Feb 23, 2015: New Beginnings
It’s been a long blogging hiatus. I’ve gone underground and have been throwing a lot of energy at family, life, work, and music. But now I feel like I’m just about ready to come back out of the cave. To share my experiences here again. So, I’ll start with something that is close to the heart–the official launch of my new music project.
To say we’re excited about the March 5th show is to put it mildly. We’ve spent a ton of time working on the set–not just fine tuning the songs, but fine tuning the gear–pedals, electronics, computers…we’ve got an amazing arsenal we’re using here to create some sounds and we’re excited about it. It’s exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time. I’m used to showing up to a show with a guitar and and amp and that’s it. Now, I’ve got a laptop, an audio interface, 4 (yes four) midi controllers, and 375 miles of cables. I’ve managed to tune my set up time to about 10 minutes–after an anxiety attack at Gio’s studio where I almost lost my life in said 375 miles of cables.
Speaking for myself, I’m making some of the best music of my life. It’s taken years, but the sounds in my skull are truly making their way out, I’ve played in countless bands in the DC Metro area, and I’ve cherished everyone, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to emerge from the studio and get on that stage. March 5th is really just the beginning. It’s only appropriate that Mei V. helped set this show up, as she was there for pretty much the start of Ditched by Kate. So I’m glad. Really damn glad.
I love the what our set has evolved to since our first practice in November.
I’m excited to finally play a Joy Division song live (yes, teaser!).
So, I hope many of you will brave the cold for the start of what will undoubtedly be a gratifying journey.
I’m going to get sentimental for a moment, so bare with me.
The opportunity to create is a gift in the truest sense of the word. Especially when life for most people is hectic. My life is no exception—I’m always on the go, balancing work, kids, more work, staying fit, tending to the house—surviving. Yet, amidst the hustle I still find the time, almost daily, to indulge my creative impulses. I can thank my future wife for this—she drives me to chase my inspirations and is the first one to prod me to get off the couch when she knows I should be tending to the muse. And even though I get to spend a lot of time creating, it’s shameful really, each moment I do it is still a gift.
To state it mildly, I’m lucky.
I have a partner that understands my need to indulge in hours of music or writing at any given moment. Even if it means taking away from the time that we spend together. That is a really difficult thing. Though she’ll swear it’s not, she is making a sacrifice every single time.
Sometimes, I say: “Hey, I’m going downstairs (where the studio is located) for a few minutes before bed” and I don’t surface for several hours. Yeah, not a huge deal when it’s at the end of the night and everyone is going to bed any way. But still—just imagine, you’re waiting for your significant other to come to bed and they never show up. To date, there’s not been a single complaint.
Or on any other given night, when I’ve committed to making music or doing some writing the activity consumes the entire evening. We’ll have dinner together, watch a few minutes of television, and then poof, I’m gone.
I recognize that it is a challenge for anyone one involved with a person afflicted with a muse in the ways that I am. But my lady, she is tireless in her support. She constantly pushes me to scrape my way up the hill toward my potential. I’m grateful for this and this is the sort of thing for which there is no repayment.
If this sounds familiar, if you have a partner that “gets it” then take the time to understand their needs. Provide what they need to keep going whenever you can. Because to have someone in your life that understands a need that defies description and logic is extremely rare and also just as valuable.
My last blog post was on August 15th. That same day, while out to lunch with my family, I learned that my good friend PG Holyfield was at the abrupt end to a dramatically brief struggle with cancer. To say this threw me for a loop, is ridiculously understating things. The emotions I felt that day were complex and deep. PG was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma—the same cancer that took the life of my best friend and band-mate Zach Upton several years back. As I said, my last blog post was on August 15th 2014. Truth be told, I’ve written many posts since that day. Trying to encapsulate my feelings and pay homage not only to PG but to Zach as well. I was left unsatisfied with each and every attempt, tossing them into the digital wastebasket disheartened and disgusted. I had read so many beautiful tributes to PG I wanted mine to be perfect because I knew from first hand experience how cholangiocarcinoma could be for those stricken, their family, and their friends.
Clearly, that’s where I went wrong. I shouldn’t have spent so much time trying to find the perfect words, because truly. Perfection in the literal sense of the word just doesn’t exit. The right words struck me, almost in this very moment. This what they look like:
As I sit hear writing this, there is a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Tears of sadness for the loss of two amazing men—fathers, friends, and fellow creative souls. And mostly importantly, they are tears of gratitude for having had PG and Zach as people in my life. For having the chance to get to know them and have them get to know me. For all that my own life presented during the course of our friendship–the obstacles, the mistakes, the “he saids” and “she saids”—these are two guys who always supported me. They always told me like it was, without judging. True friends, indeed.
Today is Thanksgiving. The best tribute I can pay to these men is to be grateful for everything good in my life and to be grateful that I have the strength and resolve to face any of my struggles.
Life is a heartbeat and a single breath.
Happy Halloween, you lovely people. At long last, I’m getting back into releasing my fiction onto the interwebs and I’m thrilled to release Roadkill. This has been a long time coming and represents a fresh start. If you’ve been following my daddy blog here, you know the last several years have not been with out their challenges. To be honest, I’m amazed to finally be getting back on the horse. Thanks to everyone who has provided support along the way. The list is long–but you know who you are.
Here we go, folks. Hope you’ll stick around for the ride. More stories to come.
Things are getting crazy. Massive, rolling space rocks glance off my already weathered hull, causing the entire spaceship to shudder from the inside out. And then the bad guys come for me. Enemy vessels emerge from a cluster of black asteroids like a swarm of angry flies, energy weapons ready to do some damage and I’m stuck in the cross-hairs. When the raiders fire, my ship is sent spiraling off course and into the maelstrom, starlight bleeding across the view port in glowing streamers.
I need a way out and fast.
Yeah—sometimes it can feel like that, right?
Life can throw a little too much in our direction and at times, the barrage is overwhelming. Now, the last thing anyone should do is run away from their problems. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve seen people try and it just does not work. No matter where you hide or what you hide in—the desert, a fancy new car, or a designer dress– they’ll be back. Gospel. That being said, there is no harm in stepping out of the fray just for a little while to recharge your batteries, re-center your chi, and get back into a good mindset. I call it the “escape hatch.” I love this term and I’m sure I didn’t coin it, but I use it all the time. Essentially stated, an escape hatch is anything that can serve as an engaging distraction to pull you out of your everyday routine, even if just for a little while. These hatches can come in all different shapes and sizes, but they all ways serve the same purpose—to give you a quick exit. And the beauty of the escape hatch is you can have more than just one. Some hatches are better suited for some occasions than others. Just like underpants.
Now you’re probably curious about my own personal escape hatches. I’m fortunate to have quite a few (hint you just experienced one) and they’re all effective in their own way. For now, I’ll list three.
1. Commodore 64
You read that right. I’m the proud owner of a fully functioning, minimally modified Commodore 64—that power house of an entertainment computer from the 1980s. The C64 harkens back to my boyhood years where I first fell in love with video games and computers in general. There’s a really nostalgic appeal to sitting down in front of the massive 1702 color monitor and maneuvering the onscreen sprites with a very basic, single button joystick. The sound effects and music that pulse from the system’s diminutive speakers are all that it takes to yank me back a few decades to a lighter, less responsibility laden time. It’s pretty easy to see why this good ol’ Commodore is one of my favorite escape hatches.
Exercise is a fantastic escape hatch. It’s good for the mind and for the body, with the added bonus of endorphins. My exercise of choice is running. I either listen to some good music, an audiobook, or a podcast. All three entertainment choices are mini-hatches in their own right, each offering a different running experience entirely. Within the first two miles of a well-paced run, I feel the world melt away. By mile five, my I’m calm and focused. And if I’m really going for it, by mile ten I feel my thoughts unravel, gently arranging themselves inside my skull. This is a remarkable and pure feeling and I’m left wondering if this is what all those meditation people are raving about.
3. Writing Fiction
This one almost feels like cheating. Why? Because it’s something I do every day—either willingly or kicking and screaming (at least for the start). To me, writing is a lot like distance running. The first words are always the hardest, but once there’s a few paragraphs on the page, things begin to move almost on their own. It’s like the narrative grabs me and pulls me into the world I’m creating. When I’m really cranking the words out, it’s a little bit like being a trance. I’m both aware and unaware of the steady rhythm of my fingers dancing across the keyboard. The sound and feel of the keys is pleasantly hypnotic. At the end of a writing session, not only am I more relaxed and centered, I also have a fine feeling of accomplishment. Even if what I wrote might be utter crap—because yes, that does happen sometimes.
So there you have it.
Those are just a few of my escape hatches and they have come in handy more than once. What are some of your escape hatches? Swing by the Facebook page (linked below) and let me know.
Escape Hatch image–Sam Whitfield (cc) Flickr
Commodore 64 image–Monday as Usual (cc) Flickr
Phil Rossi in the Half Marathon–Island Photography (copyright 2014)
It hasn’t taken much to settle into a vacation mind set. I’m sitting here writing and enjoying a hot cup of coffee while the kids are running around the house like little maniacs. The adults are easing into the morning at a slightly slower place—cooking breakfast, drinking coffee, and prepping for the day. We are eagerly waiting for the sun to burn through the clouds so we can head down to the water. I’m eager to build a sand castle with the girls. It’s been a long time coming. I find it interesting how some loves don’t fade with time. I’ve always loved sinking my fingers into the damp sand and seeing what structures I can create. I probably will always love doing this. Imminent sand castle construction has got me to thinking his morning. On some level, I’m always in touch with the kid inside of me. Be it through playing with the girls, nostalgia over the Commodore 64, or the shear act of creating short and long fiction.
It’s important to not lose the connection with the child inside of us. I really don’t think the younger-self ever goes away entirely. At least, it hasn’t for me. The ten-year old Phil is still very much alive and well inside of me. Is this younger me always at the forefront? Of course not. That would lead to some interesting social interactions, I’m sure. Think Big, with Tom Hanks, but far less endearing. That being said, I don’t think we should always suppress our younger, fun-seeking, care-free selves. There are times where it is perfectly acceptable to embrace our inner child and enjoy the simpler pleasures—building a sandcastle or telling a scary story.
I am definitely going to entertain my inner child on this vacation while enjoying the privileges of being an adult. Privileges that come in the form of delicious IPAs and ice, cold extra dirty martinis. But you better believe that I’ll be enjoying these privileges covered in sand. This is vacation, after all. There are no rules.
Tomorrow we go on vacation.
I understand that sound pretty unremarkable. People take vacations all the time. It’s the cultural norm all around the globe for hard-working (and sometimes not) people to go on “holiday.”
Let me paint a clearer picture. This is the first full-fledged, family vacation I’ve taken in about three years. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve had no intention of firing up the work laptop and logging in hours. And yes, three years feels as long as it sounds. To say the very least, life has been a particular adventure fraught with setbacks, victories, and everything in between. Going away for more than a day or two just hasn’t been possible until now and the very idea of shedding my work responsibilities even just for a little bit has been unthinkable. That’s not say I haven’t found the time for a little r’n’r here and there. Staycations and extended visits to see my family have been fantastic during this time. But this year, I longed for something different—something a little bigger. I wanted to take the family to a destination where they haven’t been. The requirements were simple—a beach, a house, and enough time to kick back and unwind. Around the same time I had made this decision, my sister told me she was planning on renting a house up in the Cape (Mass). My parents were in on the plan along with my sister’s husband and my three amazing nieces. Perfection! I had a goal and now, after many months—the time has almost come.
I feel really great about this trip, because I feel like I’ve earned it. I had to work hard to make it happen—pennies had to be pinched in all of the right spots. I picked up some more solo acoustic shows, burning the midnight oil for a few extra bucks. With the approaching time off, I’ve also had to pursue my typical day job tasks with an added intensity so, once away, I could have the luxury of not turning on my computer or, god forbid, not obsessively checking that pesky Exchange account on my phone.
It’s going to be glorious to head out of town and leave the day-to-day stresses behind. I get to spend a week with the people I love most, enjoying life. I get to give my family the gift of good times and good memories. There will be beer and there will be food. There will be sandcastles! And above all, there will be gratitude.
I’m sitting here feeling nice and relaxed before heading to my gig in Arlington tonight. We’re listening to some good music, and I’m drinking a Bloody Mary, reflecting on a remarkable week. Truly, this has been one of the most productive seven days I’ve had in a long time. To summarize, I managed to finish yet another short story, I rewrote a recent story, I started a new story, and I managed to make a lot of progress on the demos for the Gravity Lens project so that I’ll be able to begin in on the major production phase in September. Climbing back atop the creative horse and hitting a solid stride was a lot like preparing for the half marathon. In both scenarios, the start was slow and often painful, but I kept with it. It wasn’t long before I found it harder to not run or to not work on a story than it was to remain idle. It’s a pretty tremendous feeling. After several years of struggling, I’m back in a good place where I feel like I can meet life’s challenges with determination and resolve. A week from now, I’ll be on vacation with my family—the first vacation I’ve taken in three years and it’s hard to not feel like it’s well deserved. Am I bragging? Maybe a little bit—but I also want to illustrate a point. No matter what life throws at us, if we hunker down and refuse to give up, we can actually get back on a path that leads to something better.
So, here’s to never giving up.
See you in Arlington tonight!
At first glance, the plant might seem unremarkable. It’s not very big and its leaves aren’t what I’d describe as lush. There are no blossoming flowers to catch the eye. It’s a little thing, this plant. It sprouts maybe four inches out from the soil in its small pot. The leaves are slender and if you look too quickly you actually might mistake the plant for an impressive tuft of grass.
I love this plant.
This is a little bit of an odd experience for me because I’ve never loved a plant before. The plant came home with my oldest daughter one day after school. It had been a project in science class. The students were told to bring in a water bottle which their teacher cut in half. The top portion of the bottle was discarded (I would not be surprised if it was recycled) and the remaining, bottom portion was stuffed with a little soil. Into this soil, my daughter planted a few seeds and over the next few weeks the students waited patiently for the seeds to grow into something. When young plant was just a couple of inches tall, then it came home and I was charged with taking care of it.
That was in early May, if I’m remembering correctly. Since then, I’ve been dutifully watering the plant, doing my best to make sure the soil stays moist at all times. I position the plant with scientific precision on our little deck to be sure it gets as much of the sun’s rays as possible. In short, I nurture this little, green sprout—I don’t even know what kind of plant it is.
So, why do I love this plant so much? Well, in my 35 years of existence on this planet, I’ve never really had a plant of my own. This sounds ridiculous, I know. But I assure you, it’s true. This plant is the first I’ve nurtured and coaxed to grow. Most importantly, the little plant is inextricably tied to my oldest daughter. After all, it was her project at school and the plant still technically belongs to her. I’m just the caretaker. But when I look at this plant, I see my little girl. I see her growing into a beautiful person. I see her life. I see her reaching toward the sun. And this makes me happier than I can describe.
It’s good to be writing again. At long last, I feel like I’ve hit my stride. I’ve effectively established a routine where I get my fresh writing done in the early hours of the day and tend to edits in the evening. It’s becoming easier to saddle up and attack the keyboard despite being tired after a long day of work or a night of little sleep. Tonight is a perfect example. Fridays on the job are always a strain. It’s the end of the week and everybody wants something and that something is always priority one. Today, I had the extra task of making sure my oldest was comfortable and entertained because she’s getting over a nondescript virus which has resulted in her missing camp for the last few days. Tonight, it took me a couple of tries to make progress on story edits. The first go at the manuscript found me distracted and after a little more than a single page’s worth of poking at the keyboard, I decided to set the story aside. I got into bed with a beer and a nearly unconscious girlfriend and watched about thirty minutes of Much Ado About Nothing. When I decided to tackle things again, I was more focused and got through almost 3,000 words worth of rewrite. I accomplished this through repeated trips into my daughters’ room, soothing my youngest who is dealing with a lot of discomfort after a treatment for warts on her hand—an issue that went long without being dealt with.
You see, after so much time off from creating new fiction—I’m talking years here—I’ve come back to the game a lot wiser with a far more realistic set of expectations. Some nights are filled with magic and remarkable progress. For example, last night, I blasted through edits on a 4,000 word story, tweaking, crafting, and making the prose sing. Other nights, the work is more pain-staking. Tonight, I think I spent half an hour on a single passage getting the words right. What’s important here is that I did something. I was not idle. I did not make excuses. Above all, I did not give up. I knew when I had to step away and I knew when I was ready to get back at it and make things happen. The end result is progress and I’m one page closer to having another finished piece of fiction.
(image credit Edudemic.com)