February 28, 2012

Flight of the Red Baron

Last March, while strolling through the novelty shops in Northport Village, I found a most amazing Red Baron kite. It looked so wonderful on the shelf that I just had to bring it home with me. I stored the box in my closet with the intention of taking it out in the summer to fly, but I got so involved in the garden work that I was doing that I ended up forgetting all about it. 
This past Friday night, a big storm passed over Long Island bringing with it lots of rain and heavy winds. In its wake, NY was left with a very blustery weekend. While conditions were sunny and clear, gusts were reaching upward of 25 mph with a nasty chill factor. As I was looking out of my living room window on Sunday morning at the crisp world outside, four words popped into my mind: "Go fly a kite!"

As I pulled the Red Baron out of its dusty hiding place and began the assembly process, I found that the kite was much nicer that I had remembered it to be--great wingspan and details. I took my time attaching the tail, string, and support rods before taking it out to the trunk of the car; then I was off to the school yard. The ground was still a little bit mushy from the rain, but that wasn't going to stop me. I held the Red Baron in one hand over my head and ran as fast as I could until the kite launched straight up into the air, its 12-foot tail streaming gracefully behind. I let out yards and yards of string and it soared high into the afternoon air, looking majestic against the open blue sky. The string tugged hard against my grip from the strong breezes. I was able to make the kite do all kinds of aerobatics, quick swoops and nose dives. The Red Baron stayed aloft for a good hour and would live to fly another day. Today, may your imagination glide on beautiful zephyrs. Love & light...

"But they that wait upon the LORD
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk,
and not faint."
~Isaiah 40:31

February 25, 2012

The Golden Age of Video Games

A few days ago, I got caught up in a moment of nostalgia for the video games of the past. It prompted me to do a Google search for "Atari 2600." The moment a picture of that familiar game console and joystick popped up on my computer screen, I was instantly taken back to the late 1970's. I was seated in my room in front of the TV passing the hours wrapped up in games like Space Invaders, Asteroids, Air/Sea Battle, Haunted House, Breakout, Circus Atari, and many others. My favorite Atari game was always the medieval goblet quest called "Adventure." The dragons are classic! Granted, the graphics of those games are quite primitive, but something about the innocent simplicity of it all is absolutely enchanting.

Nowadays, with two jobs, I don't really have the time to get as involved in video games as I once did. I do own a Wii and an Xbox and I enjoy playing some of the games, though I am unfortunately one of those people who gets vertigo from modern 3D game graphics. I can't play many of the newer titles without getting a severe headache. I also won't partake in any of the countless games out there that are overly violent and gory. That's not entertaining to me. I do like the simple PC games that are created by Popcap (Plants vs. Zombies, Zuma, Peggle) and Angry Birds is cool too, but I still say that the Atari 2600 of the late-70s was the Golden Age of Video Games. Everyone had it. Everyone talked about it. The release of a new game (such as Pac Man) was a hotly-anticipated event. I recall going to the store and seeing an entire wall covered with those familiar Atari boxes and being so excited. It makes my heart feel good to think about it. I guess I'll end this video game post with a picture of my profile avatar from the Xbox system. It's a rather accurate likeness. Cheers! :D

"Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts,
ye double minded."

~James 4:7-8


February 21, 2012

Jambalaya & Django

Happy Shrove Tuesday! Well, right now it is officially Mardis Gras time in Louisiana. I've heard tales that it is the most unabashed, non-stop party on the planet. While those kinds of raucous antics aren't really my style anymore, I'll admit that I've long dreamed of hopping an airplane down to New Orleans just to experience the atmosphere. I would love to see the historic French Quarter and take a carriage ride through its 100 blocks of arts, fine dining, shopping, and music while viewing all of the French and Spanish inspired architecture, the creole cottages and wrought iron fences. One evening, I would love to sit on a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street eating Cajun cuisine as the sound of jazz trumpets caresses my eardrums. New Orleans has always sounded like such a mysterious and enchanting place, to be sure.

As I was thinking about it on Sunday morning, I got a craving for Jambalaya so I looked up a recipe online. I always get a wonderful feeling inside when I'm taking a morning walk to the market to get the ingredients for special dinner. It is as if the trip to the grocery store is part of the tradition and it somehow makes the meal a little bit tastier. I strolled through the aisles as if on a cloud: Andoiulle sausages? Check. Jumbo shrimp? Check. Cayenne peppers? Check...

After a little bit of food prep and some cooking, I sat down at my kitchen table with a bowl of spicy comfort food. It made me all warm inside. To accompany the meal, I chose to listen to the music of Django Reinhardt. The sounds of his gypsy guitar set the perfect mood. It was beautiful. May your week be filled with peaceful moments and comfort. Cheers!

"I sought
the Lord and He heard me,
and delivered me from all my fears."

~Psalms 34:4


February 18, 2012

Ranny Reeve Jazz Festival

The Ranny Reeve Jazz Festival (named after a beloved, local jazz composer and music instructor) is an annual concert that is presented by the Kings Park Heritage Museum to celebrate Black History Month. This year's show took place on Friday, February 17 in the auditorium of the RJO Middle School in front of a full house. 

This performance featured two full ensembles as well as several duets and a few solo pieces. In a variety show kind of setting, the musicians on the stage ranged in experience from seasoned jazz players to young kids who were fairly new to their instruments. The music included a little bit of everything, from such standards as "Take the A Train," "Sweet Georgia Brown," and "Blue Bossa" to a funky jam of the Herbie Hancock classic "Watermelon Man" to even a few avant-garde improvisations mixed in for good measure. The show ended with the entire cast of musicians on stage for one big grand finale. This was music being played for the love of playing music. This was a free concert filled with great sounds performed with care and shared with joy. I relished it immensely. It was an inspiring evening and it made me have to hurry home to play some fingerstyle jazz on my own instrument. Excellent night. Cheers!

"My lips shall not speak wickedness,
nor my tongue utter deceit."

~Job 27:4


February 14, 2012

Hearts, Triangles, and Other Shapes

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ah, that feeling is in the air once again. Baseball season is just around the corner. Pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in 5 days and that's when I really start thinking about the change of season ahead. Although this has been a mild winter by all accounts, I am still anticipating those warm, green days of spring. Those outdoor activities. Of course, I will have a lot of yard work ahead of me in the near future, though I am very much looking forward to it.

At the end of last year, I posted an idea for my summer trip called "Due South: Road Trip 2012," but, after looking into my finances (with the construction of the Avant Garden Poetry Amphitheatre on the horizon), a cross-country trip that culminates with a week in Disneyland just doesn't seem feasible at the moment. Perhaps in 2013. So, with that in mind, my summer plans have morphed into a new agenda that I'm calling: "The Pennsylvania Triangle - Version 2.0." This will be another 3-point journey into the Keystone State that will take me to the Poconos, Gettysburg, and Lancaster -- an afternoon exploring the rushing waters at Bushkill Falls, a visit to Scranton/Wilkes Barre to see the Triple-A Yankees, a jaunt into the Civil War atmosphere of Gettysburg. It all sounds lovely to me...

Other than that, I stayed home sick for a few days last week and it afforded me the opportunity to engage in a little bit of artwork. I was able to finish up three new paintings. Hope you like them. I also started thinking about what kinds of poetry performances I would like to give once the Avant Garden is up and running. I have four different types of shows in mind. The first one would be an extended version of the "Whitman Sampler" that I did at Super Poem Sunday. It would run for perhaps an hour and a half and feature dramatic interpretations of many of Walt's classic pieces with music and theatrical flourishes mixed in. Secondly, "The Poe Show." I can imagine the writings of Edgar Allan Poe working beautifully under the proper lighting with some eerie stagecraft, especially around Halloween time. "Once upon a midnight dreary..." You get the idea. The third one is something that I had planned to do years ago when I was the host at the Solar Cafe -- Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." I had it about 60% memorized, though I'll admit it was quite tricky. The fourth show would be an evening of my own material. I'm really excited by the possibilities. Soon. Very soon. Cheers!

"Fantasia in J Sharp Lydian"

"Bebop at the Seahorse Cafe"

"Gambit Oasis"

get rid of all moral filth
and the evil that is so prevalent
and humbly accept the word planted in you,
which can save you."

~James 1:21


February 11, 2012

From China to India Through Music and Dance

I have always been very intrigued by cultures from around the globe, especially when it comes to the arts and entertainment, and most especially when it comes from the Asian continent. On Wednesday evening, the library hosted a free program called "From China to India Through Music and Dance." By the title alone, I knew that this performance was for me, so for the third time in as many weeks, I grabbed my library card and headed out.

This show opened with an Indian Dance to a song called "Chum Chum Chanana." I have always been fascinated by the music from Bollywood movies -- lively dance rhythms, wonderful musical arrangements of unique instruments such as Santoor and Shehnai, and the very distinct sound of the female voices. I was excited as the first hits of the tabla came over the PA system and the curtains parted on a pair of girls donning colorful Indian outfits and bangles. Soon, they began their dance and lit up the stage with fluid movements and beautiful gestures. Bells on their ankles made every step percussive and pronounced. This was a showcase in South Asian grace that I very much enjoyed.

Next on the bill was Judy (Shih-Hua) Yeh, a specialist in the performance of Classical Chinese instruments. Over the course of the show, she featured the Guqin, the Bamboo Flute, the bowed Erhu, and, my favorite, the harp-like Guzheng. Through her music, my mind drifted into scenes of nature and the outdoors. I could see sunrises over mountaintops and calm streams through woods. Each note she played became the soundtrack to my imaginings and it was very tranquil and transcendent. I was completely amazed.

Another musical highlight of the evening came when a boy named Tejas Tope played the Tabla accompanied by the harmonium. He performed at a level well beyond his years, his hands lightning fast, his tones crisp, his rhythms titillating. It came as no surprise to me when the audience gave him a rousing ovation.

The show continued with more songs and musical performances and finally closed with a little bit of fun. The girls reappeared from behind the curtain wearing new outfits and did an Indian dance to Michael Jackson's "Beat It." It was very playful and it made me smile. Cheers!

"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked."
~Psalm 84:10


February 7, 2012

A Weekend of Giant Proportions!

Oh, this past weekend was an amazing one in every way! It kicked off on Saturday evening with a trip to the Walt Whitman Birthplace for the first event in a series of 8 called "Walking with Whitman: Poetry In Performance 2012." This program was put together by Suffolk County's first Poet Laureate George Wallace with the idea of pairing nationally known poets with some of Long Island's local talent.

As I stepped through the door at the Whitman Interpretive Center, my ears were immediately met with the cool jazz sounds of Miles Davis being piped over the PA system. Just beyond the foyer, a table was set up offering a variety of wines, cheeses & crackers, and grapes. It was a lovely atmosphere and the mood was definitely set for the two features: Nathan Peason (a stylish performer from NYC and a former host at the storied Nuyorican Poet Cafe in Manhattan's East Village) and Linda Opyr (the current Nassau County Poet Laureate). Both regaled the audience with a wonderful selection of pieces; it was a beautiful event and it felt good to be listening to live poetry as the boyhood home of Walt Whitman loomed just beyond the window.

After the poetry event had ended, I headed over to a Bar & Grille Called Madison's. I had been invited there to hear a group called the Moonshine Band. They played a good selection of classic rock songs and I was happy to relax at a table and enjoy one of the pub's Gorgonzola Burgers. It was an excellent way to cap off the evening.

On Sunday morning, I would once again visit the Walt Whitman Birthplace, this time for Super Poem Sunday IV! The idea of this event is to generate the exciting vibe of a Super Bowl party with poetry being the focus instead of football. It has it all. Slam contests. Beer, chips, potato salad, chocolate chip cookies, and a six-foot hero. Cheerleaders. The coveted "Most Valuable Poet" award. I was asked to perform for the Halftime Show. I chose to put together a 15-minute "Whitman Sampler." The feeling of performing my dramatic interpretation of Walt Whitman's words in Walt Whitman's Interpretive Center was profound joy. It went over great. Of course, the Halftime show didn't end there. Somehow, I got roped into being part of a spoof based on the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet." I found myself taped up in a bubble-wrap gown with a blond wig on my head. I was to play the role of Juliet. With my handlebar mustache and tattoos, I looked absolutely hideous, but it was all in good fun and the skit was a success. The dialogue, while sounding Shakespearean, was completely ridiculous; for example: "Alas, that is no Juliet, but the strongman from yon carnival!" There was a huge smile on every face in the audience and a chorus of laughter pervading the afternoon air and that's all that really mattered to me. I always look forward to being part of Super Poem Sunday. It gets better every year!

The absolute icing on this weekend's cake was the fact that I got to watch the NY Giants become the champions of 2012 in one of the most thrilling Super Bowl games I've ever seen. Congrats Giants! Woo hoo!

"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you:
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live by the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus,
his Son, purifies us from all sin."

~1 John 1:5-7