Thursday, December 31, 2009

A little ray of hope for 2010.

I like to read other blogs daily, mostly political, and all are claiming what a horrible decade the past years have been. While I can't argue about the fact of the increasingly dark fears of the progressives, and the virulent hatred that is growing on the right,or the deterioration of the middle class: I'm finding it hard to keep a deep seeded anger over much of any of it. I am sure if I got into a heated discussion with someone, all my anger and disappointment would re-emerge full force, but what's the point. Politics is general and hard to change. On the other hand,individuals go through change whether they want to or not.

So, I am really hoping that this year bring good fortune to all of us. I have friends and family who have faced many challenges these past years: end of a marriage; loss of a child; overwhelming health care bills. Yet it seems no one has time to truly heal and find peace. Why? We are so worried about and struggling to get by day to day. Between stagnant wages or unemployment, jacked up credit card interest rates, expensive health insurance that offers no real coverage, gas prices, groceries, working longer hours to keep a job, or working additional jobs that keep one away from the home, daily life is stressful and overwhelming and a little disheartening.

I have a real problem with resolutions, only because I lack the discipline to keep them when facing daily surprises in life.

Instead I have hope. For myself, I hope I can lose 25 pounds that seemed to creep up on me ( I am sure typing at a computer 6-8 hours a day has nothing to do with it *snark*). I hope I can force myself to exercise each day so I have no need to use that pathetic health care coverage for which I pay. I hope my kids learn that they shouldn't expect, nor are they getting a laptop in 8th grade, or a new car at 16, or any other instant gratification item this generation seems to think is theirs just for the wishing. I hope my husband's salary becomes unfrozen for the first time in 4 years. I hope I can get by without a credit card this year, as we cancelled ours. I hope that my kids huge appetites really don't increase dramatically as they enter the teen years. I hope my being very truthful with my kids about politics, sex and life actually helps them to make wise desicions in their futures. I hope my tax return covers the cost of a new air conditioning system so we don't have to go through a third summer of 92° inside the house. I hope my 9 month old puppy stops nipping at us. I hope I can get rid of adult acne. I hope my husband sees the Doctor about his nightly need for maalox. I hope my kids keep their love of music and reading so they may always know beauty and adventure and a form of escapism.

For my family and friends (new and old), I sincerely hope you have the fortitude to keep trying, have the time to find peace, have the ability to find a little humor just when you need it most, and have the knowledge that you are not alone.

When I was little, and the clouds parted and the sunrays were clearly visible- my grandmother told me, it was God's love shining down. I hope everyone sees those rays of sunshine very soon. Have a happy new year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Music makes the world go 'round.

Everybody knows someone who used to be in a band, but I have had the pleasure of knowing the coolest and some of the most talented guys ever! The Urge was a local band from Central NY, and these guys could play anything. Each one of these guys have a long history of music playing, high school jazz bands, marching bands, show choirs, jazz singers, chorale. And as adept and talented as their musical abilities, their talent for being a great friend surpasses their musical abilities.

In order from left to right: Chuck Riley, Billy Finizio, Dan Machold, Terry Quill, Mark Van Epps

Chuck Riley, lead guitarist, helped me pick out and purchase my very first Technics individual components stereo system. 20 years later and I still have the receiver and turntable. Chuck liked heavy metal, especially Stryper, and he could rock out any guitar solo like a badass. Chuck is Mark's cousin and if there was ever a guy that stood by his friends and did the right thing, it was Chuck.

Billy Finizio, drummer, was a true percussionist and had an amazing talent on several instruments. He played jazz and rock with gusto. Now a studio musician in NYC working on original stuff, his garage was converted into "The Studio" that we all hung out at(even if it was haunted!). Billy opened up his garage and home to a bunch of friends that had no where to practice, yet wanted to take their music skills to a new level. Billy was the one that hung out at the studio the least (in spite of it being his house) and yet had time to listen to anyone that needed to talk with him. I didn't date in high school, and when I asked him to take me to prom just so I could go, he did not even hesitate to say yes. Prom Night was before the studio existed, but the garage was haunted, as evidenced by four of us, when we stopped at his house after the dance. There were red glowing lights in the garage window.

The garage was detached and sat back from the house, with an upstairs window over what looks like a chicken coop door typical in barns. Two years later, the guys all got together to clear out the top half of the garage and build up the studio into a hangout. Unfortunately it was not the last time spooky things happened, even though a rosary was hanging over our heads on the cross beam (from when a prior owner hung himself, atleast that was the story). Can I just say, Halloween was a real fun time of year!

Dan Machold, the keyboardist, was and still is a very cool guy. He didn't bow to peer pressure at all, was his own person at all times, and also saw the ghost at the studio. Dan actually jumped out the chicken window to get away from the ghost! Dan is now at the forefront of the music scene in Austin. I was two years older than Dan, but he and I just clicked as friends. We liked the same music and that seemed to be the bonding force.

Terry Quill, the rhythm guitarist was probably one of the most talented players ever! He still plays and writes songs and is involved in several groups in Central NY. Terry has the largest music collection of anyone I know, and his musical influences reach from every genre of music. His talent is bounded only by his aspirations. Terry was and will always be one of my very best friends. As noted in a previous entry, Terry was my get-a-way car from an alcoholic household. Terry knew more about me than many of my girl friends.

Dan, Terry and I spent alot of time together outside the studio. Record shopping was a regular past time for us. We thought nothing of going to Syracuse or Rochester's House of Guitars and spending a whole day flipping through individual vinyl records looking for the one piece of music we couldn't live without. Dan and I got quite into an argument when there was only one copy of "Boylan Heights" by the Connells. (he won). Terry found me the original Love & Rockets "Seventh Dream of a Teenage Heaven" for my birthday. And the sense of jubilation of finding "Class Tramp" by the Rave-ups (the band from the movie Pretty in Pink), actually had me dancing in the store. Every other time I looked at a record store, I could only find Raven, until that magical day!

Our other friends could not believe we would spend HOURS looking at records, but music was that important to us. We saw tons of bands together: REM, twice, (Terry had to help me to his car after some kid knocked me down the stairs at the concert, but I insisted on standing on my chair to sing to Michael Stipe, by then my boot would not come off because my ankle had swollen so much), Smithereens, Squeeze, Psy Furs, Elvis Costello, Midnight Oil just to name a few. Dan was witness to me being punched across the face by a maniac at a show- of all things- Hunters and Collectors doing a cover of Elvis Costello's "What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?"

Dan and I still talk about the music scene, though he knows much more than I do. Terry still plays and collaborates on writing music with others. I haven't seen either in atleast a few years, but I will never outlive the friendship. I love these guys dearly.

Mark Van Epps, the bassist was the stereotypical bass player. He lived for his music, made all the goofy faces while playing, was outstanding in his performances and was a perfectionist. Mark was the consumate big brother. Any guy I liked, he gave dirty looks. Any guy I brought to the studio, Mark sat between us. Mark and I worked at a record store together for a while as well. It was the most fun job I ever had. He and his brother Greg, were good ol' boys who partied hard, had intense feelings of friendship and were very protective. I felt very cared for when Mark got in his big brother mood. To this day, anytime I see some jazz or blues live, from David Sanborn to Robert Cray, I imagine it is Mark playing bass on that stage.

These guys and I share alot of moments and happy times: finding the musical moment in a song, buying string cheese, coke classic and Jax cheese curls in Wegman's at midnight, halloween parties that start at the studio and ended at the cemetery, County Line Road, Swamp Road, the Punk Rock at the park, struggling through music theory classes, jazz singers, show choir, playing at the Tannery at SUC Cortland, concerts, tacky house hunting...

They learned to play songs I requested like the Icicle Works, and even put music to some poems I wrote. I could never play well enough to be in a band (not much call for organs in rock bands, unless it is 1970), and had only a fair to good mezzo-soprano voice, yet they never treated me as a groupie, or a loser. I was just with them and that was it.

It was a second home at the Studio, but the home would not have been welcoming without the guys in The Urge. Many people look back at friends in the past with fondness, but I like to think these guys were and are truly special. The amount of people that have been to the studio is unbelievable and if I were to list some, then others might get upset I didn't list them, but here are some(excuse the mis-spellings): Al Noga (nyuh-nyuh-nyuh), John Becker, Marcia Brooks, Brian Gambrell, Steve Swartz, Tim Dacey, Thomi Long, Ellen Phillips, Gregg Namisniak, Bobby Ringwood, Marc Morfei, Karen Smith- and a bunch of others....

I don't look up all 500 people I graduated with in High school on facebook, I don't google names I knew from my past, I only keep in contact with a handful of friends since before college, but these guys are always in my heart. They are truly talented.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fashionista or not?

I am so jealous of ladies that can wear hats. I love hats, but sadly I cannot wear them. I don't know if it's the shape of my face, the type of hair I have or what, but hats, all hats look stupid on me. I wish I could wear a small hat with a slight tilt for a sexy look. I wish I could wear a hat with a wide brim to protect my sunburn prone skin. I wish I could wear a large Church style hat that is so snazzy and says I am so proud to be me. I wish I could wear a baseball cap when our family goes to games or a park. Heck, I wish I could wear a simple winter hat, but the static cling drives me crazy. So, what's a lady to do?

When I was in undergrad studies in Central New York in '87-'89, I went to a smaller SUNY school that was not very artsy. I think I was one of 5 people that were remotely punk. The most expensive thing I wore were Purple Docs that I bought at Trash & Vaudeveille in NYC. They were my favorite article of clothing. Everything else pretty much came from the antique and second hand shops.

Winters there were killers. Sure I was used to the snow, but hiking between buildings throughout the day tended to get one very chilled. So not only were the Docs a luxury, they were a necessity. With two pairs of socks, thermals, long wool skirts and my Dad's long overcoat, I could stay pretty warm. Well, except for my head.

At that time my hair was pretty much shaved except for a riot of curls from the top that hung down low enough to look normal (somewhat), but could be put up with toothpaste to look more punk. Either way my ears were exposed to the elements.

My earliest class was 8 AM German at the top of the hill. Unfortunately, I needed it to graduate. So let's see, 7:30 am, 0°F with a windchill of -20°F, hell, it was freakin' freezin'. My poor ears were so frostbite that they burned for days. My only salvation was a nifty thing my Babci used to wear- a babushka.

The babushka has been worn by Eastern European and Russian women for many years, and actually means Grandmother in Russian. Babushkas are scarves, not to be confused with the nesting dolls that are improperly called Babushkas, these are Matryoshka dolls. My Babci and most of the older Polish ladies of my childhood wore these to cover their hair from bad weather, or to cover wet hair or if their hair was not done. Typically bigger than a bandana, it's folded into a triangle and tied under the chin. Larger scarves can be wrapped around the neck. I prefer these as they have longer tails and can double as second protection around the neck under a coat.

Most any type scarf will do and can be found at most stores, although current fashion right now has the goofy long flimsy, skinny scarves that have no seeming practicality. There are many styles and colors to pick from and you should be able to find one for under $25. If you want to spend the big bucks for the "now" thing you could try a babushka from "Valeur from Tokyo", for a cool price of $129. Totally not necessary for a simple Polish girl.

So anyway, back in school, I wore two layers just to give my ears some comfort. To this day my ears are sensitive to any cold weather. And to this day, I wear babushkas. Rico Suavé gave me a beautiful pashmina shawl last year for Christmas that works wonderfully. I had finally found something I could wear on my head and I never gave them up, to my daughters' amusement and chagrin. They run away from me when I try to put one on them, but they have the Polish in them, and I know it is just a matter of years before they start wearing them!

I really don't care if babushkas are fashionable or not. As a cute Polish girl, I can identify with my heritage in this small way that makes me happy and comfortable.

Although I really do wish I could wear a hat, any hat, just once.