I argued with myself on posting this, and lost. It's TMI, pure ugly catharsis. Probably won't be up long. At least it's better at the end. Not seeking anything with it.

A few months back, a Family Guy rerun introduced me to the term "yacht rock," aka "dad rock," or, as I learned it: "soft rock." Peter is whisked to a happy place upon hearing Bob Welch's solo recording of his older Fleetwood Mac song, "Sentimental Lady." I recalled it from the radio back in the day, though I couldn't claim to know - or perceive - the lyrics. Not to worry, they're not very good. And the album, French Kiss, is also better left imagined. Still, that particular recording is...effective. Affective. Buckingham's arrangement and the post production are sublimely transformative of "meh" material. The lyrics could be a cornbread recipe for all I care. That sound is a blanket of stardust, and I am snuggled, tell you what. Wish it were eight minutes long.

Not having heard it in forever, I immediately went to YouTube (along with numerous Family Guy viewers). The AI there recommended "related" videos. Thus it began. A playlist. A private, indulgent, embarrassing, guilty playlist. Of it I will say only that track one is Player. And me without a yacht. A dinghy, even.

"Sentimental Lady" charted in 1977. I was ten. My cousin and I were just months apart, the oldest kids. Above us were only adults; the three youngest were over 35, the rest a generation or two further removed, and all conservative and old-fashioned in disposition even for their ages. Our car radios only seemed to pick up "soft rock," "oldies," and Country. Oldies aside, there were America, Carly Simon, Charlie Rich, Debby Boone, 5th Dimension, Dionne Warwick, the Carpenters, those new Billy Joel and Barry Manilow kids. "Chevy Van," "Wildfire," "Blue Bayou" (Ms. Ronstadt, if you please), "Wichita Lineman," "Here You Come Again." For reasons too tenebrous to go into here, I had burrowed into Classical and Big Band, so in my room were Grieg, Brahms, and Artie Shaw. No, not for me the disco, the KISS, the new punk thing. I listened to both Engelbert Humperdincks. My pop-pop crooned Al Jolson, and fried scrapple and muskrat to his Ray Conniff 8-track tape. My uncle wanted to leave my aunt for Connie Francis. We watched Lawrence Welk, Hee-Haw, and The Donny & Marie Show.

While the taxonomy of "yacht rock" can be debated, I'm particularly enamoured of a specific subspecies, all under a bell curve with limits at 1970 and 1982. Mostly guitars and electric pianos, string sections a plus. Mostly not rockin'. In this milk crate is no disco, soul (well, there's David Soul), metal, folk, protest, novelty, prog, dance, or ambient. Some of the artists normally classified as "yacht" aren't to be found: Ambrosia, yes, Toto, no; Gary Puckett, yes, Al Jarreau, no; Seals & Crofts, but not Hall & Oates. Likely to do with the stations selected and approved for me circa 1977. This was the pop music that shaped my primordial self, before I really listened to lyrics. Before I was introduced to The Beatles, The Who. Before New Wave. Before Like a Virgin and Thriller. Before Colour By Numbers, Synchronicity, Suzanne Vega, Faith, Tracy Chapman, Vivid, Now and Zen, Control, Document, et al. This yacht-ey stuff formed the baseline soundtrack for adulting.

My top secret, ultra-private playlist currently stands at 87 songs, in no meaningful order. More will be added as I'm reminded. But that's not what this post is about. It's about what happens as the music runs.

I'm not dropped into my 10-year-old brain as expected. I don't think about waiting in the station wagon with my dad and brother for Mom to finish up with "her doctor." I'm not running around the yard dodging dog poop, not begging to stay up on Easter night to watch The Ten Commandments, or five months later the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. I'm not making Rube-Goldbergs out of clay and Tinkertoys, practising the piano, nor wondering whether my elementary school music teacher will leave her new husband for me. No.

Instead, I'm downloaded into a younger, often thinner, less bald iteration of my adult self. My 20s and 30s, grazing the early 40s. 1988-2007. My lonely, miserable, confused, depressed, angry, childish adult years of social binge drinking, skirt chasing, periodic poverty, world-blaming, and passive-aggressive lashing out. An incel in the offing. A lost, sad, fearful, vaguely creepy, untherapized, misfit underachiever.

That man obsessed over approval and belonging, over people, mostly women, mostly old or current love interests, many unrequited. People I ached to know better, and others I wished I'd never met at all; these sets weren't mutually exclusive. But “people” was something I was terrible at, so mostly what I had to pore over were the missed chances, misread expressions, fights, breakups, confessions, disappointments, shocks, hurts, and humiliations. Angry rants, tearful apologies. Yearning. Jealousy. Theatrics. There were good memories tossed in like raisins, and relationships I would have given a toe to reignite, but even the best were poisoned with unrelenting sturm und drang. I inhabited a junk shop of moments in various states of disrepair. That house, that restaurant, that room, that highway, that town, that party, that day, that weekend, that trip, that tree, that shirt, that remark...each a precious, broken souvenir to rub featureless, or a memento to mourn over, like an urn.

Oh, the countless mistakes to erase. That tantrum because I couldn't win at Othello. That tennis racket I broke on a tree because I couldn't complete a pregame warm-up exercise. So many more outbursts of rage. The terrible things I said, and believed, of people. The unevenly knotted string of short-lived relationships. The very bad choices. That one time I drunkenly hit on a woman at a bar. And maybe one other, though it remains uncertain how much of that was invented by my pals. That time I threw up on myself at a bar. And the couple other times. And in someone's car. And out the open door of another car while it was moving. Sleeping it off in someone's den, rec room, living room floor, or porch. All those jokes about me and Red Death. All those invitations that dried up. All those hours driving drunk home alone from some dive or microbrewery, sometimes more than an hour at a time, through fog or snow on winding, hilly, country roads, sometimes on the interstate. That time one of my best friends wrote me off permanently because my drunkenness ruined her anniversary.

It goes on. It got worse. There are things I'll simply never admit to aloud, that I try not to think about even today. Maybe a few I was too blitzed to retain. Apologies I wouldn't have the balls to make even if the opportunities magically arose. Apologies would seem futile, anyway.

I trashed the first half of my adulthood, wrecked it and left wreckage behind. I had bailed out of school, kept a shitty job, was estranged from my family (which is, in truth, the highlight of those years), moved every 9-12 months, saved no money, totalled two cars, thought about nothing but trying to be happy and loved, but proved utterly incapable of making decisions or behaving in a way that would get me there. Others of similar age and academic achievement, folks who had escaped my orbit, were earning doctorates, winning Emmys, writing for newspapers, having kids, putting out records, touring Europe, teaching, filing for patents, owning businesses. I was waking up in a crust of my own exuding on a secondhand sofa in a trailer at the back of a Mennonite dairy farm wondering how I could get into the heart and pants of that new outbound sales rep at the office. Spoiler alert...

Compared to some folks - folks on the news, say - my escapades were tame, dare I say trivial. I never struck anyone. I never stole, broke into anything or any place, set anything ablaze, tried to hurt or end myself, lost a mortgage at the track, nor did anything criminal beyond speeding and habitual drunk driving, though the latter is obviously horrible and it's outrageous I wasn't caught sooner. I didn't do drugs harder than mixed drinks. I never disappeared down the oubliettes of violence, jail, addiction, disease, homelessness, any of that. These garbage years aren't the stuff of television movies. They aren't tragic, just pathetic. Sad and stupid, in the "wow, wasn't he third in his class?" sort of way. In the cautionary-ancillary-character-tale-in-a-movie-about-recovering-alcoholics way, and the she-always-dated-these-sorts-of-losers-until-she-learned-to-value-herself way. In the grow-the-hell-up-already way.

Undiagnosed, unmedicated depression, abyssal self-esteem, and childhood and anger issues are the eleven herbs and spices here, my friend. Which is no excuse, just the explanation. Others faced down their emotional problems; I celebrated mine, wooed them, got them shitfaced, fucked them in the dark and promised I'd never, ever leave. I raged and pitied myself, then patted my back for my endurance, my righteousness. I absorbed my faults. I dared anyone to take them from me. The Venom to my Eddie Brock. Take me or leave me. But please take me. No, leave me. Better yet, leave, but wish you could take me. You know, the way I do you. Isn't it better that way, us always longing and hurting and never needing to work at it and still not closing the door all the way? Nevermind, you just don't understand.

But, weirdly, Rob-boy's Complaint is also not what this post is about. Not exactly. It's true, merely contextual. It leads to the bit about a habit I got into amid it all, because of it all. A hobby of sorts. A balm.

I drove. Sober, I mean.

From 1991 through late 1999, I lived either with crummy roommates in decent places or alone in isolated rural shitholes at the top of my meagre price range. Going "home" after work wasn't a pleasant notion. So most every evening I would leave my 9-5 and drive for 4-6 hours, mostly over southeastern PA: Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Bucks, Lehigh, Berks, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, and Dauphin counties. Delaware State as far as Middletown; later, as far as Milford. When I had to visit NJ for some legitimate reason, I'd come back the long way, covering four or five counties there. One Saturday afternoon, I went out for Burger King drive-thru, and on impulse didn't come back until Sunday night, after zig-zagging around PA, and avoiding toll roads. The town of Susquehanna, near the NY border; Clarion; Altoona; Lockhaven; Three Mile Island; York; Mount Hope; New Hope; Millersville. All associated with heartbreak of one kind or other, with grudges, missteps, regret, and longing. Later, after an LTR with a woman in MD, I added Harford, Cecil, and Baltimore counties to my routes. The backdrops of mental movies where I relived, redressed, and re-imagined things as they "should" have been.

Driving became a second job, something to do alone instead of playing a game or watching TV. A bizarre form of stalking, or maybe more like haunting, akin to going to see the house you grew up in though it had changed hands four times since. The people on my mind weren't even around anymore as far as I knew. I wouldn't stop anywhere, circle a block, or even slow down, linger, or necessarily get within a mile of a particular spot. Sometimes I didn't even know a particular spot. Just moving through the landscape was enough. Ah, Lititz, where so-and-so-I-crushed-on worked part time at the General Sutter Inn during her senior year, before I knew her. Next up, Manheim, and that diner a few of us went to on our way to the PA Ren Faire that one summer, that trip where I was the fifth wheel who wouldn't be dislodged. French Creek, a really good camping trip with friends who were friends no longer, noting drunkenness above. Other nights I'd just go pass places I once got falling down drunk while pining for or, hilariously, trying to impress someone - the Reading airport's wings joint, Shillington, Quarryville, Jennersville, Collegeville, Perkasie. Good times, good times.

Sometimes it was, in fact, good, if bittersweet. One Christmas Day, spent alone, I wanted to see snow. I lived in Cochranville at the time, and had to go as far as State College to spy small white patches in some scrubby copse off 322. The radio stations played goofy music. The skies were grey, but the air dry. The roads were almost empty. In truth I felt some measure of contentedness, and decided I'd found a new tradition - snow on Christmas, always. I haven't spent one alone since, which is good news, though I do feel I let my new tradition down, like returning an adopted puppy.

The driving wasn't therapy, but it was treatment. A controlled space, alone, anonymous, answering to no one, no need to explain or feel guilty for the wallowing. The focus needed for driving prevented a complete inward turn. Some days it was entirely pleasant. Little different from sitting home drinking, but different enough. Funny, I never got into that; all my drinking was social. But these long sober drives were good. Soothing. Somehow a bit less lonely than the four walls waiting at the end. As I said, a balm.

Though the MD LTR added territory, it also reduced my time (not the desire) for driving while the LTR was on. And it helped get me a little better at relationships upon my return to PA (this boast would surprise or amuse some folks I knew around this time; the relationships lasted longer, anyway, and didn't explode the way they used to, so that was a step, yes?). This homecoming was not long after 9-11, so things were weird “out there” on the road, in the country. Gas prices rose, and my job got more demanding. I also earned more, so my home wasn't so much a shithole. With less opportunity and reason to spend the money, the driving tapered off. Once a week, a month, a season. I started therapy in earnest in 2007, in the dusk of yet another failing LTR. By 2008 the impulse for drive-time had dulled. Single again, I returned to social drinking. And, at last, a long overdue DUI.

And we're finally getting closer to what this post is truly supposed be about, and what that playlist really evokes.

By the fourth or fifth song, I'm getting nostalgic for the road. By the tenth, I'm fighting the urge to open Google maps. Then I succumb. By the 20th, I'm sad in that old familiar way, and very - I'd wager "too" - comfortable with it. As the songs roll, I'm revisiting the self that was already sentimentally revisiting this music at his highest and lowest, at his most naive and self-delusional. I'm 30, 35, in the car on Rte 23, somewhere between Phoenixville and Marietta. I'm a passenger in that safe place where I can just think what I want and feel like shit and don't have to justify it and no one's bothered and there are no consequences.

I'm reminiscing about reminiscing. (Inception!)

Meanwhile, my partner of ten years is in another room unaware that I'm shooting myself in the aorta for the sport of it, and that the engraving on the barrel reads, "PLAY ALL." Thankfully, my little wormhole, my Einstein-Rosen binge, collapses quickly once the music's off and I'm back in her presence. And I don't indulge this often. I can quit any time I want!

An exceptionally dumb part of this dark nostalgia for darker nostalgia is that none of this music was even playing while I was on the road. I had a few Paul Simon, Sting, and Tori Amos tapes on heavy rotation. I'd tune to alternative or college stations. One of these drives is when I first heard Nine Inch Nails ("Closer," and I lol'd the whole way through it). Worse, most of these playlist songs have nothing to do with the original memories or events. I never made out with anyone to Climax Blues Band or Roberta Flack, but that's what I wanted on the radio as I breezed through Shamokin.

These songs would play in my head because I grew up associating them with the sorts of experiences I was reliving. Leo Sayer's 1977 "When I Need You" was not to be heard when I fell for so-and-so in 1988. Yet, even though I was into Billy Joel and Bonnie Raitt at the time, and she was into Violent Femmes and Les Miserables, and she could barely stand me and we never got close to going out, and I dated other people, and she stopped speaking to me in 1991, conjuring an imagined relationship from West Chester in 1988 while driving past Schwenksville in 1997 with Ben Folds on the radio, what I heard was Sayer. The sound of the generation before me is the sound of my adult feelings filtered through my childhood and adolescence - the soundtrack I always thought should have been there. Not sure that makes a whole lot of sense as written, or at all, but there you go.

This is my island playlist from that time I was stranded on a large but isolated mass of volcanic moody badness. It took years, but I built a raft and caught a trade wind. I don't want to go back. But, in fact, secretly, sometimes I do. That was Home for a long-ass time. I remember every leaf and stone. Sometimes being miserable in an old way is attractive. Sometimes the familiarity, the certainty, beckons. A flyover is enough. Well, maybe stop for a bit, lunch on the beach. That's okay, right? Wasn't this the premise of Rescue from Gilligan's Island?

That's the depression speaking, of course. I know that. It's one thing to reflect, another to revert.

And that brings us to the catch. I'm not that guy anymore. I remain absurdly sentimental, and my depression is genetic, neurochemical, and therefore always skulking about somewhere, a stowaway stealing from the galley. (My raft had a galley. So sue me.) Still, I'm not him. Therapy, experience, perspective, a different class of social circle, all have done their jobs. I can't always fix my mood, but I can parse it. Now when I think about so-and-so A, or so-and-so's B through Double-Zed, or this-and-that, when I drive these roads in my mind, my longing isn't for old flames, but for resolution.

I want to wipe the slate. I'm over the heartaches, but not the embarrassment, the guilt of being a bad guy, the shame of being disdained or regretted. It sits in me, sometimes a stone, sometimes an acid stomach. I get sad that so-and-so's are left with that soiled image. I want them to remember me differently, to know that I made it off the island. It's not about connection anymore, it's about redemption, pride. That's better, yes?

Now the most maudlin part. I think. Hard to be sure after all this.

The ragged, seeping exit wound is the therapized now-me's realization that: these people don't think about me at all. We haven't seen one another in 10+ years? 20? 30? I was irrelevant to some even then, I know that now. All this emotional labour and mire isn't for naught just because reconciliation is impossible, but because I'm alone in wanting it. For all the scars I imagine I left, or the stupid humiliations from which I may never recover, I'm a blip to folks on the other side. Would so-and-so remember me smashing that tennis racket? Sure. Does she ever think about it, wonder what happened to that guy? Nope - why on earth would she be holding onto that? Does so-and-so recall cutting me out of her life after my drunken stupidity? Certainly. Does she think about it when driving past the old office we shared? Why - we've been strangers five or six times longer than we were friends. Does so-and-so regret knowing me? Her, definitely. How often? Best guess: next to never. Does anyone have a laugh over me failing to finish "Danny Boy" one sodden night at the Epicurean? Magic 8-Ball's sources say no.

Maybe the final hurdle in therapy is acceptance: that I could have done better, that apologies are all anyone can give or expect, that not all bridges can or should be rebuilt, and that some things will never be fixed or fixable. And especially that I simply wasn't the fixture in people's lives that they were in mine. If I ever get back to therapy, this/these will be at the top of my legal pad.

And after? Perhaps the greatest questions would remain: with acceptance achieved, what will come of this playlist? Would I ever again feel the impulse to drive through Leola or see the Reading pagoda? Will I get maudlin to Bread or Paul Davis?

One thing's for sure: you can pry the Carpenters from my cold, dead, tear-stained hands.

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“But I feel much better now!”
Rob 2dedited
 

I promise you, there is strong demand for this software. Audio drama writers desperately want scriptwriting software. 

The format has to look like this: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/bbcradioscene.pdf

It HAS to have line numbering. The sound effect directions often include stuff like, "rain continues through line 45" and so on. 

Shortcuts, like you find in Final Draft and Celtx, are needed. It's easier if we can hit tab twice, type "b" and get "Brienne Of Tarth."

Essentially, Celtx needs to get off its ass and bring back its radio drama script format (which I think they 86ed) at a reasonable price point, or a disgruntled Celtx employee needs to rip off the software and make an open source version on the DL. Final Draft is the most commonly used software in the US for scriptwriting, and they've never had a radio play format. They need to get with the program. 

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5/23
 

Everything is much as before, modulo brightness out of the sky. These next two months are the brightest of the year and we're not spending much time outside still. But it's getting warmer, finally, it seems like the miserable rains and sudden polar vortexes are done. 

I keep making art. I don't know how to not make art. It would be nice to sell some but that's even harder now. I post things regularly on my instagram PhotoPuck as well as on my purpose-made tumblr plotterprints.tumblr.com.  

I hate Instagram with a fiery passion. As soon as they think you want to try to sell something on their platform you get shadowbanned from all but the most dedicated feed scrollers. Because they want you to convert to a commercial account and buy advertising. And I made the mistake of mentioning selling art a couple weeks ago so pretty much no one sees my shit anymore. 

I cooked the other half of the whole beef round we bought a few weeks ago; it was in the freezer. Thawed it in the fridge overnight, sliced it 1cm thick across the grain, threw it in the IP, sprinkled Montreal steak seasoning on it and added a cup of water and pressure cooked it for 2.5 hours. Broke the meat up into chunks with tongs and stored them in the icebox, then turned the remaining liquid into beef and rice soup, which I am eating now.

Health is okay. Exercise continues lackadaisically. I probably wouldn't do shit if my Apple watch wasn't guilting me into doing 30 minutes a day. Buying it last September was clearly not a frivolity; it's keeping me much healthier. Recommended. 

Mostly I use resistance straps on a three day legs, core, arms cycle. Sometimes I'll jog in place for 30 minutes instead or additionally, while watching nature documentaries on Netflix with the sound off.

I guess that's about it. 


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Can I buy your landscape "mistake"?
I have created a storefront at plotterprints.square.site and I think the one you're asking about is on it. LMK if not.
Just to let you know I got your order, thanks a bunch! I am an "Internationally collected artist."
I am an unabashed collector of my friends’ art. Most of the art in our home is by us or by people we know—or have met, even if only briefly.
Following you on Insta now.
 

In the midst of everything happening, existing health crises continue apace. It is frustrating, frightening, and sad. This has led to additional losses, and it is no less heartbreaking.

So far, in this pandemic, I am aware of six losses that touch me or my personal circle. In any three month timeframe, this would be difficult. But now, we don't know if we get to have any sort of gathering, let alone a funeral.

On Monday, May 11, I received word of the latest loss, but this time, it was closer to me than any that had come before.

In my personal history, I refer to the time period of 1990-1993 as the Dark Time. I had dropped out of college, and was struggling through a series of minimum and low-wage jobs. My life was your basic mess, and I was ultimately by myself for the majority of it. It was during this time that I discovered the online world, although it was very limited compared to what we have now. It was the world of bulletin board services (BBSes), with local people running them, creating these microcommunities that would one day link into what we have now. I met Jeff, who was a teenager at the time, through one of these services. Jeff and I became very close, despite all the differences between us. We are still friends all these years later.

His family took me in, for some crazy reason. They included me in Christmas when I was alone. They took me on a family excursion to an amusement park. Later, when I was back in college, I interviewed their younger children for papers I was working on. Jeff's parents had married in high school, and were themselves only 10 or so years older than me, and struggling themselves. The recession of the early 1990s hit them particularly hard, but they opened their home and family to me.

On Monday, May 11, while preparing the next day's lunch for her husband, Jeff's mother collapsed. Jeff's father performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. Her heart alternately started and stopped, and currently, they believe she suffered a pulmonary embolism. I don't know for certain, but I believe she was only 59. Jeff tells me there was nothing that could have been done, because of how fast everything happened.

With all our focus on CoVid-19, it is hard to remember everything else that is happening.

But I needed to mark this loss. Thank you, Sandra, for showing such great kindness and generosity to a lost boy. I will never forget you.


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5/13
 

On the advice of Patch, I'm posting this here from an email I just wrote. Taken from an article: "57 Things to Do With Friends While Social Distancing Beyond 'Catching Up'" recommended by Lindsay. Sorry if some of you are seeing this twice.


Weekly? Newsletter

Things I read: Just finished Joan Didion's "Year of Magical Thinking". Not an uplifting read, but for me it fit the theme of loss I'm feeling lately. Was really comforting. Looking for recommendations for the next one though. Not just non-fiction, if you had an un-put-downable-read lately, please do share.

Watched: Signed up for the the free trial of CBS All Access and plowed through "Picard" over the weekend and plan to binge "Star Trek: Discovery" next. Big Star Trek nerds in this household. Hugely big. As much as I appreciate the continuation of the ST universe with the reboots, I badly needed me some nostalgic Next Generation feels.

Listened to: Right now I'm just randomly asking Alexa things like "play Pink Floyd". Which, btw, always seems to start with the song "Money". I'd be thrilled if anyone could experiment and get back to me if it's the same first song for you.

Ate: Food is getting very frustrating. I believe we are stuck in a cycle of: curbside pickup from local small businesses, occasional Chick-fil-A (Why is the line there always wrapped around the building twice? I always figured them on the same level as McD's or Wendy's, but those places are right nearby with much shorter lines.), SaladWorks (best Cobb salads), home-cooking (usually too depressed to cook much), sandwiches... and way too many snacks. And BOOZE. Got the Covid-15(lbs) happening over here.

Laughed about: Too many stand-up specials to count. The ones that stick out are Marc Maron: End Times Fun (and also Thinky Pain) on Netflix, Neal Brennan: 3 Mics on Netflix, anything Jim Gaffigan, and I have to say Stephen Colbert and the other late show hosts are doing so much to keep it survivable. :)

Photographed: This bird outside of my kitchen window, just today, that I have yet to identify.


Loved: Hot Breakfast 15 minute coffee breaks, Ted's YouTube videos and Instagram artwork, group Zooms (when I can get to them), other wonderful stuff I'm sure I'm forgetting, my guy, and my adorable cat. And youz guyz. <3


I do my hair toss, check my nails. Baby how you feeling?

XOXO,

Karen

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I've been meaning to create a "FELINE GOOD AS HELL" cat meme but it's getting a bit late for it.
I would love to have seen that.
Another friend watched the Picard series and was frustrated by it and didn't think it did much with the potential it had. What say you?

Also wow! That looks like a male Baltimore Oriole! They're nectar eaters (also bugs and berries) so if you have a hummingbird feeder you might entice it even closer or encourage it to come back more often... I think there are also feeders specifically made for Orioles, orange colored instead of red and bigger perches. I haven't seen a Baltimore Oriole in the flesh since I was a teen. They're supposed to live in VT (and I saw them here as a kid) but I've yet to spot one in the 10 years I've been back. You're so lucky!!

Food. Sigh. We're fine, we're eating tasty varied foods. But I miss the whole going out and having someone set a beautiful plate of food in front of me while I eavesdrop on the chatter of strangers.
Anne Mollo 5/11edited
The acting was so good that I didn't notice all the plot holes as I was going along. Were there plot holes? Heavens, yes.
I concur with the oriole identification. Maybe nature really is getting better! Perhaps the baseball-playing Orioles aren't getting any worse?
 

75 years ago today, one theater of the largest war in history ended. Linked below is the official radio anouncement read by Winston Churchill at three o'clock in the afternoon, in London.

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5/8
 

I sometimes make music with The Rock Orchestra.  It's a tribute band. They're good.

On Wednesdays at 7:30pm, they've been hosting watch-parties of professionally-shot, multi-camera videos of some of our live performances... Peter Gabriel... The Who... and tonight was when we performed Bruce Springsteen's first three albums

I was never a huge Springsteen fan, for no particular reason.  But playing that Born to Run album (as I overlook the occasional problematic misogynistic juvenile lyrics) with people I freakin' LOVE, with bravado and swagger, with a horn section, a friggin' old-skool Hammond Organ trucked in... just... wow. We killed it.  I had forgotten how much fun it was. (Here's a link to Rosalita. Here's a link to the song Born to Run with my badass glockenspiel.)

But this post isn't about that.  

The audience was packed-- it was a sold out show of 700+ people we didn't know. And they were happily buzzed and singing along. Some of the camera angles were shot from the back of the house, over the heads of the revelers standing shoulder to shoulder to strangers, having a blast, connected in that moment of live music.  And at one point there were 15 of us on stage once the horn section came on stage... and at times some of us were sharing mics and doing that jubilantly goofy standing-back-to-back "rock move" that sometimes organically happens when musicians are musicking. 

And then it hit me. 

We can't do that anymore.  That was another life. Another world. We may never get back to that until we have a vaccine... and today I read an article in Wired about how this Covid fucker is mutating into something potentially more sinister. Great.

I watched the livestream and cried.  I cried with happiness, remembering the joy we experienced on stage. 

And then I cried for how much I miss connecting with other people.  I cried seeing the audience, and hearing them sing along. I cry at the drop of a hat lately.

Maybe it's PMS. Maybe it's 8 weeks of not leaving my house except for three turbo-fast trips to the grocery store.  Maybe it's missing my parents (who are doing fine, by the way).  I dunno.  Last night was really bad-- I was inconsolably crying and feeling really fucking hopeless for a few hours.  I've never felt suicidal in my life, but last night was the first time I could sorta see how someone could maybe feel that way-- it seemed at least.... plausible?  Like, fuck it, why bother?  (Pleeeeeeease don't read anything into that. I mean it. Do not worry. I am not suicidal, like, at all. I'm totally OK, and was just feeling blue from these shit-ass circumstances.)  And honestly, taking a 1/2 xanax and talking to my dad via Duo helped a huge deal.  But I'm just saying I could finally see for the first time the darkness that brains have the potential to experience. Jesus.


ANYWAY, now that I've totally ruined the mood... let's forget all that and talk about happier stuff.

1) I have bird feeders outside my kitchen window and I love how we have a cast of regulars who visit every day.  We have a pair of sparrows, four mourning doves, a pair of cardinals (though the male visits more often), a fat squirrel, and we had our first crow the other day, but I haven't seen him back. (As an aside: My dream is to have a crow or raven decide to be my friend. I subscribe to waaaay too many raven/crow channels on YouTube.)

2) We are still doing our thrice-weekly 15-minute Hot Breakfast CoffeeBreak Concerts at 3pm EDT on our Facebook page.  Our production values have gone up a smidge... we have "hold music" as we wait for people to arrive, and Matt labors over the signs we put up as a placeholder before each show.  I love his silly design aesthetic.

Today was concert #17, which I kinda can't believe. We haven't repeated a song yet, which is kind of a fun challenge.  Today we did only covers... we did one somber tune to acknowledge the sadness in the air that seems to be weighing everyone down ("Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, of course)... and then we played "Squeezebox" by The Who because it's our friend Kevin's favorite song and he was having a rough go of it and we wanted to cheer him up.  Then we went full-on dork with Pac Man Fever, and we finished chipper with a Daydream Believer singalong.  Original songs are great and all, but sometimes you just wanna hear songs you recognize, y'know?

When we originally decided to do these concerts, we said we'd do them until May 15th, which was the arbitrary end-of-the-lockdown date the Governor of Delaware picked way back in March.  It doesn't look like things will reopen by then, or maybe a few things will soft-open, I dunno... so I'm not sure if we should bother still doing them after May 15th.  Lots of people write to us and thank us sincerely for doing them, saying it really helps to have things on their calendar a few days a week. The comraderie that has built up among the regular attendees in the chat windows is so, so glorious to see.  It's really fun seeing new friendships being formed among the viewers.  

In the beginning these livestreams were easy because we had our standard material that we've played a billion times and didn't really have to think about.  But now we are deeeeeeep in the super-deep-cuts of our original songs... stuff we've only played live once or twice, and/or learning new cover songs the night before the livestream.  We try to have some kind of theme, and we try to put little easter eggs around our performance space, though we're not sure if the camera can always pick 'em up.  These are definitely good for us to do.  I'm grateful to have deadlines since I have no other work.

(Though I did teach my first vocal coaching session via Zoom yesterday, which was cool... but it was a favor for a friend's kid who has an audition coming up.)


3) In other news: Every Saturday the PhilaDels have been having Zoom hangouts; sometimes we play Cards Against Humanity or Pictionary, and other times we just shoot the shit.  I've "seen" my PhilaDels more in the last 8 weeks than I have in the last 2-3 years combined. So I guess there is a silver lining in this.


4) In other, other news: Since the general rule is that you can't gather in groups of 10 or more... what's preventing anyone from having a small group of masked people over to our backyard on a nice weekend day, standing a reasonable distance apart, just to shoot the shit and eat a burger (carefully, being mindful of the mask and drool)?  Do we have to be THIS isolated?  


5) Matt and I have only left the house thrice for quick shopping trips, like I mentioned... and when we do, we have ridiculously complex and hella overkill decontamination processes as we bring ourselves and our purchases into the house.  I am confident we are virus-free.  With that, we are thiiiiiiiinking about visiting my parents this weekend. They also have not left the house except for a few quick shopping trips. Mom is clearly getting worse, surely due to understimulation... but Dad actually seems to be doing a lot better now that the weather is warming up and he's healthy again, and now on a low-dose antidepressant which has made him a new guy.  They are more than comfy with us coming up... the room we sleep in up there hasn't been opened/entered since we were last in it in February.  I'm still a teeny bit nervous about going up-- god forbid I somehow am an asymptomatic transmitter... but I don't know how I could have contracted it since I'm so friggin' neurotic about washing, desanitizing, distancing, masking, even wearing goggles in the store, etc.  I have a few more days to decide if we're gonna go.  It'd be nice to see Mom for Mother's Day.  I don't know how many more Mothers Days she'll have where she understands what day it is.  The last time Matt and I left the house was April 28th, so we're 8 days isolated. I suppose I could wait an extra week and go up next weekend when we are more than 14 days clear, just to be super-safe.  Hmmmm.  Thoughts?


Anyway. That's enough outta me for now.

I love you all very much. 

Sorry I've been so quiet over here. I am reading what you're all writing. Thank you for writing.

xoxo-- good night!


PS: Hey, anyone hear from Robert Bryan anytime recently, by the way?


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I'm here, thankful to hear your voice in my head as I read your amazeballs writing.
Yaaaaaay! Thanks for surfacing, my friend. Just wanted to know y'all are OK.
Sounds like those concerts might be doing good things for you guys as well as your audience. I would think about keeping those up. maybe change the schedule to be a little less intense if you like. Just a thought, of course you should do what's right for you. But rhythm is everything.

Everyone is working out their own quarantine buddy situation. I see how there are big trade-offs in your mind about visiting your parents. It does sound like you've been impressively isolated. We are taking advantage of the fact that we're allowed to go for walks, and so is the entire neighborhood, with increasingly poor mask participation, so I would hesitate to say that we are grandparent ready.

Take care.
For what it is worth, I know you will be out there again as soon as the stage is available. You will be one of the people reminding us about what it means to be together, and be encouraging us to return to whatever level of social normalcy is possible.

Also, for what it's worth - this isolation has given me the opportunity to examine my own mental health from a different perspective. For me, life does not change dramatically from one day to the next, and yet my mood(s) can swing wildly. It's helped me recognize what a chemical pea soup I have going on in my brain, and further, to recognize real versus imagined crises. Yes, I can cause my own downward spiral if I focus on anything negative for too long, but I can also simply experience something without even trying - and it can come and go in the space of a few hours.

And I don't have the stressors you do. I mean, you don't actually know what mine are right now, but I know they are very different from yours.

And your concerts do help. For me, they give me something to look forward to that is regular and predictable. I know you can't see me, but I imagine you can, so I make myself presentable before I sit down in front of the computer to tune in. It jump starts me to handle errands or interact with others. So for me, you're helping a lot.

I miss you. Take care of yourself and Matt, and let me know if you need anything I can provide.
SFM 5/7
Wow, Thank you. This was extreeeeeemely helpful for me to read. Recognizing the difference between a "mood" and overall mental health. Thank you. It's OK to be in a poopy mood, and remembering that this is not the "forever setting." Thank you. It's so obvious, but reading it really helped. Thank you. Really.

And dooood, I'm so happy to hear the concerts help. I love the idea of you making yourself presentable before them. :) It means the world to be that you tune in to our bojangley-ness. :-D

Douldah.
This resonated strongly for me. I'm afraid to contact you too much because I'm afraid you'll think I'm stalking you. if you guys had to stop doing the HBCBCs, I would be blue, but I'd survive. I also imagine that prepping for these must be exhausting.
More later. I have some stuff on my desk that I have to deal with.
A couple of thoughts:

Does your mom still have respiratory issues?
Would she understand or be okay with you wearing a mask and/or remaining 6' away?
Could you say, "Mom, I have a cold, and I don't want you to catch it?" If so, would she be okay with that?

In reference to gathering in groups of 9 or less: Our downhill neighbors do this every time the weather is nice. It used to make me furious. Now I just figure if they get sick, I don't have to feel sad. They play corn hole (huh huh, huh huh, hey, Beavis) and wiffle ball, which is distanced, but they also hold their kids on their laps and sit around the same table. it seems like it's the same cast of characters routinely. I know that some people agree to co-quarantine or whatever they're calling it.

I don't know the answers, but I wholly empathize.
Thanks for the concerts! Mos def highlights of my weeks. I hope you and Matt can find it in yourselves to keep them up.
Thank you! This is really helpful feedback, and I love when you pop in and say "Yo!"

I think we'll commit to 3x/week through May 30th and then re-assess what life is starting to look like for people.

What are they saying in your neck of the woods? Any target dates of a soft reopening or anything? Here in DE, they allowed certain business to "soft-reopen" as long as they keep a teeeny number of customers in the building at one time, and everyone masks up. Stuff like hair salons and nail places... but nobody's sitting down in a restaurant yet.

Love y'allz.
As of Saturday (today's report won't be for another few hours), we've had 261 total cases, 244 recovered, 3 deaths, 14 active cases, of which 4 are in hospital, of which 2 are in ICU. Hospital capacity is at about 60%. Some two-thirds of the total cases in the province are related to one weekend's services in March at a funeral home three streets away from our house. This outbreak made a lot of the general public sit up and take it, or at least its stupid contagiousness, very seriously early on. Between that and the early move to ban healthcare workers from working in more than one long-term care home, we haven't seen nearly as much trouble here as some other provinces with their elderly populations.

The provincial government has implemented a 5-level scheme of alerts: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/alert-system/ . Today (Monday) we've been moved from level 5 to level 4. Under level 5, it was very much a complete stay-at-home order unless you were an essential employee, you needed hospitalization, or you were out for essential groceries. Parks were closed, but you could go out for exercise. Self-isolation for 2 weeks if you travel into the province, and recently they put in some rules that make it very difficult to travel here without a good reason (and "I have a vacation home in NL" wasn't actually a good enough reason). Under level 4, the parks are open, but not for picnics or playgrounds or team sports. Some businesses, daycares, and non-emergency medical visits can resume. Restrictions will continue to ease as the levels go down, but I don't think any public health official can say with certainty what level 2 or 1 will really look like. And of course we may have to go back to 5 if there's another outbreak.

Also, they've gotten us into a "bubble" concept, where your immediate household is your "bubble" that you don't break. Two weeks ago, we were allowed to merge into "double bubbles" -- two households can get together, so long as they are mutually exclusive. We doubled up with a friend who lives on her own and doesn't have any local family. (On our island with a culture of extended Irish Catholic families that gather together frequently, other households are encountering some trouble when they try to figure out which adult sibling's kids get to see Nan and Pop. One feel-good story, though, was that the mayor of St. John's got to hold his new grandbaby for the first time last weekend.) At least one other province, New Brunswick, is working with this "bubble" idea.

Canada's been addressing loss of income a little more ... proactively than the States, but we aren't eligible because of our income situation. Also, we got our U.S. tax refund but we haven't seen our sweet, sweet stimulus checks. I hear that's a common or universal problem among eligible Americans living outside the States. [EDITED to add: the system finally responded to my query this morning, and we should be seeing our moneys this week. Yay!]
Michele Grant 5/11edited
 

I was in a bad mood, but I'm feeling much better now. 

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WAUGH! AAAA!

Holy shit share that
HEEHEEHEE. Thank you. I could draw pointy headed Mike Pence inhabited by aliens for the rest of my life. Ted was the one who came up with “and the alien is just a big giant eyeball.”
This has a very Bill Plimpton feel. I love it.
(googles Bill Plimpton)
That guy? Ooh, thank you!
Okay, these are seriously frickin great!

We need to get you some unlined paper lady. ;)
I know, but I also have Journal Fear. Like, "Oh, this is a Good Notebook, I can't mess it up." as opposed to "this is a regular notebook, I have room to make mistakes." Room To Make Mistakes is the room where I tend to do well. In a perfect world, cheap-ass notebooks would be made with recycled paper so I don't feel like I'm killing a tree, the pages would have a great texture, and would be dotted instead of lines, so I can write on lines when I want to and draw with reckless abandon when I don't.

I also know that "pages with great texture" and "recycled paper" don't always go hand in hand.
All good thoughts - I will just add:

>>"I also have Journal Fear"
They're called SKETCHbooks. Not REFINEDPERFECTARTbooks.

>>"In a perfect world"
They make cheap ass notedbooks with dots out of recycled paper. Or at least, I know that they make all three of those things, so I'm confident SOMEONE put all three concepts into a single notebook.

>>>"I also know"
Yeah - the whole recycled paper / great texture is the one area where you might have to go without. I have yet to find that particular combo, but it's probably a quest worth undergoing. I also find that I sincerely enjoy ball point pen on way-too-smooth computer paper. The whole 'glide-y factor' can and does make drawing different and fun at times. So paper texture might not be the ultimate concern.

Basically, what I'm saying here is "MOAR Lindsay Art Please!"
Also? I just noticed that there's a little American flag sticking out of the hooman suit crumpled in the background. Not sure why, but that's slaying me.
Oh, thank you. That turned into an overthinking point for me. I realized that I should go back and put the flag in the first picture, like a lapel pin or something, then I thought, well no, it'd be too small to match with the final frame, then I thought, okay he could be holding it, and then I decided I was overthinking it.
Definitely. I kinda like it just as it is. :)
Yeah, and what I need to remember is that any drawing is better than no drawing at all. Ivan Brunetti's style is helping my confidence. I tell myself, "just draw shapes and then figure it out." I had a terrible time with the 2nd panel, thinking, "what are the shapes of someone reaching up to unhinge their own jaw?" and then I thought, there aren't really shapes for that because the human body isn't supposed to unzip itself like a suit, so I figured anything was OK as long as the eyeball looked good.
Wow!

First: I'd never come across Brunetti before. After some quick Googling / YouTubing, I'm fascinated! I can see his influence in Ted's stuff now that I'm aware of it. :) Thanks for broadening my perspective. I wouldn't have seen it in yours if you hadn't said something because you seem to be fleshing out (heh) more details. Your drawing fu is strong.

Second: Nice work on the breakdown of someone 'unzipping'. You figured out what the focus is and as long as that expresses what you're trying to get across, the rest are just details. THIS is the stuff of master Pictionary artists. (And truthfully, ANY kind of illustrator, but it's even more critical in the time constrained world of Pictionary.)
Yep! The "FIELD NOTES" brand of sketchbooks/journals are all that and moar... plus: hipster cachet!
I use Amazon's knock off band every day for my driver's log. Bought myself a nice leather 'wallet' to keep it in, and have it with me pretty much always. https://smile.amazon.com/Field-Notebook-x5-5-Black-Graph/dp/B07488WL4F
 

Ted and I were asked by an organization called PAR (they help people with autism and intellectual disability) to make videos advocating for support for Direct Support Professionals. 

Ted's is better. He's a handsome devil. 

This was take 3. I read a media kit explaining all the issues to Ted, while he took notes. Then he wrote out what he wanted to say, while I asked him open ended questions to help him stay on topic (he would have been happy to talk about every musical he had ever performed in or wanted to perform in). 
He recorded it once, reading off of his notes. It looked like he'd been kidnapped. I made cue cards. We recorded it again with the cue cards. Somehow, that was worse. Then we tried doing it as an interview, since he pretty much had the copy memorized by that point. I still think this looks overly coached, but most people would at least read talking points off of index cards for something like this. 

Feel free to share the videos. 

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5/3
 

On April 25th, 1976, two men, protesting the US treatment of American Indians, trespassed onto the outfield at Dodger's Stadium in Los Angeles during the bottom of the fourth inning. they put an American flag on the ground, quickly sprayed it with lighter fluid and attepted to set it alight.

While they fumbled with the matches, Rick Monday, an outfielder for the visiting Chicago Cubs, dashed in, snatched up the flag and ran off to the infield with it. Eventually, he brought it to the Dodger's dugout, handing off to Dodger's pitcher Doug Rau. The protestors were arrested and charged with trespassing.

When Monday came up to bat at the top of the fifth inning, the entire stadium gave him a standing ovation. A digital sign in the outfield flashed the message; "Rick Monday... You Made A Great Play..."

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I love when you do these "On this day" segments. It's Cliff Clavin-esque, but better. (But Cliff would probably focus on the brand of matches and why that batch didn't work that day.)

Eeeeeee!