Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ride, Sally, Ride

I was feeling mostly happy, but also a little sad, when I got home from a wedding last Thursday night. Happy for the bride, a wonderful colleague of mine, and her husband, but sad for myself, as I couldn't help but be reminded that, in early June 2013, Laura and I were engaged and working out plans for a September wedding.

Then I browsed through Facebook, and even that sorrow was put out of my mind. I discovered that a friend and former colleague, Sally, had passed away on Wednesday, a week ago today, and it just stunned me. I went to bed without having fully processed it, and I'm not sure I've fully processed it yet. It hurts, though, this first irrevocable loss of someone I considered a friend.

To be sure, Sally wasn't one of my closest friends, emotionally or physically; she'd moved from New Jersey to Wichita, Kansas, two years ago, and then to California in 2014. The last time I saw her was in the spring of 2011, at a party she and Matt threw at the house in Oceanport, a party where she urged people to bring musical instruments. I obliged by bringing my acoustic/electric guitar, and while the jam session she might've hoped for didn't really happen, we all had a great time nonetheless. We'd mentioned me visiting Cali, and her staying with me when she finalized selling the house down the shore, but that party was the last time we got together, and at least it's a happy and a fun memory.

Sally didn't stay at Microwize Technology (or any job, really, in the time that I knew her) for too very long, but we got along well and spent time together even after she'd moved on. From wandering a few hours in the Village and getting drinks at Teak in Hoboken afterwards, to sushi and drinks while watching my friend Martin Rivas perform at Sawa in Long Branch, to dinner and drinks in NYC, to drinks at the City Lounge right here in Lyndhurst after work one evening, to doing a shot of rum together in my apartment... come to think of it, we consumed a lot of alcohol in each other's company. Heh-heh. I saw the Indigo Girls, Tori Amos, the Police (on Halloween!), and Bruce Springsteen with silly Sally, too. She goosed me once while we posed for a picture together. She and Matt attended my 40th birthday party and brought pizza. She cried on my shoulder while talking about difficulties she was going through, and I did my best to console her. She laughed and laughed when I answered the phone, "Hello, and welcome to Moviefone!" in my announcer voice. She congratulated me on getting engaged, and offered to return the huge plastic "diamond" I'd found somewhere and jokingly given her way back when (in 2007); she told me last year that she'd come across it again while packing for CA. She brought a smile to my face, though she never convinced me, every time she started a conversation with me with, "Hey, handsome..." She drove some of her other friends and me a bit nuts when she became fixated on Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," but she made us laugh, too.

I'm rambling a bit. My point is, I miss Sally terribly. We may not have been the closest of friends, nor kept in touch too regularly, but we were friends. I laughed with her, I worried about her, I enjoyed spending time and talking with her, and suddenly I never can again, and I'm struggling to accept the loss and the hurt. It feels like a bit of (what's left of) my heart has gone numb.

I love you, Sally. I hope you knew that.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Peel Slowly and See

My Web site was finally overhauled yesterday, and I'm happy with it. Not only have I simplified the design and menu, I've updated pages in sore need of it, brought back some content that was lost during previous "upgrades," and even added a few short stories and poems that hadn't been on the site before at all. It turns out I've written over 35,000 words in my short stories, essays, columns, and poetry, and I've penned the lyrics to 50 songs now; you can read all that online. There are also almost 6,000 photos in the Gallery... of Death! (with larger thumbnails now), so the non-readers have something to check out, too. Heh-heh. The old Frequently Asked Questions page is now a WTFAQ, I've added a few stories to the Anecdotes, Greta's Unmentionables has a page at long last... and, if you look for them, you can even find the restored Foogar site, my old New Jersey Transit Blecch!, and Skinny the Foo's ravings. I've made the original recordings of "Human Thing" and "Troll Doll" available again on the Originals page as well. It's taken quite some time to make all the changes and updates, and it's not lost on me that I could've used a lot of that time to create content, but this was long overdue.

In the process of cleaning and updating the site, a lot of memories were dredged up, happy ones as well as unhappy. Some things I've written in the past make me wince in the present. Nevertheless, it was my past, and I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't seen and done and said and written and felt all that I had then. If you're at all interested in who I was and who I am, feel free to dig in; the menu's right there at the top right.

There's more to come, of course. I'm still writing (and recording) songs. There are a handful of old essays and high school newspaper articles (and my salutatorian speech, if I can find it) I intend to post, and about five incomplete short stories I've stumbled upon that need finishing. Lately, I'm feeling a bit of a poetry itch again, too. And photographs... there will always be new pictures (check out my cousin Helen and me, and the Samichlaus beers we had Friday night!), but there are thousands of old ones yet to be scanned and added to the Gallery... as well. More visitors come to my Web site looking for "man walks into a bar" jokes or the mixed martial artist than for me, but I find that humorous rather than upsetting. I just hope they, and you, will take some time to look around, and maybe even to interact with me.

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: 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


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 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; 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


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.