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On A Sunday Afternoon

October 14, 2012

In the words of Felix Cavaliere, who wrote them for his band the Rascals 45 years ago, today was a day for “groovin'” and “doin’ anything we like to do.” Mitzi, Penny and I took advantage of just such an opportunity this afternoon in Central Park. Quite a few other folks had a similar idea, it seemed. Perfect fall weather had native New Yorkers and tourists alike out in droves. Mitzi and I wolfed down our hot dogs and shared a Coke, while the little doggie charmed passerby and strained at the leash to chase squirrels. Quite a hike back to the 6 line on Lexington, but worth every step. “Ain’t a place I’d like to be instead,” indeed.Image


His Kind of Town

October 14, 2012

Walking these streets, I’m reminded of my father’s love for this city. He knew the ups and downs of Manhattan, and the idiosyncrasies of every neighborhood therein. One bright summer day when I was about 12 or so, I took the train in from our home in Cos Cob, CT, to meet my father for lunch at Young & Rubicam, the ad agency where he worked. After introducing me to his Mad Men (and a couple of Mad Women) colleagues, we set off down 5th Avenue. Walking at my dad’s brisk pace, we passed the Empire State Building, and then Madison Square Park. He kept up a running commentary the entire way, as I struggled to match his stride. We reached the Village, and walked through Washington Square Park. I wondered where we were going to stop for lunch, the ostensible purpose of my visit. But we marched ever southward, down Broadway and through what years later would be called Soho and then Tribeca. I soldiered on, two steps behind my dad. The World Trade Center complex hadn’t been built yet, and neither of us could foresee the terrible events that would occur some forty years later, as we traversed westward on Vesey Street. Our jaunt continued, until Battery Park appeared before us. My dad proceeded to the nearest hot dog cart, bought us both a Polish and said, “This is one great city, isn’t it?” Catching my breath, I could only respond, “Sure is, Dad.”Image

Penny Checks In

October 12, 2012

After a five-hour flight, plus an hour’s shuttle ride into Manhattan from JFK, our gal does what anyone else would do: Have a look around the accommodations. Finding everything to her satisfaction, she settles in for the evening. Come tomorrow, there’ll be myriad hydrants and light poles to sniff on Lexington Avenue, but for now, it seems the Affinia Shelburne Hotel will do. A bit loud, perhaps, but then 4th Street in San Francisco is home to its own brand of cacophony. Life is good, and the Ngim/Donald party of three wishes all a good night.Image

My New Favorite Band

July 29, 2012

Long live Le Dud Memes. Of course, given that their average age is about ten years, that seems likely. I encountered these young rockers today while biking alongside the San Francisco Marathon route on Illinois Street. Playin’ loud, playin’ proud. If the fledgling guitarist occasionally swings her hand a little too far up the fretboard and happens to hit the wrong barre chord, hey, it’s only rock and roll. And yes, I like it.

The Groove Ephemeral

July 22, 2012

It comes and goes like the wind. You can’t describe it, and you can’t write it down. But you know it when you hear it. It either moves you, or it doesn’t. Musicians will get into specifics and tell you that the drummer is dropping the tempo, the bass player isn’t finishing his licks or whatever. Non-musicians will simply say it doesn’t sound good. Both are correct. I’ve been checking out some local venues lately, and it’s surprising how many otherwise-talented musicians can’t seem to get in the pocket. And that includes all forms. The other night at Davies, the Symphony initially couldn’t find the sweet spot on “Rhapsody in Blue,” of all things. The audience sat on its hands. Yesterday afternoon at El Rio, a self-proclaimed dive bar in San Francisco’s Mission district, a favorite local band kept rushing through their tunes, and as a result, the dance floor was empty. As my friend Bill Mack used to say, “If it ain’t groovin,’ it ain’t movin.'”

The Airport Is Sleeping

July 14, 2012

But unfortunately, I’m not. In an oft-told story today, the first of my two flights from Nashville to San Francisco was weather-delayed. So much so that I missed my follow-on flight to SFO. Which was the last flight of the evening. Only then to discover that the last available seat the next day was on the 6:10 am flight. So here I sit, keeping watch over the usually-bustling Concourse B, as it catches a few winks. In a little less than six hours, God and United Airlines willing, I’ll be seated in 1F (yes, a first class upgrade, in what will undoubtedly be an all-too-welcome bit of irony), atttempting to do the very same. 

Travel Bears

July 14, 2012

Homeward bound today. Two flights, through O’Hare to SFO. These days, air travel is extraordinarily safe, but anything can happen, and on occasion, does. To ward off danger, Mitzi has always insisted that I pack these four little guys for luck. It’s worked for years, and now I won’t head for an airport without them. Onward, and yes, upward. 

“Play That Chord Again”

July 12, 2012

Three guys, two guitars, one piano. And a few hours later, a freshly-minted song. This is all new to me, but it’s the way things are done in Nashville. Collaboration is paramount, and virtually every tune is not written, but co-written. You meet another musician you like, and before long, it’s, “Hey, we should write together sometime.” Today I had an opportunity to work with a couple of Music City veterans, Brent Moyer and my buddy Bob Saporiti. Enlightening, to say the least. I’d worked up a little something I thought was almost done; melody, lyrics, changes, everything. I riffed through it a time or two, and suddenly, game on. “Get rid of this, try that, write a bridge, add a modulation, rip through a solo, and hey, there you go.” The result was “My Love Will Never Go Away.” The next chart-topper for the likes of Kenny Chesney? Who knows? It’s pretty darn catchy, actually, but this is a town dedicated to the song, and as such, Nashville is a marketplace, much like LA is a marketplace for scripts. And thus, anything can happen. Anything at all.

Buddy Up

July 10, 2012

Nervous Nellie time. Standard practice in the country music business dictates that songs are written by pairs and sometimes groups of people. Very few tunes are written by just one person; it’s nearly always a collaboration. Just how it’s done in this town. So tomorrow I’m going to a writing session with a couple of veteran local songwriters. Great opportunity, yes, as long as I don’t embarrass myself. I found a piano and spent the afternoon practicing, but I have to keep remembering that even though I’m a far cry from the likes of Leon Russell, Bruce Hornsby, et al, all I really have is who I am. So I’m just going to sit down and hope my fingers hit a few of the right notes, and my funny little voice doesn’t sound too goofy. More to come.

Food Of Her People

July 8, 2012

One of the issues that arises in writing a blog, or I suppose, in writing anything at all, is repetition. Or fear of such. I mention that because I think the following theme may have been explored in a previous post; if so, please bear with me. Because yes, the subject is a favorite motif. An enduring travel habit calls for my wife Mitzi and I to seek out a Chinese restaurant wherever we land, and almost immediately upon arrival. As she’s fond of stating, “My people can cook.” Call it a comfort stop, a moment to recall home and only then to plunge back into the unknown. So it was that I walked over to the Golden Coast, a nearby establishment that features both a buffet and menu items. I’d heard said on earlier trips that it was one of Nashville’s finest of the category. Tonight’s dinner was not a disappointment, and when I opened up my fortune cookie, I came to understand just why it was so particularly satisfying.