Tag Archives: Music

Randomicity

Perhaps it’s the laziness borne of summer, or an overload of bad news on the political front, or even my daughter’s invasion of my physical and mental space these past few months.  But whatever the cause, I haven’t been able to string together sufficient cohesive paragraphs to produce a blog post since my last missive (which was a reflexive diatribe brought on by the aforementioned overload of bad news on the political front).  Regretfully, I haven’t been writing much in my journal – in fact, in a highly unusual circumstance for me, I’ve gone days without writing anything at all or, at most, a sentence saying how little I’ve been writing.

But occasionally I will have what I’ve been calling “common sense ideas,” which may ultimately end up turning into blog posts if I’m able to muster the sustained brain power.  For example, I think every publicly held company should include in every employee’s compensation package a share or number of shares of stock in the company, so employees become shareholders and literally have a vested interest in seeing their company succeed.  Those employees would care more about their jobs because the better they do, the better the company does, in a potentially endless cycle of success.

Another thought stream I’ve been entertaining (but I lack the capacity to get deep enough to write 500-1,000 words about it) is how I would fix the health care system in this country.  First, it should be mandated that all hospitals and all doctors have to take all insurances.  Second, all insurances should work the same way – same claims process, same reimbursement process, same referral process, etc.  This will cut down enormously on the administrative burden.  Third, the government should mandate that insurance companies cannot raise their rates every year, or ensure that any increases be linked to something like interest rates or cost-of-living.  Finally, as the process becomes more streamlined and the overhead and premium costs go down, then there would be no reason why larger employers couldn’t afford to insure even part-timers and the 30-hour minimum could be eliminated.

Here’s yet another recurring theme I keep returning to, in my head and my journal:  I don’t understand what the Republicans think will happen to the poor and the sick and the disabled and the elderly if they succeed in making Medicaid go away or cutting welfare and food stamps and school lunches, or when there’s no more funding for Section 8 public housing or public education.  (And of course, no abortions or contraception, so a ton of unwanted children adding to the already overburdened system.)  WHAT DO THEY THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ALL THESE PEOPLE IF THEIR LIFELINES ARE TAKEN AWAY??  If they thought the “great unwashed” were a burden before, what do they think they’ll be creating if Republicans are able to fulfill their dark and cruel desires?  Do they even care, as long as their own pockets are overflowing and they don’t have to actually SEE homeless or poor people?  It blows my mind.

And one more:  Elected representatives are supposed to do what their VOTERS want, not their DONORS.  Money for campaigns should be taken out of the equation entirely and people should be elected (or, more importantly, RE-elected) based on their record, not on how much money they’ve raised; on what they have DONE over what have they SAID (words are cheap, especially in the age of Trump).

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So, those are some ways my mind has been wandering lately.  Which reminds me of the Beatles song, “I’m Fixing a Hole” (“to stop my mind from wandering / where it will go . . . “), which in turn reminds me of that post that was making its way around Facebook a few months ago about the 10 albums that most influenced you as a teenager.  A high school friend posted his list, and while I liked most of what he had included, my list would be ENTIRELY different even though it was from the same era.  My list of LPs on which I wore out the grooves in high school and early college is as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Bowie, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”
  2. T. Rex, “Electric Warrior”
  3. Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
  4. Leon Russell, “Carney” (one of the first albums I ever purchased with my own money, Elton John’s “Honky Chateau” being the other)
  5. Led Zeppelin, “Houses of the Holy”
  6. The Beatles, “White Album” (“Sgt. Pepper” was a close second, and I also loved “Rubber Soul”)
  7. “The Ramones”
  8. Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”
  9. Neil Young, “After the Gold Rush”
  10. Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”

Honorable Mention:

Queen, “Night at the Opera” (although my favorite Queen song, and the one that was our “let’s get crazy tonight!” theme, was “Tie Your Mother Down”)

“Foreigner”

Fleetwood Mac, “Rumors”

Rolling Stones, “Hot Rocks”

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Speaking of school, remember how every new unit in English and science and social studies would include a list of vocabulary words that would be featured in the unit, and the first assignment was to look them up and learn to use them?  Well, in all the brilliant political commentary I’ve been reading lately (Washington Post, NYT, New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Esquire [I especially like Charlie Pierce, who seems to come up with all these obscure terms to describe the “vulgar talking yam” and his minions], to name a few), I’ve come across a list of words that were either new to me or I’d seen them before but wasn’t sure what they meant (sometimes I like to guess and then see how close I am to the actual definition).  Some of those words (and their definitions, thanks to the Merriam Webster.com dictionary) are as follows:

sophistry:  subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation.

mandarins (not the oranges or the Chinese):  a pedantic official; a bureaucrat.

mountebank:  a person who sells quack medicines from a platform;  a boastful unscrupulous pretender.  (See also:  Trump, Donald)

anthropocene:  the period of time during which human activities have had an environmental impact on the Earth regarded as constituting a distinct geological age.  (An aside:  I actually came across the word “anthrocene” in a song by Nick Cave, which may be a made-up word or a bastardization of “anthropocene”.  Actually, the well-read Mr. Cave probably got it from the science writer Andrew Revkin, who used the term “anthrocene” in his book Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast to describe a new geological era dominated by the actions of humans.)

wry:  bent, twisted, or turned, usually abnormally to one side; made by a deliberate distortion of the facial muscles, often to express irony or mockery; wrongheaded; cleverly and often ironically or grimly humorous.

redoubtable:  causing fear or alarm; or, alternatively, worthy of respect.

mondegreen:  a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung (e.g., “Hold me closer, Tony Danza”).

shebeen:  an unlicensed or illegally operated drinking establishment.

oleaginous:  I initially thought it meant oily, and I was right, but it also means marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality.  (See also:  Trump Cabinet meeting)

opéra bouffe:  satirical comic opera.

numinous:  filled with a sense of the presence of divinity; appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense.

imperious:  befitting or characteristic of one of eminent rank or attainments; commanding, dominant, domineering; marked by arrogant assurance.

I now challenge myself to use at least one of my new vocabulary words in my next blog post!

Brain Salad

There are too many jumbled thoughts running through my brain this week, so I’ll just chop them up like vegetables and serve them in a salad.

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I think I may have come up with a (regrettably late) solution to the noise problem in my apartment:  rubber tile mats, 2-foot squares like puzzle pieces that I can mix and match and make into whatever configuration I need for this oddly shaped apartment.  It only cost me $100 and I can actually re-use them once I’m out of here and back in my own house.

There’s been progress on that front as well:  My house was lowered onto the foundation today!  There is an enormous amount of work still to be done – in fact, the entire back third of my house, including the roof, have to be rebuilt from scratch.  The floor supports for the surviving section of the house were like spaghetti, going in every direction, so the contractor has to make everything more uniform and up to code.  They’ll hopefully start the framing this week.  They keep telling me that, now that the house is down, “it moves fast” (an actual quote from my contractor today).  This remains to be seen.

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The house is down!

It also remains to be seen if I’ll have the money to cover it all before getting my final payment from the New York State grant, which won’t come until after the work is completed and inspected.  My financial advisor has loosened up some funds from “65-year-old Nancy” (as he refers to my retirement account), because getting my house in livable, FEMA-compliant and partially brand new condition is an investment that 65-year-old Nancy will surely benefit from in the end.

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Talking about money always makes me a little sick to my stomach.  Speaking of which, my gut was in knots watching that debate on Sunday night.  Every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, I want to vomit.  And what comes out of his mouth is nothing but word diarrhea, empty drivel, meaningless, unsupported bullshit (excuse my French).  And yet an inordinate number of people – well, the media, anyway – came out of that debate saying that Trump had held his own, or stopped the bleeding, or actually “won” the first 30 minutes (which is also what they said after the first debate).  I DID NOT SEE IT.  True, I am predisposed to think of him as an ignoramus and anything he says as nonsense, but even reading the transcripts afterward, I could not get over the fact that (a) the man cannot put together a full sentence, (b) he repeats himself incessantly (how many times did he call something a “disaster”?) and, worst of all, (c) he makes statements as if they were true and fellow idiots immediately believe him, despite most of what he says being “fact-checked” into oblivion.  He’s a vainglorious, narcissistic, entitled pig man, and how ANYONE could want him to be the foremost face of our country is utterly beyond me.

This becomes especially apparent after reading an article entitled “The way ahead” in The Economist earlier this week written by our current president, the polar opposite of Donald Trump in every way.  [Barack Obama, “The way ahead”, The Economist, 10/8/16, http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21708216-americas-president-writes-us-about-four-crucial-areas-unfinished-business-economic ].  I’ve spoken in this blog before about my admiration for President Obama, and I continue to believe that he has been the greatest president in my lifetime.  [See “OK POLITICS”, 6/30/15.]  A fantastic quote from this impressive piece:  “America’s political system can be frustrating.  Believe me, I know,” which is a really polite way to say he has done everything in his power to rise above the obstructionist Congress that has made its prime objective to reject everything the President – OUR President – proposes, to the point where they are not doing the jobs for which they were elected and entrusted by the public to do.  And despite that, gains have undoubtedly been made over the past eight years in our evolution as a nation and as a species.  We certainly don’t want to start going backwards now.

The other thing that really troubles me about this election, though, is how vilified Hillary has been.  This is a woman who has devoted her LIFE to public service, who puts herself out there to be slammed and insulted on a daily basis because she wants to make a positive difference in the world.  She may be politically ambitious, but what’s wrong with that, really?  Such ambition would be – and usually is – lauded in a man candidate.  She may have learned, through her decades on the fringes and later at the epicenter of the political world, how to spin her statements so that they sway folks her way – again, as all politicians worth their salt do.  And yet she is portrayed as a liar and a sneak and a crook.  She is a flawed human being, as are we all, but she deserves more respect than she is given.  It boggles my mind when I hear people say that they equally abhor BOTH candidates.  No matter how much you may dislike Hillary, she is the only QUALIFIED candidate in the race, and that alone should be enough to elect her over her opponent. And right now, they’re the only two choices we have (apologies to Jill Stein and Gary Johnson).

I personally believe she will make a good first woman president (and I’ve said so before; see “I Don’t Know If I Can Take Five More Months of This”, 6/1/16).  And you know what else?  In a weird way, I actually think Ivanka Trump, after going through this whole maelstrom with her father, might make a very good future candidate for president, once Hillary opens that door for her and every other female for whom the loftiest of political goals will now be achievable.  I wonder if Ivanka’s good looks would help or hurt her, though.  I suspect it would be the former, given that we are a sexist society that objectifies and belittles women and doesn’t give them the credit they deserve (although one can only hope that will continue to change – I mean, women couldn’t even VOTE a mere hundred years ago).  For instance, consider House Speaker Paul Ryan’s response to Trump’s rude comments about the females he has man-handled:  He said women are to be “championed and revered”.  Well, that’s all well and good, but how about A FEMALE HUMAN BEING SHOULD BE TREATED WITH THE SAME RESPECT AS A MALE HUMAN BEING, NOTHING MORE AND NOTHING LESS?  That might have worked a little better, Paul.

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Last night I had some weird physical feelings that propelled me into a “fear of dying” cycle.  In this instance, it was a severe lower backache, tummy troubles and a head full of cotton batting.  Flu?  Nah, I had a shot.  Sinus?  That would account for the fuzzy head, but not the back or the tummy.  New medication?  I was warned that it might cause stomach upset, so that could be the cause of that particular symptom.  Backache?  I went to the chiropractor on Saturday and have been sitting at my desk ever since – maybe something is out of alignment?  When I turned off the light to go to sleep, all these thoughts – and worse – swept through my head.  I woke up at 5 a.m. with a raging headache and required another visit to the porcelain throne, but by the time 9 a.m. rolled around, I was able to get out of bed reasonably pain free.  My back has started hurting again tonight (again, after spending most of my day at my computer), but my other ailments seem to have dissipated.

Whenever I have a pain or a weird bodily sensation, I feel a little like Dr. Gregory House, inventorying a whole litany of explanations (as evidenced by my thought process last night/this morning).  The thing I fear the most, though, is a heart attack, given that my father was killed by his sixth or seventh heart attack, on a racquetball court, at age 48, an age which I have long passed myself.  I also have chronic costochondritis, which starts in my back but radiates around to my front left rib cage, and of course my first thought is always, “This is it.”  I start having thoughts like, “When would I ever reach the point where I felt like I had to call 911 for myself?  Would I even be able to?  What would happen if I just died and no one found me for days?”  I heard last week about an ex-partner at my law firm, a woman in her mid-60s, a heavy smoker and alcoholic, who passed away alone in her apartment and wasn’t found for days.  I don’t want that to be me.  I really enjoy living on my own, but the one thing that scares me about it is dying alone and no one knowing about it.  I want to die in a hospital or hospice, in my 90s, surrounded by family and friends (and maybe a cat).

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The title of this week’s post puts me in mind of a seminal ‘70s album in my collection, Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake & Palmer (which actually survived the flood).  The LP — with distinctive cover art by H.R. Giger – came with a tri-fold poster of handsome head shots of the three band members, and I cut it up and hung them on the wall of my college dorm, among the black-and-white photos of football, hockey and lacrosse players from the Trinity College teams that I nicked from the Trinity Tripod office.  They all looked great in those (pre-Photoshop) photos, but my favorite was Greg Lake.  (I even once hooked up with a guy solely because of his resemblance to Greg Lake.)  His former band, King Crimson, was also a constant presence on my college turntable.  So, in honor of Greg Lake, I give you my Top Ten Favorite Rock Guitarists.  (You might notice the absence of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, both of whom are inarguably virtuosos.  But they are not in MY top ten.  I tend to prefer a guitarist who makes the guitar sound like a voice singing, although I will acknowledge that Clapton played with George Harrison on the ultimate singing-guitar song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.)

In no particular order (apart from the top three):

  1. David Gilmour
  2. The late, great Randy Rhoads, stolen from us too soon (by his own recklessness, sadly)
  3. Mark Knopfler
  4. George Harrison
  5. Tony Iommi
  6. Brian May
  7. Mick Ronson
  8. Greg Lake
  9. Ritchie Blackmore
  10. Steve Miller

Honorable Mention:   Angus Young

This list is COMPLETELY personal to me, so I’d like to hear some other people’s favorites.  Leave them in the comments!!

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.

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!

Little Ball of Stress

I wake up pretty much every morning so weighed down by stress and worry and dread, it’s no wonder I have trouble getting out of bed.

Lately, the conglomeration of things in my life that cause me tension include my worries about the upcoming elevation of my home and trying to come up with alternative living arrangements.  The greatest stumbling block has been finding a nearby apartment in my price range that will accept my menagerie.  My realtor – a very nice woman named Bonnie who was recommended to me by my contractor – told me about three high-rise buildings managed by her office right on the beach block in the East End of Long Beach, reasonably priced, plain vanilla, and pets are just fine.

I felt a little like Goldilocks when she took me to see the available units:  There was a 2-bedroom, which was too big, and then a studio, which was too small.  She promised to tell me as soon as a 1-bedroom came on the market, and sure enough we were able to see one the very next day.  It ticked all the boxes – roomy, plenty of storage, price was right, primo location – although it wasn’t the most attractive of places.  I handed in all my application paperwork and the fee, and waited for the call to come in and sign the lease and pick up the keys.  But, according to Bonnie, evidently there was a “conundrum” with the apartment and I would have to wait for the next one.  That was over a week ago and I’m starting to get nervous.  In actuality, any deadline I have is self-imposed, so there is really very little need for the anxiety I impose on myself.  It was just that I had told the contractor that we could get started in April, so I worried that if I had to delay until May, I might get bumped off the calendar and would have to wait even longer to begin the whole agonizing process.

It turned out that was a needless concern.  I spoke to the contractor and he assured me I could get on the house-lifting calendar for May.  Now if my realtor can just come through with an apartment in the next week or so, I’ll have enough time to put my seemingly endless ducks in a row before the anticipated May start date.  If not, well – to quote Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?“

Rest assured (or not, as the case may be), there is no shortage of other sources of stress in my life these days.  My daughter is having some real estate issues of her own.  She wants to leave her 2-bedroom apartment (which – long story short – has been a source of disappointment ever since she arrived last August because her roommate was a disaster and ended up skipping out halfway through the year, leaving her with a full electric bill) but she unknowingly obligated herself to stay in the place for another year in order to lock in a big $5 discount on her next year’s rent.  So now Mom has to put on her lawyer hat and see if I can get her out of the situation by the letter of the lease or, if not, to plead the case that she was an unsophisticated renter who didn’t know what she was doing and it’s unreasonable and unfair to make her stay there and/or force her to sublet half an apartment on her own.

There’s the daily work annoyances, of course, but the overarching stressor is money – or, more accurately, the lack thereof – and my endless expenses, which I have no idea how I’m going to meet given my limited income:  another year of college tuition, my semi-annual car insurance payment, getting a tooth pulled with no dental insurance, Darian’s summer internship in South Africa, security deposits for two separate apartments, and possibly having to pay three rents AND a mortgage installment for the month of May, combined with a less-busy-than-usual month of billable hours – it ain’t pretty.  A small tax refund will help but, in layman’s parlance, I’m financially screwed.  Only the lottery can save me now.

So how do I manage to combat the stress?  Not very well, I must admit, but there are a few things that help.  I saw a great quote the other day from famed scientist and philanthropist Albert Schweitzer:  “There are two means of refuge from the misery of life:  music and cats.”  (And to that I would add a chicken souvlaki platter with Israeli salad from Abe’s Pitaria.)

Music – most assuredly, yes.  I asked Darian today what the first thing is that comes to mind when she thinks of growing up with me as her mother, and she said:  “Traveling, and music.  Oh, and hockey.”  Except when the TV is on, there is always music playing:  music in the car, music on my headphones on the train, music in the background during the day while I’m sitting at the computer, music blasting while I’m feeding or playing with the animals or cleaning the house.  I’m also a collector of music, in vinyl, CD and MP3 form (I used to have cassette tapes, too, but lost them in the flood).  I have thousands of individual songs, hundreds of CDs.  As far as I am concerned, I will never have too much music.  My latest favorite is the new Cage the Elephant album, Tell Me I’m Pretty.  I’ve liked other songs of theirs, but this is the first time I’ve wanted to purchase an entire album of their music, and I’m extremely glad I did.  It’s been a while since I’ve found a record where I like every song, start to finish.  With the same Amazon gift card (earned as a credit card “reward” – I can’t afford to actually spend money on music), I also bought Badfinger’s Timeless . . . The Musical Legacy.  Now I finally own two of my favorite songs of all time, “No Matter What” and “Baby Blue” – classic nuggets of pop perfection.

And cats?  Also a big yes.  I love spending time in the cat rooms at the shelter on the weekends, making my way from cat to cat, chucking them under their chins and rubbing their cheeks, head butting and ear scruffling and slowly letting the layers of stress fall away.  I find scooping litter boxes to be a very zen activity, like working on a little sand and stone garden with the miniature rake.  I get the same relaxing feeling at home, sitting on the couch with Mimi on my right and Savannah on my left, two chubby lady cats luxuriating in being stroked by the chubby cat lady.  They’re so soft and sleek to the touch, like velvet and mink.  And they both purr so loudly I can literally feel the purring as well as hear it.  (Not to overlook the pooches:  While they are generally less affectionate, sometimes it’s Gizmo parked up on my left thigh, soaking in the mutually beneficial massage of his silky soft coat and his fat little body.)  Nothing gives me more joy and calms my soul more than those moments on the couch with my creatures.

And what about the thing that occupies the bulk of my evening hours from October to May (and hopefully into June), New York Rangers hockey?  Does watching hockey give me relief from my daily vexations?  Seriously??  Their performance of late, combined with the success of the surging and obnoxious Penguins (coached since mid-season by former Ranger assistant coach Mike Sullivan), has proven to be an addition to my sources of stress rather than a respite from them.  After a decent February, March’s alternating wins and losses are threatening to not only deprive them of home ice advantage after they were pretty solidly in second place (behind the juggernaut that is the 2015-16 Washington Capitals) all season long, but they might even get bumped out of the playoffs entirely.  With eight teams vying for seven spots, one squad is getting left in the dust.  Judging by the way the pundits poop on the Rangers (especially poor old Dan Girardi), I’m sure many of them think the Rangers will be the team to fall out, and certainly none of them holds out much hope about their chances in the post-season.  [An aside:  I think back to 2014 when the Rangers basically had to choose between keeping Ryan “Captain Cally“ Callahan or defenseman Dan Girardi.  The two were up for contract renewal at the same time and, given the limited salary cap space, one of them would have to go.  Cally ended up being traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for Martin St. Louis (now since retired), and Girardi got a hefty new contract (which many said at the time was a little TOO hefty).  Girardi had been a dependable stalwart for years, coming in undrafted but establishing himself as the bedrock of the Rangers’ top shut-down pair for a number of years.  But that kind of devotion takes its toll on a body.  Now that he is 31, all those hours defending hard-fought ice and blocking shots have clearly had a detrimental effect.  An already slow-ish skater, he’s become practically glacial, and his mental acumen isn’t what it used to be, either.  It’s unclear how the two tie together; maybe because things are physically more difficult for him, he has to think about them more, and getting too into his own head is preventing him from making the instinctive plays he’s made for years, so he overthinks and overpasses (which, truth be told, is a malady ALL of the Rangers suffer from) instead of just bulling his way out of the corner with the puck or shoving an opponent’s big body away from in front of Henrik Lundqvist.  Yes, Dan, it sucks to get old.]

I very clearly see their problems, watching from the eye in the sky while sitting on my living room couch.  This is what’s wrong with the Rangers:  They have all the pieces but they lack the urgency and intensity – that drive, that fortitude, whatever you want to call it; that extra SOMETHING that all champions seem to possess  – to take advantage of their opportunities, to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes.  They need to have a single-mindedness of purpose to FINISH.  They get plenty of opportunities, but they consistently waste them, to my great frustration and consternation.  My daughter and I frequently text during Ranger games, and I can’t tell you how many times I use the words “BLOWN CHANCE!!”.  It’s no longer even mildly amusing; it’s beginning to be pathetic.  They also need to be QUICKER – quicker with their decisions and puck movement, especially in the offensive zone and especially at this stage of the season, when they’ve had a whole year to sharpen up their timing and familiarity with one another (with some leeway for Eric Staal, who just came into the mix, and Rick Nash, who has just returned to the lineup after missing 20 games).

Who knows?  I keep hoping that the team, having made it as far as the Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Finals once in the past three years, is saving their best for the post-season, now that they know what it takes.  Only time will tell.

Mats Zuccarello was telling everyone on the bench before last night’s game against the Florida Panthers (which, much to my relief, they won) to “Have fun out there”, and it’s so true:  When the boys are playing well, it’s way more enjoyable for them, and the same goes for the fans.  A good Rangers win, savored from my couch surrounded by purring kitties, is the best remedy by far for a stressful day.

Monday Blues (and a little anniversary)

Woke up cranky on Monday.  I’m ALWAYS cranky on Mondays.  It used to be even worse when I had to commute into the office on Monday mornings, because my dislike of Mondays would end up poisoning my Sundays.  Now, thankfully, the misery only rears its ugly head when I wake up on Monday (usually at least an hour before I absolutely have to, at which point I immediately re-set my alarm and go back to sleep for that hour rather than getting my fat butt out of bed and perhaps having a productive morning rather than a lie-in – see “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream,” 9/16/15, for a whining about my typically unhealthy morning routine), marking the end to my beautiful, free, relaxing weekend.

I am particularly foul-mooded on a morning after the Rangers have lost a game, and this Monday featured an especially brutal instance of this, as the hockey gods were not at all fair to the Blueshirts.  From being three goals down before the first five minutes of the game had even elapsed, the Rangers had methodically played CORRECTLY for the remainder of the game, and were able to tie it up on a timely power play goal with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period.  Surely, in the eyes of those often fickle hockey gods, the boys were entitled to earn at least a loser point for their efforts?  And as they would have the momentum going into the overtime, their chances of getting that all-important second point – against a team immediately behind them in the standings, the pesky cross-town rival Islanders (once again, the new kids in town inserting themselves where they’re not wanted) – were good.  But no.  Following a face-off deep in their own zone, with less than 90 seconds remaining – bing-bang-boom! – the game was over, thanks to a lucky shot by an Islander fourth-liner from the top of the circle after a clear face-off win, made all the more painful by the fact that the Rangers had dominated on face-offs throughout the game at 67%, led by the quickly acclimating Eric Staal, who was 20-for-22 (91%!) in the face-off circle.  It wasn’t Eric Staal taking this face-off, though; it was Derek Stepan (at 46%, the only centerman with a losing percentage this night), who I normally admire but he just wasn’t good enough on this one, nor did his teammates (in this case, specifically, Keith Yandle) cover their respective men well enough, so the puck somehow ended up in the back of the net.  It was infuriating, and it made me mad all night and the next day (a Monday, of course), too.

Telling tales of being miserable on Mondays has certainly made its way into pop music over the years.  There’s New Order’s “Blue Monday”, the iconic dance song (in my younger “going clubbing” days, any time I heard its opening beat I would immediately put down my drink and run out on the dance floor, involuntarily herky-jerking all the way, one of the very few songs that had that effect on me), which was allegedly written in response to crowd disappointment at the fact that New Order never played encores, although lines like “I thought I told you to leave me when I walked down to the beach/Tell me how does it feel, when your heart grows cold” make it clear that Mr. Sumner et al. were having some dark Monday-ish thoughts when they wrote it; then, of course, the aptly named “Rainy Days and Mondays,” which it doesn’t take a genius to figure out would always get poor doomed Karen Carpenter down; “Monday Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas (“Every other day of the week is fine, yeah / But whenever Monday comes you can find me cryin’ all of the time”); and who could forget “I Don’t Like Mondays,” the only real hit for Sir Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats, which famously attempted to get into the head of a real-life young girl who, in 1979, went on a shooting spring at a school simply because she didn’t like Mondays.

I keep finding and posting inspirational quotes around my house – ostensibly for my daughter, but mostly for me – in the hope that SOMETHING, some little motivating phrase, will click the switch and get me out of my doldrums, which, needless to say, may find their nadir on Monday mornings but the fog doesn’t lift fully until Friday night, when the weekend begins anew.  A fellow WordPress blogging collective, The Seeds 4 Life [www.theseeds4life.com], read my “Some Thoughts on Death” post last week and reached out, evidently detecting a need in me for some uplifting words.  I immediately started following them and in the last few weeks alone they’ve posted scads of helpful New Age-y (but still helpful!) advice, such as, “Change occurs when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change” (Judy Agiu, “How I Rediscovered Myself”, The Seeds 4 Life, 2/7/16, http://www.theseeds4life.com/how-i-rediscovered-myself)  and “Let yourself dream, and know that you can succeed because you already have” (Nikki Giovanni, “Who I Am Really Keeps Surprising Me”, The Seeds 4 Life, 3/7/16, http://www.theseeds4life.com/really-keeps-surprising-nikki-giovanni).  It’s all a bit hippy-dippy but, frankly, the blog has appeared in my life at a time when I’ve most needed these little snippets of crunchy granola goodness.

I often think of myself as kind of a lost soul, and this has become especially clear to me now that my daughter is making a life of her own and is no longer the lone focus of mine, leaving me, therefore, more often to my own deep thoughts.  I have passion but I lack direction.  I’m smart but I’m also fearful.  And my greatest existential sadness stems from all those things I’m not but wish I could be: artistically talented (in ANY genre); fit and small-breasted; well-enough off financially that lack of money would never be an issue (i.e., independently wealthy).  So it’s become vital that I have to not only work for a living, but I also have to work – and I’m talking about DIFFICULT WORK – to keep myself on a productive track, maintain a healthy lifestyle and outlook, and hopefully have some kind of positive effect on the world.

That was one of the reasons for starting this blog, a little over one year ago.  So happy birthday to Life Considered!  My little vanity project has survived a year of my procrastinating tendencies and bouts of sadness and lethargy!!  Let’s hope I can take some evolutionary steps forward in Year 2.  I promise I will continue to strive to be a pinpoint of light in a dark universe.