Monthly Archives: August 2016

Summer of ‘16

Summer’s almost over.  According to my building superintendent, they’re closing the pool at 6 p.m. on Labor Day and he’ll be cheering when he turns the key for the last time of the season.  I guess pool maintenance is not one of his favorite activities.  In fact, water in general has been a problem here in the four months since I moved in – once being without hot water and twice being without water of any kind for the entire day.  As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, my temporary housing is no palace, but I guess it could be worse:  A small three-story apartment building a block over had a whole row of terraces collapse today.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but the seemingly sturdy brick façade crumbled like crackers.

In fact, it’s been a tough couple of days in Long Beach.  We had our first water fatality yesterday – a Brooklynite who waited till beach entry was free and the lifeguards were off duty to go into the rough waters – and then two chicks on a jet ski crashed into the Long Island Railroad Bridge crossing the Reynolds Channel and were pulled unconscious from the water.  (Last I heard they were in critical condition but will probably survive.)

So it’s been kind of a dark ending to a weird summer.  Being displaced from my home has certainly contributed to the odd feeling, although I must admit that it was an interesting change of perspective to live on the Boardwalk side of town.  Frankly, I took very little advantage of the primo location, which is kind of a shame.  I never visited the aforementioned pool (although Darian spent a couple of afternoons there) and, despite it being literally steps from my front door, I never set foot on the beach either.  On those few occasions when I did take a stroll on the Boardwalk – meeting my friend Barbara halfway between our buildings for a delightful late afternoon chat; watching Darian and her dad play beach volleyball; having dinner with a friend at the Shoregasbord (a collection of food trucks just off the Boardwalk, comprising the surprisingly limited culinary choices when one is waterside) – I enjoyed it very much.  There’s something about the air and the light when you’re at the beach that gives everything a magical sheen.  [An aside:  Much about Long Beach real estate is incomprehensible to me.  There are so many abandoned parking lots and empty storefronts.  As far as I can tell, there’s incredible opportunities here; it’s a perfect time to renovate the entire city almost four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed it, given that every street is already a construction zone.  Someone is clearly not making the kind of far-thinking decisions that would help this city thrive.  Is the short-sighted waste driven by greed?  I can’t imagine any other explanation.  If you own a property in need of a tenant, why would you price the tenants out just so that your property can continue to stand empty, wasting money that it could be earning?  It makes no sense.]

But living in a “foreign land” isn’t the only thing that was strange about this summer.  One good friend is suffering through cancer, and two are going through a divorce (one was a relief, the other a devastation).  There was a falling out among folks I like at the shelter and as a result I spend a lot less time with a good friend.  I barely saw my kid at all, between her being in Africa for three weeks, hanging out with her townie friends and basically living at her father’s house the rest of the time because at his house she had a whole basement to herself rather than having to share a one-bedroom apartment with me.  I spent a lot of time on my own, on the computer, playing Words with Friends (at one point, I had nearly 30 games going and most of them had a “QI” somewhere) and reading disturbing articles about politics and encouraging ones about how to build self-confidence as a writer.

Work was quiet.  I got a taste of what it might be like when I’m retired (or when I win the lottery, whichever comes first), although cash flow is certainly a problem and I’m in a little bit of denial about it.  I’m like the grasshopper who played all summer and then had no food when the winter came and had to depend on the kindness of the ants (or, in my case, the small inheritance that my mother left me that was supposed to fund the aforementioned retirement).  Like a kid getting ready to go back to school (except without the new shoes and school supplies), I’m anticipating a very busy few months on the work front to make up for my vacation-lite summer.  I actually regret not taking a week off outright, rather than working an hour or two but remaining shackled to the computer every weekday waiting for the next client query or assignment.

I went religiously to the shelter on the weekends, even though some days I kind of wished I could stay home and listen to music and play on the computer.  But by the time I got there (usually on my one-speed rusty-chained bike, at least two directions of my journey against the wind and torture on my butt muscles) and started petting my favorites, all the stress would leave me and I’d be glad I came.  We had fewer kittens than in previous years (which is a good thing!) and they actually took away my favorite little one, Penny, so that she and her two siblings could get adopted sooner with more “people traffic” in the other Post Pets location at a PetSmart in Westchester.  Right now the only kittens we have at the shelter are six painfully adorable babies that we affectionately call the “ringworm kitties” because they have it and they need to get rid of it before they can be handled.  I am dying to cuddle them, and they’re not shy at all, always crowding the front of the cage and squealing for attention, not like some feral kittens who cower in the back and hiss and spit at every approaching hand.  My other “love cats” this summer have included Ginger, a gorgeous white cat with a distinctive mark on her nose, who was recently adopted and apparently, based on a photo posted on Facebook by her new mom, is quite the queen of the household already.  There’s Jackson, who almost became a member of the family when Darian took him home for a trial run but he had an unanticipated freak-out and attacked her so violently that she’s still a little scared of him, even though he is the most affectionate mush in the cat room.  My new boyfriend is Romeo, a big gorgeous creamsicle that Vanessa, the Post Pets cat director, is inevitably going to steal because she takes all the brawny strawberry-blonde beefcake for herself!!  So I’m enjoying him while I can.  And I’ve kind of fallen in love with a dog this summer, a humongous galoot of a female pittie named Jenny Craig (so called because she was desperately in need of a diet and some moisturizing when she first arrived) but I call her Mama because she’s as sweet as pie and you can’t help but love her.

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Pretty Little Penny

This has also been the summer of sausage – specifically, Aidells Roasted Garlic and Gruyere Sausage; I’ve tried others, but those were hands down the best.  I’ve been eating them a couple of times a week, on a golden brioche roll with Dijon mustard, with slaw and potato or macaroni salad on the side.  Yum.  I’ve also been on a watermelon kick, especially enjoyable when it’s juicy and sweet.  And ice cream – it wouldn’t be summer without ice cream (although, truth be told, I eat it all year long).  Often, when I go over to check on the progress on my house, I’ll stop by Caffe Spiaggia for a soft serve cone or a milkshake and just sit in the parking lot and savor for a few peaceful moments.  I’ve also been slightly obsessed with cookies, which has prompted frequent visits to Country Boy Bakery for a black-and-white or giant chocolate chip.  And I discovered Little Debbie Cream Cheese Streusel Cakes BUT THEY NEVER HAVE THEM IN THE DAMN STOP ‘N’ SHOP!!  So they’ve teased me with deliciousness and now they’re withholding!

I didn’t catch up on movies, as I’d planned, and I didn’t even watch much first-run TV, although last weekend I binged on “The Night Of”, the HBO limited series that considered a murder and the navigation of the criminal justice system by a kid who’d had the very best – and very worst – night of his life.  It was riveting, especially the first couple of episodes, but left me feeling unsatisfied at the end, with unanswered questions and unresolved relationships.  In fact, what has most often been on my TV this summer is “Law & Order”, which has replaced “Law & Order:  SVU” as my go to background noise while I’m messing around on the computer, usually playing Words with Friends.

Some new music I discovered this summer:  Midnight to Monaco, “One In A Million” (a real ear worm, that one – I even caught Darian singing it); “Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen; a new crunchy nugget by a UK band called Tibet that I heard on Passport Approved, “I’ll Put You In My Pocket”, and also the new Peter Bjorn & John, “Breakin’ Point”.  I listen non-stop to WFUV during the week, and even stream it in the office on the days I go into the city.  I love the lunchtime DJ, Carmel Holt; she seems like someone I would like to be friends with.  And the mix is always so eclectic – it comes the closest in song selection to my own iPod than anything I’ve ever heard on radio.

The other thing that was distinctive about this summer has been the consistent heat.  I swear my AC has been on continuously since the beginning of July.  We were going to move it from the bedroom window into the living room, figuring that would best cool the room where I spend most of my time, but we left it in the bedroom, where it blasts on me at night and resulted in a doozy of a sinus infection.  I’m longing for the day I can turn off the air conditioner for good and open my windows wide to let in the crisp fall air.

September has always been my favorite month, probably because of my birthday but also because it meant I could go back to school, which I always loved (and to which I very much wish I could return) and hockey starts again.  It’s the time when all the returning TV shows finally have new episodes, interspersed with premieres of intriguing new programs, although I haven’t seen anything that’s piqued my interest in the “coming attraction” ads thus far.  And before we know it, my house will be finished and the kids and I can head back home, and maybe we can even add to our family and take home a foster or two.  (My daughter is already talking about getting a kitten to keep her cat Jojo company – my first “grandchild”!)  As much as I enjoy the pace of the summer, and the sun and blue skies, and the warmth, it’s almost unreal, kind of like a “time out” from the regular routines of life.  Sometimes I think I’d like to live in that “time out” world, but then I come back to reality:  Is an “endless summer” really possible?  It’s a nice dream, I guess, but ultimately unsustainable.

Hostess with the Leastest

I was overjoyed when my college friends Erika and Curtiss told me they would be swinging by Long Beach on their way to New England in August (via Port Jefferson-Bridgeport ferry).  I looked forward to showing off my current stomping grounds and introducing them to my menagerie (my “puddises”, as Erika would say), not to mention spending some in-person quality time, however brief, with two of my favorite people on the planet.

The preparation was spot-on:  I scrubbed and vacuumed to reduce, to the extent possible, the voluminous pet hair given that Curtiss has certain sensitivities.  I bought a fruit platter, plenty of bottled water and a case of assorted flavors of Strongbow Hard Cider.  I packed a gallon-sized Ziplock bag of ice from multiple fill-ups of my lone ice tray, and I even got cannolis from Country Boy Bakery!  But it utterly shames me to say that I failed MISERABLY in the execution.

I don’t seek forgiveness for my faux pas – I don’t deserve it – but I wish I could come up with some valid explanation.  I was so happy to have my good friends here – separated by distance and time but just as fond of one another (if not more so) than we were thirty years ago – and to enjoy our easy, comfortable conversation.  But how did my enjoyment of our pleasant time together somehow short-circuit some mechanism in my brain that caused me to forget a fridge full of snacks and beverages that I had purchased that very day for this very occasion?  It’s inexplicable.  I offered them NOTHING.  Not the fruit, not the hard cider, not even a lousy bottle of water.  It was bad enough that I had forced them pay for an overpriced hotel room rather than letting them stay here (actually, I did offer, but my current living situation is not as conducive as I would have liked for hosting sleepover guests, so I probably telegraphed my reluctance).  But while we sat out on my terrace, enjoying the late summer evening and chatting non-stop for a couple of pleasant hours, I did not once think to go into the kitchen and bring out the refreshments.

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Fruit and Bev

And to top it all off, there was no music!!  I always yearn for opportunities to share my music in real time with my friends, especially ones like Erika who share my love of good tunes.  We’ve lately been exchanging by email YouTube videos of performances by some of our favorite artists, old and new.  Why, in heaven’s name, for the hour-plus we were sitting out on the terrace – with all the windows actually open for a change, given the reduced humidity, enabling me to give my AC a break for the day – did I not turn on my stereo?  In fact, I had just a week or so ago told her about an artist I had discovered on WFUV, Angel Olsen, and her new song, “Shut Up Kiss Me” that I could have played for her!!

What makes my shame even worse (if that’s possible) is that these are the folks who were so very gracious and generous with my daughter and me when we visited them in Greece, even helping to plan the vacation from start to finish and then schlepping us everywhere, even though Curtiss was suffering with a painful foot.  When I visited them for an overnighter at their apartment in D.C. a couple of years ago, they very kindly picked me up and dropped me off at the airport (which wasn’t around the corner), fed me and put me up on an air mattress in their living room.  Even on this visit, they actually took ME out to dinner at the local Thai restaurant rather than the other way around.  Gah!!  The more I think about my oversights, the more horrible I feel.

I remember, as a kid, helping my mother prepare for her bridge and mahjong get-togethers, setting up the card tables with the pull-out legs and putting ashtrays and finger bowls full of nuts and M&Ms on every corner.  When we finally managed to clear out my childhood home, for some reason I took a whole closetful of dessert platters and chip ‘n’ dip sets and china serving bowls, perhaps in the vague hope that I would someday have guests for dinner and maybe even card parties!  (In fact, that was one of the things Erika, Curtiss and I were talking about while I was forgetting to serve the snacks and beverages:  what we were expected to do with all the inherited dish- and glassware that somehow no longer fits into our current lifestyles like it did for our parents.)  So, in retrospect, I did grow up in a house where great care was taken in entertaining; I just didn’t inherit those genes, I guess.

While I’m quick to blame my recent anti-social tendencies for my failed hostessing abilities (i.e., it’s been so long since I’ve invited other humans into my home, I’ve forgotten how to do it), upon further consideration I think this affliction goes way back.  In fact, I recall throwing a welcome-back-to-school tequila party early sophomore year at Trinity College with this very same Erika, where we diligently bought a couple of bottles of tequila at the local package store, lemons (which we carefully sliced into wedges), salt and shot glasses, and thoroughly cleaned our suite (really adjoining singles where we moved both beds into one room and used the other as our entertainment lounge).  But instead of being the gracious hostess I had envisioned, I managed to make an incredible fool of myself, getting perhaps drunker than I’d ever been previously or since, before most of the guests even arrived, leaving all of the hosting responsibilities to Erika, which I’m sure she handled with aplomb.  As for me, I became the literal centerpiece of the party, passed out on the couch in the middle of the festivities with a vomity towel draped around my neck.  My antics pre-coma had to be shamefully recounted to me the next day (as I suffered with a grievous hangover to which I would have preferred death at the time), as the last thing I remembered was falling into the closet.  I evidently did some floor circles a la Curley from the Three Stooges, tumbled into the shower in the communal bathroom, and pulled our My Little Puppy baby’s toy (don’t ask; I don’t remember why we had it, I just remember that we did, along with a set of Weebles that provided hours of amusement) randomly around the corridors of Jackson Hall.

Planning my wedding and even Darian’s sweet 16 party were moderately successful endeavors (although, in my opinion, wholly unnecessary) only because I left everything up to others – primarily the respective catering halls – although I did ask my friend Liz to do the centerpieces for Darian’s party, which turned out quite lovely:  tall glass tubes filled with teal, aqua and lavender translucent stones with a flameless candle lighting them from underneath, purple florals and peacock feathers (my sister still displays hers in her family room).  In fact, Liz is the polar opposite of me when it comes to entertaining:  She is a fantastic party planner, and her table settings are uniformly perfect, especially if there’s a theme involved.  And she never forgets a thing.  (I always tell her, when I win the lottery, I’ll help her go into business as a party design professional, which I believe is her true calling.)

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My prior disastrous attempts at parties have ranged from too much food for not enough people (on one sorry occasion, lobsters, no less) to not enough food for too many people.  But never before did I have the perfect amount of food and drink and just somehow FORGET to offer it to my beloved guests.

I know what I can do to maybe, in some small way, make up for my abysmal hostess skills:  When Erika and Curtiss return home from their trip, I’ll send them an Edible Arrangement with a note that says, “Here are the melons I withheld from you when you visited me in Long Beach!”

(P.S.  If it’s any consolation – and it’s not – only the watermelon and honeydew in the fruit platter I bought were really any good.  And that’s not just sour grapes!)

My Life in Journals

I have been maintaining a daily journal continuously since 1978, my sophomore year of college.  And I’ve been schlepping the journals around with me on every move, boxes of them, ever increasing.  I’ve sworn to myself that, someday, I will review and catalog all of them, saving the “nuggets” (as I’ve always called the good or promising stuff) digitally, to be developed into something more substantial, and then, finally, burn the journals.  Sometimes I imagine that this will happen after I die.  Of course, it would help if I were famous and there were some literary historian who had an interest in doing the culling and cataloguing, who marvels at my diligence in saving every word with the exception of some journals in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet that were lost to Superstorm Sandy, which covered various periods of my life – it’s not like I lost the first half of 2003 or something like that, but rather I lost little bits from different years.  I tried to salvage them, sitting on my deck with latex gloves, paging through the moldy, stuck-together pages with ink illegibly bled and trying to find anything worth saving, but I gave up after a fruitless couple of vacation journals from a trip to the Pacific Northwest in 1994.

The content of my journals also varies widely.  Some entries are word sketches for future blog posts or essays or stories or, way back in my history, poetry, but I long ago discovered that poetry is far too esoteric for my talents – or maybe I’m just too wordy.  [An aside:  I read an article today in which a writer said she wanted to teach a college course where each assignment would consist of a three page piece of writing, which would then be edited down to a one-page piece, then to a three-paragraph piece, then to a one-paragraph piece, and then, finally, to a single sentence, developing the vital skill of editing, especially one’s own work.  I wish I could take such a class.  I have a tendency to blather on and I’m never sure how to end my writings.   I liken it to some of the designers on “Project Runway” who Tim Gunn tells to “edit with a critical eye”.]  I’ve got lists, and quotes, and unfamiliar words I need to look up.  My journals are basically a lifelong, ongoing conversation with myself.

Since I’ve started my blog, I’ve noticed that I write in my journal less often.  Maybe it’s because a lot of what I would have written in my journal I type directly into the computer, often because it’s coming up on Tuesday and I need to post SOMETHING.  But not everything in my journal should be posted on my blog.  I’d prefer my journals to be more a place for experimentation and introspection, where I can write words of encouragement to myself.  Unfortunately, though, I must confess that huge swaths of my journals consist of whining, complaining and beating myself up, along remarkably similar lines historically no matter the era it was written.

I am certain that buried in those journals is the fodder for a life’s masterwork:  a collection of essays or short stories that will serve as my breakthrough, the little piece of genius that can be my contribution to the universe, if I could just find it and then hone it – EDIT it – until it glows.

But when will this “someday” be, when I can organize and read through my decades of journals?  Of course it comes down to time.  If I could devote all of my waking hours (and even some sleeping ones, if I happen to be rewarded with a juicy dream I can recall in detail) to reading, researching, writing – and of course editing – if I didn’t have to worry about paying bills and doing work I despise in order to do so, I could have my perfect life and create my art.  Will I have to wait until I retire?  I’m afraid that I’ll still have to do SOME kind of bill-paying work even after I retire, especially considering the damage I’m doing to my already-sparse retirement savings due to the additional work I need to have done on my house and getting my kid through college (although both of those things, if considered in the big picture, are still investments for the future, just in a different form).

That’s why I need to win the lottery – so that money concerns can be removed from the equation and I can just be the writer I was always meant to be.

True, there are people who manage to write even while holding down jobs that require much more devotion than I give to mine.  My cousin George Hanna, on his podcast “The George and Tony Entertainment Show” [http://www.relmnetwork.com/gatent], always seems to find these creative folks who (a) host weekly podcasts (sometimes multiple podcasts), (b) read comics (or watch movies, or play video games – whatever their podcasts are about) voraciously, (c) attend conventions and conferences to network and promote their passions, and (d) still manage to hold down full-time jobs (and some even have kids on top of it all).  HOW DO THEY DO IT?  Have they somehow managed to extend the hours of the day?  Can they somehow survive without sleep?

I confess that I have become very adept at time-wasting in recent years, blaming my job and the need for me to be “available” but really just keeping up with multiple games of Words With Friends and trolling the Internet in the hope that Donald Trump will voluntarily withdraw from the presidential race or some disaster will befall his campaign that will otherwise force him out so Hillary can just skate into the job she has earned and we’ll be done with it.  When hockey season starts, reading hockey articles will occupy big chunks of my time, and next spring, it will be hockey PLUS Game of Thrones – all major time-wasting endeavors that suck hours from my potential writing time.  There’s no excuse.  All the “Seeds 4 Life” and “Daily Thoughts” websites I read (MORE time wasting) say I have to envision the changes I need to make and then make them, and keep moving forward, and all sorts of other words of encouragement and positivity.  Every night I go to sleep optimistic and hopeful that TOMORROW will be the day I can make the changes I need to make in order to take better advantage of my days, to be more productive, to make time to do the things that will give me joy and not just keep me in a holding pattern, waiting.  And every morning, I struggle to get out of bed until mid-morning, and then it’s dog-walking and litter-scooping and pet-feeding – and of course dealing with whatever work disaster has arisen from Asia overnight; the first thing I do, when I turn over in the morning to shut up my stupid robot phone alarm, is check my work emails – and the next thing I know it’s after noon.  I sometimes imagine that I could wake up with the sun, at 6 a.m. or so, and come out to sit at my computer (or on the couch with my journal) and just write, stream-of-consciousness style.  Or tackle the journals themselves, sorting them into piles by year and then just diving in, capturing anything that’s worth saving on the computer and making the little nuggets grow into gold.  See?  I have the project envisioned; now I’ve just got to make it into a reality.

One of my recent “Seeds 4 Life” emails contained a quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late guru of positive thinking and renowned author of such books as Your Erroneous Zones, Wishes Fulfilled, Excuses Begone and The Sky’s the Limit:  “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  So the key is, according to this post, “If you’re not getting the results you want in ANY area of your life, know that the answer lies in change.  Change in your attitude, your approach, your thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.  Your life will change, when you make a change.” [July 27, 2016, http://www.theseeds4life.com/change-way-look-things-things-look-change-dr-wayne-dyer%5D

My friends from college are coming for a visit tomorrow and I’m very excited.  I haven’t seen them since we were together in Greece a couple of summers ago.  While in Fira, on the island of Santorini, they convinced us to buy these cool string bracelets from a shop called Babylonia.  I chose a bracelet with a purple braid and a silver charm that signifies “optimism”.  I never take it off and I look at it often.  It is my talisman, a symbol of my deepest belief that I CAN change, I CAN have the life I’ve always dreamed of as a reader and writer, surrounding myself with knowledge and interesting thoughts.  (That’s why I love school so much.)

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As with all of these buoyant advice posts, easier said than done!  But I have to begin somewhere.  So . . . I’ll start tomorrow.  Check this space next week to see if I managed to have any success or if I’m continuing to wallow in my (possibly summer induced but definitely there) lethargy.

Punk Thoughts

I finally finished reading an article in Rolling Stone about the Ramones that I started back in April in my dentist’s office.  [Mikal Gilmore, “The Curse of the Ramones”, Rolling Stone, April 21, 2016; the same issue also featured a list of “The 40 Greatest Punk Albums of All Times”, compiled by the RS staff, and number one was, of course, Ramones, by the Ramones (issued 1976)].  Coming from New York, I like to believe that I was one of the first kids to bring punk to the masses at preppy Trinity College.  That iconic Ramones album was pretty much ever-present on my turntable (along with Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was always the first record I put on upon arriving back on campus).

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I loved those grungy kids from Forest Hills who played and sang genius three-chord, two-minute gems, highest possible energy from start to finish.  “Beat on the Brat” was one of my favorites (for the uninitiated, the lyrics are pretty much just, “Beat on the brat/Beat on the brat/Beat on the brat/With a baseball bat/Oh yeah”).  Joey Ramone sang with this weird and inimitable fake British accent and his voice would hitch on his “ohs” so they would come out like “uh-uh-oh”.  Back in New York for the summer, I actually caught them live a couple of times, including by myself at the Pastimes Pub, which was conveniently located across the street from the bar where I worked (the Copper Fox, which used to be the Witches’ Brew, which was where Ronald DeFeo, Jr., the infamous Amityville Horror murderer, used to hang out WAY before my time).  While I later gravitated more toward British punks like the Clash and the Sex Pistols, the Ramones were always my first punk loves (and, in fact, together with the New York Dolls, were heroes to many of the Brits who came soon afterward).  According to the article, and also Johnny Ramone’s autobiography, Commando – I haven’t yet read the bios of Dee Dee, Tommy or Joey, but I will – the band that came together as a literal (albeit mock) family of true misfits, that traveled and played together for decades, pretty much despised one another the whole damn time.

[An aside:  These days I find that I gravitate toward the biography section when I go to the library, and I’ve actually read some great music memoirs in the past year:  Chrissie Hynde’s Reckless:  My Life as a Pretender; Girl in a Band by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon; Anger Is An Energy by John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten).  I always love to read bios of creative folks, to learn about the “tipping point” when they went from struggling (punk) kid to successful (punk) artist.]

My second punk discovery phase occurred during my East Village days, when my new young boyfriend (21 at the time, despite my friend Wendy’s emphatically doubting statement, “He’s 21??  No one is really 21!!”) moved into my basement apartment with his extensive punk vinyl collection, ranging from British squads (I loved GBH most of all but was also fond of the Exploited) to Southern California punks (D.I. and D.R.I., Bad Brains, Black Flag, the Milkmen and the Circle Jerks, precursors of Green Day and Offspring and Rancid to follow).  I preferred the more melodic stuff, like the Buzzcocks and Bad Religion; Ian favored the thrash.  So when he announced he was starting a band (with an actually pretty clever name, the Diabolix), I strongly suggested that, given he didn’t know how to play the guitar AT ALL (although he managed to teach himself some basic chords), and his singing voice was, well, NOT a singing voice, he should follow the model of the Ramones and some of his more straight-ahead punk favorites – three chords, play them fast, sing loud, don’t worry about the monotone.  But Ian and his bandmates – a ragtag group that featured a loony man child named Lance on drums (with built-in groupies, his girlfriend Annette and her friend Harriet, who were big Robert Smith fans); a crazy guy named Tony on vocals following an experiment with a stinky kid with a righteous Mohawk whose name escapes me, who certainly looked (and smelled) the part but never showed up to rehearsals so he had to be replaced (and who Ian let sleep on my couch one weekend when I was away, which couch had to be sprayed and fumigated in the aftermath); a bass player named (I think) Larry who, in retrospect, reminds me now of a cross between Nick Jonas and Kyle Mooney from SNL, who actually had the most musical talent of them all; and a big moody ginger lead guitarist named Eric – were a tad more ambitious.  They attempted to write more sophisticated music rather than taking my advice to keep it simple, and actually built up a repertoire of about 5-7 songs.  They even managed to play a couple of gigs (including at CBGB).  Despite their initial enthusiasm, they were simply not cohesive enough to survive beyond a few months.

Recently, Ian was going through some old photos and posted a few Diabolix shots on Facebook.  These are from my personal collection.  The first was taken in my basement apartment on East 1st Street in front of a floor-to-ceiling OMNI Magazine poster I’d stolen from work.  And the other one is Ian and Tony, I believe on the stage at CBGB.  If nothing else in life, at least Ian can say he actually played on the stage at CBs!!

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Ian & Tony at CBGB

I often describe myself as an “old school punk”, and people seem to immediately know what I mean by that even if it’s less clear to me – I’ve just been saying it so long, it must mean SOMETHING!  Maybe it’s the tattoos or the fact that I dress and look out of the norm for a woman, especially a woman my age.  Maybe it’s because my background lacks a solid career path despite years and years of education.  I didn’t follow the road more traveled, not out of college and not since.  And yet mine is a quiet rebellion, unlike many punk icons who are loud to the point of unintelligibility.  I may not follow the piper, but I don’t make a big fuss about it.

Some of the punks I love have surprising depths.  Take, for example, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Tim Armstrong of Rancid, who are remarkably not related, even though they’re both from the Bay Area and they’re both amazing songwriters of the punk pantheon and beyond.  Billie Joe, of course, who grew up proudly singing show tunes, went on to write the Broadway musical “American Idiot”, which I never saw due to my dislike of ANY kind of Broadway show, but I might have actually tolerated that one because the music was so very good.  Tim Armstrong is a bit rougher around the edges, with his gravelly voice like he’s got a mouth full of broken teeth, but he too is a sought-after songwriter for artists as diverse as Pink and Jimmy Cliff (both of whom earned a Grammy performing his songs).  Dexter Holland, lead singer of the Offspring, is actually a doctoral student in molecular biology.  Henry Rollins is a brilliant poet, actor, activist and intense man of many opinions.  And all of them continue to thrive and serve as role models to the next generation of punks (because, inevitably, there will ALWAYS be punks).

Sadly, all of the Ramones are gone before their time, the epitome of “hope I die before I get old”, unlike Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, proto-punks of the highest order, who actually wrote and sang those words but who are still very much alive and kicking and who actually put on one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows in recent memory in 2010.

You can’t always tell a punk by its cover!

Sun Blocked

It was tough to come up with anything to write about this week, but I acknowledge that I’ve got to write SOMETHING.  I’ve been falling down on the job lately, missing my self-imposed Tuesday deadlines (although I can still claim – with pride – that I have not missed a week since March of 2015, when I first began this blog).

My head has generally been empty of intelligent thought for the past couple of months. Maybe it’s because of the oppressive summer heat.  Or maybe it’s being displaced from my home with no end in sight.  I’ve been living in my apartment for over three months now.  When I first entered the one-year lease back on May 1, I was certain that I wouldn’t be here for the whole term and that my biggest challenge would be to find someone to sublease the place for the last few months.  Well, construction has only just begun on my house and, instead of getting it lifted last week, as originally planned, a major wrench was thrown into the works and activity has come to a grinding halt.  There is so much rot and poor construction in my 90-year-old bungalow that the entire back third has to be demolished and eventually rebuilt.  I was going to have a new extension put on the back of my house anyway, so it wasn’t a complete shock (although I did shed a few frustration tears upon hearing the news), but it will involve more money and more time.  Of course, I will presumably have a higher-quality end product, so it will be to my benefit in the end.  Now all I ask is that we just keep the construction ball rolling . . .

I haven’t seen much of my daughter lately, and she’s going back to WVU tomorrow for her senior year.  She met a nice man (or so she says – I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting him) and they were trying to enjoy as much time together as possible while she was here. Splitting her time between her dad’s house and the apartment has been a little disjointed as well.  They were both technically her “home”, but they might not have felt that way to her, and in any event she was away in South Africa for three weeks.  It seemed like we barely spent any time together, which is kind of a shame because I really like her now that she’s turning out to be such a terrific and interesting person.

Things have been slow on the work front, which of course I don’t mind until it’s time to get paid.  Frankly, I’ve been starting to get a little paranoid about my value to the firm.  There has recently been a shift of power in my department to the younger partners and I almost exclusively work with the oldest of the “old guard”.  Truth be told, I’ve been on my way out for years, but my desperate need for money and my boss’ desire for someone he can trust and rely on have kept me hanging around.  (See “The Blizzard of 2016 and Some Thoughts About My Job”, 1/27/16.)

There’s no hockey, no Game of Thrones to entertain and occupy me.  Instead, I waste an inordinate amount of thinking and reading time on this horrible presidential campaign because I am petrified that, somehow, the ersatz despot Trump will find a way to win despite all reason and right thinking.  The ignorance of the American populace is kind of shocking, even though I still hold out hope that, as we often tell ourselves, there are more “good” people than “bad” ones out there and light will always conquer dark.  But I seriously have to wonder sometimes, especially when I hear anyone praise Trump.  Like, have you HEARD what he’s said??  Do you hear YOURSELF defending the indefensible ??

I still find my peace going to the shelter every weekend, supplemented sometimes with adoption events at the local pet store, where my friend Carole and I take some cats, sit for a few hours and try to convince the patrons that they need to add another pet to their families.  There sure are a lot of crazy cat ladies out there!!  (I am not disparaging; I qualify as one myself!)  One of the things I’m going to do as soon as we get back into the house is take home some more fosters – one cat and one dog, at least – and the dogs can bark as much as they want!

August always reminds me of family vacations in Matunuck, Rhode Island, because we often went there for the last two or three weeks before Labor Day.  The other day I was walking the dogs after an evening storm, and there was a certain pungent smell of low tide and electricity in the air that reminded me so much of rainy days at Matunuck Beach.  We rented a house right on the beach from creepy red-headed (and red-faced) Mr. Monahan, who had a couple of snotty-nosed kids and ever-present laundry hanging outside his house next door, which was practically buried in the sand.  But the first year we were there, we rented a house on Prospect Road, which headed away from the beach and onto a peninsula jutting into Potter Pond, with a narrow stone bridge where we used to catch blue crabs.  The Prospect Road house had a wide front porch, where we would sit and wistfully stare out at the sheets of rain, playing lots of cards and board games, and wait till the downpour let up so we could wander barefoot and look for worms for fishing.

As part of the summer malaise, I’ve been feeling physically sluggish, too.  So much for my plan to establish a new exercise habit while living right on the boardwalk!  I do ride my bike at least once a weekend, although twice in the past three weeks I’ve gotten caught in the rain.  In fact, this past Saturday, I got all the way back to my apartment when I realized that I had left my keys at the shelter, so I had to do the round-trip all over again, in a harder downpour the second time around.  I’ll really start my boardwalk-walking regime when it gets a little cooler.  True, I don’t like to leave the dogs for very long for fear of their barking, but I’d only be gone an hour, at most.  I know I would feel better if I did it, but motivation is hard to come by in the dog days of summer.

I do have a few things to look forward to in the coming weeks.  My friends Erika and Curtiss are coming for a brief but welcome visit mid-month, and we will celebrate Mimi’s one-year adoptiversary on August 8.  Darian’s 21st (!) birthday is August 24th, but she’ll be partying it up in Morgantown without us.  My present to her this year was a trip for her and a friend to go to New Orleans, and they’ve chosen to go for New Year’s, which sounds like a ton of fun (but way more fun WITHOUT old Mom!).

Hopefully I can manage to work a few more billable hours than I did in July or my bank account will be in big trouble, especially with the additional construction expenses.  But now that work has finally begun on the house, I remain optimistic that the words of my project manager Bobby will hold true:  “I promise you when [my General Contractor] is ready for me, I will demo and foundation really fast, 2 weeks after the concrete is in I will lower your home, and his framing crew will start the framing . . . and that won’t take long!! : )”