Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Next Challenge

            I became a runner in 2011, ran a race after 6 weeks, ran a marathon a year and a half later.  I got my first book deal in 2012, got in the newspaper, magazines, television, got a 2nd book deal in 2013.  I have wanted and I have gotten.  I have taken on challenges and I have succeeded.  Now as I sit here at the end of the Summer of 2014 I find myself restless, listless and without motivation.  I am in need of some sort of new challenge, a new goal.  I want to get into the best shape of my life by the time my birthday rolls around.  How do I do that?  No miracle pills, just hard work and sacrifice.  That means giving up things I love for the greater good.
Tonight I literally indulged in all of my food and drink vices this afternoon as a sort of last hurrah.  Chinese food, 5-Hour Energy, fried chicken, vodka, yup I had it all and now that’s it.  My goal, my challenge like I said is to give all of these up at least until my birthday November 2nd. 
Out?  Alcohol, caffeine, bad foods, probably other things I’m not thinking of. 
In?  Healthier foods, getting up earlier, hitting the gym 6 days a week.  No, I’m not training for any sort of competition per se, this is more for myself in general, a test of my will power.  I think that 10 weeks of living basically ‘straight edge’ can only be good for me as I approach Age 37.  I am certain that this is not going to be easy.  I love my coffee, my 5-Hour Energy, my stimulant-filled pre-workout drinks, but these have got to go for the time being.  I need to see just how I function without them.  Except for very brief attempts I have lived on high doses of caffeine and stimulants since Age 21.
            I don’t know how far I can go with this.  Although making it public increases my own accountability.  I will do my best to keep people who care posted about how this process goes but it is going to be a lot of careful research about what I can eat that’s good for me, something that I am not an expert on.  Running was the way I initially dropped 40 pounds in 2011-12, my diet did not change in any extreme sort of way.  I am thinking that maybe if I add the diet to my workouts I can get that ‘magazine cover’ body I have been close to at times.
            Tomorrow is Day 1, my birthday on November 2nd would be Day 77.  So let me sleep on it and get started in the morning.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sandwich Heritage Day Book Signing

            Happy Birthday Sandwich. 375? You don’t look a day over 370.  I had the chance to be a part of Sandwich Heritage Day this past Saturday, June 14th.  It was a lot of fun.  Held at Sandwich High School there was a lot to see and do if you attended.
            I was privileged to be stationed at the author table put up by Vicki Titcomb and Titcomb’s Books.  I came in as part of the second wave of authors at 2:30.  Ironically the author’s seat I took over when I arrived was that of Jim Coogan, my high school history teacher and author himself.  He helped build my love of history back then and I was finally able to tell him so.  One of the other authors I signed with, Shirley Pieters Vogel, author of Faith, Favorites, Fun, and Fotos of Cape Cod, was extremely nice and I really enjoyed speaking with her.
            I am still learning how to schmooze and speak to total strangers but with each signing I get better.  I try not to pressure people into buying, figuring if they thumb through my book the photos and words will sell it for me.  The highlights of my signing time were first off signing for a military family who had recently moved to the area after being in Germany for a few years.  The second highlight was my sister Ashley surprising me with her copy of my book.  She makes it a point to try to come to as many of my events as possible so that I can sign the book in a different spot.  She stayed for the rest of the event to give me some family support which is always good.
            In addition to having a chance to sign books for the people who gave my work a chance there were several other events going on that afternoon.  There was a Cape Cod Baseball League game getting ready to start at 4 between the Falmouth Commodores and Bourne Braves.  There was also face painting, Wally the Green Monster, and games emceed by Dan & Stephanie from WCOD. However, the cupcake contest was what nearly everyone was waiting for.  There was a table underneath one of the two tents lined with different cupcakes made by amateurs and professionals alike. They all were unique and looked delicious but there were only a chosen few who could be the ‘judge’ of which was best.
My sister Ashley and I
            The celebrity guest judges for the cupcake contest included Maury Povich and Connie Chung among others.  They arrived in an old green school bus and immediately began meeting and greeting.  I am not going to lie I held a copy of my book In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide in my right hand and waited for the celebrity couple to head for the tents.  I shook their hands and mentioned that I was going to be   Connie was interested in the book although Maury claimed he ‘forgot his wallet at home.’  She said they’d check me out after the cupcake contest was over.
signing my book over underneath the second tent.
            Not wanting to risk it I signed my book for them figuring I’d give it to them if they didn’t want to pay.  After the contest I made my way over with the book and overheard Connie tell Maury that she needed to come and ‘get the book.’  I ran back and they bought my book and I was able to get a photo with them and the book.  It was a great moment.
            After that the attention shifted away from the tents   This ended our time at Sandwich Heritage Day.  My sister and I helped Vicki load her car back up before watching a few minutes of the baseball game.  Each and every event I am a part of is special; it is not everyone who gets to do something they love.  I truly enjoyed Sandwich Heritage Day, working with Titcomb’s, and meeting Maury Povich and Connie Chung.  I will not soon forget it.
Standing with Maury Povich, Connie Chung, and my book.
and toward Fenton Field where the Cape League game was beginning.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Kurt Cobain & Nirvana 20 Years Later

           20 years is a long time by any stretch of the imagination. I am finding it difficult to fathom that it has been 20 years since Kurt Cobain died.  He was the man, well, part of the band Nirvana, which influenced the direction of my life more than anyone.  I am a writer today because of him.  It’s been 20 years, I still remember like it was yesterday.  Forgive me if this all comes out in a rambling haphazard way, I do not like to write blogs like this in a structured way.  I like it to be free flowing from my mind to the screen with little if any editing.
            Before I can remember the end I choose to remember the beginning.  I’ll never forget that night in August 1991.  I was 13; heading into 8th Grade, summer was coming to a close.  I had been hanging out with my friend Matt and we were in his bedroom when he happened to turn on the radio.  Coming from the tiny speakers was this sound that was unlike anything I had heard before. 

            I only caught the final minute and a half of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ but that was all I needed.  I had to find out who made that sound.  It was as if that song in 90 seconds had tossed a brick through the window of my life revealing something amazing on the other side.  I carefully stepped through and never looked back.  Within a few weeks Nirvana’s Nevermind was released and I bought it.  This was one of the very first compact discs I had ever purchased.  I still have it; the thing was played so much that it is coated with scratches and ‘cd rot.’ It is pretty useless now, but the memories remain.
            Kurt Coabin’s angst in his lyrics spoke to me as to what was going on in my own life.  I was part of a divorced family setting with a stepfather who was not kind to me as I entered my teenage years.  I was not happy with who I was or where I was and thought nobody would understand.  Kurt was 10 years older so he was like a big brother sharing what he was dealt with.  I kept thinking if I followed his path I’d end up like him.  I wanted to be a singer/songwriter so I could find a way to express my own inner pain in a way that was creative and inspiring.  I hoped that maybe I could do for others what he did for me.  He made me make sense.
            I would eventually find out I was pretty much tone deaf and couldn’t play guitar worth a lick, but the writing part of the equation was actually quite good.  I would write song lyrics and poetry that were littered with real life raw emotion, things I didn’t like to share.  The poetry later became short stories and novels before evolving into the travel writing which landed me my first book deal.  It is easy to trace the steps back to that night in Matt’s bedroom where I heard that lovely ear-splitting music that changed my life.
            I remember in 1992 or 1993 trying to explain to my Dad that Kurt Cobain was my generation’s John Lennon.  Being a child of the 1960’s and a giant Beatles fan my Dad of course could not see how the scrawny, screeching, feedback blasting kid was anything like the man who sang ‘Imagine,’ ‘Give Peace A Chance,’ and ‘Instant Karma.’  I could not convince him back then maybe because it was still happening, Generation-X was current, not in the past.  These days it surprises me that my Dad can finally see what I was trying to say. 
            Nirvana was to me what The Beatles were to him. 
            Then in a flash it all ended.  The Grunge movement that killed hair metal, that knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the Billboard charts.  The Grunge movement that was so anti-mainstream that the mainstream had to go and find it.  It was over April 8, 1994.
            I remember coming home from school, Sophomore year.  I put on MTV, back when they were actually a music network.  There was the story: A body had been found in the room above Kurt Cobain’s garage.  Selfishly I hoped it was someone else, but deep down I knew better.  In short order it was confirmed who it was.  What made it worse was that he had ended his own life.  As the days and weeks and years passed I would learn so much more about what made Kurt Cobain tick, his stomach problems which led to drug addiction.  It made his suicide a little easier to swallow, maybe that’s just me making excuses for him. 
            In a snap his music and message were a part of history.  Now he is seen as a legend, a mythical figure, in the likes of Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix.  I actually get it now too since I was a part of the whole Grunge movement, but it is still a little weird to hear Kurt Cobain spoken of in that same way.  I remember needing to hear more of Kurt’s words so badly that I ended up purchasing every bootleg and B-Side filled disc, this was long before the With the Lights Out boxed set came out to make all of those songs easy to find.
            It’s funny now looking back at the videos and interviews and thinking that Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were larger than life figures but I am now actually older than he was when he died.  It’s weird that Dave Grohl’s band Foo Fighters have actually been together longer than Nirvana now.  I remember that my friend Rob and I had plans to go and see Nirvana as our very first concert during the summer of 1994.  They were supposed to headline Lollapalooza, but of course that never happened.
            I remember I tried to measure the impact Kurt Cobain had on music in general in the years after his death.  I made a chart for college that showed a list of the album sales of other grunge/alternative bands in the 5 years after Nirvana was finished.  It was as if Nirvana left such a hole in people’s musical lives that they scrambled to find the ‘next’ band like them.  There were some very deserving, awesomely talented bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains who got the recognition they should have.  Pearl Jam is a stretch since they are usually seen as The Rolling Stones to Nirvana’s Beatles; they were/are every bit as good as Nirvana.
            On the other side though there were some weaker ‘alternative’ bands that saw huge record sales in the same 5-year period, bands like Bush, Live, Collective Soul, and countless others.  Don’t get me wrong, those bands are good, but they only got as big as they did because of the gaping hole Nirvana left.
            I’m not going to turn this into complaining about music after Nirvana though.  I am just amazed that it’s been 20 years now.  April 5 is the actual date as Kurt’s body wasn’t found for 3 days.  So I choose to celebrate his life and music for those three days.  I might never have an album, or play guitar, but I am a writer now and it all goes back to that night I first heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on a little alarm clock radio.   
            I have celebrated his life and message basically since the moment I found out he died.  I think now a lot more people will figure out the impact of Nirvana thanks to it being a round number like 20 Years.  It also helps that there is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction coming up, plus numerous magazine covers out right now.  I am not saying that everyone has to recognize Kurt Cobain as my generation’s John Lennon, but maybe if you think of who had that kind of impact on your life maybe you would understand what I am saying.  That’s how it will make sense to you. 20 years is such a long time especially when it still seems like yesterday.

                    Lounge Act
                    About A Girl
                    All Apologies