so much 2 say?

“Meaningful moments
Are far and few between
You gotta seize the meaning
(If you see what I mean)
Say what?” – Take 6

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last blog post….it’s not like life has not been busy – I just spent the last two weekends at Cypress Cove and Avalon – I’ve just been doing a lot of listening. Whether it’s music, conversation, or just interesting shows on television, I’ve enjoyed embracing my “inner introvert.”

I’ve seen tremendous acts of kindness and compassion from my friends, and I’ve also seen people be the lowest of the low. By listening and observing, it’s been a very enlightening period of silence.

Silence is golden.

Mister Rogers said it best – sometimes the most important part of the page is the space between the paragraphs, as it allows you to pause and reflect. That’s what this unplanned hiatus from blogging has done. The silence has given me a different perspective. And as I’m enjoying my time with family and friends, I look forward to blogging about fun and happy/silly events, while still having an attitude of gratitude.

And when I blog again, I’ll have so much 2 say.

dino and francesca.

For those in Northeast Pennsylvania, this post is not about the restaurant with the fabulous pizza and great chicken salad sandwiches. This post is about something very personal from my past, and it was triggered by an event from this morning.

I found out that a former colleague of mine passed away this week. To preface the story, this was someone I worked with nearly 30 years ago, and at the time, I was a young and immature young man who made a LOT of mistakes (honestly, I was a cocky, arrogant pain in the ass.). Even though this colleague still supported me even though they probably wanted to slap me silly, they saw the good in me, and in my abilities. Years later after I’d moved away (and got my incredibly huge dose of reality), I had the chance to reconnect with this colleague, and they were incredibly kind to both me and to Jenn when we’d see them while visiting Upstate New York. This leads me to Dino and Francesca.

Dino and I never clicked….we worked together, and we actually got to a point where we almost came to fisticuffs in the parking lot after work. We were both very customer focus driven, competitive, and then I became the guy who ended up dating his ex. (This was in no way handled like Clapton and George Harrison over Patti Boyd.) In hindsight, I see how I ruffled his feathers, and the feathers of the people we worked with, and although it’s a regret that I’ve had for many years, I learned to forgive myself and move forward.

2021 is much better than 1992.

My history with Francesca is well documented. It’s been in previous blog posts, and to go through all of it again is something I choose not to do anymore. I can’t change it, and I know I’m not the person that she remembers. After going through a horrible divorce, dealing with PTSD, coming very close to a suicide attempt, and being disconnected from my teenage daughter by a vindictive ex-wife, I’ve had a shitload of things happen that far outweigh anything between me and Francesca. Through years of therapy and the support of a loving wife, good friends, and a 120-pound Floofinator who loves me unconditionally, I’ve learned to value who I am, and not base my opinion of myself on my past mistakes or the opinions of others who don’t forgive.

There was a group communication this morning about a memorial for our colleague, and when I joined, you can guess who the first two people I saw were….Dino and Francesca. I said some kind words about our friend who had passed, and then I realized that I don’t need to put myself back into that situation, and I removed myself from the group. If they choose to see me the same way they saw me 30 years ago, and they choose never to forgive, that’s their fucking problem, not mine.

Onward and upward….and now all I can think about is chicken salad.

butterfield summer.

Every spring, I try to pick a musical artist to be my Summer favorite…..usually it’s someone that’d I’d recently seen in concert, or someone recommended to me by a musician friend. With the restrictions of COVID for the past year, I haven’t been to any concerts, and really have been limited in interaction with a lot of musicians.

As I was flipping through my streaming services the other day, I stumbled upon a documentary on Amazon Prime that I knew was released a few years back, but was impossible for me to find. It’s the documentary “Horn From the Heart – The Paul Butterfield Story.”

Paul Butterfield, 1941-1987.

Paul Butterfield was a legendary blues musician, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was at one point a dominant force in both blues and rock music, as they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Butterfield’s impact both musically and socially in blues music will never be replicated. Growing up in the Hyde Park section of Chicago, he was blessed with the opportunity to not only learn the blues from legends like Little Walter, Muddy Waters and Albert King, he was encouraged to sit in with these guys as his way to becoming an amazing blues musician. His harmonica playing was always top-notch, and as he became known around the Windy City, he was an integral part of introducing the blues to White audiences.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band with David Sanborn (third from left).

This lead to the formation of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, made up of both Black and White musicians. The band’s biggest years were from 1965 – 1971, and they took blues, rock and a little bit of psychedelia in a direction never taken before. Their albums East-West, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, In My Own Dream, and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin’ bring many different styles and tonality to both blues and rock music, and their performance at Woodstock was downright phenomenal, as they had a horn section (featuring a young David Sanborn) that was comparable to the other horn bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago.

I’m hoping this album eventually gets reissued!

Although I’ve owned a few of these albums before watching the documentary, I found a renewed passion for them over the past few days. As Butterfield lived in Woodstock from the late 60’s to the early 80’s, this music also makes me think about growing up there, and how much I look forward to going back after being restricted by COVID.

Truly one of their best albums, and this album cover was photographed in Woodstock!

I really look forward to rediscovering these albums all over again this summer….even though it’s the blues, it’s a sound and style that is truly energizing, and when I listen, “sometimes I just feel like smilin!”

Rest In Peace, Paul Butterfield. Thank you for leaving us with your incredible musical legacy.

every dog has his day.

I’m enjoying a fun Sunday afternoon with Otto, and we’re on his turf….at the dog park.

A year ago, I would’ve laughed if someone told me I’d be enjoying my time at a dog park with a 120-pound Great Pyrenees. Now, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity.

I’ve gotten to know quite of few of the dogs (and their humans) in the community, and there’s definitely a sense of camaraderie between the humans as well as the dogs. We all keep an eye on our dogs the same way we would with our kids, and I’ve learned a lot about other breeds of dogs and their characteristics.

Sunday in the park with Otto.

The thing I find most enjoyable is how the dogs all get to know each other without any hesitation….within seconds, the traditional dog greeting (butt sniffing) starts, and then they’re off to the races…butt sniffing aside, I wish we could be as welcoming and non-judgmental in society as the pups are!

It’s Otto’s world….
we’re just lucky enough to live in it.

I love to see Otto having fun, whether it’s him standing on the fire pit in the backyard, riding in the car, taking our walks together, or hangin’ with his peeps here at the dog park. Every dog should have his day, and I’m glad that Otto has his seven days a week.

first of may.

“Hooray, Hooray, the first of May. Outdoor fucking begins today.” – Issac Taylor (James Taylor’s father)

Quite the unusual quote, which then became one of my favorite JT songs from one of my JT albums. The reason had nothing to do with the lyrics….

I used to drive a 1991 Mercury Tracer hatchback. I remember that in the summer of 1992, I needed the cassette player replaced (under warranty!), because one of my cassettes was stuck in the player – JT’s “Never Die Young” album. I found myself listening to this album over and over, but not minding having to listen to it over and over.

That’s why he’s here.

I specifically remember driving home from a gig in Poughkeepsie at 1:30 am on a crystal-clear full-moon night, and the song “First of May” was the first song that played. It just struck me differently that night, and I spent the 45-minute drive listening to just this song repeatedly. I don’t remember anything else about that night, but I remember listening to that track vividly, as it became a song of comfort on a night I’ll never forget almost five years later.

May 1st, 1997 – I’ll always remember this Thursday evening for two reasons….that was the night that Ellen DeGeneres officially “came out” on her sitcom, as my ex-fiancée Bonnie called off our engagement simultaneously. As courageous as I thought Ellen was for taking such a risk (and for enduring the incredibly ignorant backlash), I found myself at a low point, because I had allowed myself to feel defeated by someone who had done nothing but degrade me, I had neither the courage or self-esteem to disagree. She once said that “it’s obvious that I’m the smarter one in the relationship” and I had no response – not because I agreed, but because I didn’t even know how to respond to that. When she broke things off, it hurt deeply, because I was not yet realizing that she had done me a huge favor. My mom’s initial reaction later that night spoke volumes – “Hey, she just saved you from a divorce….go for a ride, listen to some music, and know that you’re gonna be alright.” I got in my Pontiac Grand Am, drove up I-81 from Scranton to Binghamton, and listened to JT’s Never Die Young CD….and yes, there was also a full moon that night, and although I didn’t listen to “First of May” over and over, I do remember listening to the track a few times.

The song has just become a song of hope and optimism to me – not because of the lyrics, but because of how it has inspired me from its arrangement, to the instrumentation, to the background vocals, and of course, James Taylor’s incredibly warm “like a smooth cup of hot cocoa” voice. There’s one lyric that says “it’s a rite of spring” – although this lyric is meant to be sexual in nature, I feel like listening to this song in the springtime, when the smell of flowers is in the air, the warmer temperatures and incredibly beautiful nights with moonlight are my “rite of spring”. This has become very much a traditional song to me. It reminds me that the optimism of summer will soon be here, and that no matter how dark things may seem, things will get better, and that I have to have the courage to keep moving forward.

And it’s also a great day to be outdoors!

8 things for which i’m thankful…4/26/2021

1. That I’m just about over the side effects of the second Moderna vaccine.

2. The kindness of my friends and fellow musicians.

3. That even at my weakest and least energetic moment, I can still lay down a good bass groove.

4. My friends in Florida who I can’t wait to see in July.

Day 1 after the vaccine…totally worth it to do my part to help eradicate COVID 19!

5. Amazon Prime, for their outstanding music documentary selection.

6. That the days are longer, and the temperatures are warmer.

7. The music of CSNY, Muscle Shoals, and Stax Records.

8. Having an attitude of gratitude!

the verdict.

I can’t even describe how I feel right now over the verdict….in some ways it feels 29 years in the making since the Rodney King verdict, but at the same time I’m sad that it took a death of a human being for change to finally happen. My gratitude to the prosecution and the jurors who helped to make a big step forward in standing up to systemic racism.

I’ve posted plenty on social media today….it’s hard not to, as I’m feeling a lot of emotions after the last year of such social unrest. I find myself thinking about what if it was the other way around….would I feel the same way if a minority cop did the EXACT same actions as Derek Chauvin, and a White person died? My answer is yes. The dynamics would be incredibly different, but nobody deserves to die as a victim of police brutality.

I moved to the Scranton area in the autumn of 1994….before changing my car tags from New York to Pennsylvania, it was a regular occurrence to be followed by the Scranton and South Abington Police – I was never pulled over, but they’d follow me for a couple of miles. For what? I had no tail lights out, and I was driving at or below the speed limit. And this would happen in the middle of the day. It’s one of those situations where no matter how much it pisses you off, you can’t do anything about it.

This symbol represents unity at the center of the earth. It’s time for this to come to the surface….for ALL races.

The video in the Derek Chauvin trial did not lie. I’m sure that the African-Americans who saw this happen (and shot video from the curb) felt the same type of frustration. Wanting to say something about such an incredibly wrong action, but fearing the repercussion for speaking out. In this case, a man was choked to death, and there was no question about that. Hopefully this is a strong statement towards the end of this type of police brutality. There are a lot of fantastic police officers throughout the country who risk their lives to serve and protect, and they do it the right way. They have (and will ALWAYS have) my utmost respect. There are good and bad cops, and there are good and bad people. Stevie and Paul said it best 39 years ago – “There’s good and bad in everyone. We learn to live, we learn to give each other what we need to survive, together alive.”

Rest In Peace, George Floyd. It’s time for us all to do better…..it’s time to start “living in perfect harmony.“

tearing down the walls.

We’re getting a new fence for our backyard. The existing fence is very old, and I’m 99.999% sure that The Floofinator could easily knock it down. This seems very symbolic to me, as knocking down my own walls by writing this blog has improved my life the way building our new fence will improve the quality of “The StoweAway.”

Over the last two years, I’ve written about things that I never thought I’d share publicly, out of fear of what my friends and family would think of me. Some of these things are deeply personal, and sharing these things publicly was truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it needed to be done. For years I’ve put some many walls up to protect myself (including using sarcasm, snarkiness and arrogance), and it really took its toll on my emotional health.

I had a conversation with a friend recently that easily could have gone on for hours or days….we started taking about music and life, and my friend shares the same appreciation for music that I do. As we talked and shared stories about our lives (both good and bad), I realized that I felt like I could speak open and freely in a way that a couple of years ago I was afraid to speak. The fear of judgement (even self-judgement) that has always consumed me wasn’t there. As I talked about things like being able to relate musical notes to colors, or how cool it felt to win our high school battle of the bands, or how debilitating it was to go through a very ugly divorce, at no point did I feel afraid or ashamed.

Time to tear down and recreate.

What meant a lot to me about this conversation is that my friend totally understood, as we’re definitely on the same wavelength. I don’t know if I’m ready to have conversations with a lot of my other friends who don’t understand me musically or otherwise, but it was the first time in a very long time that I truly felt like my walls were down. I remember having a lot of similar conversations with my friend Pat Cerello before he passed, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this probably was the first time I felt this way since my last conversation with him 10 years ago.

I’ve been blessed to have “family” that I’ve always been able to talk with openly and honestly, but I’ve still been very self-critical in my head. And family to me isn’t just my immediate family – my friend and former band mate Patty, my dear friend Brenda and my college friend Maria I consider to be like sisters, and Brenda’s husband Marc, and my friends Sean and Rob are my “brothers from other mothers.” Have I truly let my walls down with them? It’s hard to say, but as I go forward, I need to focus on letting the walls down with myself, and not be afraid to let people understand my feelings, my quirkiness, and the things that I truly care about.

Time to build something new, better, and different.

8 things for which i’m thankful.

I haven’t done one of these lists in a while…..feels good to do this again…

1. Otto licking my face to start my day.

2. The sounds of springtime.

3. Conversations that you wish could last for days.

4. LIVE MUSIC PERFORMANCES!

Because who doesn’t love a floofy 120-pound “alarm clock” licking their face every morning?

5. The movies of Mike Nichols.

6. To live in a neighborhood and community where people have the utmost respect for each other, as well as their pets.

7. The music of the Allman Brothers (especially the song Midnight Rider).

8. Solitude.

white like me.

“This is Us” had an incredibly powerful episode last night. In the episode, brothers Kevin and Randall (who is Black and was adopted at birth) had a long overdue face-to-face discussion, as they’ve had years of animosity between them, partially fueled with racial overtones. Although this was fictional, the dialogue hit me very hard, as I experienced some of the exact same situations and insults.

I didn’t go to my high school senior prom, because the parents of the White girl I asked would not let her go with me. I was one of four Black students in a graduating class of over 200. Both my brother and I were teased because we weren’t great basketball players (we were told we had “White Man’s Disease”) in addition to being called the “N word” and other racial insults by some of our “ignorance-gifted” classmates. When we both went to the same college/music school, we were called “pseudo-Black” and “Oreo” by some of the Black students, because we didn’t hang out with them. This was not by choice – the majority of our time was spent in classes and rehearsals. Even though I played bass for the college gospel choir, I was still considered “the outcast” for being different.

And let’s just address the “Carlton” issue….I could easily retire if I had $5 for every person who has called me that to my face. Sadly, when a very small number my Black friends do it as a cheap shot, more often than not, they’re the ones who also ask (excuse me, “axe”) me questions like “Hey, where you at?” See the irony here? Does using correct grammar make me want to be White? Are you fucking kidding me? Carlton was a caricature, but he was also a curse, as it made certain types of Black people a target of ridicule. For anyone who watches “The Simpsons”, voice character actor Hank Azeria has gone above and beyond with his regret and apologies to the Indian community for the character of Apu on the show. The stereotypes for that character have reached a point where “Apu” is now used as a racial insult. I plan to watch the documentary “The Problem With Apu” to truly understand the level of bigotry that now exists. Perhaps it’s time for a “The Problem With Carlton” documentary as well?

My big issue with “Miss Vitriol/The Karenator” was fueled by her ignorance and racism. She made threats towards me that she would not have made to a person of non-color. No matter how important she thinks she is in society, to me all of her other accomplishments and accolades are irrelevant – what she said was not “heat of the moment” – it was ingrained. PERIOD.

As we saw the African-American Lieutenant in Virginia get pepper-sprayed by police last week, what really infuriated me was that he did nothing “stereotypical” to deserve that type of abuse. Would the police have done the exact same things had he been White?

I’ve even given up Oreos as a snack.

Our parents did not have a goal of making us want to be White….both of my parents endured extreme racism growing up in the 30’s and 40’s, even after they were married in the 50’s. They wanted my brother and me to have a better life than what they had. It’s that plain and simple. Yes, they knew that by living in a predominantly White community that they would face challenges, but they also taught us how to rise above it…..and that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with skin color.

A lot of my friends are now aware of something that severely impacted my first marriage…..about two years after our wedding, my ex-mother-in-law informed me that my ex-father-in-law had spoken to his pastor before we were married, to make sure that an interracial marriage was OK in the eyes of God. She told me this like it was no big deal….WHAT THE ENTIRE FUCK????? Had I known this prior to the wedding, there never would have been a wedding. From that moment and until this very day, I lost all respect for them, and that they consider themselves “exemplary Christians” makes me want to puke.

It was my “Whiteness” that made me a token in the JCPenney company. I was hired in Poughkeepsie NY in 1993, as the company was getting negative press for not having enough diversity in middle management (it was a “good ol’ boys club)….my management colleagues in the Poughkeepsie store treated me like I was stupid, almost as if they looked at me like I was their “Affirmative Action poster child.” I was then transferred to Scranton, and fed this line of bullshit that “we know that with your personality, you’ll be a good fit.” I ended up working for a misogynistic, racist store manager for two years (on more than one occasion, he referred to one of his female Asian colleagues as a “Sumo Wrestler” because she was not a Size 4). To my JCP colleagues who read this, please know that when I left (and you all know EXACTLY how I left!), I left because I’d had enough….I can only imagine what I would’ve truly endured if I acted based on stereotype. FUCK JCPENNEY.

One of the things that really stood out in last night’s episode was that Kevin apologized to Randall, but it was an apology based more on Kevin’s conscience and not based on his lack of understanding. By the end of the episode, Randall explained in great detail (and also in flashback sequences) what had truly hurt him for many years. I’ve received many apologies like Kevin’s apology for years….apologies done because they needed to be done, not because they wanted to be done. I’ve received these from both Black people and White people. Although appreciated, they rang very hollow. Now we’re at a point where phrases like “cancel culture” are used and mocked as excuses for not showing remorse for blatant bigotry. Seeing the verbal and physical abuse towards Asians because of COVID disgusts me – I have one soon-to-be-former friend who made a point of cracking “Wuhan Flu” jokes on social media, like being that bigoted is somehow OK. Ironically she got very sick from the vaccine – can you say KARMA?

It sucks that in 2021, we’re still having this same discussion, and that it’s coming from every nationality. Wanting to better yourself has nothing to do with “wanting to be White”…..if there are those who still don’t understand, I suggest you take a HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR.