Sunday, November 30, 2014

Song of the Day - True Love - P!nk

Well, here we are then.  The long dreaded day has finally arrived and I am still alive, lol.  I'm posting this one so late in the day because my friends took me out to the city  last night to celebrate.  I want to personally thank my pals Kyle, Rich, Bobby, Eric, Al, Gary and Christopher, Manny and Ozzie for such a good time.  I love you all!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Song of the Day - We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off - Jermaine Stewart

Here's a song I've been wanting to post for a few days now, ever since I heard a not so great remake of it on Robin Schulz' recent album, Prayer,  Jermaine Stewart's one and only hit, which came out in 1986, has one of those hooks that is so catchy you can't help but rock out to it whenever you hear it.  In fact, one of the things that iced using this song was that I saw a really good 80's cover band, Oel Amor, last night for my friend Sean's birthday and they covered it, sending the whole crowd into dance mode.  Oh yeah, I remember dancing to this one in my bedroom...

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Happy Birthday Song of the Day #3 - I'm Addicted - Madonna

Three days, three birthdays... 

Today is the birthday of yet another pal of mine, Sean, who is pictured above on stage with me and, um, Toni Braxton.  That's right, in case you haven't been following me long, you may not know about that Unforgettable Night at a Toni Braxton Show, where Sean and I were mistaken for lovers by the singer and brought onstage so she could serenade us.  That was one heck of a memorable experience and one which he and I will share for as long as we live.  

Sean is one of the first people I met at my bowling league, and I liked him immensely from the moment I met him, and about two and a half years later I can honestly say that he is one of the most easy-going and genuine people I know.  Not only have he and I shared many a great experience together (in addition to Toni), he's also brought me into his circle of friends, another great group of genuinely nice people whose company I always enjoy.

Like me, Sean is a big Madonna fan, only his devotion to the singer is much more intense than mine. Though I've followed Madge since her beginning, Sean discovered her later on in her career and has dedicated so much time and energy on learning and collecting everything he could on her that I'd consider him a superfan.  Here's one of Sean's favorite songs from Madonna's last album, MDNA, and it's one of mine, too!  Happy Birthday Buddy!  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thank You Thank You

You've been so kind and 


I don't know how you keep on giving

For your kindness I'm in

Debt to you

I've been trying really hard lately to find a little gratitude in my life.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I've always been one to count my blessings, so to speak, and revel in the life I've built and in those I've had the fortune of knowing.  But this year it's been difficult to find the will to do so. That doesn't mean I stop trying.

Though I may not feel it at the moment, I still have a lot to be thankful for.  I've got plenty of good people around me who care, and that's about all one could ask for in a life, right?  It means I've done something right, after all. So for what it's worth, a very Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you, my friends, my family, and my readers.  Count your blessings each and every day!

I want to thank you thank you, 

thank you thank you,

thank you thank you

Thank you!

Like Strangers in Our Own Place

It's hard to believe that it was just two short years ago that Suffolk County, a place that once was the home of several busy gay bars, saw the promising opening of a new bar in what had become a desolate landscape for the business called Nuts & Bolts in Holbrook.  It was Thanksgiving Eve 2012, and the place was packed.  People came from far and wide to welcome the new establishment, created just for us, with open arms.  Today, NaB's, as we still call it, no longer exists, and in its place is Exclusive Lounge, a supposed 'bar for everyone' that openly hosts our crowd one or two days a week.  Last night, Thanksgiving Eve, a few of us gave it a shot and we all came to the sad, sad realization that the L.I. gay bar scene is decidedly pathetic!

Right after that opening in 2012, I wrote a piece on the new bar for Examiner.  Here's some of what I wrote...

The comments heard throughout the large opening night crowd at Nuts  Bolts on Thanksgiving Eve joined to sing a common chorus:  "This place is fantastic!"  "Beautiful!" "Aw, this was a long time coming."  "We needed this."  "Impressive!"    Indeed, judging by smiles, the animated conversations, the dancing and a whole heck of a lot more, Nuts & Bolts, the brand new men's bar located on Main Street in Holbrook was just what the doctor ordered...

...Nuts & Bolts' opening night was by all accounts a successful one, and hopefully the place will endure.  With all of the talk and reminiscing that went on last night about the good old days of a varied gay nightlife scene on Long Island, many people may have finally found an alternative in today's scene to whet their appetites.  Based on last night's turnout, the future looks good! 

Heading into last night, none of us were too sure of what to expect from the place.  We had asked what was going on there for the big night, whether it was going to be gay, straight, or what, and we were told three different stories in the 24 hours leading into last night.  Oh yeah, it's going to be for you's gonna be a mixed, how bout neither!

The few of us who were planning on going became a little hesitant leading into the night as our friends, who for the last two years have spent this particular evening mixing and mingling at Nuts, there wasn't much buzz about going.  Perhaps they already knew what to expect from the place, and it wasn't people like us. Indeed, ever since the bar reopened under its new pseudonym a few months ago, many have stayed away entirely, as even their 'gay' nights aren't too well attended.   

From the moment we walked in we knew it was trouble.  Scantily clad women stood behind the bar as several patrons stood around the bar area, a decided mix of young, and straight, guys and girls (hmm!), hookahs, and more. Then the hip hop came blaring out of the speakers and we knew our night was gonna be cut short.  The feeling was weird, and sad, as the only four of us who showed up felt like outcasts in what was once our bar.

Yeah, what I had said two years ago looked like a promising future for people like us is completely false now.  In a way I hate talking about the place in this way because I genuinely admire one of the owners, but unfortunately the truth is the truth and I am sure that there are forces going on which I know nothing about, but whatever those forces are, they believe that we're just not as profitable as the young, straight hipsters (?).  And so, once again we're left with little to nothing.  

There were two other places for gay people in Suffolk to go last night, and they probably both had crowds, too.  V.I.P. Lounge in Patchogue had a Luxe Reunion Party and I am sure The Veranda in Bay Shore hosted a nice crowd, too.  For me personally, neither place was desirable...distance and type of crowd are definitely factors for me...but that's exactly my point.  There aren't any real choices. V.I.P. was a one night thing, and so Veranda is now it, and if that's not your kind of place, then you're shit outta luck!  So sad!  

Moving to NYC is definitely something I need to be thinking about again...I miss dancing!



A Happy Birthday Song of the Day #2 - Cry When You Get Older - Robyn

Young boy, by the traffic light
What your daddy never told you
Is love hurts when you do it right
You can cry when you get older

Not only is this Thanksgiving Week, but around these parts it's Birthday Week, as well.  Yesterday was my bestie Rich's birthday and today is the birthday of yet another bestie, Kyle.  Kyle is one of my friends that I know from bowling and we've become pretty close over the past two years or so.  In that short time...well...he and I have gotten to know each other pretty darned well to a point where we stand today.  He is probably the one friend who I spend the most time with and I want to wish him the best of birthdays.

Kyle is a youngin', 25 years old today, and a lot of times I feel like I'm not only his friend, but kinda sort of his mentor, as well.  From what I know of him, Kyle is one of those people who's always found a comfortable spot in hanging around people older and wiser than he, and he not only found myself as one to look up to, but a whole slew of us from bowling, too.  Al, Eric and Rick, Gary, J.C., Eric C., Bobby and Rich, and a whole host of fellow bowlers have all shared in helping to guide this genuine young man through these past few years, and though he doesn't always realize how much he is loved by all of us, he really is a special part of this extended group of friends.


Out of all of us, Kyle, myself and our pal Gary have been among the closest, and the trhee of us have shared plenty of good times together, as well, from our Monday night jaunt to Coney Island this summer, to catching up and teaching Kyle the great, great show, Six Feet Under, to gay nights at Great Adventure, P-Town, parties, bowling and more, the friendship that we share as three is a special one, too!

Anyway, last night Kyle was trying to guess which song I was going to post today for his b'day, and though he made some good guesses, he got it wrong.  I realized that although I've spoken about soundtracks of relationships in the past, it's not only romantic relationships that can have a soundtrack.  One of the things that bind he and I together is our love for music, and though we have some differences in our musical tastes, there are certain tunes that we both love, and today's song is one which I believe introduced him to Robyn (via me!) and one that fits this particular day and week for that matter.  I'm not too sure about him, maybe it's too early, but I am certainly crying cause I got older, lol.  Anyway, for what it's worth, Happy Birthday my friend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Happy Birthday Song of the Day - Unusual Way - Barbra Streisand

Only on a special day like today would I post a song such as this one.  Today is the birthday of my bestest pal, Rich, and so I am posting Barbra Streisand's Unusual Way, a song that I'd never heard before, but one I'm sure he has a myriad of times over, especially for him.  

Rich and I have known each other for years, but we only became close about seven years ago after Joe and I had split up, and I couldn't be more grateful for his presence in my life.  Rich has helped fill up my past seven years with lots of fun, lots of laughs, and plenty of chit chat about this, that and everything else.  He and I share a lot of mutual interests, such as roller coasters, The Amazing Race and Survivor, Madonna, and so much more, and we never ever run out of things to talk about.

In the next few days I'm going to be posting pieces about the people in my life I am thankful for and Rich is an very appropriate start.  He's not a big fan of attention, but I say too bad Mr. Dit!  I'm grateful to have you for a friend and I look forward to knowing you for the rest of my days.  Happy Birthday buddy!    

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Song of the Day - Dangerous - David Guetta, featuring Sam Martin

David Guetta makes a return to the music scene with the release of his sixth studio album, Listen, which is now available on iTunes.  Though the album was released just three days ago, this song, featuring Sam Martin on vocals, is its fifth single and I'm sorry to say that I am not impressed with any of the songs I've heard thus far.  The new stuff signals a change in Guetta's funky dance stylings that's a far cry from his last two smash albums, 2011's Nothing But the Beat and his previous breakthrough smash, One Love.

Guetta singlehandedly became the first of a new type of musical artist, the disc jockey/producer, who would consistently collaborate with the days biggest stars and make songs that would hit the mainstream big time.  Tunes such as Titanium with Sia, One Love featuring Estelle, Turn Me On with Nicki Minaj, Sexy Bitch with Akon and so many others were all monster hits that were heard all the time on dance floors and radio stations around the world.

Like all musical acts, though, David Guetta's style has changed and to me it's no longer got that mainstream dance feel to it that I love so much.  The new stuff has got a more hardcore, rockish edge to it, which is not normally my style. That's not to say I won't download the entire album.  There are other tracks that look promising, including this one and others that feature stars such as Emile Sandé, Nico and Vance, John Legend, Nicki Minaj once again, as well as other artists who may or may not mesh well with the deejay/producer's new style.  We shall see...

Monday, November 24, 2014

A New Decade Awaits

In just one week I will be celebrating a birthday that's long been on my horizon and I am not looking forward to it.  You see, I was born on November 30th, 1964, and so next Sunday I will be turning, gulp, 50.

I'm getting a feeling that a lot of what I've been going through these past few weeks, being down, Ziggy and all that, has had something to do with this birthday.  While I'm not the only person I know who's going to be that same age, I am probably the only one who's not embracing it, or at least bothered by it.  

I tell my students all the time to enjoy life while you're living it because you're suddenly going to wake up one day and find that you're 30 or 40, and you're going to say to yourself, "holy shit, what the hell happened to my life?"  Just like you do on a Sunday night while reflecting on the weekend that just passed.  Well, 5-0!  Jeez!

Despite that panicked look on my face, I don't look 50, do I?  I don't feel it.  As a matter of fact, someone asked me just last year at my friend Sean's 40th birthday party when I was turning 40.  If we were at a bar I would've bought her a drink.  

So anyway, whether I like it or not, here comes 50.  A new decade of my life awaits.  Let's hope I can keep up my youthful looks for at least a few more years...maybe catch someone before it's too late!


Somebody to Love - R.I.P. Freddie Mercury 11/24/91

I work hard every day of my life
I work till I ache my bones
At the end I take home my hard earned pay all on my own
I get down on my knees
And I start to pray
Till the tears run down from my eyes

Lord, somebody, ooh, somebody
Can anybody find me, somebody to love?

Somewhere along my day today I came across a posting that marked the 23rd anniversary of the death of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, and had I known earlier I would've given him a Song of the Day tribute, for sure.  Rather than wait until tomorrow, though, I figured I'd mark the day...the real honor someone who left us way too soon.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a Flashback Friday song of Freddie and Queen with David Bowie doing Under Pressure, a great, great tune. In my search for the video, I came across a video of Queen, sans Bowie, performing the song at Wembley and Mercury played with the audience for about two minutes in his own unique way, yodeling melodies that the crowd would repeat back to him. They were eating it up and for those two minutes Freddie Mercury's greatness shone through.     

Queen is one rock band that I've always loved, from the early days of the great Bohemian Rhapsody to Another One Bites the Dust, Fat Bottomed Girls, Radio Gaga (from which Lady got her name!), and so many more.  To look back 23 years ago and think of all they might have added to their catalog had he not lost his battle with the now very manageable AIDS.  Anyway, for what it's worth, here's to you Freddie Mercury!


Song of the Day - The Time (Dirty Bit) - Black Eyed Peas

With my birthday coming up next week, I've been feeling a little reflective lately, and so this one's been playing in my mind for the past day or so.  Yes, I've had the time of my life over my years here on this planet, but I'm still waiting for that one...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Song of the Day - 7/11 - Beyoncé

Unless you've been living under a rock, you most likely have heard that Beyoncé dropped two brand new songs this week from her upcoming Platinum Box Set and on Friday night she unleashed another surprise in the form of a purposely amateurish video for one of the songs, 7/11.  The vid, featuring a lot of wiggling and jiggling, has already racked up the hits on YouTube, with more than 12 million page views to date.  As for the song, I say meh.

I've always had a sort of love/hate relationship with Beyoncé.  I compare her to a modern day Diana Ross, having gotten her licks with a girl group before breaking out in a big way all on her own, but I always felt that she did it all and became a superstar way too fast.  I understand that it's just the times, and in an age of oh-so-instant movement from artist to listener, people take such leaps into the stratosphere without really having to do as much as they had to do back in the day.  Okay!

As with most people, I've enjoyed Bey's music, both with Destiny's Child and as a solo artist, and I do think she makes a pretty good role model as far as someone in her stature.  That being said, I hearken back to my buddy Rich, who gave me pause to think about the music.  He recently asked me what I liked about her Get Me Bodied one day when it came on the radio in the car.

I don't get it.  It's not really a dance song.  How do you dance to that?  

I saw his point.  When you actually listen to the song, which I still love, you can hear how it's just kind of all over the place musically, and as for the vocals, it's just Bey being a sassy diva...drop drop to yo' knees, arch your back girl...

Keeping that in mind, I was never a huge fan of her surprise eponymous marketing ploy that was her last album.  With the exception of maybe three or four songs, the rest of that album is kind of how Rich described that song I love, only they're even more-so full of dissonant music set to equally frenzied lyrics.  And so it is with 7/11.  Sure, Miss B is the Thang these days and everything she does seems to get spun off in nothing but positivity even when it's not really so original or even good.  So it is with this one.  I actually like the other one she released this week, Ring Off, much better.

So check it out for yourself if you're a Beyoncé fan, and let me know if you find a quality in it that I just don't see.  Perhaps I'm just too much of a non-conformist.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Song of the Day - Dark Horse - Katy Perry, Juicy J

It's been months since I've posted this one.  Katy Perry's Dark Horse is one of those monumentally unique songs that is simply perfect in every way...those of you who follow me know that I felt that way from the moment I heard it.  So there...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Flashback Friday Song of the Day - Don't Make Me Over - Sybil

Don't make me over

Now that you know
How I adore you...

I was looking for a song to post for today's Flashback Friday and I was all over the place...80's? 2000's?  last year?  rock? dance? disco?  I was so confused and undecided.  I'd gone through probably 50 songs and I wasn't happy with any of them, until this one popped into my head out of nowhere. Sybil's remake of the Dionne Warwick classic was a classic unto itself.  This is a song that I do not own...digitally anyway...and so I haven't listened to it for a long, long time.  

I'd forgotten how good a song Don't Make Me Over is.  The lyrics are so tender and beautiful, the music is soothing, and Sybil's voice!  Love it!  It always reminded me of Diana Ross' voice and I am only remembering that through listening right now.  If you were around in 1989, you're definitely gonna remember this top 20 hit, which beat the original's ranking by one.  So scroll down just a bit, click play, and then get on to whatever you were doing and enjoy this one while your doing it...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Song of the Day - Teacher - Nick Jonas

Here's a live performance of a cut from Nick Jonas' new record.  It's called Teacher and it's one of a few dancey tunes from the album, and even though I'm not too sure about the dance moves in this performance, it does have a nice beat.  Check it out...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The New World's Tallest Roller Coaster, Skyscraper, Unveiled

Yesterday, new video footage of what will soon be the world's tallest roller coaster was released and it's just enough to whet a coaster enthusiast's appetite so soon into the dormant winter months.  It was just about a year ago that Skyscraper was first introduced to the world as the newest record-breaker in the ever evolving coaster wars.  The new coaster is set to open in 2017 and will break the record long held by Six Flags Great Adventure's Kingda Ka as the world's tallest roller coaster.

When the original plans were unveiled, this coaster enthusiast was a skeptic.  It didn't hurt my pessimism either that Kingda Ka resides at my home amusement park, but from the original sketches and description of the coaster, it didn't look like it wouldn't be as thrilling as the King of Coasters. Now that I've seen the video, I'm still skeptical that it is a true thrill-seeking competitor for its predecessor, but it does look pretty cool nonetheless and will certainly induce butterflies within the stomachs of impending riders.

Skyscraper, known as an all new prototype, Polarcoaster, will stand at a whopping 570 feet above the ground along Orlando's strip at the future site of the all new Skyplex Entertainment Center.  That's more than 100 feet taller than Ka.  Though it's not the thrill em fast and high that the current record holder is, it does have a few elements that make it its own unique experience, including almost four minutes of high-flying twists, turns and inversions.  I tell ya, I hadn;t planned on going back to Orlando anytime in the near future, but after checking out this video, Skyscraper has got me rethinking that notion...


Song of the Day - Get Lucky - Daft Punk

Here's a dance ditty for your Hump's to getting lucky!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Song of the Day - Dear Future Husband - Meghan Trainor

Oh we have gone back to the fifties, haven't we, Ms. Trainor?  Of course by now, most everybody has got Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass ingrained in their brains and that oh so catchy song inspired me to dig further into the retro-stylings of this newcomer to the music scene.  Dear Future Husband is just what the title says, and it's all set to a decidedly 50's pop feel.  The song is an open letter to some of the rules Meghan's future spouse must know if he's going to marry Miss Thang.  It's a little corny, and cutesy, but cathy and fun, too!  Check out this live performance...  

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Generosity of A Giving Tree

And the tree was happy...

For any of you who don't know Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, you should definitely check it out. It's one of those stories that I only learned as a teacher and over the past ten years or so, it has become one of my favorite books.  At the start, it appears as if it's a children's book, and by many accounts, it is, but the story teaches a lesson in giving that everyone, at any age, can relate to.  In fact I read it to my high school students just today.

I first learned of The Giving Tree back when I was teaching elementary school.  I had been stuck without time to prepare for my lesson one day and I went to my friend Charle, a third grade teacher, for ideas.  She handed me the book and told me to read it to the children and have them do a writing assignment where they would talk about giving.  

I'd never heard of the book before, but I trusted my friend, a 20-plus year teacher.  I went and picked up my kids from their classroom and sat them all down on the floor around me.  I read the book for the first time as I read it to them and I cried.  Right there in front of my 2nd and 3rd graders.  The selflessness of that tree is still one of the most beautiful things I've ever learned, and I've been sharing it with my students, young and old, ever since.

Whenever I read The Giving Tree to my students, the room always falls silent with attentiveness. That's the way it is written.  And I still tear up a little bit every time, getting choked up by the tree's generosity.  I usually follow up on a reading by asking my students to put in a journal the answer to this question:

If you could give anything to anybody, just one thing, 
what would you give and who would you give it to?  

I normally do this activity during the Thanksgiving season,  It is my favorite holiday because it's all about giving thanks and showing appreciation, and not with all the have-to's that come with that other holiday. So in that spirit, and in a spirit that I try to share each year at this time, I will be posting a different sort of thanks in the coming two weeks.  I have a great many people in my life that bring me joy, people who give me so much and may not even realize it, and all I want to do is let them know that I'm better off in this world having known them.

So stay tuned for that, and pick up a copy of The Giving Tree while you're at it.  Click on the Amazon link at the bottom of this page and tell em John sent you.  You'll be glad you did!    

What a Difference Two Missing Trees Make

As I mentioned in yesterday's Song of the Day post, I had two trees taken down in the front of my house and oh man, what a difference it made!  Ever since I bought this house in 1998, trees have always been a problem.  Sure, trees are beautiful and provide us with all sorts of things like shade and oxygen, a home for critters and so on, but when you own a home, they can be a hazard as well.

Sometime during the history of my home, someone had the bright idea of planting five maple trees in a pattern around the yard.  There were the two in front on either side of the narrow driveway, two right behind the house on either side of the property, and one more in line with the two trees on the left of the driveway a little further back, by the garage.  That was the first one to be a problem...

In this picture you can see four of the five 
trees I'm talking about.  Now I'm down to two!

When Joe and I had moved in in the summer of 98, the roots of this one tree in particular had already worked their way under the driveway, lifting it into a misshapen form.  It was huge!  Around ten years ago we were having a windstorm and that particular tree was swaying like a rubber pencil in the wind, coming precariously close to falling on the neighbor's garage.  It had to come down!

I took over sole ownership of the house in 2008, and the two trees I had cut down yesterday had long been on my to-do list.  Besides making the driveway hopelessly narrow, they both had been losing limbs and more during windstorms over the years, and electric wires were perilously entangled in the branches of one of them.  Though I've dreamed about taking them down for  long time, I couldn't imagine it ever really happening, but I came across a bargain and I went for it.

And so yesterday morning the trees came down.  It was kind of sad, but necessary, and now my entire house looks completely different. Even the landscape of my entire block is different without these two long-standing giants.  I posted the 'after' picture on Facebook, and to my surprise almost everyone of my friends who has been to my house either liked it or made a comment...

Looks great!

Wow!  Very nice!

Now I'm really gonna drive past your house and get lost.  I like it, though!

It doesn't have the same curb appeal.

Wow, it looks so different!

Now you can appreciate the house.

Wow, now you can put in sun-loving plants, not just shade.  Nice!

It's gonna be a pretty spring there!

Wow!  Just wow!

Now you can burn your rake!

All true!  And even 43 likes to this point.  Yes, this is big!  When you do big things like this to a house that you own, it gives you incentive to do more.  Ah, but houses are a money pit, aren't they? Still, I can't wait until spring!

Song of the Day - Outside - Calvin Harris, featuring Ellie Goulding

So far the best single off of Calvin Harris' new album, Motion, Outside has been getting more and more airtime on my iPod lately.  The song couldn't be more perfect for uniquely soft/raspy-voiced Ellie Goulding and it's got a great dance music track, too!  Check it out...