Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Rite of Softee

"There's no shiny towers here,
we built them in the city town
Just some kids and they're
runnin' round, chasing Softee down"

How could I possibly write an albums worth of material centering around life in the outer-boroughs of New York City without mentioning Mr. Softee? As such, I felt compelled to work it (him?) into the lyric of a tune called "Middle Town" (above) from my new record, "Queens English".

For those not from these here parts, Mr. Softee is a somewhat low-key, iconic fixture of NY street life in the summertime. Basically a fleet of bare-bones, soft-serve ice cream parlors on wheels, Softee brings both smiles to kids and looks of "crap, there goes dinner" to pre-meal time parents alike. With his sickly sweet concoctions and annoying yet beautiful music box jingle (usually played on some terribly distorted truck-mounted sound system), Mr. Softee is the taste and sound of the baked apple incarnate.

As my son and I hit the park today, heard that familiar jangly tune and smelled that familiar smell (idling truck fumes), we knew spring had definitely made its way back to NYC
...on a waffle cone and four sticky tires.

"That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favorite song
The nights are getting warmer, it won't be long
Won't be long 'till summer comes
now that the boys are here again

*From "The Boys Are Back in Town" - Thin Lizzy

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tar Wars

Taste...the final frontier.

So what do you do when a UFO lands in your backyard? I'm pretty sure that chubby dude with the sled fetish bombed on
Paul Masson would know but he's dead, right? Now what? These and other poignant questions were suddenly posed as this sparkling silver beauty appeared behind my home last week (left).

After a small leak in my ceiling prompted a visit from a local roofer, it got me thinking, hey, I should have this guy put a new roof on my garage while he's at it (exciting, right?). I've never attended to these old, car-park rafters since I've owned the property and probably should. Wouldn't want any of that utterly useless crap I'm storing in there for no apparent reason to get water damaged. I tell the roofer it's his lucky day and we're off to the races.

When the roofers finish, shockingly I'm left with something pretty garish that resembles the
Jupiter 2. Apparently, as my roofer explains it, these days tar is passe' and rubber roofs are all the rage. Once these flubber-esque sheets are rolled out and heated to stick to your roof (technical, I know, stay with me people) they must then be coated with a Warhol-like silver paint to reflect the sun and prevent said flubber from drying out, cracking and letting the water in. Makes sense. Of course. Awesome.

So, after a few days of living with this garage-sized suntan reflector beaming retina-burning rays through my kitchen window, my wife and I are pretty freaked. I'm back on the phone with the roofer -

Me: Can we cover the roof with something, maybe black?

Roofer: Nope. Not recommended, absorbs the heat, not good for the roof.

Me: Yeah, I know but the silver's pretty tough on the eyes; besides I burn easily.
Roofer: No, that's how it's done.
Me: I got to be honest,
my wife really hates the way it looks.
Roofer: She'll get used to it, give it some time.

What? She'll get used to it?! Wow, I'm getting pissed, offended and obviously nowhere. I hang up. After some Yellow Pages finger-walking and numerous calls, I finally find a dude willing to take my money and coat the spacecraft black. Seems no one wants the job. Like the others I've spoken to, Roofer #2, claims the stealth coating's not so great for the roof but it'll be "okay".

In the end order is restored to the known universe and despite all my troubles I suppose it's comforting to learn a deep moral code apparently exists amongst roofers today; it seems not many are willing to eschew the force and cross over to the dark side.

Editors Note - Roofer #2 has yet to return for his check
. Laziness? Cosmic existential dilemma? You decide.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The View From Inside

"Dude!.... are you that guy that made "Inside, everything is really nice ohhhhhh inside"???! Seriously if you are him I want to thank you so much for making that song. I haven't heard it in years but it's still on my old computer because it came with Musicmatch Jukebox as a sample song. That's one of my favorite songs EVER! I still sing it all the time even though I haven't heard it. Anyway I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you for making such a beautiful song. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it because of the memories I get. Believe it or not that song had an impact on my life when I was going through some hard times and it always made me feel the future will be better...And it is! Anyway thank you so much! Much love! :D "

Thought I'd put my usual snarky, cornball antics aside this week and share a cool note (above) I received yesterday re: a tune I wrote. It's weird, making records is like having children in a way; usually a painful birth, followed by unconditional investments of love and nurturing, yielding bi-polar mixtures of both sadness and great joy. You might make 'em but you don't own 'em and when they're ready, they go off into the world and take on a life of their own. Finding friends, making enemies, causing ruckuses or quietly keeping to themselves. They might phone home once and a while but you're never quite sure what they're really doing out there.

My memory's a bit foggy but back in '99 when my first record, "Pop Job", quietly hit the streets I kind of remember my label, Parasol, making a deal with some entity connected to Microsoft or Musicmatch that allowed for the inclusion of my tune, "Inside", within an early mp3 player Bill & Co. were bundling with their operating systems. Chances are if you bought a PC with Windows around this time you probably received "Inside" hidden, er, inside your computer.

Cut to ten years later when I receive this amazing, flattering and touching note from a total stranger thanking me for giving them a little joy and helping them navigate some rough emotional terrain in their life. Heavy and humbling, it briefly washes away all the negatives I've accumulated and associated with the music 'business' over the years. Whenever I'm lucky enough to receive one of these appreciative messages it also serves to remind me why I do what I do - because I love it and hope to make that personal connection with folks at some level via the music I create.
They say the true artist creates for himself and no one else. I'm not so sure I'd agree; seems a little selfish even to a narcissistic-artistic type such as myself. Alternately, it might smack of self-importance to think a tune I wrote (sitting on a broken futon in my apartment) could affect someone's life in a positive way but amazingly, the reality is, it seems one has and for that I'm honored and grateful.

"Hey, Honey! The kid just called, he got a promotion at work today!"

Much Love Indeed,