About Me

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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Where I Think I Am

Portrait of the blogger as a young summanugun.  Art by Dan Bacich for NorthCaster Industries
Apologies upfront for citing this quote for the nth time on this blog, but my favorite description of the writer's task comes from Irwin Shaw:  to report where I think I am, and what this place looks like today.  I used to also like Dorothy Parker's admission that writers don't enjoy writing; we enjoy having written.  A clarion call for lazy writers?  Where do I sign?

But lately, I've begun to think Ms. Parker's quip is full of it.  Since beginning this blog in mid-January, I've found that I do enjoy writing, and that I enjoy it quite a bit.  It had been so long since I'd written on any kind of regular basis, I'd forgotten how much I used to love it, a long time ago.  The process itself is engaging and entertaining; rewriting, honing the work, choosing and changing the words and phrases, rewriting yet again--this must seem like drudgery to some, but it isn't that at all.  It's exhilarating.  Damn it, it's fun.

Although I never totally stopped writing altogether, my re-connection to the writing process began four years ago, when my father died.  He was 92 years old, and he had lived a full and happy life; his passing was sad, of course, a difficult thing for all of his family and his friends, but we understood that it was his time.  He'd left us such a legacy of love that, reluctant as we were to let him go, no one could deny he'd given us all anyone could ever ask.

Mourning is itself often a flurry of activity:  arrangements to be made, people to contact, tears to dry. Somewhere in the midst of that sad tumult, I realized that I needed to say something about Dad.  No--I needed to write something about Dad, and I needed to deliver it as the eulogy at his funeral.

The most important thing I've ever had to write?  I would not disagree with that.  The hardest thing I ever had to write?  Well...no.  A first draft came easily, pouring forth from memories and emotion, built from the affection and camaraderie that always characterized Dad's life.  Subsequent drafts gave it form and direction.  My siblings read an early draft and approved.  The night before Dad's funeral, I left the family gathering to go home and finish it.  "Carl," my sister said, "it's perfect already."  No, I replied.  It's not done yet.  I'll know when it's done.

And when it was done, I knew it.

Reading personal, emotional pieces out loud is...difficult.  Let's leave it at that.  But at the funeral, I got through the daunting task of reading the eulogy, punctuated by sobs and catches...but I delivered the work.  I was satisfied that it was something Dad would have liked.  He would have been proud.

Two years later, I had an opportunity to do something similar, but for a happy occasion.  My favorite power pop band, The Flashcubes, was set to be inducted into the SAMMYs (Syracuse Area Music Awards) Hall of Fame, and the band asked me to induct them.

I couldn't agree quickly enough!

Writing my induction speech for The Flashcubes' SAMMYs induction was probably the most fun I've ever had writing anything.  Draft.  Rewrite.  Hone.  Too long.  Not punchy enough.  Needs something...here.  Yeah!  Oh, how about if I...no, not that.  This.  Oh, and tie it in with that.  I would literally jump out of bed minutes after intending to retire for the evening, because I thought of a word or phrase that needed amending (or just a mending).  It was fun to write.  It was fun to read.  It was such a wonderful process.

For the past several years, prior to starting this blog, the only regular writing I did was the commentaries for the weekly playlists for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl.  Some of those have been willfully perfunctory, but some have been much more than that; the sporadic attempts to turn a radio playlist into a document of where on the radio dial I thought I was, and what that place looked like (and sounded like) that day are among the best pieces I've ever written.  When David Bowie passed away in January, I was surprised by the flood of emotion that hit me.  For that week's TIRnRR playlist, I sat down to write an open letter to Bowie, and I put everything I had into it.  The Flashcubes' bassist Gary Frenay send me an appreciative note, and repeated his earlier suggestion that I should start a blog.

So I did.

The process of writing is also unpredictable.  For yesterday's blog, I intended to write a post about The Monkees' great new single, "You Bring The Summer." A few paragraphs in, I realized it was going to be something very different from what I'd set out to write.  That unpredictability is a large part of what makes it fun.

You can't write, or engage in any creative endeavor, without a healthy dose of ego.  That's probably true of things outside of art, too:  you can't be an effective lawyer, doctor, car salesman, or teacher without confidence in your own lawyerin', doctorin', car-sellin', or teacherin'...um, teaching ability.  I'm as gawky and awkward as anyone, but when I write, I believe.  In fact, I believe I'm the best there is.  Seriously.  The absurdity of such groundless hubris is irrelevant; because, when I'm writing, I believe it.  If you can't believe that about your writing, you won't be able to write.

This blog passed 8000 views some time earlier this week.  I remain grateful for all who've stopped by to check in, and I hope you'll continue with me.  This is fun.  Where do I think I am?  I'm in Syracuse.  And this place looks pretty good to me today.