Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"A Way of Praying" - End Construction Productions reunion concert

Jon Svetkey, Brian Doser, Ellis Paul, Jim Infantino
End Construction
A long time ago, when Doug and I were in college, we were volunteers at a  coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA. I was privileged to meet and become friendly with dozens of fantastic musicians, including four wonderful men who performed together as a round-robin ensemble but who also performed solo.

They were mainstays at our coffeehouse, which ran on Saturday Night in Marblehead opposite of the Me & Thee which ran (and still does run, thank God) on Fridays.

Ellis Paul
The four musicians in question were Ellis Paul, Jim Infantino, Brian Doser and Jon Svetkey. Together they were known as End Construction Productions. They put out a sampler tape (yes, tape) and I was madly in love with all four of them for different reasons.

I remember seeing all four of them at a church coffeehouse in Boston right before Doug and I moved to Atlanta, right after we got married.

I remember standing pre-show at the church where we ran our coffeehouse in a weirdly robin's egg blue colored hallway with Paul (I called him that instead of Ellis Paul, which is his stage name). I still can see his knee-torn jeans and navy blue poly-propylene thermal long johns showing through, one leg bent with a foot against a wall, a denim shirt, and his shoulder length dirty blonde hair cascading around his blue eyes... his head tilted to the side  as he intently listened to me babble on and on as I am wont to do.

Jim Infantino
Jim was on stage one night in a white T-shirt that said OhiO, and a mosquito was flying about him as he played his song "Rita." The mosquito landed on him and he squashed it, without missing a beat of the song, and the mosquito blew up in a blood red splotch on the shoulder of his bright white shirt.

Brian had long curly curly curly hair and a deep beautiful voice. Jessica danced to his music in front of the stage, bright white toddler hair shining in the spotlight. When I think of "Who Woulda Thunk It?" by Greg Brown I hear Brian's voice in my head, not Greg Brown's. Funny now because thinking of Jess being 2 and dancing to his music, he does a children's program now called "The Music Man" as part of his regular performance schedule.

Who woulda thunk it indeed.

And Jon. Saddle shoes, crazy ties, amazing shirts and stomping. So much stomping. He possessed a strong, powerful voice which showcased his great songwriting... opposite of what Ellis' style, which was gentle, soft, baby-cradling of a guitar and sweet high singing. And when they performed together, it was a perfect match which you wouldn't expect when you saw them sing apart.

Jon Svetkey
I remember one night having Jon over for diner in our Lynn apartment, eating in the living room with plates in our laps because even after 2 years of marriage Doug and I still didn't have  a dining table. I asked him who he was listening to at that time and he told me about a guy named Ben Folds and his amazing songwriting. I'm forever thankful for that recommendation.

Ellis Paul has gone on to massive success, Jim Infantino's ego is so big three guys need to represent him on stage (sometimes four!). Jon got married and he and his wife perform together, and he also fronts a band called The Loomers. I blame Jon entirely for my preterm labor with Geoffrey, outlined in this entry I wrote in 2001. (kidding. It wasn't his fault. Honestly).

Sunday night they had a reunion concert and fundraiser for another musician, Stuart Ferguson, who is battling cancer right now. I don't know Stuart or his music. I don't remember getting a demo tape (yes, tape) and press kit from him back in the day when I scheduled the artists at the coffeehouse. My friend Amy asked me if I wanted to go see the show, because she wanted to see it with someone who had a history with their history. So of course I did. And I made my whole family go. Because it is their history too.

Wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Brian Doser
It was so lovely to go see them again. They did a few songs I had forgotten, and some that I'll never forget.  Jon still stomps and has that powerful voice. Brian is ever so lovely and funny and an epic story teller.

Ellis still sings with an ethereal beauty and holds that guitar up close to his face like he's not singing to you, he's singing to it. And I just love Jim's songwriting and his phrasing and how incredibly smart he is. They had special guests perform, most notably Josh Kantor who plays in Jim's Big Ego, and also is the organist at Fenway Park. He was fantastic, adding a beautiful little layer of sound to the songs performed.

They closed out with a song off of the End Construction "Resume Speed" compilation they'd put out 20 plus years ago with all four of them singing together and I felt transported back to that church with the big huge Earth Peace flag hanging up on the altar. It was kind of sweet.

I still have a smile on my face, and was happy to share the night with my family and Amy. Pictures are here if you want to see them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.

All of the pictures from this trip are over here in my Flickr account, if you want to go there and see them.

This weekend, we went down to visit my sister and my brother in law. Doug had Monday off, I took Monday off. Geoff is on school vacation. No better time to run down to the city.

We went down Saturday morning under the threat of a snowstorm, which completely missed us, and we had a wonderful quick trip down with no one on the roads.

Upon arrival, we chatted for a while and then decided it was time to think about starting to get ready for dinner (that whole line is a running in-family joke). We ended up at a little place near my sister's house where they said the burgers were the absolute best in the area. They weren't kidding.

When we got there, a man was walking down the street in front of us, obviously very intoxicated. Ronnie and Doug both decided he needed help, or else he was going to be killed. The recent blizzard has resulted in so much snow down there, no sidewalks are clean, there are mountains at intersections that you cannot see around if you are pulling out into traffic. Doug ran across the street and I heard him yell "hola, mi amigo!" the guy was most likely Guatemalan, didn't speak any English. Doug gestured to the street and made other gestures with his hands like a steering wheel in a car. The man said si, si ... and shook Doug's hand.

Between the three of them, they got the guy to the point where he said he'd take a ride home to be safe. Ronnie came and grabbed his car while Linda, Geoff and I watched.

For a minute, I kind of thought we'd never see them again. This is the way horror movies start.

But in my heart of hearts, I knew it would be okay. We went inside and got a table, and watched from the window for their return. Geoff said he thought it was stupid to help some "drunkass douchebag" who has no common sense and deserves to be hit and killed in order to clean up the gene pool. I told him that lacked empathy and mercy, and that I hoped his father and uncle's gesture would be taken in by him to think to always do kind for others even when he perceives the situation they're in is their own damn fault.

The boys returned moments later. Dude lived just down the street and a block around the corner. Usually not a bad walking distance for the stumbling drunk but not with all this snow on the sidewalks. I'm glad they didn't have to go far. He gestured and said "aqui aqui, mi casa y mi auto!" So Ronnie pulled into the the driveway and Doug got out and helped him out of the car. The guy acted like he was being treated like royalty and beamed and smiled and gasped when Doug opened the door for him. Doug and Ronnie were laughing, and a woman opened the door and it was obvious he was at the right house... they left him there waving goodbye in the driveway.

Dinner was great, conversation was great, lots of laughs were had. Ronnie got a new nickname of "McDerpbutt" instead of his actual last name of McDermott. My sister almost spit out her wine. My sides hurt when we got home.
And for the rest of the night Ronnie had the trump card. "I saved someone's life tonight. Who'd you save tonight? Huh?" in his playful taunting way.

Next morning, Linda made omelets for everyone. We then got in the car and drove to Brooklyn to go to the New York Transit Museum.

My husband is the king of finding quirky different non-touristy (or touristy with a clue) things to do when we head out places. He had been eyeballing this one for a while. He said he wanted to go there, then walk up to the Brooklyn Bridge, eat dinner in the DUMBO area, and just have a really fun time traipsing around the city.

The museum was fantastic and so amazingly inexpensive. $7 for adults, $5 for kids under 17. Compared to what it costs to get into museums with giant endowments and huge corporate underwritings, I felt like this was an absolute steal.

My first impression though almost set me off the love of the cost. The first exhibit that you walk into upon buying your ticket is about the geology of NYC and construction of the subways. Really interesting stuff, very very badly designed. The  area was incredibly cramped, so crowded, so much to read and process, and all of the information to read felt like it was a foot too low down on the wall. Trying to stand and read things was literally impossible with parents shoving through with their kids on their shoulders or strollers or whatever. I began to get incredibly agitated.

I really felt disappointed and bummed out about how this section was put together compared to the enormous space used for a film/video viewing area that was just an absolute waste.

We worked through this area quickly, and disapprovingly. But the next stop was out in the wide open. it was about electricity and conduction of power, how over the years it was figured out how to run the trains and make them better, faster, efficient. Lots and lots of hands on stuff for the little kids here.

There were two great climb-in bus fronts with built in video of how it looked for the specific time periods the buses represented. There was a great display on signage over the years, one of my very favorite things.

At the back of the museum was the children's "arts and craps" section. Geoff walked through there and noticed there was a door open, and walked through it. He didn't care that there was a sign that said employees only. He's like the honey badger that way sometimes.

There was this glorious long tiled hallway, with signs glued into the walls and it was like a time travel tunnel to my youth.

Welcome to the 80s in New York, minus the piss smell.

So many great old posters. US Open from 82, Radio stations long gone by, Darryl Strawberry and the Mets , CATS! Geoff and I walked up and down looking at them totally enjoying this trip to the past when I eyed someone sitting in their office way ahead eyeballing us. Oops. Let's go! we busted a move to go find Linda, Ronnie and Doug.

The next part was worth the price of admission and then some. We went downstairs to the track level section of the original old Court St./Boerum Pl. station. About a dozen trains are down there, lined up and restored to the way they were when they were new.

We had a great time going through here, took a million pictures. It was way fun.

When we were done, we headed upstairs and out doors. Our original plan of going on a walkabout were quickly dashed when we walked a block or so from the museum. The wind was wicked, it was maybe 17 degrees and just miserably uncomfortable to walk out in it. We circled back around to   the museum area and discovered a little place called the Downtown Ale House. It was open, and they didn't bat an eye when we walked in with a minor, which I thought they might. We took a table, ordered up some wings and drinks, and had a great time talking. The barmaid had an adorable Irish accent and was exceptionally friendly to us and kind to Geoff.

The barmaid got wind of the fact that Linda and I were Irish girls too, so we ended up talking old country, Boston, life in the city, and she shared a toast with us of some Tullamore Dew, whiskey from her home town distillery. It was a lot of fun. I could have spent a lot more time there but we had a date with dinner over at Ronnie's favorite little place called Alma's in Red Hook.

My sister wanted us to sit in the rooftop section, but it was closed due to the wind. No bother - it was lovely sitting indoors with the view of lower Manhattan and all the construction going on. We had a good dinner -- Linda's food was too spicy and mine was not spicy enough. Geoff was very happy with his steak fajitas and we had fantastic sangria and spent another two hours talking and laughing and having a ball.

Getting home was a harrowing experience - we missed a turn, ended up having to get down to the Belt Parkway, areas of which are under construction and deadly at night. Seriously a disaster, with my sister and Ronnie in the back seat yelling and bickering and fake fighting. We walked in the door at their house and I declared it immediately "Pyjamas and Wine Time." I stayed up until after midnight editing my photos from the day.

Following morning I met my good friend Patti for breakfast. We've known each other since freshman year in high school and it's like we see each other every day. We laughed our asses off and told great stories. I love her so much. I got back to the house and the boys were all hungry, so we went back to exactly the same diner where I just had breakfast. Thankfully no one recognized me. That would have been weird.

We packed up to go but there was one more stop to make. Linda's friend Joanne had to get rid of their guinea pig, so we are now the proud owners of a black and brown male named Max. He bit me the minute I picked him up but so far he's settling in okay. I feel like he moved from a 20 room mansion to a one bedroom condo though. The set up they had for him was huge and impressive, but we knew we didn't have a place to put it in our house, or even our car ... so it stayed behind. Our old cage was cleaned up nice, and ready for him. I ought to go up and get him and take some pictures for Joanne's kids so they know he's at a good happy place with us. He needs his nails trimmed, so i want to get that done first.

All told, good times good times. Everyone had good times. I even have pictures of Geoff smiling. And when he saw how willing Ronnie and Linda are to do goofy things when I ask them, he did some too. He was a pleasure to spend time with, and lots of fun.

Can't wait to go back when it is not super siberia cold out.

Coat Tail Rider

Doug is going to a conference in March and asked me if I wanted to go too. He's gone to several conferences over the years and never asked if I wanted to tag along. Mostly because the places he was headed had prohibitively expensive airfares for us to justify my going.

This trip is to Orlando Florida, and the airfare is 300 bucks round trip so we're scraping together the moneys and I'll tag along.

I have friends in the area I will want to try and spend some time with. The hotel is a Disney resort, but does not include time in Disney... but by the looks of things, there is a bar in the middle of the pool. And to me, that's kind of more fun than going on a ride or getting my picture taken with Goofy. See, right there? Laguna Bar? yeah.

We fly down on a Tuesday afternoon. Doug will be conferencing his brains out Wednesday and Thursday, with day and night activities. I'll bring my laptop and do work but will also entertain myself. Looks like a nice long loop walk there. I'll look forward to some of that nonsense.

Our friends M and J live 3 hours south so Doug's conference ends after breakfast/morning sessions on Friday and we then have the afternoon to ourselves. We're staying the extra night and our flight is Saturday morning. So I've notified them that I hope they can be free to goof off with us on Friday night. Maybe we can meet somewhere in the middle. Maybe they're happy to come up and goof off with us?

We shall see.

I don't like flying, but I do need, as Southwest airlines says, "wanna get away?"

Bar. In Pool. Yes.

Friday, February 08, 2013

blizzardocolopyse 2013

Not. Funny. At. All.

 We've had little or no snow, literally, since early 2011. Several times this year they got their collective hopes up, panties in bunch, snowgasms were roaring, predictions of several inches were made and we got ... dust. "ZOMG! FIVE INCHES ARE COMING !!!" dusting.

Seemed to me as if winter in New England was becoming winter in North Carolina on a regular basis. I was okay with that concept.

Earlier this week, the collective prognosticators once again got their weather caps on and started predictions of a blizzard. The european model says we're going to get hammered but this other collection of models says ... meh.

On Tuesday, I was laughing at them. Saying that once again they are the boy who cries wolf. Or snow. Or snow wolf. Or something.

As Thursday approached... graphics like the one above started popping up places. And it appeared as if little european model for the forecast may be right spot on.

I still call shenanigans.

If you look at the map above, where it says "Lawrence" is actually across a wide swath of area that is NOT Lawrence... and my house is right underneath the second, lower bump in the number 3, right above Lawrence.

3 as in 43.8 inches of snow.

This better be off by a full 30 inches or I'm not going to be happy.

So anyway, that's what is going on here. I'm allegedly sitting in what will be the major dumping ground of a storm named "Nemo," which makes me laugh because all I can think of is a little clown fish with a damaged fin not being able to swim really hard. I think the weather channel has some serious nerve naming storms that aren't hurricanes. Especially naming them stupid things. I don't think of Captain Nemo, I think of cute little harmless fishies.

Best part of this whole thing was Doug took it upon himself to go do the shopping for storm prep. He figures we'll lose power, so he wanted to get food that we can cook without the oven and electric stove top.

Sounded like a plan to me. I figured he'd get some canned soup that we can cook on top of the wood stove maybe.

I got home from work and opened the fridge to see three packages of hot dogs. Three. And on the shelf, a giant bottle of vodka. And literally nothing else.

Confused, and wondering what I was supposed to make for dinner that night (I mean, the storm hadn't even started yet and we have nothing to eat for dinner...) I asked him what the hell he was thinking. What kind of storm prep is this nonsense.

"Open the freezer," he answered. So I did... and inside it was packed with meat and chicken cutlets and meatballs and all kinds of goodies. "I bought all frozen food to keep the freezer cold in case the power goes out, and if it goes out for a long time, all we have to do is put that all in a cooler, and put it on the back porch. Done."

Still, three packages of hot dogs and a bottle of vodka was pretty funny.

Here are some pictures so far. first is 11:30am, second is 2pm. Hopefully there will be stuff to take pictures of at 5pm before it is pitch dark. We'll see.