You know how sometimes somebody will put an idea in your head that inspires you? That happened to me tonight. In full disclosure, my pain meds have put me in a happy place, and it’s also a place where I feel most creative.
I’m laying here listening to Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage”, and Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet solo is mesmerizing…I’ll never be a trumpet player of his caliber, but to hear such creativity and precision blows my mind.
I’ve heard a lot of conversations about the fear of flying right now because of COVID it makes me chuckle a little bit and think about my mom’s reason for not flying, which I could never argue with her…she said when it was her time to go, it was her time to go, but she said she’d be damned if she’d be on the plane when it was the pilots time to go….one of the many one-liners that I miss from Katy Stowe…
There are some days where I can write lyrics with ease, and there are days when I can write music with ease….I just wish these would both fall on the same day, as I have songs and lyrics that don’t match, and it drives me batshit crazy…
I’ve been giving a lot of thought about doing another internet radio show…I LOVED doing the Have Groove, Will Travel show, but the format and logistics (and softwatre) were very frustrating. It was very inspiring to share music that deserved airplay that was never received, and it was fun to share stories about the songs and artists, including having some of the artists calling in….if anyone has any ideas or suggestions (or wants to co-host) please let me know….
The question I have for all my friends tonight is this – what inspires you? We can all talk about our material stuff, but when you strip all of that stuff away, what’s the thing that inspires us the most? This has weighed heavily on my mind these past few weeks, as we’re seeing people losing loved ones, and finding new ways to get through each day. Inspiration fosters positivity, and in some cases, incredible creativity.
I realized just how much I miss live concerts right now – I love going to see someone perform, and then being inspired to listen to their albums the next day, because I hear them differently…I live for that! I love that feeling when you see the connection that person has with their audience, and how it brings everyone together….we really need that right now. I know that when I do go back to playing gigs, it will be with this mindset, because it’s a different way to connect with people that will hopefully be well received.
You know that feeling when you connect with a long lost friend, or you connect with a new friend with whom you have a lot in common? How AWESOME is that feeling? Good friends are like watching soap operas….you might be away from each other for a long time, but when you reconnect you’re instantly caught up. I also love connecting with new friends who I have a lot of commonalities, because I have new friends who I know 100 times better than some friends I’ve had for years! And it just flows…more often than not, these become the friends I have for life.
I needed to write tonight, and I’m thankful that a wonderful friend asked me if I’d be blogging, as that TRULY inspired me (thanks, Rachele!)…are my thoughts as little random and scattered? Heck yeah! We all think and communicate differently…when I’m “scatterbrained”, that’s when my creativity is in overdrive. My words can’t keep up with my thoughts, and I love when that happens. I am an introverted extrovert – sometimes it happens in a room full of people where my mind goes into full-on creative mode, and I get quiet or perceived as disinterested. That’s when I’m in the zone, and it’s almost impossible to multitask (carry on a conversation) while my thoughts become incredibly creative (and sometimes random beyond words!)….I have another friend Holly who is an extroverted introvert, and we’re starting to pick each other brains as to what makes us tick. (And yes, this inspires and challenges my creative mind in a very unique way).
I remember being in grade school, and teachers would say that I wasn’t paying attention. I specifically remember getting in trouble in 5th grade for “zoning out” during class, because in my head I was trying to figure out the horn parts on Earth Wind & Fire’s song “In The Stone”….how do you even try to explain that as a 10-year-old? I ALWAYS have a song in my head, and this definitely attributes to my ADHD. For fun, I’ll be listening to one song, while singing a completely different song in my head, to ensure that I learn both songs. This makes no sense whatsoever, but it totally works for me (for the record, while listening to Herbie, I was listening to Quincy Jones “Ai No Corrida” in my head….don’t ask me why.)
Wow, this was a fun brain dump! I haven’t just let my thoughts flow like this for quite a while….for anyone who thinks this is to random, try reading this out loud while listening to a book on tape….you might just surprise yourself! 😂
One thing I’ve learned during this Corona pandemic….I’ve enjoyed spending time by myself. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love being home with Jenn – it means I’ve learned to appreciate the value in spending time by myself each day, even if it’s just a few minutes.
In the past, my alone time was usually triggered by something negative, like an argument or a bad experience. More often than not, it was triggered by the fear of missing out. This fear was triggered by validation. This would be followed by “snow globing” (seeing things rationally becomes the equivalent of shaking a snow globe and then trying to see through it) and self doubt. This pandemic has forced us all to not just be socially distant, but it has cut us off in some ways from the people we hold near and dear, and from who we find validation.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in my den, between setting up shop to telework, and listening to music every day. It’s from here that I realized that a lot of the validation that I receive is from work and from playing gigs. Having both of these environments put on the shelf indefinitely has been challenging, but it has also been very rewarding. I’ve enjoyed the quiet – I’ve been able to think more clearly, and have felt much calmer on a day to day basis. A lot of time is spent writing – writing lyrics, writing to friends to say hello, and the occasional blog post. From this, I’ve found self-validation. The challenges of project completion and creativity have been invigorating! Although I know I’ll have gigs at some point, I don’t miss them right now. I’ve found healthy alternatives on the weekends, like watching classic movies and taking in the sights and sounds that are around me every day that I’ve taken for granted. In this, I’ve found comfort and not loneliness. In the silence, it feels much healthier to focus on the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives.
The electric bass….the instrument from which I found my identity and my passion for music.
I still remember the specific moments that made me want to be a bass player, and they all took place in 9th and 10th grade. I was a freshman in high school in September 1983 when I met Jonathan Sanborn for the first time. He and my brother were seniors, and Jon took me under his wing. He was hanging out at school listening to Marcus Miller’s “Suddenly” album. This was the first time I listened to the electric bass as a lead instrument, and it was when I also realized that I had heard Marcus on music that I was already listening to, like Luther Vandross, Grover Washington Jr. and Roberta Flack. His bass had such a pure sound, and I loved how he played slap bass with such an amazing groove. Although i wouldn’t truly start to learn the bass for another year and a half, I found music that I could totally wrap my brain around that truly resonated with me.
My second moment was when I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch Late Night with David Letterman. Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band knocked me on my ass! This was the band that had Hiram Bullock on guitar, Steve Jordan on drums and Will Lee on bass. I had never heard a band that had this sound, and Will’s bass playing blew my mind, as he could play any style of music, and he always sounded flawless. An added bonus was that these guys weren’t just cool……they were super fucking cool, and I wanted to be just like them in any way that I could. It was worth going to school half awake from staying up so late, because I was getting such an awesome education in music four nights a week.
In 10th grade, we had a new student in our high school who moved to Upstate New York from Jacksonville Florida. He was a senior, and he was the new bass player for our high school jazz band. His name was Sean Tarleton, and the two of us hit it off immediately, as we were both low brass players. Sean introduced me to the bass playing of Jaco Pastorius, and Jaco’s bass playing was like nothing I’d EVER heard before. To me, there are musicians who revolutionized their instrument, like Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. Jaco turned the whole style of bass playing upside down, making the fretless bass a lead instrument, and using harmonics as an amazing way of playing full chords. (His cover of Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee” – holy shit!!) It was this same year that we formed a band and won our high school talent show….that night was the first real taste of playing for a huge audience, and it was something I knew I wanted to do again and again.
In the summer of 1985, I started to play electric bass….learning to play was challenging, exciting and enlightening! (And yes, as a 16-year-old playing a guitar, impressing girls was definitely a major factor.) My weekends were about hanging out with my band mates and listening to all types of music. This was when I feel like my horizons were truly broadened, as it was my love of hearing the bass that turned me on to cats like Stanley Clarke, John Entwhistle, and Geddy Lee. I also spent a lot of time going through my dad’s jazz albums, and started listening to upright bassists like Ron Carter and Jimmy Cobb. I think back on this time in my life, and I’m truly thankful that I had these experiences at a such an impressionable age.
Although I majored in voice in college, I still spent a great deal of time listening to a variety of music – this is when I did a deep dive into the music of Frank Zappa, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, while still listening to Marcus, Jaco, Will, and this “new wave” bass player in the band Level 42 named Mark King. I was the lead singer for an eight-piece horn band, and I still finagled my way into playing bass on a couple of tunes. (And we won the Battle of the Bands at Ithaca College!) It still blows my mind that this was 30 years ago, as these gigs are still fresh in my mind, as if they happened yesterday.
I realized that I was never going to be a virtuoso bass player, and my carpal tunnel syndrome (and eventual surgery) took a great deal of strength and dexterity out of my left hand. I still play, but it’s more Rock and R&B, where I can focus more on playing “in the pocket” instead of playing solos. I’m very fortunate to work with Andy Alonso and Dave Sheaffer, two incredibly talented bass players with the Cruise Control Band. I love doing gigs with either one of these guys, because even though I’m singing and playing horn, I’m still listening to what they’re throwing down, and it’s very inspiring to listen to their magnificent musicianship.
There’s a t-shirt that says “World’s Most Okayest Bass Player”….that would suit me to a T! I know my limitations when playing, but I love to listen to bass playing in ALL types of music. It was the bass that opened my eyes (and ears) to a world of music that I never would have known about. I still listen to music at least one hour a day, and more often than not, it’s jazz, rock or R&B. And I’m still “all about that bass”, and I’m sure my mom was happy I grew up this way!
Today was an incredibly fucked-up day. I had a work situation this week that escalated, and then it started to spiral out of control, and I felt like I was starting to go “down the emotional rabbit hole” because of it.
Although this situation will not turn out badly, I now find myself questioning my abilities as a manager and as a leader. I now feel like I missed the opportunity of what I was supposed to do with my career, and that I’ve just “gotten by” for the last 30 years.
I never wanted to be a music teacher. I knew that for sure after my first year at Ithaca as a music education major. I used to have this dream of being a backup singer for Roberta Flack or Stevie Wonder, but I felt like I was never where I needed to be (geographically or musically) for that to happen. I’m thankful for the education I received, but I still feel like I never figured out or felt like I knew what I wanted to do for my career.
I stumbled into customer service and retail management – it wasn’t my lifelong dream by any stretch of the imagination, and although I worked with some incredibly nice people, my years at JCPenney were pretty much the worst years of my life. (And yes, I’m hoping that COVID puts JCP out of business permanently….assholes. But I digress.) It was easy to do customer service because I have an outgoing personality. It paid the bills, but I never felt satisfied.
I’ve been fortunate to work for some incredible companies – Prudential, Vanguard and Nutricia, just to name a few….I felt like I interacted well and was a good manager, but it just didn’t resonate with me, and I left because I felt like I hit the wall. So after today’s incident, I’m feeling like I’m hitting the wall again.
I like what I do (and right now I’m blessed to have a job), but I can’t help feeling like I missed my calling. What’s more frustrating is that I don’t know what that calling was supposed to be. It’s easy to say music, but doing what? I could totally see myself working as a late-night jazz DJ for NPR, but there is no path to that (not to mention it’s probably a shitty paycheck).
Tomorrow is another day, and I hope that I’ll wake up with a better perspective and outlook than the one I have right now. And maybe I’ll figure out just what the hell I should be doing with my career to feel like I’m not just getting by.
Perhaps my ship hasn’t sailed after all…..now what?
If you asked me about the majority of my childhood memories, I could easily tell you that they revolve around music and riding in the car. Whether it was trips to Boston or to Missouri to see family, or just riding around locally, I cannot remember a time where music was not an integral part of the ride.
As we’re all quarantined and practicing social distancing, I find myself doing two things to get out of the house to stay balanced – distanced walking, and rides in the car. I literally just got home from riding around listening to Joey DeFrancesco’s jazz radio show on XM, letting my mind unwind as I listened to great music, and while I took in some different scenery. I find the music and the motion of the car very soothing after teleworking all day, and feeling cut off from the rest of the free world.
This past Sunday, I drove up to Pennsylvania to see my daughter….it was a perfectly sunny day without a lot of traffic….the ultimate conditions for a road trip! It’s about four hours round trip, but it could’ve been 20 hours and I wouldn’t have cared. I found myself listening to a lot of music that I remembered from years ago, and music that I remember from my college days. I remembered riding with my friend Jon back to Ithaca after fall break back in 1988, listening to The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed, and it was truly a nostalgic ride listening to this album in its entirety the other day. I also listened to the recent Tony Bennett/Bill Charlap record, as well as my go-to car ride albums of Nat King Cole, Mel Torme and Ray Charles. These albums and songs remind me of my family, and how special those car rides were to me growing up.
I know that it’s suggested that right now, people should only travel for essential reasons – for me, having this time in the car is very essential. And yes, I’ll be taking a ride every Sunday afternoon while I’m working from home and this pandemic continues. It might only be a ride for 20 minutes, or it could be a ride for a few hours, who knows? What I do know is this – my Sunday drives are very helpful to my well being as we go through this pandemic, and having that special time gives me a tremendous feeling of inner peace.
I had to make a conscious effort to write this morning. As the days have all started to become a blur during this quarantine, it’s been a challenge to get motivated on some days when life has become incredibly routine, and not necessarily in a good way.
There are a great number of people who are alone during this quarantine. Depression and anxiety has increased because of the unknown. We’re fortunate that we have the technology to still have human interaction, but that still doesn’t replace the feeling of truly being among friends and family.
Everyone has their own set of coping skills…it’s been very inspiring to go online and see people posting workouts, performing music, and offering encouraging words. We’re all in this together, one day at a time.
Although I don’t get out and walk every day, walking for 60-90 minutes each time has really helped me in ways I would never have thought of. I’m aware of the physical and emotional benefits, but I’ve also found this to be a tremendous boost to my creativity. Whether I’m listening to music and getting ideas for songs for future gigs (hopefully before 2021 or later), or just walking in silence and just taking in the sights and sounds around me, this has helped me to find new creativity and clarity. I also feel like my anxiety has gone down tremendously over these past few weeks.
I’m making it a goal each and every day to use Facebook Messenger for reaching out to friends both old and new. It’s my way of touching base with people who may feel forgotten as they self-quarantine by themselves, and this interaction helps me from putting my brain on ‘autopilot’ during these incredibly repetitive days each and every week.
One of my friends posted that “reaching out to friends and family on video conferences is the best thing right now!” They’re absolutely right! My company has been doing a “Virtual Happy Hour” every Friday afternoon, and on each call, there’s a genuine feeling of connection, as we all talk about how we’re doing, and people are focused on keeping everyone in good spirits. It’s fun to crack each other up with funny stories, and break the monotony of each day of working in our sweatpants in our living rooms. We truly appreciate being together ‘in the moment’ for these 60 minutes each week.
To my friends and family, please know that you can reach out to me anytime during these unusual days. If any local friends want to get together to do “socially-distant” walking, just ask. If you want to chat, just holler at me. The opportunities for exercise and communication are keeping me happier and healthier.
Sometimes this feels like the never ending dream…everything looks perfectly normal, but in the blink of an eye, you could be completely knocked on your ass by this virus. It’s been a very interesting couple of weeks, and the next month or so will really test the strength and patience of the nation, as we continue to distance ourselves from each other.
As challenging as this seems, I’m focusing on the bright side of the situation. I consider myself a spiritual person, so my faith has been a strong source of comfort. It’s also been a time to focus on keeping my mind in as happy a place as possible, and finding new and creative ways to do so.
One of the things I’ve never enjoyed is practicing…I did it, but it always felt tedious and my mind would wander very easily. Because I have no idea of when I’ll have my next gig, I’m taking time each day to practice a different instrument, including my voice. Sometimes it’s something as simple as playing/singing scales, and some days I’m working on my jazz improvisation. At 50 years old, I love doing this, as I now have an appreciation of the music that I’m learning and performing – an outlook that I didn’t have when I was younger.
As the gym is closed indefinitely, I’ve been doing a lot more walking as a form of exercise…even with the challenge of social distancing, I’ve developed an appreciation for the joy of having that 60-90 minutes of quiet time and self reflection. Plus there’s that feeling of accomplishment of running a certain distance and not puking or passing out…three cheers for progress!
It’s very easy to become anxious thinking about the next month or so of isolation…..one of the things that therapy has taught me is to not focus on the things I cannot control. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass spending the majority of the time indoors, especially as the weather is getting nicer. That’s one of the reasons I’m challenging myself now more than ever….it’s an opportunity to grow spiritually and mentally, and in some ways, this is a gift. When this pandemic is over and done, hopefully we’ll all be able to recognize the changes we have made for the better, both individually and for our society.