Sunday, October 01, 2006

Which Way to the Yacht Club?

Well, there I am on the beach. Now. What do you suppose I'm doing? You'll find the answer below.

Hi there!

So, summer (though I guess it's now fall) vacation 2006 was a huge success. We arrived on the island on a Saturday night -- just Gary, me, and the dog. I tried to be upbeat about that but there was a vague feeling of depression surrounding all of us (even the dog) because in reality it was our first Julie and Eric free holiday at the beach and we were haunted by memories of summers past -- long nights spent at arcades while Gary and the kids rode amusements and I hid behind walls in fear and nausea watching the people I love most in the world be turned upside down at ninety miles an hour; Julie acting in her usual role as family social director making sure we were busy every second of the day and Eric her co-conspirator with Gary and I acting as fellow exhausted henchmen; stuffing our faces with junk food pre-vegetarian healthy Julie and Eric...Julie and Eric as five and six year olds taking off ahead of us on the boardwalk in their excitement and me being so neurotic I'd run after them the moment they were a foot away as if they were actually going to be kidnapped or fall through a crack in said boardwalk and disappear know, the usual Robin psychotic stuff.

Anyway, we were so exhausted Saturday night we just listened to music (David Bowie's Stage -- unfucking believable, with Adrian Belew on lead guitar) and fell asleep early; the following day we sort of moved around in a daze while we did some food shopping for the house -- that damn Julie now has me addicted to organic yoghurt for breakfast instead of fried donuts and Gary's really into cooking so he wanted all kinds of exotic spices, etc. -- and then we spent the rest of the day walking on the beach with the dog until sunset (and oh my god, what a gorgeous sunset...we took pics with a traditional camera for that but I'm having a CD made and will post some in a few days)

I mean, we had a great time but I thought to myself HOLY SHIT HOW WILL WE EVER GET THROUGH TWO WEEKS OF THIS?! Not to be obnoxious, but this has been such a wild fun year for us and to be faced with two weeks of doing absolutely nothing (and me not having any online access) was incredibly daunting.

Trust me, by Monday morning though, neither one of us were depressed and we were suddenly both saying YES! YES! TWO WEEKS OF DOING NOTHING!

Ahem. I should have known better.

We actually slept in that day -- for once I wasn't up at dawn -- and then took the dog for another long walk to the beach, which we owned, baby. There wasn't a tourist in sight because in late September everything is basically closed for the winter which is just how we like it. The weather was startlingly, sunny, and humidity free. I felt so relaxed and at peace with the world...I couldn't wait to get back to our beach house and work on my novel. But just as we're walking down our street I see a girl in a red tank top with long, dark curly hair on a bicycle coming toward us and had a fleeting thought: That girl looks a little like Julie...

But that was impossible, right?

"Oh my god, it's Julie!" Gary shouted.

"I thought so but then I figured I was hallucinating! How in the world did she get here?"

The question was answered a second or two later as a radiant, smiling Julie pulled up alongside us.


I guess my mouth was kind of hanging open because her "surprise!" was quickly followed by "Aren't you happy to see me?" and a crestfallen look.

"Oh my god, I'm thrilled that you are here! did you manage it?"

"Well, I woke up at 4:00 a.m., walked to 30th Street train station, got on a 5:00 a.m. train to Atlantic City; then I took a bus to Ocean City which I caught a few blocks from there; then I rented myself a bicycle and rode the rest of the way here. I wanted to surprise you!"

This was so awesome to me I practically burst into tears right there. Okay, okay. I did cry. Buckets.

"Aw, Julie...this is so great. And I'm glad you surprised me. Had I known you were walking to 30th Street station at 4:00 a.m., I would have been a nervous wreck and would have told you not to do it. But this is really terrific. Thank you!"

I would have fucking died if I'd known of her plans in advance. Twenty years old and gorgeous and walking all by herself in the dark through a deserted neighborhood. Ah, youth. You think you're immortal, huh.

"That's not all, Mom. Eric and Matt (Julie's long suffering boyfriend if you are new to this blog and I'm just kidding when I say long suffering -- Matt is fabulous) will be here Wednesday. And guess what? We're all staying until Friday night!"

Gary and I practically jumped for joy. Yay! Our family! I mean, you'd have thought with us away for two weeks, they'd have loved having our Philadelphia house to themselves but no, no, they actually wanted to hang with us at the beach. You have no idea how fantastic that made us feel.

Well, maybe you do.

Anyway, there went all thoughts of rest. Julie began issuing orders immediately.

"You two need to rent bikes!"

Oh god.

So we did that and then she made us ride, ride, ride until we were both ready to die and call it a day but the fun was just beginning -- apparently mini golf was in our future as well as more beach with the dog and a cook-off in the kitchen because both Julie and Gary wanted to make something fantastic and Julie wanted fish (yeah, I know. She's a vegetarian who eats fish) and Gary wanted meat and then they both played for my affection -- who was I going to side with, she who was preparing fresh tuna with all of the cool spices Gary bought or he who was grilling a huge hunk of sirloin.

I wanted both so that was a no-brainer and one less heart broken expression.

"Know what I feel like doing tomorrow, Dad?" Julie asked, fluttering those gorgeous eyelashes.

Ooh ooh, she said "Dad". Oh please don't let it include me...oh please don't let it include me...oh please don't let it include me (Well, she did say "Dad"...and the next day was Tuesday and I really, really, really needed to sneak off to the library and have a look at four days of accumulated email and also, take out some books assuming Julie was going to allow me time to read)

"What, honey?" he smiled.

"Let's go deep sea fishing!"

Yay! It didn't include me! Or poor Matt, who was dragged along on the last deep sea fishing trip they took last summer...the one where they didn't realize it was for a full day instead of the usual four hours and they had no food with them or drinks...and then Matt got seasick and spent the entire eight hours with his head hanging over the boat.

So that's what the two of them did and I did indeed ride my bike the two miles to the library (good on Julie for making me ride so much the day took me no time at all to get into shape and now I've remembered how much I enjoy riding and have already taken my bike in Philly out of storage), checked my email and learned some awesome news about a friend (more on that below, too), saw Ellen Meister's new book on the shelves under "New Releases" and jumped for joy. And speaking of Ellen, I know I'm late to the party on this one but I see she's running a really cool contest on her website. Check it out! Also, what a shock, I took out my boy Neil Gaiman's Stardust and American Gods...Stardust because I hadn't read it and American Gods because I read it last year when I was deeply under his spell and was reading practically everything and decided I didn't give it the attention it deserved and wanted to revisit it. Okay, yeah, who am I kidding, we all know I'm still under his spell. More on that below, too.

So Julie and Gary came back from fishing all dejected because not only did they come up fishless, it was a rough trip on the sea and they were queasy. But not so queasy that we didn't have to ride bikes again...and I'd just come back from a four mile round trip ride myself but bit the bullet and pretended my ass didn't feel like it was on fire and somehow hopped back on for yet more exercise.

Dinner that night was gooey boardwalk pizza. Yes! My reward for nearly killing myself from all that activity.

Once again, Gary and I passed out early listening to CDs -- Gary found a strange, live Manfred Mann CD which turned out to be most excellent despite my insistence that I'd rather have listened to Elliott Smith's XO which Gary doesn't like because there's no lead guitar in it.

What can I say -- he's a lead guitar player.

The Manfred Mann was, as I said, surprisingly good. Gary picked it up a few weeks ago at a used CD store and I highly recommend it. It's nothing like the crap they played of that band on the radio back in nineteen diggitytwo.

Matt and Eric arrived the following day and Gary and I thought Oh Thank God, Now We Can Relax.

Ha ha. You'd have thought so, wouldn't you? But I can't complain, Julie didn't want to just be camp counselor to Matt and Eric, she wanted Gary and me in on the fun as well.

Which brings us to picture #2 in our series. What are Matt, Eric and Julie up to?

And why is Eric holding Monty dog?

Well, I guess I'll come clean. Yes, it's true. Julie made us play baseball. Even the dog had to play. In fact, the dog was an integral part of her rules. He played two positions -- catcher and outfielder. The rule was, if one of us got a hit, we had to run to first base, which was a vague area to the left of the pitcher...marked by a seashell sticking up at water's edge. But...and this is the big but...if Monty dog caught the ball before we made it to first base, we were automatically out.

I mean, come on. How are two out of shape *cough cough* over forty year olds going to compete with a fleet footed beagle mutt?

As you can see, even young Matt didn't have a chance. Monty caught that ball in mid-air.

But there I am in the background all ready to catch a long ball just in case (refer to picture #1). Actually, I've never caught a pop fly in my life but if you must know, it's my secret fantasy, right up there with choosing the music for professional ice skaters...and oh, by the way, I've now expanded that fantasy to be the one in charge of choosing soundtracks for movies.

I was up next and I swear this is true though even I don't believe it, Robin The Unathletic slammed the ball for a huge hit and beat the damn dog to first base but Julie and Eric were so sure I didn't they had to tag me out manually because God forbid I actually had a chance of winning at sports for the first time in my life.

It should be noted here that throughout the vacation, no one wanted me on their team. This included mini golf, baseball, and kadima. Chin up, I kept saying to myself. Chin fucking up, Rob.

But fear not. I'm the first one everyone wants when it comes to Scrabble, Jeopardy, or even Trivial Pursuit so it all equals out in the end and I'd much rather have it that way, anyhow. Nah nah nah.

Just kidding, of course. God I love my family.

The next day I caught a break. Julie saw a "Make Your Own Mosaic" store and really wanted to give that a try. Now we're talking something up my alley. So Gary decided to take the boys to a huge CD warehouse off the island...something I'd normally love but I know Gary, Matt, and Eric and knew they'd be there all day and even I get bored of that after a few hours. (Basically because I either have every CD I want or download it). Anyway, we made mosaics and against my better judgment, I'm posting what I did here because I still can't believe how awful it turned out...the thing gave me nightmares...and you'd never know I studied art in a million years when you see it but the thing is, we really had to make these things ourselves completely and when I say completely, it meant cutting the glass into tiny pieces with individual glass cutters. Naturally it wasn't until after we were finished that I noticed the safety glasses hanging on the wall. The whole time I sat next to Julie like a basket case while glass slivers flew everywhere. We dripped really sticky glue all over ourselves, our fingers stuck together making it impossible to put the glass on the wood but despite our frustration, Julie's turned out so good I'm being petulant and not posting a photo of it (well, today, anyway) but I am going to show you mine only because my family is assuring me it's way cool and they adore it. In fact, I've decided if they love it that much, I'm hanging it on the dining room wall so it can stare at them while they eat.

Stunning, isn't it? Ha ha - actually, I'm thinking of putting it up for sale on Ebay. Look for it in the next issue of Architectural Digest -- most likely hanging in Wayne Newton's Las Vegas home.

Okay, that was a lame joke. Forgive me. It's been a while since I've blogged and I'm giddy. And this is turning into a monster post.

Oh. You may be wondering about the title of said post. Well, now you've seen photos of Gary and me. So tell me. If you saw us walking down the street while you were driving, would you pull up alongside us, roll down your window, and say this...?

"Excuse me? Which way to the..." (Wait. I'll ruin the story. Let me backtrack for a minute...)

I felt the car trailing us and as it pulled up next to us while we were walking to the beach, I got that old seventies paranoia. (Sidenote: Bravo is showing old Dick Cavett reruns on Thursday nights. I remember them from when I was a kid and he had the coolest people on - even John Lennon - so it's worth checking out. Anyway, the night before we watched a 1972 interview with Alfred Hitchcock. He spoke of a terrible paranoia of policemen. I identify with that so much and like Alfred told Dick, I can't even tell you why especially, either, as these days I'm innocent of everything.)

Okay, sorry, I drifted from the story. So anyway, this big ass Mercedes pulls up right next to us, the window goes down, and we look over to see a woman probably our age but so damn waspy she looked sixty. She had that Pro Life I Voted for George Bush look -- poofy short hair, a pastel sweater tied around her neck, and bright pink lipstick...and then she says...she actually says..."Excuse me, can you tell me which way to The Yacht Club?"

I thought Gary and I would pee ourselves. We actually both laughed out loud. We fell down in hysterics on the side of the road.

"Is that a question you ever thought you would hear in your lifetime?" I asked Gary.

"No. The only thing more improbable would be 'Which way to the meeting of Young Republicans?" he choked.

So of course that was the running joke for the rest of the holiday -- we'd look over at each other, especially when we were particularly disheveled, and say in a waspy accent "Excuse me. Which way to the Yacht Club?"

Hmm...maybe you had to be there. But it cracked us up like you would not believe.

Alrighty, continuing on and I promise I'll wrap the vacation stuff up soon because I have writing news to report as well as some cool music stuff as concerns Julie and Eric.

So while we were making our mosaics, Eric, Matt and Gary bought CDs and then decided to go out to lunch at Five Guys. I know this had to kill Eric because Five Guys is as close to In-N-Out Burger as you can come on the east coast. For those of you who don't know, In-N-Out Burger is a west coast chain which, if you must eat fast food, is incredible and we have a special affection for it because we lived on those things during the great Paul Green School of Rock Music west coast tour of 2004. Back then, Eric was not a vegetarian and could really put away those burgers.

"So. What did you eat at Five Guys?" I innocently asked him later that night.

"I had a vegetable sandwich," he grimaced.

"Why are you making a face, Er? You love vegetables. Isn't that why you are a vegetarian? How could they mess up a veggie burger?"

"Mom, this was a sandwich made up entirely of their burger toppings."

I found this truly hilarious.

"You mean to tell me they sold you a sandwich of lettuce, tomatoes, and onions?" I laughed.

"Yeah. Even better, it had ketchup, pickles, and relish, too," he sighed.

I mean, come on. Is it just me or is that the funniest thing ever? But I was assured their hand cut french fries were awesome so at least he wasn't completely bummed out. And Matt and Gary freaked out over the burgers -- said they were delicious and unlike any fast food they'd ever eaten.

Alright. I really need to talk about something else. We'll get back to the vacation in a minute. So as I said, while Julie and Gary were out fishing, I went to the library. I also bought and read Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things. Now, I know I was supposed to write about that in my blog today but I can't because I've promised someone else I'd do something cool and special in conjunction with that next month. So as much as it pains me, I will say nothing more about it right now, but I will copy an excerpt of my email to Sue of last night here:

"Ohhh....Fragile Things. I just want to crawl up in it and live in there. Actually, that's what I really thought when I read Stardust over vacation - somehow I'd missed reading it this year and read that on the beach as well. Also revisited American Gods. That was a fucking masterpiece. The world should have stopped for a few minutes the day that came out..." (with a nod to Anne Lamott, who, in her awesome book for writers Bird by Bird, warned us that as writers the earth will not stop revolving the day our books are finally published and released on an unsuspecting public. But as far as American Gods go, I don't know that I've ever read anything quite like that in my life and don't know how any one person could have written it.)

As a matter of fact, here I am chilling on the beach last week with Eric and the fabulous Monty dog and as you can see, American Gods is on my lap.

Alrighty, so I also said when I went to the library I got an email with some fantastic information and that email was coincidentally from Sue who gave me the incredible news that she's now a featured writer here! I mean, how fucking cool is that. Daily readership? Oh...two million. I'm so thrilled for Susan I can barely control myself.

Okay, wrapping up the beach vacation real fast, Julie, Eric and Matt went home on Friday night -- we had eight days left to collapse and chill out.

Ho ho ho.

Monday morning the phone rings.


"Hey, Julie. What's up?"

"What are you doing?"

"About to go to the beach," I lied.

"Are you riding your bicycles every day?"

"Um...yeah. Sure. Every day."

"I'm thinking of coming down again tomorrow and staying for the rest of the week until you guys come home."

"Really? Fantastic! come?"

"Well, Eric won't be home all week - he's got gigs in New York...and Matt has school (Matt and Julie both go to Drexel University but Julie is deferring this semester to go on tour with Adrian Belew in November)...and I'm bored. Oh, and I think there's a mouse in the kitchen..."

"Oh no! A mouse?" I don't know why, but I go absolutely beserk over mice and even though intellectually I know it's ridiculous, the sight of one in my kitchen gives me seizures. Alas our house is 110 years old and built on a addition to being in the the occasional mouse is something no one in this neighborhood can avoid. However, I've been known to lock myself in my bedroom if Gary isn't home and I see one downstairs and Julie has unfortunately inherited this same strange behavior.

"Yeah. So...can Dad pick me up at the train?"

"Of course."

And thus Julie came back and the rest of our vacation was spent furiously riding bikes, hiking, doing triathalons, mountain climbing, deep sea name it.

It was great.

Now. On to the music. As I said on a few (ha ha) occasions, Eric played a gig in New York last week with Chris Harford and here's the You Tube of said event which is quite cool:

I like that weird old guy at the end who seems totally baffled.

Last week Eric also bought himself an amazing set of drums from fellow musician Chuck Treece. Here's a photo -- for those of you who are music freaks, they were made by Boom Theory and if you click on that link, you'll see just how awesome they really are.

More Eric and Julie music news -- Adrian Belew mentions them in a pre-tour interview given back in May or June of this year in Modern Guitars Magazine.

Also, regarding their new project with amazing guitarist Sarah Zimmermann, here's the official press release for that:

"Sarah Zimmermann is a recent graduate of the School of Rock All-Stars who has been stunning audiences coast to coast with her amazing slide guitar work and vocals. In the past year, Sarah has played Lollapalooza, NAMM, Music Player Live, The Zappanale Festival in Germany, and numerous theater gigs accross the country, sharing the stage with such legends as Peter Frampton, John Wetton, Mike Keneally, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. She also opened for Jeff Beck and John Mayer at the Fender 60th Anniversary in Tempe AZ, where she so impressed the Fender brass that they gave her an American Deluxe Telecaster, and has recently been sitting in with Benevento/Russo Duo side project Bustle in Your Hedgerow.

Sarah is now playing out with her new band, The Sarah Zimmermann Trio, which features former School of Rock All-Stars Eric and Julie Slick on bass and drums. Eric is a rising star on the music scene and has been quite busy since his graduation from SOR, playing with Mike Keneally, Shannon Penn, and Zappa Alumni band Project Obect, as well as Chris Hartford and various WEEN side projects. Together with his phenomenal bass playing sister Julie, they spent the summer touring the US and Europe as the back up band for guitar legend Adrian Belew, an ongoing gig they have secured as The Adrian Belew Trio.

Together, the three of them represent what is best about The Paul Green School of Rock Music, and why the future is so bright for their graduates.

The The Sarah Zimmermann Trio will be doing a three day mini tour in October to get ready for a bigger tour in the winter. The dates:

Saturday Oct 21st: NYC, The Knitting Factory
Sunday Oct 22nd: Asbury Park NJ, Asbury Lanes"

Actually, said trio rehearsed in my living room all day today and Gary and I sat upstairs stunned with our jaws on the carpet. They are so good it's scary and the chemistry is there so this could turn out to be a very, very cool project.

Eric is having the time of his life. When he went up to New York for the Chris Harford gig on September 28, he called me from CBGBs (where he was also playing that night) and said rather nonchalantly: "Guess who I met tonight, Mom? Nile Rogers. I also met Adrien Brody, Michael Showalter, and Sim Cain, drummer for the Rollins Band".

Because CBGBs is closing, huge crowds have been coming out every night to see the final shows so Eric really got lucky...Fishbone played the main stage while Eric played the gallery and he got the overflow and really had a blast. He played from 1:00 a.m. until 4:30 a.m.

Besides the above, Eric is getting ready to do a gig with Mike Keneally and Bryan Beller in St. Louis on October 13 and then he takes off with Julie for the west coast with Adrian Belew from November 1-15. See Adrian's website for more info on that and yes, yes, I'm shooting for attending the November 9 show in San Francisco.

Okay. Enough is enough. This probably is the world's longest blog post. Someone contact the Guinness Book of World Records for me, please?

And to be honest, I'm actually leaving a lot of stuff out because I'm tired. More tomorrow?