Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Free show alert: I'm playing an original set (for real life!) on Saturday, July 22nd

One day this spring, Gina heard an unbelievable rumor: Construction crews were getting ready to demolish and fill in the Ruth Gordon Amphitheater, a natural outdoor performance space at Quincy's Pageant Field. 

Overlooking the Atlantic, Pageant Field is the crowning jewel of the city's parks system. It received some upgrades this spring, including a new water-view picnic pavilion and a half-mile walking path around the park. And, it turns out, the city was also getting ready to fill in the underused theater as part of the project — something we only learned about and confirmed after a friend at the Quincy Tree Alliance spoke to a parks employee at the construction site days before demolition.  

I was flabbergasted and furious. The amphitheater is built into the slope of a hill, with terraced rows of seating facing a large, stone-studded stage. It's kinda beautiful, and it was one of the things I remember loving about Quincy when we first decided to move here

But it's been years since the city has funded performances at the theater, and so apparently officials thought it was in a state of disuse. (Despite the fact that kids love to put on impromptu plays there all the time.) 

Anyway, we and other local artists and activists bombarded city officials with emails and phone calls, and after enough outcry they hastily walked back the idea. A group called Friends of the Ruth Gordon Amphitheater formed, led by the daughter of the theater's original architect, and they convinced the city to fund a concert series every Friday night this summer. 

All of which is to say two things: 1) Activism works, get involved in stuff! And 2) I'm playing a set of original (!) songs on Friday, July 14th  (scratch that, the Friday show was rained out! new date is Saturday, July 22nd) around 7:30pm (show goes 6:30pm–8:30pm). 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Biennial update on my well-being and whereabouts

So, um, it looks like I haven't updated this site in a wee bit, eh? Funny how time does that! Well then, here are a few bits of news for you.

Last week I learned that I won two awards from the North American Travel Journalists Association. If you had told me 20 years ago that anyone anywhere would actually pay me real American dollars to write about traveling — perhaps the single greatest pursuit of human kind outside of love, family, and music — and that I'd actually win an award for such a thing, well... I'd have laughed you right out of the pub. And yet, here we are. Here are the winning stories:

Kid County, Ireland (Gold Winner, Family Travel category)
It’s no Orlando (and thank God for that), but Ireland doesn’t need the Disney touch to feel like a magical playground for your own little leprechauns.

Road Trip, Meet Field Trip (Honorable Mention, Family Travel category)
Sometimes the best souvenir isn’t what you buy, but what you learn.

I should probably also tell you that last June, I won a handful of awards in the National Association of Real Estate Editors' 69th annual journalism contest -- including:

But I think my favorite thing I've written in the past year was this piece — about busking in beautiful Asheville, N.C.

Blue Ridge Serenade: Asheville Makes Artsy Look Easy
There’s a lot to love about Asheville, from the local-first food scene to its Brooklyn-in-the-mountains sense of style to the warm welcome you receive in a city that loves you back. But art comes especially easy here; it’s everywhere. Music fills the bars, but also the streets, where buskers entertain tourists and lunch-hour diners. There’s art on the walls of its galleries, working studios, coffee shops, and a lot of the building exteriors, too. And in autumn, nature is doing her part, painting the surrounding mountains in Impressionistic blots of red, orange, and gold.

Finally, on another musical note, I'll be singing Irish and other tunes at the Monument Tavern in Charlestown on Saint Patrick's Day (Tuesday, March 17th) from 6pm-9pm. Come hoist a pint if you're in the area!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Another year over, a new one just begun

Well, that was some year, huh? Remarkably, we made it to the other side. Whew!

In the spirit of reflection and hopefulness, I thought I'd share what I consider my best work of 2017 - the stuff that helped get me through an often dispiriting year and makes me excited to keep creating in 2018.

As you might know, I've been writing more words than music lately (though the horrific shooting in Las Vegas all but demanded a rewrite of They Make Angels, five years and no gun laws later). Here are the 10 stories I enjoyed writing the most this year.

Thank you if you've read any of these already -- and for supporting journalism in any form these days, whether it's a newspaper subscription or NPR membership. And thank you if you've listened to my music, or supported other independent artists this year. (If you're curious, my favorite new discovery of the year, courtesy of the Newport Folk Festival, were the Wild Reeds. My God, I would let their harmonies lull me into eternity.)

Ok, away we go:

1. New England's Brewery Coast (Boston Globe Magazine)
My best friend Adam and I took a road trip up the coast to visit some of New England's best breweries, from Salem, Mass., to Freeport, Maine. (And I got paid - in real dollars, not like favors or gift cards - to write about it! So maybe 2017 wasn't such a bad year after all.)

2. When Sears Sold the American Dream (Boston Globe)
Long before you could buy a flat-pack bedroom set from IKEA and spend an afternoon sweating and swearing as you put it together at home, Americans were ordering entire houses by mail that were shipped by rail and ready for hopeful homeowners to assemble piece by piece. From immigration and racial redlining to streetcar suburbs and the World Wars to, many of the dominant themes of modern American history are wrapped up in the fascinating story of Sears kit houses.

3. Is This the Best Disney Soundtrack Ever? (Apartment Therapy)
I was incredulous when he first suggested it, but Adam helped me realize that "Moana" may be the best Disney soundtrack of all time, as determined by a totally scientific, in no way subjective song ranking.

4. It’s About Time You Went to Nova Scotia (Boston Globe)
We finally made good on a vacation to Nova Scotia -- one of those trips you keep promising yourself but never seem to take; it’s so close on a map, you just assume you’ll get there eventually.

5. The Fix Is Out: America's Throwaway Mentality (Boston Globe)
There's a new math behind a decision we all grapple with at one point or another: When a household item breaks, do we repair it or just replace it? Increasingly, Americans are choosing the latter — even for big-ticket items like furniture and major appliances.

6. The Enviable Walkability of 'Home Alone' (Apartment Therapy)
There's a big reason eight-year-old Kevin McCallister gets along just fine on his own - and it's something that's increasingly hard to find in American neighborhoods.

7. The ABCs and 123s of DIY (Boston Globe)
Back in high school, I scoffed when my math teachers insisted that the geometry formulas and algebraic equations we were learning would be useful in real life. Then we remodeled our kitchen.

8. The Stark Racial Inequality of Homeownership (Apartment Therapy)
The "land of opportunity" is looking more like the "land of staggering inequity."

9. Four Lessons From Pre-Cana That Any Couple Can Use (Boston Globe Magazine)
Any Catholic planning a wedding knows about the church’s premarital counseling — and among the more lapsed members of the flock, it’s sure to elicit a groan. And yet, a decade of happy marriage later, Pre-Cana stands out as one of our most important wedding preparations.

10. Can Gentrifiers Help Fight Gentrification? (Apartment Therapy)
Maybe not, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. I spoke to some remarkably thoughtful and self-aware sociologists for this one.

 *  *  *  *  *
I hope good things like peace, hope, beauty, justice, good health, and happiness await you in 2018. And as for New Year's resolutions, I hope this year-end greeting contains some new songs for you a year from now. Until then, happy New Year!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Praying for Time (Among Other Things)

I recorded this song on my phone yesterday, in memory of George Michael. I'll tell you why, and what it means to me, after the jump.

Those who know me will tell you, without hesitation, that I'm an optimistic person and always have been -- perhaps overly so. I walk around this world grinning like some kind of delusional madman because I really do love life and the people in it.

I hope for the best, and unfailingly look for silver linings when the best doesn't happen. My wife would tell you this can be inspiring, but also wicked annoying. But either way, that's me.

However, something happened to me after Nov. 8th, 2016 -- something that tossed me into a long, deep, and uncharacteristic depression -- and I only recently realized the true reason for my existential crisis.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Sharing the luck

Some of you out there probably know that I find a lot of four-leaf clovers. I don't know why, I just do, and I always have. My wife thinks I'm part leprechaun (I do grin and giggle a lot - maybe there's something to it).

I still feel extremely lucky and blessed when I find one -- even if it's probably just a matter of good eyesight, or patience, or being outdoors a lot, or synthetic fertilizers causing mutations. I think the first time I found a four-leaf clover, I actually found three - on the Syracuse University quad. And I gave each one to people on my floor who could use some luck at the time.

That's what's so beautiful about it to me, that I'm able to share this little piece of good fortune with someone who might find hope or solace in it.

But for the past couple of years, I've been finding like, just a ton of them. More than I can handle! I guess I'm getting better at spotting them? Plus I walk my kid to and from preschool most days, through a grassy park, and there's ample opportunity to look (she helps).

When I find one, I put it in my wallet, pressed between random foreign currencies and an old Red Sox ticket stub (the contents of my wallet might warrant their own blog post), to kind of preserve it; but at times I open up my wallet and there are literally like five or six four-leaf clovers sticking out all over the place, it's nuts.

Basically, I've got four-leaf clovers coming out of my ears and I decided it's time to share the luck beyond my immediate friends and family. So I recently started making necklaces and keychains out of the four-leaf clovers I find, and selling them on Etsy.

handmade genuine four-leaf clover necklace

Since I tend to believe there's at least some bit of divinity involved when I find a four-leaf clover -- the Irish believed the fourth leaf symbolized God's grace -- the idea of selling them really grossed me out at first. But, I realized I could sell them as jewelry and gifts and donate all the money to a couple of charities I believe do great work: Saint Jude's Children's Research Hospital and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

So when you buy a necklace for $33, I make a $25 contribution in your name to one of those two organizations. (The remaining eight bucks covers Etsy's fees and most of the materials.)

I'm a pretty handy and crafty guy, but I'm not exactly a pro jewelry maker or anything -- there are some air bubbles and other imperfections. But, um, that's what makes them so special? Let's go with that!

So if you're looking for a pretty unique, handmade gift come Christmastime - or Valentine's Day, or graduation, or anytime someone you love is sick or could otherwise use some cheering up  - please check out my shop! Here are some of the current items for sale.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall: Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan

Today is Bob Dylan's 75th birthday. His music has given me pure joy, and on more days than I care to remember has been the only thing that could soothe me, or even make sense in this world.

To paraphrase the man himself, All I really wanna do sing a Bob Dylan song for you.

So here you go. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is as gut-wrenching as it is inspiring. It's a song for our times, written about 50 years ago. Happy birthday, Bobby D, and thank you for everything.
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