i am the cow whisperer.

Cows have four stomachs…they chew on their cud four times more than needed….as someone who has always held on to negative experiences for far too long, I feel a kindred spirit connection to our bovine friends. This is why I consider myself to be “The Cow Whisperer.”

It’s challenging to be so open with feelings and experiences….being open about them is not from a place of narcissism – it’s always been easy to hide behind the microphone, the mouthpiece or the guitar. 44 years later, after years of playing live music, it’s become the definition of insanity, doing the same thing expecting a different result. It’s not that the gigs aren’t fun….it’s the grind from feeling a sense of being on auto pilot. That’s where I feel like the cow with the cud – I’ve been holding on to gigs for a sense of happiness for way too long.

Moooooving forward…..

This year (especially the last couple of months) has been about new experiences away from music….learning to play golf…..indoor sky diving….learning to ride a motorcycle (or a moped…haven’t decided yet)…the hardest part is not defining myself as a musician – it’s always been what I’ve done, and what I’ve used to define who I am, as I could hide behind it. It’s time to be Lane, who also happens to play music, but is much more open to new people, new friends, and a LOT of new experiences!

…..or moving FORE!ward?

This year is my 35th high school reunion…in year’s past, I felt like I needed to go to these reunions. To my fellow Onteora Class of 1987 classmates, I sincerely hope that you have a fantastic reunion…please understand that the reunion is an emotional trigger that I don’t need in my life anymore. We’re not who we were 35 years ago, and I’m not going backwards or holding on to that unnecessary baggage any longer. Although time can be a great equalizer , I’m now aabout moving forward.

The journey is different and brighter, and it includes a lot of self discovery…and I’m gonna ‘milk it’ FORE all its worth.

8 things, based on 5+3.

On this my 53rd birthday, I’m thankful for the following:

Family – and that’s not just blood relatives.

Laughter – there’s been a lot of that this weekend.

Self-forgiveness…it’s very powerful and freeing.

Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream – self explanatory.

Another trip around the sun.

Otto’s naps…..he looks so incredibly peaceful.

Cloudy days with no rain….I can sit and watch the clouds for hours.

The incredible kick-ass jazz guitar of Pat Martino.

Love – the love we give, the love we receive, and the healing that comes with it.

Thank you all so very much for the birthday wishes!

there is no i in blog.

Greetings from an undisclosed location in the Northeast! If ever there was a place to go to process a lot of emotional information, this is the place!

One of the challenges of blogging/journaling is how to write about the emotions/experiences on any given day without it coming across as narcissistic. Writing is incredibly therapeutic, but when not writing something fictional, it’s hard to express yourself without sounding self obsessed.

It’s all about the gratitude.

And with those two paragraphs, a writing style of choice has been created! And here are 10 things for which my gratitude runneth over today:

The Adirondacks.

Great friends who help reframe thoughts and ideas.

Having only one tan line….from the watch.

Breakfast cereal with scrambled eggs and tremendously good bacon.

That perfect C major 9 #11 chord that makes me taste peppermint. Been listening to that a lot.

Mel Torme.

Blue Sparkling Moscato.

Big bonfires on 61° evenings.

Writing the letter to the person, but not sending it.

Turning a year older, and DEFINITELY feeling a year wiser.

This is 53.

Had the opportunity to see two very different but outstanding concerts this week…Boz Scaggs and Chrissy Metz of “This is Us”….to say that both concerts knocked me on my ass is a true understatement.

Box Scaggs played a number of blues tunes on the gig, including “Drowning in the Sea of Love”, which he performed on the New York Rock and Soul Revue album. He sounds as great as ever, and his backing band was phenomenal.

Chrissy Metz is destined for Grammys…..what an amazing and soulful voice! I was fortunate enough to go to her “Meet & Greet Q&A” prior to the concert (her very first one on the tour), and I asked about her favorite singers – we bonded over Roberta Flack! Again, her soulful voice, her tremendous sense of humor and banter with the audience, and her incredible band made this a concert I will always remember.

Just as kind and as beautiful off camera as well.

Why am I writing all of this? Because I turn 53 in four days, and music still feels a million miles away. Although I have no desire to play gigs as frequently as I did at 25 (or 45, for that matter), I want to find the love and enthusiasm I used to have for gigging back in the day. I could care less about being a year older – you couldn’t pay me to be 25 again – I miss the passion, wonder, and creative juices I used to have, and seeing Boz Scaggs and Chrissy Metz having that energy and passion gave me a little jolt. A jolt big enough to get some clarity.

And that’s the lowdown for now.

the 3pm paint analogy.

The newest trend in car paint color is the “flat” color look….new cars have the non metallic paint, popular in grey and military green. It’s a unique look, in that it’s still very sharp, without being too flashy.

At 3pm this afternoon while driving home from Tropical Smoothie, I saw a 2023 Kia Sorrento with this flat grey color, and it gave me an analogy on how I envision my life going forward.

“If I were a paint, I’d prefer to be a flat grey, because I’m tired of being a bright orange-sparkly semi-gloss.“

Low-key and no sparkle…how I want the rest of my journey to be.

Bright and glossy – this feels too showy and fake to me. Some people choose to be this way, and others have to do this as a form of survival. Living this way has been exhausting. As much as I love music, the last few years have felt very glossed over….as life was challenging, music was my outlet, my shield and my crutch. Sadly, I’ve lost the joy of performing, because I felt like I’ve been going through the motions out of necessity and survival.

I want to be “flat” for a while….no music (except a fundraiser type of gig), and finding my authentic self. As much as there are times that I think about performing, I can’t yet visualize myself doing it and feeling passionate and authentic about it. It definitely feels like having a broken leg and no crutches right now. It’s challenging, but I’ll learn to find my way and walk again.

And if all else fails, perhaps a can get a new car with the flat finish.

my weekend in scranton.

I decided to write again. I wanted to write again. Truth be told, I really needed to write again.

I’m currently sitting poolside at the indoor pool at the Fairfield Inn in Scranton Pennsylvania. In the barely 24 hours that I’ve been back in Scranton, I’ve found an incredibly unexpected reason for having such incredible gratitude.

I first moved to this area almost 28 years ago in September of 1994. During my time here, I had a number of negative experiences that far outweighed the positive ones, and I’d always thought of Northeast Pennsylvania as something that I’d survived and put into the rear view mirror.

With Carl and Harley from the “FM” band.

About three weeks ago, I made a decision that no loving parent should have to make. My daughter Lauryn told a judge in Lancaster Pennsylvania that she’d rather live with and be adopted by her grandparents, as she would rather have their last name, and as she doesn’t want to be a part of my life. Although her decision was based on a number of untruths that she has been told for her entire life, this decision is what would make Lauryn incredibly happy right now, after many months of darkness since her mother passed away. Yes, I could appeal, but at this point an appeal would only cause more resentment from Lauryn, and that would only make the chance of a future reconciliation with her much more difficult.

For a number of years since moving to Virginia, I’ve felt that Lauryn was the only true success I’d had while living in Pennsylvania, and that there was absolutely nothing else positive to show for my 18 years that I’d lived here. After the judge’s recent decision, I felt like my entire life from 1994 – 2012 was a complete waste.

My original plan this weekend was to stay in the hotel and binge watch Netflix except for things that Jenn and I had planned. I’m very thankful that things did not go as scheduled….I ended up connecting with three former band mates from when I lived here, and we reminisced about how much fun we had back in the day. I also reconnected with Debra Costanzo, one of my lifelong best friends who I met and worked with here over 25 years ago. As I’m now almost 53, my perspective was surprisingly different after spending time with everyone last night. I felt very grateful to have had the opportunity to be reminded of a lot of positive and fun experiences that I never viewed as special. I’m realizing just how much these moments meant to the people around me, and I wish I’d been more aware of these moments all those years ago when they happened.

In the JCPenney store at Viewmont Mall. The sun was out today….not the moon. 😉

This morning I went to JCPENNEY at the Viewmont Mall, where I was a manager from 1994-1996. This was also the place of a lot of my failures, including the biggest one I had when from when I lived here. I reached out to one of my former JCP colleagues this morning, and we had a wonderful conversation. Sadly, she informed me that one of my mentor colleagues (with whom I used to share an office) passed away a few years back, so I’m also grieving this person’s passing this afternoon, but also feeling incredibly thankful that this person was such an incredible mentor to me. Today for the first time, I didn’t feel the normal shame I’d feel when I’d walk through the store in the past. It felt like a fresh start.

Although I don’t know what my future holds with Lauryn, I don’t feel like the failure I’ve been feeling like for the past few weeks. Where it’s been easy to go into the mindset of “I may never see Lauryn again” as a reminder of my perceived failures, I’ve felt a feeling of optimism today. I’m going to continue to try and communicate with her, even if the communication is not reciprocated. As Jenn and many others have said, I took the high road and put her needs above my own. There’s no failure in that. I can honestly say that I’m not sure I’d feel this way had I not come up here this weekend.

And by the way – I know a number of my friends are a little thrown by my “Günther Varnish” posts….that’s something that started when I lived up here and was gigging here and in NYC using that stage name. A lot of the humor is “inside joke”, but it’s something that became very fun and creative with some fellow musicians who are no longer on this earth, and it makes me think of them and of my time here in NEPA with some very fond and funny memories. The fact that some people thought that Lane Stowe was more of a fake stage name than Günther Varnish still makes me laugh all these years later.

The Cow Whisperer.

To the wonderful friends and family I have here in Scranton and Northeast Pennsylvania…I offer a heartfelt THANK YOU….where I’ve often felt resentment for living here, I can now appreciate the life lessons I’ve learned here, and how my time here has helped me to become a better human being. For these things, I am most grateful. And I’m very glad that this place is nothing like the way it’s been portrayed on The Office!

the winds of (name) change.

A few weeks ago, I found an unopened letter that my mom wrote to me back in early 2011, when I was in the process of moving out of my house with Michal in Lancaster. I stuck it in a box while packing, and I totally forgot about it. Without going into great detail, my mom let me know that my dad in fact was aware of the “abuse” that happened to me, and that it embarrassed and ashamed him, like it was my fault. He was more concerned about his image than the fact that I was violated as an almost 9-year old kid. Finding this out now more than ripped off a Band-Aid….it means that the things that my dad did to punish me (including playing Lee and I against each other like a pit bull fight) wasn’t just intentional. It was devious, because he felt that we making him look bad because we weren’t meeting his expectations. At no point in my life have I ever wanted to disassociate myself from my dad than I have for these past few weeks.

As I’m writing this, I’m still awaiting word about if I will have full parental rights for my daughter. She stated that she prefers to live with my ex-in-laws (who also want to adopt her). She looks at me with the same disdain (albeit different circumstances) that I have for Larry Stowe.

I AM DONE FEELING LIKE A VICTIM.

The last 43 years have been based on feeling fear, insecurity, narcissism and self-loathing, and that will always be “Lane Stowe.” I became addicted to all of that. And now I know why. History repeated itself.

Bye bye to this guy.

I had an older brother, Lawrence Arthur Stowe Jr. He was born in 1955, and he died in 1959 of pneumonia. He was also autistic. Even though we know much more about autism now than 1959, that’s still no reason to be ashamed and embarrassed about your child. My father was ashamed of Larry Jr., and put incredible pressure on my mom (and later me and Lee) to match his incredibly flawed expectations.

“Lane Stowe” was the result of all of that bullshit – struggling with racial identity, comparing himself with others and not feeling good enough, accepting abuse in ALL forms, and making TREMENDOUS mistakes because of all of these things combined. Three nervous breakdowns and a suicide attempt. Although I’m not changing the name of Lane ARTHUR Stowe for work/financial/legal purposes, as far as I’m concerned, LANE IS DEAD.

Mwenye Shoukari means “thankful” in Swahili. I’m thankful to still be here…I’m thankful to have found the courage to no longer be afraid. I’m not worried about what the judge decides, because Lauryn will always be my daughter. She deserves a better dad than what “Lane Stowe” could ever be.

This week is our six-year wedding anniversary. I know this is a big event to a lot of people, because it happened on The Today Show, and a lot of people love to hear the whole story. Believe me, I’m truly happy that it brought joy to so many people. In hindsight, I hate how “Lane” was that day. All of my insecurities were on the surface, and there was a whole lot of self-pressure to be “on” and everything going just right. I look forward to celebrating our anniversary, but just because it’s our anniversary, not because of all of that hype. Up until about six weeks ago, I’d be stressing about “oh, I hope I say and write the right things on social media” about our anniversary, and that was all rooted in the insecurity and validation. How incredibly fucked up is that?

Mwenye Shukrani (additional name to be added later) Stowe.

This is why I choose to no longer be “Lane Stowe”. This isn’t a “change the name and you’re cured” situation. It’s gonna be a lot of work. There are a lot of changes that need to be made. You don’t go from living in the ego part of your brain to the spirit part of your brain overnight. (Yes Charli, I’m reading your book). The people who truly love me and are in my corner will understand and continue to be there. Those that don’t will easily identify themselves, and they’re not my worry anymore.

By the way, this is the last blog post. I went back and read all of the previous posts this weekend. Although there were some cool moments, there were also moments that are truly cringe worthy, and a lot of things that I wish were not written.

This name change (technically a nickname) isn’t a joke. In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced Muh-WHEN-yay Shook-RAH-nee. If it’s easier, I’ll happily go by “M”, “Hey You!” or “The Happy Person Formerly Known as Lane.” Nobody bats an eye when someone changes their name to become famous. I’m changing my name so that I can finally feel REAL. No more performing. No more being “on.” Feeling authentic. I’m done worrying about being the “acceptable Black man” as defined by Larry Stowe. I hope that making this kind of change will be embraced more than it will be mocked, but I’m also realistic. (Kemba – I PROMISE to add the missing name when the time is right. That’s just as important to me as well.)

My older sister legally changed her name from Sharleen Stowe to Ayofemi Folayan, which translates to “Beautiful Rainbow.” That’s what she was to me, as we only see the beauty of a rainbow for a short amount of time, and I only had her in my life for two years. My great niece and great nephew are named Mawiyah and MeJean. I’m doing this to honor them, my true heritage, and also for Larry Jr., who deserved a helluva lot more from our father.

The first step has been taken….I have absolutely no idea whatsoever of what’s gonna happen next. But there will be no fear or insecurity on this new part of the journey.

Bye Lane.

carlton urkel…..I HATE that motherf%#*&@$!!!

Never have I been so thankful to have a blog title without any CAPS.

Here’s the scary part….this blog tried to capitalize Urkel as a recognized name. Are you fucking kidding me?

The reason that I say HATE (and I know it’s a very strong word) is that for the majority of my life, I was him. He was me.

I’m struggling with waiting for a verdict for a process that was going to have a lasting impact on two families and their friends, and I’ve never wanted to be less like Carlton Urkel. Where’s the high pressure wash to get this off of me, once and for all?

Growing up, it was incredibly fucked up that our dad put all this pressure on us to be like a Huxtable, a “perceived as smart and safe representation of the Black teenager”, because being “too Black” was not acceptable. Making us feel the disdain for preferring Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Robin Harris over Bill Cosby.

Carlton Urkel has created such a divide in our society, to the point where he’s become almost time-capsule Top 10 worthy. And some of us drank that Kool-Aid down to the last drop. And karma has finally caught up.

Boy, did Cosby fuck us all up, right? How he banged the drum about how we as Black people should walk, talk and act. Damned if he wasn’t TV commercial, children’s show or occasional really-shitty movie. Man, I wish my dad has lived long enough to see THAT downfall.

The image showed its true buffoonery with these two. They gave people two code words to make fun of someone perceived to be Black on the outside, White on the inside, without having to use words like Oreo or “PseudoBlack.” You could have people laughing with you for being like Carlton or Urkel, even though many laughed at you behind your back (both Black and White) for being like them.

We now live in a country that is much more open and honest about our reasons for racial division, and that characterization needs to be put back in the box, never to be seen again. Like Roosevelt Franklin on Sesame Street. (Three guesses at who used his star power to make that muppet go away, because he didn’t speak and act a certain way.)

Herbie….should’ve had him as someone to emulate INSTEAD of Cosby.

Depending on the verdict next week, there’s a part of me that’s going on permanent hiatus regardless of how it goes. It’s a part that was nothing but defensive, arrogant and narcissistic. (And yes, I see the fucking irony in that sentence. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, folks.) And damn if it’s not pretty cool to do it while truly leaving, but truly not going ANYWHERE at the same time.

Wait, what?

sorry kermit, sometimes it just sucks being green.

7 more years. In 7 years, I’ll be 59 1/2, and I’m going to retire. I would love to say that I’ve had an illustrious career, but honestly I haven’t. My career has had some incredible highs (as well as some truly demoralizing lows), but it’s allowed me to pay my bills and learn some things along the way. There’s one thing I wish that I’d learned a lot earlier, and it’s answered a lot of questions about my struggles with Corporate America.

The first time I took the DISC personality test was in 2017…..boy, do I wish this had been available in 1990. I’m definitely the green “D” personality – direct, dominant, decisive and thinking about the big picture. It has helped me in terms of not fearing big moments, but it has also caused me some big mistakes (bucking authority, being very black & white about things).

My secondary color is C (yellow), which is perfectionist who expects the same of others. This has been a blessing and a curse as a musician, as I try to sing songs trying to sound as close to the original recording as possible, but in my head feel disappointed when the rest of the band does not.

My “green/yellow” personality has impacted my life in ways both unbelievable and disappointing. Sadly, it’s all now come to a head. I’m at a crossroads in my life, and it feels like I got here seven years too early.

I’m tired of being green, especially when I’m doing it for 40 hours every week. I’m tired of being yellow for the other 128 hours as well.

It’s been a fun ride, to say the least.

I can’t retire from my day gig….plus I truly like and respect the people that I work with…i know it’s not them, and that the issues are within. It’s the other things that I’m letting go.

As of June 18th at the conclusion of the Uptown Vocal Jazz gig, I am RETIRING from being a professional musician. Truth be told, I don’t like it anymore. I thought I’d take the rest of 2022 off and start fresh in 2023, but I don’t think I’ll feel differently at the beginning of the new year.

As I’m still awaiting a very important decision about my daughter (as of the time of writing this), I do know that my happiness has long suffered, and before 2023, I need to make some drastic changes, and that my happiness needs to come first and foremost, if I hope to be around for a while.

Here’s to seven years of good luck. Let’s hope the grass is greener.

the march of the dog walkers.

Otto and I have our morning ritual – sometimes it starts at 6:30 am, and I’m not a fan of when it starts at 4am. We do our morning stroll, so that Otto can stretch and do his business, and we get some fresh air and exercise.

Some days this goes very smoothly, and other days not so much. For example, on trash day, Otto is like a four year old in a candy store….he has to sniff around each and every trash can, so a 30-minute walk becomes a 90-minute walk. I’ve also noticed that Otto figured out a new way to mess with me…..he purposely walks on the opposite side of the hand holding the leash, forcing me to constantly switch hands, or spin around like a top!

I’ve noticed that I’ve started coming up with nicknames for Otto when he starts to annoy me sometimes during our walks – I never call him a name with any curse words, but some of the names that have popped in my head have made me laugh out loud, much to the amusement of my neighbors! Otto has his “psych out” move, and it’s the one he does when it’s either raining (like this morning) or it’s frigidly cold. He’ll sniff around and almost get in his squatting position, and then he’ll just change his mind….he did this in the pouring rain this morning, and I loudly said to him “Hey! Today, Little Lord Fauntleroy!!” Little Lord Fauntleroy?? I usually say “Your Highness” or “Skipper” or “Sparky”….perhaps “Prince Valiant” could be a new one?

The Big Dog Summit.

As Great Pyranees dogs are instinctively protective, Otto will bark at anything or anyone that he perceives to be a threat. Sadly, this also includes squirrels that dart down the trees at 6:30 am, much to the chagrin of the neighborhood. Yet I keep thinking that when I say “Pipe down!” to Otto when he goes into his barking rant, he’ll instantly stop because I said so…..as if!!

It’s very easy to see which dogs are well trained in their morning routine compared to the dogs who are not. The owners faces usually say it all. After being outside for well over an hour this morning waiting for Otto to take care of his business, I came across two other owners out with their dogs who had been out there just as long (or longer) than I was. As we all stood there soaking wet, our three dogs tangled up in each other’s leashes, none of them ready to go inside, I looked at the other two guys who were also soaked through the skin, and we just started laughing. I think we all knew that this was one of those moments that comes with the territory.

To dog owners and dog walkers everywhere, I salute you. We love our pets, and we cherish just about every moment that we have with them. Through sleet, rain, cold or snow, we will always have our morning walks.

And we’ll get through them one step at a time.