Monthly Archives: July 2013

Weight

You don’t have to think about something all the time for it to be a burden. It’s also hard to realize how much something weighs on your mind until it goes away or you get closure. Last night I spoke to someone that I haven’t talked to in a long time and you know what, it went pretty well. For someone I never expected to have a real conversation with again, it went as well as it could have.

It wasn’t exactly closure, but dare I say it helped us move into a new chapter in this whole situation.

I won’t go into detail on how it all started, but I will say he absolutely had his reasons not to talk to me. No matter how much I hated the idea of losing a friend, I knew that I needed to just let it happen.

It bothered me for a while that we just weren’t friends anymore and even more so because there was nothing I could do to fix it. But last night we actually spoke and it was more than just “Hey” in passing. I was caught off guard when we talked about music for a second and that, “Yeah, I’ll have one of them get in touch with you this weekend,” as we briefly talked about our old bandmates coming to Oswego for Harborfest and that we should hang out and jam or whatever.

Even though I was really happy that I found the medallion thing hidden at the Raven (a local bar I frequent) that came with a few prizes, the fact that we were speaking lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. Like I said, it wasn’t something that I thought about all the time, but it was definitely something that bothered me enough that it was on my mind.

I know it’s not over and we’re not all of a sudden best friends, but as this point, talking is better than pretending that the other person didn’t exist.

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(The “medallion” which won me $13, a t-shirt, and 2 pints of beer)

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My Calling

Everyone says they want to help people less fortunate than themselves; to make a difference in the world, though saying and doing are two very different things.

As I think about what it is I want to do with my life, I can’t help but return to my childhood.

When I was growing up on Long Island, I spent a lot of time in New York City. My grandma, who lives in Manhattan, would take me to Central Park to climb on the rocks and watch people play baseball, Chelsea Piers to go ice skating, and our favorite barbecue place on 8th avenue, Dallas Barbecue.

I have fond memories of the Big Apple, most of which are dreams of one day living amongst the most eloquent skyline in the world.

Unfortunately, what I remember the most is passing by countless homeless people as we made are way around the City. (Yes, THE City. Your city is just A city.) All I wanted to do was figure out a way to help them and make them better and those thoughts have stuck with me all these years later.

As much as I’m a big believer in making your own way, much like my family did coming to the United States in the early 20th century, I also believe that some people just need help.

That’s what I want to make sure I do: help. Help in any way I can, even if it isn’t directly with the homeless. Help build a community center or start a kid’s camp. Help make whatever community I live in better for those who live there. Help build work ethic and pride. Just help.

I hope I get the opportunity to do that because it would make me feel fulfilled, happy, and driven to succeed.

I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

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Goodbye, Grandma

I don’t want to be cliche and annoying about something like this, but as a journal-type thing, I do want to use this as it was intended. I also want to make sure I get my feelings out somehow, well, in another way that isn’t sobbing.

My grandma passed away early Saturday morning and to be honest, it took me a second to process that. My girlfriend, Leah, woke me up after my mom had sent her a text message asking her to do just that. As I picked up my phone to call her, I saw that my grandma had liked a picture of mine on Instagram. Yeah, she was that cool.

As I unlocked my phone and called, I knew something was wrong, but having no real knowledge of my grandmother’s hospital visit a few days earlier, other than the fact that she was there, I didn’t know what went wrong with who.

When my mom told me that my grandma had passed away, she seemed broken. Naturally, I didn’t want to seem upset because I want to be there for her. I told her to call me back when she knew more and I hung up and crawled back in to bed. I snuggled up to Leah and just laid there for a few minutes.

Then it hit me.

I’ve been lucky enough to have all four grandparents around my whole life and the idea of not having any of them around is (still) unfathomable.

I had just sent her a text 2 days earlier and made plans to visit in New York City in 2 weeks when I go to Long Island for vacation.

I still have voice-mails, Facebook comments and messages, texts, and missed calls from her in my phone.

And as I sit here right now, and if I’m honest with myself, I don’t believe that she’s gone. It doesn’t make any sense. For as much as the media portrays death and that it’s seemingly all around us, on a personal level it seems everyone is very disconnected with the idea of it. When terrible things happen far away, like the Boston Marathon Bombing, you hear it on the news then walk right out of the house and it’s as if nothing happened. To me, it appears that we’re all desensitized to hearing about death and destruction, but once it comes to our front door we have no idea how to deal with it. It shakes us on such a deep level that we’re broken for days or weeks on end.

That’s how I feel.

It was all unexpected. My grandma had been in and out of the hospital for years and always bounced back, and at 74, when I called she still sounded like my grandma. Sure, she was tired sometimes and not feeling too great but hell, that happens to me, too.

I’ve been worried about this kind of call for the last few years and it was something I dreaded nearly every day. My grandparents were all getting old, and with the exception of my grandma (Joan, 74), they are all in the 80s. I knew my time with them was limited and it didn’t help that I was 6 hours away in Oswego; I knew it would be hard to race down to Long Island/New York City if something like this happened; I knew I would be too broken to drive.

As my (second) graduation date approaches, I’ve been thinking about where I want to live. Oswego is great. I have a lot of connections here and I think I have a good shot at getting some kind of job, even if it doesn’t pay that well. But after all of this, a part of me wants to be closer to family, and I want the same for Leah. We both live roughly 6 and a half hours away from our family, which makes trips home difficult to plan and, mostly to me as Leah likes driving (almost) any distance, it’s a pain in the butt.

I’m upset at myself that I needed something terrible to happen to realize something that appears to be quite simple and obvious. It also made me come to grips with the fact that I’m almost too busy to think about what I want out of my life. Sure, my hectic schedule may pay off as a job one day, but I’m not enjoying this ride as much as I should. All I want to do is make enough money to live, play drums and hockey a few times a week, and enjoy things with my girlfriend. I just want to be the things she thought I was and would become.

I’m a simple dude.

Anyway, today is feeling like a hard day. I can’t get the thought of her out of my head. A friend of mine, Tim, told me to hold on to everything I had. Luckily, I’m one of those people who keeps your birthday cards for no less than 5 years, so I have plenty lying around my mom’s house. I also  have voicemails from her, one of which is her singing happy birthday to me this past November.

I loved her more than I could put into words. She was good with words, always beat me at scrabble.

She was the one who made me love New York City, embarrassed me in stores by singing out loud, and brought me to the lake house in New Jersey.

I love  and miss you, grandma.

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Things I miss: Burning Bridge Band

As I sit here at my computer, my kick-drum, which I cannot fit in any normal closet, sits next to me unplayed. I haven’t played drums for a while now and it kills me. I was in a band in Syracuse for a while, The Avondales, and had a lot of fun playing music with new people. It was cool being brought into a band that had been around for a while and was even cooler that the guys accepted me right away as one of their own. Even if I didn’t love the music we were playing immediately  I still had a great time and enjoyed playing gigs in front of people who enjoyed what we were doing. The music grew on me after about 6 months or so. Like most bands, we stopped playing as often as we wanted to due to some internal stuff and because becoming an adult means less time to practice and play out.

Before that, I was in a band called Burning Bridge Street. We came together in the fall of 2010 at SUNY Oswego. Eric, Corey, and I  always talked about starting a band or something, but never really got around to doing it. In the mean time, through a friend of ours, Jay, we met Ian and Myrar (Bryan), which was during our sophomore year. We would hang out and drink in their dorm room on weekends and talk about music and shoot the shit. At the beginning of sophomore year, the three of us, Eric, Corey, and I, started playing random covers in the basement of a residence hall that Eric lived in at the time. For whatever reason the hall director, who originally said it was ok for us to leave our gear in there, decided it wasn’t. I can’t remember the exact conversation that took place, but we were pretty bummed. We brainstormed where we would be able to play, and again I can’t remember exactly, but somehow we got to talking with Ian and Myrar and the next thing I remember is asking their housemates one day, and moving our gear in soon afterwards.

The band really became a “band” when I was on some committee that was having an event at SUNY Oswego and I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to start playing covers and playing together. So I said, “I can get us music,” even though we didn’t have a name yet, which was it’s own process, and one of the most annoying parts of being in a band. We finally decided on Burning Bridge Street, and, if I remember correctly, it was because we were sick of not having a name so someone just chose it. After a few weeks, we learned the event was going to be cancelled. At first it was a bummer, but in reality it was just a good excuse to start writing our own music, which we began to do. By the winter of that year, because Myrar needed a band for his audio production class, we recorded a 5 song EP in the basement of the music building on campus, and is the second most annoying part of being in a band.

We kept writing and throwing parties at Ian and Myrar’s house so we could play in front of our friends. It was a lot of fun. I think this is one of the first of these party-show things and the first and only time I sang (badly) in front of other people on purpose. (Dec. 2010)

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This is me doing my best drummer impression at the same”show.”

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So, we kept writing and would play gigs every now and again throughout the spring of 2011 and eventually, late in the semester, we recorded an 8 song EP. It came out pretty good, it wasn’t the best, but we were proud of it. Because everyone goes home for summer, we ended up not doing much of anything in the summer of 2011, well, besides ripping our EP apart via text message and google docs comments. Here’s a picture of us right beforewhat I think is the last show Myrar played with us. It was a battle of the bands at SUNY Oswego, that we didn’t win.

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In the fall of 2011, the band moved in together: Eric, Corey, Ian, and I.

(Burning Bridge House, August 2011)

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Myrar had graduated the semester before and moved back to Buffalo. We started playing a little bit, but needed to add a new bassist if we wanted to do anything serious, and is the third worst part of being in a band. Really glad we spread these things out.

Anyway, after deliberating for what seemed like forever, we decided on Andrew. He was into more hardcore stuff, but fit in nicely with our amalgamation of musical backgrounds. We taught him songs, wrote new ones, and before we knew it we were playing our first gig with Andrew really early in the fall of 2011.

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The songs we wrote were some of the best songs I’ve been a part of. It was amazing we could ever decide how it would be written, but when we did it was something else. The shows were empty most of the time, but every now and again we would get a good crowd and it was amazing to be a part of. Here’s a picture of my kit with a show poster from November 2011.

(Mayflower, The Surrogates, Burning Bridge Street)

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We wound up playing a bunch of shows at The Raven, some of which were pretty packed out. It still amazes me how many people showed up to watch us play when they could have just came over and watched us practice for free. Here’s one of the shows we played at The Raven. I think this was with Dreams of Gin (Rochester) and some other bands.

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We recorded some songs, the only one that was finished is embedded below, and played out here and there during the spring of 2012. We knew that some of us would be graduating, meaning some of us would be leaving Oswego and others would be sticking around. We wanted to keep playing in this band, but it looked like it would end. It may have been one of the hardest things about finishing my undergraduate degree. The worst part of the whole thing was, we never got to play our one last show. We played in Watertown at the Dungeon in April of 2012 and thought we would get one more shot at playing to say our goodbyes to the band. Unfortunately, we played the show not really knowing it was the end. It was an amazing time and we played really well. I think we surprised a lot of the people and bands there with how we played and wrote our music. Here’s a picture that was taken at some point of us in Watertown behind the stage followed by one of us playing.

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So that was it. We were done. We all still talk, mostly about how much we miss playing and all the regrets we have, but hey, that’s music. This was one of my favorite memories of college and these guys are all amazing musicians that I miss playing with. I hope I get to be in a band again that is half as talented as this. I loved playing these songs and best of all, I still love listening to our hard work. Below is a link that will play what is arguably our best song and probably the band’s favorite song. If anyone reads this stupid blog, comment below and let us know what you think. Even though we don’t play together anymore, this band still means a lot to us.

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My first museum exhibit panel

I didn’t get paid to do it. I didn’t even receive academic credit. I did it because I love the idea of education outside of the classroom. This was a subject I was largely unfamiliar with, but was a lot of fun to put together from the research involved, to the writing, even the editing. Below I am posting the final copy of what he panel will have on it as far as my contributions. I haven’t yet heard when the panel will be created, though from what I understand it will take a while for the graphic designer to get some ideas together. In the mean time, I’m happy and proud of what I did and hope that this helps me in the future.

 

America is Challenged in the 1930’s

In the 1930s, a combination of environmental and man-made problems caused the United States to nearly spiral out of control. As the stock market crash of 1929 produced a financial meltdown, over-farming started to take its toll on the land and, along with population growth and drought, created what is known as the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains.

 By 1918, American troops were engaged in battle in World War I. As one of the few foods the United States could successfully ship to troops across the Atlantic Ocean, the government encouraged farmers to grow wheat under the slogan, “Wheat can win the war.”

 The United States Food Administration created “Wheat-less Wednesdays” to keep shipments flowing to Europe. The price of wheat rose and farmers plowed 11 million acres of virgin grasslands across the mid-west, twice the size of NJ. This time period is often referred to as the Great Plow Up.

 After World War I, Americans continued to move west. As the 1920s wore on, problems arose for farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Southeast Colorado.

 Plowing removed large stretches of the previously undisturbed native grasses and, without grass, the soil became dry and exposed and was picked up by the wind, which created dust storms.

Along with over-farming, four distinct periods of increased drought: 1930–31, 1934, 1936, and 1939–40, made the land unable to recover. 

 By late 1935, an estimated 850 million tons of topsoil had blown away in dust storms. By 1940, close to 2.5 million people left the affected states and headed further west towards places like California. Though from various states, these travelers were collectively known as “Okies” after Oklahoma.

 Dust storms caused health issues for many people. Respiratory and eye infections were common and many wore masks made of gauze and cheesecloth to protect themselves. Windows and doors were sealed in order to keep dust out of homes. The most famous dust storm occurred on April 14th, 1935, known as “Black Sunday.” Shortly after, the term “Dust Bowl” would be used for the first time in a newspaper article.

 By the mid-1930s, the U.S. government was actively involved in trying to reverse and prevent these conditions. In April 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Soil and Conservation Act, giving farmers money to plant native grasses and vegetation to stop erosion.

 People learned to deal with dust storms in different ways. Jokes and story-telling helped take people’s mind away from their harsh surroundings and resilience and ingenuity were necessary survival skills.

 Along with the environmental disaster, an economic disaster was also underway. The 1929 stock market crash caused many Americans to lose their jobs. The price of goods plummeted and some farmers had little choice but to abandon their land.

 As unemployment rose from 3% in 1929 to 25% by 1933, President Roosevelt began creating social programs called the New Deal. Roosevelt’s vision started with the employment of artists. Artists promoted the program’s ideals and gained support. They also played an important role in documenting the effects of the Dust Bowl.

In 1936, funded by the U.S. Resettlement Administration, Pare Lorentz, produced a film on the Dust Bowl entitled, The Plow That Broke the Plains. The film was intended to educate the public on the need to reform farming practices and the delicacy of the land.   

 Meanwhile, still photographers, sponsored by the U.S. Farm Security Administration (FSA), traveled to the heart of the Dust Bowl and beyond, including Oswego County, documenting local citizens, locations and events during the period.

Without jobs, many Americans couldn’t afford to feed their families. Until 1932, local charities, mainly churches, were responsible for provisional food and financial assistance.

With the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation (FSRC) in October, 1933, the government was able to purchase, store, and process surplus agricultural products to relieve the hardship and suffering caused by unemployment.

To receive surplus food, many individuals and families stood in line at food banks, which were sometimes miles away. In cities like Baltimore, Maryland, people were given a weekly allotment of 80¢ worth of products. Bread, sugar, and milk (when it was available) were distributed while supplies lasted.

In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created. The CCC employed youths, between the ages of 18-24, to perform conservation work such as planting trees, digging new irrigation ditches, etc. Still valued today, the drought in the Great Plains gave the United States government a new perspective on conservation.

In the late 1930’s, weather patterns changed and brought rain to drought-affected areas. The U.S. economy finally began to recover in late 1941 as the country entered into World War II. 

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