musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Germination

Starting from a seed, carefully (obsessively) tended.
Can a new plant die from over care?

Suffocation; not allowed to grow by itself.

No trust in the natural order of things.

Fretting and worrying
stunts natural growth.

And yet, I am so halting —
and feel so very fragile.

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The Frustration of Groundhogs

Digging through from his underground lair early in the spring,
tired and hungry,
only to find a new structure in place,
and nothing as he remembers it.

Working hard, trying to dig through the clutter in her life
and the messy knots of dissatisfaction,
trying to find optimism, enthusiasm and light,
only to find herself at a dead end.

They must both go back underground and seek out a new direction.

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Why Another Asks Why (the answer is complicated)

Uncertainty, impermanence and the oppressive passage of time — a hungry wolf that chases us down like prey, always vicious and never relenting. Or maybe it’s just me.

Boston’s Why Another takes us down a winding road of wistful inquiry and existential angst with their recent single “Why,” from their ambitious self-titled debut album.

So pretty, so sad. The album begins with somber piano, spirits drifting on the winds and quiet contemplation. As the pace picks up anxiously with visits from electronic demons, the band addresses some of those topics that we’re not supposed to obsess over. You know, like death, anxiety, depression, getting lost (either in a physical or spiritual sense). I often dream that I can’t remember where I parked my car, so I can completely relate to “Only at Night.”

The song “Why” ask those difficult questions and doesn’t really leave us with any definitive answer. As frontman and lead singer Adi Malka explains, “‘Why’ was written about a former band member who made me ask myself questions I’ve never asked myself before in my life.”

The mood ebbs and flows, from serene and melancholy to emotionally distraught, taking the listener through the human plight of chasing after peace and well-being, flailing from the inside, trying to get out of our own heads.

There are no more questions
No one knows what to ask
It feels far, we’re so behind
The answer’s already passed
— I Don’t Mind

“Of Forests and Seas” is a welcome respite from the restless overthinking, and it settles peacefully in the mind like a soothing balm.

The album stretches out luxuriously with gorgeous string arrangements, snippets of screaming or scurrying or dreaming guitars, ambient atmospherics and swirling percussion (such as on the stunning “The Secret” and the complex, overarching and beautifully untamed “The Air”) — it’s quite an adventure.

My street at night
Is full of animals
I clearly
I clearly don’t know how to appreciate what we have
— Here They Are

Why Another’s members are from around the world, though they’re currently based in Boston. They combine a searing rock energy with ethereal electronics and sophisticated composition. The band features Malka on drums, guitar, piano and vocals; Jordan Kerr on guitar and background vocals; Pietro Gennenzi on bass and Armando González Sosto on guitar, keyboards and computers. On this album, they’re joined by a very classy string quartet, and it all works beautifully.

You can purchase the ditital album (name your own price) on Bandcamp or stream it on Spotify.

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Who Was Kyle Yorlets? A Sad Tale from a Dysfunctional America

Kyle Yorlets

Kyle Yorlets

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday, when I came across this news headling — “Teens Charged in Shooting Death of Nashville Musician.” Sadly, people are murdered all the time in the U.S., and typically it doesn’t go beyond a local news story. This time, however, the story was so sad and so shocking that it was picked up by national news outlets.

The victim was 24-year-old Kyle Yorlets, lead singer of Nashville pop/rock band Carverton. The group first formed in the summer of 2014, when Yorlets and Michael Curry, both from Pennsylvania, moved to Nashville to pursue their musical dreams. They hooked up with Michael Wiebell and Christian Ferguson, and created a sound that blended rock, indie pop, pop punk and hip hop. Releasing their debut EP in 2017, they would go on to perform at the Firefly Festival, open for various bands, and were starting to make a name for themselves.

Tragically (as if the rest of this story isn’t tragic enough), they had just finished the debut full-length album, Chasing Sounds, which is set for release on March 29. The official video for the single, “Wildside,” was just released a month ago. Yorlets said about the album, “We hope our music can be both relatable and encouraging to those who need it. Life is crazy and unpredictable, and we want to portray that in our music.”

Life got especially crazy and unpredictable last Thursday, when five kids, aged 12-16, robbed and then fatally shot Yorlets outside his Nashville home. They had stolen his wallet, and when he refused to hand over the keys to his vehicle, they shot him. They were apprehended at a Walmart with stolen guns and a stolen pickup truck.

The mother of one of the young perpetrators blamed the shooting on “a failure of the system.” She claims that her family reached out for help with their troubled teen, but didn’t get any. That may well be true, but what exactly happens to kids that young to make them so angry and so full of hate that they no longer value human life?

Robbing someone is one thing, as is the ridiculously easy access to guns (how simple is it for children to steal guns in Tennessee, I wonder?), but to shoot someone at close range is quite another. Blind violence such as that doesn’t occur until a person is past all hope and beyond all reason. Mental illness may account for a single person committing a senseless crime, but five people, and young kids at that, committing murder together? That can no longer be blamed on mental illness, unless the entire world has gone mad.

The crimes of a child should be blamed, at least partially, on poor parenting. But it has to be thrown at the feet of American society, as well — not just the gun culture, but widening income inequality, rampant poverty in a land of plenty (for some) and a sense of hopelessness among the disadvantaged. Until all of these issues are seriously addressed, I can see no hope for improvement, and I feel just as badly for those confused, angry kids as I do for Kyle, his friends, bandmates, fans and family.

A GoFundMe campaign was launched for Kyle’s parents, Pennsylvania dairy farmers, to help them with funeral and travel expenses. The money will also help keep their business running while they deal with the unpleasant task of burying their son and settling his affairs in Nashville. They have stated that any leftover funds will “go towards scholarship opportunities arranged by the Yorlets family in Kyle’s honor.”

Kyle’s band released this statement:

On February 7, 2019 we lost our brother, best friend, and bandmate Kyle Yorlets. We are in a state of shock and are having to grasp the reality that is now in front of us. We are heartbroken. Our condolences for his family and loved ones and all the lives that he touched. We will never forget Kyle, and though he is gone too soon his legacy is here to stay. We thank you for your support and will talk to you soon.
Love,
Michael, Christian, and Wiebell

Because this is a music blog, at least part of the time, it seems fitting to end with some more of the band’s music. May we all find a way out of this darkness.

Carverton: web | facebook | twitter | instagram | bandcamp | soundcloud | spotify | youtube | Listen To / Purchase Their Latest Single

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The Furry Climate Change Denier

Jason Cohn/REUTERS

Jason Cohn/REUTERS

After the Arctic warmed,
after the polar vortex lost its way,
after -30 degree temperatures in Chicago,
after three feet of snow in one day in upstate New York,
after 121 degrees of heat and wildfires in Southern Australia,
after torrential rain in Queensland, the Alps and the Himalayas —

Punxsutawney Phil came out of his hole
and proudly proclaimed
that there is no such thing as climate change.

Punxsutawney Phil is wrong
61% of the time.

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The Deep Philosophy of Bony Macaroni

BonyMacaroni

We’re just a month into this fresh new year, still ripe with promise! Do you already feel like putting on some emo music and curling up on the couch in a fetal position? Well, here ya go, then. It’s Bony Macaroni, an unlikely name of a self-loathing bummer band if I’ve ever heard one. They’re from Amsterdam, which seems like a pretty nice place to be so miserable, but that’s probably presumptuous on my part. We’re humans — we can be miserable anywhere.

And with that as an introduction, here’s their third single, “Bony The Philosopher.” The video is by Leon van Engelen.

what’s the commotion ’bout finding that ocean
i paddle along, but i don’t long for god
i don’t fear the water, i don’t fear the father
but, i hope there is meaning, i miss that a lot
– Bony The Philosopher

This cheery ditty, along with its close friends, the bouncy and forlorn “Piece of Shit” and “Doom,” can be heard and enjoyed on the trio’s bandcamp. Any band that names their debut single “Piece of Shit” deserves close listening. This triptych of musical delights forms their debut EP.

Bony Macaroni is Stefan Bonestroo on guitar and vocals, Rik van der Muelen on guitar/vocals and Jeroen Dammers on bass/vocals, with Job Zijlstra on drums/vocals. And if you plan on being in Amsterdam on February 22, you can attend their EP release party at Cinetol.

web | facebook | twitter | bandcamp | youtube | spotify

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The Art of Letting Go

TheArtOfLettingGo

Inspired by Victor Robert Venckus’s Expanding Awareness program with Yvonne Donovan about decluttering one’s personal space.

I have always been exceedingly sticky. Things stick to me. People stick to me, too.

Have you ever had a piece of cellophane refuse to let go as you attempt to shake it off into a trash bin? That happens to me all the time.

I listened to the woman speak, but she never scratched her way below the surface, as much as I tried to encourage her psychically from my couch as I sat staring at the radio. She preferred to focus on how marvelous it is to clear away all your clutter — how freeing it is to be unencumbered by all those belongings.

But sometimes those sad old objects are all you have left to remind you of who you once were, who you perhaps still are and who you once loved.

The direct memory fades with the dispassionate passage of time. The right song at the right moment, can, if you’re lucky, bring it all back. So too can a well-worn, familiar object, however seemingly junky and insignificant.

I realize it isn’t altogether healthy, to remain attached to the past by means of a physical possession. When Mom and Dad died, as I systematically went through the contents of a 7-room, 4-level, 50-year family home, I found myself sentimentally attached to the silliest of things. Not because of their value, but because of the personal meaning they held.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), my folks, despite having been children during The Great Depression, were devout gifters. A piano I never quite took to as a child taking lessons was given to, I think, a community center. A pool table, which we enjoyed when I was young, ended up going to an old folks’ home. The Jacuzzi, a treadmill, a hammock and garden furniture, all kinds of artwork and decorative items, vintage clothes, virtually all my old toys — somewhere.

And so, when I was faced with the task of moving special items from a spacious 7-room split level to my tiny 4-room ranch, it was easier than it might have been. I simply didn’t have the space. But still, even without the old furniture, I’m surrounded by boxes of photographs, slides, cards, letters, old films, books, records, CDs, documents, artwork and decorative pieces, household items and even electronic devices, all bursting with the essence of their former owners.

Or so it seems to my sticky mind.

As if I didn’t already know that one can be mentally and spiritually burdened by possessions, I periodically have my bag lady dreams. In them, I’m inevitably trying to leave a place, or catch a train, or make a flight, or follow someone out of a room, except that I must first decide what to do with all my baggage. And I mean that in a literal sense. I have bags, or boxes, or just stacks of things, all of it apparently mine, but quite often stuff I don’t even recognize. Regardless, I’m convinced that it must all be thoroughly gone through before I can proceed. I typically wake up feeling oppressed and frustrated.

I used to be a collector. I stopped actively collecting specific items like music memorabilia and films or TV shows of an actor I enjoyed. But I still collect objects from my past, and after the major sell-off of 2018, I suddenly don’t want to part with anything else. Ever. But I’ll probably feel differently about it in the light of a new day — or when I can no longer stand the claustrophobia of being surrounded by boxes.

There are far worse hoarders than me. Oddly, I think of Andy Warhol and his cookie jar collection. Maybe he just liked cookie jars. Or perhaps he experienced some sort of great loss in his life and collecting those cookie jars gave him a feeling of comfort and wholeness. Things are solid and tangible, unlike people, who can come in and out of your life on the wings of birds.

I met him once, Andy, at the B. Dalton’s on 8th Street in the Village. The year was 1985 and he was signing his latest book of photography, America. I had just purchased the Velvet Underground and Nico’s ‘peelable banana album’ at a record show in New Jersey, with the intention of sending it to a guy in the U.K. in return for Bowie memorabilia. And that night, as synchronicity would have it, I saw an ad in the Village Voice for the book signing the next day. So, there I was, standing in line with the city’s hipsters, waiting for Andy. He walked in with his painted black leather jacket, sunglasses and white hair. We were all transfixed.

When it came my turn, I handed him the requisite book to have signed, and then quietly said, “Hi Andy, I wonder if you would indulge me?” With that, I handed him the album. Andy, in an equally quiet voice, said “Sure.” I heard someone in line behind me say, “Oh man, I have that; I should have brought it!” Andy marveled at the legendary album of his own design and said, “Oh, I haven’t seen this for so long!” He loved it, and signed his name proudly, big and bold, across the entire length on one side, before handing it back to me. From one collector to another. Of course, that British guy never did get his album.

I remember when Andy died. I was loading tapes onto video machines at a public television station in Hartford, Connecticut. I must have seen it on a news feed and learned that he was gone. It felt like someone grabbed inside my body and removed my heart. I just felt this emptiness — an inexplicable sense of loss. I didn’t know him, had only met him briefly just that once, and yet his passing stayed with me. Sticky.

Such is the power of objects from the past. They can stir memories that you thought were long forgotten. Not all of this is bad, is it? I imagine it becomes a problem when you find yourself, in life or in dreams, paralyzed by your memories and your possessions, unable to move forward. And then, it’s time for a rigorous round of spring cleaning, to rid oneself of things that are old, sticky and full of cobwebs.

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Mom’s Cookbook

KitchenWallpaper

I knew why I hadn’t taken it. It was an old French-style Julia Child type of cookbook with a faded yellow cover, with loads of recipes for meat dishes and other things I don’t eat and haven’t eaten for years. It was highly unlikely that I would ever want to cook up beef bourguignon in this lifetime. Besides, French dishes, with their over-abundance of cream sauce, always wreak havoc on my digestive system.

And yet — it was Mom’s cookbook, and as I realize now, when it’s far too late to retrieve it, that she was a brand new homemaker when it was purchased, in the late 1950s when she married Dad. And I also realize, too late, that hidden in its pages were very likely family meals that she prepared throughout my childhood. For a strange reason, quite suddenly, my disregard for that tattered old book feels like a dreadful mistake and the thought of it gnaws at me, like some terrible loss.

Certain dishes I remember. There was salmon souffle, served in little Pyrex custard cups that I also parted with, as I was trying to be practical when I selected what would come back to Massachusetts with me and what would be left for the Connecticut estate sale. Chocolate pudding, which I remember helping her mix up and cook in a saucepan, for the privilege of getting to scoop out the delicious hot chocolate remains, straight from the pan, was also served in these custard cups.

Mom also made veal parmigiana, in single-serving ceramic cordon bleu au gratin baking dishes — thankfully, those I kept, though I have no idea why. There are three; one for each of us. She also made these pastry cheese puffs, which I loved. They featured Cheese Wiz and a single green olive pushed into the center of each one, which was my job to insert, when we worked together to create them. I was so young — how is it I remember this? As I recall, they were only made when we visited family or for the rare house party they once had for Dad’s coworkers. I also remember Mom making veal chops and asparagus, and there was a baked salmon dish that was made with a sweet sauce — I think it was something like orange juice and soy sauce?

Some of these things may have been in that cookbook; I’m not sure.

What’s more, the cookbook had a handmade book cover, to mask the old yellow board of the original. This was probably crafted by Mom, from leftover kitchen wallpaper — a bold, eye-popping mid-’70s burst of whimsical orange and yellow flowers. That seems like something a person who is hopelessly nostalgic would keep, doesn’t it? But it was in the hectic months after Dad died (Mom was already a year gone) and I had apparently put my sentimentality on a shelf so that I could carry on efficiently with the impossibly difficult and heart-rending task of going through nearly 50 years of family memories.

It all made sense at the time. It was in the middle of winter, and I was spending a small fortune on heating costs (to keep the old pipes from bursting), real estate taxes and the rest of it, traveling four hours back and forth every other week, and I didn’t want things to drag on and on. So, I journeyed between my place and theirs, bringing down junk I had no further need of, and bringing back mementos I wanted to keep. Mostly, I think, I made the right decisions. I took very little furniture — just their two favorite chairs and a few smaller plant tables. I brought back a beloved statue of a Native American family that Mom discovered in a department store display and spirited away, certain household items and supplies, various decorative items, some of their books and records and CDs, a lot of artwork and several cartons of photographs, slides, films, cards, letters and important documents. It was enough. It was already too much. But every so often, there was a little pang of regret — inexplicable sentimentality over something rather insignificant that I have no power to rectify and had no use for to begin with. Maybe it’s a strange form of self-protection, to avoid facing those really big regrets. Or perhaps it’s symbolic.

Who knows what became of this vinyl-wallpaper-covered old cookbook? I close my book of thoughts on this wistful subject with the hope that in some thrift shop in Connecticut, it fell quite unexpectedly into the hands of a new homemaker whose heart was warmed and curiosity piqued by this charming throwback from simpler, less nutritionally-aware times. And who knows? Maybe they’ll try out a few of the recipes. That’s more than I would have done.

Grief works in mysterious ways.

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Cold Toes for Secrets

Oh howling wind, can I know your secrets?
We are now lovers
I am no longer fearful of you.

Once I made the decision
to forego
a life in the sun
I committed myself to understand
your austere, mysterious ways
however long it took
and however many sleepless nights
and cold toes.

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The Year In Review: 6 Things I Learned About Myself

SelfPortrait_inMirror

1 – Surprisingly, I am capable of being a “morning person,” so long as I get to sleep before midnight. And in fact, I will frequently awaken with strange and wonderful delights in my head that I can put to paper.

2 – I can successfully and single-handedly navigate through probate, go through the contents of a 7-room, 50-year-old family home, prepare said home for sale and close on it, and coordinate eight different contractors and their crews to do various projects around my own hovel — and not lose my mind or get (too badly) ripped off.

3 – I actually don’t enjoy being at a venue I don’t like, seeing a band I don’t care for, late at night — and I shouldn’t feel like I “should” be there because it’s what other people do and seem to enjoy. Sometimes it’s OK to stay home and read a book (although this might just be a function of getting old).

4 – White is my least favorite color, and everything in my home, inside and out, is white. I literally just realized this fact this year. It’s thanks to the previous owners and their unfortunate design sense and peculiarities. Even white people annoy the hell out of me at times, which is odd, seeing as how I am one.

5 – It’s not always helpful to be cynical and sarcastic, even if it does get you more followers on Twitter. Sometimes it’s cool to find positive things in life that you can share and make other people feel good about. Or, as an astrologer friend of mine is fond of saying, “Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

6 – Feeling burdened by regrets and “I should have’s” is a sad and terrible way to mourn the loss of loved ones. A far more positive way, and one that pays dividends while easing the pain, is to channel all that love outward into a creative process, such as organizing photos, slides and films into an online memorial, or transcribing informal interviews into background material for a novel. I am doing both.

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