musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: June 2018

Erin Pellnat reminds us to pick up those pennies

Erin Pellnat

Erin Pellnat

There’s something delightfully nostalgic and soothing about Erin Pellnat’s vocals on her new song, “Pennies” that can calm even the most troubled mind that has been caught up in the rough tides of these disturbing times. I don’t know if it’s the gentle accordion and soft percussive shuffle or her 1950s Patsy Cline vibe, but this song takes me back to simpler days. As she and her band sweep us away into a more carefree life (or at least the wistful illusion of such a life), she reminds us that, despite the craziness encircling us, we can still find joy in our lives.

I know, I know that sometimes it seems
this nightmare is swallowing our dreams
But there is never ever a doubt
we’re gonna turn this nightmare inside out.

And I still bend down to pick up pennies
reasons to smile, you don’t need many
and I still skip stones,
still balance on the guardrail on that long walk home.

Pellnat is a singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to her solo work, she sings in the band Caretaker. “Pennies” was written by Christopher Pellnat, a fellow singer-songwriter and guitarist in The Warp/The Weft. He has a recent song of his own, titled “Ode to Olivia Rhodes,” inspired by a fictional character whom he “met” in the virtual reality game, Lone Echo. Erin sings backing vocals.

You can listen to “Pennies” on Spotify. “Ode to Olivia Rhodes” can be found on bandcamp.

Don’t forget to pick up those pennies — we need all the luck we can get!

Erin Pellnat: twitter | instagram | bandcamp | soundcloud | youtube

Caretaker: web | facebook

Christopher Pellnat: soundcloud | bandcamp

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My Parents’ Books

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They’re on my bookshelf now, these books that my parents once read. The ones that belonged to my father are an imposing presence, with titles like “The Quest for Consciousness,” “The Quantum Universe,” “On Intelligence” and “Who’s Afraid of Schrödinger’s Cat?” There are books about Einstein and about the digital age by Walter Isaacson, and elegant tomes on cybernetics, the brain and nervous system, free will and the history of optical character recognition. Their pages — hell, even their covers — taunt and challenge me. It’s as though each one is pompously inquiring, “Are you clever enough to understand even the first page of me?” I don’t know. Am I?

Dad was a smart guy. That’s putting it mildly. At the Bronx High School of Science in 1946, he was a member of the physics squad, which sounds like boot camp for the mind (and it probably was). He graduated from City College as an electrical engineer and went to work for the Burroughs Corporation, and then G.C. Dewey Corp., researching the earliest computers. In the ’60s, he did contract work for the defense department. He migrated to working in medical technology, became a key researcher and then moved to Connecticut with Mom and I in tow to start his own company, developing ultrasound and light scanning devices to detect breast and prostate cancers. He then worked on improving medical equipment for other companies.

I realized the true significance and reach of his work when I was at the Lahey Outpatient clinic in Danvers, having a mammography done. I saw the machine and casually mentioned that my dad was involved in its development. I told the lead technician his name, and she said she knew of him. She asked me to thank him for his work on equipment that had become the diagnostic standard for the early detection of breast cancer. He helped save lives. I knew what he did, but somehow never realized how important it was, or how well-known he was to those in the field. My father had none of the airs that so many in the medical profession boldly parade around with.

So, the books. I initially went through them in their Connecticut home, deciding which to take and which to sell. Nothing sold, as it happened. That privileged suburban West Hartford crowd didn’t know what to make of them, I’m sure. A colleague of Dad’s ended up claiming many of them. I had a method. If I opened to a random page, and all I saw were equations, I would give it a hard pass. If instead my eyes set upon a paragraph of prose, even if it was cryptic, I would add it to my “take” carton. Though, as it happened, I did take one of the “equation books,” just as a souvenir.

I will read them all someday.

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Mom’s books are far more approachable. She wasn’t a big reader, but there are memoirs of Vernon Jordan and Albert Schweitzer, two books about the Desiderata (Mom was a huge fan and gave out framed prints to everyone she met). On a related note, the poems of Max Ehrmann sit next to them on the shelf. There’s “The Power to Heal,” about healing modalities around the world, and “The Essential Norman Rockwell,” her favorite artist. “The Golden Children of Hawaii” was probably a gift from her brother Ray, who lived there for many years.

“The American National Red Cross First Aid Manual,” 1966 edition, brings to mind her nursing days. There’s our old Flushing, Queens address and telephone number on an inside page, along with the request, please contact if found.”

I was so caught up in various psychodramas throughout my life. I am far more contemplative now. In addition, I feel rather melancholy, missing them both terribly, so these books, which bring them so readily to mind, are a great comfort. They are like old, familiar friends, gathered around in a disparate yet tight-knit group, cradling cups of herbal tea and reminiscing.

Vintage, venerable, comfortably worn lives well-lived.

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Choose Wisely

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In the dream, I was at some sort of gathering. At one point, the hostess brought me to a low, large table, on which many beautiful and interesting items displayed. I was told to pick out an item from each of three or four sections that I especially resonated with.

I went to work on doing this. There were large, elaborate sculptures and smaller precious pieces that appeared to be quite valuable. It was all quite overwhelming, and I felt like I was taking a very long time to choose.

Some time had passed, and it was later on, after this exercise, which felt like I was being given gifts of my own choosing — what I wanted or wished to be.

I looked at what I had chosen, and at first was very disappointed. Before me was a set of plain leather pocketbooks in various color shades of suede or leather. Practical, perhaps, but not terribly exciting. My initial thought was that I had chosen poorly — that out of all these exotic, beautiful things, I had selected a boring set of bags.

Did I only see myself as capable of just basic things in life, and nothing extraordinary? Had I lost my high ideals and visions?

The hostess told me that it showed how I wanted to be seen by others, but she saw my disappointment. So she said she would bring back just a small selection of items and I could make another choice.

She explained how they selected many, many items as part of a class assignment, so they could do this exercise for various different people. Now it began to feel like a special gift, a sort of divination.

She set before me several sets of postcards or little pictures. I looked through them. One or two sets depicted Native Americans; perhaps some were engaged in tasks. I set aside these two sets of cards which somehow merged into one larger set.

It was after I did this that I realized what this exercise had been about. It had to do with my recent inquiry and struggle to find who I really was.

My spirit guides were helping me in my search for self and my quest for purpose.

During these excruciating months, while I have been reviewing every single possession, both at my house and my parents’, unbeknownst to me (I thought I was just being over-materialistic), I had been unsure of my true nature and unclear in my direction. What in my life held the most meaning for me? What was most important now, going forward?

It was less about reinventing who I was to be after the death of my parents, to whom I had been extremely devoted, and more a re-discovery of my true nature. I had felt lost, adrift, and now I was in the process of being found, with the help of some friends in the spiritual realm.

Waking up, I wasn’t disappointed in my lack of vision, but instead, was extremely grateful.

I had been led through a very long, dark corridor, back to myself.

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Jason Ebbs Pays Homage to some Familiar Villains

Original photo by Ingrid Angulo

Original photo by Ingrid Angulo

Ah, the exuberance of youth! At the tender age of 20, Bostonian Jason Ebbs is already writing and singing rambunctious rock and cheery pop songs about feeling isolated and relationships gone wrong. On his debut EP, Familiar Villains, there’s a grungy garage tune with a bit of experimentation (“Stone in the Road”), dreamy indie-pop (“First Trip to the Ocean” and “Atlantic Pathfinder”) and charmingly folksy storytelling (“Average Joe”). But a standout track, in all its goofiness, is “Please Have a Seat (on a Cactus).” For a ‘she done me wrong’ song, it’s a pretty funny one.

You don’t have any moon rocks to hold yourself down
I’m hanging up on Mars but you’re stuck on the ground
I’m in the mountains of Saturn looking down at your face
While you’re crying in the desert cause you left me in space
I know it’s all an act
Cause you treat all our fights like it’s practice
So please, have a seat on a cactus

Ebbs is a Northeastern University student and independent artist who has been making music for more than 10 years (9 or 10 years old? not too shabby). He’s inspired by the classic rock and psychedelic music of the ’60s and ’70s, which he blends with modern styles and sensibilities. He started releasing music in November of last year and the EP came out in mid-May.

Familiar Villains (is this a pointed reference to old girlfriends? I wonder…) can be streamed on Spotify or listened to and purchased (name your own price) on bandcamp.

facebook | instagram | bandcamp

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