Thursday, March 23, 2017

"Custodian Chronicles Volume 1..." by Tim Will Hunting (Book Review)

Custodian Chronicles Volume 1:

An Inside Look at the American Public School System as Seen Through the Eyes of Its Most Underrated Player: The Janitor (and Other Musings) 

...A Book Review...

So yes that is a book title.  Yes it is long winded.  Yes I am also long winded.  I will try my best not to be.  If you want the long and short of it (which, funny enough always means "the short") if you want to read something original, eye-opening and knee slapping then you should definitely 

My friend and fellow Long Islander Tim Almeida, front-man of the socially conscious live-band alternative rock/hip-hop group The Native Alien Tribe aka Tim Will Hunting (who rapped with me for Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne episode 4) and of course hard-working Custodian, self-published his debut book based on his CUSTODIAN CHRONICLES BLOG  and PODCAST which I had the pleasure of reading recently. Yes, the title is overly long but the book is actually a manageable size collection of about 180 pages. Should you judge a book by its cover, yes that is a mop with dreadlocks.  The book is an amalgam of musings (as the overlong title puts it) and being that it is derived from a blog and riffing on an eponymous podcast, it is a chimera of forms. The content is comprised of prose chapters, lists, diagrams, poems, intermittent emboldened lyrical micro-pages like poetic tweets and even hilarious copies of emails to his fellow staff to illustrate his points or accompany his anecdotes and rants. 

Tim comes across as a mix of Zen Buddhist, eco-warrior, liberal, skeptic, realist, comedian and poet. Despite the seriousness of the topics discussed within; politics, the ecosystem, revamping the education system, mortality, the pharmaceutical industry and more, the book is enjoyably and liberally flavored with humor. There are certainly themes and focus within each chapter but the book is written with a conversational stream of consciousness style.  In his irreverent and cynical,  yet optimistic, loving strain of thinking reminds me of a creative blood relative of Kurt Vonnegut and/or George Carlin. Like both of these brilliant and celebrated men, his biting, crass satire and acerbic analysis comes from a place of love and hope. 
As Tim says on page 120:
 "I'm not bitter, I'm just passionate, LEARN THE DIFFERENCE" 

 Tim is witty and poignant and the rough edges of the every-man make him no less insightful.  Tim isn't self aggrandizing or on a high horse as may be typical in books addressing such heavy issues as Custodian Chronicles. More often than not, Tim is self-effacing and readily admits to being devoid of real answers or having the authority to dictate these changes.  The paradox here is that it seems to me that Tim's unqualified nature in regards to these ecological, social, educational, and governmental critiques that he is so passionate about, is exactly what makes him an appropriately humble and divorced perspective to comment on them.  Perhaps not exactly a book to read to your kids, but one to read and consider your kids throughout, as it often reminds us of how if we don't tenderly and thoughtfully shape our children and our world, then the materialistic, destructive world will happily manipulate our children and their perceptions further.  Overall this book feels as though it is beating its head against a wall wishing we had no walls at all so we could get to communicating genuinely as human beings again. 

 Although being called Custodian Chronicles the book isn't entirely concerned with academia.  Sometimes the school environment is just a consistent backdrop whose anecdotes and happenings become prompts for ranting/venting essays . The book's scatterbrained stream of consciousness style is rife with detours and asides that are occasionally beguiling but overall Tim's unpretentious voice and style lends itself to a seemingly entirely sincere narrative experience and made me feel as though I was there with him along the mental journey from the catalyzing of the topics and their subsequent winding riffs and free-associative jumps.  Some of Tim's concerns can be overtly explored or beaten to death and it feels a little as though he is preaching to the choir, but that is a matter of subjective perspective.  I'm sure I mention this because I already agree with many of these pertinent points he is making and have dabbled in the realm of knowledge and information that he concerns himself with.  That being said, even when I found myself reading about issues that I cared about, I was often learning something new because Tim isn't just the pothead lefty liberal rambling at the party, he is a free-spirited and educated realist who is passionate and well researched about the conversations he is interested in having and the trends in the world he wants to change.  It would seem to me that Tim elaborates exhaustively on ideas because he has seen firsthand how many people these obvious and revolutionary ideas are foreign to and therefore how important it is to beat people over the head with these concepts to emphasize their poignancy and elicit change. I thoroughly enjoyed this book which was digestible and rewarding, funny, thought provoking and original in its voice and presentation.  

Now that you've heard "the long of it".... 

If you're around Saturday, March 25th I will be accompanying this man for the release event at Rockville Center's The Turn Of The Corkscrew.  The event will feature comedy, readings from the book, music, a poetic performance by yours truly, a live recording of The Custodian Chronicles and of course, books and wine!
Here is the flyer:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"Emotional Baggage Bard Tour" 2/8-2/12/17 Into The Storm and Out Of The Tour (Syracuse, Saratoga Springs and Rochester NY)

"Emotional Baggage Bard Tour" 2/8-2/12/17 
Into the Heart of the Storm and Out of the Tour in One Piece
(Syracuse,  Saratoga Springs and Rochester NY)

Greetings my fellow adventurers!  When we last met I'd passed out at my grandmother's house on February 8th after a very successful performance experience in New York City's "Parkside Lounge".
I woke up at my Grandmother's house to an unrealistically beautiful day with summer weather in the 60s.  We had a huge breakfast together, caught one another up on our personal goings on and what was happening that we knew of throughout the branches of family happenings.  After breakfast, I worked out in my late Grandfather's basement gym.

Reflecting on a friend, a patriarch, a hero
My Poppy, as all his grandchildren knew him, Tony "Sonny" Pandolfo, is one of the staples of what is considered the golden age of bodybuilding.  He was a disciplined, walking legend of a man whose physique in his sixth decade would inspire embarrassment from most young people who consider themselves in-shape!  There are well over 200 trophies (yes, I've counted) strewn throughout the house that adorn the rooms with a gilded sense of victory and history all at once reminding visitors of the decades of work and dedication.  Despite all of this, he was extremely humble and didn't show off  and wasn't obnoxious about any of his skills or accolades. He was a deeply knowledgeable nutritionist and trainer, a mover, a gregarious and wonderful storyteller a family man and a who was widely respected and loved.  He was one of my dearest friends and remains an idol and an inspiration to me in his immense accomplishments and his daily inviting sense of befriending people and a curious awe about the many people and places he would encounter in his journeys.  It was beautiful and somehow full circle in a sense to take advantage of the surreal opportunity to exercise in the same gym area where he would every day, when I was just a few years old and I would run down to him and hang on the pulley systems and he'd lift me and make me a part of his regiment.
When he passed at age 70, just a few days after our shared birthday of a heart attack, it was devastating to me and the first serious and meaningful loss. I wrote the song "Pennsylvanian Patriarch" as a reflection of his life and death and my attempt to learn from both.
His ambitious work ethic, his love of people and life and his unparalleled discipline, which I have never seen a replica of since, are all things that I try to call up out of myself, and I believe that in my best moments I am echoing him and his remarkable aspects.

Northward to Syracuse
After we spent some more time together I walked with my Grandma to her job in the early afternoon at the local school, I headed on the road with the windows down, imbibing breeze and sunlight on the way to Syracuse to return to perform at one of the last open mics at that particular Funk N Waffles.  As usual, I listened to a handful of podcasts I've gotten much value from...

Minamilists: "#asktheminmalists"
Ezra Klein Show "Reasons You Should Run For Office"
Minimalist Podcast: "Basics" 
(big takeaway "Small decisions should reflect long term values")
Hilarious World Of Depression with Jen Kirkman
(emphasizing the importance of openly seeking help
and the difference between truly good help/services and otherwise)
Minimalists: "Letgo"
538 Podcast "GOP Under Trump"

The Florentine
James Brownie
When I arrived in Syracuse, I was lucky to find a parking spot pretty quickly in the down town of the busy college town and got in right to the open mic.  Luckily my good friend and frequent collaborator Evan "Attaboy" Bujold who has been hosting the event for years had me down on the list because I was running late.  Now clearly this flamboyantly decorated artsy eatery is known for two things... a space to experience great jams and... yup, you guessed it...amazing waffles.  My dear friend and yet another frequent collaborator, Dani Blum was jealous that I was there and since the only thing I can seem to decide on is that I can't decide anything, I let her choose my dishes for me so she could live vicariously through my choices. Through this alleviation of responsibility from my mercurial mind, I went with two halves: the Florentine (spinach and feta-stuffed buttermilk with smoked salmon and sour cream topping) and the James Brownie  (brownie waffle with two scoops of java chip flavored ice cream with whipped
cream and chocolate syrup.) It was as gluttonous as it was glorious!

The night was started off with an astonishing performance that was never topped in beauty, skill or uniqueness when an Iranian recorder player used three harmonizing recorders simultaneously, arresting the packed out room and guiding our dropped jaws through his short composition.  The reaction was room-shaking in when the piece ended.  When he smiled shyly in response to our response and asked if we would like to hear another song, the entire room erupted in almost genuflecting allowance.  Instead of using the arrangement he just won the crowd over, instead more curiously, he pulled out a jaw harp and launched into a high energy piece that was part jaw-harp, part beatboxing and hyping himself up with breathy ambient sounds and the most expert use of the bizarre instrument I'd ever encountered!  The rest of the night was primarily dominated by dozens of comedians who ranged from occasionally hilarious to abysmal, flanked with various talented musical individuals from acoustic to full band to rappers and so on.  My performance prompted some new friendships and passing music, stickers and flyers into some generous hands and after the event, I went with Evan and his Funk coworkers for drinks at the "Beer Belly Deli" and got to know some friends.  Evan showed me to his new apartment above the other Funk N Waffles location.  The apartment was an office being cleaned up, cleared out and renovated into a shared living and working space, it was musty and some far off empty room emanated the subtle choking smog of perpetually smoked pot like the bedroom door should have read "Mystery Machine".  Meteorologists promised heavy snow back home in Long Island despite that the day was summer, tomorrow was to be aggressively proud Winter with a capital W.  The environment is fine, the conservatives keep reassuring themselves.  But hell, I kept reassuring myself that I wouldn't wake up too affected by the compromised breathing environment as I fell asleep on a futon with my sleeping bag as a ventilating mask.

Thursday 2/9 The Snowy Jaunt to Albany Saratoga Springs

Waking up in Syracuse with a stuffy nose and a nasal drip wasn't exactly a surprise, but that didn't make it any more welcome.  The good news was (depending on your ecological outlook and the overarching terrifying state of Earth's health that is), despite all of the Long Islanders back home posting photos of their snow-covered locales, when I looked out the window, remarkably, the streets were decorated in an inconvenient dusting at worst.  This boded well for my travels and less so for the weird state of the planet, central New York getting better weather than Long Island, was some Twilight Zone scripting if I've ever heard of it.  Believe me, especially in that relatively blizzard-free moment, I love Twilight Zone.  We had an early departure time set because of where I was parked so after Evan and I chatted a while and parted ways I cleaned my car off amid the shouts of what appeared to be homeless men and set out to visit my cousin Erica and perform in Albany at Hudson River Coffeehouse yet again. So began another drive at around 9, but got wind of the meteorologist's supposition that Albany and the south-easterly ilk would be getting snow for another 6 hours.  It seemed I wasn't in the clear yet, or that I was most certainly unwisely ejecting myself from the clear and into the flurried fray.  Stubborn and optimistic, I drove on and on and on.  In the meantime I listened to the many following podcasts, amid this is the parenthetical  vignette I will share with you shortly...
Don't Keep Your Day Job: Wayne Federman
Patreon Podcast interview with John Mierau
Inside The Times: Good, Bad and Mad with Andrew Rosenthal
538 Podcast: Trump Vs. Courts
Song Exploder: Dropkick Murphys
Song Exploder: Grimes
Song Exploder: Weezer

An afternoon Dinette Vignette (Waiting out the storm in Amsterdam, NY)

While heading south and nearing lunch-time with an empty gas tank and gastrointestinal system contrasting the increasing fullness of the precipitous gradual darkening gradation of the sky, I opted to take an exit ramp to the nearest gas station.  This turned out to be Amsterdam, NY a place I'd never been, despite once stopping over in Amsterdam on the way to Italy.  From what I could tell of the Amsterdam airport, these places were not similar at all.  Across the lot of the gas station was a lengthy hotel and a small diner called "Star's Cafe" which was guarded by a few pick-up trucks, a few plows and snow-buried cars dedicated to their spaces.  Considering I needed to eat and kill some time to wait out the storm, I grabbed my copy of The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle and headed into the small dinette.  I found myself reading less and writing more after I took my seat at the small counter inhabited by trucker regulars who shared travel stories over coffee and the lunch special "macaroni and cheeseburger".  I ate an omelet and sat between flannel-garbed men who read papers, gossiped and updated about the road while a young mother (earlier thirties at an oldest approximation) and her teen daughter, the eponymous "Star" ran the coffee.  Mom punctuated every interaction with Honey and sweetie.  The truckers asked "How many" instead of "how much" when inquiring about what they owed for filling their stomachs in this small-town oasis for these crass but kind petrol-cologne career nomads.  A mentally challenged man, Roger tended to the table (counter) settings and made garbled, accented conversation that was nearly indecipherable.  Roger had very few teeth and a custom embroidered belt with his name, which rather than giving him authority seemed to nullify the dubiousness of his handicap.  Star and Mom traded playful insults while preparing food and stocking the refrigerator and food.  The coffee mugs were bottomless and the omelet was a default diner omelet.  I remained tacit and enjoyed the banter among the men busting each other's balls like siblings at the dinner table and once I felt I'd over-stayed my welcome, about an hour or two later, I shoved off with snow to clean on my car and a belly too full of greasy warm food.  This place was the epitome of the scene I describe in the third verse of my song "Zoom In (There's Life Here)".  A charming little place and if you ever need to stop and take a break and grab some food in a sincere environment, Star's Cafe is a place I'd recommend for some warmth and grub.

I hadn't had as much opportunity to lounge, read and write as I'd hoped to in the Star Cafe because it wasn't exactly a cafe, but I felt benefited all the same.  I headed to Albany excited to perform again at the Hudson River Coffeehouse despite my cousin's warnings.  I pulled into Albany some hours later, after getting texts from my cousin warning me of the terrible weather and that she wasn't comfortable coming out and that there was a parking ban.  Pulling into Albany I was nearly snow-blind and there were such huge and frequent embankments of snow on the roads and in parking lots that I was totally unable to park anywhere near the cafe or seemingly anywhere at all.  The parking ban was almost a moot point anyway as there were no opportunities to do so in the first place.  I drove aimlessly and couldn't get a hold of the venue.  My frustration grew as I drove for hours listlessly with a headache and a persistent nasal drip, but I was determined to do something and remain productive.  I told my cousin that we'd have to catch up another time and I did a google search for nearby open mics on , an open mic resource that a comedian/storyteller whom I met while on tour in Boston in 2012 gave me.  I came up with an event at the Circus Cafe that night 40 minutes north in the unfamiliar town of Saratoga Springs.

Saratoga Springs: where spontaneity and Coincidence created opportunity

It was a round 630 when I arrived in Saratoga Springs, a huge and beautiful town.  It seemed there were countless intersecting main streets featuring boutiques, artisan shops, bars and venues of all sorts.  It was dark, windy and freezing when I parked but I was happy and almost comically mystified by the miraculous ease of parking my car.  I brought all my items with a sniffling (and a now rubbed-raw-red) nose into what I expected to be a cafe.  Instead, Circus Cafe was in fact a flamboyantly decorated and deceptively large bar and restaurant.  It turned out I was two hours early to the open mic and so I treated myself to the most incredible clam/corn chowder I've eaten in my life and a plate of wings in some weird hope to quell the issues with my sinuses and agitating feeling of sickness.  It was to no avail but my taste buds were delighted.  I finished reading The Lost World (which is heavily recommended.  Conan Doyle is too brilliant and thrilling.)  while I waited and started reading my copy of "Master Of The World" by Jules Verne that I picked up in Symposium Books in Providence. When the host of the open mic, Nate Solomon finally did show up, he was the nicest guy who was so excited about his local Saratoga scene, he gave me a list of other open mics to check out whenever I was around and couldn't promote or sing the praises of his local musicians and his pride at supporting them.  He signed me up, seemed genuinely interested in my work and later picked up some music from me and wished me well.  Here are the other Saratoga springs open mics Nate suggested if you are ever in the area:
Mondays at Barrel HouseTuesdays at Gaffney's and of course Thursdays at Circus Cafe

As promised by the enthusiastic Nate, the venue rapidly filled up with musicians and singers of all types.  I nursed my sinuses an congestion with a couple of incredible hot toddy's.  Then a shocking coincidence occurred.  Despite never having been in Saratoga Springs before and choosing the venue at random, it turned out that the co-host was a friend Karl Bertrand I met online two years ago when trying to book some central New York shows!  We caught up a bit as he set up the music and got ready to jam, he's an incredible musician and to add to the remarkable serendipity, he doesn't normally host the open mic so tonight was a fluke AND he offered that I stay with him that night.  He referenced it as paying back his karma for all the times people hosted his band while he was on the road.  Great guy, really laid back and generous!  The night was excellent, full of all sorts of instrumentalists intermingling their performances. Met a kind girl who went by "Galaxy Babs", a multi-instrumetalist and lyricist who is the self described heartbeat of Saratoga Springs. Also, a hand-hug master.
My performance got great responses and some people picked up my music and supported me which was a great feeling, this one guy Blaze suggested that I come back in the Summer, as the population multiplies exponentially like a perpetual festival!  The music went on well into the morning and when nearly 3am rolled around and the couples were pairing off I was incredibly grateful for the generosity of Karl to invite me to a place to stay as it was awfully freezing and sleeping in my car would not have been great.  Leaving the venue and walking to my car in a town that was essentially silent, save for the banshee of the wind,  I was feeling cold, lonesome and exhausted after such a weird long day and seeing everyone pairing off, but there were opportunities and great people to be thankful to, so I tried to focus on them even as I sang and wrote the following lyrics before I passed out in the beautiful accomodations of the Bertrand's home.

"There are few times more lonely and/or destitute
than when it's 2am and I'm never getting texts from you
and it's two degrees in Saratoga springs, they've all paired off and left
when I hear a couple moaning from a window overhead
There are few times more lonely and/or destitute
than when it's 2am and I'm never getting texts from you
and it's two degrees, in Saratoga Springs, I think of things you've said
now are you thinking of me or are you fucking him instead?
She said,
There are few times more lonely and or destitute,
than when it's two PM and I'm getting loving texts from you
depressed to new degrees, I haven't left my sheets, there's no spring in my step,
I moan beneath a window while death keeps repeating in my head..."

Friday 2/10 The Road to Rochester with a familiar Detour

I woke up groggy but well rested with my nose and throat feeling no better, Karl was kind enough to make me coffee and breakfast while we exchanged travel stories and advice.  Great guy whom I wish to get to know more and see more of his performances.  As a minor attempt at a thank you, I drove him to work and drove up north to head to Rochester to visit the Beshures.  At this point, Rob and Mike's sister Claire was going to school in our Alma Mater, SUNY  Oswego and I had planned to stop there anyway to visit my favorite place in the whole wide world, Coffee Connection, so I agreed to surprise the Beshures family by bringing Claire back with me!  On the way up I listened to the Marc Maron podcast with Louis C.K. which was really motivating and funny, Both of those guys are creative comedy giants. Here are link to Part 1 and Part 2 to listen to a compelling and funny interview of two old friends both reconciling their differences and getting into the mind of one of the most creative and hardworking geniuses in comedy since George Carlin.  When I picked up Claire, a bright girl with a smile ready and a refreshing sense of adventure, I proudly embarked on showing her the waterfront glories of Coffee Connection, which provided as delicious and comfortable a backdrop as expected.  Buzzbombs, lattes and cookies filled us up and then we drove to Rochester.  I got to spend time with the calm and hilarious transparent Beshures family.  They're teachers who regaled us with funny family stories and when Rob arrived with his girlfriend Kate we were full of laughs and information.  When I went to sleep, I still felt feverish and was shivering as I passed out but it was good to be in a good home again.
Coffee Connection's cozy second floor

2/11 & 2/12 House Party Fun in Rochester and Flight From a Blizzard

I woke up feeling better and started the day enjoying reading "Master Of The World".  Claire made us all eggs and her, Mrs. Beshures and I played Iota for the first time which was a really fun game (Definitely get it).  We ended up walking into town to the used book store "Yesterdays Muses" which didn't have what I was looking for (Verne's "Robur The Conquerer", to which Master Of The World is the sequel) but it was a marvelous place to explore full of old signed tomes, rare and used editions of books.  We spent probably an hour in there and then wandered about window shopping in some second hand stores before treating ourselves to frozen yogurt on a cold day!  Rob and I are collaborating on a song for my next album "Rapologues" and in fact it is the final song of the entire project that needed the music fully fleshed out.  He worked tirelessly on the music and was even composing during the days that I was there.  The piece is very beautiful and unique and I'm so grateful that we had his help.  When I was last in Rochester in the beginning of December we spoke about collaborating on it and he had completely ensconced himself in the days and weeks since that conversation to work on the song "Elijah Watson's Wooden Leg".
We had a bunch of friends over that night for a party, the Beshures made delicious baked chicken and vegetables.  Rob had a handful of friends come over including Miles, Mike Reynolds and a handful of others.  I performed a handful of songs to the group but mostly we were all getting along so well that it felt silly and too formal to start asking people to stop and solely pay attention to me.  We played kings and had lots of laughs and fun well into the morning.  Mike Reynolds brought poems in envelopes written specially for many of us, which was a beautiful, kind and rare gesture.  He wrote the following poem for and about me:

reservoir of strength
perfect in every way
never fail to deliver
one marvels to say
listen to my words:
"friend you are loved"

Mike keeps contact on a daily basis and writes poems constantly and is always willing to shared them.  In this way he is brave and prolific and an example of someone who purely loves the joy of creating and giving the creations unabashedly to others to evaluate and explore.  This ownership and embodiment of being a creator is really inspiring for someone like me who is much more shy about my work.  The night was a ton of laughs and good vibes and I passed out EXHAUSTED by the time I went to bed.  The next day we all had breakfast together and I had to take Claire back to Oswego.  I wasn't sure whether or not I should continue the tour in an improvisational matter.  The Beshures warned me that all of central New York had a huge storm impending and I needed to get out of there or get stuck several days.  My opportunity to stay with some friends in Oneonta that day got crushed because they were going to be so heavily snowed in.   I knew that there were a few events I could perform and random open mics I'd thought of going to but it became clear that my best bet was to take that long journey home and using the remaining week to be productive, catch up on writing work, reading, new video content, getting in the studio and more, so that is exactly what I did!

Overall this trip was a really fun one that took me over 1,000 miles in 12 days, where I met so many great people, new friends and saw old ones, exercised new material and played in new places.
The road is the place for me unquestioningly and the more I travel it seems the better I feel and the more comfortable I feel with my choices for a creative life and my interactions with people seem more focused, real and pure as I'm entirely embodying the life and love of creation that I chose!

Hope to see you on the road soon!
thank you as always for reading
and thank you everyone who supported me on this trip, whether a new friend, old friend or family, it means AND IS the world to me!
-Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo