20160919_205425As a pre-teen and through much of my early adult life, I would experience asthma attacks.  Some were very severe and lasted for days.  I underwent allergy testing and countless blood samples to find out what was causing my allergic reactions.  It turned out almost everything did, but that is not the subject of this story.  I was quite used to needles and shots and was not bothered by the poking and prodding.  As it turned out, I just needed to grow out of it.

Years later, my partner was pregnant with my daughter Teneca.  She was in for testing and they were trying to take a blood sample.  It didn’t go well and after a few unsuccessful tries, I needed to leave the room and stop watching the process.  As I left the room I was feeling woozy – to say the least. As I was walking down the hospital corridor, I thought it would be a good idea to sit on the bench in the hallway.  That is what I told myself anyway!  There was no bench or seat and I gradually passed out and hit the floor rather softy. Waking up I realized what I had done and got up to go back in the office.  This was the beginning of a long running reaction to needles and shots.  I am not sure if I actually fainted from it again, but even at the dentist I would come close to passing out. I could not watch someone getting a shot on TV or movies and had to close my eyes during those scenes.  Eventually even the thought of needles or injections would trigger this type of reaction. It was not the pain or fear of needles, it was the thought!

A little over a week ago my grandson Daniel Hopkins (as per my recent family article, he unfortunately does not carry the Kennedy name…..) was rushed to the hospital.  He was unresponsive and his skin was dull grey.  He was in ICU for a few days with dangerously high blood sugar levels and was lucky not to have gone into a diabetic coma.  That is how he found out he had Type 1 diabetes. Teneca asked me to stay with them for a while and help out.  I knew this meant more than just housekeeping and I admit I was a bit concerned and not really sure if I could even be around, let alone help with testing and injections needed for his new life style.  The last thing they needed was to have to pick me up off the floor!

My grandson was great from the start.  He realized he was in serious condition and took the disease head-on.  Learning quickly what had to be done he dug right in.  Before they got home from the hospital he was counting carbs, measuring insulin needed and testing his blood sugar levels. Now it was up to me!  Just talking about the injection regiment with them the first night I got light headed.

Luckily I had a couple days to read about Type 1 diabetics and watch them take care of Daniel before I was to give him an injection.  I am pleased to tell you that there was no issue.  I gave him the injection and not only did he not get injured by me, I did fine.  I did not pass out, get light headed or even a little woozy.  It took my grandson’s health and needs to put things back in focus but I think I can get over the needle reaction I have lived with for years now.  Full circle. Live, learn and helping each other as we go.  Life is good.

   

 

Actually, I am not sure how this one started off.  I think I first had an idea for a chord progression.  Sometimes I doodle on the guitar or keyboards and pick out chords that I like – or more importantly – chord progressions or combinations that fit together.  Anyway, I ended up with a very basic set of four chords.  I played them with a simple rhythmical structure and started to get hypnotized by the repetitious waves it produced.  The words from this poem seemed to fit easily in place.  Drifting thoughts while looking out my home office window.  A number of themes recycled in those thoughts.  Haunting.  Not yet solid or concrete.  Like looking through fog but knowing something solid is right in front of you.  Often I look back to my computer, which when idle, displays pictures I have taken of travels, friends and events.  Above are pictures of a trip to Acadia National Park that got mixed up in the meandering day dream.  I could begin my dream there, never wake up, and be perfectly happy.

That feeling inspired words that look at the relationship of the real and unreal ingredients in relationships. Opposing ideas that express the same thought.  Scared and laughing, coming to say do not leave.  Drinking but quite sober.  The lyrics allowed me to use the chord progression and sparse rhythm structure to create an eerie musical  landscape.  In some ways creating the exact opposite of the romantic feeling of the verses.

I will have the music mixed and a final version ready in the not too distant future and will post so you can understand the references, or maybe come to your own!  Here is “Felt This Way B4”.

Felt This Way B4”                                               MSK © 1-11-2005

It started off as 

Just another Day Dream 

Looking back on life. 

  

Felt this way before 

The other million times 

I’ve looked into your face. 

  

It started off as 

Just another song 

I couldn’t put in to words. 

 

I came to tell you 

Don’t go away 

I promise I’ll never leave. 

 

Take this as a gift 

From one who couldn’t live 

Without, yet lives In you. 

 

I will struggle 

But I will earn your trust 

And that will set us free. 

  

I stopped drinking but I still get drunk 

I’d be REAL happy if I’d get out of this funk. 

I never drive when I’m behind the wheel 

Many sensations I can no longer feel. 

  

It started off as 

Just another Day Dream 

Looking back on life. 

 

Felt this way before 

Scared half to death 

And I’m laughing like a clown. 

 

It started off as 

Just another song 

I couldn’t put in to words. 

  

Too much time and nowhere to go 

Then a lot of work for just a little bit of dough.

I’m a pacifist that just loves a good fight 

And  I say “Good Morning!” in the middle of the night.  

 

I stopped drinking but I still get drunk 

 And I’d be REAL happy if I’d get out of this funk. 

I never drive when I’m behind the wheel 

Many sensations I can no longer feel. 

 

It started off as

Just another Day Dream

Looking back on life.

 

Felt this way before

The other million times

I’ve looked into your face.

 

It started off as

Just another song

I couldn’t put in to words.

 

Too much time and nowhere to go

Then a lot of work for just a little bit of dough

I’m a pacifist that just loves a good fight

And  I say “Good Morning!” in the middle of the night.

 

 

In most situations when you want to record a performance, you might not have a lot of time to set up.  The environment might not be perfect, and there are other needs than getting a great recording.   I have tried and been quite successful with a number of techniques.  I will offer a few here for your consideration.

Getting a good mix from the sound board Mono Out or Main Left and Right Outs in a small or medium size venue is very easy to set up, but most likely to be disappointing. The needs of the audience in a live situation can be the exact opposite from the recording engineer’s.  As mentioned in the beginning of this series, LSR is reinforcement.  The sound person will amplify the weaker signals in the House or Mains; vocals – along with a LOT of effects, acoustic guitars, flutes, and even the drums.  They might not need to reinforce the lead or bass guitar as much. So the board mix is heavier on vocals, effects, and keyboard in some cases.  Not a great listen for most people.                                                                                                                                       You can set up a sub-mix if the sound guru gives you access.  If they run Left (Mono) like most venues, you can create your own mix using the Right Mono out.  Using the pan for each channel, keep full signal going to the Left out, and pan toward Center position to send desired amount of signal to the Right out.  You might want to isolate the guitar or bass, add a little toms if they are mike’d, but not heavy in the mix.  You can mix the two outs if you record in stereo and get a great live sound.  This will not give you a perfect stereo field, but most audiences do not remember concerts in stereo.  The sound seems to come from the stage, not left and right cabinets in front of the stage. 

I have also had luck with those portable stereo digital recorders available now for what I think is really cheap for what they do.  You need to set them up correctly and take care of them but they are so easy to set up and you get great sound in various environments.  If you have a SAFE place where you will hear more of the band than the audience (sounds easier than it really is) this is worth a try.

Image  —  Posted: September 9, 2016 in live Sound Reinforcement, Live Sound Reinforcement Series
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For many, the family line is important if not critical throughout the world.  In countries far older than the U.S.A., blood lines have been kept in-tact through many centuries.

My generation saw the termination of our family branch.  There are plenty of Kennedy’s around, but my immediate line will end with our children.  Plenty of female daughters – that will take other names – and the few males did not produce male children.  My late mother – not a Kennedy until marriage – was concerned and saddened by this. Generations can pass along wealth, wisdom, culture and moral values to descendants to give them a head start in life and to encourage prosperity and family success.  I mixed that line of thought with some other ideas floating in my head to complete the following piece.

Broken Forever”                  © MSK 8-29-2016

No sense regretting things that I’ve done

The mother of my daughter is not the mother of my son.

The child I am raising is not from either one.

Can’t stand still and life can’t be out run

 

The reasons at the time seem to get lost

Like answers to questions and their hidden cost.

Logic and compromise quickly get tossed

Lines and barriers that should never be crossed.

 

Painful reminders surface time and again

Impossible to know where or when.

Still haven’t learned what I didn’t know then

Stop saying how things should have been.

 

The family line has come to an end

Broken forever because it could not bend

Long ago I gave up trying to pretend.

Like piles of letters I will never send.

 

Didn’t see it coming and then one day

On my doorstep and forever to stay.

Denial and tears won’t make it go away

Failing no matter how often I play.

 

A solid base of the family trees

Branches are strong and covered with leaves.

The name is gone but as everyone sees

The fruit they bear have precious seeds.

Image  —  Posted: September 1, 2016 in Photography, Poetry
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Are They All Like This?

Never into sports as a kid.  My family moved a lot as I was growing up.  One time I went to three different schools in one year.  Did not make a lot of friends.  But the people I did get a long with tended to be female.  Maybe I was more mature than other boys.  I just never understood why guys act the way they do.  Part inspired and brave, part stupid and unaware.  I have heard many conversations on this topic.  If you listen to ten different women they will have similar complaints regarding their husbands, – boyfriends, bosses, co-workers. 

We all know the saying about good guys finishing last.  But that is only the start of it. If our relationships follow many others before us, woman have so much baggage when they think about the men in their lives.  Some of them just made bad choices, but many thought they knew someone honest, kind and sincere, only to find out they are liars and jerks like all the others.

I have never been like all the others.  But so many women I know have been jaded by relationships that end in cruel and bitter melt downs.  As hard as I try in many cases I can’t get past their history.  As if all men are evil creeps in the end – they just act nice at first so they can get what they want.  The true nice guys – we don’t want anything. We see women as people, friends, partners.  We know there are strengths and weaknesses from both sexes, but together we are whole.  We see both sides.  It is hard for many women to look at us without seeing all the other failures in their past.

Those were my thoughts last weekend as I wrote “Not That Kind Of Man”.

© MSK 8/21/2016

All through school the boys would laugh at you

Say things about you they knew weren’t true

Doing what you didn’t want them to do.

Never saw life from your point of view

 

 Men at church looked you up and down

Got way too close when their wives weren’t around

More than eyes always fondling your gown

Then they dare you to make a sound.

               

The guys you knew no matter where you work

Treated you like a toy and acted like a jerk

Harassing secretaries, waitresses and clerks

As if it was one of their many perks.

 

                                I’ve never been one of them

                                I’m just not that kind of man.

                                It may take you years to forget them

                                But I hope one day you can.

 

One after another they were all the same

Just a different face and another name

Refuse to play so you take all the blame

You could never win if you played their game.

 

                                I’ve never been one of them

                                I’m just not that kind of man.

                                Soon you’ll look at me and not see them

                                I’ve never been that kind of man,

 

Husbands cheat as easily as they lie

Ask you to forgive them as they watch you cry

So many disappointments you no longer try

Curled up in bed and just wanting to die.

 

                                I’m just not that kind of man

                                What you’ve been through I understand.

                                Soon you’ll look at me and not see them

                                I’ll never be that kind of man.

 

                                I’ll never be that kind of man

                                I’ll never be that kind of man.

                                Soon you’ll look at me and not see them.   

                                I’ll never be that kind of man                            

Yesterday I heard that I lost another great friend and musical partner.  My sister called me last night to tell me there had been an accident and she did not have a lot of details, but a great friend of mine died yesterday.  I mentioned Ric Ahlers in my blog posts before.  He was the guitar player/vocalist in the first real band I was in called The Personal Touch.  He co-authored with me one of my favorite songs I called “For Those Who Wait“.  (With music it was titled: “Our Bodies Move“).

Ric was my brother-in-law and was looking for a keyboard player to start a duo to play locally and out on the road.  Though I had only dabbled with piano and was mostly a rhythm guitar singer-songwriter, he gently persuaded me to join him.  Then for about three months he patiently guided me as I learned not only how to play keyboards (not just piano, but all the other sounds keyboard players are responsible for), but also a bunch of popular cover tunes for the first time.  He was way ahead of me as far as knowledge and talent (I try to take my own advice and play with musicians that are better than me!) and had played out before.   We also played our original songs as part of our normal set list.  He had more confidence in me than I did, but I guess that is a familiar story to my blog readers.

We started as a duo and played local clubs.  We had a full sound as we both sang (as well as we could) and I played my 12 string guitar and the keyboards and later programmed drum machines.  He played lead guitar and also controlled a drum machine with an accompaniment triggered by his  bass pedals that played bass and added filler strings and piano chords.  We could play anything from classic standards to Jimi Hendrix tunes and fit into a very small space.

He sat while playing guitar and kicking his bass pedals.  He stood over 6 foot 10!  Some people would come up to shake his hand after a tune and jump back as he stood up to talk to them!!

He was as tall sitting as I was standing and it really surprised people and caught them off guard.  I would have to warn him about low ceiling fans at hotels and lobbies!  We added Ann Ellis as a vocalist and traveled around the county as a trio in his van.  THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

Life is not always easy but Ric was always a gentle giant.  With a heart just as big, he climbed back up if he got knocked down, and carried you on his shoulders if you could not keep going.  He is also family and we will all miss him and are stunned by the sudden loss of a great man in many ways.

There is a joke, not much of a joke really, but a saying that describes a point of view we too often have in the United States:

Question:

What do you call it when you speak two languages?

Answer:

Bi-lingual.

Question:

What do you call it when you speak several languages?

Answer:

Multi-lingual.

Question:

What do you call it if you speak one language?

Answer:

American.

As you can see it is not really funny and not really a joke, but I use this often to remind myself how different our decisions and thoughts can be depending on perspective or point of view.  I was delighted with the response to my recent poem entitled “Hearts of Stone“.  (…..Actually, I initially titled it “Where You Live”.  As mentioned before I am not good at naming my own songs.  My daughter Alisa – and partner in the success of this blog – correctly suggested I change the title).  I wanted to give you a bit of history to this poem as it was actually inspired by follower comments.  All of which I read and respond to – not as quickly as I like but I try to get to them all as I truly appreciate the time and thoughts from so many people.

I have often mentioned that I am thankful for access and exposure to thoughts and feedback around the globe.  It helps open my eyes to things I would not normally consider.  Creative people all over the world are represented here and it is amazing what an impact you have had on me and my writings.  A while back I posted a question about what was your first concert.  While many responses were very cool, some responded they were not allowed to have huge concerts in their country.  This struck me deeply.  First; as a callous question from an arrogant blogger who takes life for granted.  We often complain about politics or taxes and a million other things in the US and other countries but we have a choice.  We may not get our way but we can voice our opinion and discuss our thoughts openly.  This is not true everywhere.  Secondly: it drove this arrogant blogger to think about how many things we take for granted every day.  So I tried to look around my little piece of the world from another point of view.

The first line is kind of an inside joke and would easily be understood by people that live in places line my town.  We often have cloudy – hazy skies most of the time and it gets so bad that the traffic reports have to remind us what that big bright thing in the sky is on sunny days!  Often at night we do not see stars and frequently miss the experiences of full moons or eclipses.  The rest of the poem tries to reflect the things humans might notice looking at their world.  Some are glorious and beautiful and worth celebrating while other things are tragic and unimaginable to ‘outsiders’.

I have read the words in this poem many times since posting the poem on MIDIMike and a melody keeps creeping into my subconscious when I repeat them.  In the same line as the global inspiration for the lyrics, the melody and arrangement is not my ‘normal’ style.  I may be the only one that likes it, but I cannot get rid of it.  I will be finished putting this poem to music soon, but to be forewarned it is not a replica of my past works and musical pieces.  It is my thanks to all of you.  It is a sharing.  It is an apology for not keeping my mind open to others.  It is a simple reflection from deep inside.  It is an invitation to continuing communications that will bring different cultures and peoples together.  If we cannot communicate we are doomed.

I will post as a song as soon as I have a decent recording of what has been spiraling inside my head.

Click Here to read the original poem.

1

Started writing when I was ten

And singing when I was four.

Played all kinds of music since then

And listened to a whole lot more.

 

Never had very much money

Yet a lot of life is free.

Reaching for the milk and honey

But it never bothered me.

 

Grew up fast and got wise slowly

But practiced what I believed.

Too often I paid my debts and fees

For things I never received.

 

Kicked around so I hit the road

It all feels the same to me.

Started walking with an easy load

Searching for Infinity.

 

Some people when they call you friend

They’ll stay that way for life.

They’ll stick with you until the end

To make sure that you survive.

 

Give them a chance they give you two

No fear; no hate inside.

Not easy to live that way too

At least I can say I tried.

 

So much older than I was then

I won’t be singing much more.

Placed my bets again and again

But never managed to score.

 

What I wanted was what I had

Knew it eventually.

Though life doesn’t seem so bad

It was out of focus to me.

There have been many memorable events in my life to date and many more to come.  It might not be apparent at the time the impact any one of them would have at the time.  I have never been diagnosed or treated professionally but I find myself dealing with depression from time to time.  It is impossible to know what triggers those feelings and more difficult to see your way out. On one of those times I could not break the cycle.  I had no motivation or inspiration.  In fact, I did not care at all.  About anything.  I had been through similar situations before so for weeks I kept telling myself it would pass in its own time.  I would get through this one as well.  But that was the only positive thought I had.  Life not worth living.  Nothing made me happy or sad. I forced myself through motions and obligations by shear routine.   I seemed like this would go on forever.  It felt unbearable even though most of my friends had no idea what I was dealing with.

I had tickets to see an amazing show under any circumstances, so I went to see Cirque du Soleil.  It is funny how this affected me.  I watched human beings do what seemed impossible even if you could think of the skills in the first place.  Art and amazing physical prowess seamlessly blended together to tell a story with few words.  Strength and perfection only achieved with years and years of unrelenting practice and sacrifice.  It again showed me the potential of mankind.  Dedication, creativity, trust, respect were all required to make this amazing performance happen.  I realized watching each scene that we are incredible beings when we try. That night I started trying again.  I saw the end of the funk that was created by myself – for myself.  I could see again the beauty of life and the result of hard work when things seem impossible.

History sometimes repeats itself. Funny to think of this after my recent event at a concert to see my musical mentor and hero – Peter Gabriel, performing on tour with Sting.  It is so refreshing to know there are others in the world that struggle to be good.  That work every day to promote peace love and all that corny stuff I could not live without.  In their music and through their lives they can impact so many.  I thought I would never be able to see Gabriel perform.  I have come close, but things did not work out. They almost did not work out this time either.  Of all the artists/people in the world, his music, words and projects affect me like no other person on this earth.  I am who I am with his unknowing help and guidance.  I struggle to be better knowing it is possible.

I grew up listening to Genesis and following his solo career.  I am not obsessed and do not own everything he has.  I do not know every detail of his personal life or career.  But I do think I ‘know the man’.  I understand him as a man and not an idol.  We are growing old together.

Sting was also amazing and sang a number of Peter’s songs, and performing his own tunes and some from the days of The Police.  For me, it was precious, unforgettable and one of the greatest musical experiences I have had.

Heart-of-Stone

Where you live do the stars shine bright.

Is music played throughout the night?

Does the river run to the sea

Are there lands where animals run free?

 

Where you live are there golden beaches

Great halls where the poet teaches?

Are there fields of crops  

Can you see snow on mountain tops?

 

Laws of nature are always the same.

Universal rules that never change.

I wish those were the ways of man.

But we’ve broken them since time began.

 

Do lonely men beat their lover

Do some justify killing another?

Believe what they see they own

Lie and cheat with hearts of stone?

 

Are prisons full of innocents

Banks that hide how your money’s spent?

Barren lands and tortured skies

Silence forced to hide the lies?