New York- June 12, 2019

June 12th. Many things have happened on that date in history. In 1099 Crusade leaders visited the Mount of Olives where they met a hermit who urged them to assault Jerusalem. The 12th of 1923 saw Harry Houdini escape from a straight jacket while suspended upside down 40ft in the air. “Cleopatra” starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison, and Richard Burton premiered at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City in 1963. In 1987 Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. June 12th is the birthday of Anne Frank, George H.W. Bush as well as actors Jason Mewes, Timothy Busfield, Eamonn Walker, and Jim Nabors. And most recently, the person who is  President of the United States, on paper anyway, added to his long list of embarrassing comments and stated he would accept information from a foreign power on his political opponents and not involve the FBI. And lost in all that information is my birthday, June 12, 1973 which is at the root of my trip to the Big Apple. After a pretty rough beginning to my year which saw both the end of a relationship followed by surgery requiring my head to be cut open, I made it a point to be very selfish and do something just for me on my birthday.

I found out months ago that one of my favorite guitar players, Paul Gilbert, was not only playing at the Iridium Jazz Club in NY, but also playing on my birthday. As such, I not only got a ticket for the show but splurged for the meet and greet before the show which not only entailed the usual swag bag and photo op but also a guitar lesson from the man himself. But first, let’s get the bad news out of the way.

I made my reservation to spend the night at the Manhattan Hotel at Times Square. In short, DO NOT stay there. The price was reasonable for New York and the rooms shown on the website appeared very modern, bright, and clean. I can only assume most of the photos were of their higher end suites and rooms for my room appeared nothing like them. The hallway leading to the room was dark and dank. There was obvious dirt on the hall furniture, pealing wall paper, and stained ceiling tiles galore. While my room seemed clean, the furniture was old, scratched, and dented. The bathroom was beyond dated with many chipped tiles and the overall lighting of the room was again dark making for an uncomfortable space. Fortunately I wasn’t going to be spending much time in my room. The only positives I can say is that the staff was courteous and I did not wind up with bed bugs (thank goodness). I did my due diligence in making all this known to the hotel manager. OK, enough of my complaining, it’s time to head out.

First off, for anyone who has never been to New York, do not be surprised at the prices. One might look at the cost of things and feel they are overpriced and compared to other cities and towns, yeah, they are. But it’s across the board. No one place is getting the better of you than the other. It is what it is in New York. I started my evening grabbing a couple of drinks and light snack at the SuperNova Bar inside the Novotel Hotel. It’s a decent enough bar with an outside area that has a great views, specifically of Times Square. So far, a good start to the evening. Afterwards, I made my way to the Iridium for the meet and greet.

 

This is only the second time I’ve gone for a meet and greet and I have to say this one exceeded my expectations. First off, there was only three of us total which made for a very personal and intimate experience. Paul himself was so completely laid back, down znHwEmpEQQSDfcHNxIqv%Qto earth, and friendly. I never once got the feeling that he was phoning it in. He genuinely seemed to enjoy spending time with his fans. It started off with a guitar lesson where he first went over some alternative playing techniques which was followed by a couple music theory lessons. You can easily see how much he loves playing guitar, talking about it, and passing on what he knows. The lesson was followed by the usual photo op. Then we got sit through their sound check which was basically a short 4 song set being played just for us. The experience ended with the usual swag bag of a T-shirt, guitar picks, CDs, and autographs. Meet and greets are always a bit pricey but compared to the last one I did, this was less expensive and definitely had more bang for the buck. Well done by Paul, his band, and his crew all around.

Once the meet and greet was done, it was time for the show. I paid the extra $10 bucks for reserved seating and combined with being there for the meet and greet, this got me a great seat right up front. Similar to a comedy club, the Iridium has a two item minimum which can be any combo of food and drink. However, while again it’s on the pricey side, where it differs from a comedy club is that the food is much better quality if not somewhat basic. The show itself was awesome. I had seen Paul before and this show was so much more. I’ve been a fan of his since the late 80’s and liking his stuff with Racer X and less so with Mr. Big. I have to say, over the years he has not only gotten better but his playing has matured so much. While he retains his technical chops and ability to shred, he has now coupled that with so much more soulfulness and fluidity. His new material from his new album “Behold Electric Guitar” is simultaneously a departure for him yet still quintessentially Paul Gilbert in his technique. In addition to his new material, he performed a couple of cover songs that he made is uniquely his own. One was a genius mash up of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and one of his older songs, “Scarified”. The other was a little tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore with the song “Still I’m Sad”. Please check out the embedded videos to see what I mean. Playing as part of four piece with keyboards rounding out the bass and drums made for a fun, groovy set. Not just a great guitar player, Paul tells very funny and entertaining stories setting up his songs as the set goes along. The only down side is that it made the 2 hours quickly pass by. If you are a guitar player, a fan of guitar players, or just a fan of good music, you owe it to yourself to check out Paul Gilbert (Disclaimer: Paul Gilbert nor his associates has paid me one red cent to write these kind words. Ahem, ahem, cough, cough.)

My night unofficially ended by checking out a couple of high end roof top bars, specifically the St. Cloud Roof Top Bar and 230 Fifth Rooftop. The former is atop The Knickerbocker Hotel having both an indoor and outdoor bar that also has a great view of Times Square. The latter is farther away with a large indoor section and an outdoor bar the next floor up. Both very different in their decor and equally nice. That said, they were both dead with the St. Cloud closing early. So, while the city may never sleep, it seems most of the people actually do.

Despite a couple of not so great things, I had a great time and very much enjoyed the quick jaunt up to Manhattan. The only thing I would do different in the future is pick a night with more people out and about and do a much better job in choosing a hotel.

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Los Angeles- January 2019

Here’s another one for the “late” file. This was a trip my friend Artie and I had been talking about for a while. A trip to hang out on Sunset Strip at the Rainbow and pay homage to our metal roots as well as Lemmy from Motörhead and then had to the annual NAMM show and check out all the new music gear and listen to numerous bands playing on various stages. Oh and of course get our drink on. I suggested to Artie we should hike out to the old MASH set at Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. For anyone who is a fan of the show or just taking a day hike in general it is well worth the trip if you are in the area. The rusted out vehicles are original from the show having been left there after filming was done. The Mess Hall and sign post were recreations after the fact. That area has seen its share of fires and in actuality one had just came through the November prior to our trip. Despite seeing some areas of fire damage, it did not take away from the beauty of the area. The best part was probably when we discovered the bridge was out on the trail to the site and in trying to cross, I took a bit of a “swim”.

If you are a fan of metal and hard rock, then taking a night to hang out at The Rainbow on Sunset Strip something you should do once. It’s actually a chill bar and with the legality of things in California, a place once can really chill out. Plus there is a statue to honor the man, the myth, the legend, Lemmy. What more can you ask for. We had a blast and after being told “If you are going to stumble around in here, I’m going to have to ask you to leave” we felt it best to get back to the hotel, which I don’t remember.

The final part of trip was the NAMM show in Anaheim. This was a blast. As a guitar player I was in my glory seeing all the displays of new and unique guitars, amps, pedals, etc. Overall, it’s basically a 3 day party. There are gourmet food trucks lined up and down the main street feeding you until your hearts content, numerous stages with bands playing live music throughout the day, and hotel bars open to everyone. While I didn’t happen to meet any famous musicians, I did get to meet Ken Haas of Reverent Guitars, one of my favorite brands.

It was a quick long weekend trip but well worth it.

Poland: October 2018 (aka traveling with family)

To say this blog post is a bit late would be much more than an understatement. For whatever reason, I just could not sit down and get in the right frame of mind to write about this trip. This trip was many things. It was glorious to visit family I’ve known about and had never met before. It was bittersweet in that it was the last trip with my ex-partner, a person I greatly enjoyed traveling with. It was trying and frustrating traveling with my family, specifically my parents, who complained about many things on a trip that was paid for them. It was exciting to learn from my mother’s family they had genealogical information on her biological father whom we knew next to nothing about. It was surreal to talk with mother Babci’s brother in Warsaw who was a proud and staunch, real life, original gangster communist. It was delicious to eat all the food there. It was heartwarming to see the meal  my mother’s family prepared for us in Jasieniec. It was surprising to see how rude the Frankfurt Airport personnel was with taking my dad to the connecting flight (especially since my tripe to Germany in 2017 was so positive). Given the time that has transpired and the things that have occurred in my life since then, I find it hard to write about this trip in great detail. Rest assured it was a trip I will cherish and recommend to anyone interested to visit Poland.

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