Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sebastian 2001-2014

We lost our good friend and rescue cat Sebastian on Tuesday. It's been a week of heartbreak and reflection and a bit of regret. The apartment really doesnt seem the same without him. There are tumbleweeds of his hair in their allotted corners and crumbs of his strewn litter align certain kitchen crevices. There's no whine like interruption from the foot of my bed to be fed at 330 in the morning. There's no trotting down the stairs(not all of the way, but enough) to greet me every single time we entered, as he splayed himself out on a step of his choice, belly up for a rub. When my son is with his mom next week, it should be as empty and depressing as I expect it to be here, without my pal Sebastian.

Sebastian or "Sebbie" as Hud often called him was a 12 year old orange tabby crumpled up into a dirty sad corner of a cage at the Philadelphia SPCA last May when we first saw him. Older rescues are a much "harder sell" at the pound and Sebastian's description affixed to the cage announced that previous owners had to get rid of him after "allergy problems". Really? After 12 years of having him? What a crime. Well, we put an end to his tenure there and brought him home.

I had always been a dog person. I mean, we had cats growing up in an old farmhouse, but they were outdoor cats.I don't believe I bonded with them as much as I did the dogs we had.City Cat, Pansy and Snowball all met their various demises as often times outdoor cats do, by desertion, a friend's motorcycle and a neighborhood attack. So it was onto a life of dogs for me. My longtime companion was a wonderful golden retriever named Blarney(no, not the purple dinosaur) who was my confidant and fellow traveler for 15.5 years. I lost him in 2003 and had no interest in getting another dog for two reasons. I was living in NYC at the time and my fiance(later my wife, then ex wife) was sort of a crazy cat lady.

She had a cat named Ruby who was the real love of her life, a persnickety old tabby who didn't like anything but being left alone. This fed my perception of cats as animals who never really bonded to their human as dogs do, never followed them around, never went on hikes or bike rides with them, never partook in the fierce pleasure of sticking their head out of a moving vehicle at 65 miles an hour, etc. I didn't think there was hope for us, my fiance or Ruby.

Little did I know. We started spotting a stray emaciated orange tabby  scrounging and begging in the connected back yards of our neighbors apartment. My ex started feeding it and soon after, asked my opinion on whether we should keep it or not...and that's when Marmalade entered our lives and changed my opinion on cats forever. Marmalade was instantly interested in everything in that little apartment quickly attached to us and even gave friendship with Ruby a try. Ruby was far from a kitten, and prone to hiding under the bed in full brood mode when Marmalade was holding court. That wouldn't change much over the years, but when Marm wasn't around Ruby would crawl into your lap. Who knows whether it was for the selfish reason of needing to be stroked or an attempt at love of some sort. In the next year, we rescued several animals, an old beagle we named Gilligan(but couldn't keep), an orange tabby who had just been struck by a car and was found bleeding and broken in our hallway and I even had a go at rescuing some feral kittens nesting in a window well, but as soon as I got them out they scattered in a flurry of hissing and screeching. I was becoming an animal rights person, a borderline activist ...who still loved a good steak of course.

We moved to San Francisco in the early fall of 2004 and ended up driving across the country....with two cats in cages in the back seat of a big Ford Explorer. Marmalade would gaze out panicked and wide eyed, but mostly scared silent for the 9 state scurry. Ruby howled and cursed in a dull roar for the entirety of our trip. Those two cats figured out a way to coexist, through that move and our stay in San Francisco and the birth of our son. Another cross country trip back east to Philly in 2007 led to a a new house and then Ruby's tragic death from cancer in 2009. Clifford, a large, mostly white (with orange accents) cat then joined the fold. We split up in 2010 and the ex got custody of the cats . I guess I was a cat person as well now, because it really sucked not having a cat around for the first time in almost 10 years.

I lasted three years without a pet until that great day last May when we brought Sebastian home. Sebastian was diagnosed with a UTI in May of this year, He had been sluggish and hitting the litter box repetitively to no avail. When I took him in to get looked at, they were able to "express" urine. This is a fancy way of saying to squeeze pee out of him.They prescribed antibiotics and pain killers and he was back to waking me up at odd hours for food in no time.  When it happened again a week
ago...he couldn't really move. I tried to find his bladder and couldn't, I gave him the same drugs as he was given in may hoping they would take. They didn't. I took him into a clinic in South Philly after the SPCA said that he was "blocked" and they couldn't help him. When a cat is blocked, they most likely have formed crystals in their urinary tract and cant pee. This becomes potentially fatal when the trapped urine re enters the blood stream and shuts the kidneys down.

Sebastian died in my arms after I made the decision to have him put down. I just could not afford the treatment or surgery needed to keep him around. There is tremendous guilt on my part, as the only real reason he's not here is that I couldn't afford to help him. To add to my sadness, my landlord refused to allow me to bury him in the back yard, adjacent to the window sill where he kept a close, but fairly content eye on the chirping birds and restless squirrels alive in the tree cover around us. I kept poor Sebastian in a box next to the gatorade and made a decision to take him out into the woods and bury him under a tree with a chorus of chirping summer birds. It is there where he rests for eternity. Goodbye Sebastian, thanks for making me enjoy being a cat person. We will miss you.





Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thank You, # Fu Manchu

Namaste and horns up. Headbanging is my yoga. Headbanging is fitness within the confines of a loose noodle. Thrashing my head about like it is plastic and bobbling between a young baseball fan's fingers is my cross fit. Closest to mine own highest calling, this hallowed act of rupturing neck vessels and loosening the bloody bearings in the cranial gears is all for the sake of escape. I am 45 years old. It hurts, but it's worth it. We do what we gotta do. Amidst a festival of decibel.

Some like curling up with a kitten, a two buck chuck and a Dan Brown book. Some like running for straight, endless miles in shiny shorts,then having to run back to square and falsely embrace the monotonous scenery in reverse. Some sit criss cross apple sauce (can't say Indian Style any more) in meditative pose and contemplate silence as a diversion to answering real questions about themselves in real time, while covert flatulence escapes to smother concentration. Some golf, some tend gardens, watching in stealth from bay windows for any stray jart or whiffle ball to crankily collect that may breach the trophy green. Some are born perfect, remain unscathed and empty.

I prefer shaking my brain from the foundations of its cerebral jello mold and re arranging my tainted train of thought. It's like a two hour lobotomy in the presence of overpriced beer and infinite watts.

The whole idea of headbanging IS to smother concentration. And to come out shaken clear and free of all blood clots, brain fuzz, P.T.A. faux pas, aftermaths of yelling at old polaroids, thrown furniture, exposed internet histories...Yet... the head is an air hammer pounding nails made of synchronized, bowel buffering riffs in ringing gnarly succession. Those riffs get knocked back in a riptide line of hairy robotic bows and flips offered up by a crusty cadre of Captains of cavemen, idiots of industry. The band responds by a dodge and a parry and a killstroke emitted from glittering ax and crunchy Celestion cacophony.  The riffs are a reminder (not a reflection) of my goddamn day. I don't bang my head to remember. I bang my head to forget. I pay in advance, and I buy the merch, motherfucker. Forget the crippling responsibility of a single dad's world. Forget the asshat in the LeSabre next to you on the way to the show blaring biggie in selfish omnipresent ghetto noise pollution. Forget the dude who didn't cut your bagel all the way through. Forget Joe the Plummer. Forget to remember. Forget to reset. Not to regret.

I get myself to the place where thwips of hair are painting my chin with sweat. Chafing, erasing.
Grey hairs unplucked, popping out like feathers from a strut-tastic chicken, dripping in the mist of licks.
Hair like tentacles bent on revenge, wrapped up in riffs so dirty, they're clean. Bang 'em if you got 'em. heads and hairs, that is....

We do what we gotta do to get to the godhead, to exhume redemption, to rock on and radiate.

Thank you Fu Manchu for Inspiration, perspiration and palpitation.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Moshtadon

Last night I went to see Mastodon in Philadelphia. I could pontificate on how awesome it was and argue that the precision, aptitude and all around bad- assery of this Atlanta foursome has neither faded nor morphed into anything new(as critics and long time fans have alluded to from 2009's Crack the Skye album on...) rather the band has expanded upon what it has always been...a one of a kind metal experience that pretty much puts on a clinic for any modern metal outfit in their periphery or wake. But I wanna talk about the mosh pit.

Bill, Troy, Brann and Brent barely broke a sweat while their stiff metal fingers blurred skins and dulled frets. Yet this mastery, these songs and a bunch of burly buffoons were the fine ingredients sprinkled on a whirling human cauldron of sweat, stench, piss and vinegar just feet from the edge of their stage..known as the obligatory Mosh Pit.

From the Urban Dictionary: Possible origin of the word "mosh" - the word originated in New York in the early 80s. The previous word for the dance was "slam". The origin is probably Yiddish, as is "mish-mosh" - something all mixed up. It was a specific New York Hardcore variation on slamming which went in a circle (usually counter-clockwise with the stage as 12:00). There was a variation to slower, chuggy music called the creepy-crawly. It may have been Jimmy Gestapo (Murphy's Law) himself who coined the word.

Crucial Mosh, New York style! 
Ok, whatever. By design last night, I decided to venture into the mosh pit. My friend wanted to let off steam after a tough week of intense study and I wanted to get a closer look at the band. It has been awhile since I'd seen them live as I was strapped to a breathe machine in a hospital post asthma attack on the night of their last visit to Philly in 2012. I still have the untouched ticket. I seem to be more vertically challenged at general admission shows these days, especially metal shows. There is always an abundance of lanky leathered- up Lurches at metal shows, who tend to hold their ground unimpressed and arms crossed in the middle of the fucking floor, like a loch ness neck telescoping above a sea of black T-shirts with cryptic fonts. And they follow me, like hovering black clouds putting up a denim wall in front of me, needy, leaning in,marlboro light smellin' girlfriends in tow. 
 I haven't reviewed a show professionally in a while either (long story, but hit me up if you need someone who has experience) and didn't have the sweet combo of a press/photo pass and a plus one, either. So it was gonna have to be an old school excursion being whipped through the pit and  coughed up at the front to get the visual results we wanted. If you brave the pit, you can do a mosh charade in motion through the hellish hurricane as a short cut to the front. I thought I was prepared, as a veteran of 6-700 shows, packing on a post- 40 fifteen as added heft to strengthen my stance in this treacherous dance.
 But there are no real rules in a mosh pit. Security tightens up with a don't ask don't see don't tell mentality. Which makes it real loose. These paid cretins are not storm chasers, they want no part of the tornado in front of them, and are ensconced safely beyond the barrier..catching dehydrated or blotto-ed crowd surfers like foul balls in their triage bunker..and sending them on their way via escort or ambulance. Even a community help-your bro-up-when-he-falls is mostly all for naught when you add darkness and a blanket of black tees to the deafening roar of a wall of Orange amps in sync with the strobes. There were bodies on the floor, boots in faces, errant air jabs( a la old school punk rock) in the dark that landed on ruddy cheeks in bass drum- like thuds. There were helicopters of hair whirring into view and obstructing the path to that sweet spot we coveted..the other side of the pit..center stage and a mere plectrum toss from the Masto -monitors. 

My friend made it, being younger, smaller and faster and armed with a plethora of yoga positions in which to weave in and out of the fleshy shrapnel unscathed like fucking Neo from the Matrix.  Me?  The last time I was in a mosh pit proper was at a small Rollins Band in Buffalo, prob 1991, which coincides with the last time I ever spit out bits of tooth. Errant elbows are like medieval maces to a young jawline. That shit scared me then, and it scars me now.But there I was and there was no turning back. I hopped in past the obligatory "arc of bros". This is an(offensive) line of miscreant-ic mortals dressed in camo cargos and their favorite backwards cap at every hard rock/punk/metal show. They pepper the edge of the pit with their muscle for the main purpose of shoving any shaggy nerd into the maelstrom with roid effected snickers and high fives all around. When one member of the arc of bros does enter the actual eye of the human hurricane, it becomes ANYTHING but calm. Most of these cavemen lower their shoulders like strong safeties into unsuspecting pee wees and lift them like a bloodshot bull does to a skinny matador. And thats exactly what happened to me. I was airborne for two seconds( WHAT A VIEW!) and came down just in time to move out of the way of some serious meth-ed out sweat monster conjuring up something with an arsenal of growls and wind-up arms. I got bumped around like the meaty pinball that I am and thrown into it a few more times before joining my friend on the other side. We spent the entirety of Mastodon's set being crushed by the rippling, swaying tsunami of zombies behind us and I had to compete with a rotund metal lady's hamhock of an arm bitch slapping me in my face while she screamed "BILL, YOU FUCKING ROCK !"and making the "heart" symbol with her fingers .

I feel like the Seven Dwarves were all coked up and break dancing on my back and neck. I feel like kneaded dough today...and I'm slow to rise. But that was some show. It was like a spin class with a better soundtrack, bruises and no bikes. Stupid similes aside, I'm a happy man today....25 years between mosh pits is too long. I made it through. Now give me a fucking cookie and turn the music up.

Thank you Mastodon. I look forward to your new album Once More Around the Sun, coming at us in June.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Random Rock Thoughts

I think the new Zeppelin Re-Re-Re-Releases are a money grab. I love me some Zep, but in the olden days of my fandom, I read many a quote from Jimmy Page(from as long as a decade or two ago) explaining that there wasn't much left in the vaults and they had used everything. Therefore, with the upcoming rollout of the expanded catalog(again), I'm expecting some sloppy jams disguised as "lost or unreleased" gems and a shitload of live bootlegs that he went and souped up. Most unreleased stuff is unreleased for a reason. I'll hold out hope for anything in a demo version as it's always interesting to peruse the early architecture of those FM staples. Acoustic demo version of  Gallow's Pole? 1st take of In the Light? John Paul Jones solo-ing on anything?  Boner rising. Super Zep fans will covet anything, but Jesus the catalog has been remastered three times already. I'm good thanks. As long as Ive been able to hear the squeaky bass drum pedal on "Since Ive Been Loving You" from Led Zeppelin III, I'm set. My boner is still going strong, That little sonic ditty has been around for 15 years now. However, if by some miracle I can hear the ice clinking from Bonzo's 12th glass of vodka and orange captured accidentally from the snare mic during tour rehearsals in Sept. 1980, I'm in. If not, I'll pass. As for the live stuff, I've heard the "Listen to This, Eddie" bootleg and that's all I need.

Neil Young is an extremely passionate man, and his soapbox for dissing the sound quality of everything released since 1989 is worn out and rickety as fuck by now. but he keeps standing on it, so A+ for effort, Neil. I have everything Neil Young has ever released, and none of it is on vinyl. I wonder if he still likes me? It's about the love, Neil. Love conquers all, and love does a higher bit rate not make.The Pono music player device thingamabob that he is proposing/kickstarting is a niche item for snooty audiophiles who wanna walk around with a Yello Toblerone-ish item tucked in their khakis, because they can't fit a turntable in a pocket. have you seen this thing? I'm hoping(but not really) that it's a prototype because this thing looks like a bright banana with angles for your back pocket. Should look real awesome in your morning coffee line...gonna fall right outta your yoga pants..Reminder...If your audio file quality don't match your headphone quality, all is lost my friends. all of this fussing over sound quality is moot. So Pono away. The kids won't buy it. The kids don't matter and the kids don't care..I'll be too busy letting my emotions do the listening and stocking up on a variety of bit rates from 8 track to a digital FLAC chip inserted under the skin behind my ear to care.

The envelope filter (guitar effect for anyone who cares to look up) is my latest favorite guitar effect. Nobody does it better than Jerry Garcia. See..hear Dicks Picks any of them ('77-80) where Jerry hadn't yet found a dragon to chase regularly. Oh well, if I had my druthers in 1978, and I was a hairy pitted barefoot female and older than 10.. He'd be my Khaleesi. In the headphones, an envelope filter mimics a cacophony of notes being squeezed gently in tourniquet fashion, and  farted out through a muted trumpet made of old tie dyed t-shirts.The joyous sound makes me wanna bathe in granola salts and red grenadine and teach a hungry bear to stop worrying about global warming and just dance.

The Apple-Beats merger is stinking up my joint. Headphones for fashion weenies who value bass more than clarity meets a company who made everybody listen to music on their fucking phones. So what if it's all about streaming..which is what these shut in audio pundits seem to think is the future of music. I can't wait for the future of music...faster..pulled from the cloud..instantaneous..wait, what?..Net neutrality only lets the beautiful people with the most duckets..get the streamo maximus fastissimus quickery?...the rest of those who care about invisible shit that you can't hold and can't see get ...overdriven compressed to the hilt-disposable streams... through bass heavy 200 dollar fucking headphones. Yeah, baby, the future is so bright(but treble free). We will soon be fashioned to forget...purchase tracks blindly with a button behind glass and wait for them to stream...enjoy a three to five minute song for the short ride...run the light to the next one. Repeat. shit out. Bury. repeat.

Pizza is here. I'm out of thoughts.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Bullet points

"Woe is you" a friend said to me yesterday. Fuck her, but she's right. She's usually always right.

A lot of good all of that trippy, dancy Grateful Dead nostalgia did me. I'm no dead head. The only nostalgia I'm good at is the constant post mortem rewind I partake in to re align my bullet points of anger and loss. I'm a rotten son of a bitch to the core and by rotten I mean dry rot. The kind of rot that festers on the inside, corroding upon itself while all outward appearance and structural soundness appear normal, high functioning and strong. My brain is a moldy cross beam that holds my head together, dry as tinder, flammable as ransom note paper. Look at me emoting. Look at me searching for reasons...errr attention, on a quest to find the root of all anger..my anger...this anger, the old friend who breaks the day at daybreak, shows you every hairline fracture in my smile, every jaded self punch, every guffaw masked as evidence of the smouldering ashpile of confidence next to my dreams and visions... while keeping it a secret from me until a day where it can unravel in an aimless reveal..a day like today.

I knew I was going to wake up more cranky than normal on this Cinco de mayo, because it's my dead sister's birthday. She would have been 43.

She's dead while millions of useless, murderous, deadbeat, abusive, empty, psycho, sycophants and sabotagers walk the earth.

I saw a guy literally walk backwards down invisible steps, wipe drool from his chin that wasn't there and freeze in place like a mime without falling today, a bleary muted out empty husk of a junkie walking my street...and my sister gets to unwillingly check out early.

I saw a ghetto mom yank her kid by one arm right off of the side walk, take the phone away from her ear where she was wasting her broken ebonic on some fool, whack him on the head with the phone and keep talkin....This bitch gets to walk the earth and Meaghan is gone.

I see the dark underbelly in lieu of the blue sky every day. And that's a problem..No its a lifestyle. A landscape. A masterpiece.  

It's her birthday..but I never liked birthdays. So I was apt to complain about it. Complaining is one of a triad of things I'm a world conquering expert on, the others being singing and painting houses. We all have to be good at something, right?

Let's celebrate being born and sticking around another year..like we're proud of it. Like it means something in this great big world full of gun loving, famine bloated, ozone depleted greed driven scenes everywhere we look or choose not to.

We should all be angry every day. We choose sitcoms, social media, a great back nine, food porn, gambling, bath salts, cross fit and cat memes to distract us.

My problem is that I don't even see the glass.

I've already walked through the burning coals and keep waiting for the next challenge.

My problem is that music and its power is temporary.

Medication and its trail of side effects are temporary.

Therapy is fleeting, expensive, and temporary.

The weeks where I have my son are temporary..distractions from the battle with letting the alien anger win, encase my body in a fiery ectoplasm whom no one wants to touch..in fear or repulsion.

I can put a playlist on, talk about my passions, dream about the things I wanna write about...still there.

Read another rock bio. Still there.

Sing another cover song. Still there.

Bitch about Kiss and suck up to the Grateful Dead. Still there.

Practice my son's vocal vibrato before his big choral concert next week. Still there.

It's never been a violent anger. More like a simmering bully that shoves me up against the teeter totter just when the sun hits my face and the synapses are in rhythm and all of my friends are in the room on the playground and we're talking about Mork and Mindy, or the X Files or the acoustic songs on Physical Graffiti....lets me know who's boss. Takes my PBJ and throws the zip loc in my face.

It comes on holidays like this one..Cinco de Deatho...Birthday Deathday. Yeah, thats where it takes my thoughts...even as I push through with a steady roll of awesome memories of a beautiful sis and all of the smiles she brought me when I needed it most....before the alien anger put up shop and stayed there.

Don't blame my mother. That's too easy.

Blame me. I can put that suit on. Been wearing it for years.