Saturday, January 24, 2009

Look What I've Created

I remember days, lying in bed in my old West 87th Street apartment, staring up at the ceiling, listening to the people above me pounding away on the floor - wondering - when the hell was I gonna get out of that place!?

The last year on the Upper West Side was not fun, I have to say. With the building sold, new owners moved in and determined to force us out on their greedy terms, life in the city was stressful, to say the least. I was tired of the whole thing but, like my co-tenants, I wanted to fight - until it was time to stop fighting. And as things wound down with the lawyers, I found myself turning my attention back up to the ceiling, and I'd think about the next move; dream about the next move. And, what's amazing to me now, looking back on those moments, at no time did one cell in my brain, for one microsecond ever think I would some day end up in, of all places ... Kansas City, Missouri.


And so, it's that very thought that swept through my head last night as I sipped sangria and munched on my mushrooms and shrimp, surrounded by a group of really good and nice people. One line kept popping into my head: "Look what I've created here." I mean, when I left New York to start my cross-country Eldercation trip, I knew I was heading to new places and I was excited about it. Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa - all these states I'd heard about, read about, flown over for so many years - finally, I was driving through the small towns, meeting the people. It's been ... for lack of a better term ... thrilling. And the thing is, never during this entire process, have I ever given much thought to where I'm going to end up once this stage of the project is completed. Having said that, I'll again mention - Kansas City was most certainly never on the radar.

And yet, there I was last night. Surrounded by people - new friends in a new land - all of us in Kansas City.

As I pointed out last month, the end of the year presented me with a good opportunity to do some solid thinking. That's when it gets dangerous for me. Still, I realized something pretty important - I was downright tired of dealing with my December 28 birthday the same way every year. Alone. What can I say? It's just in that "spot." In what I like to call that deep valley in between Christmas and New Year's. And so, this was the year I was determined to change course, seize the moment, and create something special. And I did just that.

There really is something envigorating about sharing friends. It's not something I've been especially good at over the years but, last night, I took a shot at doing just that by organizing a night out at a fun (and delicious) Spanish restaurant here in KC. Just about every person at the table last night has figured in my adventure here in some special way. I could have invited - in fact, I wanted to invite - more folks to the outing, but the La Bodega-man told me that 17 was pushing it. That was the number I had to work with, so I dealt with it. And it was fine.

Once again, I'm now looking just up around the next turn and I can't say for sure what's going to happen next. Then again, who among us can actually do that? (If someone out there can do that - I'd like to meet you, so we can write a book together. We'll be rich). What I do know is something big is going to happen for me - and I'm not just saying that. The last time I felt this way, I had just started my adventure with The Jerky Boys and, even then, friends of mine thought I was nuts to be giving up on my law degree (which, as it turns out, I haven't given up on at all. I use that knowledge every day of my life). If I took that Jerky Boys' feeling and multiplied it by 1000 - that's what I feel for this Eldercation project. As far as the first stage? The first book? I'm finished. After years of well over 1000 interviews, hours upon hours upon hours ... (upon hours) of transcriptions - long days and nights in the libraries and coffee shops - I feel I really have something special here. And so, now I'm on to the next challenge - how to get this information and message out there. I'm fighting a bit of a battle with that one -the same battle for which I had box seats during my years in the music business. I've always been a grass-roots, indie guy at heart and, from what I can tell, not much has changed in terms of my style and outlook. But I'm not going to go into that here. That would be a supreme waste of energy - energy better spent on the task at hand. That task being - producing and then marketing this book on my own. More on that at another time.

For now, I'll finish here by saying this - I bring up the winding down of the book because it's very much tied to what I was feeling last night during our little La Bodega fiesta. Now that I've lifted up my head, after being so focused over the past few years, I need to think about what's next? And before any changes come about, I wanted to make sure I took a solid snapshot of what I have right now - in this moment - with the people I've met here in Kansas City, Missouri. Amazing. Never in my wildest dreams. It's funny how this life thing works.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"The Right Person For The Times"

"The right person for the times."

That’s what someone said to me, I think it was, about 8 months ago, during the campaign.

Watching the inauguration today, while listening to President Obama speak, I thought of that line. I thought about how, sometimes, the times find the person. I think that’s what's happened here. It just feels so right. Now, I know, it doesn’t feel this way for everyone. I understand that. But, I feel the hope; I feel the power. And I’m guessing it is washing over the vast majority of our citizens as I write these very words.

Sure, today’s events are exciting; the images are moving. I know I teared up when Aretha sang. The parties will be fun tonight and we'll all share stories about where we were and what we were doing when the new President took his oath. But the fact is, the real work will begin tomorrow. And then the day after that. And then the day after that. And as much as we all have a tendency to look to others to help us meet a good many of our challenges, at the end of the day, it really is all about personal responsibility. It’s all about the choices each of us make every day of our lives. I like it when I hear our new President speak of such things. I find myself sitting up just a bit straighter when he talks about such things. He inspires me. He inspires many. It’s just what the doctor ordered, don’t you think?

The right person for the times?

I’d say so.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Basement Hockey

Caving In ... For many months now, people have been hassling me to join Facebook - to get in the game, and all that. I've resisted. The Capricorn in me, I suppose. I mean, I don't even text. What kind of a person am I? Listen, it's certainly not that I'm anti-technology or anything. The fact is I'm actually pretty plugged into things without needing every single contraption that's on the market. But, the past few years have been about wanting, needing some quiet. As one person put it recently - I've needed a place to incubate what is now just about to be completed - my first book.

And then ...

Three Facebook invites from some close childhood friends ...

Marshall's invite was the first to reach me here in KC, followed closely by John's and Jeff's.

Many have tried to get HJ to cross over into Facebook-land, but all have failed. Until this morning, that is.

So, what snagged me?

"Kick Save - And A Beauty!" - I remember hanging out in Marshall's basement a lot when we were all kids. First, there were the Strat-O-matic baseball games, with Marshall, John, Steve and me - that was our league. I was the last one to join in the fun, so I got to pick from all the droppings when the opening year draft first occurred. That would account for my 0-842 record. Actually, I think I won one game ... in 18 innings. It was exciting for me. (A quick note for my old league-members: that's Dave Winfield's "rookie" card on the left - which explains why it pretty much stinks. I'd be curious to see what it looks like today, after a Hall-of-Fame career. Remember the old-timers' cards? Walter Johnson? Hank Aaron? Babe Ruth? And my old favorite - possibly the only good player I had on my team back then ... Nap Lajoie).

I remember Marshall's bar mitzvah party, also in that basement. I made out with someone that night - I'll omit the name here - my folks raised me well. At least I think I made out with her. It may be that I was merely intimate with her shoulder for most of that night, I can't be sure now that I think about it.

Lastly, there were those hockey games. Marshall, John and I would suit up and whack those sticks around - that puck was pretty real, too, from what I can recall. I know this because I remember getting struck in what I'll call a "bad spot," when I was playing goalie one afternoon. Yes, that's the kind of thing one remembers some 40+ years later, trust me.

Anyway - it was fun to hear from such good old friends this morning. Sure, I have resistance to many of the things available out there on the market. So much of it feels like overload to me. But sometimes ... something special appears on the web that catches my eye; something that really works. Things that come to mind: Amazon, eBay, the original America Online with it's IM's, (check that out - especially when you're hungry), myspace, and now ... Facebook.

So ... I'm in. Hopefully, it will mean re-connecting with some special people I've known up until this point. It's funny to me - I love how I've discovered this particular site (and the rekindled friendships flowing from this discovery) right at the time I've lifted up my head, after years of relative isolation, while I've been traveling and dedicating myself to Eldercation. Those who know me well, understand my passion for what I've been pursuing. It's been a challenging but very rewarding time. I'm planning on you all seeing the fruits of my labor very soon.

For now, it's simply good to be back into the flow.

Happy New Year

POSTSCRIPT: Harry J. - sitting here and wondering, "How much of my life can I waste by spending waayyyy too much time on Facebook?" (I love it but ... boundaries will have to be set up).

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