It seems like eons ago that I was selling Steinway pianos for a living.
A musician/artist/writer will do just about anything to get by.
It was a gorgeous Tuesday morning on September 11th that I paused outside the door to work.
I looked at the bluer than blue sky, the shining sun, felt the cool but comfortable breeze on my face and thought,
“What a gorgeous day. Sucks but I have to work.”
It was around 8:50am that the phone rang in the store.
I answered it, “Hello, M.Steinert and Sons, how may I help you?”
It was one of our piano tuners calling to tell me he’d just heard on the radio that a passenger plane just flew into
one of the WTC towers in New York.
He thought it was strange and I agreed. We left it at that.
That CAN happen right?
The phone rang again at @9:05.
I answered again.
“Another plane just hit the other tower.”
Same piano tuner, more urgent.
“What the hell, dude,” I said.
It was at that exact moment that the world as I knew it had changed.
We were no longer the invulnerable United States, we were brought to our knees in front of the world.
An attack that could have and should have been avoided.
Are we safer today?
If we are, I don’t feel like we are.
We currently have an administration that has no viable/visible strength, united voice or ultimate power to
condone or publicly defile such despicable acts.
While I’m still ultimately proud to be an American, I fear for all that are out of our international reach.
These days the United States is powerless.
That is a sad truth.
My prayers go out for all those that were lost those 13 years ago.
I will keep Amy Jarret and her family forever in my thoughts.
As we still mourn, we will take comfort in the thought and hope that there’s something better for us out there.
An that maybe someday we will feel safe.
I am currently getting back into playing music after a very long hiatus.
It’s a long road back but I’m enjoying the ride.
Many years ago I had some problems with my voice and my upper range.
The vocal power I had when I was 20 was long gone.
It was devastating to me.
The voice is an intensely emotional thing.
Unlike a guitar or saxophone, the voice works purely off of emotion.
Not that ‘instruments’ made of wood or metal don’t but it’s a visceral thing with vocal cords.
They are internally connected to the soul of the artist.
Some would argue that it’s the same thing with their instrument.
I’m walking a fine line here with my musician friends but I think/hope they will at least understand.
My voice is getting better these days for whatever the reason.
10 years ago it was crap to me; my upper range was total wasteland of wimpy vocal sounds.
Many folks will wonder what I’m talking about because they think I sound great.
What many don’t understand is that if the instrument doesn’t sound good to the artist then it just doesn’t work.
It’s very hard to explain because it’s a musician thing.
The voice needs many things but most of all it needs confidence.
It needs the backing of the body and soul.
Singers will agree because they know what I’m talking about.
My voice is important to me, the main reason behind this post.
I’m not fishing for compliments just understanding from people that listen to me.
I want badly to get back to a place where my voice feels comfortable, feels like me.
Thanks to a few very special people, it’s slowly getting there.
My warm ups are a bit avant-garde as they are extreme vocalizations of cartoon characters and various comedians.
I’ve found that for me, they stretch my range/cords more than mere vocal exercises.
A few of them could possibly go viral on Youtube should I ever decide to publish them.
As long as my vocal cords keep stretching I think I’ll be happy.
Time will tell.
Just keep listening and I’ll keep looking for the i . . .
I saw a woman on the train tonight that had a seriously disfigured face.
It wasn’t a subtle flaw but one of great magnitude.
We’re talking Hollywood magnitude.
I stole glances as she carefully applied makeup to her face, eyes and lips.
I couldn’t help but wonder who she was meeting.
My heart felt sad as I watched her painstakingly apply her ‘mask’, knowing that make up can only do so much.
What does she go through in a day as far as strange looks from passersby?
I wanted to go and sit next to her and tell her she didn’t need all that crap on her face because inside she’s beautiful.
That’s what went through my head anyway.
For all I know, she could have been a total asshole.
But I don’t think so.
Suffering with psoriasis I understand the ‘look’ you get from people that don’t understand your condition.
I see people looking at my elbows, the patches and scales that sometime accumulate making my arms a virtual stomping ground
for questions and unknowing observations.
I can deflect comments on my skin easily.
I have herpes. Deal with it.
This flaming red-haired girl had a face that would stop anyone in their tracks.
I am not saying that to be funny because this is in no way a funny post.
I wanted to say something, anything to this girl to give her some affirmation that she is a beautiful woman.
She got off the train two doors down from where I was negating any sort of confrontation.
I just wanted to tell her that she was beautiful.
Maybe I’ll have another chance someday . . .
When I got into Boston on Monday morning I took a different route walking to work.
I usually slip out the ass end of Back bay station and walk through the alleys and quiet streets to Park Square
but today was Marathon Monday and a great day to walk through Copley Square on my way to work.
The sun was shining, the temps were comfortable and runners were everywhere running for buses to take them to
the Marathon starting line in Hopkinton.
Walking through Copley I saw hundreds of palettes of spring water,
King’s Hawaiian Sweet rolls, pretzels, Smart Food, Vitamin Water and on and on.
People working in the many tents along Boylston Street were obviously happy to be there as they went about their preparations.
There was a palpable lilt in the air that could not be denied.
We all hate Mondays but Marathon Monday in Boston is pretty damn cool for many damn reasons.
I also remember thinking how awful it would be were something catastrophic to happen.
At 2:55PM, a woman came in for some rolling tobacco and asked if I’d heard the ‘bangs’.
She was wondering if they were firing cannons for Patriots Day.
I told her I hadn’t heard a thing.
I was alone in the store and went to Google after she left.
I typed in: Boston Marathon 2013 /Bombs
I came up with 2 results.
Links to a few runners’ websites that simply said;
“unconfirmed reports of two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.”
The links would not open
Bullshit, I thought.
Not in Boston.
10 minutes later the city was cracked open like an over ripe pomegranate.
Sirens, police cars, ambulances too many to count,
unmarked cars with blue flashing lights and a feeling of dread as I watched thousands of people dripping their way towards South Station.
Most were crying; some were simply distant with no facial expression at all.
You know the rest of the story; probably more so than CNN, a current font of reporting mediocrity.
I took a walk around 4PM yesterday and went down to the corner of Berkeley and Boylston Street.
National Guard would not let you go any further as everything was blockaded.
It was a big crime scene.
I looked down at a usually frantic Copley Square that now seemed post-apocalyptic, empty and dreadfully silent. My heart broke just a bit as more reality drained into my psyche.
It was not unlike a scene from ‘Walking Dead’ or ‘I am Legend’.
The word ‘nothing’ came to mind.
I watched paper and debris flying through the air looking to get out of the dead space that was Copely.
That’s how my eyes saw it and my brain interpreted it.
It made no logical sense to me.
On my way back to Park Square I noticed the omnipresent media camped out at the corner of Arlington and Boylston. It seemed to me to be a media freak show/ circus with bright lights and cameras going while reporting half myths and hearsay from who the fuck knows.
Homeless people were probably contributing their stories and ideas. (they may have been closer to the truth than CNN, ffs)
I am a Bostonian and I love this city. (Even though I live in the burbs)
I went to school here and currently work here and no one will ever take away the fact that this place was built on guts, strength, love, and a work ethic like no other place in the world.
This IS my backyard.
Sadly, the landscape has changed, for now . . .
Know that We are Boston.
We are Many.
And We are Pissed.
But I have a good feeling that many beautiful flowers will blossom this same time next year.
Because that’s how we roll . . .
ps. Photo courtesy of John TLumacki, Boston Globe
Ten things (11) I will not think about in My Last Seconds of Life
I have thought about this for a few days now and believe I have come up with a viable, albeit weird, list of 10 things.
These have occurred randomly as I go about my day but I think it’s a pretty good list.
These are in no specific order in terms of magnitude but they are somewhat funny and insightful.
I will not think about:
(1) The guitar solo in ‘Keep on Lovin’ You’ from REO Speedwagon (dumb name).
This is quite possibly the lamest and out of tune solo I have ever heard.
I can’t believe the producer didn’t say,
“Are you shitting me, Amato? I’d rather hear the sound of a puppy being run over with a lawn mower. For the love of God, tune your frickin’ guitar, dickboy. And how about a real solo? ”
(2) The fact that my car is 3K miles over for an oil change.
The story of my life.
And it keeps telling me via a caring message on the dashboard every single time I start the car.
(3) Iambic Pentameter.
Iambic pentameter (from Greek: ἰαμβικός πεντάμετρος meaning to have five iambs) is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse and verse drama. The term describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in that line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called “feet“. The word “iambic” describes the type of foot that is used (in English, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). The word “pentameter” indicates that a line has five of these “feet.”
Won’t be needing that definition anymore.
(4) Dance Moms.
I know, it’s sad that I actually know about this show.
Abby Lee Miller, the corpulent porpoise of a dance instructor, verbally hacks away at the fragile self-esteem of young female ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouths’ dancers.
The self-righteous mothers of these girls need to be water boarded for allowing this abomination to happen in the first place.
Think I’m pretty clear on this one.
(5) Who really killed JFK.
Like the time I sent out an off the hook ‘conservative’ email to about 75 people.
It found its way into the Inbox of a screaming yahoo liberal (not mentioning names, thanks, Lisa)
who decided to hit a ‘reply all’ and rip me a new one because she thought it was her responsibility as a citizen. Yup, won’t be thinking about that one.
(7) Where I left the numbers for my Swiss bank account.
(8) The day I gave my father an enema.
In the end (no pun intended), my father was actually laughing while I was doing it.
Long story short, he needed a colonoscopy and I could find no visiting nurse that would do it the day of the procedure.
I was elected.
(9) Long forgotten Facebook game requests.
No explanation needed.
(10) Lost things.
St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come down
something is lost and can’t be found.
Our Wedding album, a pipe rack filled with nice smoking pipes, my Swiss bank account numbers,
my six-pack abs, my sanity . . .
Maybe that’s why this list goes to 11.
For fun, sit down with a piece of paper and give yourself 10 minutes to write out a list.
I would be curious to see what you come up with.
Post your answers on my Facebook page or my blog if you’d like.
This was a great writing prompt.
AND . . . check THIS out.
Pretty cerebral . . .
A truth greater than words.
Don’t know if I’m up to the task.
I’ve tried before and failed miserably.
Self doubt is a writer’s worst block.
Some stories are just hard to write.
Maybe I just need to admit that to myself,
and write anyway because I am ultimately trapped inside my own weird thoughts and words.
And maybe that’s a good thing.
Asylum? I am here . . .
About a month or so ago Pamela decided that we needed to modify and improve our eating habits.
We shied away from calling this a diet and settled on what we consider to ultimately be a change
What we’re doing is in no way groundbreaking but it does make a lot of sense.
Based on your height and current weight you are allowed X number of calories a day.
Pamela said, “If you want to drink Guinness all day, you can. But when you’ve reached your calorie limit, you’re done.”
Obviously a diet consisting purely of Guinness draft would never work for me.
Just for shits and giggles I did figure out that I could have 12 glasses of the dark magic to equal my daily allotment.
My employer wouldn’t like it nor would my MD (who already put the kibosh on my past Guinness intake)
One or two beers a night doesn’t seem like much in the scheme of things but it does add up over time.
I’ve since limited myself to several on the weekend.
I am breaking my own rule tonight as I write this by having one but I have counted it and still have 600+ calories to consume before bedtime.
I have lost close to 14lbs since embarking on this diet change and I have noticed some changes in my body.
It’s easier bending over and the edges of my underwear don’t roll up anymore like a tightly made burrito from Taco Bell.
And I will need to look for some new khaki’s and pants soon because when I tighten my belt the trousers reek of hillbilly feng shui.
Maybe I just need a rope belt.
Walking is easier and sleeping is more sound these days so I’m thinking I’m on the right track.
But with everything good comes something not so good.
I am realizing that two visits to 5 Guys Burgers in one week is not a good thing.
Fried Clams are not my friends anymore (sadly) and Ben and Jerry’s should actually be illegal.
I think back through my eating history and just wonder, ‘what the hell?’
But fried clams are sooooo good.
As is Chunky Monkey ice cream.
But I also want to be around to see my grandkids, too.
You can’t have both.
Fried clams or grandkids?
How about fried grandkids with a side of Chunky Monkey?
I digress . . .
At 53 years old, I have seen the light.
It’s not pretty to look at but it has shown me that the food I was eating was killing me.
Sodium, saturated fats, sugars and little bastard carbs have been swirling around my body wreaking havoc on everything from my triglycerides to my cholesterol and more.
Now before you start thinking I’m going all health-nut on your ass, I’m not.
We all make choices everyday in terms of the food we eat.
I’m just thinking we could all do a bit better.
This little nugget came to me after a friend inhaled an entire plate of Dan Dan Noodles from P.F.Chang’s a week ago.
(I call the restaurant Poof Changs)
On a whim, I checked out the nutritional value online and was gobsmacked.
One order of Dan Dan’s supposedly serves three people, not one.
One serving contains 990 calories.
Sat Fat: 23gms
Sodium: (a drum roll, please) a whopping 6190mgs!
I do hope I was reading the chart wrong and maybe I was.
A dish with over 18,000mgs of sodium can’t be possible, could it?
Your heart would just stop, yes?
Either way at over 6K mgs of sodium, divided three ways you’re still talking close to one daily allotment of salt.
Smack my ass and call me Sally, that’s a shitload of salt.
All I’m saying here is you should weigh your options in terms of what you eat.
I will get off my dietary soapbox now and go back to wherever it is that I go when I’m not writing.
It’s a low-sodium place these days.
When our friends from Australia get here in October, Mark wants fried clams.
I’m hoping he’s up for splitting an order.
I want him around for a long, long time . . .
and you guys too.
What Chief Justice John Roberts might have said after recovering from a 3 day bender regarding
*ObamaCare. (the oxymoron in question)
[* side effects include delayed treatment, elevated taxes, swelled deficits, shortages of doctors and
in some cases . . . Death.]
Smack my ass and call me Sally, Roberts is a Republican, right?
Who knows? Maybe Little Johnny did the GOP a favor.
Time will tell in November.
Or not . . .
Last Sunday my wife and I stopped by the cemetery to spend a few quiet moments with my Dad
seeing it was Father’s Day.
It was a sun-shiny day with puffy white clouds dotting an iridescent indigo sky and a gentle breeze that easily moved the American flag marking my father’s eternal place in the world.
We watered the royal purple petunias that my sister got for the grave and sat for a spell.
Cemetery silence is like no other.
It traps me in my own thoughts as I ‘talk’ to Dad while trying to figure out just what the hell is going on in my life.
Like he will just pop out of nowhere and answer me.
In a perfect world, as I always say.
I can’t remember the last Father’s Day that I spent with the man when he was of sane mind.
That bothered me last Sunday, a bit more than usual.
Maybe my daily commute to Boston and endless hours on the merry-go-round/cheese wheel that we call life has sucked the remembering marrow out of too many bones in my body.
I told him, “I’m tired, Dad. And I miss you. And I want to be 10 years old again,” as the thoughts of oiling my old Rawlings baseball glove for the ultimate game of ‘Catch’ rolled around my head.
It was total vindication of the good old days that sat heavy in my heart.
Every visit to see my Mom and Dad is sentimental in some way.
Maybe it’s how I’m wired, I don’t know.
I kissed my palm and touched the names of both Walter and Virginia, all that’s physically left of them.
I wanted to just drive by the old neighborhood for shits and giggles and made my way towards my old house.
I turned down Harvard Street driving past all the old neighbors; the Gilbert’s, the Masterson’s, the Pelletier’s, the Pinard’s and on and on.
The fields I once played on were totally overgrown with brush and trees and sadly no sign of my once significant presence.
We came back up Harvard Street and I looked at the house I’d grown up in.
There was no one home and there were pastel yellow signs taped on the front and back door that said, “NO TRESPASSING!”
I pulled my SUV into the driveway and Pamela and I got out to survey the multiple broken windows and damage.
The place that was once my ‘home’ was devastated.
Mold was eating its way throughout the entire exterior.
It was raped of its innocence and simple beauty.
It was a crime scene of epic proportions.
I was crying inside as I peered into the windows of rooms that held so many good memories for me now destroyed by people that just didn’t give a shit; holes in walls, carpets that looked a million years old and covered with dirt and soot.
It was disgusting.
The animals living here were lower than assholes.
If they were standing right in front of me I would say that to their hairy faces.
I was angry and sadder than I had been when I sold the house.
What would make someone do this to a place called home?
I was speechless.
What really hurt was that the window in what used to be my bedroom was shattered, she-doo-bee-doop, shattered, shattered.
I wish I had a great ‘tie it all up in a bow’ ending for this story but I don’t.
My old house is very sad.
And I can’t blame her.
It makes me even sadder because there’s nothing that I can do.
If my arms were big enough, I would have given her a hug.
But it’s too late for that.
The damage is already done.
And I’ll remain shattered . . .