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Mindi Abair: The Power of Reinvention

MindiAbairI’ve been given a beautiful and meaningful gift. One that allows me to make a living as a solo artist. I mean, what could be better than that? I actually get to make records, tour with a band that I’ve hand chosen and play the music I write for audiences all over the world. I’ve been a goal-oriented person my whole life, and seven solo records and countless tours later, I’m still going strong!

But once I turned 40, things started to feel different for me. I started becoming confused and a bit foggy. I was disoriented just “marking time” as they say. Continuing on the same path that I had originally set for myself. It felt as if I had been exposed to a virus that was somehow making me question my place in life. All of the usual things that had inspired me up to this point were gradually fading away and I felt as if I had musically become a caricature of myself. I needed new inspiration, but wasn’t sure where to find it. I needed outside influence, but wasn’t sure how to go after that either. I was just too cozy and safe inside of my own private bubble.

I decided that now was the time to do a little soul searching. But, how does one go about reinventing themselves after living life as a very defined person? I knew that I had to follow my heart. If there was more out there for me, then I was going to go out and find it.

I came to the conclusion that on the off time from my band, I’d go out and do the things that made me happy. I felt the need to become a fan of music again and not just be immersed in playing it. I soon found myself going out to clubs to see bands that I really loved.

After a few months, it occurred to me that I was mostly seeing rock and blues bands. Hmm, OK… note to self. Maybe I was now just tapping into some happy childhood memories. After all, I did spend twelve years growing up hanging with the eight rock bands my dad had put out on the road. And in between those rock tours, I would watch unearthly amounts of MTV. Not exactly what you would consider the usual path to a career in Contemporary Jazz.

One of the shows I was frequenting was my friend, Waddy Watchel’s band. Waddy and I have played together off and on since 1995 – going back to when we both joined Adam Sandler’s band. Waddy’ s band has played The Joint in Hollywood for the past 15 years; with everyone from Keith Richards and Neil Young’s bass player Rick Rosas to Jack Tempchin sitting in.

It became total Rock ‘n’ Roll Zen for me. The loud guitars, the driving force of the drums and the sheer intent of the lead singer! It was a “spa day” for me, as I put it to Waddy. Somehow in the cacophony of rock ‘n’ roll, I had found peace and reveled in the sheer abandon of the music that was being played.

Of course, I couldn’t just watch. Playing was in my blood and those nights of being a fan eventually led to me sitting in with the band and becoming a regular fixture with the group. The music that we were playing really inspired me: Rolling Stones, Mott the Hoople, the Beatles! I was officially “moonlighting” from my chosen career as a Contemporary Jazz saxophonist – and I loved it!

It wasn’t long before I got a call from Don Was asking me if I’d like to play “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” on American Idol with one of the contestants. I knew that I could use my newly found mojo to pull it off. And I did! Steven Tyler even called me out in front of millions on TV saying “Forget about you, who’s your sax player?”

I ended up spending two seasons on American Idol, eventually playing seven episodes with Phillip Phillips who won it all. What an honor!  And on my last day on the set, I received a call from Steven asking if I’d like to be the first saxophonist to join Aerosmith on tour since 1973!

Wow! Now I was REALLY moonlighting! I had decided to just do what made me happy and in the spirit of reinvention was now taking off and spending my summer vacation with Aerosmith!

The band was nice enough to let me keep my own dates that were already booked, so every now and then I would take off and join my own band and play. Interestingly, it was during my own band’s shows that I started feeling a change in the music. I began to notice that I was moving around and playing differently. I was even starting to dress differently. But it wasn’t as if someone else was coming out of my body. It was still me, only a better me! A stronger, more confident and more inspired me!

My next inspiration came to me quite organically. It was the day that I heard of Clarence Clemons passing. I had never met him, but he was a hero of mine as a performer and player. Saddened by his passing, I turned to Facebook as my vehicle for expressing my feelings. As fate would have it, a promoter saw my post and called almost immediately to ask if I’d be up for sitting in with Max Weinberg and paying tribute to Clarence with him. And truly, I could not have been more honored.

A few days later, I played with Max and it was an emotional night. I really tried to dig deep and pay appropriate tribute to this man that I so admired. I ended up joining Max on tour for the next few weeks, even getting to play with him and Bruce Springsteen at the Beacon Theater one lucky night.

Sinking my teeth into this incredible new mojo, I pushed myself into finding greater depths of expression. It was freeing and for the first time in many years I actually wanted to ‘practice’ saxophone. I sat for hours in my room, dusting off old Springsteen records and playing along – forming scales and new melodies in my head. I had found a new love affair with my saxophone and went through a true rebirth as a player. It was work, but I loved every second.

I realized that all of these experiences had helped redefine me. The thoughts that had been haunting me were gone and I was now on to another chapter in my life. One with new goals I was ready to reach for, and with even more abandon than my previous ones! I eagerly took the inspiration that was given me and ran with it — all the way back to my record label, Concord Records. I explained the last few years of my life to them and even played them some of the new music I was writing. I explained why this would make a breakthrough record for me as an artist. They were in, and I soon set out to make a career record for myself.

I was joined by people I never dreamed would play with me on one of my records: Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Keb’ Mo’, Booker T. Jones, Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel and Trombone Shorty. I had played for them all in their world… moonlighting… and now, I understood for the first time how they fit into mine.

“Wild Heart” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Jazz and Contemporary Jazz charts.

I’m not sure how many times one has the power to redefine and/or reinvent oneself. I’ll have to wait and see but right now I’m reveling in my new skin. Change comes when you look for it. And even though I wasn’t sure of where it would lead, I just needed to free my mind and take the journey. I’m a new woman now. A stronger, more capable woman and someone who’s making music that moves me every single day.

*****

Mindi Abair is one of the most dynamic performers on the music scene today. In addition to her acclaimed solo work, she was the featured saxophonist on the two seasons of American Idol, jammed with Paul Shaffer on the Late Show with David Letterman and joined rock legends Aerosmith for their 2012 summer tour. More recently, the powerhouse saxophonist/vocalist received a Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns, a #1 recording with her friends Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot. Abair’s new album, “Wild Heart” includes guest and songwriting performances by Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, Trombone Shorty, Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel and others. Find out more at www.mindiabair.com

A Ribbon

photo 2Last night I found myself fumbling through a collection of “stuff” that had been accumulating for years down in nether regions of my basement.

I’m sure it’s something that everyone does from time to time — going through weathered cardboard containers of old photographs, love letters and school yearbooks that clutter basements and attic crawl spaces. Of course, some of these “memories” I had told myself to dispose of years ago and yet, here they still are.

I suppose it’s just as well. It’s always nice for me to remember the curious, artistic, naive child I once was am. And by now you should be fully aware of my affection for life milestones. If there’s an anniversary of a memorable day, I love to talk about it – and today is no different. Because buried deep beneath the mounds of 1970′s comic books, VHS tapes and teenaged poetry I discovered a ribbon. And not just any regular old run-of-the-mill ribbon mind you. This was a single, purple-colored ribbon with the words “Porter School 1978-1979 – 1st” emblazoned upon it.

I tried to remember what huge endeavor I must have overcome 35 years ago to achieve this great glory. Fortunately, there was a tag affixed to the ribbon which gave me the answer.

photo 1It was near the last day of fourth grade – June 5th, 1979 to be exact. My elementary school had a fun-filled day planned at a nearby park. Kids competed with each other in games of skill like the egg toss and three-legged race – and to each victor there went a win, place or show ribbon!

This particular award I won by besting at least a hundred students in the Sack Race. (Ok, that’s a bit embellished, but to a nine-year old boy who had come in first place for the very first time, it felt like I had just won a marathon).

This ribbon is also significant because it was the final year of school before they tore down Porter Elementary. A school that had stood for nearly 88 years in Easton’s south side but by this point had become obsolete and a bit of an eye sore. By fall, I’d find myself being bussed across the city limits to Palmer Elementary School and away from my typical routine of walking three blocks to school every day. It was the first time in my life that I had experienced such a drastic change from my normal, comfortable schedule.

Porter School (Circa 1979)

Porter School (circa 1979)

What’s ironic is that in my discovery of the 1st place ribbon, I also stumbled upon another award I had won. It was exactly one year to the day of my victory on the grid-iron that my fifth grade class placed second in the Silent Spelling competition of 1980. Yet through all of the other triumphs that would follow, nothing from my childhood tops that final end of school victory at Porter Elementary.

Second Place exactly one year later.

Second Place – exactly one year later.

Busing to schools quickly became the new norm. Then there were school lockers, late bells, final exams, adolescence, girls, graduation…. you get the picture. Every year more and more responsibility and every year the award (much like its blue color that slowly became purple) faded further and further into history.

Looking back, winning that ribbon was a wonderful achievement. But I don’t think I kept it around after all this time simply because I won the Sack Race in fourth grade. No, the real reason this ribbon still exists thirty-five years later is because it will always remind me of an innocence I once had.

A Father’s Day Thank You

Sorry Bones. I got the last laugh!

Sorry Bones. I got the last laugh!

It was a warm June day in 1984 when I again asked him the question..

“Dad? Can I PLEASE go with Bones to the concert?”

Bones was my brother -  two-years my senior and someone who was already becoming well versed in the concert ‘experience’. I mean, here was a dude who had already seen The J Geils Band and The Doobie Brothers perform at the Allentown Fairgrounds and The Kinks at Stabler Arena. To say that I was a little jealous for having been relegated to just listening to vinyl records is a bit of an understatement and to be honest, I half expected Dad to tell me “No” — just like he did the last time.

The previous summer, I asked begged my father to let me go with Bones to see The Kinks. After contemplating it for several minutes (along with listening to my brother’s very vocal protest against me going) Dad made it very clear — “No.” Now was not the time to let his 14-year-old son attend his first concert.

But this was now 1984. NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FREAKING-FOUR MAN!!!! I was going to start high school in the fall — and quickly becoming a man of my own. Heck, I had even started showing interest in playing guitar, and what better way to learn than by seeing how its done first hand, right Dad???

“So Dad? Can I go to the concert with Bones?”

Much to my brother’s chagrin, he had to accept the fact that on June 16, 1984 he was going to have to chauffeur me to the Allentown Fairgrounds to see The Scorpions and some up and coming band calling themselves Bon Jovi.

As luck would have it I was familiar with Bon Jovi; having already bought their debut album with my saved up lawn mowing money. At the time, they were mostly known for their song “Runaway” which was getting quite a bit of airplay on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.  But that wasn’t the song that really appealed to me. As a soon to be 15 year-old boy there was only one song on that record that I could immediately relate to. It was the third song on the album: “She Don’t Know Me”.

I can’t even begin to tell you the countless times those lyrics came into my head during my adolescence. Especially in certain situations where the female persuasion was involved — I’d always find myself thinking: “If only she would look my way…. but She Don’t Know Me.”

It’s kind of ironic (well, actually no surprise) that the first two songs I learned on guitar were “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by Scorpions and “She Don’t Know Me” by Bon Jovi. The other thing that’s kind of cool is that Richie Sambora is playing the same guitar I had in this video…. :)

Over the subsequent thirty years I’ve seen a plethora of concerts. Some of the best include: REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Night Ranger, RATT and Mötley Crüe — all of which had huge albums and were at the TOP of their game. I saw Bon Jovi several more times along with shows by Bryan Adams, Whitesnake, Firehouse and Vixen. Then there’s the classic rock giants Boston, Foreigner, Styx and Journey. I saw AC/DC perform at Stabler Arena (a rinky dink college gymnasium) and Def Leppard twice on the Hysteria Tour. So many GREAT shows.

Although I could ramble on dozens of more examples I like to think that first show was the one that laid the foundation for my life as a music lover and metal head.

So, on this Father’s Day I would like to say a special thank you to my late father for the “Yes” answer he gave me thirty years ago.

A day I will never forget.

A Letter To Mickey Rooney

RooneyDear Mr. Rooney,

I woke up this morning to the sad news that you had passed away. While I suppose I really shouldn’t be all that upset (considering you did live to the ripe old age of 93) I can’t help but feel a sense of emptiness inside whenever I think that you will no longer be here.

No, you do not know who I am but I certainly know you. Years ago, my grandmother told me all about how she loved watching your performances as Andy Hardy in “A Family Affair” and “Love Laughs at Andy Hardy”. Films that were well before my time.

For the next few days, I’ll be reading obituaries from people and publications who will try their best to memorialize your life and body of work. Most of them will remember you for things like your honorary Oscars, hanging out with Judy Garland and Audrey Hepburn or being one of the last real heroes from Hollywood’s Golden Age. And I’m sure the gossip columns will once again bring up your failed marriages (including a short one to legendary actress Ava Gardner) or claims of elder abuse.

But me? I will always remember you for just one thing. Not for Andy Hardy or Mr. Yunioshi from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or even the mentally challenged Bill Sackter, the role that won you a Golden Globe and Emmy Award. On the contrary, I will always remember you as Santa Claus, the clay mation character you portrayed in those wonderful 1970′s Rankin Bass specials that I enjoyed watching every year as a child.

Because whether you know it or not, you taught me valuable lessons in your performances as Kris Kringle. Important, philosophical things like:

How to put one foot in front of the other:

And most importantly, how to believe in Santa Claus.

Whenever I watch these specials (even all of these years later) I am young again and you are still here.

So as you go forth on to your final destination, take comfort in the fact that generations of children (even forty-five year old ones like me) will always think fondly of you at the end of every year.

Godspeed Mr. Rooney.

Your friend,

Jimmy

I Wanna Go Back

Me“I wanna go back and do it all over, but I can’t go back I know.”

“I Wanna Go Back” was a song written thirty years ago by Danny Chauncey, Monty Byrom and Ira Walker for their band Billy Satellite. It was the band’s debut single and peaked at #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

But it wasn’t until two years later when Eddie Money covered the song on his 1986 platinum album “Can’t Hold Back” that a then seventeen-year old boy man finally stood up and took notice.

On a side note: I recently asked Money why he decided to include a version of the song on his album and he said “Because I recall hanging out on Friday night. The first slow dance. Hoping that I’ll get it right…C’mon, you can’t get a better lyric than that!”

For me though, the song resonated about innocence lost and the longing for the impossible: a return to a much simpler, less complicated time. Of course in 1986, I had no experience in such matters and absolutely no desire to return to anywhere. Every day for me was new and exciting.

Here’s what a typical week for me was like in 1986:

It was the summer when I got my first real car. A 1973 Toyota Corona. A laughable clunker when I think about it now, but it was my Rolls Royce then.

Weekly guitar lesson: Shredding on everything from AC/DC to Zeppelin.

Dreams of being a rock star: Heck, it even says so on my yearbook picture!

High School: Which started out every morning with Concert Choir and also included Music Theory and Art in addition to the mandatory English and Math.

“I recall hanging out on Friday night”

Friday always…ALWAYS meant going to the mall and perusing through the latest album releases at the record store. I’ll admit, I was also one of those habitual bachelors who passed by the Orange Julius in hopes of seeing a gaggle of cute girls. Then using the last fifty cents of my lawn mowing money trying to obtain the high score on Centipede in the arcade and if I was lucky, one of those “out of reach” girls would be playing a game right next to me. {SIGH}

“Back then I thought that things were never gonna change”

So, thirty years after Billy Satellite originally released it, what was it that made me think of the song this morning? I suppose it was the culmination of everything that’s been going on in the world in recent days. Here are just a few examples. Take your pick:

1. Russia escalating the crisis in Ukraine.

2. Elected representatives voting their party rather than the people they’re supposed to represent without fear of repercussion.

3. Terrorist attacks throughout the world.

4. The media’s never-ending quest to fear monger the weather and make the slightest storm out to be doomsday.

5. Neglected and abused animals, women, children and veterans.

But despite what your local newspaper, talk radio or favorite extreme Facebook group might say, the real problem with this world isn’t the fault of one particular country, political party or extended forecast. Rather, the real problem is we, the people. We’re the ones who are to blame for the mess that we’re in. And nothing showcases this example better than The Walking Dead. Yes, that’s right. The zombie show.

In a post-apocalyptic world where it’s just humans and undead walking around, the humans can not seem to overcome their own desire for power and greed in order to survive. Instead of pulling together for a common purpose (like finding out what caused the apocalypse or better still, how to cure it), they’d rather build loyalties and fight skirmishes with both humans and zombies in order to pillage whatever they can and gain an advantage. The undead themselves are actually just pawns in their cruel game. Is it too far-fetched to believe that if this happened it real life, that’s the way we would react?

The answer to fixing our problems is so simple, so why can’t we do it? It all starts (and ends) with US.

People often wonder why I still have a fascination with 80′s music, Godzilla and breakfast cereal and I could ramble off a dozen reasons about how it’s cool, or how delicious a bowl of Lucky Charms is. But perhaps the best reason of all is because it reminds me of a much simpler time. A time when I didn’t have to care. At least, not as much as I do now.

Sure, I know now that things will never be the same… but I wanna go back.

Look What I Found: Rocker’s Profile – February 8, 1989

529223_10151534435774339_780686317_nI’ve decided to start a new series here on the blog called “Look What I Found.”

I’d like to use this topic whenever I stumble upon something cool or unique from my past. Not only will the nostalgia of finding these treasures remind me of a much more innocent time, but writing about the things that I discover will really help put in perspective what my goals in life were at the time.

During the mid to late 80′s I kept semi-regular journals describing what was going on in my life as well as the things I had in mind for when I made it to the big time. One of the things I often liked to do in my journal was pretend that someone was doing an interview profile of my life for my fans to enjoy.

This one was from ironically enough, 25 years ago today. A journal entry from February 8th, 1989. In it, I ask myself questions and answer them. Enjoy!

Rocker’s Profile 1989

Rocker’s Name: James Edward Wood

Age: 19

Birthdate: October 5th, 1969

Instruments: Guitar, Vocals, Piano

Years Playing: 3 years

Date Started: May 24, 1985

Favorite Guitarists: Phil Collen (Def Leppard), Randy Rhoads, Van-Halen

Favorite Bands: Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon

Unfavorite Bands: Slayer, Megadeth, One hit wonders

Favorite Songs: Dust In The Wind (Kansas), Armageddon It (Def Leppard), All of Hysteria & Pyromania, Too many others to list

Favorite Album: Hysteria, Pyromania, Blizzard of Ozz, (Ozzy Osbourne), Appetite For Destruction (Guns n Roses)

Favorite Food: Cheese Fries, Country Club Melts

Band Experience: Silent Rage Mar 11, 1988 – July 6, 1988

Favorite Guitars: Gibson Les Paul, Gibson Explorer, Fender Stratocaster

Hobbies: Songwriting, Teaching Music

Current Goals: Become respected for music

It’s interesting to see how much things have (or haven’t) changed in a quarter century. Obviously, you could tell that I was (still am) a huge Def Leppard fan. It’s also worth noting that at the time this interview was taken I had only ever been in one band. As of today, I’ve been in six. And in 2006, after more than twenty years of waiting, I finally was able to purchase my very first Gibson Les Paul.

But if you were to ask the dude being interviewed if he ever saw himself working a 9-5 job in the 21st century, I’m sure he would have laughed in your face. Because the truth is, all I saw at the time were gold records, tour buses and a sea of women calling my name. Responsibility? HA! That was the furthest thing from my mind in 1989.

Such was the naivety of youth.

It’s A Miracle

WaterWineI was never one of those people who was really big into miracles but in light of this morning’s circumstances, I might have to reconsider.

Here in the northeast, we’ve just finished digging out of the latest winter storm. One that dropped another eight inches of snow on a tired area of the nation longing for spring relief. Anyone who says snow is beautiful has obviously spent more time riding a sleigh than standing behind a shovel, and I spent much of last evening doing the latter; digging and snow-blowing a manageable path to get my car out for work the next day.

As usual, I left my house at 5 am this morning. The drive in to work was just as it always is after a snow storm: a slippery mess. But I always try to be cautious when it comes to driving in snow/ice conditions. I even have one of those little indicator lights in my car that alerts me when the car is slipping around.

The route I take to work travels eighteen miles on a normally busy highway. I’ll admit I was a bit concerned about the road conditions there, but was pleasantly surprised on my arrival to discover that the surfaces were completely clear for the most part.

I was driving along in the slow lane at a moderately reduced 35 mph, behind cars doing a similar rate of speed. It wasn’t long before I came upon a car ahead of me that had its four-way flashers going indicating that the driver was in some sort of distress and going extra slow. I slowly moved over into the passing lane to get around him and in retrospect, that was probably my first mistake. For instead of moving back over to the slow lane after I had passed the car, I chose to continue driving in the passing lane a little longer, a lane which had suddenly started to slow down.

It was at that moment that some knucklehead in the slow lane decided to move over into the passing lane and cut me off. Now, this is a maneuver I’ve experienced countless times in the past and one that would require me to hit my brakes to slow down in order to avoid an accident. On a warm spring day this could easily have been achieved, but obviously not in the beginning of February and on the morning after a snow storm.

In my attempt to slow down, I encountered some black ice on the road and immediately knew that there was going to be no way to avoid a collision. Although I was able to reduce speed I still struck the back-end of his car doing about 25 mph. Loud enough to hear the dreaded “THUD!” and knowing that damage was going to be done.

As our cars separated, I noticed through my windshield that the back-end of his car had suffered no damage at all following the fender bender. I realized that even though he was negligent for cutting me off, I would ultimately hold responsibility for the accident because I had rear-ended his car. As if that weren’t enough, to add insult to injury, the damage was going to be limited to just my car.

We both slowly pulled off of the highway. All the while I was not only thinking about the safety of the driver, but also about the extensive damage that had been done to my car. I saw visions of police officers arriving at the scene and endless calls to claims adjusters in my future, not to mention the fact that I was also going to be late for work. I clicked on my hazard lights and slowly got out of the car.

That’s when something I still can’t explain happened.

I looked at the front end of my car and there was not a scratch. Huh?? After hitting his car at 25 mph and hearing the dreaded WHOMP, there was not even a mark. Not a scratch, dent, ding or split in the bumper. Both cars had zero damage. It was almost as if I had rear ended a pillow.

The other driver and I stood in the cold glare of our four-way flashers dumbfounded over what had just happened. As big semi trucks and snow plows trudged by us in the early morning hour, we both knew that what had experienced could not be explained.

We both shook hands and exchanged phone numbers in case something went wrong, but I don’t think it will. It certainly wasn’t a miracle in a sense of turning water into wine or having a life long disease suddenly being cured, but it does make you think.

Sometimes even in the throes of the worst winters, good things happen.

My Thoughts on The NFC Championship

SeahawksLogoI wanted to write this post well before tonight’s NFC Championship; lest anyone think that I might be one of those phony bandwagon fans who only jump on board when a team is doing well and then disappears when the wheels fall off the bus. That’s hardly the case with me. I’ve been an east coast Seattle Seahawks fan for thirty years.

That’s right, I said thirty years.

It all began back in the early 80s. I was one of those disappointed Philadelphia Eagles fans lost in the wilderness and looking for a new home after a bitter, painful defeat at the hands of some dude named Plunkett and the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Ok, I’ll admit I was one of those creeps who ditched the ship when it sank, just like the ones I opened this post talking about. But in my defense, I was only twelve years old at the time and didn’t know any better.

Yeah, let’s go with that.

CenturyLink-MeIt was a cold Monday night a few years after that Super Bowl when I first saw the Seattle Seahawks on television. At the time, I had absolutely no idea who they were. They had some left-handed quarterback (Jim Zorn), a wiry, fast as lightning receiver (Steve Largent) and this rookie running back from Penn State named Curt Warner. A “hometown” connection.

I couldn’t even tell you the team that they played that night. All I remember is that the Seahawks lost the coin toss and started the game out with an on-side kick. An on-side kick!!! Something almost unheard of in the NFL.

The Seahawks wound up getting the ball and scoring on that drive….and the seed was planted.

As you can imagine, the 1980′s were a time before the Internet and satellite football games became common place. So getting to see my new team was nearly impossible. About the only time I ever saw them on TV was when they played against the Eagles or New York Giants, and considering that the Seahawks were in the other conference at the time, those games were even rarer.

The Seahawks actually almost made it to their first Super Bowl the first year of my fandom, but lost to (ironically enough) the Oakland Raiders in the conference final. But this time, instead of ditching I stayed a fan. Reading updates in the newspaper about loss after loss. Some years good. Some years, very bad.

In 1992, we were so bad that we were awarded the #2 overall pick in the NFL. A time when we were in dire need of a quarterback. We wound up with a bust named Rick Mirer, while the New England Patriots got this guy named Drew Bledsoe (the “parent” QB to Tom Brady).

More years of mediocrity would follow, but I stood tall.

CenturyLink2

I was there when Seahawks owner Ken Behring tried to move the team out-of-town to California in the dead of night. That attempt failed and Behring would eventually sell the team to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. With Allen on board, the team hired Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren and a slew of other talent, planting the seed for a run to greatness that came to fruition in 2005.

SeahawksHatDuring my time as a 12th man there has only been one low point, and that was Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As any fan of the NFL will tell you (and even Steeler fans too, if they’re honest), the referees decided that game. For me, it was stinging. Imagine waiting 23 years for a shot at a Super Bowl and then being cheated by a bunch of turds in pinstripes.

The thing is, in the NFL there are no guarantees and the days of dynasty left once the salary cap was initiated. You only have so much time to make a run before players and coaches leave for other pastures. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to my team following that “defeat”.

It’s taken eight years for the Seahawks to get back to the NFC Championship game. Eight long, often-times miserable years. But I never lost hope. I watched as Marshawn Lynch caused an earthquake with one of the greatest runs in NFL history and knew that the stars were aligning again….

I even took a weekend 2,856-mile trip to Seattle by myself two-years ago just to see them play the Atlanta Falcons. The first time I was ever a part of the 12th man.

They lost.

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for this game. I’ve even been having dreams at night this past week where the game is on and I am sitting around checking the score. Every time I looked, the score was changing. Thankfully, we were winning.

I don’t know what’s going to happen when it’s all over. Hopefully, dreams do come true. But all I can ask is that the refs let it be settled on the field. And may the better team then kick the sh$t out of the Patriots or Broncos.

Go Hawks!

Three Things I Think: 2014 New Year’s Edition

2014-Numbers-Happy-2014-New-Year-free-Image-WallpaperWell, here we are. Five days into the brand new year. Have you made any resolutions for 2014?

This year, I resolve to continue a healthful regimen of diet and exercise as well as devote more time to my music, reading and writing. Then of course, there’s also a need to spend more quality time with family and friends.

I spent much of this past week compiling a list of things I can do to help me achieve these goals like starting a journal, doing a few writing prompts and downloading guitar exercises online.

It was then that I decided to make another list. Not things for me personally to achieve, but wishes for us as a society. Things I hope are gone by the end of the year that would make the world as we know it a much better place.

So, without any further adieu, here are the three things I think we need to get rid of by December 31st, 2014….

3. Reality Shows

I know it’s never going to happen, but is it too much to ask that they tone them down a bit? I mean, “The Voice” literally just got over a few weeks ago and I’ve already seen commercials promoting the next “season” which starts in February. I always thought “season” in TV vernacular meant years and not months.

Then there’s “American Idol”, “Biggest Loser”, “The Bachelor/Bachelorette”, “So You Think You Can Dance” and “X-Factor”. Oh, and let’s not forget “Dancing With The Stars” which seems to run non-stop all year long. If we could just get rid of one of these shows in 2014, I’ll be a happy camper.

2. Crappy Music

I may sound like an old fuddy-duddy for saying this but I don’t care. New music today sucks. You can’t turn on the radio dial without hearing the exact same terrible songs over and over. Auto-tuned vocals, blasé beats and cliche’ lyrics are the norm these days. Whether it’s Taylor Swift’s latest man problem, Justin Bieber’s threats of retiring or Miley Cyrus’s twerking, it never seems to go away.

This June will mark the 30th anniversary of the very first concert I ever attended: The Scorpions and Bon Jovi. This is relevant because three decades later I can still remember exactly where I was, who I was with and the music I heard. Better still, Bon Jovi; the band that was just starting out at that time and literally got booed off of the stage in favor of the Scorpions, was the highest grossing tour act of 2013.

There’s something to be said about having longevity in music. Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Elton John, The Rolling Stones. Some of these artists have been doing their thing for more than a half-century.

Call me old-fashioned, but somehow I don’t think that we’ll still be talking about Taylor Swift, One Direction, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus 50 years from now. And even if we are, I’ll thankfully be long gone by then.

And now, the #1 thing we need to get rid of by the end of 2014….

119498920855513921snow.svg.med1. Naming and Fear Mongering about Winter Storms

I don’t know what part of the country (or world) you come from, but here in the great Northeast the weather has changed dramatically over the last year.

And no, I’m not talking about global warming and an increase in heat waves, rainfall or snow accumulations. I’m talking about way the media has decided to hype up their weather forecasting coverage by fear mongering about “apocalyptic” storms.

An apocalyptic event should be one like a Category 5 Hurricane, an F-5 Tornado, an earthquake, volcanic eruption or a horrific Tsunami. Not one where the region gets blanketed with three inches of snow causing slower than usual commute times to work on a Monday morning.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that we’re given advance notice about pending hurricanes and nor’easters. But it seems that lately every passing front that goes through between the months of December and March qualifies as Armageddon.

Here are just a few quotes I’ve heard regularly on television weather forecasts (emphasis added because the meteorologist added it in their own reporting).

“It’s going to be the coldest air in FIVE years folks!” — (Wow! That’s certainly a long time ago.)

“Stay tuned and I’ll tell you when to expect the COLDEST air we’ve had in TWENTY YEARS on NBC news at 11.” — (Beg pardon, but what was the weather like 20 years ago? Yep… cold!)

“Winter Storm Hercules is bearing down, blanketing our area with as much as a foot of snow in some of the higher elevations.” — (Hercules? Oh, please!)

Since when have we become such a watered down society that we now have to name every single storm regardless of cold temperatures, ice and snow? I don’t know about you, but in my forty-four years of existence we’ve always had just one name for this type of phenomenon:

Winter.

Reflections of 2013

gojimmygoWell, here we are. The end of another very productive year of blogging. One that saw more than 170 articles, interviews and semi-regular rants from me on everything from Spider-Man to politics. It sure has been an amazing journey these last twelve months.

This year, I decided to shift my focus away from the rant and more toward the interview side of things and the results were beyond my wildest expectation. So much so, that if I had to describe what this year has been like for me in a single word, it would be surreal. Surreal in the sense that I never would have ever thought I’d have the opportunity to speak to some of the people I did.

Let’s take a quick look back at a few of the most memorable moments of 2013:

Music

Those who knew me growing up in ’87 and ’88 know that I’d often spend countless hours after school listening to the likes of REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Night Ranger and Styx. Twenty-five years later, I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Cronin (REO Speedwagon), JY Young (Styx) Brad Gillis (Night Ranger) and Jeff Pilson (Foreigner).

Then there’s Ted Nugent, Sammy Hagar, Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles), Mickey Thomas (Starship), Michael Sweet (Stryper), Lita Ford, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), John Waite, Carmen Electra and Andy Summers (The Police).

Like I said… surreal.

Books

Lou Gramm (Foreigner) released his autobiography this year and told me all about it (plus he spilled the beans on the origin of the band’s monster song, “Hot Blooded”). Then there’s Bobbi Brown , infamous for her role in Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” video and the “Ex-Wives of Rock”. She released a tell-all book about the debauchery of the LA music scene in the late 80′s that was just killer.

Inspirational People

There were no shortages of inspirational people in 2013. People who are either faced with personal challenges and overcome them or those who see something wrong in the world and make it their personal mission to do something about it. Of all the interviews I do, these are the ones that are the most special.

Guitarist Jason Becker discussed his life, music and living with ALS in “Not Dead Yet”

Following the recent economic downturn, filmmaker Paul Blackthorne took us on a trip cross-country in This American Journey and made us reconsider our own way of thinking.

Director Angelo Lobo exposed the problems that exist within the U.S. divorce industry in Romeo Misses A Payment.

Actress and 2007 Miss Georgia Teen USA winner Jena Sims discussed her film work and Pageant of Hope Charity; for kids who are facing challenges and ones who normally wouldn’t compete in pageants.

And this year, I not only interviewed a truly inspirational person, but was also fortunate enough to write not one, but TWO books with her as well. Michele Quinn

Women Who ROCK!

I love interviewing ladies who prove that they can go toe to toe with the “big boys” and this year was no exception. In 2013, I interviewed the members of Vixen: Janet Gardner, Share Ross, Roxy Petrucci and Gina Stile. I had planned on interviewing founding member Jan Kuehnemund, but she sadly passed away on October 10th.

Other ladies who rock interviews included guitarists Maxine Petrucci and Lindsay Ell.

I hope that you’ve found my articles and rants this year to be beneficial, and had as much fun reading them as I did writing them. Feel free to comment on some of your favorites below. And I hope you’ll be along for the ride in 2014 because the best is yet to come.

Here’s wishing you all the best the new year has to offer!

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