quiet, please.

Some days I just enjoy the silence…not just the quiet outside, but giving my mind a rest. It’s been such an unusual year, and the stress of 2020 has taken its toll. Right now, I’m reveling in the quiet.

There are a lot of things that are out of whack in our lives right now. Dysfunction, pretentiousness, ignorance and hate. These are things that used to consume me, because I felt like I could fix things or change things that were truly out of my control. Although I’ll always be an “extroverted introvert”, I’m learning to appreciate the silence, especially by listening without the instinct of wanting to fix things.

The best way to learn from and respect each other.

The most important election of our lifetime is less than 10 days away, and regardless of the outcome, there will be a lot of arguing over political and social differences. People will lose friendships for the sake of having the last word. Sadly this won’t change anything – if ever there was a time for more listening instead of talking, it’s now. I hope that over the next few years, we see more unity, and we hear less division in our words.

Whoever coined the phrase “silence is golden” is a genius.

music legends never die.

Like many, I was very saddened to hear of Eddie Van Halen’s passing yesterday. After losing Helen Reddy and Mac Davis last week, it seems like 2020 has been especially unkind to the music industry.

What hit me so hard about Eddie’s passing is that we lost another musician who revolutionized his instrument. Although I was only 13 months old when Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, I’m sure that quite a few rock fans back then felt the way I do today. I remember the last two times I felt this gut-punch of a loss….when Jaco died in 1987 and when Miles died in 1991.

Eddie Van Halen was an incredibly gifted musician. He started playing classical piano at age six, winning four state competitions for classical piano. Considering that he did not know how to read music, and learned to play Mozart by ear (with a little improvisation here and there), that’s one hell of an accomplishment! When he switched from piano to guitar (with a quick period of playing the drums), this is where he truly became a virtuoso.

Eddie, Jimi, Jaco, and Miles….Heaven’s got one helluva band up there.

I’ll admit it – I favored “Van Hagar” over the original Van Halen lineup, because I felt that Sammy Hagar challenged the band to be more musical than David Lee Roth did. This does not take away from the awesomeness of the Van Halen albums from 1978 – 1984. I loved all the great hits from “Dance the Night Away” through to “Panama”, and any teenage boy who went through puberty when the “Hot for Teacher” video premiered on MTV owes the band a humongous debt of gratitude!

I was amazed to find out that Eddie Van Halen once asked Alice Cooper if he could reach out to Glen Campbell on his behalf to see if he could get a guitar lesson…knowing that Glen Campbell also played by ear (even on Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night”), I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall for the knowledge shared between these two incredible guitarists!

Fifty years from now, people will still be listening to Van Halen the way we still listen to Hendrix 50 years after his passing. Kids will still be learning how to play Van Halen guitar solos, because they are that phenomenal. Hell, they’ll still be trying to figure out Hendrix solos like we still are! This is why music legends never die – they leave a unique and incredible imprint, forever changing how their instrument will continue to be played.

I wonder if Mozart has already asked Eddie Van Halen to teach him how to play “Eruption.” Rest In Peace, EVH. 🎸😔❤️🎶⭐️

getting back what you give.

Today did not go as I thought it would…..and that WASN’T a bad thing.

Sometimes something unexpected happens, and it takes you in an unexpected direction…..and it allows you to show genuine kindness and put others first. That was my day today.

I was able to catch up with a friend, and do something kind and helpful for her and her five-year-old granddaughter, as they had an emergency situation. As we all have our struggles and challenges, it truly felt good to have the opportunity to go above and beyond for a friend in need.

Doing something to put a smile on other faces can really go a long way.

I’m not writing this to “toot my own horn”….I’m hoping for some really good karma this week. All day today I just kept thinking about the importance of treating people the way we want to be treated, and how I feel thankful to have people in my life that won’t let me fall through the cracks. With all the hate in our society right now, acts of kindness are incredibly needed. And I believe that the universe will reciprocate for those who not only care for others, but who do so with genuine compassion and support, expecting nothing in return.

I genuinely hope that today makes a positive difference for friends I really care about. Karma isn’t just a bitch – it can also be a tremendous blessing.

40 & 41.

To be clear, this post is not about Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Yesterday was a day of tragedy. In addition to the verdict which confirmed that there are still flaws in our justice system, an icon of sports and a very respected human being passed away. That person was Gale Sayers.

The “Kansas Comet” shattered both individual and game records during his career, but more importantly, he shattered racial barriers with his friendship with his teammate, Brian Piccolo. It was unheard of that Black and White players would be roommates at an NFL training camp in the 60’s. Although all teams were integrated by 1965, it had only been three years since “The Washington Football Team” had finally integrated. Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo truly spoke with their actions, both on and off the field.

Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. Champions.

When Gale suffered a major knee injury, it was his best friend Brian who encouraged him and challenged him to recover. When Brian Piccolo became gravely ill with cancer, it was Gale who was at his side. His award speech (so eloquently recreated by Billy Dee Williams in the movie) is something that everyone should take time to watch. The love and respect they had for each other far outweighed the color of their skin.

Here we are, 51 years later. Our society still has the same divide, and we’re seeing athletes standing up (or kneeling) for social justice. In his book “I Am Third”, Gale wrote about his life struggles, and his friendship with Brian Piccolo. We are all familiar with the movie “Brian’s Song”….this is a story that everyone should become familiar, as it shows how people of different races and backgrounds can come together. We need this right now more than ever.

Rest In Peace Gayle. Rest In Peace, Brian.

THANK YOU for creating a legacy that will never be forgotten, both on and off the field. 😔❤️🏈

9/11 – remembering what we must never forget.

Tomorrow is the 19th anniversary of one of the worst days in our country’s history. It’s a day that should be a day of mourning, and it should also be a day when we all pause and reflect.

I remember so many things about that day, right down to the clothes I wore to work on the morning of September 11, 2001. I also vividly remember the afternoon of September 3, 2001 (Labor Day), as I was driving back to Pennsylvania from playing a wedding gig up at Lake Placid that weekend. I remember this because I got on the New Jersey Turnpike by the Meadowlands, and I remember seeing the World Trade Center on a perfectly sunny afternoon. I had no idea at the time that this would be the last time I’d see the towers in all their glory.

I had gotten to work at The Vanguard Group in Valley Forge at 8:15 the morning of 9/11. My co-worker Mike Cianciulli and I had been talking about the Monday Night Football game the night before (the Giants lost to the Broncos), and as we came back to our desks after grabbing breakfast in the cafeteria and continued to talk about the upcoming football season, somebody interrupted us to inform us that a plane hit one of the Twin Towers. We assumed it was a small plane and that it was a freak accident. That’s when our lives changed forever – it took forever to get online, and the first image I saw was the humongous hole in the tower with smoke and flames pouring out. It was beyond surreal, and I remember racing to a nearby conference room which had a TV. We turned on the news not more than a minute before the second tower was hit, and there was no question that our country was being attacked.

Never forget….EVER.

We watched in shock and horror – I remember the image of a lady waving what looked like a towel as she was helplessly sitting in a window of one of the towers a few floors above the fire raging below. We watched firemen and policemen answering the call of duty, not knowing that it would be their last and bravest act of heroism. We saw tremendous acts of bravery and sacrifice over the next three hours that morning that should never be forgotten, from New York’s Bravest and Finest, to the courageous people on Flight 93.

We all remember the days that followed – people frantically searching for loved ones, lost person posters covering every telephone pole and available wall space for blocks from Ground Zero…..in all of this darkness, we also saw a light of hope and resiliency – first it was the image of the firemen who lifted the American flag at Ground Zero….then it was the chants of “USA! USA!” heard by those volunteering at Ground Zero to find their fallen comrades. One image that I will ALWAYS remember was when Congress all stood together on the Capitol steps to sing “God Bless America.” These were very unchartered waters, but we all came together in support of each other, and with our common focus and hurt as Americans. Social media did not yet exist, and the Internet was still used for more good than evil. The phrase “United We Stand” had deep meaning, as we were all in this together.

Here we are, 19 years later…..in some ways, 9/11 all but seems a distant memory. Words of unity have been replaced by words of division and hate. I can’t help but wonder how different the reaction would be if a tragic event of this magnitude happened in 2020 – would this bring us all together again, or would fingers be pointed while buildings collapsed? The events of 9/11 did not discriminate – people of all colors, backgrounds, creeds and preferences died because of the acts of one incredibly evil group of people.

How is it that 19 years later, we’re seeing such evil and hatred amongst Americans, as evil groups of people are using both their words and their actions to cause harm to other people? How did we lose our focus and unity? The days that followed 9/11 were somber, but it was also one of the last times we put our differences aside and we were all AMERICANS. We were pissed off at Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, and we all wanted to see our troops find him and KICK HIS ASS.

I have a challenge to all that read this blog post – for one day tomorrow, put aside your differences – take a break from railing against those who don’t agree with your beliefs. Take time to focus on commonalities instead of differences. Take a day to remember those who perished 19 years ago, just for being at work, or on an airplane, or while trying to save the lives of others. These people were AMERICANS.

Let 9/11/2020 be the first step towards truly making our country great again.

UNITED WE MUST STAND. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

grin and bare it.

2020 has been a year where we’ve learned a lot about the people around us. From a political standpoint, we’ve become even mode divided, as we’ve discovered how different our beliefs are, and long-term friendships have ended. People have been almost proud to brag about their disdain for others. For the longest time, I was afraid to let people know something about me, crippled by the fear of what they’d think of me or say to me. I don’t feel that way anymore, as it’s something I will never be ashamed or embarrassed about going forward. Now in hindsight, I see how this has changed my life for the better for the past 25 years. I’m very proud to say that I’m a nudist.

I’ve received every type of reaction you can imagine about this, from complete acceptance to downright disdain, from laughter to people saying that this could ruin my professional career. In my 30’s, I only told my closest friends. In my 40’s, I began to feel more comfortable with people knowing, but not everyone knowing. I’m 51 years old now….and if anyone has a problem with this, guess what? It’s not my fucking problem. They need to deal with their own issues instead of judging mine.

I grew up with a very image-conscious father. Everything from my grades to my musical abilities was always harshly criticized. I was also teased constantly about my weight and my skinny calves (genetic – I can do calf exercises 24/7, and they won’t get bigger), and I had very low self esteem, which I kept well-hidden behind a facade of arrogance. Even through college and until I moved to Pennsylvania, I always felt ugly from the inside out, and it was because of years of feeling like I didn’t measure up to the people around me.

That changed during the summer of 1995…I had a friend who introduced me to the world of nudism, and I realized that it is a culture of acceptance. Nobody cares about anybody else’s perceived flaws. I’ve met people from all walks of life over the past 25 years, and this has truly helped me to not only become more open-minded and accepting of others, but also empathetic towards those who are very closed-minded, self-righteous, bigoted and judgmental of others.

My “Lucky 7”, helping me to change for the better.

There’s a perception that all nudists must look like Tom Brady and Gisele….not at all! People of all body types are nudists, and as of June 2020, there are 213,000 members (myself included) in the American Association of Nudist Recreation (www.aanr.com), and that’s just one of many nudist organizations. For those who may have an issue because of religious reasons, there are also Christian nudist organizations and campsites. I love that over the past 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to go to AANR-affiliated clubs in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Arizona and California, plus Gunnison Beach in New Jersey and Haulover Beach in Miami. I’ve actually networked with musicians at the clubs, and gotten gigs as well!

To help put this in a very proper perspective – as a nudist, at the clubs I’ve met a number of wounded veterans missing limbs from combat, and one of my nudist friends recently had a double mastectomy. She loves to joke that she doesn’t have to say “Eyes up here!” to everyone anymore, but it’s because nobody treats her differently, and she can truly be herself. And so there’s no misconception, my wife is not a nudist, but she has been nothing but supportive of my nudism for the past 10 years, even getting my the annual AANR guide as a gift!

I’m sure that as some people read this, their perception of me may change….that’s fine. I have nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. I’m glad that I’m happy and comfortable in my own skin.

Going forward, I’ll just continue to turn the other cheek. 😉☀️❤️☮️👍

how do we fix this once and for all?

I’ve been feeling a little bit of writer’s block the last couple of weeks. I haven’t had much to say, and I’ve been in a really good frame of mind.

Today I have a lot on my mind, as I have been feeling a flurry of emotions during the past 24 hours. The shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha Wisconsin hits very close to home, as Jenn and I are very good friends with his aunt and uncle here in Arlington. Knowing that he was shot eight times for being the guy trying to break up a fight and help cooler heads prevail makes me incredibly angry. Why did they shoot him eight times? One bullet in his back wasn’t enough? And there is no excuse for shooting him in front of his children. Now we hear that he may be permanently paralyzed.

This is the same bad dream all over again. The riots, the denial and the pursuit of justice. A family’s lives are changed forever, and the odds are that the cops responsible will not be properly reprimanded. As easy as it is to show anger towards all law enforcement, that is not the right answer. And now is the time to look at a bigger picture.

Ponch and Jon….
my generation’s example of the good cops.

First, we have to realize that this is a problem that HAS to be solved. There are those who feel like racism doesn’t exist, or are quick to justify what happened with the Blue Lives Matter/All Lives Matter statement. While we are all God’s children, certain colors of people are targeted differently than others. That’s just plain fact. There’s talk of defunding the police – wouldn’t it be better to have a better vetting process and additional diversity training? These are issues that must not be swept under the rug.

We need good cops…no question about it. There are fantastic cops nationwide who go above and beyond (in a GOOD way) to serve and protect. They do not deserve our scorn and disrespect for the job that they do and the outlook that they have.

I’ve found myself watching reruns of shows like CHiPs and Rizzoli and Isles….both shows try to represent cops in a positive way. Although it’s fictional, you see cops like Ponch and Jon trying to make a positive difference. This was the image that my generation had of police officers. Shows like Hill Street Blues, Cagney and Lacey and Barney Miller showed cops as caring individuals, and I want to believe the majority of law enforcement in America has the same outlook.

I will continue to pray for Jacob Blake’s recovery, and I will pray for justice for Breana Taylor. I not only hope for the correct resolution, but I sincerely hope that as a country, we find a way to no longer have these types of tragedies.

Peace.

the last one (but not the last one).

This is my last post as a 50-year old. This doesn’t mean I’m done with writing my blog….it just means that I’m a year older, and hopefully a year wiser.

As Saturday is my 51st Birthday, I’ve been thinking about the key birthdays that I’ve had, and what was so unique about them.

1976 – my 7th birthday…..my family went to my mom’s hometown of St. Joseph MO that August, and I remember having my birthday with my cousins, aunts and uncles. I specifically remember some great songs from that summer, like “Kiss and Say Goodbye” by the Manhattans, and “Another Rainy Day in New York City” by Chicago, as they were in heavy radio rotation during our trip in the car to the Midwest and back.

1980 – my 11th birthday….I got my first 10 speed bike….I remember my dad trying to assemble it the day before without me knowing, and me acting very surprised! We went up to Storytown Amusement Park (now Six Flags) near Lake George, and that I rode just about every ride that I could that day.

1982 – my 13th birthday…this is a day that will live in infamy, as this is the year that I got my first Jheri Curl (a California Curl to be exact) while we were visiting family in Sacramento…thus the messing up of car windows and pillowcases began! We spent my entire birthday in two gospel church services (it fell on a Sunday), and at the second service, this brotha sang a song called “I’ve Been Touched” for over an hour….seriously!! Although we went go-kart racing that night, all I remember is being in church ALL DAY LONG.

1985 – my 16th birthday….there was nothing sweet about my “Sweet 16”, as I spent the morning at the doctor’s office being diagnosed with mono. Over the course of the next two weeks, I dropped down to 119 pounds, as I also had tonsillitis…to this day, I have not had a grape ice pop, as that’s all I could eat for those two weeks. I remember that there were repeats of the sitcom “Angie” every morning, and I’d wake up to see Donna Pescow’s smile, and then go back to sleep for 8 – 10 hours.

Grape soda and Cheetos…
the birthday breakfast of champions.

1990 – my 21st birthday….I went out and won a karaoke contest, had my first “legal” beer….the previous week I went up to Buffalo to celebrate my birthday with my “sister” Maria and her family, and Maria and I went to the Giants/Bills preseason game in Orchard Park. Rodney Hampton had a 91-yard TD run for the G-Men, and my mother swore she could hear me going nuts on TV!! (Five months later, the Giants beat the Bills in Super Bowl XXV…..can you say “wide right?” Sorry…..couldn’t resist.)

2011 – my 42nd birthday….this was my first birthday celebration in Alexandria. To say that Jenn went above and beyond is an understatement! She got a bouncy house for my birthday party, and it was awesome! In addition to getting me some wonderful gifts (like she does every year), she got me my favorite snack – Cheetos and grape soda!

2013 – my 44th birthday….although I knew we were having a party, I didn’t know that Jenn made it a “tie dye surprise” party, and that all of our friends came rocking their tie dyed shirts. We played music from the original Woodstock (as I was born 8/15/69, the first day of the festival), and it was a blast to be surrounded by such great friends.

2019 – the Big 5-0…..a day to truly remember. We spent the day in NYC, where I met my doppelgänger Al Roker, as well as Savannah Guthrie from the Today Show, and we went to a Yankees game, where I had my name on the Jumbotron for my birthday! It was a day that I’ll never forget! An added bonus birthday gift from Jenn – seeing David Sanborn, Marcus Miller and Bob James in concert the following week, and getting an awesome picture of me, David and Marcus after the concert!

Although COVID has put a damper on all of our lives this year, I look forward to a quiet, stay-at-home birthday this year. If all Jenn and I do is hang out at the StoweAway, I know that the day will be fantastic, especially as we’ll be together, and because she made my favorite birthday cake (chocolate with vanilla frosting)!!

I’m thankful that I’ve had my 51 trips around the sun, and so truly thankful and blessed to have such incredible family and friends! I’ll continue to write the blog, especially as it challenges me creatively, and it’s been such a wonderful outlet while not having any gigs for the foreseeable future. I look forward to what’s in store for me as a 51-year-old, and my birthday wish far above everything else this year is happiness and good health to everyone, as both of these have been very challenging this year.

Until next “year”, thank you all for your love and support! ❤️🎂😊🎉⭐️

squares and circles.

I always had a couple of close friends growing up….whether it was my neighbor friend Bryan in elementary school, my friends and band mates in high school, or my friends Rob and Maria in college. Although I had (and still have) these wonderful people in my life, I never felt like I was part of a circle of friends.

I never thought of myself as a “square”, but I was (still am?) very quirky. Some people get my weirdness, and some don’t…and that’s ok. When I was 15, this used to consume me – we all wanted to be popular in school, whether we admitted it or not. What I viewed as a curse then I view as a blessing now.

With Professor Lawrence Doebler, and my friends for life Rob Collins, and Maria (Scaglione) Szczepanik, Ithaca College Graduation, May 1990

I have a VERY eclectic group of friends…believe me when I say they cover the ENTIRE spectrum. Not being a part of a “clique” allowed me to be open to communicating with many different types of people. We all had the jocks, the stoners, the preppies, the (band) geeks, and the brainiacs (or similar groups) in high school – this experience is still an important part of American youth culture. I kinda had a toe in here and there with the majority of these groups, where I still felt like an outsider looking in. Who knew that having the ability to look outward, and respect people from all backgrounds would be something so incredibly important in today’s current society and culture?

We’re living in strange times right now…I’m very thankful to have a lot of wonderful people in my life in good times and bad, but I’m even more thankful that they are so diverse. In no way do I think I have a split personality, but I like that I have different dimensions to my personality, and I truly don’t know if I’d be this way if I limited my friendships to certain types of people. For this I’m truly thankful.

I’m glad and proud to be a square instead of just being part of a circle. Band geeks, can I get an AMEN? 😊

8 things i’m thankful for. 8/4/2020

The joy of listening to CD’s I haven’t listened to in years.

The sound of rain on the roof.

My incredibly supportive wife, who loves me to the moon and back.

Rizzoli & Isles reruns on the Lifetime channel.

The journey continues.

Starbucks’ Guava Iced Tea.

The unexpected bursts of creative energy that take me by surprise, and give me incredible motivation.

David Sanborn’s track “The Peeper” off his Only Everything album…one of my new favorite tracks!

FAITH.