Archive for July, 2011

Remembering Amy Winehouse: I Wish She Said…………..

Jul. 27th 2011

I wish she sang,  “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Instead it was. “No. No. No.”

I am referring to a lyric from an Amy Winehouse song about passing on rehabilitation treatment.

A few days ago, I woke to radio news. I heard a blip–a mere soundbite–that “troubled” pop singer Amy Winehouse is dead.

The news delivery was blunt. No feeling. Devoid of emotion.

I find that perplexing because Ms. Winehouse produced 2 CD in her short career. These 2 CDs were noting but blunt. They were exploding with feeling and raw emotion.

Sadness turned to sorrow. I reached over from my bed, shut the radio off, and slept for 20 more minutes–however, sleep was evasive.

I thought…………This is just like Janis Joplin. This is similar to Jim Morrison. Kurt left this world much too soon. Oh,  Jimi Hendrix. You were a  master of the guitar and could deliver a lyric with power. Sam Cooke, your smooth soulful voice was silenced by violence. I hardly hear your songs played on the radio today. Oh, when time passes and memory fades people often forget; yet I do not. Cass Elliott. Karen Carpenter. John. Imagine what these artist would be doing if alive today?  Ah, speculation. It is a game we play.

When discussing Ms. Winehouse with a good friend in the medical field, he said, “Many people refuse help. THEY have to make the decision to get clean and sober and STAY clean and sober.”

My retort was, “But……………but…………”

I found myself sputtering and floundering  like a  sailboat off course.

If only Ms. Winehouse was able to find a medical treatment center, far from the maddening crowd. I wish she could have sought  comprehensive medical attention. Contrary to popular belief, she did enter rehabilitation several times,  yet fell backwards into the vortex of addiction.

Addiction is a medical condition. It is not weakness of character. It affects all rungs of society.

Outside of Ms. Winehouse’s home,  fans created a memorial with teddy bears, poems, hand written letters, smokes, empty vodka bottles, flowers, candles, pictures, wine glasses filled with wine, and other expressions to represent loss. Memorials help those who are left behind.

Right now, I feel sad for Amy’s parents and all those who admired her artistry. It is  strange to write the word “admired in the past tense.

You might find yourself in a club, or shopping in some hip store with an I-tune play list or songs downloaded using Pandora.  On  may come an Amy Winehouse song. I’m sure you will reflect on her unique talent–and note her voice was silenced way before its time.

Like the flash of a comet, Ms. Winehouse’s life was brief, yet her impact on the music world will be remembered for years to come.

Sleep soundly with the angels, Amy. You are at peace.

Brendan Ben Feeney


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The Incredible Sound of Music Played Slow

Jul. 15th 2011

After a long 7 months, I treated myself to the incredible sound of music played slow.

I’m fortunate to have a 6-disc CD player in my automobile. I discovered a quiet parking lot in the Cape Cod National Seashore Park that faces Massachusetts Bay. Water, wind, and small curling waves introduce themselves to a pebbly shoreline. I retreat into solitude.

I turn off the car’s engine then turn the ignition key slightly to the right  stimulating  the flow of electricity.  A faint glow of light emanates from the dashboard similar to a nightlight. What’s this? A button that reclines  my car seat to a quasi-flat position? The car dealer never demonstrated this feature; a welcome discovery.

No one bothered me.  I closed my eyes drifting in and out of a thin veneer of slumber. I find subconscious sleep restful sleep. My body feels it defies and alludes gravity. Quite ethereal. I slipped  in and out of sleep, sporadically waking to the music, the dashboard light, then drifting back to sleep with the sound of music played by the follow artists:

                     * Neil Young.                       CD: Live at Massy Hall, 1971

                     * Pat Metheny.                     CD: What it All About.  June 2011 release. 

                     * The Moder Jazz Quartet.       CD:  A CD found in the depths of my CD library.                              

                     * The Counting Crows.           CD: Live in New York.  The acoustic disc from the double CD set.  

                     * Nina Simone.                        CD: Nina Simone’s Finest Hour

In the world of dance clubs and radio program  directors’s command (or demand) of the airwaves, timing and beats per minute are important compared to a song sung or played slow. The fast pace of most contemporary music mirrors the pace of society; fast.

Ever so often upon waking, I look up at the moon made of cream cheese (desperately searching for that illusive jumping cow), I focus upon the moonlight’s  reflective glow dancing on Massachusetts Bay at night. In this tranquil setting, I  play  my chosen CDs from beginning to end. The last track slid  into oblivion.

I truly felt at peace and entered a  deep state of relaxation.

Music played slow is an incredible sensory experience.

Neil Young’s  need for a maid to come–then go– faded in and out of  my consciousness. I felt pathos listening to Pat Metheny’s brilliantly played That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be,  Cherish, andThe Sound of Silence. No lyrics. Baritone acoustic guitar only.  Loneliness and reaching for illusive love  is  personified in Nina Simone’s song Wild is the Wind; a 6 minutes song. When the Counting Crows sing about the visualization of heaven, I feel connected to the lyrics.  Hey, Adam. What up, Charlie. Come to Boston and we’ll hang out. The sound of the MJQ’s vibraphone penetrates my being. Notes played on a vibraphone linger in the air, like cigarette smoke rings–then dissipate.

Not all music must be played  fast. A well crafted, technically paced and executed slow song is a gift. I am the artist’s recipient. Now bows and fancy wrapping paper required.

The setting for this decompression was perfect.  Here I was, in the dark, yet with a faint glow of a dashboard light. This particular setting–a clear moon-lit night on Cape Cod, far from Manhattan, distant from San Francisco’s Nob Hill, miles from LA, Sanibel Island, Florida, or Reykjavik, Iceland  felt natural. Just me, music , and my unpretentious car.

The incredible sound of music played slow…………………………one of life’s secret treasures and pleasures.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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The Fourth of July

Jul. 6th 2011

July 4, 2011. It’s Independence Day in America. I am in New York City–along with millions of other visitors from around the globe to celebrate America’s birthday.

The Fourth of July is a holiday to reflect upon what many take for granted; freedom and democracy. Democracy is not a spectator sport. One must be an involved citizen, speak up, and become an advocate for justice. One must not fall into the habit of being quick to criticize and slow to praise.

I will write about the Fourth of July using my across-stick method.

Freedom shall ring from houses of worship, Buddhist chimes, and the sound of wind from mountain tops. Freedom allows one the ability to speak freely. To me, freedom is responsible journalism and public discourse that is less acerbic and more wisdom-driven.

Our Founding Fathers and Patriotic Mothers had incredible foresight when crafting a new nation rooted in the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What other nation wishes it people to be happy? Our democracy has endured. It has been tested and challenged. America will continue to thrive—-only if we participate in our democracy. Participatory democracy will secure the health of  our political system. Become politically active and involved in one’s community. Democratic action takes place at local, state, and national levels.

Undaunted courage shown by our military. The men and women that comprise the various branches of the United States military serve with pride, intelligence, and a commitment to defending freedom. I salute your dedication and loyalty to our nation. I also salute military families who make sacrifices often living in foreign lands, sending off  love ones for a tour of duty, and/or holding down the fort as we say, here, at home.

Representative democracy. We have a voice when it comes to government. Vote. People forget that there are those in other countries yearning to cast a secret ballot and make their voices heard. I will say it three times……, vote, vote–yet not during the same election!

The Four Freedoms noted by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his famous speech during the World War II era is something we should all read. President Roosevelt articulates the essence of freedom. His words are relevant and ring true today as when they were penned decades ago. Norman Rockwell also visualized Roosevelt’s Four Freedom with precision in his  paintings with the same name. GOOGLE Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms using a GOOGLE image search. What you will see are American values painted on canvas’.

House of Representatives and the Senate. Two bodies that may not always agree, yet they have citizens best interest at hand and heart. Just a reminder. We the people have the power to communicate openly with our representatives to share our thoughts, express our opinions, agree or disagree—agreeably.  Contact your representatives.  Make your voice heard.

Overcome injustice. America is a work in progress. We have made great strides in combating inequality and injustice.  I look at where we have been as a nation and see where we need to travel. We still have room to grow and nurture. Diversity and inclusiveness  makes America an even better nation.

Foster a new America. One less dependent on unclean, inefficient energy.   I am astute enough to note globalization is essential to our economy, yet as a nation we must move boldly forward to where our manufacturing sector comes home after a long absence abroad.  The vacation is over people. Look at where  your goods are made. Write manufacturers and inquire if their American brands can be produced here in America. This is one aspect of jumpstarting American job growth. When fostering a new America, we as a society must be more polite and less rude. Slow down. Create a new culture of deliberate thought based upon civility and intellectualism. 

Jury of one’s peers. The legal process may be slow, yet it is methodical . We have the right to appeal decisions. We have the right to legal representation. Our legal system is based on the tenant that one is innocent until proven guilty—not the other way around.

United we stand. Look at how Americans rally to help fellow Americans–and others around the globe–during  their hour of need. Think of recent tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods. Americans are benevolent and are quick to extend a helping hand.

Liberty and justice—for all. And I mean ALL.   There is a place at the table for you……even if you are purple.

Yes. America has a yes-we-can attitude. One may succeed with hard work tenacity, and help from friends, family, and the kindness of strangers. We are inventive and creative by nature. Math, art, science, music, languages, social studies, literature, physical education, logic, debate, and hands-on learning are essential to our public educational system.

In closing, this is your day. Stand proud. Display an American flag . Thank those who serve our nation and society. While in New York City, I made it a point to personally walk up to police officers, National Guard soldiers patrolling Grand Central Station,  Metro West and Amtrak employees, and New York City traffic control officers thanking them for their service.

Happy birthday, America!

What is a birthday celebration without cake?

Time for a slice of New York cheesecake from Juniors near Times Square!

From New York City………………..Brendan Ben Feeney

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On The Road in Colorado.

Jul. 3rd 2011

I  noted in a previous post, I’ll write an stream-of-consciousness piece based on my impressions regarding time spent in Denver and Golden, Colorado.

Let it rip.

Let if fly.

Shame on a Colorado legislator who cast a NAY vote when the song Rocky Mountain High came up for a vote in the Colorado legislature. The vote was for this particular song  to become the second official song  for the great  state of Colorado. Her rational for casting a NAY vote stems from Nancy Regan’s manta………….”Just say NO to drugs.”

Say what?

This elected official  thought the song Rocky Mountain High promotes  drug use.

Granted. When I was in Colorado, I did not stand around a campfire.  The song notes  “everybodys high” around a campfire.  Yet, if you read liner notes by musicologists, the “high” John Denver is referring to is euphoria created by being one with nature. Nature will do this to you. Nature makes one feel ethereal and ebullient. You don’t need drugs; just clean air and a brilliant Colorado day. Does any else agree with me?

Rationality won out. There is a plaque with the lyrics of Rocky Mountain High carved into stone for visitors to read. I do not know the exact location of the tribute. Readers. Fill me in.

I feel fat. Most everyone appears trim—and riding bicycles. In fact, I saw rent-a-bike kiosks around Denver. I almost tried one, yet I walked. This was equally green. By the way. The rental bikes are a cool share of cherry red with big, fat ass bold tires. They come equipped with a basket attached to the handlebars. Tres retro.

My tour of the Denver Museum of Art’s Mud exhibition was delightful. It was a tour of 3…. and the 3 of us acted up. I think we did more laughing and conversing than moving  at the pace the docent wanted us to move at. I was with a Denver native and her 90+ year-young mother.  This combination was toxic–in a great way. We let loose and rendered interpretations of each piece of art on our private tour. In short. We let the mud fly. If the Mud exhibition is still on while in Denver, see it. There is one instillation piece where the artist encourages you to walk on intricate interlocking  clay-fired tiles. Clinking. Sound is part of experiencing art. The clink of clay tiles. Brilliant. I wish I knew the name of the artist to give he/she due credit.

Friendly, unpretentious people. I met sincere people while in Colorado. Hello nice couple who sat next to me in a bar in Golden, Colorado! When you folks went out for a smoke, I took pictures of a ski, placed above the bar, with small beer sampling glasses affixed to the ski. You gave me the tip about going to Woodys for pizza. Thank you.

Pizza at Woody’s in Golden Colorado. Dining al fresco. The long bar-like counter faces the street. All-you-can-eat pizza and salad for under eleven dollars.  This was not a Pizza Hut buffet. It was wood-fired pizza. Narly. I went up for seconds. I restrained myself when it came for thirds. Would have burst like the blueberry gum scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Ba boom, Ben!!

The Coors Brewery Tour! My impressions? Huge factory–little, if no workers. The place is run by machines. Science without the fiction. Sort of sad because there was a time when such a large enterprise would employ hundreds if not thousands of people. I witnessed 3 men in a booth, overlooking huge copper vats, standing in a glass enclosed room looking like 3 Homer Simpsons at work. A 4th worker I saw in the factory was overseeing a  packing production line. He stood above belt that spit out cans of Coors Lite. The machine gave the cans a rude push, then they went into a 20 pack. Or it a 24 pack? I am a tap beer drinker.

Thanks to the elementary school age boy and his sister who heading to the Family Day activities at Denver’s Pride-Fest with his family. He gave me a high five and exclaimed, “Happy Pride Day!”  This is one cool kid who will grow up to be one cool adult. I think of the late Robert Palmer. Mr. Palmer noted, “It takes every kind of people. To make the world go ’round.” How true. I respect diversity. I respect social equality. Love makes a family.

A lacrosse tournament in Denver. No. I was not running around with a stick and silly shoulder pads. It was a youth lacrosse tournament. A bevy of participants were staying at my hotel. Can you say, “open lobby?” Can you say “teenagers running around the open lobby?” Can you say “unsupervised at all hours of the day and night?”  Can you say teens chuckin’ (slang for throwing) things down at patrons eating in the restaurant from balconies above?”  OMG.

Micro-brew beer. I had a nice meal at a brewpub  in the historic sector of Denver, just a stone’s throw from the stadium where the Colorado Rockies play. I did think for 2 seconds about going to the game. Yet pondered the fact, this restaurant/bar will clear out once the game starts.  I will have a mile high of elbow room when the baseball game begins.  I tend to take my shoes off at restaurants and bars. A habit. I feel more comfortable. Merrills off. Peach Cobbler on for dessert. Right-on!

Parking for $7 dollars on the weekend in Downtown Denver. In Berkeley, California I paid 25 center for less than 15 minutes at a meter–and landed up with a parking ticket that looked more like the winnings of a lottery ticket. Oops.

Hello, Izaak. Delightful chatting with you at 6 AM while waiting  outside the  doors to a store about to open. You are a long distance trucker. I am a long distance traveler. We come from different backgrounds yet share so much in common.  Thanks for ending our conversation with a slap on the shoulder and noting, “I can tell you are a good man. ” I returned the gesture and the same  phrase. Yes, we are moving forward as a nation despite what follows.

“America. I want to kick you in the ass.” That is part of a lyric of an original song played by a busker on 16th Street. I met a delightful woman tethered to an oxygen tank, her dog by her side, holding an accordion. She had enough gusto to fill Madison Square Garden in New York City.  I asked her to play me a tune. She obliged—yet it came with a disclaimer. She said, “I don’t know your politics–but this is a political song. What the hell if I offend you. Here it is……” She fired-up up her accordion and when into full performance mode.

The song was about her disenchantment with the direction America is heading. Very original lyrics. I landed up spontaneously singing the chorus.

Ben. On a street in Denver, Colorado. Singing to an accordion played by a spunky senior citizen/musician. You rock Denver street musicians. No Free Bird or Zeppelin here. Just song about giving ‘ole American a swift kick in the hiney.

Chess. Chess played in public on 16th street. Upright pianos too. You can walk up to many colorful pianos and play music on the public pianos. All the pianos were painted by artists. All unique. Delightful to hear a cacophony of different musical styles, played by the citizenry, as I strolled down 16th Street–which is designed for foot traffic.

Driving on a curvy road outside of Golden and driving up the lookout to where Buffalo Bill Cody is buried. Not many guard rails. Lots of people riding bicycles. Kite gliders above. A raging river below. Nice.

Swimming in a pool, in the rain. Millions of droplets creating circles then dissipating into nothingness. Zen—Ben.

Photography. Street photography. No formal sit down shots. No setting up sets. No flash umbrellas or light meters. Very relaxing. I created a bevy of work artistic work on this Colorado adventure.

From  the road, in Colorado.

No. I am not high drugs; just high on the beauty of Colorado.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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