What a great day today; warm, sunny, beautiful. Hope you've enjoyed it, whoever you may be. I'd like to know, if you're reading this, what's on your mind. Honestly, being a musician and working part time jobs to fill in the gaps can get me feeling fairly isolated and out of touch. I know there are some folks out there who follow my music and may check into these pages from time to time. I'd like to know what you think about this world, this country, this presidential election, the price of gas, the state of your life, the status of the pursuit of happiness in 2012, your place in the American Dream. Are you struggling? Have you figured it out? Are you striving, thriving, or surviving? Or not? Who are you? These are tough times, but there's beauty in them. Today my wife and I stopped into a chinese restaurant for a lunch special and as we sat there over the remains of our chow mein and General Tso's chicken we both reached for our fortune cookies. Halle frowned as she silently read her fortune. I asked her what it said and she read it back to me "Only put of today what you don't mind dying and leaving undone ". I said it wasn't negative, it was about being passionate about what matters to you and never letting it take a back seat, like her love for me ( a feeble joke) to which she replied "That's all that matters" (No joke). There was a little catch in my throat after that. A moment of beauty. There are so many in a day. I tend to lose sight of them, because they don't further my career, pay a bill, scrape the pealing paint off my house or re-build the gutters. Still, they're there. I'd like to hear your moments of beauty. I'd like to gather them up and post them to combat the daily barrage of spin, sarcasm, horror and hyperbole in most of what we experience in the media from day to day. Sometimes I can be out in our yard all day digging in the soil, planting, raking, whatever, really feeling connected to the world and in five minutes of CNN, FOX NEWS, DEMOCRATIC PUNDITS REPUBLICAN PUNDITS, blah, blah, blah, feel the whole world is a hopeless morass, not to mention if I channel surf and stumble across the clowns on the Jersey Shore or some set of shrill horrible housewives from some god-forsaken over-fed, over indulged, priveleged part of the country acting out their histrionic lives like the modern day circus side-show that "reality" as become. And don't get me started about the Kardashians!
All that aside. There are actually real peple left in America who don't have televison cameras recording their every bodily function right? You're out there right?
Today was a beautiful day. Share your moments of beauty.
Happy Thanksgiving to any and all who follow this site. My apologies for my seeming lack of attention to it over the past few months. Somehow the file was corrupted and I'm unable to update my calendar. Through the perfect storm of my innate procrastination and lack of technical know-how I've let it languish while I've been out drumming up cash for my new c.d. tentatively titled "Drumming Up Cash". I plan to deal with this and have it up and running (and re-designed) in the new year. Again, if you follow my career, my blog, etc. thank you so much.
So, it's Thanksgiving, the most egalitarian of holidays. I love the inclusiveness of it. And once again, I'm working it. I've yet to have the good fortune to be able to call music my one and only source of income. I dream of the day I'll have one job to think about when I wake, but that day is not today. I've chosen my career path and that forces me to work on some (and sometimes all) of the holidays. It's a choice. A choice I regret more often than not because over the years I've missed so many family gatherings and so many good times serving other people gathering with their families having a good time (I've catered off and on for 12 years). Again, my choice. If I want to be able to work a low paying music gig, I have to have take more lucrative work to make it all work. What I'm driving at here (if it's somehow unclear) is: I'm choosing to do this. Now...
Tonight many stores will open their doors at ten p.m. for an early Black Friday blitz o-rama of savings. What a pile of horse-shit. Where does it stop? The door is now open to have stores open for "super sales" on every holiday. The Occupy Wall Street movement may not have a clear agenda but I think this is right in the middle of it.When do people get a break? Now thousands of people who would normally be able to relax and spend the day and night with their families will be forced to have dinner early (or not at all) and then go to their retail jobs to deal with throngs of people. They'll have no choice because they need their jobs. I suspect, fairly soon, there will be no days off unless you're lucky to own the stores that are opening or lucky enough to have one of the diminishing union jobs out there. I think since most of us will never get to retire we should be able to have three or four national holidays where we don't have to work. I was in Budapest one Christmas and was shocked to find the entire city shut down. No fast food restaurants, no movie theaters, nothing. Coming from New York, I was flabbergasted. But, after I settled into the fact that Christmas was going to be walking through a nearly silent city as snow softly fell on and around me with nothing but a sleeve of cookies and a bottle of apricot brandy the wheels in my mind stopped grinding. I really didn't need to see a movie, or purchase something at incredible savings. I just needed to be. I needed some quiet. Some peace. So...
Have peace this Thanksgiving Day. Don't shop.
I gravitate to things metaphysical/ spiritual, always have. Deep in my heart I believe that there's more to our time on earth than getting, begetting and decomposing. So when I come across some writing, music or plastic art that seems to shine a light on the eternal (however dim) I'm interested. This morning I read a short piece about following the "muse". It was about having the faith and courage to listen to the genius that lives below our critical voices, the guide buried deep in our DNA that tells us (if we're willing to listen) where we should be focusing our energies. As I said, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, especially as I came across it directly on the heals of another rejection. I need to believe there's a reason I'm compelled to write and play, something bigger than just ego, something god-given and unique. But, here's the rub: I'm a blue collar kid in a grown up artist's body. As much as I want to believe, there's a voice that says "that's just artsy-fartsy bullshit, get a job with benefits, you're not a kid anymore". The pragmatic part of my brain tells me that the muse is a temptress, a tease , a siren created to sing me to destruction, while the artist in me says she's salvation. It's a struggle.One that often leaves me overwhelmed and unable to accomplish the simplest tasks. I envy people who can wake up everyday knowing without a scrap of doubt that they're artists and their sole purpose on this earth is to express whatever they and their muse conspire to create. I've had moments where I felt that kind of surety, but they've been brief and always seem to meet with some failure that erases all the gains.
It's been a year of a week. Six solid days of survival work with three Flynn's gigs thrown in for good measure. For those of you who don't know, I'm one half of a duo called The Flynn's (The other half being Kevin Allen). We started out about a year ago when Kevin needed another guitar slinger to do an engagement party in Long Island. We had a great time, made some cash and decided to see what we could do with this thing. Well we're doing it. Paddy's Day, Last night and tonight this week, with many up-coming dates. It's been a great chance to play tunes I've always loved and flat out have a great time. Flynn's gigs are always big fun; the music and mayhem are contagious. If you don't find yourself laughing and singing along you probably require professional help.
Tonight we're at the Mad Donkey Bar in Astoria, Queens. Our home away from home. Tommy, the owner has even gone so far as to say we're the house band (Although he was pretty far gone that night) We have a monthly residency there and this month appear thrice (St. Paddy's, Tonight and again on the twenty-sixth) If you're looking for a nice, quiet bar where you can sip a cordial and engage in lively discussions of Shakespeare and Proust THIS AIN'T THE PLACE! BUT...if you want to let your har down, enjoy some craft beers, donkey boards, fishbowls full of liquor and join the ever growing Flynn Nation: COME ON!
My solo gigs are a little light now as I'm in the studio with Pater Calo working on c.d. number two which at this point might be called "Number Two". I'm not sure. "The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis" seemed a little heavy. Somwhere in between. Got an idea? We're laying down tracks as fast as I can make the money to pay for them.
Some good things are brewing. I was a finalist in the "Strum Magazine Songwriting Competition" and got a really nice review on their web-site. With any luck I'll be making some festival appearances this year. We'll see. We are, and remain hopeful. And so should you.
That's about it for now. Find your passion and live it. It's there for a reason. It's who you're supposed to be.
An eventful week.
Sunday was"Something: A Celebration of George Harrison" at 12 Grapes in my hometown of Peekskill. What a show. Accompanied by Julie Corbalis, Eric Puente, Chris Corbalis, Seth Slater and Paul silverman along with Guests Jorge Caraballo, Tim Feeney, Paul Magliari and Fred Gillen, Jr. I was part of a show so incredible I'm hard pressed to do it justice. I think almost anyone in the packed house would tell you it was a very special night.The same band will gather in early summer to celebrate Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Watch this page and put it on your calendar.You don't want to miss it.
Monday morning we had a mini Katrina in our basement and I bailed water for six hours, aided by my ever faithful brother Rich and niece Jackie. They came over just as my back was giving out and got the water down from in ground pool to bird bath. Which was fitting as we were preparing for our annual Mardi Gras bash on Tuesday.
MARDI GRAS was amazing. Great friends. Great food. It's our favorite day of the year and in our house we treat it as a holiday. Fat Tuesday is sacred. We believe in big fun in the Chizmadia house-hold and feel a little saddened when folks are too busy to celebrate life. Not that we don't get caught up in the NY rat-race mentality too, but we catch ourselves around carnival time and we let the good times roll. It's our mission to bring MARDI GRAS to Peekskill. Ourfriends Jeremy and Laura Rice bring Louisiana to Peekskill almost monthly hosting Cajun/ Zydeco dances at The New Yorker featuring bands from Louisiana. Rich and Jeannie Credidio are hosting Leroy Thomas and The Zydeco Road-Runners on friday (3/11). Come on out and shake your thang.
In the studio today working on the new c.d. I'm looking forward to an early summer release. Peter Calo is producing and so far we're hitting it off famously. He's a tremendous musician and a great guy.
Well, thanks for tuning in. Come on out and support live music. And if anyone has some spare change they're itching to part with I could always use a few angels to help get this record in shrink wrap. Just drop me a line and we'll tawk. All the best to all my friends. Thanks for you support. I couldn't do it wihtout you.
This past weekend Halle and I traveled to the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, Texas. My song "The Wall Street Fat-Cat Tax Payer Bail-Out Blues" was one of eleven finalists in the Music2Life songwriting contest. This contest is an outgrowth of The Public Domain Foundation which exists to support and promote socially conscious music and musicians in the hope of making this world a better place. It was started in 1971 by Noel "Paul" Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary. (You can read all about it at the Public Domain web-site.) We heard some beautiful, heartfelt music. The talent of the artists performing on saturday afternoon was only superceded by their beauty as people. These are the "folks" who make you understand and appreciate the term folk music. Straight from the heart. I was honored and moved to share the stage with them and thrilled to receive top honors. Every song was great. I am grateful to have won, but humbled to know that though this time the universe let me take home the award I was one of eleven top prize winners. I truly share it with the other finalists and urge anyone who likes what I do to seek these artists out. It will be well worth your time. I hope to be sharing stages and ideas with them for years to come.
Vanessa Torres vanessatorresmusic
David Ippolito thatguitarman.com
Emily Kurn emilykurnmusic.com
Due to a sever sinus infection Emily Kurn was unable to fly from her home in Alaska to join us, so Randall Williams ( a very talented singer/songwriter/ guitarist in his own right) jumped in, learned her brilliant song "Mississippi Moon" over-night and performed it for us. I've known Randall for years, he's one the most gifted artists out there.
Emily, you were missed. Get well soon!
My deepest thanks to Noel Stookey and Liz Stookey Sunde. Search as you might you will not find kinder, more gracious and supportive people. We are so blessed in getting to meet and know these people. Halle and I have been on cloud 9, no 18, 36, whatever the optimum number of happy clouds there are, since this weekend. To be treated with such kindness and respect by such legends as Noel Stookey and Peter Yarrow is unbelieveable and had me batting back tears more times than I care to admit. Liz Stookey Sunde is Noel's daughter and the executive director of The Public Domain Foundation, she's an incredible person. We had a chance to really visit with her backstage and felt we had known her forever. Check out the foundation, they are doing great work and need all our help.
As grand prize winner I had the opportunity to perform my tune on the the main stage at The Kerrvile Folk Festival, a dream of mine since I was a New Folk finalist seven years ago. As many of you may know "It's Always Texas" with me and this was tantamount to taking home the Academy Award. Thank you Dalis Allen and all the folks who make Kerrville a reality every year. You make dreams come true.
When you drive into Quiet Valley Ranch to atend the festival, there's a big sign that says "Welcome Home" . It's intended for all who enter, whether you've been there before or not. Do yourself a favor some time and go home. You'll be glad you did.
You'll be Kerrverts like us.
Happy New Year! A big thank you to one and all for making a very trying year one of my best. I received so much support for the music we were able to make it through with a roof over our heads and food on the table. I am very grateful. This year we began the slow process of simplifying life here in the Chizmadia household and looking ahead to a future richer in friends and family. So many of you joined our family this year, coming out to shows and hanging to the bitter end. I really appreciate you and look forward to spending many evenings this year in story and song with you all. If you like what I do, please spread the word. I'll be booking a lot of dates this year, check the calendar and stay in touch. Drop me an e-mail. Let me know how you're doing. Wishing you all the best in 2010!
P.S. I just have to say Halle and I had the best New Year's Eve we've had, celebrating with Rich and Jeannie Credidio at 12 Grapes. Johnny Feds and Da Bluez Boyz were the entertainment and they just about blew the doors of the place. There was great food, excellent wine (a martini or two) and the company of some really wonderful people. Thanks to Rich and Jeannie and all the fine folks who made it a truly memorable New Years'.
It's December. I can't believe it. What a year. Tough times. How are you all faring? Hope people are working, living, loving, laughing, dancing, laughing some more, getting out of debt, keeping out of trouble and feeling like we're somehow pulling through the bad times. It's been a hulluva struggle this year. I'm determined to take it in stride and learn from it though. I'm constantly reminded of one of my grandmother's closest friends, a little german lady named Mary. After fifty or so years living in her house in South Ozone Park she was forced to move into an assisted living facility in Flushing. She was a very self-sufficient woman who was now depending upon others for her basic needs. My mother and I went to visit her one day and after visiting for a while my mother asked her if she was happy there. Without stopping to think she said in her clipped little german accent, "Vell, I can choose to be happy, or choose to be sad; I choose happy."
In acting school I was told that every moment in a scene was a choice, great actors make choices. One wise teacher also told me that it didn't matter if I became a succesful actor; if I learned to actively make choices and not let time fly by unobserved I would be succesful at life.
I was chosen to be a musician, actor, writer, but I have done so many other things for so long and spent so many hours chasing money in order to have enough. I chose to put what I thought of as my responsibilities first, without realizing I was being irresponsible to these gifts I've been given, wasting them. I'll always be responsible, but I'm learning that I can practice my art and still get by.
I'm choosing to change my life and this economy has been a gift. Some of the economic crutches I had are no longer there. In the past I would often feel I had to work a more lucrative survival job rather than play a low, or no paying gig. Now, the "survival" jobs are fewer and farther between, so I'm playing my music and reconnecting to the thing that makes me feel connected to all things. I choose not to panic. I'm choosing to be happy. Hope you are too.
It's been a long time since my last entry. Great things are happening. I've got regular gigs at Whistling Willie's in Cold Spring and 12 Grapes in my new hometown of Peekskill. Bill at Whistling Willie's and Rich and Jeannie at 12 Grapes are tremendous supporters of local musicians. I urge anyone who loves good live music to support these venues. These folks are really putting themselves out to create a scene. And both restaurants are great places to relax and have a great dinner.
New gigs are coming in daily. It seems the universe and I are back on speaking terms. I still have to pull the odd catering shift, or dress a set, or swing a hammer, but thanks to the support I'm getting from some really great people out there I'm working my way toward leaving survival jobs behind. It's a beautiful thing.
Hope everyone's enjoying the summer. We've been restoring the homestead in an effort to refinance like so many others. We'd like to think we can knock down our interest rate by a point, but if the luck we had with Mr. Obama's cash for clunkers is any indication, there might be a big crack waiting for us to fall through. So far we missed the window on the tax break for a new boiler (too early) and the new home-owner tax credit (those who purchased after January got it free and clear, no payback. We have to pay five hundred bucks a year for the next fifteen. Missed it by three months.) The clunkers thing was the last straw though. We've got a 2000 Dodge Caravan that has 96 thousand miles on it and is working on it's third transmission. If ever there was a clunker this is one, but somehow it didn't qualify. Well, sorry to say, that Dodge is my last American car. I support American workers, but not the cynical, greedy idiots who designed and shipped this lemon. It's hard to have much sympathy for these folks when the week after you mail in your final payment you have to put in a new transmission and have a two thousand dollar valve job. I thought the cash for clunkers would be the redemption song for this master clunker. Nope. From now on, we're a Honda family. Sorry Detroit. Anyway, I'm sure somebody got some cash off for their clunker. Probably some guy with a Hummer.
Well, that's it for now my friends. Hope you're surviving this recession. Thanks for all your support. In the words of my good buddy Spence White "We appreciate ya"