Tagged: Tom Petty

Spendid Isolation

I’ve got pretty much everything I need right now. Laptop, tablet, smartphone, big bottle of cold water, three vials of assorted medications, a closed door and an effective mask. No, I’m not on an urban bivouac, I’m in Covid isolation.

As I’m writing this I’m in the middle of day 4 and not feeling sick at all but my latest test was still positive, although the T line (the bad one) is barely there. Is that progress? Maybe, but all I know, and I hate, really hate to admit this, is that I’m really enjoying, in the words of the late, wonderful Warren Zevon, “splendid isolation.”

There are a few ways to look at being closed off in a spare room in my lovely home away from family and salty snacks. For one, I have almost no responsibilities. For the past six-plus years I’ve been semi-retired. For the past four days I’ve been completely retired. No, I can’t travel to a warm client but since I’m technically a victim of a global pandemic nothing is expected of me. I can stand that, at least temporarily.

I do feel bad I can’t enter the kitchen or eat with the rest of my family. My wife has been kind enough to leave food and beverage at my door. In turn I don’t ask for a lot because it bothers me to have her serve me and she knows I’m a shitty tipper.

Early in my isolation I didn’t really feel up to doing anything creative. So I blew a lot of hours gaping at my laptop screen. Watched some old rock concerts..any Tom Petty/Heartbreakers show is the best show. As a guitar player, Tom Petty songs are the easiest to play. He only used a few different chords, none of them very complicated. Thanks Tom, wish you hadn’t gone to the great wide open

Swung over to a long Hall and Oates show they did in Sydney, Australia. Why does Oates only get to sing two solos and barely say anything to the audience? Seems unfair. I wonder if they ever considerd changing their name to “Mostly Hall and A Small Bag of Oates.” Things you think about when you’re on Paxlovid.

Yearning for something completely new I discovered the wonders of the new show Poker Face starring the revelation known as Natasha Lyonne.

Her character is like a modern day Columbo. OK, don’t give me that shit you’re too young to remember Columbo. Look it up. Anyway, she can always tell when someone’s lying and that’s how she solves crimes….and she’s not even a cop. When someone lies she quickly responds, “bullshit!” No one says “bullshit” better than Natasha Lyonne. I actually think she should star in every single show and movie.

Couldn’t get to sleep right away last night so I dove into the memoirs of Mel Brooks. Figured it would be funny and make it easy to gently go into that good night. It was a good strategy. Still only at his early career in the Catskill Mountain Borscht Belt. We went their often in my childhood having been brought up in the NYC borough of Queens—a two-hour drive. The food and the jokes were equally stale but you always came away full, happy and constipated. Loved the Catskills.

I’m told to remain in my subdivision cell one more day after this and I’m sure my family will be happy because I’m hogging the combination guest room and room where my son has a lot of his precious stuff stored that he can’t get to.

But I’m not so sure I’m ready to return to the “outside” and lose my excuse for not doing stuff people expect of me. That’s why I’m hanging onto a couple of those positive Covid tests. Might need them as my ticket to extend my splendid isolation.

Some Petty Thoughts

drummerboy2Tell me you’re a guy who doesn’t admit to playing the drums on his steering wheel when a really great song comes on the radio and I’ll quickly call “bullshit!.” Ever since I was a kid growing up in a 400-square foot garden apartment in Queens I’ve banged on things to great songs.  Banged on my workbook in class while those new Beatle songs filled my head in 1964. So much so my twitchy 6th grade teacher Mrs. Newman screamed at me to stop.  I’d fill coffee cans with coins and create a poor-kid’s kit, keeping time to Tony Bennett and Charlie Spivak and the Stones and the Doors and even to my parents’ extensive collection of Broadway show tunes. You can’t help it. When an irresistible beat gets hold of you there are a few choices of what to do next:  snap your fingers, sing along, dance, tap your feat…or bang something.

In the 1990’s I finally had enough dough and room in my house for a real set of drums. Without a band to play with, I set up between two Pioneer speaker towers and blasted tunes to play to. Rock, jazz, the blues and always, always Tom Petty.

The reasons are simple. For a basement banger like me, the beats are easy and take hold of you like stew spiked with sriracha. The guitars are clear and to the point using three or four basic chords. The lyrics make sense and hit home. And, well, you can’t help just wanting to find a way to play with Petty.  That old early 1990-s Pioneer rack unit has a six-disc changer and Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s Greatest Hits always occupies one slot. pettysgreatest

My neighbors may quickly tire of it, but I can play along to “Refugee” and “Don’t Do Me Like That”  and “I Won’t Back Down” over and over again at full volume so it rocks my house..and their’s too…and maybe the guy’s around the block I haven’t yet met but expect to see at my door any day now. One time while I was chatting over the fence to my next door neighbor a car backfired. “Sounds like your basement,” he cracked.

I don’t wanna play those songs with a band. I wanna play with Petty and the boys…some of whom have been with him for 40 years.  In 1978 when my wife and I quit our jobs and took off from Central New York to Tucson, Arizona for our next adventure Petty was blasting on the radio and then again when we quickly moved to Atlanta in 1981 for a job opportunity and once more in 1989 as we fought traffic all 700 or so miles when work took us to our final stop, in Detroit. He was just always there with straightahead rock…no BS..no flowery, overwrought, self-conscious, egotistical declarations. Just stories. Wonderful stories. Simply told.

petty1As a journalist, that’s what I always seek to do. Just tell a story. Try to tell it well with lean language that paints a picture, makes a point, is hopefully memorable. That’s what Petty did.  Using lean language Tom Petty was as much a mentor to me as anyone.  I call your attention to something he said in Dave Grohl’s wonderful film “Sound City.”  Referring to the film’s namesake recording studio, he said when he made a record it couldn’t just be good, it had to be great. When I sit down to create something, that simple but clear statement steps forward in my head. Not just good, but great. Who’s to say if something is great. I use my own criteria and let’s be honest, I would be hard pressed to count on one hand or a toe or two anything I’ve done that I would label as such. But having greatness as a goal, prevents you from settling for just OK or good, or mediocre. It counters complacency. There’s that one tweak, reconsideration of a phrase, clearer explanation or technical refinement that can make the difference.

Mr. Petty’s body of work is testament to a man who practiced what he believed, but never preached. I thank him for that lesson, because it’s helped me be a better person. I also thank him for his music, because I love banging those drums till the walls shake, and I maybe meet a new neighbor. I’ll tell them it’s Tom’s fault…and my name’s not Tom.  It’s just my attempt to be better than good. RIP Mr. Petty. It’s time to play.