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Monday, July 14, 2014


Middle of July already... It's been (and will continue to be) a busy year, but mostly a good kind of busy. You know, the whole "Better that your life be a blur than a blurb" sorta thing.

London was amazing, as it was the first time it went, and it made me realize than I definitely need to do more traveling... and not just to Boston or D.C. My friend Barbara's cousin Jane, and Jane's daughter Izzy, were gracious enough to let us stay at their house in London for the six days we were there, and the Thames Path provided a gorgeous view for my running three of those mornings. (On Monday the 30th, I ran past eight bridges, turning around at the Southwark. I'm sure MI6 has got some great shots of me.) I had the best fish and chips I've ever had at the Victory Inn in Staplefield on Saturday while we chatted with some more of Barbara's family and started adjusting to the time difference.

We took in some military and cryptographic history at Bletchley Park, and enjoyed the beach (however rocky) and the shops at Brighton. There was an honest-to-goodness blue police box at Earl's Court, and the Who Shop in Upton Park, and Graham Chapman's favorite watering hole, the Angel Inn, in Highgate. And of course Graham's mates in Monty Python at the O2 Arena for a spectacular show Tuesday night! I'm glad I got to see them perform live (mostly), and I think they did a commendable job of updating some of their routines and sketches. Awesome to see the Spanish Inquisition on the stage, too...

Sir John Soane's Museum was a fascinating collection of art and curios, though personally I was much more interested in the Temple Church, which did not disappoint with its grotesques and knightly effigies and statue of Simon Templar. (Well, OK, there wasn't actually any mention of the Saint...) In between those stops, we had lunch and some alcoholic beverages at the Seven Stars Pub, one of London's oldest. While I hadn't initially intended to revisit Abbey Road, enough people told me to get a new picture crossing the street that I decided it must needs be done, and so it was... but only after breakfast and pastries at the Borough Market, which was incredible.

So, yeah, six days in London were a lot of fun, but I do need to get around more again. I'd like to see the rest of Europe, and Greece. I'd like to visit Brazil again. I'd love to spend some time in Japan. And there are still parts of the U.S. I need to get to. My current passport's still got three years on it, so I should get movin'.

In the meantime, though, I'll be busy. The Rugged Maniac obstacle race this past Saturday left me a bit sore and bruised again, but nowhere near as badly as the Spartan Sprint did. Next month will see me do the Warrior Dash, then dash down to the PNC Bank Arts Center to catch Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails that night. I'm also going to see the Offspring, Tori Amos, and Goli in August, then take my parents to see Cirque du Soleil's "Varekai." Greta's Unmentionables are hopefully getting back into the studio shortly, as we have to finish working out "The Bite" and start on some new material. And other things keep cropping up...

If you want to see my London pics, and all the others I've taken so far this year, they're in the Gallery... of Death!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Are You Going to Tiananmen Square?

Rifles, tanks, protesters, and death...

Twenty-five years ago today, the Chinese government and military declared a little war on their own people, students demanding reforms and the workers and other citizens who decided to stand with them. The brutal crackdown by the authorities against unarmed demonstrators is echoed in the recent behavior of the governments of Turkey, Russia, and Thailand (among others) towards anyone seriously (yet peacefully) criticizing the powers-that-be.

It's a sad commentary that the Chinese people still aren't allowed to even discuss Tiananmen Square. Their political system doesn't have to be a mirror of ours (which has its own flaws, to be sure), but for the party leadership to brush the protests off as the work of a few demagogues and lawbreakers, to deny that there even is or could be such a thing as a dissident in the country, spells bad things for both the people and the government.

One year ago today, I was getting ready, with my then-fiancée, to meet with a reverend we thought could give us the casual and fun wedding ceremony (in a Biergarten) we were planning. We both ended up liking her a lot and decided to go with her, though, as you may already be aware (spoilers!), Laura broke off the engagement several weeks later.

Three days ago, I finished a Spartan Race (a Spartan Sprint, to be precise) with some current colleagues (and a former one, and her husband); we called ourselves the Eh Team. Aroo!

Funny how things can change in a year... Laura and I had signed up for a Glow Run 5K together last summer, which we ended up missing due to traffic, but she was more interested in running and fitness than I ever was. When I found myself alone again, with a treadmill this time, I decided I should start using it, which led to my thinking out loud about running a 5K myself, which led to my colleague and friend Jenn asking if I'd be interested in doing a Spartan Race with her...

So we did it, and while we didn't do it quickly, and there were moments (particularly during the army crawl through the mud and under barbed wire, where my legs inconveniently decided to start cramping up) when I wasn't sure I could get through it, I'm glad we all finished, mud and sunburn and aches and scrapes and bruises notwithstanding. We've got the Warrior Dash coming up in August, too, and I'll probably be healed enough by then to do it. :-D I still want to run an actual 5K at some point as well, but I've got enough going on over the next two months or so to keep me busy already, and I also need to make some time to get back to the studio with my Greta's Unmentionables bandmates. And to record some of my own tunes, too.

Maybe I need to write a song for the Tank Men of the world, those who stand up in Tiananmen Square, or Taksim Square, or Maidan Square, or Tahrir Square, or Union Square, or the pass of Thermopylae, and say, "Enough is enough!"

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Guitar rockin' (with a band, too!), Spartan Sprint and Warrior Dash, Monty Python in London, NIN and Soundgarden, Tori Amos... 2014 is shaping up to be a busy year, with no time for foolin' around. And that's not even counting events already past like the No Pants Subway Ride, the play festival at Tachair in Jersey City, the Dave Barry book signing in Paramus, and a Dessoff Choirs performance (not to mention kicking the year off with Gogol Bordello).

As you may have already heard, I'm now in a band with one of my best friends, Jon, and two of his other friends; we're calling ourselves Greta's Unmentionables. No, that's not an April Fool's gag. We were tossing around name ideas one night, after I'd suggested that we should call ourselves something, and that one came to me and everyone dug it. We've got two or three song ideas already, and are fleshing out one called "The Bite" built around a riff and a lyric verse I put together two weeks ago. Two hours jamming together at Aarius Studios in Old Bridge, NJ definitely had us feeling like this was shaping up to be a really good thing, and we're heading back to the studio later this month.

Andy, Anthony, Mike, and Jon: Greta's Unmentionables

The extended guitar with the Unmentionables (which led to a blister on my fourth finger) has motivated me to keep playing, and I rearranged the living room the other day to make it a lot easier for me to: a) pick up a guitar and jam; and b) switch on the Ozonic and record. I'm liking the way "The Bite" is turning out, and I'll be thrilled if we get it (and other songs) fully recorded, but my "solo career," such as it is, isn't going to be put on hold. I need to crank out some of my own tunes, too... and I'm going to play at the wedding of my friend and colleague Rhonda's daughter this month. I may even do Make Music New York again in June, though I haven't decided yet.

Then there's the runnin'. I'll be doing the Spartan Sprint and the Warrior Dash this year with some other colleagues, and while I'll not be breaking any records anytime soon, I have bumped up my game enough to manage a ten-minute mile. I'm not as young as I will be (or used to be; this linear time is not as easy as it sounds), and it's not always going to be easy to manage, but I'm determined to run every morning and play guitar every evening, when physically possible. The (popped) blister's turning into an ugly callus now, so it didn't stop me from jammin' with Jon Saturday night or on my own last night, and I logged two miles on the treadmill this morning. I just need to keep the momentum going. Jenn and I tried our hands - and feet - at indoor top rope rock climbing last month, and found that we both loved it, so we'll be going back to that at some point, too, hopefully with more friends.

I didn't realize it until after I'd already paid for both, but I somehow got a ticket to see Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden at the PNC Bank Arts Center several hours after I'll be doing the Warrior Dash. As exhausted as I might be after dashing through the course and then dashing down to Holmdel, though, I doubt I'll sleep through either of those bands. It's amazing to think that I'll be catching NIN again 23 years after I first saw them at Lollapalooza. That was a terrific set, though the Self Destruct tour was even better, and with Marilyn Manson opening to boot. I'm going to see Tori again this year, too, and I'd have to guess this will be the fourth or possibly fifth time since I first caught her in 2002, in the company of a redhead named McCall.

Then there's London and the Monty Python reunion in July. No, I'm not going to be in the reunion, merely partake from the audience with my friend Barbara. It'll be incredible to see them live (mostly), and it'll be great to step foot in old Londinium again, even if only for a few days. I've also been urged to visit friends and relatives in California, Florida, and Nebraska; those trips will come, but I'll be needing some breathers with all this activity. Still, the blur can be fun, and though I am alone, I am determined not to sit at home and mope about it. Any more than I already have. Life needs to be lived, and I've played the fool long enough. (Which is not to say that I'll never return to the role...)

And what are you up to now that warmer weather appears to have finally sprung upon us?

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

A year ago on St. Patrick's Day 2013, I asked a half-Irish girl to marry me... and she said yes. For my birthday in 2011, shortly after we'd started dating, she gave me a claddagh ring, which I considered the sweetest thing anyone had ever given me, and I was proud and nervous and happy and excited to get down on one knee in a Japanese restaurant (yes, we had sushi for St. Paddy's) and give her a diamond ring and propose to her a year and a half later. While I was fairly certain she was going to agree (we'd talked about marriage), I was still thrilled to hear it, and I was looking forward to spending the rest of my life with her.


Well, we all know how that turned out. While I loved Laura and her mom's big Irish family (as well as her German-descended dad and his current wife), and felt like they all loved me back, and we'd planned to have them all at our informal Biergarten wedding, Laura pulled the plug on all that, on me, and I'm spending this St. Patrick's Day alone. She gave me the engagement ring back on the last day I saw her, though I'd asked her to keep it. I've still got my claddagh ring, and while I hadn't been wearing it since the break-up, I've got it on today, with the point of the heart symbolically facing away. I'm in a better place than I was six months ago, I think, but it's hard to let go completely. As the song says, there is always something there to remind me. Today's holiday is just another one of those.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Please send love. Meggy's gone.

I got home from work this evening to find that my chinchilla had passed away.

Meggy on January 31, 2014

Meguilla's body was still warm, as though she'd tried with all her might to hold on 'til I could be there. She'd been uncharacteristically lethargic this morning before I left, but no warning bells went off. I checked on her a few times during the day via the webcam, and while she wasn't being very active at all, she'd normally sleep most of the daylight hours away anyway. I wasn't expecting her to be gone when I arrived, and it was another shock to my system. If I'd thought for one moment that she was seriously ill, I'd have gotten her to a vet...

I already miss Meggy incredibly.  She may only have lived with me for 26 months or so, but I loved my little round thing with all my heart, and I'm crying writing these words. Meguilla's sister, Priscilla, passed away just over a week after Laura and I had moved the two of them into the apartment from central Pennsylvania, and we were heartbroken then, too. These adorable animals are so fragile, and they tend to hide any symptoms of illness or weakness. I want to bury Meggy in the park, where her sister is, with their cousins the squirrels chattering nearby.

My only consolation is knowing that I gave her a good life for the two years that I knew her. Regular "chinny playtime," dust baths, raisin and dried apple treats... I loved her, and I know she loved me. I still have Preeti, my lovely tortie cat, of course, and I'm going to have to love her twice as hard now. (She seems to realize that something's changed, but I don't think she understands.) It really hurts seeing the happy little family I'd once had with Laura take another loss, though. Really hurts. So, yeah, if you could please send some love, right now I could use a lot. In the meantime, I have more crying to do...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

No Pants Subway Ride New York

I'd been aware of the annual No Pants Subway Ride for at least two years when reminders of this year's event trickled into my consciousness early this month, and I started considering taking part. C'mon, a chance to ride the New York City subway in my underwear?  What's not to like?

On the appointed day (Sunday, January 12th), I hopped on a New Jersey Transit train (while wearing pants) and headed to Hoboken, next taking the PATH into Manhattan. Easing my way into the situation, I opted to have lunch before the NPSR at the Maid Cafe NY, a Japanese theme cafe with "professionally trained servers dressed in cute maid outfits."  (Technically, they were wearing no pants.)

They weren't kidding.

It felt a little like I was in an anime, but the beef bowl and the mango smoothie were very good, and the maids were friendly and sweet, and I enjoyed my visit there. The cafe was also a short walk away from Foley Square, my chosen meeting point (of seven around the city); turns out another soon-to-be pantsless rider was in the cafe at the same time I was, although neither he nor I realized then that we'd both be doing the NPSR.

As the gathering in the square grew, I found myself explaining to a passing couple just what it was that we were there for, and (along with two pretty girls who were also doing the ride for the first time) trying to convince them to join us. Heh-heh. They declined, although I think I could've gotten her to do it; she was already familiar with the ride, whereas he kept mishearing me ("No PATH?  No Pets?"). Finally, Charlie Todd of prank collective Improv Everywhere and his comrades got the party started, explained the procedure, and broke us into groups, to ride in different cars on different subway lines. I was in group 5, which rode the fifth car of the uptown E train from the World Trade Center station, and we agreed ahead of time in what order we'd be taking our pants off, and how many people at each stop. I shared a bemused chuckle with a woman sitting across from me as we watched someone else on the train show off his boxers; her chuckle turned into a surprised laugh when, as the doors closed at 14th Street, I kicked off my sneakers and depantsed myself!

My two co-conspirators (a young couple) and I got off at 23rd, the next stop, to await the next uptown E train amidst a cool draft. I pulled out my copy of the Oatmeal's "Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underwear" and began to read, and the book got more laughs once it was noticed. A large number of pantsless folk descended upon the Lexington Avenue stop, and we switched to a downtown 6, headed for Union Square. Along the way, I was told (not for the first time in my life) that I looked like Christopher Walken.

I ended up not squeezing onto the packed 6 before the doors closed, so I found myself the only person not wearing pants who waited for the next 6. No matter, there were other pantsless partiers already on that train when it arrived, and once we made it to the Union Square station, the place was still a madhouse! Coincidentally, I bumped into the two pretty girls from earlier (sadly, both wearing pants again at this point), and the prettier of the two (such amazing eyes) asked to get a picture of me with the Oatmeal book, to which I gladly agreed. A few minutes later, I had several more photos taken, including this one by Peshean Zhang (thanks, man!):

Penguin boxers. Don't hate.

While I thought about attending the after-party, I figured I'd best start heading for home, so I put my jeans back on and emerged into the asylum that was Union Square at that point. It was obvious to me that a lot of people took part in the No Pants Subway Ride solely to have attention lavished upon them, and a lot of other people (young men, mostly) attended solely to see women in panties. Possibly for the first time. But, hey, it's a free country, and anyway there were still plenty of us just in it for the laughs. And there were a lot of laughs. Not to say that I didn't enjoy seeing women in panties... but I also enjoyed seeing other people's reactions to us pantsless. The prank is much less of a prank these days, considering how well-publicized the ride is, but there were still plenty of surprised people on the subway, and that made it well worth it. Will I do it again next year? Probably.

At 71, he was the oldest guy at Foley Square

For more pictures, video, info, and commentary (plenty of it NSFW, depending on where you work), check out the Facebook event page. I didn't take too many photos myself, but they are, as always, in the Gallery... of Death!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Another Year Over...

...and a new one just begun.  2013 started out as one of the best years of my life, and ended up as one of the worst.  Still, what doesn't kill you only makes you hurt like hell stronger, right?  I suppose my expectations for 2014 have been lowered substantially, and maybe that's a good thing.

This holiday season has been a depressing one despite "Doctor Who" and birthday get-togethers and turducken (I didn't decorate at all, which I think is a first), and while I was sorely tempted to stay home and sulk on New Year's Eve, I opted to go see Gogol Bordello at Terminal 5 instead.  I tried not to witness an arrest on Secaucus Junction's track 2 platform while on my way to New York (probably drugs, but I don't know and didn't want to); I was largely unimpressed with the amount of beardage at the venue (why do today's kids feel the need to look like early 20th-century Midwestern farmers?); and I was rather unsympathetic to the teenager who asked me to buy a Budweiser for him, though at least he was gracious enough to accept my polite refusal.  And he didn't have a beard, though it was probably not for lack of trying.

The opening band, Man Man, were a lot better than I was expecting, and they certainly got the crowd going.  Gogol Bordello, however, were on fire.  They had the whole place dancing and jumping around, and they sounded incredible.  And I got twerked on.  Twice.  Well, OK, the first girl definitely knew what she was doing, even if alcohol may have played a part, and I couldn't back away as I was leaning against a column.  The two friends about twenty minutes later were probably just getting carried away with dancing and didn't know or care that they were grinding against someone, and it would've been rude of me to ask them to stop...

At least they were only dancing.  A few minutes after that, what I'd thought was a frenzied burst of dancing a few feet away turned out to be two girls fighting, and it took a few people to pull them apart.  The band and the crowd counted down the last few seconds 'til midnight, and then we were showered with confetti (which I'm still finding).

Happy New Year!

I left before the encore began, in hopes of not getting home too late... and saw two more angry girls on the train; one slapped the other one's boyfriend before storming away.  Ah, nothing like the holidays and alcohol to bring out the best in everyone.  Anyway, I was home before 2:30 AM, and would've been home at least twenty minutes sooner, but New Jersey Transit decided to hold the westbound Main Line train for every single train that was coming in from New York, on the off chance that someone might want it.  Thanks, NJT.

I'm not doing the "resolutions" thing.  There are goals I want to accomplish this year, and things I want to change about myself, but I don't think it's realistic to set them in stone on the first day of an arbitrary calendar, nor do I have a final list in my head.  NaNoWriMo was another bust for me last November, but I did start a novel... just like I did last year.  I want to write them both this year, or at least make some serious progress, so I can make a serious attempt this November.  I want to get more music done; I've been writing and playing, and I've got new ideas (in addition to old ones that haven't been fleshed out yet), but I need to record more.  I want to get back to organizing and uploading my collection of photos to the Gallery... of Death!  In June, I'm going to do the Spartan Race with my colleagues Jenn and Vaida (we're the Eh Team), but that means that I need to stay focused on running and eating better than I have been these past two months.  I'd like to run at least one 5K before then, too, just to make sure that I'm on the right track (so to speak); Jenn might accompany me as well.

I want to be happy again, but that's not really a goal in and of itself.  I need to take happy where I can find it, and hope that I find more and more.  As a Chinese cookie reminded me on New Year's Eve, "Every person is the architect of his or her own fortune."  Someone else may have taken away a reason for my happiness, but that doesn't mean that I can never be happy again.

"I don't think my time is quite yet complete,
     So I'll follow the rhythm, and speed up the beat."