Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympic Spirit is Star Trek Spirit:

With the Olympics in full swing, I pulled this old post (below) out the archives. Had "twerking" been in use back in 2009, that word would have probably been on-point as well. That said, nothing particularly great; but keeps the wheel turning.

Olympic Spirit is Star Trek Spirit (originally posted at Stays Put May 31, 2009)

My friend Leila’s a dancer. She used to cage-dance at Avalon back when it was called the Limelight, and she's been in a few hip-hop videos and award shows. Background dancing and whatnot.

Like everyone I’ve met who’s life and work are truly integrated, Leila is pretty-much one thing all the time. In her case--a dancer. Even during the most mundane of conversations she sort of sways rhythmically on her feet; and oftentimes without any cue, her eyes will gently roll-up into the back of her head as she swoons Stevie Wonder-style to a melody only she can hear. She’s a trippy chick.

Leila and I run in different circles, and now that our mutual friend Jake is gone, I never really see her at all. Except on accident, which is how I bumped into her yesterday.

I was on the 6 train heading down toward Union Square, writing in my notebook for what will now have to be a later blog post when a hand suddenly slapped my legal-pad. I jumped out my seat prepared for a fight, only to find Leila already dancing on the balls of her feet with her hands in front of her like a boxer.

“C’mon Lodo you fuckin’ egghead--you wanna fight?” she asked.

“Leila. Jesus.”

“What ya doin’ there smart guy?”

“I was just writing something for my blog.”

Writing?” she said with the condescension of someone who’s pure physicality and never read a book in her life.

“Yeah, you know. The written word. The thing that separates us from the animals. Bedrock of society. ”

“Um hmm,” she said, still bouncing on her toes and flailing her arms around. “Well, what’re you writing about?”

“Nothing you’d care about. The Olympics.”

“How do you know I don’t care about Olympics?” she asked, stringing together a combination of benign punches to my bicep, “What about the Olympics?”

“..Welll,..just about the whole idea of the Olympics. You know, the Olympic spirit and all that.”

“No shit,” she responded as she approached the sliding subway doors to get out at her stop. “That’s cool, I like the Olympics.”

“You do?” 

“Sure man,” she said as she stepped backward out the car and on to the platform, “there’s dancing, and tight outfits, and crazy fashion, and big Jamaican guys, know the whole planet coming together to get their freak-on. I love that stuff. It’s like Star Trek.”

“Star Trek?” I asked as I struggled to maintain eye-contact amid the boarding passengers that came between us, “What does that mean?”

“I mean its like Star Trek,” she said as doors prepared to close. “Olympic spirit is like Star Trek spirit. Put that in your moron blog!” she said as the doors proceeded to close.

And then, before the train could pull away, she ran toward my window, turned 'round Misty May-Treanor style, bent over, and pulled down her spandex hip-huggers to reveal the crack of her ass and one of those Star Trek emblems tattooed on the small of her back.

I went back to my seat, stared at what I'd written thus far, and then wrote: Olympic spirit is Star Trek spirit

Not sure its great writing, but it rings true. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What If War IS the Answer?

Marvin Gaye famously sang that war’s not the answer and I certainly grew up believing that. I still do. Or at least, want to.
But these days I can’t help but wonder.
In the absence of leading a nation through a war or natural disaster, how does a leader gain the trust and respect of their people? A bully like Trump could never get away with saying the things he says to someone like Ike or JFK. These were proven leaders that didn’t have to state their bona fides. They were known by all both here and abroad. But when a business leader runs against a life-long lawyer, or “community activist,” or career politician, Americans tend to side with business. For better or worse, that’s why USA’s here--to make business. We don’t respect politicians or government workers. So a guy like Trump can have the worst political week of almost any Presidential candidate ever and still be (at least numerically) in the race. Cause he’s a “captain” of…something.
When a nation like ours or Britain is in-between that next economic “big thing,” the economy stagnates. Wages stay locked, we don’t feel that sense of progression in our lives, and our purpose as a country gets called into question. Then we can start to turn on each other. In fact, we usually do.
Exacerbating this is social media, the internet, TV, and this year--an election. The 24 hour news cycle needs constant content. Untalented Facebook posters need something to rant against, lest they actually come up with an original idea on their own; or even worse--go out and actually do something. So, much like a self-absorbed teenager who spends all day taking selfies and inspecting their face for acne, we’re constantly surrounded with ourselves. Inspecting ourselves for faults, exposing them, attempting to assign blame to certain groups or schools of thought. We’re beating ourselves and our leaders up 24/7 until respect is impossible. Turning on each other as our energies fail to find an outlet or release, and simply reverberate back on us, creating even more frustration.
This is nothing new. Its been a problem that world leaders have had to deal with since before the Romans. And the answer to the problem--assuming that next “big thing” isn’t coming to lift our boats and distract our feeble attentions, has always been war. War mobilizes the populace in common cause. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian--suddenly were all on the same team. All camouflage green. Leaders rise to the top and earn our respect; and even more important, leaders gain respect for the populace. They see and recognize their demonstrated sacrifice; and thus social programs and infrastructure spending don’t feel like welfare programs. 
The way the world is governed now…its just an experiment. Uncharted territory. Can nations really be asked to simply stay within their demarcated lines on a map? Never try to expand their borders or project influence? Perhaps in a world where economies are growing and raising the standard of living; but in a stagnant world like we have today? What are we doing as a nation? What are we going to write songs about or make art about? Just sitting around looking at each other? Hate to say it, but the songs have pretty much all been written.  The stories just keep going round and round. X-Men 3. Captain America IV. Batman…whatever. 
Its frustrating not to improve. Or grow. For a person and for a nation. That frustration can turn inward. Lead to addictions, or odd behaviors, or bad, emotional decisions. You need to find something outside of yourself to latch on to and throw your energies into. For individuals that used to be career or family. But jobs don’t pay anymore and that kid of yours is just an expensive, 18 year pet. You a farmer who needs the cows milked? A cattle rancher who needs the horses shoed? What exactly is that kid of yours going to do with themselves again? And what’s that kid going to be able to do that a robot 10 years from now wont be able to do? Probably not much but sit around and get irritated.
But there’s a cure for that. Proven cure. Not saying it’s the only one--in fact, I hope its not. 

But what if war is the answer? I get the feeling we're gonna find out real soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Maybe I'm Just Under-Educated, but This Adds Up?

As a private investigator, I get a kick out the TV show American Greed. The stories/personalities depicted are great, and Stacy Keach deserves an Oscar for his killer narration.

If you've ever watched the show, you know they always depict the poor "victims" to be uneducated sad-sacks who got duped by the slick grifter. Well, sorry. Only rarely do I feel bad for these alleged victims. They know something corrupt is going on. "Mrs. Smith, you honestly thought you'd get 15-20% return on your investment every month for years on end and nothing funny was going on? Really?" Please.

These people know something's up. They just don't care. They're either so desperate for money they'll grasp at any straw in front of them or--more likely, they're just bad characters or low-grade criminals themselves who believe this is how the world works. People who get ahead have the "inside track." They're aggressive risk takers. If others get burned, they're just too lazy and dumb.

Right. ...Yet here you are being interviewed on American Greed you stupid, slow dumbass.

As Donald Trump collects enough delegates to seal the Repub nomination (I think that happens today, but you might want to fact check that), I have to laugh as I envision the faces of the Repub powers-that-be. Donald favored an assault weapons ban--until he was against it. He favored abortions rights--until he was against them. He's flip-flopped on releasing his tax returns at least 2x (now he refuses to release them. Why?). He flip-flopped on raising the minimum wage. He flip-flopped on raising taxes (he's now come out and said it's likely). When Donald campaigns in the these southern hickey-doo States and riles up the "under-educated" that he loves so much, does he ever stay overnight in those towns? Or does he always fly home to NYC at the end of the day? Why you suppose that is? Why isnt Donald polling ahead of either Bernie or Hillary in NYC? Isnt NYC Donald's hometown? Where we know him best? He's supposedly created all those jobs here over the years. He's supposedly generated so much revenue for the city. He's our hometown guy. So why arent the people that know him best supporting him? And what about his business associates? Watch ESPN's 30 for 30 episode about the USFL. His associates oftentimes respect his self-serving abilities, but how many have come out and actually endorsed him for President? Why you suppose not?

Could Trump possibly win? ...I guess. Course right now I see him getting 10% of the Hispanic vote. Maybe 10-15% of African-American vote. Maybe...40% of white women? Is that a winning formula? Maybe I'm just under-educated, but I don't see how that adds up. But this is USA. And one thing you can say about Americans--we're pretty comfortable embracing our greed!! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Life Is Just a Party and Party's...:

Despite being a confessional blogger, I happen to be an introvert. People don’t realize that when they first meet me ‘cause I’m quick with a smile. And I’m generally a happy person. Introverts are usually envisioned as unhappy sad-sacks with long faces and dour attitudes. But not me. It just so happens I prefer my own company. Not ‘cause I think I’m any better than you or even that I’m shy—I just like to work on my game. On my own time. That’s what I find satisfying. Conversation? 8-1/2 out of 10x I can take it or leave it.

Used to be I worked on my writing; but now I work on my guitar playing and my investigations business. I’m not too interested in Game of Thrones; or Jesus; or your kids; or who the President is. That said reader, I hope your family’s well; your candidate wins; and that you’re spiritually fulfilled.

As an introvert, one of the things I like to do is get high. I like to smoke weed (more and more I like to eat it); I like a nice scotch or maybe a beer or glass of wine in summer. I like to trip on mushrooms. And particularly in winter—I like Oxycontin, Percocets, or Vicodin.

A little over 10 years ago I herniated (2) discs in my lower back. They’ve since repaired themselves (my lower back’s about 80% of where I was pre-accident); but now I have bulging discs at C-6 and C-7 that--at least 1x a month, impinge on a nerve in my neck that radiates pain down my left arm. Its…a drag.  I’ve also been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which has its own set of complications. And irritations. Basically, I’m always in some degree of pain and I’m not yet 50.

Now reader, why is my middle-aged appreciation, and yes—enjoyment, of Oxycontin and Percocet (or any drug for that matter) any less valid than someone’s enjoyment of shooting a deer in the woods, or wasting gas in my 4x4, or playing Call of Duty for 4 hours a day, or speculating in stocks? Am I not entitled to my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness just like anyone else?

Apparently not.

Since the death of Prince, I’ve heard a lot of criticism from no-talents with a microphone who’ve already been forgotten about the new revelations surrounding his alleged drug use: "Just another dead druggie." "So much for the goodie-goodie persona." Or the worst—"he really let me down." Prince let you down?! What exactly are your accomplishments mother-fucker?! Try writing music—or just plain concentrating with never-ending nerve pain radiating down your hip. Or try performing for over 3 hours with a guitar over your shoulder with a herniated disc. This freaking internet has really given mediocre a-holes the delusion of being somebody hasn’t it?

Then of course there’s the professional advocates. Genetically modified foods? We’ve gotta fight ‘em! Fracking? Gotta fight that! Gay marriage? Fight for it! War in the Middle East? Legal abortion? Protecting our gun rights? Police brutality? Or protecting police? Let me guess…

And now of course they’re all over opioid use. Painkillers. We’ve gotta reign-in these doctors! Regulate usage!  Hold the drug-companies responsible!

Responsible for what? People talk as though there are two-dozen options for people in constant, severe pain. What exactly are those options? I can think of pills, surgery, acupuncture,…pills,…surgery…acupuncture. Uh,…pills. …I’m out of ideas. And did you know that as recently as 150 years ago the average life-span of the human being is/was only about 40 years old? For the most part, we’re not designed to be active 80 year olds. Or to be popping-and-locking Michael Jackson-style once were 50. I don’t know who came up with the idea that we are.

But people are overdosing! Yeah—retired machinists from West Virginia and Indiana who weren’t going to do anything anyway but sit in front of the TV all day and pop pills with their Pabst Blue Ribbon are dying. Because guess why--they’re talentless and old! Or maybe it was just their time. Take Prince—even if it turns out that he was taking a lot of Perc’s, he died at 57. Three years shy of 60. Not saying that’s an old man in 2016; but he wasn’t 27. Yeah, he was maybe taking Percs. And yeah, he died. One may not have necessarily caused the other. Who’s to say definitively? And what were his options anyway?

As for me, I’m thankful he did whatever he could to keep writing and performing. In the end—that’s what killed him. Not pills or a heart attack—just constant, relentless working and performing.  And I respect that. Cause there’s death in front of the TV and there’s death doing the things you love. 
So to all the professional advocates out there, how 'bout you shut the "F" up and let me live my peaceful life the way I want to?

* NOTE: All pics of Prince stolen off Google Images. Copyrights may exist. All other pics taken or owned by Lodo Grdzak. All rights reserved.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Prince and Michael and Who Cares Anyway?

After Michael Jackson died, his family went after everybody. For example they went after his doctor Conrad Murray with a vengeance. That doctor made a mistake by accepting Michael as his only client. The vibe I got was that the doctor had too much of his finances tied-into Michael—so much so that it created a conflict of interest when it came to maybe denying Michael something he wanted. That’s a problem Murray should have recognized. Still, the State took his medical license. Sad to say, but I don’t think too many African-Americans his age have/had a doctor’s license. That was a big loss and punishment inflicted.

But that wasn’t enough for The Jacksons and the D.A. They wanted (and got) jail time for that doctor. I don’t know all the facts of the case (that’s important to note), but they struck me as jerks for that.

The Jackson’s also went after the promotion company of Michael’s This is It Tour. They alleged that the producers pushed him too hard to make the start of the tour and that it should have been obvious Michael was getting burned out. In response, the company released This is It as a behind-the-scenes movie. Allegedly, this was to prove that Michael was in fine strength/spirits throughout rehearsals. Not so widely publicized (and this is largely conjecture on my part) is that the promoter’s insurance company probably wanted the movie released as well. So the promoters could re-coup on some their losses from the scuttled tour and reduce the value of their overall claim. 

If you’ve seen This Is It—wow! That concert was gonna be a great freaking show. As for Michael? He looks pretty great too.

Pretty great. Not great-great. It’s hard to know exactly when the clips used were actually shot (3 months from the tour start? 1 month?).  He looks and sounds almost perfectly fluid most of the time; but in a few of the clips he’s...obviously not 18. The hips and limbs aren’t entirely elastic. He seems to be conserving his voice a lot; and in one rehearsal for I Cant Stop Loving You he openly chastises the crew for encouraging him to sing too hard. The insurance investigator in me might have asked:

"How many dates was he committed to perform this show?"

Answer: "50—in celebration of his 50th birthday. Over 8 months."



Prince’s death at 57 is also the kind of case I could conceivably be asked to investigate. I’m sure there’s a doctor or two sweating right now since it looks like it may have been an accidental overdose.  

Looks accidental. Still, he did have autobiographical lyrics pertaining to elevators (readers surely know Prince was discovered dead in in elevator); and a former love/lover of his had died recently. Under sad circumstances. His last tour was simply piano and singing—no guitar or band; which didn’t strike anyone as odd at the time. Prince always changed line-ups and song-lists and whatnot. But now, I cant help but wonder if maybe there was something to that. Like maybe he couldn’t stand or support a guitar for an extended period of time.  Or use his hands right. Then there’s the whole issue of a previous (alleged) O.D. on his plane a few days before the actual death.

The death of both guys interests me for a lot of synergistic reasons. As an investigator; as a life-long fan (especially of Prince); and perhaps because I turn 50 this year—like Michael. I also happen to really like Oxycontin. Oxy’s, Percocet, Vicodin. Especially in winter. 

For the record, I'm convinced Michael's death was pure accident. As for Prince, I'm not yet entirely sure. The doctor's records should reveal a lot--especially if its discovered he couldn't play guitar. And I'd like to know more 'bout that alleged O.D. on the plane days before. 

Lets not forget that neither of these guys was 27 like Jimi Hendrix. They were allegedly in constant pain. Sure, they were in really good shape, but that makes your blood pressure low. And after a hard workout or rehearsal, your blood pressure drops more. Then throw in a few Oxy’s or Percocet or some of “the milk” that Michael was using. Certainly sounds like an accident waiting to happen.  Sounds like it.  

But who cares anyway, right?  Knowing's not going to change anything.

...Certainly not 50 year old me.

* NOTE: All pics stolen off Google Images. Copyrights may exist. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Time to Move On...But to What?:

Well, its been a week; and in my parent's religion that means mourning time's over. If I had to summarize my final thoughts on the best of my generation I'd say that the guy was the last major star to be a guitar hero. The electric guitar's pretty-much dead now, and Prince will likely be the last superstar of pop to be able to play at the level he did. Like Jimmy Page, he was an absolute master of the studio; and like Stevie he was a very serious player on multiple instruments. He danced great, and there was absolutely no drop-off whatsoever in over 30+ years of live shows. I'd also assert that for all the talk about his lack of accessibility, he toured a LOT--oftentimes playing small, intimate clubs/venues. His fashion/style was off the charts in regards to originality and I challenge you to name anyone or any band who has more great tunes that you STILL listen to despite hearing them two hundred and fifty thousand times. Sexy MF; Little Red Corvette; When 2 R in Love; Live 4 Love; Ballad of Dorothy Parker; U Got the Look; If I Was Your Girlfriend; Come; Black Sweat; Diamonds & Pearls; Lady Cab Driver; Space; DMSR; Pope; Irresistable Bitch; Hot With You; Pretty Man...I could easily name another two-dozen off the top of my head. No problem. That doesnt even include the bootlegs like Crystal Ball or whatever the fuck's in "the vault." While most people consider Purple Rain his greatest achievement; I'd agree with Taylor Ho Bynum of The New Yorker who said, "...but for me the period from “Sign ‘O’ the Times” to 1988’s “Lovesexy” is the deepest compositionally. You can hear why Davis compared him to Duke Ellington. Like Ellington’s “Reminiscing in Tempo” or “Ad Lib on Nippon,” songs like “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” “Positivity,” and “Crystal Ball” exist in a pop context but follow their own rules; they are extended compositions that tell long-form narratives through unique song structures.

I'd say that's a spot-on assessment. But words arent gonna get the job done in describing Prince. If they could--who'd need the music? Had he been a 70+ year old, hard-partying guy, his death wouldnt have been such a punch-in-the-gut. Or if he'd been in obvious decline artistically I wouldnt have cared as much. But his fairly recent record 3121 had some great stuff; and 57 in 2016 seems kind of young. Considering the age of my other all-time favorites, I was hoping Prince was gonna be the guy to carry me into the next 10 years of live shows. Now,...things looking pretty bleak. R.I.P my man!!

* NOTE: All pics stolen off Google Images. Copyrights probably exist. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I'm Lodo Grdzak, and Prince Ain't Going Anywhere!

Prince (Musicology Tour):  

When I came out to NYC I had certain assumptions and hopes. About the city and for myself. I'd hoped to become a writer--and to certain extent I did. A pretty good one. Not great, but pretty good. Course I'd have liked to have been great, but I'm thankful I got the opportunity to find out where I stand/stood. That's all you can ask for is an opportunity. And I got it.

More importantly, I really found myself in NYC. Developed into something. I'd have never been anything had I not come out here, but now I know I'm supposed to be an investigator--I see that. It hadnt been clear to me before, but now I know. And I'm good at it. 

And I'm a music lover. Big time. That I already knew, but NY has given me the opportunity to get close to the music and the musicians like I never could in Detroit. Detroit was too dangerous to go anywhere but a very few places. To see Joe Zawinal or Jeff Beck or Prince you'd have to go to a formal concert hall. Or stadium. They were "up there," and you were watching. Part of it; but separate. 

But here in NY, the musicians are right here. You can talk to them. Touch them. They're accessible. Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano, Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Even someone like Prince. It makes you feel like anything's possible. Like maybe you should pick up that guitar you put down in college and try it again.  Who knows what might happen?

I forget how many years ago it was when I saw Prince at The City Winery. It was the same night Miley Cyrus stunk-up the MTV Music Awards, that I remember. There was a woman in line who'd just come from there. She was literally crying like someone had died; and when we asked her what was wrong she said "I just came from the MTV Music Awards and Miley Cyrus was REALLY, really bad. What is going on with these young people?!" 


Anway, Prince went on stage at 1:30 AM on a Monday morning in a place that held about 500 people. This was after Doug E. Fresh, Ceelo Green, and Larry Graham. No cameras were allowed so I dont have any pics; but he played until 6:40. I remember that time distinctly. The whole time he never broke a single bead of sweat. I know 'cause I was 15 feet from the guy. I couldnt beleive that. When his set was done we looked outside and the sun had come up. It felt like church except that men were rushing to work in their business suits. Larry Graham invited us all out for pancakes, but my legs were so worn out and I was so dehydrated I had to go home and sleep the rest of the day. 

Now, among other things, I really wish I'd gone out for those pancakes. But that show is one of my Top 5 NYC moments. And while Prince may be gone, that memory ain't going anywhere.  It's in the vault.
Prince (Welcome 2 America Tour):

* All pics (with the exception of the one at the very top), taken and/or owned by Lodo Grdzak. All rights reserved. 
Top pic stolen off Yahoo. Copyrights may exist.