the direction of making something good happen, on a creative level – to get back on the path, whatever the path is – something in my life goes fucking haywire.

thus it is and has been these past few months. nothing has changed in this regard. i decide to make another record in as low-key a fashion as possible. ok, no problem. that whole process falls together rather easily, if you consider staying up until 3AM most nights to work on the album effortless. i get a choice gig, opening for poco in a great room…and it happens to fall on the night that my daughter is singing in the annual talent show at her high school. happy hour gigs fall on nights when she’s singing at berks jazz fest. dylan wins, and then somehow loses, first drum chair in the middle school jazz band…while his dad is busy doing things that don’t involve coaching him and helping him with rudiments, timing, and such.

then, all the money shit starts going down. things start breaking, winter kicks my ass because the furnace in the house where i live kicks on for 45 seconds and then shuts off for a couple of minutes, then repeats the cycle over and over again. i spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 for heating oil from october through february. the car starts its trip down nickel and dime avenue. jayda starts working with a producer from school, ends up in the newspaper – a half page article that comes out on the day that i’m doing a remote recording in west chester for the day (i got a copy after the fact, though, thankfully).

i mean, do i need to be literally hit over the friggin’ head here?

someone or something is trying to send me a message, and i’m just too stupid to get it.

but i think it’s starting to sink in.

i’m trapsing all over hell and creation, looking for a place to move the studio into…alternately looking for a place to live, now that things with the house appear to have hit a wall from which there’s no swerving away from…and i keep asking myself, lately – what the hell am i doing? i’m wondering what it is, exactly, that i’d hope to accomplish by moving out and renting separate quarters for the studio and for myself. forget where i’m going to raise the cash to front security deposits and first months’ rent for two spaces at the same time.

i must be insane.

i’ve always taken a certain amount of solace in renting, versus owning – i get tagged a slacker for it, and i made peace with that some time back…but i went the homeowner route when i was married to the kids’ mom, and i suck at it. i tarred the roof, i rebuilt the steps down to the basement, painted, dug up and retilled the backyard to even out the lay of the grass – the whole gamut. i did it all. and i sucked ass at everything i tried to do. i just don’t have the gene that people who take pride in doing that kinda shit seem to have been born with. i’ve accomplished things musically that have made the hair on my neck stand up, but the handyman stuff never gave me any kind of a rise at all. none. no sense of accomplishment, none of it.

the other side of the coin is that there’s always been a sense of security in knowing that there was someone who was going to step in and make things right if something went awry. that solace has been worth the money, to me.

now, though – at 40, with two children, i’ve found myself in circles on occasion where this is looked upon as a measure of failure – the whole he’s forty and still renting? trip. and from a particular vantage point, there’s merit in that. i can understand that being a measure of your success as a person, in certain circles. it’s just that i’ve managed to avoid allowing myself to be judged in that manner for a long time…now, i’m becoming self conscious about it…and questioning my decisions at various points on the road that’s brought me here.

i struggle with whether or not i truly feel regret about the “rent vs. own” business…i know there are others around me whose thoughts about the matter are already decided, and i guess that’s fine…when i think about it from a strictly personal vantage point, it truly doesn’t bother me that i don’t have to stare at the ceiling at night, wondering when the furnace is going to die or when i’m due to replace the roof or any of that crap. it’s almost totally the weight of the judgement of others, and how i’m measured against other people, that fuels my feelings about all that.

i do, however, feel a succinct sense of loss for some of the things i’ve missed while i was so focused on creative pursuits and trying to make things happen in other parts of my life.

i’m completely aware that i’m not going to get those years back by throwing in the towel at this point. i know this. but i’m also acutely aware of the growing sense of futility that i just can’t seem to shake.

i look around myself at the state of things right now, and i truly believe that opportunities for independent artists are at their absolute peak at this point in time. i think they’re only going to get better as time goes by. i’ve re-released OMA and put out a new record, and they’ve both been met with a great deal of enthusiasm – i’ve sold CD’s to people i’ve never met via the internet, and i’ve gotten emails from strangers who’ve been moved by what they’ve heard…and that is still every bit as gratifying as it was the first time it ever happened to me. on a basic level, the motivation to continue to write, record, and make music is still very much present.

but it’s also becoming very clear to me that the resources i have available to contribute to that motivation – whether they be financial, spiritual, or otherwise – are in increasingly short supply.

i just don’t know how much more i have in the tank at this point.

who knows what heaven is?

now playing: the band, “stage fright”

just a couple of thoughts that have either crossed my mind or my computer screen of late that i thought i’d share…

there’s been a lot of political discussion over on the poconut forum of late – it started out as a discussion of the DPW ports situation, and grew from there to encompass a lot of other things. it hasn’t been the first political discussion there, and it certainly won’t be the last. one thing that someone said, though, could be the encapsulation of the entire political landscape in a couple of sentences.

i thought i’d share it with you.

“politics used to be about who was best at promising us the means to fulfill our dreams. now it’s about whos’ best at promising to protect us from our nightmares. apparently, the right seems to be best at that right now.”

the fact that there’s so much truth in that statement is a grave indicator of just how heavy and encompassing the shift in our country has been this past decade or so. it’s pretty damned sobering.

in other news, i think i’ve arrived at my own personal vision of heaven. or – at least – what i think i’d like for it to be.

heaven, for me, would be a place where i’d be allowed to exist completely free of obligation or other peoples’ expectations. no one to call about their computer, no one who needed this or wanted that, no favors to earn or return, no bills, no place to be at a given time of day. just a mandate to exist and find things to enjoy about whatever given day it might be.

lately, the thought of even a temporary piece of that kind of heaven is absolutely blissful.

roll out the bucket..

now playing: rose reiter, “phantoms”

been a while, huh?

i don’t know if i’ve talked about this before, but i don’t publish directly from the blogger website – i use a text editor and then publish the finished post after it’s done. there are a bunch of benefits to doing this in that fashion, but one of the things that kinda sucks about doing it that way is that i end up starting entries and not finishing them every now and then…and this past couple of weeks has been plagued with false starts. and of course, the fragments are all over the map, so there really isn’t any stringing them together and making them into one long entry, because it would be so schizophrenic that you’d all be emailing me asking what the hell happened to me…but the truth belies the scattered nature of my bits and pieces of unpublished journal entries.

the truth is, not much has been going on. i’ve put together a promo kit for the band in order to try to get us work, and i’m moving in that direction…still working on the poco album…but after that weekend was over, i crashed pretty hard. probably a combination of staying up until at least 2:30 every night working on getting the first noises record finished and packaged and ready for duplication in time for the show that friday.

for the first week after the mad scramble to finish the record, culminating in the show, i couldn’t even walk down the basement stairs. i was burnt. too much in too short a time. but i’m over it now, thankfully.

i had gotten a great idea for how i was going to open and close the poco record, but after talking to rusty, i’m looking for another way to go about it…for what are very good reasons that i can’t really talk about right now. it’s all good, though. real good.

i went down to the basement a while back and grabbed every folder, every notebook, every scrap of paper i had accumulated down there that had even a snippet of a song idea on them and brought them all upstairs and began rooting through them and trying to “separate the wheat from the chaff”, as david crosby might put it.

some of the stuff was a little rudimentary – but then i’ve saved damn near everything i’ve written. that changed that night as i was going through the stuff, because there was some stuff in there that i simply don’t want anyone else to ever be able to credit to me. now somewhere, there’s a book full of stuff that i wrote as long ago as high school (20+ years now), and i need to seek that out and do away with it as well.

but on the up side, there were some lyrics tucked away in there that were pretty strong – mostly among the half-finished stuff…some of the finished songs were okay, but i didn’t feel any real motivation to jump right into any of them with any zeal…although i do think i’ll probably pull at least one or two from the archives and re-record them for the next record. they’d be songs that i’d already given some thought to doing anyway, though.

i’m realizing, looking at the calendar, that it’s been almost a full month since i’ve committed an entry to this page…this might be a record for me. there are a combination of culprits – a general malaise on my part, a lack of anything of import to talk about, no real sense of urgency…where updating the site has been concerned. all this comes from several places, but it’s nothing that i can put a specific finger on.

a couple of weekends ago, i went to delaware for the weekend to collaborate with the guys from shame on some songs they were working on…due to my late arrival, we only really got to work on one, but we had a great time. they were in the middle of the one song when i got there, and they all hated the chorus, so we set to work writing a new chorus and then decided that the old chorus would be a great bridge, so we used it for that instead. then i gave them an idea for a tag line and it was done. so we celebrated by going out for dinner, where i ordered a “pail of fries” to split between the six of us…i wish i’d taken my camera, because this “pail” was anything but a friggin’ pail. it was roughly the size of one of those ice cream buckets from sam’s club, and it was rounded over. i was expecting…well, you know – a pail. a tiny bucket of the sort that pony bottles of rolling rock would come in. something that would look cute with a small, neon-colored plastic shovel. but nooooooo. they brought out the equivalent of a fried potato kegger. we did our damndest, but we were only able to do away with about two-thirds of it.

but we had a great time…i got to talk to roger, their manager, for the longest that i think i’ve ever spent talking to him – and i always enjoy his company. i realized how much i missed the sunday night trips to “the vic” that we used to do every week. we all stayed up until after 5am, talking and drinking. well, i should say some of us stayed up. others didn’t quite make it.

strangely, i think i enjoyed the drive down and back as much as actually being there…i don’t get many opportunities to spend that kind of time alone these days – especially in the car, which has become my mobile fortress of solitude. i had stopped at one point to pay a toll, and it was so warm outside that i left my window down for most of the rest of the trip down.

in the time since i’ve gotten back, i’ve been a little wrapped up in a side recording project for the west chester friends school, a quaker school where my friend chris’ son jake goes to school…after i put noises out, she had the idea to record the kids singing and put a CD together to raise money at their annual auction – which meant that the window was relatively narrow, but i think we may actually pull it off. i stayed up pretty late these last few nights getting everything edited properly for the master, and she’s working on the artwork this afternoon – we’re both pretty hopeful that it’ll be finished in time for the auction, and things look pretty good at this point. i don’t think chris thrives on this whole last-minute thing the way i can at times…i seem to have a decent tolerance for this sort of thing (i should, i’ve certainly gotten plenty of practice at last-minute), but i can definitely hear the frazzledness in her voice the last few times i’ve spoken with her.

the whole last-minute thing would’ve eventually backed up on us both had we ended up together on a more permanent basis…i’m reminded this week of when we decided to transform jakes’ wagon into a castle for a kids’ halloween parade in new castle, delaware – and how we essentially ended up doing the whole thing the day of the parade and loading it into the van and driving the rig down that night after having made countless compromises on the design of it…as i recall, i bought a hacksaw and was going to cut indentations into the tops of these tubes to look like the walls of a castle, and it became pretty apparent that this wasn’t going to happen in the time alloted. plus, it didn’t go together in a very sturdy manner, and we had to keep repositioning the walls to keep them upright…it was a bit of a nightmare. now, i don’t know that an extra couple of days would’ve made that castle any cooler looking or any more sturdy…but we sure could use a couple of extra days on this gig.

the day we went to record the kids, jake came in wearing his tom hampton t-shirt that he’d gotten at the phoenixville concert – if it’s strange to think of him at his current age, it was even more surreal seeing him with the t-shirt on. i’m slowly becoming accustomed to being able to have conversations with him and the like, though…it’s been ages since i’ve been around him at length and suffice to say, a lot has changed over time.

i remember, specifically, something lindsey buckingham said about his decades-long, sometimes-tumultuous relationship with stevie nicks in a relatively recent interview – he said that over all these years, having to deal with her as a bandmate and musical partner has always been a bittersweet thing for him…but that now, it just seems “sweet”, because they’ve both moved on to places in their lives that are far enough removed from where they were that it’s not as present in their daily lives as it used to be.

i think that, with chris and i, there’s an element of that from my perspective…but the truth is, there were some conversations that had to happen in order to pave the road to where we are now, and the air is much clearer now than it’s been in the past.

being in her company has an ease now that hasn’t existed in a long time.

there are lots of other things i could delve into today, but i’m just not feeling it at the moment…there are other, more pressing matters on my plate right in front of me, for one thing. i’m sure it’ll all surface in due time. right now, a great many things in my life feel temporary to me. everywhere my feet touch down these days, the ground underneath feels soft and slippery…as if everything could change at any given moment. there’s a lot of transition, and a lot of potential transition…as if in the matter of a week or a month or half a year, my life could be completely different.

at my age, i should be completely freaked out by this…but i don’t really feel any trepidation about it. in fact, i almost wish that whatever bottom is waiting to fall out would get on with it already so i could adjust and move on.

now, if these hunches have any basis in reality, we’ll see how i feel about it when the mysterious other shoe drops….