musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: August 2018

The Home Improvement Series: Dead Trees and Frightful Shrubbery

HIS_OvergrownBushes-full

This has been a very strange year for me. Circumstances forced me into the role of “homeowner” — a character I’ve never felt comfortable with, and a performance I’ve never been terribly good at. The year began with having to assess and clear out the contents of our family home (for nearly 50 years), with the intention of listing it for sale. There was never any question — debts had to be settled, and it was the only way I could manage it. The place was in rough condition, due to years of necessary neglect (life happens). I undertook a few necessary repairs, so that people wouldn’t get electrocuted and the walls wouldn’t crumble and left it at that. The house was sold “as is.”

I then turned to my own Massachusetts hovel. I say that lovingly, but the place was a mess. Not quite as bad as the Connecticut home, but close. I suddenly found myself with some funds to clear dead trees, clear baby trees from the gutters, replace a leaking roof, remove godawful vermiculite from an attic, fix broken windows, replace a rotting porch and steps — you get the idea. We’re not talking about a designer kitchen or a marble bathroom. It’s a 2-bedroom ranch built in 1955. It is what it is. But property values in the Boston area being what they are, it made sense to sink some money in.

My uncertain foray into the world of home improvements coincided with a major Saturn return reassessment of my life. What should I get rid of? What do I want to keep? How should I move forward? And the big, all-encompassing “Who Am I?”

Welcome to The Home Improvement Series.

Dead Trees and Frightful Shrubbery

The Home Improvement Series, Part 1 of 10

The problem: One day in early March, after a home inspection from my homeowners’ insurance company, I received a notification of substandard conditions. It was as it sounds. I was threatened with the cancellation of my policy if I didn’t immediately clear dangerously overhanging tree limbs and plants growing in the gutters. Though not specifically outlined in the letter, there were also overgrown bushes and vines that threatened to swallow the house whole.

I had begun to cut what things I could manage with a hand saw, leaving a graveyard of forlorn trunks. Plus, there was the crabapple tree, which had all three trunks felled by different years’ storms, one after another. Sadly, none fell into the street (which would have brought out the town DPI crew to clear it), but happily, none came through my bedroom window.

Yes, it bloomed like that, but mowing the lawn was a bitch.

Yes, it bloomed like that, but mowing the lawn was a bitch.

The metaphor: I had let my insecurities and fears grow unattended all around me, and they had taken over to the point where I couldn’t see clear of them. Without a complete clearing of past ideas of oneself and one’s situation, it is impossible to move boldly forward into a brighter future. Uncertainties, like tangled vines and gnarled branches, had blocked out the sun and prevented more delicate thoughts and newer growth from taking hold and flourishing.

After the dead trees and unsightly shrubbery pressed up against the vinyl siding were removed, each stump was pulverized to prepare the ground for something new to be planted, replacing the old with the new. It is critically important to fully remove the old ways and old ideas that keep one from moving forward in one’s life.

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The Campaign Begins Now: Bees Deluxe and Flippin’ for the Blues

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Here’s a wonderfully cool idea. Boston-based acid-blues band Bees Deluxe is taking their deep bluesy groove on the road to get out the vote and support Democratic (blue) candidates in their attempt to flip political districts from red to blue. They’re calling this noble cause Flippin’ for the Blues (get it?).

These guys are extremely soulful and accomplished musicians. Check them out.

First up is an event for NH-1 candidate for congress, Maura Sullivan. She’s a former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs and senior Pentagon official in the Obama Administration, Marine Corps Veteran, and candidate for Congress in New Hampshire’s First District. This event takes place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Friday, August 31 at Cisco Brewery. From there, it’s Syracuse NY, Allentown PA, Harrisburg PA, Cleveland OH, Columbus OH and Albany NY for various local candidates. For more information and advance reservations, see the official website.

BeesDeluxe

Help support this great cause — Donate To Their Kickstarter Campaign!

At the Portsmouth event, Bees Deluxe will be supported by the Jugghead Band, and after a few words from the candidate, the band will perform. Their set will include original songs from their new CD, Voice of Dog, along with their own interpretations of the music of B.B. King, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, the Meters and other world class musicians. The band features Conrad Warre (lead guitar, vocals), Carol Band (keyboard), Allyn Dorr (bass) and Paul Giovine (drums).

If you like what you hear of Bees Deluxe, you can stream the new album on Spotify or purchase it from Amazon.

Flippin’ for the Blues: web | twitter | facebook | instagram
Bees Deluxe: web | facebook | twitter | soundcloud | youtube

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The Greying’s Cognitive Dissonance: Bipolar Disorder Meets its Match

TheGreying

While metal/hardcore isn’t usually my preferred musical genre, I honestly can’t think of a more apt way to address (stalk, do battle with, and eviscerate) the horrors and confusion of bipolar disorder. Listening to The Greying, a Cape Cod/South Shore-based metal/hardcore band (imagine that), is a visceral experience. But these guys are no literary slouches. They just know their subject matter, and this isn’t the kind of shit that can be properly expressed in a polite pop song. And that is why they’ve blessed us with their Cognitive Dissonance EP. It was written by singer/songwriter Ryan Meehan, as a way to cope with his bipolar diagnosis.

Each of the five tracks focuses on a particular aspect of this bone-crippling, soul-destroying illness. The desperate rantings of singer Ryan Meehan’s exquisite suffering is driven hard by a raucous racket courtesy of Robert Carlson (guitars), Derrick Darmody (bass) and Noah deVeer (drums).

“Panic” starts out slow and menacing, snarling and grinding its teeth.

Panic comes in droves and circles ’round the carrion
memories that fester in the background.
Suffocate on words I should have spoken.
Sadness turns to rage.
I am broken.

“Regenerate” speaks (screams) of the difficult process of working through the pain in search of healing, and choosing life, however excruciating, over suicide.

Shed your skin
Destroy what’s underneath
Regenerate
Kill what you can’t create
Separate reality from fate
I must learn to settle for myself

“I must learn to settle for myself.” Amazing. It’s all about self-acceptance, which seems like such an easy, straightforward thing, but lordy, it’s not.

“Demons Run” is a charming little ditty about confronting the devil within and the demons without, while one questions/confronts God. Nathan Calcagno of Regime lends his bone-chilling growl for multi-dimensional effect.

No promises of damnation
Wretched hearts go screaming toward the void regardless
Watch the world fall through the hour glass
Demons run when you relinquish hell

Lord forgive me. I’ve done nothing.
Lived a life in fear your hand would come to strike me down.
Felt the fault break with shepards spewing hate
Left the herd before the sickness caught me.

There’s something in there as well about our current political climate, but I won’t go there. Nope.

“Dissociate” is about running away from reality and not confronting your fears, while “Paranoia” is about how one tries to cope with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. One is left wondering if, at times, the “cure” might be just as bad as the illness. “Dissociate” closes with a harrowing scream that ends in a sardonic chuckle. If that isn’t the perfect metaphor for living with bipolar disorder, whether it’s your own or a loved one’s, I don’t know what is.

facebook | instagram | bandcamp | youtube | iTunes

Learn more about bipolar disorder, and if you’re struggling, check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

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The Making of a Malignant Narcissist: Danny Ross’s “The Son”

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As Donald Trump protest songs go (surprisingly, there really aren’t that many of them), Danny Ross’s “The Son” is in a class by itself. It tells the childhood story of our 45th President in a manner that turns Dickens’ Oliver Twist on its head. Instead of the formative years of a band of poor street urchins, this dark tale is about a young boy born into privilege. It attempts to explain the grown man’s depraved ways by examining his upbringing and his relationship with his domineering father — all in charming musical theater style with clever animation by Elvie Mae Parian.

The stories are true, inspired by a 2016 Washington Post article, “Confident. Incorrigible. Bully: Little Donny was a lot like candidate Donald Trump.” Written more than 4 months before the election, it’s likely that if more people had read this article, they might have been sufficiently concerned enough not to vote for him. Even as a teenager, he refused to acknowledge mistakes, threatened his classmates, frequently lashed out in violent actions and was widely known as “a loudmouth bully.” He spent his young life trying to prove himself to an elusive and disapproving father.

Ross makes a powerful statement about Trump’s presidency merely by sharing these anecdotes from his childhood. Presented as it is, you could almost feel sorry for the guy. I did say ALMOST. Suffice it to say, this deceptively cheery little ditty and its accompanying video is eerie as hell.

Danny Ross is one interesting guy. His CV reads like a strange ‘mash-up’ — songwriter and producer, music columnist at Forbes, husband at Babetown (it’s a surf-rock duo with his wife), press secretary at the New York State Senate, chief of staff at the New York State Assembly and scheduler for the U.S. Congress. Ross and his wife are currently based in Brooklyn.

In his Forbes article, “3 Modern Protest Songs in the Trump Era,” Ross marvels at the dearth of Trump protest songs and discusses the difficulty of creating satire about Trump without sinking to his level. He discovered an elegant and effective way to do it, through delving into Donald’s past.

While you’re perusing Ross’s other Forbes articles about music and entertainment, be sure to read his latest piece about the Music Modernization Act (MMA), which seeks to bring antiquated and wildly unfair songwriter royalties into the 21st century.

forbes articles | facebook | twitter | instagram | bandcamp | babetown

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