Thursday, December 30, 2004

Keep on keepin' on

Here's the endpoint of a turbulent year (although not a bad year by any stretch of the imagination) for me. Let's see if I can relay the glimpses in a reasonably coherent fashion:

Started with an awful job that was taken out of desperation just to work, vague promises between Chris and I about making music again, large bills/debt mounting and me not generally giving two fucks about my health (I had been eating in an unhealthy fashion; I was smoking a pack and a half a day again and I was an emotional mess). Started doing Sahaja Yoga in a more disciplined manner and started to mentally diffuse. A bitter winter, endless interviews for a better job and consistently getting rejection letters. At the start of spring, The Undertones came to town; saw them and had a great time meeting and talking with them--the moment when I started to get "it" back and was fired up with inspiration. Bought a Squier Tele Custom and told Chris I was ready to work. Bang--three songs done in no time and suddenly we were The Punch Line again, albeit with only the two of us.

May comes, beautiful weather and just like that, I get a new, full-time job with really good pay. Start climbing out of the hole and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Turn around and The Punch Line have a website and then a headlining gig--WHAT? With what bass player? Pow--there's Bob, after 21 years, ready without hesitation. Wow--we ARE The Punch Line. Bills getting paid; show getting played (Liz and Brian front and center--a dream come true and a proud moment for me). Synchronic West, which was a minor idea tossed out in passing over drinks at our Maxwell's meetings became a reality and then we have most of an album finished. Work=pay, bills diminishing, medical coverage for Liz and myself. Okay, so Bush was elected...something had to actually go wrong this year--but THE YANKEES LOSE TO BOSTON WHO WON THE WORLD SERIES...not that I really give a shit, since I am a Mets fan, but the sweet irony, oh yes... I quit smoking (for the last fucking time) and re-awaken my vegetarian leanings.

Finally, we get to this point--while The Punch Line suspend operations at Synchronic West due to "location difficulties", I re-do Synchronic East and re-discover a treasure trove of original songs to dust off and polish for the next Punch Line album. Look in the mirror, say "I'll be 40 in just two weeks--I look awful"; then lo! Work offers a gym membership and I jump all over it.

2003 was just a cruel year for so many of us. Rather than go into it, I'll say it was a year fraught with frustration and endless sadness. Not depressing--just very hard. It even put a strain on my marriage, but this year was the complete opposite. So this was a year to savor, really.

On the other hand, this was a year bereft of any decent music. I think I bought 3 "new" albums all year by older artists. Brian Wilson, Paul Weller, U2 and that's it. The rest were abysmal. I did spend a good portion of the year re-discovering the beauty of bands like Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Killing Joke, Psychedelic Furs and so on. Basically revisiting the golden years of my youth as I stand back and PROUDLY, with NO FEAR say "I am no longer young, but my heart, musically, still is".

And so as I reach for another Who album, you may ask me "what have you learned?"... My response, as I stroke my graying beard--belief is all.

I wish you all a healthy and love-filled Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sleep deprivation

So naturally, I can't sleep. Even after a full hour's workout at the gym when I left the office and falling asleep at 10:45 or so. It didn't help that you could hear the damn sanitation truck picking up outside our building at 1 a.m. Jesus.

Had a few nice e-mails between Chris and myself yesterday; he's updated the website a bit and it looks so much better. It seems more in touch with The Punch Line right now as opposed to last summer, when we were first up and running again as a band entity. I'm also relieved that the links have been changed for continuity and non-alignment with overtly political organizations. As Bob rightfully pointed out at Maxwell's during one of our meetings:

a) it isn't a good idea, thanks to the new order of censorship
b) we don't wish to offend anyone
c) we all know where we lie politically and socially

Chris also linked the site to this blog page, so that's a cool thing.

So this is all very good, to restructure and re-shape the website for the oncoming year. It should be filling up fairly soon with new Punch Line happenings.

Getting back to the gym, I have to admit I was surprised that I was able to make my first full hour of treadmill/elliptical trainer with such ease (for lack of a better word). You'd think that after a long day, it would have been a chore, but no (hurrah!). NOT impressed with the weight room at the B'way NYSC, so I didn't do any lifting. Felt terrific afterwards. A good shower down and head home for an evening of warmth and laughs with Liz on the couch. If I was bummed by anything, it was not finding any decently priced items at Bloomingdale's Soho. I know I can blow my gift card on anything I want but $149 for Diesel jeans? Fuck you. I'm not THAT ridiculous (and the mid-life crisis hasn't started...yet). Okay. Back to square one. I'll check back there this afternoon and if I see zilch again, then I'll head up to the real Bloomie's sometime next week.

So far, my musical mode is, seemingly, what I always called "warm grooves for winter frost". Zero 7, Noonday Underground, Massive Attack, Jamiroquai, etc. A modern funk/soul brigade. Add to the mix last year's stunners from Norah Jones (sweet and soothing) and Joss Stone (Christ, that girl is vocally gifted...and she's easy on the eyes) and it makes for decent ferry rides to and from work. At the gym, I have my cassette player in my bag with a magnificent tape that my dear friend, the glorious Reamann O'Gormain (once of the splendid That Petrol Emotion), made for me of Northern Soul--if it's anything that can keep me going while working out, you can bet on the likes of N.F. Porter, Luther Ingram Orchestra, et al. "Northern Soul Overkill"? Indeed not!

I'll probably sit down Thursday night or Friday morning and try to write out my thoughts on 2004; it's been one of the more eye-opening years in my life and certainly one filled with lows and highs. Fortunately, for me, it will be ending on a calm but sweeter note than which it started.

Hopefully, now I can at least get 2 1/2 more hours of to the couch.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Mean, moody and magnificent

I had to post this since everyone else is doing it on their respective blogs. I will grant you that this photo is (I believe) 4 years old, taken while I was still with Atlantic Records. Not known for smiling in shots, I choose to define this as (a former paramour would always say) "cool, clean and hard". I liked it then; I like it now.

But more later. This is just filler (ha ha ha)...

"...there's so many things inside those boxcars, connecting this train of thought within my mind..."
Posted by Hello

Monday, December 27, 2004

Monday, Monday

It's early enough with the sun shining on the powdered-sugar snowfall and I've just finished my 2nd cup of coffee. Liz has already gone to work (and will be at the gym tonight--grrr!); I have the luxury of another day off, courtesy of the company. A day filled with mundane joys like doing the laundry, taking a quick trip into the city to make our yearly IRA contribution (actually during the year--a first!) and maybe stopping at Bloomingdale's to spend some of my Xmas/birthday gift certificate from my mother-in-law.

No real after-effects from the gym yesterday, except for some mild soreness in my upper arms and back--duh! Can't wait for tomorrow (well, I can do without the office, ha ha ha) when I can have a REAL workout.

Still feeling philosophical as the year and my 30's wind down. Funny, but I don't think I have the capability at the moment to write it all here. I will say this--it's been about 21 years since I started being "this way" at year's end. I wonder if it has anything to do with joining a band? Jesus, I was 18 when I joined Two Minutes Hate and here we are, two-plus decades later.

Speaking of which, if time allows today, it's back to the 8-track and attempting to lay down further parts for demos.

I've also been trying to think of (if any) my picks for favorite CD's this year--unfortunately, I can't say there were any "new" releases I found outstanding, save for Brian Wilson's stunning re-recording of Smile. Last year, while a bit thin, was far better. This year has been immersed in older music and rediscovering favorites from my younger days. If I come up with anything, believe me--I'll post it.

Rock on...

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Start your engines

Feeling good. The year hasn't ended OR started and I've already hit the gym. Went this morning to the Staten Island NYSC to get our feet wet and had a great beginning to this new phase. Not too overboard, mind you--24 (or so) minutes on the treadmill; 10 minutes on the elliptical trainer and 3 sets with not-so-heavy weights--barbells for the first time in a decade. The "real" workouts begin Tuesday, after work. I think we'll have the actual membership cards by then, but as soon as 5 p.m. comes, I'll go to the NYSC on Broadway and Spring and work out for at least an hour or so (30 treadmill/30 elliptical trainer/3 sets--10 reps free weights), then sauna/whirlpool and shower down before I head home. That's the plan for the new routine--3 days a week and Sunday mornings at the NYSC here. The cool thing is that Liz and I can workout together on Sunday--if today was any indication of what will be, I am REALLY glad that I did this. I know she's happy about having a gym membership, so it just adds to the positives. Of course, I'm fully expecting to wake up with a charley horse in the morning, but hey--no pain, no gain...right, dudes?

In its' own silly way, I do hope that the physical improvement guidelines and goals that I've set for myself will translate to improvement with the goals I've set for The Punch Line. You know, worst kept secret (ha ha ha) is that I only intend to do this through 2 albums (if we get that far), but if I can keep my body healthy and renew my energies physically, then perhaps I can keep my emotions in check with the band and be pragmatic enough to successfully skipper two albums through to the waters to completion. After that, it's in the hands of the fates; it's been a long-enough uphill climb with this one album and the extraneous bullshit that's been heaped along with it. In any event, you have to figure that if you feel good physically, you feel good mentally (and vice-versa). I've been looking forward to have my yin-and-yang in balance.

Xmas Day itself was a non-event (as if it ever would be for us); we wound up having our dinner in the mid-afternoon at Golden's Kosher Delicatessen. How apt. Watched a movie and just spent the afternoon talking. You know you have a great marriage when you don't want to do anything else but sit on the couch and just talk. It's an arrogant thing to say, but when I look at some of the relationships or marriages my friends/associates have, I'm thankful as I have NOTHING to piss and moan about the way they all seem to do about their respective partners. Then again, I'm also the only one (save for one or two) who haven't been through the bullshit of a divorce (I also didn't marry the wrong person to start with). Of course, it's really none of my business...

For someone who was born in New York, in January, I STILL hate the winter.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Habit forming

Only one day since my inaugural entry and here I am again; I'd honestly prefer to do this with a cup of coffee and the daylight of morning, but as it is, it's just about midnight on Xmas and I can't sleep. Better to clear the mind and relax this way--be it with meandering drivel or lucidity, I think this will help me drift off (which means probably sleeping on the couch so as not to wake Liz).

Nice Xmas celebration with Liz at her mother's, which we always do. My brother-in-law, Peter and his girlfriend, Beth were there--really good to see them. Had a good time just talking, then going out for a quick and quiet meal with my mother-in-law. A few hours seeing one another and catching up is more than good enough for us to fulfill a "Xmas vibe".

I have the Discman on and I'm listening to Peter's gift to me, The Who's final meisterwerk, Who Are You (I must state emphatically, that upon Keith Moon's death, The Who were finished and that I never rated Face Dances or It's Hard as Who albums). The funny thing is that for years, I would never give any credence to The Who's canon past the patchwork Magic Bus (On Tour) album, save for a few bits from Quadrophenia (naturally). I never really sat down and gave By Numbers or Who Are You the true attention I now think those albums deserve, but there and again, right now, as far as ROCK music goes, the only band I've been listening to (again) is The Who. I think it might be due to having watched the glorious "The Kids Are Alright" on IFC every time it was on this past month (even though we own the DVD and I saw the movie in the theatre when it came out in 1979). Nonetheless, this album is something of a breath of fresh air to me again after listening to a much more ramshackle affair such as Who's Next or something as claustrophobic as By Numbers. It's so personal and heavy with introspection and uncertainty that The Who come off as being at their absolute peak of maturity--a cruelly ironic foreshadowing since Moon died only weeks after the album was released.

Speaking of cruel and the main reason I think I can't sleep. I just heard tonight from my cousin's husband that she's had a miscarriage and I'm still pained for her. This is her 2nd loss since the two of them were married in April (she has two beautiful children, whom I love as if they were my own, from her first marriage) and I wish there was something--anything--I could do for her. She lives in Los Angeles and the distance makes it hard. Next to Liz, there is no one in this life who I love more than Valerie--she's always been an inspiration, a revelation, my best friend and more like the sister I don't have as opposed to "just a cousin". I love you, Val--I'm thinking of you.

Looking for a lighter tone again, I have the new Musician's Friend sale catalog and I'm drooling over Gibson SGs and Fender Telecaster Customs. What's wrong with me? I just bought 2 new guitars this year! Actually, in keeping in the spirit of when The Punch Line plays live again and my (by then) newly-toned body, I want to look completely bitchin' when I get out there in a black t-shirt that shows muscle and an SG so I look like I ROCK. Is this a sign that the middle age crisis is coming?

A lot of things are floating around my mind right now. May be a good time to halt and attempt to recharge the batteries. Even my 3 cats are sleeping near me on the living room floor.

Good night Sister Disco...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Hello and Happy Holidays

Hi and welcome to my brand-new blog spot. I've decided, on the cusp of my 40th birthday, to join the modern world and create a blog of my own. I was primarily motivated/inspired by Bob Mould, the respected musician, with his Boblog and his general opinions of life, health, music, society, etc. So here I begin writing.

This will also serve, hopefully, as a way for you to get in touch with me easier, especially when it comes to matters concerning The Punch Line. I know I've been lax with many of you when it comes to picking up the phone or writing, to which I apologize. I promise that next to going to the gym at least three times a week, I will be better about keeping in contact for the coming year.

The Punch Line is on an obviously brief hiatus; Liz and I will be doing our usual holiday tradition (quiet time spent at home) and immediately after my birthday, the band is back in the studio. We'll be recording the last three songs for get to the other side, then I'll be working on the art and packaging with the multi-talented Rob Eberhardt (which I am greatly looking forward to). If all goes well and according to plan, the CD should be out mid-March.

During this down time from The Punch Line, things have remained extremely busy in a musical vein. I've refurbished Synchronic East, acquiring a Fostex 8-track digital home studio, new monitor speakers, mics and a candy apple red Strat (courtesy of my beautiful bride as an early birthday gift--thank you, honey) and I've selected/begun demoing 19 of the songs that will become the body of the second Punch Line album, provisionally entitled Always Bridesmaids.

If you know me and you've read this far and are still staring in disbelief or laughing yourself sick with the prior statement about "going to the gym", laugh no more. You read correctly as I've taken the plunge and joined NYSC. Bottom line--I'm about to turn 40 years old, for fuck's sake! It's high time I took hold of the reins and got healthy for the duration. For the last 20 years, I've battled and pretty much won (or have held at bay) my weight problems, but I still felt and looked like shit. No more... I do my daily Sahaja Yoga; I've been curtailing my appalling eating patterns, I get a decent amount of rest and my worst/last habit--smoking--is a definite thing of the past. So now, the icing on the cake is to get into a better physical state. I promise you that by the next time you see The Punch Line live, my appearance will be improved. It's all about DISCIPLINE, baby!

I think this is a good way to open things up here and a good place to stop for now. Everything else is status quo--work is quiet (as would be expected) and I find my mind refreshed by reading the latest Utne Reader. Best of all, I've nearly paid off all the bills--how could you not have a better ending to a year?

Must go now--Liz is waiting for me to join her on the sofa for tonight's "The O.C." (two-hour repeat power-block). Woo-hoo! Talk about a guilty pleasure...

Have yourselves a great holiday.

Much love...Rob