Sunday, December 18, 2016

resisting change at farley's

The Guardian is doing a great series called Interview with a Bookstore, and they just featured one of the world's finest, my hometown shop of Farley's in New Hope, Pennsylvania. As an added bonus, the quotes inside the article include a few from librarian-up-no-good and long-time Farley's employee, the fabulous Ms Kristina Bauman.

The photo the New York Times took of me for the feature they did when The Ice Beneath You came out in 2002 was taken in the Farley's stacks (wish I had that photo, I was skinny then...sadly the Times stripped the photos from their archive articles), and one of the two fabulous parties we had when In Hoboken came out was also squeezed into Farley's tight spaces. I've loved this store since I was a kid. Long may it rock.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

for otto bost, rest in peace my friend

I am so sad this week to have learned from Gregg about the untimely death of our friend Otto Bost. Otto was many things to many people: a musician and songwriter; a thoughtful and erudite radio interviewer and longtime host of Acoustic Eclectic on WDIY; the best sound man you could ever hope for; a great campfire or bar-room companion with a dry sense of humor and a humbling knowledge of music.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Otto this week, something I have not done in a long time as we no longer lived near each other or had reason to see each other on a regular basis (last time we shared a beer with Otto was perhaps a Pavlov's Dawgs concert at Godfrey Daniels several years ago?). We were friends, and, for a time, I think, good friends, but not blood brothers: we were friends in the ways of musicians, circling around a shared scene and shared love and passion for music. Yet I was surprised and almost startled this week when I began to recall all of the ways -- some of them deeply personal -- in which Otto crossed my life for a period of time beginning around 1990 (when I was 20 and he was 30) and lasting over the next decade or so.

We met, as so many of us did, at Godfrey Daniels. Was a period of about 2 years in 1989 and 1990 when I was one of just a couple of guys who were the regular hosts for the legendary Sunday night Open Mike. I was odd-man out, 19 years old vs dudes and chicks mostly twice my age; most kids my age off at college. I had a baby daughter and a job(s) and every Sunday night I was at Godfreys trying to figure out how to make this thing work ("this thing" being the whole situation: the instrument, the voice, the electronics, the mechanics, the breathing, the joking, the moving...what to leave in and what to leave out, baby). Otto began showing up then, didn't have much to say, gravitated toward the sound board, and we were all happy to have him there as he made us all sound so good. Then he pulled out his own guitar and man he sounded so good. Otto was one of the first (maybe the first) person who learned a song of mine ("Oscar") and then played it publicly, regularly. When I went off to the army, Otto started hosting more and more and eventually mostly took it over for a while -- one of a thirty+ year neverending cycle of us who have taken a turn at keeping the Godfreys Sunday-night tradition alive.

But about the crossings of our paths...   Way back then, Otto talked me off the ledge a couple of times, when my own life seemed so desperate or sad or worthless or just simply fucked; he'd take me out onto the sidewalk in front of Godfreys and hand me a beer and he'd talk quietly and calmly and bring me back to earth. He was a much better guitar player than I was or am, and he would call me on my shit, sometimes while I was on the stage; he wouldn't stand for unnecessary sloppiness. When I was in the army, Otto wrote me letters, some of which made it all the way to Mogadishu, where he knew things weren't good for me. That calm, quiet voice came through in his written word as well as his spoken voice. When I came home to Easton in 1995 he was there to welcome me, and bring me back into the new version of the Godfreys family. He'd play a small part in the recording of the best music I ever officially recorded (the album Road Dogs, Assassins, and the Queen of Ohio) and a large part in the album that was never released (Traveling Nation). We both went through divorce and we both had kids and it was a series of conversations with Otto on these subjects that led to the best song I ever wrote, "Big Bananas," and while the song isn't Otto's story per se anyone who knows him would be able to see him in it, I think. And then many years later after I'd discovered my true vocation was the written word of a novel, I put him in one of them (In Hoboken) as a walk-on character, simply because I knew he'd dig it.

I wish we could share another song together, Otto. Wish we could hang out once more in the dark of Godfreys on a winter Sunday night, and maybe grab a bowl of chili and a beer across the street. Wish I could have had the chance to tell you how much your friendship meant to me over the years. Safe travels, my friend, and I hope to see you on the other side someday.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

where were you on october 17, 1991?

I was cleaning out a book shelf the other day, going through the stacks of paperbacks and papers piled up behind the front row of books on the shelves. I made a lot of fun discoveries that day, including some of my army medals, the American flag that was placed on my grandfather's coffin, the typed manuscript for the screenplay of The Ice Beneath You I wrote with Matt Walker, and I found two pocket-sized bibles. The first I recognized immediately. My father gave it to me when I was 13 and going to live in India for the year. There was a scrawled note inside from him about all the answers to all my questions etc etc etc blah blah blah...not much to say about that or him, but if you're curious you can read the first essay listed on this page.

Of much more interest was the second little bible, which I didn't recognize at all, until I opened the cover. See picture above. I love life's little surprises. I have no memory of this bible, but apparently I wrote that because it's my handwriting for sure. I have a vague memory of the activity itself. I'll translate for you. "DOD MEPPS Station, Newark" means Department of Defense Military Entry Point (or something like that). That was the actual day I entered active duty. I went to Newark (no memory whatsoever how I got there, maybe my recruiter drive me?), did the final selection for what my job would be (Waterborne, not what I'd planned, but a happy result), went through the torture session where the mean Marine takes you into the back room and tries to get you to confess to drugs and other assorted illegalities and/or immoralities, then I took the oath with a bunch of other pimply kids. They put us up for the night in a really crappy motel in Newark, and the next morning flew us to Ft Knox, Kentucky for basic training. It was either waiting to go to the motel that first day, or waiting to go to the airport the next morning, that the "sad looking chubby fellow with facial hair" walked around the recruit TV lounge with a box of little bibles and gave one to each of us. I wasn't religious but I was scared shitless, so it seemed like a good idea to take the bible. Did I write that inscription then? A week later? A month later? Given that the date is on it, and given the far more memorable things that were about to happen to me, I think it's safe to say I wrote that right there and then. I knew where I was going and what my unit would be (Delta 2/46, as it says there), because they made us write it down so we could tell our families or whoever. But did I know I'd be in 2nd Platoon? Who knows. Maybe I did write it later.

I wonder what that guy was thinking, walking around, handing us those bibles. I think he was about our age, but he sure wasn't army-bound. What did he think of us? Was he deeply religious? Did anyone ever say to him, "Sorry, I'm a Jew?" Or just pass it by, like I almost did? I don't know who he was or what he was thinking. But he's been documented. I hope he's doing well, wherever he is.

I know what I was thinking. I was terrified.

It passed.

I remember that the first time I had the chance to read something that wasn't an army manual, about four weeks later, on the first Sunday that they gave us a few hours off, it wasn't this bible I reached for, but a copy of the Louisville newspaper. I read that bad boy cover to cover, ads and all, every word.

Friday, February 19, 2016

i've got your tweet right here, pal

Having spent most of the winter feeling about as confident as Mr. C.F. Earbrass, shown here, I decided that February in Quebec is as good a time as any in my life to embark in a Twitterly direction. So, you know, here it is.
I expect it will continue in the past week's current vein, with an over-index on food, wine, and dogs, because...well, because. You know. That's my life right now. The good parts. We'll see.
I do intend to keep this blog up, at about the same rate it's been for the past few years. All of this is speculation on what my life and decisions will be; never a good indicator of reality. We'll see, we'll see.

It has been an Earbrassian winter, now that I think on it. Full of Unstrung Harps and attendant anxieties and, well, general weirdness. More on all that later.

Time to make the coffee. Need to get the spirits up. Maybe some music, maybe this will help.