on my life...
1. Gratitude. Okay, this is the potentially tedious part where I thank people, but truly that's the first thing and the closest to my heart. But to spare youse I'm not gonna go into detail. I just have to say I am so happy with all the people who taught me stuff in my lifetime, starting with parents, to siblings, friends, lovers, teachers, children, grandchildren, Helen. (I want also specifically mention Diane Viera right here, as she made the painting for our live album cover, shown at left, and Edward Hutchinson for use of his painting of PJ Harvey for The Kiss.) I mean this is just a vanity website it's not the feckin' Academy Awards, but if I'm gonna talk about myself, anything good comes from the people I've been blessed to be around.
2. Family. My father came from Brooklyn, my mom from Queens. They were great people. My dad lived adventurously as an activist, baseball player and attorney (for a minute), he was a benign patriarch, always the life of the party. His admiration for literature and music was a huge influence on me. My mother was a great soul who turned her love of art and her talent into a career, and became an award-winning book designer. My brother Andrew has worn, among others, the hats of musician, filmmaker, graphic artist and my dear sister Joanne is a therapist in Minneapolis and mother to my fabulous niece Emily. I have a daughter who, after a high-powered career in the computer industry, is devoting herself to her two incredibly lovely and brilliant children, and I have a son who's a musician living in Jersey City. Of course none of these descriptions comes anywhere near summing up these people. Oh and let me add my extended family is full of highly accomplished, provocative, weird, quirky folks, to whom I give my fondest shoutout.
3. Location. I've done a lot of traveling, and have lived in somewhat less than a hundred different sites. I grew up mostly in the East Bay area of California; I've lived for periods of five months or more in Berkeley, Ca; San Francisco, Ca; Boston, MA; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; New York City, NY; Hoboken, NJ; Kenagh, Ireland; Queens, NY. Much of my life, maybe half, has been spent in and around New York City.
4. Love. Okay, yeah, I've probably had some love, and I'm grateful for that. Some folks get very little. And I mean all kinds. I've had three legal wives and a number of other lovers who have been important. But of course we want to stay present, and I have to say my wife Helen has been my Nora and I love her to death. To paraphrase Janis Joplin, if you can just love one woman, you've done the world a world of good. Helen is my rock and she rocks.
5. Vocation. I've probably worked at nearly as many jobs as places I've lived, and this isn't necessarily any kind of boast. I obtained at some excruciating length my bachelor's degree in "English" at the University of California, Berkeley. This and a pair of legs will open many doors, including but not limited to the automatic kind at the supermarket. Of course I could've gone on to become a professor, which is what my mom wanted. But no, I wanted to experience the greater world. It's been a long road. In my most youthful years I worked in restaurants -- nearly every position from dishwasher through counter-person, waiter, bartender, even night manager. I worked in several factories, I worked as a cab driver, as directory assistance operator, as a stockboy at a cosmetic company (and two weeks after I started, Personnel Director); I spent quite a few years in data entry and word processing. In the late 80s I needed a steady job; I was at the New York Stock Exchange in the WP pool as a temp and a vice president wanted to hire me, so he took me on as his p.a. and secretary. (At the time temping was my day job; at night I was playing in Ritual Tension.) After seven promotions I took early retirement; I was then a Project Manager in the Technology department. After that it's been teaching -- see next section.
6. Teaching. So maybe mom was right, who knows? In any case, when I was about to retire from the NYSE I had an idea that I would teach, and it seemed to me that people who want to learn a foreign language are generally well-motivated. I got my English as a Second Language teaching certificate at The New School, and started teaching right out of school, first at LaGuardia Community, and then as part of the NYPL Riverside program; I continued teaching ("ESOL") when we moved to Ireland, for the Vocational Education Committee (a quasi-governmental body). Finally I taught English for about two years at Embassy CES in Manhattan. Around the same time as my retirement I rekindled interest in yoga and became interested in teaching it. This became my real passion in the last five years as far as teaching is concerned. Despite all the crap surrounding this sort of pursuit, I love doing yoga, and it's fun conducting classes. It's a great outlet for my so-called "creativity" (hate that term, but sometimes it's functional) -- one has to speak, use the voice, use words, use the body, use music, use knowledge, use insight into people, use character.
7. Art. The first song I learned how to whistle was "Home on the Range" when I was about four; I think of it as my finest accomplishment. Luckily Helen can't comment here or she'd agree, witheringly. I've written reams and reams of poems, essays, plays, fiction, a book of stories, two novels... you have samples here. I was the "host" of the writing conference on Echo, and curated a reading series at KGB. I've done lots of performance art. I played as either drummer or vocalist in five rock bands starting at the age of 28. Along with Norman Westberg (later of Swans) I formed the band Carnival Crash; from that came the Ivan X single, which got some play in the so-called undeground. Subsequently my brother Andrew and I formed Ritual Tension, and we lasted a decade, and made four albums or CDs (one of them a live album from CBGB on the Celluloid/CBGB label). We got as far along the road to success as headlining Saturday nights at CBs. Currently I'm writing a yoga blog. As far as goals, I'd like to get more of my writing into print, and continue recording some songs.
8. Spirituality. My parents were atheists, which is a religion or belief of sorts. However we moved to Berkeley and I started reading Allen Ginsberg and Alan Watts, and then began studying the I Ching. There were a lot of influences. At 17 I was initiated into a Sufi order that was following Meher Baba as avatar. He died not long afterward, but we made a pilgrimmage to India to visit his grave. Eventually I was disillusioned with Baba and left the order. In my early thirties I came across Black Elk Speaks. I felt a great deal of kinship with the medicine man concept (after all, I was a poet, a drummer and a healer -- these are qualities I just seemed to always have). I immersed myself in Indian culture but eventually felt I would always be an outsider and let it be. I studied alone for many years, until I took up yoga, and found another means to be a healer in this broken world. And of course the real work is inside, away from view, far from any kind of labeling.
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