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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To New Jersey Transit

On Wednesday, May 13th, 2015, I attended a public meeting of the New Jersey Transit board of directors at NJT headquarters in Newark. With a proposed fare hike looming in spite of service and equipment failures, and said hike intended only to "keep the lights on" and not to improve anything in any way, twelve of us took turns at the microphone to complain, to chastise, to suggest... to be heard. After brief unscripted condolences for the victims, and their families, of the fatal Amtrak derailing the night before, I read the following (from my Nexus 7 and not a printout - got to stay green!). (Update: NJ.com put up this article about the meeting, featuring a picture of me at the mike, and WNYC put up this one, which has my name misspelled, but still...)


My name is Andersen Silva, and I had to leave my job in Paramus, 20 miles away, at 2:30 PM in order to make it here by 5. One bus, two trains… two hours. In my efforts to be as green as possible, to reduce my footprint on the environment and the roadways as well as to save a little money, I’ve opted not to own a car, but New Jersey Transit makes it harder and harder to justify that decision, and asking us to accept a 9% fare increase simply to maintain the woefully inadequate status quo is pushing the boundaries of fairness and good taste. For me, personally, a 9% increase will cost approximately an additional $250 a year, which I could accept if it bought fewer breakdowns, more frequent service, and fewer missed connections. However, I fear the floggings will continue until morale improves.

While I certainly ride New Jersey Transit to and from New York City on weekends and for concerts and other events, I’m probably one of the few regular intrastate commuters you’ll hear from today, and we’ve got it just as bad as the interstate commuters. When the Bergen Line train gets me to Ridgewood two minutes too late to make the 752 bus in the middle of the winter, there’s no heated area at the bus transfer for me to wait inside for 28 minutes until the next one. Secaucus Junction and Hoboken Terminal might be more comfortable, but no one wants to wait for a train for an hour and a half at either place on a weekend night. Quiet Cars and the MyTix app and My Bus Now are nice, but they’ll never make up for delays and long lines and wait times.


I call upon State Senator Paul Sarlo, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, and Assemblywoman Marlene Caride to represent my fellow commuters and me in the legislature and fight to restore $60 million in subsidies to New Jersey Transit’s budget, and avoid this unfair fare hike. Not investing in our public transportation system, turning a blind eye to the crumbling Hudson tunnels and the failing Portal Bridge, refusing to prioritize the rapid and efficient movement of people to and from jobs inside and outside the state… that’s not the way to go. There are two toll lanes closed, the bridge is out, and I doubt I’ll be the only one to jump if something isn’t done soon. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Florida

First things first: lots of new Serious Pilgrim and Florida vacation pics in the Gallery... of Death!




The smell of suntan lotion and the beach from my opened suitcase at home Sunday afternoon transported me back to Fort Lauderdale. As nice as it was to be able to open my windows and get some fresh air in the apartment, Lyndhurst's 57 degrees had nothing on south Florida's 85 or so. My cousins Helen and Bill, and Bill’s wife Maci, picked me up at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, and I had such a great time with my family for four days! From enjoying some beers and the laid-back vibe of Due South Brewery with the three of them, to a big barbecue with even more family at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, to mimosas on the Intracoastal Waterway with Helen, to jamming a little with Bill, to admiring nature at Gumbo Limbo and Loxahatchee and Wakodahatchee and Morikami, to breakfast with Helen and my aunt and uncle, to chilling on the couch watching ”Pulp Fiction" or downing some potstickers and plum wine… I loved getting to see and spend time with my cousins and their spouses and my aunt and uncle.

On Wednesday, phase 1 of the vacation came to an end as Helen dropped me off at the Sea Club Resort, and phase 2 began as I met Joycelynn, Sue, and Melanie by the pool. My fellow Talented And Gifted Students from a long time ago had a blast during our four days together, too! We shot some pool and did some people-watching over tasty tacos; three of us jumped into a fountain on the way back to the hotel one night; we enjoyed the sun and sand and water at an artificial island off Miami and imagined spending the rest of our days in a tropical paradise; and of course there was serious drankin’ done (and someone may have licked alcohol off someone else's arm). Somehow, Sue and I never got our gelato, but by the time we headed for the airport early Sunday morning, the four of us could say that we’d had great fun!

I’m still not completely down from that vacation high, what with the sun and the heat and the love between family and friends (though I never did get to see Brett and Susan and the Leveene clan; sorry, guys!). Today is Earth Day (happy Earth Day to you, happy Earth Day to you...), and tonight I'm going to see Ex Hex play at Monty Hall in Jersey City. Should be a lot of fun, too! I haven't preordered an Apple Watch yet, but I still plan to get one soonish. No, not the Edition... I have yet to register (today or tomorrow!), but I'm planning on running the Rock the River 5K in Fort Lee on Sunday the 3rd. Still working on the Web site overhaul as well, which should be done by the time May peers around the corner. Hope your spring is going well, too!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I need a vacation.

I really, really need a vacation. Fortunately, I'll soon be taking something for that: a vacation. This Saturday, I'm flying to Fort Lauderdale, and spending half a week with my cousins and half a week with my friends. It will be great to see them all, and it will be wonderful to feel Florida weather. I think I'll be dragging the Traveler guitar along, too.

Not that I haven't been keeping busy as the New Jersey winter lingered on and on this March... I saw Tania Stavreva and some of her piano students play at Steinway Hall; enjoyed Stephanie's last performance with the Dessoff Choirs at Symphony Space; laughed and reminisced as Serious Pilgrim's Martin Rivas, Pete Bavaro, and Tom McGivney performed together in public for the first time in nearly two decades at Rockwood Music Hall; watched the off-Broadway show "Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe" with Laryssa; and did a bit of birdwatching in the Meadowlands with Barbara.

I've also been working on some music. While Greta's Unmentionables has yet to get to Hellhound Studios this year, Jon and I did start piecing together a new Not An Exit song, "No Looking Back," and I've recorded about half of my own tune, "I'll Live," written in 2006 but only just coming to life now.

I've been preparing to overhaul the Web site, too. The last major renovation to AndersenSilva.com left it only slightly clunky, but also partially broken, and there was some content (like all the old Vitriol columns and the Frequently Asked Questions) that was left by the wayside; I plan to restore that. I'm bringing back a cleaner, simpler interface, trimming some fat, adding a few old short stories and poems I've recently rediscovered, and slowly but surely getting thousands more pictures added (though that process won't be done anytime soon).

I've also found two stories I'd started writing years ago, that I would like to complete, and then there's my unfinished NaNoWriMo novels, and ideas for a new short story and a new poem I came up with last month... A light bulb went off over my head this morning. I'd thought the left bulb above the medicine cabinet had burned out two weeks ago, and I just haven't gotten around to replacing it, but it seems to be OK again now.

Hopefully, the new site will be up by the end of the month, but for now you can get a taste at http://www.andersensilva.com/music.html; only the Gallery... of Death! menu links are live for the moment. Please let me know what you think, and I'll see you after I've absorbed some Florida sun! That reminds me, I need to start packing...



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Words and Guitar

I got to see Sleater-Kinney in New York this past Thursday and Friday, and although my calves and shins are still protesting, they were both terrific shows!


Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, and Corin Tucker: Sleater-Kinney!

Corin, Carrie, and Janet put out a lot of energy rockin' Terminal 5 (not NYC's best venue, but I really don't understand all the hate people have for it), and the new material holds its own against the old. Personally, I was thrilled to get to hear them do "Good Things" and "Little Babies" and "One Beat" again, but I was just as excited about "Bury Our Friends" and "Price Tag." I was even inspired to pogo to a few songs the second night, in spite of myself; the crowds on both nights were pumped up and movin' around regardless of how tightly packed we were. In fact, I conceived a new song (and hopefully nothing else) Friday night, to be called "Inadvertently Intimate." Yes, that tightly packed.

I still have a few other ideas to write up, such as a more electronic-sounding tune I'm going to call "O Povo na Rua" ("The People in the Streets"), but this morning I found myself suddenly wanting- no, needing to work on a song I wrote nine years ago. I always had a rough idea in my head of how "I'll Live" would sound. The lyrics were inspired by the Who's John Entwistle and the dark humor behind some of his songs, like "My Wife" and "I Feel Better." Somehow, though, I never got around to recording anything for it, not even a demo... but today while the snow came down again, I got about half the song done, and using an alternate guitar tuning (DAFCGD, a whole step down) on my old Strat knockoff for the first time. I'm liking the way the song is turning out. Maybe you will, too.

I really can't wait for this winter to be over. I'm trying not to let the weather and my fluctuating moods keep me locked up indoors for too long, however. Next weekend, I'll be checking out Tania Stavreva in another piano performance. The weekend after that, Greta's Unmentionables will finally get our asses back in the studio to rock out "The Bite." The weekend after that will find me taking in Stephanie's final concert with the Dessoff Choirs, and a few days later I'll be at Rockwood Music Hall to witness a 75% Serious Pilgrim reunion! I'm also going to see "Nevermore - The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe" off Broadway with Laryssa, and I'm planning on catching up with High Teen Boogie in Williamsburg, too. I'm still working on the Gallery... of Death! as well, and recently added 2002 to the mix, and of course there are a lot of S-K pics in the 2015 gallery now. And then there's all that running...

Busy March, now that I think about it. It's better that way, though. Hopefully, I'll be too occupied to pay too much attention to the weather, and it'll start to warm up before I notice. Of course, I do have a trip to warmer climes scheduled for next month... Woo-hoo!

And now, back to words and guitar...


Monday, February 2, 2015

Pensamente

What a nasty Groundhog Day it's been here in the Northeast, but then it is winter. The winter of my discontent... or is that "The Discontent of My Winter?"

January was harder than even I had expected. My sweet tortie, the pretty kitty Preeti, succumbed to illness early in the month, and then my Uncle Danny passed away early on the 22nd. Death and winter and discontent aside, however, I'm feeling a little more stable lately, even if I have had dreams on three consecutive nights involving two ex-girlfriends. Odd dreams, neither happy nor sad, really. Some would no doubt read plenty into them; I think maybe I've just been dredging up memories by spending a lot of time going through so many old photos and updating the Gallery... of Death! It's slow-going, not least because of the nostalgia. So far, I've got everything as far back as 2003 posted and captioned, and I'm working on 2002 now.

Staying away (mostly) from social media has been good for me, I think. It's given me more time and more focus. Clearly, you lot don't miss me, and that's fine. I've run at least a mile every day in January, and last night I beat my best time running five kilometers on the treadmill (27m47s, which is no medal winner but is a sign of improvement). I've picked up the guitar again, and I'm determined to finish recording my second album this year. While I'd long intended to call it Tougher Than Flannel, and even worked that phrase into the lyrics of "Drabbard," I've recently decided to go with I Can't Possibly Give More Than I Can Give instead. It's partly a rebuke to those who insist that we should "give 110%," but mostly an acknowledgment that I've felt emotionally spent for longer than I'd care to acknowledge.

I am planning on getting together with some friends (and hopefully some family) this spring, in a warmer place than New Jersey. Definitely looking forward to that. I'm also excited about seeing Sleater-Kinney later this month. The new album, No Cities To Love, is pretty damned great, and it'll be awesome to hear "Bury Our Friends" live, as well as the older stuff I've loved since getting into the band in 2003.

There's more I could say, about Charlie Hebdo and the "Islamic" "State" and Ukraine and 'Net neutrality and Israel and Palestine and... but you're probably not really listening anyway, are you? And that's fine, too. Most likely, you go your way, and I'll go mine.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goodbye

I think this is goodbye. No, not that goodbye... I'm just going to stay away from social media for a serious while. Facebook and Twitter and Google+ (and, to a lesser extent, Diaspora and Ello and LinkedIn and MySpace and Sina Weibo and MyOuterSpace and WeChat) suck up too much of my time while giving little in return. I'm not going to close or deactivate any of my accounts, or unfriend/unfollow/uncircle anyone (except for those who really don't interact with me at all), but I'm not going to actively spend time on social media after today, either. If you say something to me specifically there, I'll probably respond, but that's about it.

I only ever started using social media (back in the days of MySpace and Loopt and Brightkite) with the intention of promoting my music. That's worked out OK, at best. While I've made it to ReverbNation's top 40 local artists in Lyndhurst, NJ and managed to stay there over the past week or so, and I thank everyone who's listened and helped me get there, it's obvious to me that most people aren't really paying much attention to my music. I've got several Facebook friends and Twitter followers who are "Doctor Who" fans, yet no one's said anything about the line in one of my songs that's taken almost verbatim from one of the more powerful episodes of the past four years. (No, I'm not going to tell you which line and which song; if you're honestly interested, listen and find it.) I'm linked to hundreds of people on the different networks listed above, and have been shamelessly plugging my ReverbNation page and my "Everything's Different Now" music video, and if all of those people listened or watched once, my stats would be higher... so clearly not all of them have.

Not that I'm bitter, or upset, that they haven't. My music isn't to everyone's taste, and people are busy, and some people don't spend much time on social media to begin with... I get it. I can't expect everyone I know to support me or care, and I'm certainly not hoping to make a living at it. I can't keep pushing either, though, and I can't be too supportive anymore of those who can't spare me a click or two once in a while. There are, frankly, also too many people on the various networks who seem to post mainly for affirmation, to get people to like their selfies or favorite their tweets, so they can feel better about themselves. If you don't actually have something original to say, pardon me for not listening any longer. I won't even address the spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes... ;-)

So, yeah, the daily posts on social media shall hereby cease, at least for several weeks. I'll still write the occasional 'blog post here, though most of you don't seem to read those either. Heh. And my photographs will continue to be added to the Gallery... of Death! even though I won't be posting any more to Facebook, Twitter, and G+ for now. There were always many, many more pics in the Gallery anyway, and I should be getting some more of the older ones up this weekend, too. I'm still going to write and record my own music (I was never doing it for you anyway, but for me; it's nice when someone acknowledges my tunes occasionally, however); I'm hoping to get at least one new song done this weekend, in fact, and a new album, whether it's called Tougher Than Flannel or something else, should be released in 2015. I'm still working with Greta's Unmentionables, too, and I think we're just about ready to get "The Bite" behind us and start putting together a new song.

I'm still not particularly happy, and maybe that is a good thing for my music. Depression washes over me, then washes away, then comes back. While there were negative events in 2014 (my dad taking seriously ill back in January, my beloved chinchilla Meggy passing away just days after Valentine's, downed airliners, conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria and Palestine, Ebola, my kitty Preeti getting sick toward the end of the year), there were positive ones, too (my dad bouncing back, my doing three mud runs and a 5K and the No Pants Subway Ride and Pillow Fight Day, acknowledgment and exposure of wrongdoing by both the CIA and civil police departments, my trip to London, the refreshing humility and humanity of Pope Francis, détente with Cuba, seeing Monty Python and Tori Amos and Nine Inch Nails and Paolo Nutini and the Offspring and Goli and Xenia Sky and Tania Stavreva and Tessa Makes Love and Bob freakin' Dylan live). I met several people in real life I'd previously only interacted with via social media, and that was pretty cool. I hit all five boroughs of New York City in a single day. While some days are better than others, my microcosm and my macrocosm are mostly balanced.

Mostly. This was a hard Christmas season to get through, possibly the hardest I've ever had. Odd, considering the big break-up happened in the summer of 2013. Though I was (and am always) aware that I have family and close friends who love me, it was extremely difficult to shake the feeling that I was very much alone. It was nice to get a pile of Christmas cards, however, and a few goodies, too, so thank you for all of that. (My cousin, Helen, maybe the coolest cousin in the world, used a Batman stamp on the envelope! lol)




I haven't been running since, well, probably October, and I've found myself eating more as the holiday season brought me more and more stress; as a result, I've put on about eight pounds over the past eight weeks or so. Not a big deal by most people's standards, I know, and I'm hardly overweight, but I can feel the difference in my body, and I'm not really likin' it. I'm not carving any resolutions into stone this January 1st, but I am going to start eating better again, and running again. Right now, I don't intend to do any of the mud runs this year, but that could change. I just can't really focus on it at the moment. I do intend to do at least one 5K, with the goal of improving my time from the last one (28:45, or approximately a mile every 9m15s). I want to continue putting time and energy into playing guitar and making music. I've decided to stop wearing the claddagh ring, effective today. It's not any kind of backlash against Laura (with whom I haven't really spoken in a few months, but I suspect that maybe we just don't have anything else to say to each other, at least right now), and the ring itself still has sentimental value to me. I'm still wearing the silver chain and "Imagine" guitar pick my ex-fiancée gave me. The claddagh has a different connotation, though, and I don't want it reminding me of ties that are no longer there any more than I want it to mistakenly send the message that I'm involved with someone. Not that I expect women to flock to me now that I've taken it off...

I am hopeful for better things in this upcoming year, though, and coming up in less than two months, I'll be seeing Sleater-Kinney, not once but twice. I'm really psyched that they're back together, at least for the moment, and I'm looking forward to both the new album and the experience of seeing the same band two nights in a row (a first for me). It's been about twelve years since I first heard them and saw them live, and I still love their music. It probably doesn't hurt that Corin Tucker is a Danelectro fan, too. Preeti's health seems to be making slow improvement, though she's still not eating the way I'd like. I think I've gotten paranoid and overprotective after the sudden loss of Meguilla Chinchilla last year. I do know that Preeti's still got enough energy (and tortitiude) to do some real damage to my hands as I attempt to get her antibiotics down her throat!

All right, that's many more words about me than I tend to write. Maybe I'm just giving you plenty to read and think about while the weeks go by without any Facebook status updates or tweets. Heh-heh. I still have a little more to say, though, starting with the first post I did make on social media this year, at midnight: May we all learn to better live with each other, and ourselves, in 2015.

Too many people see everything as black or white. Being against police brutality, against people looting, and against violence against the police are not mutually exclusive positions. You can stand with the protestors who don't want to see another person wrongfully killed and still believe that most police officers are doing a great job, the best job they can. You can despise terrorists and their brutal actions and still demand that our government operatives treat them in accordance with international conventions - not with kid gloves, but with the humanity they'd deny their victims.

I understand the outrage caused by an unnecessary killing, whether it's a cop, or an innocent civilian, or even a not-so-innocent but unarmed suspect. What I don't understand is the polarization, the mentality that "if you don't stand with us and support us, you're wrong or you're stupid or you're laughable or you're evil." Life isn't that simple, even if some people are. Yes, I think Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo should have been indicted (though I have no opinion on whether or not they should've been convicted of anything; that would've been for the courts to determine), but no, I don't harbor resentment of, or hatred for, the police. Police officers are human like the rest of us, but get put into volatile, dangerous, high-stress situations, and sometimes get scared and sometimes overreact and sometimes make mistakes. We would do well to remember that, but they would do well to acknowledge it and apologize when mistakes are made.

We would also all do well to remember that peaceful protest is a right in this country and has led to many injustices being corrected. You don't have to agree with every cause being protested for (or against), but if we start deciding which ones are legitimate and which ones are not, we risk becoming one of those many countries that keep their citizens on short leashes. And yes, I know there are libertarians out there who will argue that we're already one of those countries, and they've got some compelling things to say, but I'm not going to drag this 'blog post out that long. Let me just summarize the last few paragraphs by saying, we shouldn't boil every issue down to "us vs. them" and "we're right and they're wrong," negating any chance of real discussion and understanding and compromise. And if your reaction to that statement is, "Well, they're the ones who won't compromise," then you're likely part of the problem. There are extremists on each side of any given argument, who may not be reasoned with, but there are also more sensible people who may.

There's too much rage in the world today. Even when it's justified, it's not healthy, and it's more likely to make things worse than better. We as individuals and as a society need to take the occasional breath and the occasional step back, to make the effort to try to understand each other, and ourselves, better, and acknowledge that the vast majority of the human race just wants to live and prosper in good health and in peace. Let's not let the few rabid bad apples convince us otherwise. May we all learn to better live with each other, and ourselves, in 2015.

I'm done. I'd like to think that more than a handful of people will have read this, but... whatever. I needed to get it off my chest either way. If you've got anything to say about any of it, there's an empty Comments section below. There are other ways of communicating with me, too. Feel free to partake of them, and I wish you all the best for the New Year.



Monday, December 1, 2014

The Discontent of My Winter

First things first: I've got new songs, and my first-ever music video! No, I don't expect "Everything's Different Now" could ever win an award (or rotation on the old MTV, the one that used to actually play videos), but I'm pretty pleased with it nonetheless and I had fun making it.




I wrote and recorded "Everything's Different Now" last month, and thought about trying to make a video for it... and then I did it, with a budget of about twenty bucks. Heh. I also realized after the fact that another song I'd written, "The Discontent of My Winter," has the same chord structure, so I recorded that one, too. When I get them on an album together, I'm going to have them as a medley, the slow, moody song into the faster, angsty one. 'Til then, you can listen to them in the ReverbNation widget to the right, or from the sidebar on AndersenSilva.com... or several other places. I'd really appreciate you checking out and sharing the video and the songs. :-)

Clearly, I will not be putting out Tougher Than Flannel (or any other album) before 2014 comes to a close, but I think I'll have enough material recorded over the next several months to release something. It might not actually have that title, but I'm itching to get a new album done. We'll see. I've also been working with my Greta's Unmentionables cohorts, and we're pretty happy with the way "The Bite" is turning out. Gotta start writing a new song...


Andy, Anthony, Mike, and Jon: don't mention it

The writing thing hasn't been as productive as the music thing, though. I had high hopes for NaNoWriMo this year, and the 7,000+ words I did manage to put down are more than the previous two years' attempts put together, but it was nowhere near enough. I like what I have written of Forged in Fire, and I would like to spend more time making this novel happen, but I'm not going to make any commitments just yet.

Depression is trying to pull me under again lately, though it's been mostly unsuccessful ("The Discontent of My Winter" notwithstanding). My lovely tortoiseshell cat, Preeti, went through a spell for several days where she just wasn't eating, and it really rattled me, especially after I lost Meggy, the chinchilla, back in February. I bundled Preeti up and took her to the vet, but Dr. Sass (I just have to like any woman called Dr. Sass) couldn't find any reason for it. An antibiotic and a steroid and two days later, though, Preeti seemed to decide that food was again a good thing. She's doing much better, but I'm still feeling a little overprotective.

A few Fridays ago, I was at Mexicali Live enjoying some shrimp and hard cider and good music, and something (or some combination of things, or nothing at all, I don't really know) suddenly turned my mood dark. I'd just seen Xenia Sky perform and gone up briefly to the merch table to say hi, but back at my seat, I inexplicably felt so alone, even with dozens of people in the space and half a dozen within a ten-foot radius.

Just as suddenly, I was cheered up again a little while later by Xenia herself coming over to me and chatting. Sure, she's a lovely young woman and a talented singer/songwriter to boot, but it was the human connection that touched me and made me feel, well, human again. It was nice to talk music with a fellow musician who shares some of my varied musical tastes, too, and my opinions on people who talk over live music (pro tip: don't bother going to a venue with live music if you're planning on having loud, lengthy conversations with others).


I even got a selfie with my fellow singer/songwriter

After Anna Nalick's headlining set, Xenia and I talked a bit more (both greatly impressed with Anna's voice) and hugged before I left. Never underestimate how much quiet, warm joy a simple hug can impart. The drive home took me through Teaneck and Ridgefield Park and North Arlington, towns with various nostalgic pulls on my soul, but I was doing OK when I got home.

I've also seen Paolo Nutini, Lydia Loveless, Amaranthe, Within Temptation, Tessa Makes Love, Rivky, Goli, and Bob Dylan since my last post, and been to talks featuring John Cleese and John Hodgman (about the former's new memoir) and Nadya and Masha of Pussy Riot (about governments stifling dissent and activism; oh, and yes, I included a few seconds of video of the girls laughing in the "Everything's Different Now" video). I'm hoping to see Tania Stavreva perform this week, and Xenia again later this month; I've got tickets to see Sleater-Kinney at Terminal 5 in February (two nights in a row!) and to see three-quarters of Serious Pilgrim reunite at Rockwood Music Hall in March (two shows in one night!). So, yeah, I'm still keepin' busy. If I'm going to be lonely, might as well be lonely around other people...