Monday, March 31, 2008

"I Will Rest When I'm Dead"

Melissa Ferrick sang these words on her album Listen Hard released in 2002 and it hit me as soon as I heard them that it is truly my life motto. The past couple weeks were such a whirlwind I feel like a rock star; minus the heavy drinking, late nights and musical talent parts. Perhaps it can be attributed to inhaling so many paint fumes or the extra special workout my body got after lugging boxes up and down stairs but it is amazing to me that March is already over.

We signed the lease for the apartment, decided to move in on the 29th since it was a weekend, and immediately I was purchasing materials and packing up the tool caddy for my painting job in Maryland the following week. The morning I was leaving Matt and I decided to check on a whim how much flights would cost out of BWI if he were to drive down with me and then fly back the same day. It was so reasonable he was yelling book it and I was printing a boarding pass before either of us actually realized what was going on. We caravaned to Hartford, he parked at short term and I picked him up only going a few miles off the original route; all so I could have some company for the ride. We made it to the other airport in about seven hours and he was flying back home as I was flying down the highway to the house. Since I would be staying there during the duration of the job they left all sorts of convenient items such as a bed, towels and a coffee maker but the rest of the house was eerily empty as if the surfaces were screaming "after 35 years of tobacco smoke, please paint me now".

I got started that night with spackle in the hallway upstairs on the water damaged ceiling and it was all uphill from there applying spackle, primer and paint to pretty much every surface that was not a floor. I was feeling high in about two days. It was lucky that I had help (in a big way) through a friend of family in the area because I would have been there painting until June otherwise. He was an amazing benefit to the speed in completing the job and even though I was the one to prime and paint about 800 linear feet of trim, he was the one to prime and paint almost every ceiling and many walls in the house. We had a blast and a lot of laughs. Eleven fourteen hour days later I was once again packing up the car to head home feeling like I was suffering from withdrawals without being able to spend even a second writing the whole time I was there. The return leg of driving was all me so Oreo kept me company on shuffle until Jersey when I decided it was time to stay awake by singing so Mraz was all over the speakers until I could get coffee in Connecticut. Here are a few key before and after shots for everyone to enjoy!

First Floor Bath

Shadowbox & wall paper removal

First Floor BR

Hallway ceiling

Matt picked up our keys on Friday so I met him at our new apartment after the drive back and we hugged for about ten minutes. It was nice to rest my cheek on his and I absorbed that moment as deep as I could to gather the strength for the final push of my two weeks of insanity. We stayed over my Mom's Friday night and on Saturday drove the couple hours out to the house in Western MA to pick up the last of the furniture there. After dropping that back at my Mom's we hit our storage unit on the south shore to pick up the items we have not seen in the six months we have been living at the furnished beach cottage. Sunday was the big move in day and we had help from Auntie, Uncle, S & B which was more than we had ever hoped or expected and not only did they all help carry boxes and random furniture they brought food and a camera to commemorate the day. Everyone peeled off here and there and Matt and I fell onto our mattress at about 11:00 last night after getting about half our new place set up.

I think I must have temporarily died last night because I slept through the night for the first time in a month and this morning actually feel as if I rested. My real life will resume tomorrow but for now I plan to do nothing but look at those boxes and hope they unpack themselves while I surf the web all day.

Monday, March 17, 2008

We Irish Lasses Call Today Amateur Day

When my sister and I were kids we loved to wake up on St. Patrick's Day morning because the Leprechauns would always come to our house the night before and turn the milk green. We had a ball drinking it on our cereal and it never occured to us then that green milk is not always a good thing. I will admit to being an amateur in far more areas than an expert, but growing up Irish means that there are certain inherant areas of expertise that come with the territory.

Talking. And talking, and talking, and talking. Trust me, we do not have to be drinking to be blabber mouths as the old cliche may have some believing. Just get us started on a subject and watch us go on forever. Most of the time we do not really care if the other person involved walks away while we are completing our thought, even if it takes a few hours. To really get me going, bring up why I think people over sixty five should have to take a driving road test every two years until age seventy when it moves to every year. Or perhaps the fact that music is censored on FM radio. All of you already know how I feel about Santa's Reindeer. Pretty much anything in between will do as well.

Passion. For good or bad it runs deep. This emotion can easily be turned to guilt, loyalty or love but in the end it is all just a fierceness buried so deep that it is almost impossible to control.

Story telling. We will do it with such a straight face and dead pan delivery it will be tough to tell if all the talking is just a bunch of BS. The fish really was this big.

Wit and timing. Go ahead, test me.

Tonight I will not be going out to take part in the festivities because I do not need the practice. Besides, my body is telling me I need sleep far more than a drink so two aspirin and a big bottle of water is how I will celebrate today.

I will leave you tonight with my favorite Irish quote:

May those who love us, love us; and those who don't love us may God turn their hearts; and if he can't turn their hearts may he turn their ankles so we will know them by the limping.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

All My Brushes are Packed

When I am faced with a very long journey that I have to take on my own I try to remember two of my favorite gals on TV that always made being independent look so fun, Laverne & Shirley. I am not exactly moving into my own place and getting a job down at the bottling plant but there is an eight hour drive involved and two weeks where I am the only one in charge of what gets done and what does not. I love to travel so this will be an adventure just like skipping down the street.

Laverne was always funny but Shirley really just seemed to have it all together through her chaos. She was independent and responsible and that was the perfect role model to follow. Of course I was three when the show first aired so perhaps it was all in my head but that is what I really got from their antics each week.

Give us any chance, we’ll take it.
Give us any rule, we’ll break it.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true.
Doin’ it our way.

Nothin’s gonna turn us back now.
Straight ahead and on the track now.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true.
Doin’ it our way.

There is nothing we won’t try,
Never heard the word impossible.
This time there’s no stopping us.
We’re gonna do it.

On your mark, get set, and go now,
Got a dream and we just know now,
We’re gonna make our dream come true.
And we’ll do it our way, yes our way.
Make all our dreams come true,
And do it our way, yes our way,
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you.

I will channel a little bit of that while I complete the interior of my client’s house in Maryland. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated. I am skipping off to enjoy two weeks of sixty degrees and lots of paint fumes in the almost south so see ya’ll in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Soapbox Review: Randy Jackson’s Music Club

(If I know it is a cover that will be indicated with reference to the original artist but my review is primarily on the listenability of the album, not who actually wrote any of these songs originally. Release date March 11, 2008.)

I do not typically watch American Idol. What I will say however is that I think Randy Jackson does recognize talent and compiled a strong group of musicians, singers & artists for this album. My opinion on it as a whole is: definitely listenable, mostly predictable.

The compilations on this album feel as if they were all recorded in separate studios, including the tracks, because I do not get a togetherness vibe. The solos disappointed me a little because there were no male solos; all four were women. Over production occurs in much of this album comprised of blues, rap, pop, disco, R&B, among other genres. It will be a good disc when I want some mindless music to clean the house by. Each song is individually reviewed below.

Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow – That was Paula Abdul? Where is her unique voice, style? For one of the first songs she has released in years, and the lead off track on the album, I would have expected a lot more from her. This will immediately be turned into a club track so the song could have been sent in that direction with additional voice overlays between verses and thumping bass if we were not supposed to know who was actually singing.

Just Walk On By – Joss Stone flies solo on this song, which is nice since there are so many compilations, but I feel like she is competing with the music to have her voice really come through. We like the throaty, emotional Joss who expresses her feelings through her vocal tone. This song leads me to believe she is a part time singer who loves to dance. She sounds great but overly filtered.

What Am I So Afraid Of – Takes me back to 1986. Very predictable pop almost-ballad; a formulaic 3:24 song with just the right rhythm to the lyrical delivery and enough warbling “oh’s” to bring an R&B flair. Eighth graders everywhere will be slow dancing to this and dedicating the lyrics in each other’s yearbooks 4-eva. Trisha Covington, KeKe Wyatt & Kiley Dean, BFF.

Like A – Why does a rapper need a voice converter? Because it works wonders with the lazy-day-esque back track. Over production is fine on this track but the lyrics are somewhat canned for a rap song, I wished they let Crunk Squad & Ghostface Killah do something more creative to really break out in the sea of rappers. Keep an eye out for these guys though; they might just surprise you, soon.

Who’s Gonna Love You Now – There is no question mark at the end of this song for a reason; it is a statement. Kellie Love has a nice smooth voice which luckily has not been completely drowned out by the background music which includes piano playing as an occasional lovely break from the beat. Another sure to hit big on the charts due to its smooth melody and catchy chorus.

Wang Dang Doodle – Right off I like this song and want to hear more from Sam Moore, Keb’Mo’ & Angie Stone . It is a bold track to put on a compilation with roots in blues, funk, jazz and gospel. This song may never hit pop radio but the feeling is all there for a laid back summer day. Give it a couple listens; turn it up to fully experience it because the harmonica just makes this song. I will crank this song in the car.

Something To Believe In – A three dude compilation (Van Hunt, Jon McLaughlin & Jason Mraz) should not mean we will never hear any individual voices. It bummed me out because I wanted to hear something really unique so I could give mad props to these guys. Instead, think that 3 Musketeers compilation with Sting, Rod Stewart & Bryan Adams. This will possibly get play, a “rent payer”, but not a stand out track to me.

Home – I think Michael Bublé would approve of this song being done with a country twist. This is well sung and cared for as if John Rich & Anthony Hamilton had written it themselves and that is what I love to hear in a cover – that the artist can make it their own song because they felt the lyrics so deeply they could not help but sing it. CMT will play this and it is sure to be a crossover jazz / country hit; fiddle all the way home baby.

My R&B – I could learn all the lyrics in 10 minutes then forget them just as quickly because half of them are other artist’s names. Please release something that actually showcases your beautiful voice Barbi Esco, we will all snatch up the album and never forget your name.

Real Love – A funky disco duet between Katharine McPhee & Elliot Yamin is an interesting choice for this song. I found myself dancing to it but not really listening for any lyrics the first time. That leads me to believe they could be placed over any type of musical track which is great for being memorable, once I notice them over the groove that is. Right now I am looking for my roller skates.

Willing To Try – Surprise, another 3 artist compilation. Predictable rhymes in the lyrics will make it easy to learn this song - shove is to love, fight is to right. This is definitely the power ballad of the bunch that all co-dependant twenty somethings will play on repeat. It is a decent effort between Richie Sambora, Travis Tritt & Lucy Woodward that will likely receive air play but I predict this song will someday be featured in a Trey Parker & Matt Stone film.

I Understand – Kim Burrell, Rance Allen & BeBe Winans perform the longest track on the disc at 7:01 making use of an organ and a jazz feel to the beat for a true gospel anthem. The 1:10 of organ at the beginning of this song is a nice lead in and the rise and fall of the tone works for the timing in the song leading up to the last minute of prayer. Gospel is the new black.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A New Season Is Emerging

Winter is winding down here as the day time high temperature does not tend to fall below forty. Although forty is not exactly pleasant it does signify spring since technically it is above freezing, but try to tell that to my fingers. Surviving a New England winter with all your digits intact is a marvelous feat to achieve and I can proudly say that I made it another year with the original twenty. Birds come out to sing and sunrise comes earlier with our newly adopted, but not yet used to, “spring forward”. The cold and raw of winter is just one of two seasons here in New England and as of this week I noticed the second has begun to bloom – road construction.

Now that the snow is almost melted and gone there are suddenly bursts of orange and white at every turn. The bright shade is enough to take notice of; it is hard not to since lovely signs, cones, barrels and neon billboards containing nothing more than arrows force us to redefine our morning commute route. The exciting part is they might end up anywhere at any time and the spontaneity of it all is half the fun. Since worksites can shift daily the drive taken yesterday that took twenty minutes may be well over an hour today. I will no longer mind the delay however as a new member of our family is synching with birth even as I type.

Fluffy, sadly, had the disease known as the white screen of death, although the Apple store guy admitted he had never heard it called that before it was not a sad Mac so I felt that was the next best description. Fluffy lost its battle with joint compound dust and glaze and even though it can never truly be replaced, I decided today to adopt a new track killer called Oreo. The most beautiful thing of all is that Fluffy was only fourteen months old so Apple just became my new best friend because they honored the warranty even though they did not have to and sent me home with Oreo free of charge. That is how the universe pays back in a big way! You rock my world Apple! Here is a picture of Oreo I took during birth. Maybe I am biased because its mine and all but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that is cuter.

Another way I am discovering that the universe pays back is through sheer luck. If there had not been road construction on the way home from Apple I may have arrived too early to see this beautiful sight.

I am quickly discovering that a smile, good attitude and some timing really makes the day a whole lot smoother. Well, that and an alternate route.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Difference Between Genius and Insane Is What You Do With the Pen

The birds are out singing their song this morning as a perfect compliment to the shining sun on a day I have off from the laborious side of my job. This past week, as most lately, was a complete whirlwind of work, family, friends and lots of tunes in the car. Sadly my iPod died so it was back to CD and satellite radio listening. Before I leave on my out of town trip, replacing the iPod will be a necessary expense; messing around with CD changes for eight hours is not my idea of safe driving.

After sending the contract for a fairly large painting job that I will be completing in Maryland at the end of March, I wrapped up two other jobs this week. These jobs were vastly different but both a lot of fun to complete and one of my clients even snapped a photo of me on the ladder working on her glaze. Here is a nice shot of my backside for you to enjoy.

This week we signed a lease to move again so as of April first I will be living back in my hometown. Try as I did to find an apartment in any other town, the location for Matt to take the train to work and my proximity to clients had to win out in the end. A friend of mine once said to me that she ran out of white out and pages in her address book for all of my moves and finally just started writing them on post-it notes. I suppose I will always be a gypsy soul. Although I keep changing my address the bill collectors always seem to find me. Funny how that happens, as if accounts receivable departments all over the world have super human mutant powers for tracking like hawks in the air spotting a mouse hundreds of yards below.

Another thing that officially happened this week was my all time favorite quarterback, a man who never played the game for the money and someone who truly embodies what it means to enjoy what you do for a living, Brett Favre, retired from his position as quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. I grew up in New England and with that comes a certain level of love for the sports teams here so I would be lying to say that there is not some affection in my heart for the Patriots, but for the past sixteen years I have pushed that to the back burner and allowed my love for the Packers to bloom. Sundays for Packer fans will never be the same; it will be strange to watch those games without Favre after so many amazing seasons with him at the helm. “I’m not gonna sit here like other players maybe have said in the past & that I won’t miss it, because I will.” We will miss you too Brett Favre.

Since coming back from Maryland I feel like it has been non stop action around this place so now that my client calls are done I fully intend to take a breather and walk on the beach that I have not seen in at least a month. It will be great to get some fresh, salty air into my lungs and now that it is above twenty degrees and not snowing I might even enjoy the walk.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

In Like A Lion-ess

Another fun filled week of scary ladder placement in order to get tape and glaze to the ceiling line means another few nights at Hotel Auntie. I think there might have been at least one night spent at Villa de Mom as well but last week was such a blur that I barely remember my name let alone what bed I slept in when. In the old days of college that would have been something to brag about but now it is just exhausting. Come to think of it, waking up in strange beds was fairly exhausting back then as well but since I was only in my twenties my body did not seem to scream at me as much. Maybe it was all the booze. Or the sex. Either way, it is clear it is time to move again.

While at Hotel Auntie we watched a movie that I probably should have seen by this point in my life, Blazing Saddles. I am not generally a fan of Mel Brooks movies, mostly because I am not a 12 year old boy and because I find it difficult to channel that part of my personality for half naked women jokes but I have to admit most of the movie was really funny. The premise (for the one other person in the world like me who has not yet seen it) consists of the old west and a bunch of white men enslaving a bunch of black men to construct the railroad. When they hit quicksand the track needs to divert in a direction right through the middle of a town and somewhere in there one of the black dudes hits one of the white dudes in the head with a shovel. Instead of hanging him, they decide to send him to that town to become its new sheriff, thinking that it will all work itself out naturally and that little town will be history in no time, opening up the railroad possibility. Since it is a Mel Brooks production you can imagine this is where the hilarity ensues.

After the movie was over we were talking politics because nothing follows up a Mel Brooks movie like discussing the fate of our nation. Who will do a better job of running the country? Who is the least likely candidate to bomb other nations for no good reason? Who is the least experienced? Auntie made a point to mention that Obama’s lack of political experience scares her, wondering if it would become an issue when he is dealing with other nations. I just said hey, we all saw how it worked out for the sheriff so I think we’d be all good. Nothing stops a political discussion faster than proving your point through comedic timing.

March has now descended upon us and no matter what Punxsutawney Phil decided I wanted so desperately to believe that spring would come sooner than those six weeks. Last night however the snow and rain moved in yet again and here we are racking up the record snowfall in another place I have lived. Everyone has told me I am not allowed to move to San Diego due to the potential ramifications but I look at it from another angle. Personally I think this is fate’s way of whispering “get out” when I walk down the stairs to the dark basement. Those idiots in horror movies usually stand around paralyzed with fear and always end up a bloody mess later. When I hear that little voice in the shadows I am running my ass off in the other direction thanks. All this snow is just the axe murder pushing me towards the door.