Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Sometimes It Snows in April..."

This print hangs on my wall to this very day

I never got to see The Artist live.

I’ve lied several times over the years out of sheer embarrassment, saying that I had but, in fact, I never had pleasure of seeing Prince Rodgers Nelson in concert. Now, he’s gone and I’ll never get the chance.

Part of the reason I never saw His Royal Badness live is that he didn’t play Philadelphia all that often. The story goes that he held a grudge against the city for how he was treated as an opening act for the Rolling Stones in 1980. This was the “Dirty Mind” era of Prince when he wore nothing more than black panties and trenchcoat on stage. That just wasn’t going to work in the Philadelphia of that era, especially for a liquored up crowd waiting to hear “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man,” so he was unmercifully booed off stage. Believe it or not, the treatment that my city showed Prince that night severely rattled his cage…so much so that Mick Jagger had to call him personally and beg him to finish out the tour. 

Philly was in no way ready for this...
The other part is, of course, that I idiotically assumed that there would always be a “next time.” “Oh, I’ll catch him next time,” naïve Jer thought time and time again as I would read glowing reviews of shows (secret or otherwise) that he’d put on around the globe. Now there will be no “next time." All I can do is hang my head in shame and weep for the sounds and visions I missed out on. Stupid, stupid me.


The first song of The Purple One’s I ever heard was “Little Red Corvette.” I recall being instantly entranced by it, much like I was the first time I heard Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” Not much later, a friend of mine lent me the “1999” cassette, which I copied of course, then I proceeded to play that cassette into the motherfucking ground. I was only 13 at the time…the diversity and overt sexuality of the songs excited and shocked me. Songs like “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” “Automatic” and “Lady Cab Driver” blew my Catholic school boy mind. I was, in a word, hooked.

I could write volumes about “Purple Rain” of course (who couldn’t?), but the next album that was truly innovative and, in my opinion, perfect was “Sign O’ the Times.” I dare you to find an uninteresting or unoriginal song on that record. Go ahead, try. I’ll wait...forever…because it just isn’t going to happen.

A true masterpiece
I vividly recall every moment of my first listen of that cassette: I bought it on my dinner break at the Sam Goody in the pathetic Leo Mall. The cassette sat in my front pocket for the rest of my shift, silently calling to me, waiting to be played…waiting to reveal its auditory magic. When I got home later that night, I popped that bad boy into my boom box, slipped on my headphones, and glided into a soundscape of something that just wasn’t like anything else I’d ever heard in my previous 17 years on this planet. It was then that I knew I’d be a Prince fanatic for the rest of my days, be they long or short.

He’s had a varied career since that time to say the very least…but I’ve never stopped loving him and his sublime music. The man defined the word “iconoclast.”

It’s now 11:58 PM. I’m “in the cups” as my Irish ancestors would have said. Prince Rodgers Nelson, a being composed solely of if he were some impossibly powered, musical super hero, is still very much dead. There are now stories floating about that he was treated for a drug overdose of some sort.
“Hogwash,” says I.

It still doesn’t change the fact that I never got to see the man whose music meant so much to me play a live set.

I guess I’ll just have to live with that.

Rest in peace, you sexy motherfucker, you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m not the most religious of people. If you are, that’s fine…as long as your beliefs aren’t hurting yourself or anyone else, have at it, my fine friend. Please understand that what follows here is not meant to challenge, or offend, anyone.

My personal beliefs are an echo of the Agnostic axiom, “I know that I don’t know.” I don’t believe in chaos as most Atheists do. To me, there seems to be a rhyme or reason to how things work in the universe, but I cannot say with any certainty what sets it all in motion. Unfortunately, I just don’t think that ANY religion and/or belief system truly answers the big questions most intelligent men and women have. 

I was raised Catholic and even went to 12 years of Catholic school. But, the whole “Catholic” vibe just never stuck; I always found all the pomp and circumstance just a bit absurd. Beyond the fact that there’s a great deal of fantastic moral philosophy in the words of Jesus found in the New Testament, the majority of what’s written in the Bible confounds me. Therefore, I view the Bible as more of a historical document than a document of faith or belief. Period.

Epic poster is epic
Even as a lad, I recall thinking on many occasions while twiddling my thumbs in church or in one of my many religion/theology classes, “Well, this just doesn’t make any goddamn sense!”  It wasn’t until I saw the film version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 8th grade that a “real” perspective of Jesus finally clicked in my teenage mind. He wasn’t the water-walking miracle man that I was raised to believe in, he was just a guy, trying to figure out what the hell he was doing and that he and one of his best friends disagreed on some important issues. And that disagreement cost them both of their lives. That’s a sad reality of course, but something about Jesus finally had substance…and that was pretty cool in and of itself.

The complex, tempestuous relationship between Jesus and Judas is the crux of “Superstar.” (It also puts forth a rather interesting, and forward thinking, depiction of the Jesus and Mary Magdalene “situation.” Really listen to the lyrics of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and I dare you to tell me that’s a song written for a friend and not a lover.) Every Easter I watch the film (in lieu of going to actual Mass), and I still get chills during the second part of “The Last Supper” song when Judas and Jesus really lay into each other, Judas condemning Jesus calling him “a sad, pathetic man” and uttering the classic line: “Every time I look at you I don’t understand, how you let things you did get so out of hand. You’d have managed better if you had it planned!”  There are many wonderful lyrics (courtesy of Grammy, Tony and Academy Award winner Tim Rice) throughout the musical, but that one always seemed the most…insightful…to me.

Jesus and Judas throw down with some slap fight action...
In the early 90’s, I was lucky enough to see a stage production of JCS at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia. Both Ted Neely and Carl Anderson reprised their roles as Jesus and Judas respectively. It was, in word, magical. I was transfixed for those two hours…it is a night that I will never, ever forget.

Oh, and I met Garry Maddox (sans mega afro), the ex-Phillies center-fielder on the great 70’s and 80’s teams, out on Broad Street afterwards. It seems he and his wife took in the show as well. So there’s that.

You rock on with your bad self, Garry Lee...
Since Easter just passed, do yourself a favor and check out some version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (I highly recommend the 1973 film version). I can’t say that it will have the profound impact on you that it had on me, but it’s still well worth a viewing be you a Jew, Christian, Wiccan or Muslim because, religious nonsense aside, it tells the powerful story of two friends who clearly care for each other, but just cannot see eye to eye...and that failure costs them both dearly. That kind of pathos is something we can all relate to, I think.

And maybe someday I’ll get to do the remake I’ve been planning since the mid-90’s that would star Chris Cornell as Jesus, Prince as Judas, Tori Amos as Mary Magdalene, Howard Stern as Herod and Kevin Spacey as Pilate.

That right there is a license to print money, I tell ya…

Thursday, March 10, 2016


It’s been exactly two months now since David Bowie died. I’m still not sure how to process it…I suppose that’s why it’s taken me 60 days to cobble together this post. I can’t say that any other celebrity death has ever affected me this deeply. Most times I just shrug these deaths off with a curt, “Well, that sucks” then I move on with my life.

Just think about it for a minute:

Ziggy Stardust has returned to life on Mars with his badass Spiders in tow.

The Thin White Duke has snorted his last line of premium blow at the swanky after-party.

The Goblin King has been eternally spurned by the haughty, teenage girl.

Lazarus lies dormant in his grave with no hope of resurrection.

Hell, I was still tearing up a few days ago when I showed my daughter the classic “Life on Mars?” video on You Tube. I guess it just boils down to the fact that David Bowie died with aforethought, grace, style and virtuosity. That’s better than most people live, goddamn it. It makes me infinitely sad that someone of his creative stature is no longer with us and I now have to listen to Donald-Fucking-Trump’s hateful diatribes on a daily basis.

It’s funny, the first thing I thought about when I heard Bowie died was one of those awkward, teenage moments that I seemed to have a good many of back in the day:

I was home on break from college and during those breaks I would pick up a few shifts at the local Acme supermarket to make a few bucks. On this particular evening, I was waiting for my mother to return home with the car so I could drive to work. I had the stereo on in the living room while I was waiting and soon, the smooth, Philly-Soul beats of “Young Americans” wafted throughout the room. I quickly sprung to my feet, raising the volume on the stereo to ear-splitting levels (because good music ALWAYS needs to be played LOUD) as I did this. Before I knew it, I was dancing…spinning and grinning like a first class buffoon. What can I say? The sweet, soulful music possessed me in that moment and I was a dancin’ fool of a white boy.

But, alas, all good things must come to an end. As I was completing a twirl that would have made one of the Temptations blush, I swung about to find my mother and brother staring at me from the doorway. I’m not sure how long they had been watching me, but it was long enough.

They were heartily laughing at me as I turned off the stereo, collected the car keys and made a quick exit, sincerely hoping to never speak of this moment again. But, truth be told, I always recalled that moment, and the song itself, rather fondly.

In my estimation, there are a lot of people this crazy world could do without… people who are just sucking in good air that the rest of us could be using. David Bowie definitely wasn’t one of those people…

…and this crazy world is just a bit more terrible now that he’s gone from it. That’s a fact.

Monday, January 18, 2016


So, last night I had one of those dreams. Some would call it a nightmare. Others would say I crossed over into the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits.

Yeah. Listen to my story now; it was a crazy dream:

It was as if my 10-year-old daughter Bridget and I were in a Japanese anime or manga…something akin to a modernized “Lone Wolf and Cub.”

Check out the films or manga if you haven't already...
In narrative of this twisted dream, I was being hunted by an evil ghost. I don’t recall the why’s and wherefore’s as to this vengeful spirit’s purpose. It was just after me. Guess I had wronged it somehow.

It seems that the dream itself took place in Japan because the next part of the nightmare I recall is that she and I are on the bullet train, the Shinkansen. It’s there that we discover that the wraith is indeed a female and she shares the same name as my daughter. This revelation comes about by us translating the Japanese kanji (ブリジット), which is “Burijitto” or “Bridget” in Japanese. There was also some business with us acquiring magical katanas/swords that could harm ghosts, but my memory is sketchy on this now. Regardless, it was made clear that Bridget’s weapon was better than mine. This will come into play later.

So, she and I eventually disembark the train with the nasty phantasm hot on our trail. We ultimately come to an open field, readying ourselves for an assault. The assault comes…the specter comes right for me. It moves almost like the alien Predator in the classic, 1987 film: it’s there, but not there, and for fleeting moments I can briefly glimpse the vaguely human shape as it rushes towards me. I hack at it repeatedly, but my blows do no harm, yet the phantom is hurting me as it right on top of me. Now, I studied martial arts and Kendo, the Japanese sword art, as a teenager and I still can handle a bladed weapon fairly well, so this should not be happening.

Suddenly and swiftly, two strikes hit the assailing apparition from the side and it backs off of me. It’s Bridget, of course, giving my attacker what for, but in the process her sword, the better sword…the sword that is clearly the ghost slaying sword, is flung from her hands.

She screams something to me…something I cannot hear. I assume she’s telling me to reclaim the sword and I endeavor to do just that but, quick as flash, the unremitting spirit is upon me once again, enveloping me and that’s when I awake with start.

Now, here’s where things get really weird.

I’m totally awake. My eyes are wide open. My heart is doing its best John Henry impersonation on my chest. A split second later, Bridget’s Furby toy, which is sitting on shelf in the far corner of the room springs to life. The toy lights up the room and begins to spew its inane jibber-jabber. This Furby has been dormant for at least two months. No one has touched it or molested it in quite some time because, quite frankly, the stupid thing is fucking annoying. Panicked, I bolt upright in bed and glance around the room, which I can see fairly well due to the eerie glow emanating from the Furby’s digital eyes. There’s nothing to see. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing.

You can go fuck off an die, Furby.
I grab my phone to glance at the time. It’s 5:04 AM. Finally, the Furby has shut the hell up. All this excitement has filled my bladder it seems, so I leave my cozy bed as the wind howls mightily against the windows. Unaware as to what new weirdness awaits me outside my door, I step into the hallway to see the clothes I left carefully draped over the bannister are now haphazardly lying on the floor. It’s was as if someone was pissed off at me and decided to dump my shit on the floor…just because they could.

This has never, ever happened before.

I’ve left clothes over that bannister dozens of times over the last year or so and they’ve always been exactly in the same place when I awoke in the morning.

Obviously, I stumbled into something supernatural as I slumbered last evening…something mysteriously paranormal and vaguely evil. And it clearly wanted to frighten me or send some sort of message. Why? I do not know. Usually, something like this wouldn’t bother me so much but, right now, I haven’t the time nor the inclination for such nonsense.

Go away, whatever the hell you are. Oh, and leaving my fucking daughter out of it. You want me, you come get me.

Dream bullshit or not, I can assure you that if you cross my path again my sword will be sharp and at the ready. 

Make no mistake about that.