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Sunday, September 21, 2014

SeptSomber

Today is the International Day of Peace. Of course, conflicts are raging (or threatening to) in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine, the South China Sea, and other parts of the world, and the United Nations, who designated the day, is fairly powerless to do much about it...

It's also the last day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere... and, additionally, the date on which Laura and I were supposed to have been married last year (which is just a few days after the date on which we first started dating). Yes, I can't help but remember things like that. A year ago today, instead of going to the Zeppelin Hall Biergarten for what we'd planned to be a fun and casual ceremony and reception, I found myself traveling alone, first to the New York Renaissance Faire, where my BulletHole Heart T-shirt made a little green fairy sad, and then to Lovers Leap State Park in Connecticut, where I had one long, hard think about dying as I gazed down at the Housatonic River from the cliff.


The leap

A year later, I'm more balanced, and... well, I wouldn't say I'm happier, exactly, but I suppose it'd be fair to say that I'm a bit less unhappy. Laura and I are on friendly terms again, and even got together for a fun day in New York City last month. Still, September's hard for me now, between those two anniversaries and my birthday. I never viewed September 29th with any trepidation, and age is still just a number to me, but I'd let myself get used to the idea of having someone to spend that day with from now on...

So I channeled some of my angst and ennui into finishing the lyrics to "The Discontent of My Winter" and writing the music and lyrics to "SeptSomber." I recorded a short demo of the latter a week ago:


and I finished recording the actual song with my Kona acoustic/electric... today. How's that for keeping busy? I've started working out the music to "Discontent" as well, and hopefully will get that song and another done before winter truly arrives. Of course, I'm keeping busy in other ways, too. My new iPhone 6 arrived on Friday, and since it'll be at least a few months before I get my hands on an Apple Watch, I decided to get a Jawbone UP24 band and start monitoring my activity again. In just under two weeks, I'll be running my first "normal" (non-obstacle) 5K in Bay Head; gotta hit the treadmill again later this evening... I went back to the Renaissance Faire two weeks ago; while the plan had been to get a group of people out there together, all but one of my friends (Barbara) ended up not making it. (Well, Judie, too, but she was going to be there regardless. ;) We had fun anyway, and I even got a picture with Judie and the Vixens En Garde.


Judie, Atalanta, Athena, me, and Calypso

Thanks to a friend who ordered concert tickets, then found out that she wasn't going to be able to go after all, I'll be seeing Paolo Nutini at the Apollo Theater on Tuesday night (still trying to find a likely lass to accompany me there), and Lydia Loveless and Xenia Sky at Webster Hall a week from tonight, hours before my birthday. October brings Within Temptation (a band Laura turned me on to) at Terminal 5, while I'll catch my first Bob Dylan concert at the NJPAC in November. With any luck, I'll manage to see my musician friends Mart Rivas and Goli in New York soonish, too. And, considering everything else I've accomplished this year, I'm going to take a real stab at NaNoWriMo again in November. If I focus, I can do it.

So, yeah, my life's not quite what I'd thought it would be, and I'm not quite the same person I was a year and a half ago, but I feel like I would like me if I met me. The struggle goes on.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New Jersey Transit

I'm makin' with the words again...

My displeasure with New Jersey Transit has grown steadily since Hurricane Sandy in 2012 slammed the region and the transportation agency. I can understand being overwhelmed by a superstorm. I can't understand not learning from the experience, not communicating quickly and accurately with one's paying customers, not showing concern about regular delays of 30 minutes or more, not expressing an interest in improving.

Communities of like-minded NJT riders have sprung up on Twitter and Facebook over the past few months, and in the course of some conversations, some of the others and I have begun seriously considering organizing a one-day boycott. The idea is simple: for that one weekday, don't ride any New Jersey Transit vehicle (bus, train, or light-rail) to work or school or anyplace else. Take the day off if you can afford to, or drive if you can, or get a ride with someone else, or ride a different carrier (DeCamp, Coach USA, Amtrak, etc.). This isn't about "getting even" or taking out our frustration on the agency. As most of us are regular riders and probably have monthly or weekly passes, the financial impact to NJT would be negligible... but that's not the point. If we do this right, we can focus a lot of unwanted attention on the agency and our justified grievances with it.



Doing it right requires a few things, I think. Firstly, we'd need numbers. A dozen, a hundred, even five hundred riders skipping NJT for a day would hardly raise an eyebrow. To raise some flags, we'd need thousands of empty seats that day. We'd want the people who did ride the buses and trains and light-rails that day (not to mention the drivers and conductors) to notice and wonder, "Where is everyone?" It's been pointed out that a large group of people taking cars instead of mass transit for a day could well make regular traffic worse; I say, so what? What's one day of extra traffic delays, especially when that may generate some media attention?

Which brings me to the second point... It would be helpful to get some attention from news outlets and bloggers, before and during (and after) our boycott. New Jersey Transit has been under more of a spotlight lately than it's used to, but it's not enough yet. We need others, not just us riders, to be aware of and outraged by the things NJT can do, but isn't doing, to make the situation better.

Thirdly, we can't just show up (well, not show up, really) with pitchforks and torches and clamor that we don't like New Jersey Transit! We have to list our (realistic and reasonable) grievances so that NJT knows what we want to see fixed, and so that others see that we're not just complaining for the sake of complaining. There was apparently a "Commuter Bill of Rights" proposed at one time, that died in committee; the idea should be revisited and strongly encouraged.

There are other methods we can employ, of course. The customer surveys should be filled out, and our responses need to be brutally honest. There are open meetings we can attend. Complaint forms should be filled out, and/or calls made. Legislators need to know how important this is to us. The status updates and tweets should continue as well. I feel, however, that a large-scale collective action like a boycott will make a statement that 10,000 complaints just can't, a statement that will be noticed by more than just New Jersey Transit. And so I'm trying to instigate. ;-) If you really want to see things change, then take the initiative, and go a step or two further than just moaning about it on social media.

If you were unsatisfied with Apple's iPhone, you could switch to LG or Samsung. If you don't like Walmart's policies, you can shop at Target instead. For a large number of us New Jersey Transit riders, however, the only viable alternative to riding is driving, and it's ridiculous that we should be forced to do that simply because our transit system is subpar. Some people don't have the option of driving, some would just rather avoid the hassle. For me, it's a combination of being green (by keeping one less car off the road) and saving green (by paying less for my public transportation than I would for a car and its associated expenses).

If we can get the numbers, I want to help organize a boycott! I'm going to need your help to get those numbers, though, because we're going to need a lot of people to participate. What do you say?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

FWIW

You may not understand, and you may not agree, but I hope you can accept.

365 days ago now, I was on a Megabus to New York from Pennsylvania, where I'd helped my ex-fiancée Laura move. My life then was not what I'd expected it to be a year prior, any more than my life today is what I expected it to be then. It's been a rough twelve months, and while I have had some fun and happy times, I've also endured some of the darkest moments of my life.

Laura's decision, several weeks after that, that it would be better for us not to stay in touch only ripped open the still-raw wound again, but after she picked up the last of her things in October, we both honored that decision. I was, therefore, very surprised to get a message from her a few weeks ago, a message that began with an apology.

We've agreed that we'd both like to try to become friends again, without things becoming too awkward or painful between us, and we've communicated a few times since. Yes, she did cause me a lot of pain, and I haven't forgotten that (nor can I)... but I do believe that she didn't do so maliciously, and that she truly is sorry for hurting me, and that working out exactly what happened and why can help us both to heal. She was my best friend for almost two years, and I can't forget that, either.

I struggled with the decision to publicize our cautious rapprochement. I know that some of the few people who care will disapprove, and all of them will warn me to be careful. I also know that I know Laura better than any of them do, even if I underestimated the challenges when we started our relationship almost three years ago. I don't intend to get hurt again, but if being friends to each other and talking can get us both past an emotional hurdle or two, then I'm all for it. Life's too short to spend carrying around anger, grief, sorrow, fear, regret, etc. for any appreciable length of time.

You may not understand, and you may not agree, but I hope you can accept. This sentence should be the basis of relations between any two people or groups of people... don'tcha think?

Monday, July 14, 2014

14-07

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!


http://www.andersensilva.com/2014.php

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

Fool

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.


Claddagh

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.