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Sometimes things go well

The last year involved a lot of pain. I recall praying that I could please just not be sad all the time.

Sad Guy - DesiComments.com
At first glance, this looks a little like me.

My old job had become so bizarre that the stress was wrecking my health. The environment turned toxic, and finally, with no plan B, I abruptly just walked out.

Something about a “whitewashed tomb” is invoked by this photo

Then, my friend Ash took his life, and that messed me up pretty badly. I’m still reeling.
https://www.citybeat.com/music/spill-it/article/21065977/rip-former-cincinnati-musician-ashley-peacock-1978-2019

My mother became so ill that she was wanting to die.  Meanwhile,  despite my efforts to make ends meet being self-employed, a few months of only partial employment had left me destitute.
The Broke Man's Guide to Working Out | Muscle & Fitness

Freelancing quickly became a dead end. The nearly six-month course I took on graphic and web design left me with skills that were fading, in the absence of work opportunities to use them.

A former friend, who makes and repairs amplifiers, had one of my amps (that he had made), as well as another (mass-produced) in his possession for a while. One day I found my amp of-his-making for sale on Craigslist. It’s a one-of-a-kind. He began ducking my calls, and ignoring texts. Others have contacted him on my behalf. He has since chopped it and re-built it into something else he’s trying to sell. Basically, he stole my amplifier.   Here’s a video I made, for a demo I recorded with it. Anyone who knows me can verify that  the blue Telecaster and silverburst Les Paul Custom are mine. Guests to my home will recognize my dining room floor.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbY9PiwulAY

Next, we had a string of car repairs, mostly involving damage caused by other parties. Insurance handled these eventually, but it was brutally difficult to make them follow through.

STATE FARM SUCKS - YouTube

My daughter, studying abroad, became overwhelmed by depression and anxiety, and wanted to either come home early or throw herself in front of a train.
London Underground - Wikipedia

Mom got the final word that she had two weeks to live. I watched her turn from a vibrant pillar of health to a withered husk. She faded away in front of us, and left this mortal plane at bedtime, on a Friday, at the end of January.

So, how was your year?
Ode to Avalanche - YouTube

Well, after all that heaviness, things improved for me, slowly.

  • I recorded two songs on a memorial album for my friend Ash. Of the two I produced, one became the single. It turned out great. It allowed me to finally record something with him, and to have people enjoy the sound. The proceeds benefit his kids. In the process, I realized that I really don’t need a bunch of amplifiers; even one-of-a-kind, custom made things.
  • I started writing and producing music again.
  • The   graphic and web design skills I acquired, are working quite well    for music promotion.
  • My daughter got things sorted with her medications and school projects, and is doing much better.
  • The cars are currently all running well.
  • I started a job at another church, where they value both my musicianship and insight. Their operating values are kindness and community.
  • In December, my brother offered me a part-time gig working for his IT company. If you’ve followed my exploits over the years, you may recall that I have been doing IT stuff on and off since the 90′s. It has quickly turned into a full time gig.

And then, finally this:

The Mood Rings, my acoustic duo, have become a draw. We have two steady gigs booked now (every third Friday at Marty’s, and every fourth Friday at Mio’s), and people come to where we’re playing, just to hear us. Between TMR gigs and singing at church, my live vocal has improved after years of not using it much outside the studio.

The last two weeks have been some of the best music experiences I’ve had since back in the days of the Katie Reider Band. We put on a great show at Marty’s to a packed house. Then last night, we did another great show at Mio’s. In between, there was a high-water moment at church.

Sometimes things are painful, and, to be clear, there was a lot of sadness.

But sometimes things go well. This has been one of those weeks.

What was a hard time for you, that eventually  turned a corner into contentment and/or happiness?

 

Rejuvenation

My family has had a small cabin in Mountainhome, Pennsylvania (in the Poconos) for decades. It may be my favorite place on Earth.
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Last week at this time, I was preparing to return home from there, During the last day or two, the rain decided to assert its dominance. On the cabin porch, surrounded by mountain rain in the trees, and with a rushing creek 100 feet away, I started working on a chord-melody version of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now.”
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It sounded like this:

Time in the woods, breathing clean air, and not having to deal with the assorted nonsense of city life reminded me of two very important things:

(1.) I definitely need to take more time off. I don’t mean the lazy disengaged sloth that passes for breaks. I mean regular planned breaks from routine. Nature, preferably, should be involved.
Image may contain: plant, tree, outdoor, water and nature

(2.) If I’m not ACTIVELY creative, I’m like a plant withering from lack of water or sunlight. Sadly, my job, which used to be actively creative (I was a music director) is now merely passively creative. I lead the creative process of other people who ARE actively creative.

If I was older, bald, and surrounded by the most diverse-imaginable team, my time at work might look like this:
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So there’s this illusion that since I’m “working creatively,” I’m creating. Not really. It’s a fine point, but any artist who’s ever been promoted out of actively creating knows that there’s no substitute for making your own things.

Reflecting back on June and July, there’s some sense of  creative accomplishment. I finally recorded Led Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone” in memory of my friend Katie (though I have always wanted to play it). I recorded guitar and background vocal tracks for my friend Todd Gilbert’s new album “Guiding Light” (dropping July 31). And The Mood Rings (my acoustic duo) continues to play cover songs in local watering holes.
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But the most profound moment for me was when my fingers, on the fretboard of that guitar, started working out the melody and accompaniment of “I Can See Clearly Now.” Suddenly, while showering, or driving through the Pennsylvania and Ohio countrysides, the little poet who lives in my brain started calling out lyric ideas. He’s been quiet for a while. Rest and reflection seems to have woken him up. He’s downright chattery now.
Image result for little guy in my head

Five years ago, before taking that music director job, I was deeply enmeshed in working on acoustic chord melody arrangements. I was also writing and recording a solo album. These things are innate and important to who I am. Every day, I yearn to be creating music while I’m enmeshed in the blah-blah-blah (which disguises itself as important creative processes). I wilt a little more, and just let it slide along. Clearly, the disciplines of active rest and active creativity are important.

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I don’t have an answer to the dilemma today, other than to make the time to do the stuff. All I can tell you is that I’m driven to do the stuff… ACTIVELY.

What do you do to rejuvenate? Do you need creative rejuvenation? If so, What do you do to get that?

Ankles, Aikido, and Amplification

So I had this lingering sore foot/ankle/leg thing…
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On March 9, a doctor cut into my ankle to repair what had turned out to be a pretty major injury. I spent a month (March-April) with no weight on my left foot, then started hobbling a bit. I’m now walking normally, mostly.  With the help of my physical therapist (a friend since 7th grade), that ankle getting noticeably stronger and more flexible every day. All of this is good… actually it’s better than normal, and I’m grateful. I now have an awesomely gross scar to horrify the squeamish.
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As a result of my ankle injury, I had become progressively less active, and not able to spend much time out and about with my family. I gained weight from being sedentary. Honestly, I gave up on taking care of myself. That has all changed. My diet is better. I’m sleeping normal hours. Last week, I even walked the dogs with my sweet little wife, twice. Life feels like “normal” is within sight.
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Wait, there’s more…

One of my great loves, aside from music, is the traditional martial arts of Japan. I’ve been an eager student of Aikido since I was 21, and started Iaido back in 2004ish. After my injury (which had nothing to do with martial arts), the first thing I had to stop doing was all the lateral movement in Aikido. Iaido stopped a few months later.

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This past week, I not only did some Aikido training, but I did a small demonstration of Aikido within a broader presentation at the church where I work. So not only am I physically active again, I was able to bring a thing I love into the job I do. The last time I did anything like that was back when I was still directing music there. I had to let the music role go, when I moved in to my creative “Production Director” job, last year.
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Well, one of the things about musicians is that, in the summer, they want to play all these festivals. I suppose the money is good (back when I did it, the money wasn’t great, and I didn’t like the heat and hassle). Anyway, because of that, there’s a need for a substitute guitarist. So I will be subbing in on guitar in a week-and-a-half.
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That’s June 9. Also on June 9, there’s a big event at the Aikido dojo. Also-also, my acoustic duo has a gig that night. I may have over-committed.
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So… as it pertains to June 9, I might be going too fast. But after a year-and-a-half of slow motion, I gotta believe this is all understandable.

Have you ever been sidelined for an illness or injury, and had to wait it out? How did you cope during the interim? Have you ever been sidelined because of a role-change, and had to watch others do what you started? What was that like? Finally, have you ever overcompensated by over-committing? What safeguards did you put in place to prevent it from happening again?

Sprich, mein volk!

I Make Babys

No, this isn’t a typo, and no, I haven’t sired  more offspring.

Image result for gotcha

This is my cover of “Back On My Feet Again,” a song  I have loved since I was a little boy, originally written and recorded by a band called The Babys.

See what I did there?

I started on it in late January, and finished it in early February (all in 2017), working on it here and there, almost exclusively late at night. Sometimes I just watched “The Man In The High Castle” instead.  Don’t judge me.

Anyway, you can hear  the song here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqS0HzVZgY8

(There’s not much to see. Listen with your ears!)

Ciao,
-d