mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be bass players.

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.

When I die, I’m taking this with me.
#allaboutthatbass

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!

8 things for which i’m thankful. (especially after yesterday)

That the phrase “tomorrow is another day” does have special meaning, and that it’s more than just a cliche.

People who respond with genuine support (“I feel that way too sometimes”) to remind me that my feelings are heard and understood.

Random dreams that challenge me to piece them together the next day.

The 32 ounce Passion Fruit Margarita/Daquiri from Guapo’s in Shirlington, which probably contributed to my random dreams last night.

That today is World Gardening Naked Day, and even though I’m not the greatest gardener, I will spend an incredible amount of time naked in the backyard today (having a hot tub is a bonus).

Ready to face a new day….and to enjoy being in the backyard.

That I will walk at least 10 miles today, and that no longer feels daunting to me mentally or physically.

The music and humor (the inspiration for the song “First Day Of May”) of James Taylor.

Determination.

now what?

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.

Some days it’s much easier than others.

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?

doesn’t anybody take sunday drives anymore?

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.

What I would give to take a Sunday drive in this ‘68 Chevy, which is like the car from my childhood!

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.

See you on Sunday!

my body moves, and my brain grooves.

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.

Burning calories and expanding creativity, one step at a time.

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.

My body is movin’, and my brain is groovin’.

8 things for which i’m very thankful.

The care, compassion and forgiveness that I see from friends, family, and strangers.

The resiliency of our society, as we’re “all in this together.”

The daily connection with both new friends and with long-time friends.

Days with more sunlight, and with warmer temperatures.

The view from the couch.

Socially-distanced walking.

Great co-workers, who check in on each other, and try to keep everyone in good spirits.

The classic albums of Miles Davis.

Having a supply of two-ply toilet paper, without having to get into a fistfight in Target to obtain!

thriving and surviving.

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!

Taking things one day at a time.

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.

Let’s keep on thriving and surviving.

isolation.

“Your elevation may require your isolation.” – Anonymous

This time in self-distancing has been relaxing, and at the same time, this has been challenging. As we’re all socially distancing ourselves because of the Coronavirus, I find myself starting to feel anxious. My anxiety isn’t based on fear or “fear of missing out” – its more a feeling of disconnection.

I’ve been doing daily video meetings with my staff, as I appreciate having the face-to-face communication, not just hearing their voices. I have no idea when my next gig will be, and that’s very hard for me, because I enjoy interacting with people. My depression is under control, but I’ve had a hard time sleeping since staying at home almost all of the time.

This is new for all of us – as some people are much more at risk with the symptoms of this virus, I would be devastated if I knew that my actions could put someone else’s life in extreme danger. I’ve seen a former family member almost pass away from getting a virus while their immune system was compromised, so I take this very seriously. The downside for me is that I feel cut off from the rest of the outside world.

So that I feel less like I’m on an island, I’ve made a point of not only communicating daily on social media (Facebook Messenger), but I also have used this time as an opportunity to reconnect and make amends with a couple of people that I’d hurt years ago. Although I had already forgiven myself for these mistakes, it was still very important to me to apologize directly, even if no response is given.

Still focused on putting my best foot forward.

I’m using this time to be productive, but also focus on my inner peace. So far, this year has been challenging for all of us. It’s been uplifting to see the overall tone changing towards the positive on social media, as people are reaching out to check on others, or putting funny stories and contests on their pages, compared to the daily political arguments that dominated all of the platforms. Let’s hope that this trend continues, long after the Coronavirus is behind us. It reminds me of how people came together after 9/11,but it’s sad that it takes a pandemic event to bring people together this way.

I hope that we can all reconnect sooner than later, but I also understand that it could get worse before it gets better. With each day, I’ll continue to try and stay connected, through reaching out to friends, making new friends, and trying to do random acts of kindness. Hopefully we’ll all feel less isolated.

the new frontier.

“We’ve got provisions, and lots of beer…the key word is survival on the new frontier.” – Donald Fagen

Is this the new “temporary normal”? The last two weeks don’t seem real…I look out the window and it looks like an ordinary day. Then I look at the news, and I feel like it’s a science fiction movie. I think about the people who have died from this virus, and it’s heartbreaking….

Now is the time to BE KIND…look out for your friends, look out for your families, reach out to ANYONE you know is in need…bottom line, let’s all do things to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

This is brand new territory – we’re hoping things will improve dramatically in the next 15 days, and although there’s no certainty, it’s all the more reason to stay positive. Use the time to reconnect with people, to try a new project, or just pause and reflect. There are friends who are worried about their next paycheck right now, and they need to know that people are there for them, even if it’s just moral support. There are those who are home alone right now, and could use the sound of a friendly voice, letting them know that you care.

We’ll all get through this together. 😊❤️👍

I’m makes me very happy to see how music has been such a positive force during these trying times….from celebrities doing live concerts online, to kids playing music on their porch to entertain their neighbors, you can never underestimate the power of music. I’m even thinking of doing something online, as like many of my musician friends, we don’t know when our next gig will be. We’ve gotta keep moving forward, sticking together, and making changes to better the lives of others.

This is how we’ll survive the new frontier.

mental sunlight. (aka kicking depression in the ass)

I needed to write this morning. I felt this burst of energy that would not let me fall back asleep, even though its Saturday morning at 7:21 am, and I don’t have to get up for anything this morning.

My close friends and some of my family are aware of this, and I’ve gone back and forth in my head about writing this blog post. To not write about it would be out of fear, for which I have no reason to feel fear, shame, guilt or blame. And as I write this blog as my way of “journaling”, I said that I was going to write this for me first and foremost.

A little over two weeks ago, I had two very severe panic attacks, fueled by my depression being at one of the lowest points it has ever been. Although I know I would never go so far as to take my own life, I started thinking and dwelling about if the people I love would be better off without me bringing them down. I had a lot of little things triggering my depression, and I was spiraling downward in a way that I didn’t understand. On Friday February 21st at 1pm, I went to my boss and told her what was happening, and that I needed help. I’m incredibly thankful that my boss and my company understand the importance of mental health issues, and that I was not made to feel ashamed or weak. I was placed on medical leave, which was exactly what I needed. My doctor reviewed and adjusted my medication, and I’ve been doing therapy sessions both virtual and in person over the last two weeks.

I’m thankful that I still had other events and opportunities over these past two weeks to give me something to focus on (and from which to find some inner strength). I had two gigs with Ryan the weekend of the 21st, and to me, these were divine intervention. I’ve never been happier that Ryan had laryngitis, as it forced me to concentrate on doing all of the singing for those two nights, and the sense of accomplishment is what carried me through that weekend. At that point, I hadn’t told anyone besides Jenn what was going on, and I’m glad that I was able to hold it together. Although it may look like I’ve been having these “fun trips” recently, these trips were made for a very specific reason. I NEEDED to go to Ithaca, as I needed to go somewhere where I felt a sense of past success and accomplishment, and a place where I had a lot of positive memories. Seeing some of my former professors and reminiscing about concerts and performances was incredibly uplifting. Having my brain picked in a very positive way by music school undergraduates gave me a sense of positive reinforcement as a mentor, and this is something that I have not felt for quite some time. During these past two weeks, I’ve made day trips to reconnect with longtime friends, and ask for their support and understanding. (Cyndi and Lynn – thanks for catching up at the Park City Diner – your wisdom and your humor was EXACTLY what I needed the other day!)

Because at the end of the day, it’s all just stuff.

Over the past week, I’ve also been doing a lot of reading about mental health – although it’s hard to sometimes accept that the chemicals in our brains can be out of balance, it saddens me that there is still such a negative stigma around mental health. I also have come to realize that I’ve probably had depression for at least 35 years, as I remember times in high school (and during my first year at Ithaca) where I felt similar to how I felt two weeks ago. Sadly, back in those days the ignorant answers were “deal with it” and “suck it up”….I’m sure there are going to be those who read this and think this blog post is for sympathy and attention – if you are one of those people, please take a few minutes to give yourself a “rectal/cranial inversion”…..300 million people worldwide suffer from depression – I know I have friends who also are focused on their mental health, and I’m sure there may be some who may be afraid to acknowledge or take action to their mental health issues. I hope by writing this post, it may give them the courage to take that first step, and that It may give them a glimmer of hope that they’re not alone in how they feel.

I should hopefully be going back to work next week. I’m not asking for anything different when I return. I hope that people don’t feel like they need to handle me with kid gloves, or fear that I’ll explode over any little thing. I also understand that their reactions are something I have no control over, and that my focus needs to be positive regardless of how I’m received. Over the past two weeks, one of the challenges I’ve felt every day (practically every hour that I’m awake) is how to rebuild myself from the ground up – not change who I am, but how to respond and react differently to my “triggers” than I ever have before. I didn’t get this way overnight, and it won’t be immediate, but the goal is steady progress and change, and to not beat myself up so badly if/when I take a step backwards.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present. Although I have depression, I’m choosing not to “suffer” from it anymore. I’m going to enjoy the warmth of the mental sunlight.