Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sounds Like This

Just to lighten up a little...

My wife Nancy listens to the radio fairly often as she's driving around town running errands or whatever. I don't have a lot of patience for the radio because of the commercials and the maddening repetition of the top 40 (If anyone knows of a station accessible via a standard radio on Long Island that plays NEW music, I'd be happy to know about it.)

Okay then. Two lines in and I've already parenthesized. I wonder if there are any 12 step programs for overindulging in grammatical characters?

Anyway, Nancy occasionally manages to catch new tunes on the radio, but almost invariably misses the title of the song and either all or part of the name of the artist, and will come home and say things like, "I heard this great song on the radio. It was a guy singing, and I think the song had the words 'rock and roll' in it. Can you find it?"

In that case (which occurred about a year ago), the answer was no, given the rather broad search criteria. I told her so, and we both pretty much forgot about it. Six months later, she heard the song again, and came home with a little more, part of a name: "Eric... something with an H. I think."

That narrowed the field quite nicely, and I soon found the artist: Eric Hutchinson. The song was called 'Rock & Roll' and it's on his CD, 'Sounds Like This'. I had never heard the song, but I knew Nancy loved it, so I ordered it, and I pretty much haven't stopped listening to it since.

I love music, and I consider myself a fairly astute listener, able to separate the wheat from the chaff as they say. In addition, I'm fairly broad-minded with regard to what I'll listen to, and even if something isn't to my taste, I can generally see the artistry in it. So please believe me when I tell you that if you're looking for some slickly produced, no real instruments-allowed techno-grunge, read no further. If, however, you're looking for some unpretentious, head-bopping, coffee house pop with splashes of funk and blues, Eric Hutchinson is definitely your guy. From the honky-tonk opening sounds of 'Alright With Me', to the Billy Joel-meets-Donald Fagen lilt of 'Food Chain' to the infectious road-trip feel of 'Rock & Roll', to the finger-snapping back-beat of 'Oh!', the CD is a breath of fresh air.

So, if you're looking for a something a little different, check out 'Sounds Like This', available at your friendly neighborhood for under ten bucks.

Happy listening!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Orkin's Law of Spiritual Perseverance

In Autumn 1993, I was walking up Rhoda Avenue toward Weeks Road in North Babylon, heading who knows where. I remember the day as being overcast and cool, but not especially so. I believe it was Autumn. I was contending with a lot of stuff at that time, still trying to burn through a near-crippling bout of depression following the death of my father the year before, reconcile some issues pertaining to the end of one relationship and the moving forward of another (the one that eventually became my marriage, incidentally), and find a decent job after being laid off the best one I'd ever had up to that point the year before. As my thoughts tumbled through my head trying to make sense of themselves, a peculiar phrase blinked in my mind: 'Hope is a raincoat.' It came through with absolute clarity, a steady candle clearing the fog in my beleaguered brain. There was no misinterpreting it: 'Hope is a raincoat'. However, though the words themselves came through clearly, the phrase seemed cryptic. I had a taste of what it might mean, but I couldn't get anything concrete out of it. I continued walking up the block, and a few minutes later, as I neared the end of the street, the rest of it came through: ' the storm of life.'

Hope is a raincoat in the storm of life.

Though I wouldn't identify it as such until many years later, this was my first Orkin's Law, and it remains my favorite. It typifies the definition at the top of this blog. It's simple, has a playful quality, yet it's got depth to it. It set the standard for the dozens that have followed.

It may sound a little strange, but I assume very little responsibility for these odd little maxims. They just seem to come to me, more delivered that created. I feel like I'm just the recorder.

Anyway, this simple message brightened my day immensely all those years ago. It seemed like a gift, a sign from somewhere that things would get better. It made my load a little lighter, and it continues to bring me comfort even today.

I remain a fervent proponent of Hope. One of my favorite movie titles (and a very fine movie, as well) is 'Hope Floats'(1). One of my favorite CD's is Matt Nathanson's 'Some Mad Hope'(2). Hope matters. Hope gets you through the day. Hope gives you something to hold onto when all else seems lost.

Hope is often misinterpreted by cynics or the literal-minded as an unwillingness to accept reality, but this is not the case. Hope is a desire for a positive outcome in the face of unknown or negative circumstances. If you're sitting at the bedside of a loved one with terminal cancer, you must accept the very real and likely possibility that they're going to die. This does not preclude you from hoping they don't. Hope does not refute reality. It carries on despite it. There is no harm in hope. There is always room for hope.

I think Hope is closely tied to Faith, though the latter is a more complex concept that I hope to address at some point in the future. For the most part, I think Hope is somewhat more realistic. In the context of this Orkin's Law (or OL, to save me some keystrokes), Hope has no grandiose arrogance. It does not prevent or solve anything; it protects, it shields. It enables one to cope with things as they are more effectively. Given the sometimes profoundly, even mercilessly unjust world we live in, I don't think we can ask for much more.

Orkin's Law of Spiritual Perseverance: Hope is a raincoat in the storm of Life.

Try that one on the next time you're feeling low and your plate is full. Is it going to change your life? Nope. Could it give you a step up to cope with everything just a little bit easier? You know, it just might...

1: 'Hope Floats' is a 1998 film starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr., both of whom are excellent. It's a simple film that's part romance, and part journey of self-discovery.

2: 'Some Mad Hope' is a 2007 release by Matt Nathanson, a soulful and skilled songwriter and guitarist. It's not flashy, but it is authentic. If you like artists like John Mayer, James Taylor, Shawn Colvin, Colbie Caillat, or Sara Bareilles, this will probably work for you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I questioned whether 'Embarkation' was actually a word.

It is.

I looked it up.

Honestly, I'm a little ambivalent about blogging. It seems to require a level of self-voyeurism, perhaps even narcissism, I'm not comfortable with. Even outside of that, please excuse my slide into self-deprecation, but I'm not sure anyone cares what I have to say.

However, as a writer, I'm accustomed to expressing myself verbally, and as writing is both my vocation and my passion, I venture to say I'm pretty good at it. Further, I'm fairly intelligent, and pride myself on my ability to see things from various perspectives (even if I don't agree with all those perspectives), and to see beneath the surface of things. Whether my confidence is justified on either front is a matter you will have to determine for yourselves.

Despite my above-noted ambivalence, I've conducted a recurring debate about it, and have even taken a test drive or two just to see how it felt, but having recently joined the ever-expanding cult of Facebook, I've found my appetite has been whetted to get my word (such as it is) out to a somewhat broader audience. The matter of whether anyone cares seems to be giving way to the idea that that may not matter. Even if I'm talking to empty cyberspace, as long as no animals are being harmed, no hydrogenated vegetable oil is being used, no second-hand smoke is being inhaled, and it's providing an element of personal catharsis for me, it's all good. Further, though there are certainly vast numbers of people who are both more intelligent, and more skilled as writers than I am, I'm warming to the idea that, as with most endeavors, it's not a matter of 'Why Me?', but 'Why not Me?'.

One of the catalytic factors in taking the plunge was the suggestion of my friend Erin (and a few enthusiastic backup encouragements) in response to an essay I posted on FB last summer about Michael Jackson (which I'm toying with reprinting here with a few updates.), as well as positive feedback from some other odds and ends I've posted there.

(While I'm thinking of it (or as I sometimes say to my friend and office mate Christiana, WITOI), please be advised I have a near uncontrollable proclivity for parenthetical asides. Wow, a double; impressive!) Let it be known I considered parenthesizing the 'Wow, a double' statement, which would have made it a triple. Further, I could have inserted further parentheses around the 'Let it be known' sentence, creating a towering four parenthetical statements in one short paragraph. However, it's clear I must cease this parenthetical madness.

Anyway, I think the time is right. I think this may be the start of something enduring. I have a sense of standing before open country. My walking stick is firmly in hand. I've got plenty of water and supplies, and I am ready to trek forth into the wilderness. As I move through it, I shall endeavor to entertain, amuse, inspire, captivate, inform, and challenge you. Let's see where this journey takes us...

Thank you for reading.