Ev’ry New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

I feel like things have been coming back to life, slowly but inevitably increasing. Things are new and hopeful on many levels. A few weeks ago I got my second shot of vaccine, and have slow been starting to go out and do things. We went out to dinner one night to celebrate Michelle’s birthday. Jeannie’s parents dropped by for a visit one afternoon.

I got a haircut, the first in over a year. Having long hair again was kinda fun, but it was time to move on. I went out and bought some clothes – a sports coat, slacks and a couple neckties. I haven’t had an occasion to get dressed up in a long time. It’s funny, a year and a half ago, even before the pandemic, when I started working from home full time, one of the first things I did was to go thru my closet and get rid of some old clothes. Now it feels like it’s come full circle. Soon it’ll be time to tune my piano, get an eye-exam, and all the other things made difficult to impossible by the pandemic.

Michelle’s last day of high school was today, which means I’m done picking her up after school (before the pandemic she took the train). She’s got a job lined up for the summer, which should be fun and exciting. Meanwhile, my workdays will be a little easier and more flexible. And safer.

I couple weeks ago I was on my home from picking up Michelle, sitting at a traffic light, when I was hit from behind by another car. It was a pretty strong jolt, but my car was basically unharmed; the only damage was the tip of the chrome cuff around the tailpipe was dinged. His car, a Mini, was a wreck. Bumper, hood, radiator, the whole front end smashed. It looks like he was driving without a tier, just a bar wheel. Maybe the tire came loose from the wheel and that’s why he couldn’t stop. He told me he was driving with a flat because Minis have no spare tire, and was on his way to the garage to have it fixed.

I took my car to the shop for inspection, and while they were at it I asked them to look and see if there was any serious damage underneath, but all was good. Then an oil change, which they didn’t notice I needed when they did the inspection. So I brought the car back for that. While I was at it I told them to rotate the tires. Then it turned out the needed new brakes too, which somehow they also failed to notice when they did the inspection. But then it takes a few days to order the parts. So three different days the car was in the shop. Yeesh! We had a big road trip coming up, so I had to get this all done ASAP.

Lots more happening. I’ll tell you all about it in the next post.

Shiny New Year

Ok so, the new year is off to a roaring start.

Two weeks ago we had just returned to work for new year. Coldness and darkness and all that. That weekend Jeannie was putting away the Christmas decorations in the closet under the stairs, a.k.a. the wizard room. Forgetting where she was, she stood up too fast and bumped her head pretty hard on the low ceiling. The next day Jeannie was driving to work and has a headache and started feeling dizzy. It turned out she had a concussion, which took the better part of a week to get over.

Right around that time the pain in my ankle went from kinda bad to really bad, and it was clear that I’d have to seriously and assiduously stay off my feet for a little while.

That same day we got the news Jeannie’s Aunt Mary died. She was 87 years old. A dear sweet lady. I still remember visiting her house in New Jersey way back when I first moved to NYC. I just saw her at Christmas and she seemed to being doing pretty well. The end was pretty fast.

So bang 1-2-3. At least Lizzy was home and was able to give us rides to the doctors and the funeral home. I was able to work from home until I started feeling better, and we got thru all that. I finally went into the office today. It was good to see everyone again.

We managed to get the Honda fixed somewhere in there. The dealer in White Plains where I bought the car was completely useless, lying to us about the scheduling and the work they intended to perform, recommending thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs, and not addressing the issue we brought it in for in the first place. After multiple visits we had the give up on them. We took it another Honda dealer in Yonkers, and they were no better. We finally took it to the local garage near Jeannie’s work and they fixed it up for a reasonable price. Never got the firmware in the car’s computer updated, but it seems that was probably unnecessary anyway. Yeesh done with the dealers.

On a more upbeat note, the first gig of the new year was with my jazz group Haven Street at the Green Growler in Croton, and it went really well. We played two sets, 10 songs and then 6, with a total of 12 originals and 4 standards. Of the originals, 6 were on our record and 6 are new, destined for record #2. I think the newer songs are all really interesting and some of them really challenging to play, and all offer something new and different compositionally and tonally to solo on, so we’re not just repeating ourselves. The group is at a level where we pretty consistently get into a zone of really good listening/interactivity/spontaneity. A friend of the drummer sat in on trumpet on the standards, and he was quite good, tone phrasing riffs and chops.

Green Growler is a fun and cozy venue. It’s not exactly strictly a bar. They have hundreds of kinds of beer in cans and bottles that you can buy and carry out. It’s right by the Croton train station so there’s alot of walk-in traffic and the bar itself is like a counter. They also have a bunch of beers on tap and you can come in with a jug and have it filled. Then there’s a lounge area across from the bar, where the band plays, and in addition to some chairs and tables they have couches and board games, so it’s a pretty cool hang. They mostly have jazz and alternative music. It’s not very large but the room was full for the first set and still half full at the end, and the people really dug it. There was even dancing, and a guy drawing us the whole show. He showed me the drawings, pretty cool. Captured alot of the improvisational energy.

Our next gig is this Friday at the Bean Runner Cafe in Peekskill. Should be even better.

On the rock’n’roll front, we had to kick out our old drummer. We all felt really bad about it, but we had gone as far as we could with him. Andy was a really great guy, very dedicated and eager to help in every way. Unfortunately he was just not an experienced player. The rest of the group has several decades each of experience in working bands, and Andy had been playing about a year and was still getting the basics together.

So Gina had a friend Pete, who is a former wedding band drummer and has a great sense of time and groove. As soon as he entered it lifted the whole sound of the band. Pete sings too, so now we can do three-part harmonies.

We had a gig last weekend, which we had to cancel due to the threat of a snowstorm. Our guitarist Vinny works as a supervisor of a snowplow crew in the Bronx, so he got called in. As it turned out the storm was mostly just rain. Still it’s just as well. No one would’ve come out on a nasty stormy night. And having another week to get the set together with Pete is good thing. To top it off I wouldn’t’ve been able to hump the PA gear coming off and ankle injury.

So we have our debut gig with the new lineup this Saturday at P. J. Fogherty’s in Bronxville. Conveniently just five minutes from my house.

Lefts and Rights of Passage

I’m happy to say that the show at Michelle’s school was a smashing success. The theme this year was Give My Regards to Broadway, and it was basically a revue of show tunes. There were alot of talented kids in this year’s graduating class. Some years there’s just one or two eighth graders, but this year there were more than thirty, including a good handful of soloists. They did the same Phantom/Les Mis medley that we did in the Cabaret show a few years ago, and I’d say they did a better job. This is the fifth year or so I played in the band in its various permutations, maybe the seventh show. It gets easier and more fun every year as I’ve gotten to feel familiar with this group of musicians, and at this point I’ve played with everyone in the group. My playing is at a level now where I can read thru the songs once and pretty much be good. I only learned Friend Like Me when we were setting up for the first show.

Another highlight: Michelle had a ukulele solo in We Are Made of Stars. We practiced that one together a few times. She nailed it.

Today I gave Lizzy her first lesson in driving a car. I gave her a basic safety primer then took her to an empty parking lot and had her practice driving around slowly, doing circuits of the lot, mainly just lifting her foot off the brake and letting the car roll. Once she got comfortable with starting and stopping and steering and shifting between park and drive, I let her give it a bit of gas. She got up to 11 mph (17kph) one time! Then on the way home I had her drive the last block to our house and park in the driveway. She did very well and was quite thrilled. Next time I’ll have her go in reverse and learn to park with a bit of precision, and maybe even try some neighborhood streets, get up to 15 or 20!