Sunday, July 24, 2011

Daily Dose #57 (07/24/11)



I happen to be blessed (or cursed) with a memory bank that reaches far back into my early development phase. I have very specific memories that were burned into my naked gray matter via my tiny little virginal synapses at a very early age.

I remember when JFK got assassinated, per example. I was utterly frustrated after three days of having my afternoon cartoons pre-empted by a nation in mourning. I was three at the time. I had never seen my parents cry until that fateful day. It was scary to witness your Mom openly weeping for days. That's my touchstone to unearth things further back.

Those earlier memories are usually associated with records, and the effect they had on the adults around me.

Anybody remember this one?

This, released in the fall 1962, got a lot of spins in the Rossi household. That would put a very firm and specific memory in place at the age of 2.

I didn't have a clue as to what was actually contained within it's grooves, other than it made everybody sit in the living room with rapt attention, and resulted in everybody booming out loud in laughter. It was always a beautiful thing to hear that joyous sound pealing out of the living room "with great vigah" during my parent's patented weekend, Gayle Road cocktail parties, when I was supposed to be in bed; in actuality I was hiding under the draping table cloth that was set up on a card table, that functioned as the party's bar in my little footed onesie pajamas.

How about this one?

Released in 1960, the year of my birth, and the "soundtrack" of The Kennedy Presidency.

I remember my mother holding me in her arms as a toddler, and having her spin and dance across the living room as "Camelot" played out of the hi-fi set, or gently sway me to the dulcet tones of Robert Goulet singing "If Ever I would Leave You". Probably one of the earliest memories I'm capable at age fifty one to still capture with any type of verifiable clarity. I still wonder what the King is doing tonight.

As soon as I became ambulatory, my mom taught me how to work the record player on my own. The 1961 equivalent version of sticking your kid in front of the TV to watch The Disney Channel. Listening to the music, and singing along while holding the jacket in my hands, staring at it, soaking up the graphics and trying to decipher the words was a daily session in my pre-toddler years.

The first words I learned to read were "Lerner and Lowe".

I could quietly entertain myself for hours, and Mom took full advantage. She had a house to run, and two other trouble makers to keep her eye on.

And then, there's this amazing recording:

Released in 1956, this was my defacto "In-Utero" soundtrack.

My mother tells a story that when she first held me in the hospital on the day I was born, she sang these songs to me, and I sang the melodies right back at her. I can't remember this, but she swears it's a true story.

I can tell you this: I sat staring at this Al Hirschfeld illustration, listening to this record for hundreds of hours up until "Meet The Beatles" invaded the Rossi living room on 12 Gayle Road in 1964.

It just wasn't the music. This graphic was equally as compelling, and the ironic idea that people thought they could be puppet masters when really God was pulling the strings.

The concepts of God and flawed human manipulative behavior, clearly understood at the age of two.

Hirschfeld's illustrations held a remarkable sway over me. On Sunday mornings, instead of making a mad grab for the funny papers, I instead made a mad grab for The New York Times Arts and Entertainment Section, to unearth the "Nina's" embedded in every one of his cover illustrations.

Powerful graphic stuff. It was back then, and for me, still is.

Now check this one out:

Again, released in 1962, this one was a major contributor to my own hard-wiring process.

At age three, I not only was compelled by the music, but by the narrative that was driven and moved along by those tunes.

This is a strong allegorical story of a clown who marries into the family circus business to improve his life, gets disillusioned, goes on a pussy parade only to find that the one true thing of value in his life, the love of his wife, was the thing he valued the least.

I totally "got it" at the age of three, and even though I haven't heard this recording in almost 45 years, I can still sing "Meilinki, Meilchick", "Mumbo Jumbo", and of course the bittersweet "What Kind Of Fool Am I?" today, by heart, and with a bad cockney accent to boot.

And now, this:

The music of the Caribbean. "Day-O!". I wore several copies of this one into vinyl shavings right up to the day that Mom and I went to Nicholl's record department in Auburn, NY to pick up a copy of "Meet The Beatles", probably about a month before my fourth birthday.

I used to drop the needle on Side 1, Track 2: as the killer straight up bass and drums rock and roll of "I Saw Her Standing There" would blast out of the wall mounted hi-fi speakers, I'd climb up the book case right up to the ceiling; to the topper most of the popper most top shelf, and when that blood curdling scream erupted out before the solo, I'd let go and free fall backwards onto the couch; about a ten foot drop.

Once mom got hip to that, that kind of killed my unchaperoned use of the family hi-fi for awhile.

These records, and the critical thinking skills attached to them through repetitive listening, emotional experiences and experiential visual imprinting became ground zero, and the absolute core of my creative sun when I finally found myself in position to craft a statement of my own.

These are the base elements that I drew upon when I got to be the chef, making that personal creative gumbo.


The Fabulous Pushballs (the original incarnation of The Shuffling Hungarians) started as a backing band for a comedian, and after a failed attempt at playing that material with a charismatically challenged front person (that would be me), the whole thing had to be re-tooled and conceptualized.

Before the band ever played a note as "Little Georgie and the Shuffling Hungarians" at their unveiling at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que that fall, all those major conceptual components had to be identified and then solidly installed.

This wasn't exactly cognitive at the time. I wasn't going "A pinch of Vaughn Meader, and a dash of Anthony Newley, a dollop of "Get Me To The Church On Time", two cups of Harry Belefonte, mix thoroughly, fold into a meatloaf pan and bake at 325 degrees, let cool, and slather it with "I Saw Her Standing There" sauce before serving.

Those identifiable core elements took this form, when finally digging inside myself to find them.

1. There had to be a "narrative" element. All material, covered or eventually written, had to follow that narrative.

2. Although undefined at that point, the narrative would explore the darker side of the human experience. A creator creates of what he knows.

3. The narrative would be allegorical in nature. And in the end, uplift.

4. The project had to be just as powerfully presented graphically. Everything piece of material that came out of the camp had to deliver the right visual content to be just as evocative as the music, the presentation, the performances, and the narrative.

5. As mis-direction, the narrative had to be hidden, through the use of unabashed humor. It couldn't look like any of us were taking ourselves too seriously.

Entertainment values were what we were going to show first.

6. The band was going to showcase a decided New Orleans Piano flavor; (Insert "Caribbean Calypso" in here: a strong component of Mardi Gras Indian chants and music, and the music of Professor Longhair, blues with a decided Afro Caribbean slant, and the artist that I stole the name of the band from, as an homage, of course!)

7. It had to rock, but more importantly, it had to roll. There were going to be moments of collective and communal orgasmic release, just like that scream in "I Saw Her Standing There"; a pure exhibition of the power and resultant joy of Rock And Roll as I knew it.

It had to free asses so minds and spirits could collectively as one, follow and fly.


At the point of the realization that Tom Kenney-less "Fabulous Pushballs" was on its way to being a failed endeavor, it was just one of a consecutive string of many critical personal and professional failures that seemed to be falling on my head like a thick sheet of New Orleans tropical rain.

My shot at the brass ring with "The Bogeymen" had unceremoniously, and still to this day mysteriously, crashed and burned.

My future ex-wife had just been outed as a long term philanderer. That's as delicately as I can put it. The multiple bi-sexual affairs had be going on for over a year, known to our collective network of friends, but unknown (or denied in delusion) by me. She was my wife. I had to trust her by default, even though I knew that I shouldn't have.

It was a long, grinding year.

I was betrayed by all of whom I loved and trusted. I had been sold down the river by my closest friends, including my future ex-wife. I felt totally abandoned, and my innocence and joi de vivre forcibly robbed against my will. I felt like Dustin Hoffman strapped in the Dental Chair in "Marathon Man", with the world as Laurence Olivier asking me "Is It Safe?", a running dental drill in its hands.

The answer was always " most definitely is NOT SAFE"

I had moved out of my formally happy little soul-sucking marital house and into a dingy apartment on Winton Street. A piano, a couch, and a set of bookshelves were all I took with me.

She could have the rest. I had no interest in staking claim to the 30 pieces of silver. Even if I was the only one who knew, I knew I was worth more than that.

My best friend in the world couldn't hang with that type of misery and pain. He usually stayed with me when he had a gig in town. I called him out on some of his patented bullshit and took a well-aimed verbal swipe at him, heavily medicated on Vicodin after a botched oral surgery in which all four of my wisdom teeth had been shattered, rather than extracted.

He walked out the door the next morning and I haven't spoken to him in the 20 or so years that have elapsed since. More abandonment.

In all of that undiagnosed, crazy-as-a-shit-house-rat, bi-polar free falling, I had to process all of this, all at once, to the best of my ability, by myself.

Either that, or check out and meet my maker. It was a close call.

I stripped all my personal history away, layer by layer, to expose my core, and get back to a time and place where I felt authentically and in it's purest state a sense of safety, as I was feeling quite the opposite at the time.

It took me all the way back to swirling across the living room floor in 1962, gathered up in my mother's arms, as we danced to the tune of "On The Street Where You Lived" as she whispered the lyrics in my ear.

It took me all the way back to sitting with my big brother Alfie as he patiently taught me how to read, using the liner notes of "Stop The World, I Want To Get Off", listening to Anthony Newley poignantly warble "What Kind Of Fool Am I?" and knowing exactly what he was saying.

It took me all the way back to the joy of free falling backwards off from ceiling height to the awaiting nubby fabric cushions of the brown Paul McCobb couch looming below as Paul McCartney screamed, punctuating and providing the requisite soundtrack.

It took me all the way back to hiding under the card table, loving the sound of adult laughter, even if I didn't understand the jokes.

It took me all the way back to pondering the existence of God at the age of two while I memorized the lyrics of "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face", mesmerizing myself with an Al Hirschfeld illustration.

It took me all back all the way to dancing without fear of judgement to the sacred call and response groove of the "Banana Boat Song" on top of the coffee table, wearing a straw floppy hat.

It took me all the way back to pointing at words on record jackets, reading them aloud, and having my mother radiantly beaming at me with pride.

This was the last time I ever felt "Safe" and in that safety, pure unadulterated joy and love without fear of reprisal or betrayal. I needed to feel it again, and when I discovered where and when it was, THAT was going to be the core structural building blocks of any upcoming "Gumbo".

I had to start with the uncut, pure essence of all of everything, and the jump point of all acquired knowledge collected after the fact.

That was the stuff that was going to get thrown in the pot first. That was the roux.


When I ask it this of you, I don't ask it glibly. On the surface, it may seem like an easily answered question, but I assure you from at least my own personal experience, it is not.

Stand in front of the mirror, and ask yourself that question. Then peel away all that you think you are, all the facades, all the illusions, all the damage wrought and the damage incurred, all your defense mechanisms, all of your bullshit and lies, and all the misdirected blame you've deployed to keep yourself from looking in the mirror, and doing the real work that God and the laws of Karma put you on Earth to do. Soul growth doesn't happen on auto-pilot.

Get it down to your very soul, and then scrape that fucker clean. Tear it ALL down.

Are you ready for that kind of work, and that kind of investment? Are you ready for the high probability of a fall, when you aim big and get on the highwire without a net?

If you are, you'll know what needs to go in the Gumbo when you commit to playing catch with The Universe and all of the energy flow that IS creation.

Whatever creatively flows from you and through you, it will flow on the bedrock of your authentic heart and soul, instead of quicksand.

And it may just stand the ultimate test. The Test Of Time.

(Stay Tuned For Part 4)

Author's Note:

I've been trying to subtley intimate that all projected 365 Daily Doses are going to function as a cycle, and every singular Dose will function as a "connective point" that will illustrate unseen, connective tissue: Hopefully illustrating a larger story than the sum of its parts.

This is why I've been urging you Peep-A-Roos to get yourselves on The Master Index mailing list. You'll be able to read the Dose descriptions, and discover the related archived material on your own, if you were so inclined.

So "Once More, With Feeling": Write me at and join the inner sanctum for real by receiving The Weekly Updated Master Index.

The Dose series is kind of like a mixed up jigsaw puzzle that you can put together anyway you want to.

That said, I'll give you a little nudge: Here's a suggested reading list of archived material that I consider potential "related points":

001.) "Gary Frenay: A Testimony": How brief contact can radically change your personal trajectory, and how you can radically effect others 1987

003.) "Pondering Upon A T-Shirt": Why Art Created With Commitment Will Stand The Test Of Time 1993-2011

005.) "Party Time": A "Lake Boy" Tale of the recognition of Love, and a longing for a future of adventure 1964

043.) "Creativity, Validation and Inspiration Part 5": A seven part series on creativity issues, and self rationalizing mind games

033.) "On Rhetrorical Devices, Influences, and Making Art "Popular": The use of rhetoric as a velvet rope and associative strategy 1981-2011

029.) "The Best Gift I Can Give": Make Sauce, not War, and the consequences of choice. 2010-2011

025.) "A Song Is Born": Gutbucket Blues, Rare Video, UK interpretation, and The History of the Bloody Mary Cocktail, 1993-1994-2011

003.) "Influences": Early Musical Influences/ Dylan Video. 1962-2011

"You may shoot for the stars and end up in a back alley behind Pluto, beaten and bloodied, but at least I dare to dream, and that’s better than being Earthbound, mired in the muck of mediocrity.

I judge my forward progress and success by the crushingly epic nature of my failures.

The more epic the crash, the more I’m convinced I must be doing something right"





Rick Short said...

Given your excellent 56-post set-up, this is your most moving, inspirational post to date. Thank you for taking me here - in my own head.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the last time I felt moved enough by another's words, that I wanted to share with the few people I love, who "might" (or might not) understand. Thank you so much for such a raw, vulnerable and eloquent telling of your heartfelt reality.