Thursday, September 27, 2012

9-26-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #209 (“How’m I Doin’?” -- and we tell him, too! -- Part 2)

Much the same way anything interesting and excellent happened for the Washington Squares, Tom Goodkind got us into some improbable and cool situations. Keep in mind, he probably had some help from his wife, Jill, who was in Public Relations and carried her camera around to snap us with all kinds of celebs, including Hollywood types, an up-and-coming Whoopi Goldberg and a well known actor, Robert Duvall. . . . both very nice to us, actually.

At any rate, we had a request one holiday season (’87 or ’88?) to play for Mayor Koch and guests as a party at his home, Gracie Mansion. I was more excited for my mom and Rick’s parents to know we were doing it more than personally, I think. I just hoped we’d play and sing well, and get a nice meal and some $ out of the deal. Really, I have very simple motives -- and I’m not easily impressed. All right, I’m impressed by kindness, magnanimousness, compassion, and fun. I will namedrop if it helps the listener with placing the person, place or thing I’m trying to describe. Face it, most people seem captivated by tales of celebrities, and I hate to disappoint. . .

So, when the Washington Squares played a party for Mayor Koch at Gracie Mansion, we ate well and played well. The salad dressing especially was really excellent, so I asked the chef how to make it and I still whip up a yummy balsamic Dijon vinaigrette based on what we had at Gracie Mansion back in the late ‘80’s.

Shary Flenniken -- Bruce’s wife -- spent some time bending Ed Koch’s ear at the party. Tom was annoyed with her, maybe because he wanted to also talk to hizzoner but didn’t want to impose? Nah, Tom wasn’t that kind of person; I was more prone to worry about making an imposition on people at the wrong place and time. . . 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

9-25-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #208 (“How’m I Doin’?” -- and we tell him, too!)

Before New York City was ruled over by mayors the likes of nasty Rudy Giuliani and the current OCD-Napoleonic potentate, Michael Bloomberg, I recall when NYC’s mayor was the suave, waspy John Lindsay. I was a little girl, growing up in Queens, and I remember when Mayor Lindsay visited the Zion Episcopal Church right near our house. At the time, I was in the Girl Scouts; somehow we in Douglaston merited a visit from the city administration (including the comptroller at the time, a young good looking Italian type named Mario Proccacino).

All right, so I shook Mayor John Lindsay’s hand many years ago (Proccacino’s too). Back in the ‘80’s, when the Squares ruled the Village (in our minds!), we had a pretty cool mayor, a colorful guy who we all liked for his sense of humor and amazing resemblance to Frank Perdue (“takes a tough man to make a tender chicken”), Mayor Ed Koch (“takes a tough man to make a tender city?”).

I’m standing next to good ol’ Ed Koch at a Yankees opening day game with Rick Wagner. . . back when we actually could occasionally afford to go (games weren’t too pricey and we had enough disposable income to enjoy ourselves -- or maybe we didn’t know better and spent all we had, that’s probably it!).

Oh all right, it’s not ACTUALLY Ed Koch in the pic with me. . . but a year or two after that, we really WERE in the company of hizzoner Mayor Koch: no lie

Monday, September 24, 2012

9-24-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #207 (Oops! We did it again with Billy Crystal, take 3. . .)

I have to say, we did some really interesting and cool stuff, and I very much credit Tom Goodkind with getting us out there and finding opportunities. He was an MBA from N.Y.U., and figured out how to use his business degree -- and acumen -- to get us ahead, from marketing to business plan.

One of the opportunities that came our way was to go on a Midwest tour with then-upcoming comedian Billy Crystal. This was before “When Harry Met Sally” and the Oscar hosting that he did. . . as I said, he was an up-and-comer.

At any rate, again, having temp jobs on the side in NYC worked well for me. We got the tour itinerary and, I believe, flew to Cleveland, where we rented a car to drive around where the tour was going. I don’t exactly recall, but think we toured with a bongo player at that time, either a guy named Ben (who was a little scary) or Frank Gianninni (who was a real nice, cool guy).

So, we did the first show on this little theater tour, and it went well. Billy liked us, and we posed for a pic with him (attach).

But Bruce had some other plans in his nutty, defiant brain. A natural comedian himself (and a Jerry Lewis aficionado), he got it in his head to learn and steal Crystal’s jokes -- and tell them during our set.

SO WRONG! I had no idea he was doing that at the time, though. Did Tom know? Hard to say, but I think if he did know, he’d have said, “Bruce, man, that’s such a bad idea ‘cause we’ll be thrown off the tour, man.”

. . . which is exactly what happened after two gigs: we lost the tour and were sent back home with our figurative tail between our legs.

Still, I just really wish I knew what possessed Bruce to do that.  But we’ll never know, ‘cause he’s long gone. . . next year, it’ll be 20 years ago that he died.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

9-05-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #200 (Oops! We did it again, take 2. . .)

We played this gig at the Bottom Line one time -- I think it was a benefit for something, maybe AIDS research or World Hunger Year? -- and the Squares took the stage. Now, Tom and Bruce customarily did a little back and forth comedy routine a la the Smothers Brothers or Lenny Bruce, generally leaving me out of the picture because they were quick, the fastball wits. I was the female in the middle who’d look left to right, right to left, and look bemused and mildly tolerant of those “bad boys.”

As you can tell, I, too, have my own brand of fastball wit, but as I’m accustomed to putting it on the page, onstage I tended to not get words out quick enough, and I’d fumble. But THIS one time, I was heard. . .

This was after Bruce made some jokes about Michael Jackson, maybe along the lines of, “How can you can tell it’s bedtime at Michael Jackson’s? When the big hand touches the little hand. . .”

So, In the news at the time was a gory tale of a man who killed his girlfriend and cooked some of her body parts to eat. Ugh. So Tom says onstage, between songs, “So, you hear about this guy who ate his girlfriend?”

Not missing a beat, I jumped right in, “Well, Tom, plenty of guys eat their girlfriends” -- referring to a sexual act, you know, a double entendre. Nervous laughter and a few rather sick guffaws met my bold remark. I thought it was pretty good -- stopped the guys in their tracks for about a minute. They were incredulous that I could have said something so quickly. . . and I wonder what would have happened had Bruce said that instead of me.

Anyway, after the show, our record company voiced mild displeasure at my onstage comment. Never had the guys ever been chastised for their shenanigans, but I thought there was a teensy bit of a double standard at play there. . . cute girls just can’t “play blue,” I guess.

9-04-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #199 (Oops! We did it again. . .)

Now I come to one of the more embarrassing things that happened to the Washington Squares. . . I’ll talk about something I did, first off, and in the next entry, I’ll mention a gaffe performed by our very own lead guitarist and jokester, Bruce Jay Paskow.

I recall playing the Bottom Line one time when the L.A. office of our record company (all three or four of them!) came in to New York to meet with President Danny Goldberg. They came to our show at this rather prestigious former downtown club, where all of the mid-level acts played on tour and some of the bigger acts started out or played “surprise” shows, mostly for the press or bigwigs.

The Bottom Line was run by Allen Pepper, and his business partner, maybe his brother -- who stayed out of the picture and sat upstairs, counting money (so I’m told). They really did stick to “the bottom line” and were notoriously frugal. At any rate and despite all that, seeing bands there was always a treat, and playing there a regular privilege. . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9-03-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #198 (Schmoozin’ with the Stars, take 5)

As I recall, Stipe liked to talk with me because he was very into my rock writing with Creem Magazine -- he was a fan of Trixie A. Balm! -- and very interested in Patti Smith (even then!). It was very flattering for him to talk with me and be so friendly because you could tell that he and the band were special and headed for great popularity. . . .

So, here’s another of Michael Stipe and Rick down south around the time of that gig in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (see the Chesterfield sign above Rick’s head?). . . sure wish I had some pics of the dB’s, too, ‘cause I really loved that band, loved their songs even more than REM’s and was friends with Peter and Will (I guess sorta friends, we were friendly and had a mutual friend, Stephanie).

 (photo by L.E. Agnelli)

9-02-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #197 (Schmoozin’ with the Stars, take 4)

(pic of me & Michael Stipe by Rick Wagner?)

Because of their association with the headliner, the dB’s -- and Rick -- knew the guys in REM, a.k.a. It Crawled from the South. In 1984, they had become a phenomenon and were growingly popular. The small theater for the gig was packed with enthusiastic young (college aged) fans of the hardworking little quartet from Athens, Georgia.

Backstage, I met Michael Stipe, who at the time had long curly locks and wore thick black framed glasses. I really liked his look. When he took off his glasses, he reminded me of Elvis Presley, with the shape of his lips and his eyes. Of course, his stage persona was nothing like the flashy King; Stipe commanded attention by being so intensely focused on his performance and shy self that he radiated a charisma that burned from within, forcing fans to pay attention. His singing voice, of course, had the right qualities and his lyrics were ambiguous and singable enough. . . all augmented and gelled together by the band, with harmonies and bass by Mike Mills and jangle pop chording by Pete Buck, along with the solid drumwork of Bill Berry.

Outside the venue, Stipe stopped for a casual pic or two with me and Rick (or maybe Rick was taking the pic?)

9-01-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #196 (Schmoozin’ with the Stars, take 3)

Around 1984/1985, I was falling in love with Rick Wagner, who was at the time in the dB’s, a very cool indie pop-rock group. If he at first thought I was groupie material, his eyes grew wide with surprise when he realized that I was a double-threat talent: the rock writer Trixie A. Balm AND “the girl” in the Washington Squares. Ooh la la!

At any rate, having temp jobs worked well when I wanted to go out of town, on tour or on an adventure. Rick and the dB’s played a few shows down in North Carolina in the late summer, and I went along because I wanted to be where the excitement was and, I guess, the Squares weren’t doing much that week (incredibly!).

We went to a cool dive type bar in the same town where REM and the dB’s were playing a show the next night. Playing live, to a crowd of maybe three dozen fans: The Replacements. I remember howling with delight at their shenanigans, seeing “big boy” Bob Stinson in a dress and his little brother, with the long shaggy rockdude hair, Tommy, on the bass, all in various stages of drunkenness along with the leader, Paul Westerberg. Already a rock legend, Westerberg sang and played some of the best darn confessional rock songs with singalong choruses, reeling off modern anthems as effortlessly as Cheap Trick or maybe even Big Star. . . his true heroes.

I do recall that was quite a trip, and I’m sorry I don’t have pics of that night with The Replacements. .  . but I do have some of somebody from that OTHER famous band. . .

8-31-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #195 (Schmoozin’ with the Stars, take 2)

(Abbie Hoffman pic by Jill Goodkind)

To continue along those lines -- “Schmoozin’ with the Stars” -- here’s a pic of us with Abbie Hoffman, political and social activist, co-founder of the Yippies. I always liked Abbie because he a young revolutionary who wanted to change America back in the turbulent sixties . He and Jerry Rubin both gained fame as the poster children of The Revolution. Of course, as time progressed, Hoffman kept up the idealism and political convictions along with actions, while Rubin did the practical thing and figured out how to succeed in business. . .

So Abbie came to the village in the eighties (he was living in Pennsylvania?) to get a pet project going, a radio show called “Radio Free USA” for which he wanted the Squares to work on a theme song, with him. We met in a pizza place on the corner of MacDougal and West Third, and we also met at my apartment, I believe. Abbie was really likable, and it was sad when he died in New Hope, Pennsylvania (ironically) of a suicide in 1989, at the age of 52.

At any rate, I remember how the lyric started out: “You say there’s no hope left and you’ve gotta go straight. . . “ and then the build into the chorus: “It’s time to start a master plan (cool lick a la the Stones’ “Satisfaction” leading up to the tag chorus) Radio Free U S A. . . “   

8-30-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #194 (Schmoozin’ with the Stars, take 1)

Now for the real change of pace. While working all these strange places as a corporate spy (er, temporary secretary -- same difference), I was working in music as a Washington Square in the eighties, and as a Dave Rave Conspirator and Agnelli-Raver in the nineties.

We did get to meet a lot of cool people, especially folks and folkies who’d carved a good career back in the day. Most of them were really cool people, very likable and good to be with. I don’t have a pic of us with Dave Guard from the Kingston Trio, but he was quite a sweetheart. . . he gave an old banjo of his to Tom Goodkind, a 5-string banjo lacking a resonator, but one that was easy to walk around with and frail (Tom’s preferred mode of banjo picking).

Here’s a pic of us with Tom Rush (“Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm”) at the Lion’s Head in the village. I recall he wasn’t a very fast talker or mover, and I was impatient and felt anxious, somehow -- everything in my head and body was firing fast, and I needed to be around people who were similar. I’m not sure he had a big sense of humor, either. All right, let’s face it: I thought his music was OK, but not really my thing. . .

(Tom Rush pic by Jill Goodkind)

8-29-31 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #193 (Absence Makes the Parting Pondered)

And now, for a change of pace. Has absence made your reader-hearts grow fonder? Hmmm. Well, please just don’t forget me and this incredibly ambitious effort to reconstruct a life lived in the best possible intentions and with such optimism that the disappointments never linger. . . there’s always a bright new hope, somehow, a bright new hope that God and the fates will again smile and say with a pat on the head, “That’s nice,” like an indulgent Auntie Mame type. 

I’ve been trying to figure out a really smart next move for a survival job. While I believe that my music and writing -- my creativity -- is always going to be my vocation and life quest, living in semi rural Connecticut is not yielding me the kind of half decent white collar survival work I’d come to rely on in NYC. And the education field I’m finding more and more tedious. . . besides, it seems they only want my subbing help. While I’d be happy with a teaching assistant or para job to work days while I kept up with music and writing, I apply along with 50+ other applicants and somehow I’m left swimming in the applicant pool without a prayer.

I just don’t have enough friends in the right places here, either.

I am always striving to balance the practical along with the creative in my life. So. . . . I was absent for almost two weeks trying to figure out my next move. I thought I should go back to school. Another Masters degree, maybe? (I already hold one I’m not using, a Masters of Science in Education, Secondary English concentration.) Southern CT State has a great Information and Library Science program.  . . but no, that would be a dead end for employment and so much stress, so costly, and so many hoops to jump through. Cannot do.

With a little help from my friends, I am looking into a way more practical course of action, now. Will let you know when it’s ready. . . 

9-11-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #206 (Remembering 9/11 on the 11th Anniversary)

(The following was written last year, for East Haddam patch.com
the original patch.com article  -- below photo of me was taken around 2002)

Horror, awe, and curiosity motivated me that gorgeous late summer’s day. I can’t say it was the smartest adventure ever, but circumstances compelled me.
In 2001, I was living in downtown Manhattan and working uptown – at a media planning company in Worldwide Plaza, at 8th Avenue and 50th Street. When the first plane hit the World Trade Towers I was underground, riding the “E” train subway.
I didn’t know what happened until I was at my administrative assistant desk and I saw a swarm of worker bees on the other side of the cubicle farm. Whispers in fearful tones jabbered around me, then—
You know the story.
We were all sent home from work. Bridges, tunnels and subways in Manhattan were shut down, so it left walking home as the only option. Home was four miles, south. My friend, Levi, lived on 47th and Seventh, so I tried calling on my cell phone but couldn’t get through (jammed signals). In an emergency, you crave the company of friends.
He did answer his apartment doorbell, though, shock on his face.
“I’ve got to walk home,” I said, “Or find somewhere to stay.”
“We have to go there,” murmured Levi – another writer, another glutton for unusual experience, Life full-on.
Intending just to walk with Levi until we reached my home (two neighborhoods north of the World Trade Center), I started walking south with him down the West Side Highway. I’d have been content to watch the disaster on TV at home, but no.
Looming directly in front of us, billowing gray smoke oozed from the flames of the crumbling Twin Towers.
“Unreal,” we muttered. Who could believe this was happening? The most brilliant, cloudless cobalt sky was being smoke-smudged. In my platform sandals and long work dress I wasn’t exactly dressed for hiking, but on we trudged, closer to ground zero.
In a series of zigzag maneuvers, we managed to walk to South Ferry in four hours, then come back up to where we could see the smoldering skeletons of the fallen Twin Towers up close. Gray flakes of burned papers and other debris fluttered down. . . I wrapped a bandanna around my nose and mouth, hoping to block any toxic debris.
Really, what WAS I thinking? Levi didn’t talk much while mulling over the enormity of the situation. I kept thinking of the many temp jobs I’d worked at the World Trade towers during the 1990s. . . all the times I stared out of the windows on the 101st, 102nd etc. floors while doing data entry and answering phones.
Finally, close to the Hudson River on the west side, rescue workers spotted us. They practically tackled and threw us onto an ancient tugboat that was waiting for people who genuinely needed rescuing.
We were shipped across the river to Jersey City; eventually found PATH trains to Penn Station in Manhattan; had an argument on the train; went our separate ways. I went home to be with a wiser friend, to cry and pray for the many murdered, innocent souls.
To this day I wonder if I’d have been one of them, in pieces of fluttering gray ash, if I’d taken that office assistant job at AIG on the 102nd floor of WTC One. . . .