Monday, August 17, 2015

Post #2200: A Video From Two Years Ago

Front...

Back...East Meadow, NY
I wore my Huey Lewis and the News Sports 30th Anniversary Tour T-shirt today, and it hit me as I put it on: that concert was two years ago today.

Now I can't say it was the best show of theirs I've been to. It will be very hard to top 1986 at the Garden, when they were as big as any band in the world, and MSG was rocking.

But I can say that it was an emotionally wonderful show because my dear friends Mick and Gretchen (with baby on the way) were there.

Oh so was Sean. It was his first concert ever.

Now, keep in mind that it was a free concert on Long Island. They had, roughly 10,000 or so. It. Was. Packed.

We had to sit at the top of a hill, and couldn't see the stage. We could, however, hear the music.

I wrote about it.

Due to the crowd, we made our way to the car towards the end. Let's just say that I know a thing or two about HLN shows.

Mick: We should probably get going or we'll be stuck in traffic (not "Stuck with You") all night.

Me: Well they probably have "Power of Love," "Do You Believe in Love," and "Working for a Living" left.

Mick: You're a sick man. OK. Meet you in the lot.

So Sean and I watched "The Power of Love" together with the best view of the stage all night. I grabbed my phone and filmed some. The quality is terrible, but the music sounds great. Sean danced. I danced. Pretty heavenly.



 If I never go to another concert, that's a good moment to stop on.

Nine Times, and Thank You

ROONEY...GRRRRRRR
I wanted to do it. I wanted to.

Somewhere, in the back of my brain, I knew I could write. I knew I had a voice.

My friends - a couple of them - did it. It felt like a challenge.

So I jumped in also. I started a blog.

Exit 55 was born nine years ago today. Nine times I've celebrated this thing (now maybe you can understand the title and the picture of Ed Rooney).

That first post rings true. I'm still annoyed that the old Yankee Stadium is gone. You know that, no doubt.

We've waged war on so many topics. We've celebrated triumphs. We've dumped tons of emotion around these parts. Sports? Oh yeah, we've talked just a wee bit about them. Travel? Music? Movies? TV? Life? A kid named Sean? Yeah. All of the above.

We've dealt with heartache and heartbreak. New beginnings and some endings.

I've made mistakes. I've shared too much.

We've visited the past, as we try to do every year on September 11. This is that first one, from 2006.

I've backed down a great deal. I don't write as much. I delete more than I used to (or leave drafts simmering, as I did last week).

I've nearly walked away from this countless times. Not because I don't want to do it anymore, but because I feel like I should. I like having readers, and I like fostering conversation, but having a small, dedicated group of visitors here works also.

I've nearly walked away because my voice had been quieted, largely by my choice. I can't be as open or honest as I would like to be. Common sense dictates it, but I also find it sad.

There's more as to why I've almost stopped. I've lost confidence as a writer, despite the thoughts of several people who have been huge supporters. I used to just write. I generally trusted my language, my spelling, my grammar. It's like I've forgotten the difference between they're, their, and there.

I said "like." I haven't forgotten. It's just a expression. Sadly, I make that mistake way too often.

I always get affect/effect wrong. Check to see how many times I've used either spelling of that word. I'm willing to bet it's one one hand.

It's been a challenging nine years, but it's been fun also. Things ended. Things began, then ended. And again. With offers to eat excrement and perish, too.

I've been loyal and honest. Often to a fault (yes, that's a reference to the last sentence in that last paragraph).

I forged an idea that I'm deeply proud of. It started as a radio station. It ventured into video. It's now a network. I always wanted to work for a network. Specifically, NBC.

Vin Scully and Dick Enberg were both on NBC. That was enough for me.

Proud as a peacock, indeed.

Along the way, through these nine years, we built friendships. Some because of the blog, others maybe strengthened by it.

Others hurt and damaged.

I officially became a writer, and dare I say, I respected print reporter in early 2013, when I went to the Wilton Bulletin. It's also fair to say my confidence began to dip as a result.

Then again, I've always been a work in progress.

With this post, we hit 2199. There is so much more to say. So much more to do. I've thought about ending it at 10 years, but I don't know. Let's just see where it goes.

I've always enjoyed the journey anyway.

There has been support from many, and I'll forget someone. But Jon, Harold, Mick, JK, Susan, Paul, Jason, Tim, Sean (Kilkelly, that is, though Adams also), Shawn, Kato, Ryan, CJ (ErJuan of ErJuania), Dave, Tony, Jim, Brian, and Kris have been among the many names who have ready many words, if not all of them. (Again, as always, I know I forgot to name a name. I try.)

A few of those names are in the deepest circle of trust, and know me better than anyone. I think they know who they are.

Some, honestly, have read none. Not a single one. Yet they've supported by just being themselves.

So many people in Greenwich have been wonderful. That dates back to the late 90's.

I wish more people in my own hometown knew.

Too many radio friends have been supportive. Newspapers friends. Media friends in total.

Family. Mom, Laura, Doug, and all of my nieces, nephews, and great nieces and great nephews.

The good people that I've never met, or barely know, like all of the guys and girls who enjoy the open highway.

None of you have blinked an eye when the topic resorted back to my dad, my son, my job, my life, my world, the Yankees, the Steelers, Huey Lewis, or roads. Or anything else.

We've covered a lot of ground in nine years. That first post was conceived, largely, on August 16, truth be told. I worked up the courage to hit publish the following morning (the time stamp says 7:00 am).

So year 10 has begun. I really hope, one year from now, we're all in a much better place.

As always, let's keep moving forward.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jefferson Valley Mall Will Live Again

The future?
I wrote in early 2013 about a stroll around the Jefferson Valley Mall in Yorktown, NY and its demise, mixed with my memories.

The idea of renovating the 32 year-old relic has been bouncing around for some time, because it looked like "JV" was heading towards the fate of the Dutchess Mall, Baldwin Place Mall, South Hills Mall, and others.

Those three are either dead or look completely different.

Well Jefferson Valley is finally getting its long-overdue facelift.

New York State Senator Terrence P. Murphy sounds the trumpets of progress.

A hopeful sign for a place that once meant a lot to the mall rats of the area.

The place I bought my copy of FORE! the day it came out.

Lots of memories. Lots of laughs.

I used to be there almost every day (of course, I worked there for some time). Now I go there about once a year.

So let's hope.

I encourage to watch this delightful video of life at the JV Mall in 1987!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Feet Up

Sean's artwork on the balcony at our villa in Vermont
For the first time in what feels like weeks, I'm home alone on a Saturday.

On the one hand, there is the loneliness that comes with this, and is why I am always so active on the weekend. On the other hand, after five days of shows in Vermont, it's a welcomed break.

Up there, I was responsible for the programming and audio on HAN Radio and the HAN Network. I also feel a large responsibility for the video side of things, which is why I am more than just the radio manager. I believe, in my heart, I have an obligation to every aspect of our broadcasting.

Beyond that, I had Sean with me. For as easy as he is to watch over, he is still such a large chunk of my world. Therefore, when our tent blew over onto a power line - with Sean sitting below - I shook for probably a half-hour after we resolved it.

My first reaction was to yell at Sean to get away and to grab the tent. Then I realized it was on the power line.
Yes. That happened. See the leg up against the (thankfully insulated) power line? (Photo courtesy Kate Czaplinski)
I take my world seriously. I'm not being pithy, dramatic, disrespectful, unreasonable, or anything else. I'm being honest. I take my job, my friends, my acquaintances, my relationships, and most of my life, seriously.

With a lot of laughter, of course.

A few thoughts about Vermont: it's still as beautiful as I remember from a lifetime ago. Bennington is a very sweet town. The Bennington Motor Inn is surprisingly pleasant in its simplicity. The Wilburton Inn is amazing (Melissa Levis and her adorable dog Jetson were wonderful hosts). Manchester can get clogged with shoppers looking for goodies. I could spend hours in the Northshire Bookstore.

I cooked chicken on a grill and nobody got sick. I saw some interesting art at the Wilburton. Sean and I found Jetson on the loose a few times.

Sean is growing up, yet he's still a boy, and I'm holding onto that. But he loves the stories that I tell him, and that's a wonderful gift.

Melissa and Jetson chat with Marty Hersam and some other guy. (Joshua Fisher photo)
I loved the simplicity of Vermont and didn't want to come home. Yet I'm pleased to be stretched out at home, watching baseball.

On the other hand, when Chris Kaelin called a short time ago to say he was driving to Virginia, I almost jumped at the chance to ride along.

The Green Mountain State was a fun experience, to be sure. We all put a lot of work and energy into setting four broadcasts up and breaking them down each day. Our Vermont colleagues seemed happy to have us there, and I hope we can go back again.

I'm especially grateful to everyone who welcomed Sean. The kindness makes him feel good. Toasting him at dinner on Thursday night brought a big smile to his face.

It took some coaxing, but he had a blast learning to fly fish from Peter Kutzer at the Orvis flagship store.

I had mixed emotions when I dropped him off last night. I was certainly ready for a break but sad to be alone.

I guess I'm torn.

Four days, three nights here? OK. (Strawberry Hill Villa, Wilburton Inn)
Anyway, I'm rambling.

I'm home. Next adventure is coming up very soon. Looks like North Carolina is happening again.

Sean learning to fly fish at Orvis, with Ian Murren filming in the background. Special thanks to Peter Kutzer of Orvis for his amazing kindness.

Sean is in the video from Orvis twice: once at 1:50:00, and again at 2:48:00, where the fly fishing segment begins.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Rule 55: Stop Trying

Greetings on a sticky Saturday.

Here's a tune for you: a rare live HLN tune, from the first album. Stop Trying.

That's all.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Amy...and Me


I was chatting with some friends and colleagues the other day when the topic of Amy, the new documentary about Amy Winehouse, came up.

After she had become a caricature - another striking example of the famed 27 Club - we (well, maybe just I) forgot about the music. I was reminded of how striking her sound was. How intense the lyrics were. How there was a complete flashback to the 60s soul that hit our AM radios.

I also remembered how I had not listened to Back to Black, her stunning 2006 album, in probably eight years.


*****

Trust is a vital part of life. Like many, I have thrown a large collection of eggs into the basket of various people in my world. I've often felt, rightly or wrongly, that I could lean on a person in my inner circle.

There are those - we all have one or two (or more) - that we can feel completely unburdened with. For sure, we feel like we can tell that person every little flaw. Every quirk. We feel like they will never let us down, because we trust them. So they truly become that soul mate.

Even as things are falling apart, we hold on for dear life, because there's just no way that person that you put so much faith into will hurt you. They simply will not cheat you. They won't tell the secrets that you gave them. They won't stray.

As Ms. Winehouse would croon: "No. No. No."

*****

Her album would rocket through 2007, gaining worldwide airplay, and find itself in my iTunes. But times were changing. Tastes were changing. Life, itself, was changing.

For Amy Winehouse, there would be disastrous public appearances, drugs, booze, and ultimately, death in July, 2011. A life full of promise was gone in a haze.

Amy Winehouse and her Back to Black album would visit me again, when I discovered that it could be the soundtrack to destroying trust and all that one believes in.

I've been struggling to find it ever since.

Life moves on. You have no choice. You coin a mantra: "Keep moving forward." You do just that.

You're better off in continuing to move with it.

You discover that maybe, just maybe, you can try trusting again. Maybe you can let your soul be what it once was.

Then again, maybe not. It's a work in progress.

I went home following the conversation about Amy Winehouse and put Back to Black on as I mowed the lawn. The music astounded me. Moved me.

I suppose, in some way, it was therapeutic. Almost a form of, wait for it...

Rehab.

No. No. No.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

A Flashback and an Addendum: WGCH-FM Revisited


I don't often get comments left for me on the site, but I stumbled on one today. It was for a post that I wrote in 2008.

Yes, seven years ago.

It was about WGCH, or should I say, the predecessor to the AM station at 1490. It was about WGCH-FM, at 95.9.

I found the story of it in the history originally here, while there's more on Hartford Radio History as well. I've since stumbled across a third version on the Greenwich Library website.

With all of that said, I wrote about WGCH-FM on March 10, 2008. A reader commented on it back in late June of this year, and have added her comments as a quick update. So jump into the Exit 55 Wayback Machine again and have a read.

Oh yeah, and since it's Huey Lewis' birthday, and we're going back in time, well...yeah...

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Musical Musings of Monkees Mayhem and More

Rivalry? What rivalry? Michael Nesmith and John Lennon
I truly enjoy a great conversation about music, especially when it's not one of those "Bon Jovi is da greatest American bands evah"-types of debates, where you know you just can't deal with logic.

I'm not one to shy away from an a good music debate (John Cougar Monkfish, anyone?) but I like it when it stays civil and fun.

I especially like a conversation that makes me (or perhaps the person I'm talking to) seek out some of the tunes being discussed. When there's a moment of "Holy moly! I thought I was the only one that liked that song/artist/band/genre."

One of those chats occurred the other day. By the end of it I was seeking out my copy of Billy Joel's Cold Spring Harbor, an album famous for being mistakenly mastered at a higher speed. You realize what a wonderful album it is that sets him up for greater success.

Music can come and go emotionally. The song you detested in 1986 is beloved today. A band like U2 can be genius circa 1982-1985 before The Joshua Tree destroys it. It takes 15 years to come back to them, only to have life sort of ruin it.

A song like "Take On Me" can go from being "meh" to annoying to detested to laughed at (thank you, Family Guy) as you connect with your child over it.

It's all truly personal preference, though one has to try to be fair, like it or not. I get it: Mr. Mellancamp has sold millions. Of the nearly 17,000 songs in the iTunes on the computer I'm typing from, I spy three songs of his that were undoubtedly given to me or part of some collection. He is, no doubt, a talented musician. Again. You have to be fair.

Another recent conversation revealed a fondness for "Let It Grow" by Eric Claption. It creates one of those moments when the conversation hits stunned silence at the discovery of something that you didn't expect. Yes, indeed.



Still another conversation got me thinking about The Monkees. I always love the narrative that gets created (by fans and media, of course) of a rivalry between The Beatles and The Monkees (and of course, between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones).

None existed, folks. Hit the Googler (or look at the top of this post). Discover it for yourself. See how both Nesmith and Dolenz were hanging out at Abbey Road with John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

If anything, "rivalries" occasionally produce music. Without Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, we might not get Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Liverpool Lads.

I cant tell you that I liked the Pre-Fab Four, and of course loved the show. The music, especially the earlier work had tremendous songwriting behind them (Neil Diamond, Carole King, Harry Nilsson, among others). But wait! There's more!

Now I'm not here to tell you The Monkees are better than The Beatles. You know from hanging around these parts that The Beatles are in my blood, so I will always be a bigger fan of theirs. That's where personal preference comes in (and sometimes, with it, a certain level of "guilt."**) I'm not going to tell you Huey Lewis and the News are America's GREATEST BAND, but I'm sure going to tell you that they don't necessarily get the respect they deserve. They are what they are.

** Bonus reading at the bottom as we hit the Exit 55 WAYBACK MACHINE!

I will say the same about The Monkees. Their hits are monsters, and yes, they didn't play on them...blah blah blah. It's still their voices. Look, let's not go there. This isn't Milli Vanilli we're talking about. Yet we tend to overlook them as being a goofy novelty act without digging deeper. I submit to you a couple of tunes.

"Listen to The Band" Just when you want to say, "Oh this is just some Mike Nesmith country-western twang thang," stop. Immediately(because even if it was, so what?). Listen to the horns kick in. His vocal works perfectly. There's a great bass line in there. I was stunned to rediscover this one.


You can hear why "Papa Nez" has his cult following. Now listen to "Words" in which you get the great vocal of Micky Dolenz, but check out the harmonizing and co-lead vocal of Peter Tork. Often thought of as, arguably, the Monkee with the best instrumental chops, you hear another dimension. Again, there's a great bass line (Nesmith plays that one, with Tork on lead guitar).


Lastly, check out "Randy Scouse Git (Alternate Title)" with its reference to the "Four Kings of EMI." (The Beatles, of course)

I love a song with depth. A tympani drum? The piano interlude in the beginning? Nesmith yawning in the video? OK, that last piece has nothing to do with the song itself, but still. Read Wikipedia for more on it.

Unless you really know their music you're probably not aware of these tunes.

Look, I'm not trying to get them elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but let's be honest, are the Monkees better than, er, Mr. Mellancamp (who is, shamefully, in)? Again, personal preference, but it's a debate worth having.

Anyway, the point of this exercise was to discuss how a great conversation, a moment, a thought, can lead one to discover or rediscover music. There are certain bridges that likely will never be crossed, but there are others that, with an open mind, can lead to a whole new world that the wisdom of time can give.

** I said we'd hit the WAYBACK MACHINE (Sherman and Peabody are nowhere to be found for this). Back to 2009 we go, when I previously wrote about guilty pleasure in music.