The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘California’

Happy Birthday, Dad

Posted by keithosaunders on January 15, 2017

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Dad

Today my father would have turned 90.  He died just 14th months ago at the age of 88.  He was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York.  He grew up during the depression, served in the army as a private first class at the end of World War 2, and went to college at a small school in upstate Plattsburgh near the Canadian border called Champlain College.

He was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan.  He endured the terrible teams of the 30s only to see them emerge as the dominant National League club of the 40s and 50s.  He suffered through the the ignominy of Bobby Thompson’s home run and five World Series losses to the Yankees, but experienced the exultation of Brooklyn’s first ever World Championship (against the Yankees) in 1955.

He married my mother two months later after a whirlwind three month courtship and they stayed together for 45 years until my mother’s death.

Dad was as liberal as they come. He opposed nuclear weapons, working in the 50s to have them abolished.  He was against the McCarthy hearings and he helped form a local political group called AQI – Associated Queens Independents.  I am glad that he will not have to experience the Trump years.

My Dad hated pomposity.  He couldn’t stand John Robinson when he was coaching the Rams.  He called him ‘The Blowhard.’ He also loathed the Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, who he referred to as ‘The Pipsqueak.’   (Nobody knows why he called him that. Jones isn’t that small)

My Dad’s favorite Brooklyn Dodger was Jackie Robinson.  When I was growing up he used to tell my brother and I how Jackie Robinson was the most exciting ball player he had ever seen.  His favorite move was The Bridge Over the River Kwai.  He had a top ten movie list.  Some of the other movies on the list were, The Lady Vanishes, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Fiddler on the Roof.  It used to confound me that Fiddler made the list.

My Dad was one of the funniest and personable people I have ever met.  When he was in a good mood there was nobody else you would rather spend time with.  He was smart, witty, passionate, liberal, and self effacing.

He was a self made man.  He moved his family to California – my brother and I were toddlers then – with no savings and no job.  He found work, an apartment, and sent for us.  He struggled for many years before finding great success as an independent rep for juvenile furniture lines.  He and my mother were able to travel all around the world once my brother and I were older and on our own.

Dad, we miss you!

 

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Can I get a vestibule over here?

Posted by keithosaunders on September 20, 2016

For the most I love living and gigging in the Bay Area.  I’ve been here for six years now and am firmly entrenched in its jazz scene.  That said, I have a bone to pick.

I’m sick and tired of going to a gig at a club or restaurant only to discover they have left their door open.  ON PURPOSE.  I’m sitting there trying to play the damn piano and I’m freezing.  What’s more, I look around and the customers are freezing too.  They’ve all got their jackets and sweaters on and they’re rubbing their hands together like they’re trying to make fire.

Now I get that the management wants their establishment to be all charming and rustic, and that we’re in California with the year-round mild temperatures.  But here’s a news flash:  It gets unusually cold on summer nights in San Francisco.  You see, there’s this little thing called fog.  Face it, ‘Frisco, you’re not an outdoor dining city.  Get over yourself.

I’m trying to play music and I can’t even move my fingers.  This may be difficult for restaurant owners to understand but I have to manipulate individual fingers in rhythm at distinct parts of the piano.  It’s not like I ball my hands into fists and smash them against the keys and Our Love Is Here to Stay comes out.  NO.  I am moving my fingers to form patterns which in turn yields shapes and colors.  SHAPES AND COLORS, FOR GODS SAKE.

Would it kill these people to build a vestibule?  They don’t even know what a vestibule is out here – I had to explain it to somebody last week.  If they had vestibules a musician might be able to enjoy a damn gig instead of feeling like a character in a Jack London novel.

And by the way…how do you think they caught the Chelsea bomber?  He was lying in a vestibule in Linden, New Jersey.

Vestibules:  Is there anything they can’t do?

Image result for vestibule

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Report from the front lines

Posted by keithosaunders on July 24, 2016

Do you think being a working musician is easy?  Do you?!  Well let me tell you something, IT’S NOT!

Yesterday’s gig was a  corporately booked gig — a private party for a rich swell who lives in a mansion in Lafayette, California.  It was an outdoor event so I need my keyboard and amp.

I arrived at the scheduled time, an hour and a half before the gig.  Our set up was in his back yard but getting there involved taking my equipment down a long, steep, incline.  (the house was recessed into the hill) I had my keyboard and amp on my hand truck, as usual, and I figured I would walk backwards down the hill keeping my equipment in front of me so that I could brace it against gravity.

Wrong.  The path was made out of this ultra smooth, polished gravel.  My shoes, being somewhat new, had no traction.  Down I went in a slow motion face-first fall, my pitiful life flashing before my eyes. With my left hand I held onto my dolly for dear life, while with the right hand I braced my fall.  I landed flat on my stomach and my dolly ended up on its side.  I tried to get up but it was no use.  I would still be lying there today if the drummer and guitarist hadn’t happened by at that moment.

It took a bit of doing to get both myself and my equipment at an upright angle but finally I was righted and I was able to locate a set of stairs to access the backyard.  Did I mention it was 91 degrees outside and I was wearing a suit?

It was a long gig with short breaks.  There’s not enough time to detail the hilarity that ensued but I will say that I really enjoyed the music and the musicians that I played with.

How’s that for a happy ending?

 

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420 Day

Posted by keithosaunders on April 26, 2016

Amidst this run of notable gigs I’ve forgotten to report on an interesting one. Last week, on 420 day I played a gig at a medical marijuana dispensary. It was my first time playing a pot ‘club,’ and in fact the first time I’ve even seen the inside of one.  Here in California they’re all over the place, which explains why a significant portion of the population stays high all of the time.

I’ve never known the reason why marijuana is referred to as 420 but I do know that the phony-holiday powers that be found it convenient.  The Magnolia Club, located in West Oakland, was packed with people buying their favorite strains – Kandy Kush, Mr Urkel, and Notorious O.G. Between tunes one of the employees politely asked us to play softer. “The patients are having a hard time hearing.”

I looked around…patients? “Oh! *those* patients,” I said. Riiiiiiight.”

They sent us home with all sorts of swag — pot-laced macaroons, pot-laced cookies, and even THC lip balm for those cold, dry days where you’d like to get a buzz on.  All in all it was a good gig.

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Farewell to Iowa

Posted by keithosaunders on February 3, 2016

NC

And with the ceremonial tossing of the coins we bid a fond adieu to those wacky ethanol-loving folks in the Midwest for another four years.  I can’t say we’ll miss them.  Why a state without a major sports franchise has so much importance in choosing our president I’ll never know.  Here’s an idea:  Why not flip a coin to see which state primary gets to go first?  Give California a shot.  WE DON’T VOTE UNTIL JUNE 7th!

Hillary may have won the coin tosses (really?  6 for 6?) but no matter how you spin it the victory went to Bernie Sanders who battled his corporate mainstream rival to a virtual tie. If that many Iowans will vote for a ‘socialist’ this does not bode well for Clinton in the long game.

At this point we owe it to ourselves to vote for the candidate that is in our best interests and not the one who is the safest bet.  Clinton has been on the worng side of just about every issue that is important to me.  She supported the Iraq war – one of the greatest debacles in American history –  she opposed gay marriage, and her husband’s administration, with its loosening of regulations,  helped to facilitate the financial crash of the late 200os.

Furthermore, Hillary recently came out and said that there is no chance the American people will ever have a single payer health care system.  I don’t want to hear those words. Ever. It’s bad enough we have a draconian health care system (even with with ACA which is an improvement over what we had) but to hear there is virtually no chance that every American will be able to afford health care is an abomination.

The issues that Sanders is concentrating on – income disparity, affordable education for all, and an awareness that we have to do something about climate change – resonate with me, and they are resonating with a large amount of Americans.  If I was Hillary Clinton or any of the myriad proto-fascist Republican candidates I’d be concerned.

 

Posted in health care, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Zagreb

Posted by keithosaunders on August 4, 2015

I forgot how daunting writing can be.  When I started this blog I was nearly 10 years younger, and before that I had kept a blog on another site for several years.  I stopped blogging shortly after moving to California in 2010 and gave it another go in 2013.  That stint lasted two posts owing to the fact that at that time I was sans laptop and wireless; it’s tough to update on a cell phone, 4G or not.

California was not good for my marriage but it has been good for me work-wise.  I gig 5-7 nights a week and my teaching studio is thriving.  Put that all together and it means I can survive, assuming I avoid an automobile accident and/or serious illness. I am happy here and I have met some musicians who I really enjoy playing with.  I’m lucky in that regard.

The other day I did a gig with one of my favorite drummers, Ron Marabuto.  We had a long drive and on the way home we fell into a conversation about the old days in New York.  We barely overlapped in our time there — Ron lived there in the mid-70s through the mid 80s while I moved there in 1984.

We both agreed that real New Yorkers are indescribable to those who have never lived there. The native New Yorkers were what I remember most fondly from my time there.  Not the gentrifying strivers who move to New York fresh off of there Phi Beta whatever degrees from Ohio St or UCLA.  The people who grew up there.  These are the ones that can quote the Honeymooners as if it’s talmud.  These are the folks who will take you to Sheepshead Bay, or treat you to the best pizza in the North Bronx.

After Ron dropped me off I found myself waxing nostalgic for the old days.  There was something about being in my early 20s and living on my own for the first time in my life — well it was heady stuff.  The world was rife with possibility.

By coincidence I came across a video of a gig I did in Zagreb Yugoslavia in 1985 with Richie Cole.  I hadn’t realized this video exited and seeing and hearing my 24 year old self was jarring to say the least.  (though I did have a nice porn stash) I remember that Zagreb was the first stop on the tour and that my luggage had been lost during the flight.  It never did catch up to me —  we were moving from town to town in Europe, barely staying anywhere for more than one night. Consequently I only had the clothes I wore over on the plane as well as a few things I was able to buy once we got to Switzerland.

I remember being very tired and jet lagged after a long flight but I forced myself to stay up and walk around the town since I didn’t think I’d ever get back there.  (I was right) Yugoslavia was still a nation and it remains the only communist country I’ve ever visited, albeit commie-lite. I remember the band being interviewed for either radio or television and that we were raucous and irreverent – possibly due to the jetlag, but more likely due to being 20-something snot nosed jerks.  We played the concert on fumes and got drunk afterwards.

The bass player is Ed Howard and the drummer is Victor Jones.

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On the road again

Posted by keithosaunders on August 7, 2011

Almost one year to the day that I moved out of New York, I have left on a cross-country road trip; my second in as many years.  Living at my friend’s house in the Bronx for two months while my kids went to camp was great.  I played several gigs, reconnected with old friends, and confirmed that, yes, New York is the greatest city in the world. 

We crossed the George Washington Bridge at 1 PM and eased onto intersate 80.  There we will remain for another 2,800 miles until we hit Buchanon St in Albany, California. 

I am writing this from a Motel 6 in humid Youngstown, Ohio.  I played at the college here twice.  Once with a quartet led by a drummer — Fred Lite — that featured Youngstown St alum, Ralph Lalama on tenor.  The other time I played here was with my band, the NY HardBop Quintet. 

Earlier this evening I was able to pick up staticy radio broadcasts of the Pittsburgh/San Diego game.  The poor Pirates:  After charming the baseball world with their unexpected great first half of the season, they now seem doomed to continue their streak of sub .500 seasons.  I had hopped onto their bandwagon bigtime, but now it seems I will be getting off at the next stop.  I hope they are able to recover, at least enough to be able to end their losing season streak.  At the very least it seems like better times are ahead for this once proud franchise.

I’m driving with my two younger children.  My oldest boy is still at camp where he is a counselor.  Next stop:  Palatine, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, where we will spend two nights and one day at my brother’s house.

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Provincialism: New York story

Posted by keithosaunders on May 13, 2011

…so I packed up and moved to New York.  It turned out it was just like I pictured it — skyscrapers and everything!  I found an apartment on the Upper West Side, started exploring the city, began meeting musicians, and eventually began to gig.

It was great.  I liked the city and contrary to what I had been told, I found that people were friendly and welcoming.  There was just one problem:  They hated Californians.  Let me rephrase that, as hate is too strong a word.  They looked down on Californians.  They joked about, ridiculed, and were generally unpleasent towards people of the west coast persuasion.  Californians were too laid back, flaky, vain, and above all, didn’t swing. (the unkindest cut of all for a jazz musician) 

My Great Aunt Ellie was like a grandmother to me.  She and my Uncle Herb took me under their wing, taught me how to play bridge, showed me Coney Island, Flatbush, and Sheepshead Bay.  For someone such as myself, who had grown up without grandparents, it was invaluable to have this window into what my family history looked like. 

 Every Sunday I would watch the Mets game (or whatever sport happened to be in season) at Ellie and Herb’s apartment in downtown Brooklyn, feasting on Herb’s renowned tuna salad for lunch, and take out from Su Su’s Yum Yum, their local chinese restaurant, for dinner. 

One day we watching the Mets play the Dodgers from Los Angeles.  For those of you not familiar with Dodger Stadium, just beyond the right field bleachers there are a group of palm trees which are visible from certain camera angles.  Midway through the game, apropos of nothing, Ellie remarked, “Those palm trees look dusty.” 

I knew Ellie hated California, but this was too much.  The palm trees looked dusty?!  What hope did I have of ever fitting in with my adopted city if even my own Aunt, who I loved dearly, could not accept California?  And who insluts palm trees?!

The thing is, there is a grain of truth in New Yorker’s feelings about the west coast.  There is a certain vanity out west, as well as a complacency.  What I could never understand, however, was how people could feel free to bash  California in front of someone who was from there.  It was as if my being in New York meant that I had rejected the west coast, and thus would be receptive and understanding of the insults. 

Even within the city there exists a kind of micro-provincialism.  Manhattanites think that the boundaries of New York end at the periphery of their 13 mile long, and 2.3 mile wide island.  Anyone with a 718 area code knows what it’s like to be condescended to by the proud owner of a 212 code.     

It took me a long time to get used to it, but eventually I did.  It was remarkable how universally scorned California was.  I saw this as a shortcoming of New Yorkers.  New York is the greatest city in the world.  Why bother insulting other places when it’s a moot point?  

But I have to admit — I was guilty of it myself.  The longer I lived in New York, the more it felt like home to me.  Truth be told, I would occasionally insult California too.  Once in a while.  

Next post I’ll come full circle with San Francisco provincialism.  Then we’ll go over weights and measures.

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New York calling

Posted by keithosaunders on March 4, 2011

And now for a little palette cleanser.  Think of this post as a sorbet.

Earlier this week I was going about my business when my cell phone rang.  I could see from the LCD screen that it was a good friend calling from New York City. 

I answered with a hearty “Hello!”

But my friend did not respond.  I could hear the sound of boots clomping on hardened snow, and soon I heard what sounded like the roar of an approaching subway train.  Moments later I heard the unmistakable chime that the subway doors emit when they open —  and presently the closing chime.  That’s when the phone call cut off. 

Obviously my friend must have unknowingly pressed a button on the cell, calling me by mistake.  The effect was as if the city of New York itself called me — mocking me.  While I’m out here in the perennially sunny, 60 degree winter weather of California, hearty people are enduring real winters.  These are the folks that are worthy of spring.  They have earned the right to a few weeks of mild weather before the oppressive heat of summer.

“Come back, you fool,” the phone call seemed to say.  “Before it’s too late…”  

 

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Punchbuggy: 1965

Posted by keithosaunders on September 4, 2010

Like most parents I dread going into a parking lot because of the drubbing I receive at the hands of my nine-year old daughter upon the sighting of any Volkswagen.  Somewhere along the line it became de rigueur to deliver a punch to the nearest person after seeing a Volkswagen Bug, although my daughter has amended the rules to make it any model. 

Here in the Bay Area I have seen a lot of old cars.  I suppose that the mild California winters have allowed for greater preservation — they don’t deal with the rust that ensues from salted roads.  Many of the cars I’ve seen have the blue and gold license plates from the 70s.  Some, like the one pictured below, even have the old black with gold lettering plates of the 60s.  

Coming out of the market yesterday I noticed this old Volkswagen Bug which had the passenger seat removed, allowing for a makeshift backseat.  I ended up having a conversation with the owner of the car, now 70, who had earned his living as a Volkswagen mechanic.  He was the original owner of this 1965 model and the car has over 500,000 miles.   He also has a 1968 model with roughly the same mileage.  He has recently replaced the engine, but unfortunately, thanks to a shadow, my photo doesn’t do it justice.  It was amazing seeing a shiny, brand-new engine inside of this classic old car. 

He is moving to Idaho where he can fly fish full-time.  He’ plans on driving both vehicles the 1,000 plus miles.   

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