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Conceptual Irregularities

The modern composer refuses to die – Edgar Varese

Thanksgiving In The Heartland

Day One: We are off to Nebraska. We are leaving in the afternoon this time as opposed to 5am. Much easier. 
Meant to leave my Swiss Army Knife at home, but did the opposite. This knife was given to me by Tami on Valentines Day 2001, the night we got engaged. It’s always a thing that I have to remember to either leave or pack with the checked luggage. This time we are not checking anything so the plan was to leave it home. We had a brush with losing it in St Thomas coming home from our honeymoon. The gate attendant ultimately let us put it in a bag that we were going to carry on and check that bag. 
So, tonight we somehow got put in the TSA pre-check line. One of the advantages of being white in Trump’s America, I guess. But I squandered the opportunity by having the knife. Fortunately, they now have a deal where you can mail it home right there. They have a grey box with plastic bags with little slips in them. You fill out the slip with your address and credit card, put it and the knife in the bag, put it in the grey box and they send it back for you. Very convenient. It’s the little things in life when you’re traveling. 

There is something about watching the sitcoms they show on the plane. I never plug in the headphones to listen to them, so I’m watching this pantomime where there’s this whole story going on that I am not really privy to. I can see the action and not knowing the reason for it makes me wonder if I should plug in the earphones and listen and enjoy the show. But I sort of like being in this limbo, just grooving on the movement. Whenever I see tv I can’t hear it always reminds me of flying. 

Jiffy Pop Has Left The Building

Jiffy out by the fire
Out by the fire

We are at the vet getting Jiffy checked out. He is in the twilight of his life and wil be turning 16 on December 2nd. He threw up blood a little yesterday and we thought we should get it checked out. While he has gained .2 pounds since last time and doesn’t have a fever, he is weak and doesn’t want to go on walks anymore. Tami is despondent. I’m trying to keep my chin up. I want clarity from the vet as to how we negotiate these last weeks or months of his life. How do we know when he is done? They say we will know but it’s hard not knowing.

Stormy, 9 months older than Jiffy is going strong, it seems. He is the ugly stepchild, having been adopted at ten from Tami’s mom when she went into assisted living. He whines and we never know what he wants, but we love him anyway. I am trying to communicate with him more since up to now I thought he was deaf. I don’t think he is.

Karen, our 8 year old cat, just got done with a few weeks of staples in her neck from an apparent cat fight injury. She is, however, happy and vital.

The vet, Dr Franquin, comes back in after doing an ultrasound on him and informs us he has a mass around his pancreas. We go back and forth about the possible treatment options. She could give us a referral to the animal hospital in Woburn. If it was pancreatitis they could treat it and maybe we get a few more months. If it’s cancer it is a whole treatment routine for a very old dog. Or we can euthenize him today. Or wait a couple of days. She leaves us alone.

We cry and hold him close. We hear him struggling with each breath. We know he is old. We want to at least let Andrea and the kids say goodbye. But that would mean making an appointment for his death. We went through that once before with Daisy Duke and it was awful. I remember Tami lying on the front porch with the kitty, crying, knowing the day was coming tomorrow.

We make the decision to do it today. Rip the bandaid off, so to speak. Dr. Franquin tells us what to expect and takes him out to put a catheter in his foreleg.

They give us plenty of time to sit in the little room and cry. Another tech comes in and has me sign a paper saying we want individual cremation. As opposed to cremation with a whole lotta other animals. We have a graveyard in our garden with Daisy Duke and Cheryl. Of course we’re gonna have the individual cremation. I just couldn’t deal with holding the body, so we got the cremation.

We cry some more and hold him, this dear sweet poodle who has made our lives so much better in so many ways. We could bring him to parties and he would run around doing all the socializing we were too shy to do. He was smart, charismatic, and a really great dog. A once in a lifetime dog. He even had his own website for a while, jiffycam.net. Ironically, that domain name expired yesterday.

A tech, Danielle, comes back in and asks us if we need more time. We answer no. Dr Franquin comes back in with the 2 syringes, one to provide the anaesthetic and the other to provide the overdose. That’s how dogs die, from a an overdose.

We put him on the steel table wrapped in an Indian blanket. Tami holds him as one syringe is connected with the catheter in his arm and then the other. Dr. Franquin puts on her stethoscope, listens to his heart and says, “He’s gone.”

Copulation and Architecture

After almost 30 years, I finally got up the nerve to release the album I made as I was turning 30.  It is called Copulation and Architecture and it is available on Bandcamp.com.

The delay was due to a combination of low self confidence and laziness.  For years I have been paralyzed by the prospect of success in the music business.  It has been very hard for me to go out and sell myself.  I couldn’t even ask club owners for a night.  I couldn’t even ask Geoff Bartley at the Cantab for a feature there, and I worked with him for years.  He likes and respects me but I always felt he would say, No, you don’t have a following, you’re not ready.  When I write it down it sounds absurd, but that has been the default operating position.

I worked on this in therapy for years, particularly with Bob Porter on the Cape.  His theory was that I liked to wallow in my low self-esteem and if I actually took any steps to succeed, that would prevent me from doing that.  It’s like a fear of failure, but it is really just a perpetuation of limbo.

I actually believe that I am very talented and the others who have heard me agree.  While I have been fired from a few bands, most of the people with whom I have worked have had great respect for my musicianship.  While I’m a decent guitarist and bassist, I feel my strength is in my songwriting.  If I did it more, my performances as a singer/guitarist could really shine. I feel I interpret other people’s work well, also.  I have a huge respect for the craft of songwriting and I try to cover other local songwriters as much as I can.

Right now, I am focusing on honing my guitar skills as much as I can.  I continually try to learn jazz pieces out the Real Book.  I work on my reading.  I also work at teaching.  I run a Ukelele camp at my church.  It is 8-11 year olds and a I really enjoy seeing them get into music.  I also teach our “godchildren”, Thora, Sarah and Dewayne, guitar, bass and drums, respectively. I don’t think I’m very good at it, having taken very few lessons myself, but I’m better than nothing and they seem to like it.

Copulation and Architecture was my first endeavor in the home recording studio.  I had bought a Yamaha MT1X 4 track and was having fun with that.  When I moved back up to Boston in 1987 and got my place with Tony Savoie in Union Square, Somerville, I bought an Atari 1040ST computer and a Korg DS8 synthesizer. The Atari had built in MIDI ports and was a good music computer for the time.  I was fascinated by the process and the aural vistas which it opened.  I could mimic horn sections and marimbas and go on to make new sounds that didn’t exist in nature.  With step entry, I could play synth runs that I could never play myself.  I really can’t play keyboard at all well.  And though there is a certain electronic sterility to the sound of the album, musically, I like it.  It is the process of a lot of focus and hard work.  I have fond memories of that process.

It also allowed me to write about my many loves and infatuations from early adulthood.  The same dysfunctions that prevented me from pursuing music also kept me from fully realizing relationships with women.  So often they were unrequited and I was left in the role of platonic boy, a role that I was probably too good at.

One song of which I am particularly proud is Wish Of Grey.  It is about my mother’s last days in the Norwalk Hospital Cancer Unit.  I was fortunate in being able to spend her last hours with her.  Her death at 55 was a huge loss to our family and me.  Fortunately, we have managed to flourish without her here, thanks to the gifts she imparted to us while she was alive.  Her influence lives on in her grandchildren, and her daughters-in-law, while they never met her, feel as though they knew her.

Anyway, that’s Copulation and Architecture.  Feel free to buy it for seven bucks.  There will be more coming to bandcamp from me.  I like the platform and I feel as though I fit in with the music I hear on there.

Marlboro

Met a woman last night at yoga who was telling me she just took her daughter looking at colleges and one of the colleges was Marlboro.  I told her I had gone to Marlboro.  Her daughter decided against it because it was too small.  She was thinking more like 6000 small, not 300 small.  That’s cool, it’s not for everybody.  Her son is 15, meditates and plays the violin.  He might be a better candidate.

Music On Wheels from Yellow Barn

Boston Globe article: Music on Wheels

We were just talking about the Yellow Barn festival this weekend because one of the guests was on the board.  I have never been to the festival in all the years I’ve been going to Vermont, and it’s a shame because it is clearly right up my alley, with its focus on contemporary music.  My teacher and plan sponsor at Marlboro, Jerry Levy, played there I believe.  I love this music on wheels concept.  I love the idea of bringing music to kids at school, playing during recess, and letting them listen or not.  I love the idea of bringing the arts to the underprivileged and under-exposed.  And I love the idea of a cool vehicle.

Riding the Bus Through Malden

Young man gives his seat up to a little boy who is traveling with his mother. I’ve seen them before on this route. She is thin and does odd things with her mouth. She is poor and has to search for money before boarding, letting others pass before her. She has been waiting for a while and has had plenty of time to get her money out but has probably been avoiding looking in her purse, fearing the desolation there.

Rain on a Vermont Tin Roof. 

Tony, my erstwhile roommate, drummer and the originator of this blog’s name, picked up his sister Donna from Logan at 5:45 Friday evening. After growing up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Donna and her husband moved out to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she has been for the last God-knows-how-many years. She got on her flight at 1:00 AM but flew first class, a trick she learned from Tony, who just did that when flying out to Fairbanks. Now, Tony is the cheapest guy in the world but when he flew out a few years ago, he got sick out there and had to fly back coach, so this time he said, “I’m gonna fly first class, because if I get sick, I don’t want to have to deal with that.”  When he came back, he raved about it, and Donna had some frequent flyer miles from her husband, so she used them. I want to fly first class now but Tami ain’t buying it. 

We love Donna, so we insisted that Tony bring her through Melrose on the way home. We got a table at a new restaurant called Giacomo’s which is packed every night. A second location to the original in the north end, it is very reasonably priced and has great food. They don’t have stuff like this in Alaska so she was thrilled. We were proud to be able to present Melrose in such a positive way. 

We love Melrose, but Tami has been generally unimpressed with the restaurants here. But, she loves Giacomo’s. However, this always happens to Tami: she orders a beer or something and they inevitably don’t have it. This time she ordered one of the beers they had on the menu, but they had replaced it with Shipwreck Pumpkin. She literally said, Ewww! And the waiter was a little taken aback, I could see. But this whole Pumpkin fall in New England thing doesn’t fly with her. 

Drums

The next morning we took a drum set over to Dewayne, our godson. It was his and his two sisters’ eleventh birthday on September 2nd. I’ve been dowsing them with musical instruments this year. Dewayne has been noodling on the drums in my studio for years, but this the first grown up set that is his. He immediately started playing along with the metronome on his mother’s iPad and was right in the pocket. I see a bright future. 

Matt

Matt hit the big 6-0 (or the big white-white as he calls it because he has synesthesia and sees numbers in colors, both six and zero being white (5 and 9 being beige and purple.))  Matt and I have been playing music together since 1979 when he started a new wave/post punk type band called Special Children at our college, Marlboro. 

We went up to Vermont to celebrate. His wife Annie was also in Special Children and is a sweet woman with a big personality and she and Tami have hit it off well. They live in a house I helped build in 1997, one of the endeavors in my life of which I am most proud. 

I slept until ten this morning, lulled by the rain on the metal roof outside the guest room window. Matt and I played music out on his huge porch with the rain falling on the pine trees and the field behind him. We do a two acoustic guitar/vocal thing which has probably been the apex of my musical life, technically. I honestly think that some of the stuff we do is the most beautiful music I have ever heard. And, yet, we rarely play out, so nobody gets to hear it.  His writing is very personal, honest and intricate. I play my best guitar when I am accompanying him. He brings a perspective to my songs which I would never be able to capture on my own. 

On the way home, driving through Putney, we stopped so Tami could drop off some books at the free library box in town and leave 3.50 at the General Store to reimburse them for hen they sent Tami back her credit card a few weeks ago. We had left it there as a deposit on a coffee pot, but that’s a whole ‘nother story….

Jazz from Eric In The Evening

Most Fridays we sit out back and listen to Eric In The Evening on WGBH. I have been listening to Eric for longer than I can remember.  It used to be that every week night at 7, you turn on 89.7 and you would hear Peace played by Tommy Flanagan.  It was such a reassuring way of ending the day.  But all things must change and ‘GBH had a change of format a few years to mostly news.  Eric got moved to the weekends, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  I suppose that now it seems more special to listen to it since there is only 75% of the opportunity we used to have.  Also, it occurs on weekends so that makes it easier to relax and enjoy it.

Hell in a handbasket

America’s rugged individualism makes it hard for us to accept this prospect: that the many may have to provide for the needs of the few. Those less fortunate get thrown into poverty over an unavoidable and unplanned-for medical bill. In the twenty-first century the unfathomable maze of healthcare and finance make it impossible for the American individual to be an informed actor in any life-or-death economic transaction.

While the ACA may impose responsibilities upon citiZens which are unprecedented, it is important to remember that this was originally a conservative proposition, conceived by The Heritage Foundation and implemented in Mass by Republican governor, Mitt Romney. I remember listening to him on a Q&A one afternoon telling a woman why it was her responsibility to buy insurance lest she saddle her fellow citiZens with the bill for medical care she incurred. I remember thinking he sounded so harsh.

But that is the essence if the ACA: you are required to pay your way for your medical care. There are subsidies and requirements placed upon insurers that sweeten the deal, but the bottom line is that you gotta buy insurance. And this works out so well for insurers. They essentially get to play the role that governments play in most other developed countries. They are the payer. But since there are several of them, they will be unable to negotiate the best price from providers. That can really only be done by a single
Payer because the provider’s product is so precious that they will always be the dominant negotiator against multiple entities.

Businesses are on the losing end in this proposition because they are still expected to provide insurance as a benefit. It always puzzled me that American business didn’t get behind single payer. One would think that would get them out from under this onerous responsibility which befell them after WWII when they implemented it as a means to compete for scarce employees. It became an American institution which is increasingly taking up a larger piece of the pie.

I would think they would jump at the chance to abdicate this responsibility. I suspect they are more concerned with the higher personal taxes that are inevitable in any single payer model. So we get back to the primacy if the individual in this culture holding us back from true progress. Rugged individualism is at the core of every Titan of industry’s psyche. That personal greed trumps the company’s best interests every time.

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