Mar 21, 2015

Robot Love - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album



She was a surprise.

It had happened to me before - more than once - and every time it did, I acted on it.  I was not accustomed to being wanted, so on the occasions that I was, it was always a surprise.

And who doesn't like surprises?

It's always a nice surprise to discover that you are wanted.  Right, Kristen?


There was a problem, of course.  I was with someone.  There were other practical complications, but this one was the biggie - my relationship, which had become unwanted.  A partnership which - on its own merit - was already deep in the shit box. 

In my romantic life, surprises have been rare, and they have almost always come at times when they should have stayed packed away.  And so it goes.

But Ron, did you ever consider that your other relationship just wasn't doin it for you anymore?  Wasn't this "surprise" a sign that you needed to move on to something - and someone - new?

Of course I considered all that.  Isn't that the first thing we always consider when temptation comes a-knockin?  Don't those of us in unsatisfying relationships - or even satisfying ones - weigh our options, even just for a second, before deciding if and when to act?

"If I was so happy with my partner, I wouldn't feel this way about so-and-so."

What bullshit.

Sometimes love isn't a choice.  But commitment is always a choice.  Now I'm no Liam Hemsworth - shit, I ain't even a Jason Priestley - but I've been lucky enough to be in relationships with some attractive women, and I've also been lucky (?) enough to discover that other attractive women have been attracted to me while in those relationships.  

Who doesn't Like to be Liked?

Some would argue that capitalist society's new way of measuring "worth" - thru Followers, Favorites, Hits, Views and all those Likes - is the sort of validation that keeps people more secure in their own relationships - a safe reminder of our relevance in spite of being "tied down."  But it's that same system that creates issues of envy and jealousy.  Distractions.  Temptation.  Not to mention more platforms to stray and scheme.  Can loyalty exist in a world overtaken by smartphones?

In every generation, there are those who eagerly pick forbidden fruit from the vine - like it's the last piece of fruit on earth.  Some go looking for it like it's their job.  Blame genetics, blame vanity, blame society - just don't blame yourself.  Shit, some of our greatest heroes are life's biggest romantic scumbags.  Right, Don?


I have never been one of those people.  But I am no angel.  I have been tempted.  Plenty of times.  When I was younger, I often acted on that temptation.  I set morality aside for a night or a week, sometimes for a summer, before my conscience stepped in and put an end to my selfish fun.  "You're an ungrateful shithead."  I believed in karma.  I could lie as well as anyone.  Managing the remorse that would inevitably follow proved much more difficult.  But the remorse was often short-lived.

I recognized that I was being a bad person.

I knew what I was doing was wrong and yet I did it anyway.  And in those younger dumber days, I got my comeuppance.  Feeling guilty wasn't enough, the whole "What they don't know won't hurt them" excuse no longer washed.  None of my selfish excuses for my shitty behavior ultimately held any water.  I was smart enough to fool the one I loved but I couldn't fool that bitch Karma.  It resulted in some dark times, it was my hardest lesson - harder than a failed marriage, harder than a hurricane washing me out of my house - and I carried that lesson into the next decade of my life.

And then she showed up - this surprise, another twist of fate.  I didn't ask for this woman to connect, even if I was looking for an escape from my unhappiness.  But we connected, it wasn't a choice.  It was a circumstantial situation that evolved into a major crush.  And the pull was strong.  I had felt that pull before, that inopportune invasion into my heart and my loins.

There was that time a female co-worker and I were having an innocent lunch in the office kitchen together.  The next week, we were making out in the elevator.  She knew I was with someone and she didn't care.  The pull was coming from both ends and we just went with it.  Magic Time.  I played up all of my problems at home - embellishing the truth in order to sustain this new forbidden romance.  Hey, you're already lying to one person, why not lie to everyone?  Let them know they're part of the solution, lure them in deeper just in case your conscience allows you more than one taste.  We all want to feel special.

Being young and dumb didn't excuse that dalliance.  It was wrong - for everyone.  Because the feelings, of course, intensified.  The passion intensified.  The lying intensified, the half-truths, the risks of getting caught, the guilt.  The hole was being dug deeper and deeper until there would be no way to climb out without someone getting hurt.

Things weren't great in my real relationship at that time, that much was true.  There was less of a spark even if the love still existed between us, even if we were still committed.  Things weren't terrible, they were just unspectacular.  Back then, I saw that as a sign of an inevitable sad failure.  That complacency.  But I've learned a lot since those younger dumber days.  Real relationships are not great all the time.  And they will never be great if you don't put the work in.  They require communication and compassion.  They require consistent sex and consistent trust.  They require sacrifice and patience.  If you choose to focus on cultivating something new instead of tending to your own back yard, you might as well just sell the entire farm.

But few do.  We don't want to give up that complacency that we simultaneously fear.  Think of the kids.  Think of the dog.  Think about your bank account.  Think about your reputation.  Breaking up is such a bummer, man.  So we create excuses for straying, the more convenient option.  We rationalize something that is indefensible.  We want the comforts of home side-by-side with our dirty little secrets.

That's how selfish people see the future.  With them getting everything they think they're entitled to.  Right, Tony?


The subject of Robot Love was never someone I felt entitled to, even if I felt entitled to happiness.  It was an unwanted love, and ultimately an unattainable one.  I didn't orchestrate our meeting.  I didn't orchestrate this new pull - it happened, quietly discouraged by the few people who knew about its existence.  How was I to suppress it?  How was I to stop feeling what I was feeling?  There was no switch to turn it off.

And it was all too familiar - the overwhelming urge, the swelling heart, the impossible choices.  It has happened to most of us at some point in our lives.  I submit that I have often been helpless to stop myself from embracing those emotions.

Amongst my radio co-workers, I'm The Hard Luck Guy Who Loves Love.  And I understand why they see me that way - they watched me dive in with those less worthy of my attention just for the sake of Being In Love.  They watched me get screwed by being impractical.

Based on my recent romantic choices, it's hard to disagree with their assessment.  Pursuing types who I should have been avoiding instead was becoming a habit.  I was accepting flaws and shortcomings as beautiful scars rather than tiptoeing out the door, no less running away in horror.  It's a habit I still find myself trying to break.  But I submit that we are lucky to feel so deeply for someone or something, even if it is all wrong for us.  Passion is a gift even if it can also be a curse.  Sometimes it can be both at the same time.  

I never acted on my feelings for the subject of Robot Love - we never made out in an elevator or had a summer-long tryst.  Instead, I made the worse mistake of confessing my burgeoning romantic crush.  I was counting on more Magic Time and the only magic that followed was the disappearance of all the flirty friendly sparks that had been flying between us.  I felt like I had blown something that never really had a chance to be anything in the first place.  I felt cursed, remembering the high school kid crushing on his band mates' girlfriend, watching them dance together at the prom with a sick feeling in his stomach.  My Duckie days were over......  Weren't they?

So I shut down the passion machine.  I became a robot.  I cut out another part of my flawed human heart in order to preserve my morality and restore my sanity.  I cursed the gods for another bout of bad timing and I gave up.  I tried to forget.  The circumstances made it easy once my professional relationship with this person effectively ended.  But we never forget, not completely.  We can delete all the correspondence and the photos, we can even cease our online stalking.  We can destroy all the evidence but we still can't erase our memories.

Forgiving was easier - this woman didn't owe me her devotion, she didn't owe me an explanation.  We both knew the reasons why we would never work.  She was smarter and stronger to steer clear of what was growing between us, even if she didn't exactly handle it with total grace.  The fade-away that followed came as no surprise.

There haven't been any surprises since my Robot Love days - not good ones, at least.  My most recent relationship taught me that surprises can also be unpleasant.  It reminded me that you should never be surprised about anything anymore.  Right, Tiger?


Does that mean I'm done taking risks?  That I'm still a robot, that I'm damaged goods, that I fear commitment?  I don't think so.  I'm still trying.  I just refuse to be arrogant about it anymore - as if this amazing love is something I deserve.  It will come when it comes.  There is no urgency attached.  That doesn't mean you've gotta stop taking chances.  If you're not willing to try, then why put yourself out there at all?  Why open your wallet?  Why open your heart?

This woman who I fell for - she kept referencing her last relationship, telling me about some lazy loafer who she fell for who wound up wasting her time and screwing her out of money.  So now she had all these rules.  Her biggest?  "I don't date band guys."  I'm not sure if she applied this rule because she thought "band guys" were wolves who only cared about their narcissistic selves and the greater pursuit of pussy.  I think she probably meant that "band guys" were complicated, complex.  Projects.  And she was right.  We are.  I always considered it a musician's birthright, wearing your heart on your sleeve - and I've always been more musician than "band guy."  The truth is this - there is no rule book.  When the love sledgehammer comes crashing down on your skull, the rules go flying out the window along with all your common sense.  Right, Boss?


And sooner or later you find yourself with your own set of rules.  Welcome to The Cult of the Practical.  Take a seat, have some whiskey.  You can be picky.  You can be superficial.  You can do whatever you want, you can walk away from anyone or anything that doesn't make your heart flutter.  You can feel however you want about whoever you want and you can pursue those feelings with a clear head and an open mind.  Freedom of choice.  Keep the bar set high.  Don't settle.  Don't be careless.  

Yet, deep in your heart, you know these are all rules that you would set aside if that next surprise showed up, if you found yourself being pulled by someone who was letting you pull back.  You're no robot, you're an imperfect human being.  You are who you are and life is as short as it is fragile.  The clock is ticking.  That Magic Time - that electricity - doesn't show up often enough for it to be taken for granted.  And so it must be harnessed.  You can convince yourself your armor is thicker, you can keep your bullshit radar on high alert, but at the end of the day, you can't deny that you're still Love's bitch, living and learning from the ghosts of a more naive past.

The Last Q*Ball Album by Ron Scalzo
Available now on iTunes and Amazon
Limited edition CD now available at lastqball.com

ROBOT LOVE

I must have been such a fool
To think that I could deal with you
I'm not supposed to feel emotions
I'm not supposed to feel a thing at all

Something put you in the way of me
Becoming the man I'm supposed to be
You're not supposed to feel emotions
You're not supposed to feel devotion
Cuz you don't owe me anything at all
In this fucked up world
Who am I supposed to be?
I guess I'm a robot
At least now you know not to play with my circuitry

Is it my imagination?
Did we make a strong connection?
It's gonna die from complications
A chronic case of misdirection

Not supposed to feel emotions
So what am I supposed to feel?
In this fucked up world
Who am I supposed to be?
I guess I'm a robot
At least now you know not to play with circuitry

How can I erase you from my memory?

***
 
Ron Scalzo - piano, vocals
Chris Pennie - synths, loops, drums
Brett Aveni - guitars


Music and Words by Ron Scalzo
Copyright 2014 Bald Freak Music (ASCAP)

Recorded at Hurricane House, Staten Island, NY and The Boiler Room, Princeton, NJ
Engineered by Fight Mannequins and Ron Scalzo
Mixed by Fight Mannequins

Artwork by Joseph Milazzo
Mastered by Michael Judeh at Dubway Studios, NYC

Jan 13, 2015

I'm Really Super - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album



How many times during your day do you run into people who greet you?

"How are you?"

And what do you say in return?

"I'm good, how are you?"

"Good, thanks."

You smile.  Sometimes you wave.
If it's Friday, you say "Have a good weekend."  If it's early, you say "Have a good day."  If it's late, you say "See you tomorrow."

And then you get in the elevator or get out of the cab or walk down the hallway or get back to the coffee machine or get back to all the shit that's weighing on your mind.

You hardly know any of these people and they hardly know anything about you.  Maybe they know your names, maybe you know theirs.  Maybe you forgot theirs and every time you see them you think to yourself, "Shit I can't remember this guy's name" as you smile and wave and say "Have a great day."

Pleasantries.


They were a common thing back in ye olden days, before our smart phones robbed us of our abilities to be more intimate on a human level.  Before we taught our fingers to talk better than we taught our mouths.  Before Da Internet changed everything.

When Harry the security guard says, "Hi Ron" every morning and smiles at me on my way up to my job, I don't stop at the desk and say, "Hiya Harry, my girlfriend is cheating on me, I almost ate pavement on the walk up here in the snow, and I fell asleep before Breaking Bad ended last night so don't tell me what happened."

And I like Harry.  He knows my name and I know his, we're always pleasant to each other, we've both got nice smiles.  It's not like I don't want to get to know Harry better.  But I just say "Hey Harry" and go about my day.  There are a hundred Harrys in my life - at my job, at parties.  I'm not Ned The Bull, I never was.  My pleasantries are purely run-of-the-mill. 

I spend tons more time at this laptop, on my phone - spilling my guts and sharing my life - than I do getting to know all my Harrys.  We all do it.  If you're reading this, you do too.  If you're on Facebook telling me about your kids, about your problems, about how sad you are that your favorite sports team lost or that your favorite celebrity died, you do too.  If you're tweeting me, if you're posting your mug on Instagram, then sitting patiently watching those little Hearts show up in the lower right hand corner like a fucking slave, you spend more time interacting here too.  People's lives are played out daily on YouTube, Vine, Snapchat.  It has become more than a culture.  It has become big business.


One of my co-workers died last week.  David.  David was another Harry.  He worked in the mail room for iHeartMedia.  I would always see him out front smoking a butt, so there were more smiles and waves for David than the others.  A week before my holiday break, I didn't really see David around and I didn't think anything of it.  Turns out he had been hit by a car and, two weeks later, had succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

An e-mail from management informed me of David's passing.  Facebook gave me the details of David's demise.  An online fundraising effort by David's family helped pay for David's funeral.

I liked David.  But I barely knew him and he barely knew me.  I remember he got hired right at the time I was involved in a bizarre love triangle with my cheating ex.  The other guy's name was David and I remember cursing the gods for bringing another David into my life even tho there are millions of Davids everywhere.

David's tragedy could have been mine, it could have been yours.  David can't answer me anymore when I say, "Hey David."  I don't see him out front when I get to work in the morning, smoking and looking stressed in his New York Giants jersey and his baseball hat, reminding me that I'm not the only one with problems.  That maybe I could have worse problems.

If David and I had taken the time to get to know each other better, maybe we would have said more to each other in the hallway.  "How's your Mom?"  "How bout dem Big Blue?"  It would still have been small talk, maybe a little shop talk, and nothing more.

Yet here, I spill my guts.  To whoever dares venture over here.  No holds barred.  But for me, and probably for you too, my love affairs in the online world have rolled deeper than the occasional virtual ramble.  This online intimacy has sometimes evolved into love and lust.


After my failed marriage and before my adventures with a superstorm prompted me to start writing about my crazy life, I burned for someone.  Someone who should have been a mail room David or a security desk Harry, but thanks to conversations had here on the good ol' Internet, became something much more.  Via cute flirty e-mails, where we discovered that we loved the same cool nerdy stuff - the same horror movies, the same 80s music.  Via instant messaging, where she became a distraction from my depression, from my work and my band stress.  Via Facebook, where I could be the voyeur, admiring her face and her body.

I have only met this woman three times in person.  She lives 4000 miles away.  The first time we met, I was trying to track her down at a concert, sending 'where are u?' texts like an excited schoolboy.  At the end of the night, I found her.  We hugged and sat down after the show while the stage was broken down.  One of my band mates, who knew I was already smitten, sat a few seats behind us like a chaperone at the end of prom waiting for his son to say goodbye to his date.

The second time I saw this woman, on the other side of the country about a month later, I was no longer Ron Scalzo.  I was Michael Scott.  I was a bumbling fool, I was 'duhhh derrrrr'.  I had reverted to the shy teenager who didn't know how to talk to girls, who had no game.  Ronnerd.  I spent the day at this woman's place of work and she caught me looking at her boobs.  I spent the night at this woman's apartment and she caught me blowing up her bathroom.  She made us some dinner that didn't turn out very well and she admitted as much as I politely finished my meal.  Nothing went right.

At the end of the night, I confessed what we both knew I had been feeling.  I was falling for this woman.  It made no practical sense and I was still falling for her like a ton of bricks.  And so it made total sense, because that's what made it awesome - it wasn't practical.  It was dat crazy stoopid love that you convince yourself you can work 'practical' around.  The reasonable part of me still existed, the advice of others still existed - but still there was this feeling

And she rejected me.  Argumentatively, but gently.  I pressed her - So this is just me feeling like a lovesick loon?  "I considered it," she confessed.


When I asked what made me a "consideration," all she could muster up was "Similar Interests."  Not that she thought I was cute or that she just wanted sex.  Not that she was also alone and dissatisfied with her own life, empathy and apathy that she had relayed during our long phone conversations.  Just 'Similar Interests'.  Y'know...we both loved The Karate Kid.  


I flew back to New York, dejected.

And, of course, instead of doing what any self-respecting person would do after that - forgetting about her - I did the opposite.  I wrote her a heartfelt letter, I made her a mix with all her favorite 80s songs on it.  I closed the mix with Bette Midler's "The Rose".  I poured my guts out and I got tumbleweeds in return.  When you make a mix for a girl with a Bette Midler song on it, you know you have truly gone off the deep end.

The last time I saw her was about 9 months later.  She was flying east for work and sent an e-mail invite out to some industry friends for dinner and drinks.  For whatever reason - one I will never understand - I was amongst those invited.  And of course - for plenty of reasons that I do understand - I went. 

It was a small group - I barely knew some people, didn't know the rest.  I was the outsider and my motivation wasn't to network, but to talk to this woman who had gone cold on me when things started to get too hot.  To see if there was any fire left.

And she ignored me the whole night, minus a fleeting moment or two.  I talked to the people I knew, bought drinks for the people I didn't.  I waited patiently while she made time for everyone else at the two Alphabet City bars we hit.  I had an early start at work the next day, filling in for a co-worker, and yet I stayed out all night, til ungodly hours, hoping for that moment where she would ask "How are you?"  Still waiting for that moment to connect.

I declined a kind offer from someone in her crew to crash in the city, but I had to get back to Staten Island, to my Divorce House that wasn't yet a Divorce Hurricane House.  I had to get back to my crazy dog so I could catch 3 hours of sleep and then head back to the Rat Race the same way I had come.  So I interrupted one of her non-Ron conversations, hugged her, said goodbye and I left.

And my night was far from over.  I fell asleep on the bus and wound up at the depot in the middle of nowhere.  It took two more hours for local buses to get me back to my house.  This was worse than more confusing rejection, this was the gods punishing me.  This was more Charlie Brown Bullshit.  I let Snoopy out back to do his business.  I cried and hugged my dog tight in my back yard at 4 in the morning.  45 minutes later, I would take the bus back into work, leaving my best friend to another day of solitude.

After that night, I went cold on her too.  Once the fantasy fades away, it often leaves its bitter taste.  We never spoke again.  With our mouths, I mean.  That wall was already up.  In a long e-mail a few months later, she sorta kinda took the time to gently explain all her practical concerns for not wanting to pursue anything with me.  She made more excuses for how she chose to handle the situation.  


We all parade our "feelings" out on stage to try to justify our shitty behavior.

A few months later, she announced on Facebook that she was In A Relationship.  She announced this on my birthday.  Yes, this could have been a coincidence.  But I Unfollowed her anyway.  *Sigh* The Unfollow - love's new weapon of spite.


When recounting my own feelings to the few people who knew about my situation with this woman, I defended myself.  I recognized that I was going crazy, that I was vulnerable.  But not only did she invite me out to the West Coast, she helped me make the proper arrangements to get there.  She invited me to stay at her place.  Whether she felt the connection or not, she encouraged my behavior.  She was not the first nor the last girl to do so.  Some ladies just love the attention.

And so I self-analyzed, I questioned my own sanity.  There are a million women in New York, Ron.  And I still stick to my guns - even if the feelings were not equally matched, the flirtation was.  The connection was there, only I chose to pursue it.  At the only level I know how to when it comes to matters of the heart.  Intensely.   It was only I who wasn't scared of those crazy feelings.

And that's what romantics do, we punish ourselves.  We tread where we are clearly no longer wanted.  We are easily led on.  We are rubes who believe in magic.


While making this album, I thought a lot about those pleasantries I would exchange during these truly shitty times in my life.  "How are you doing, Ron?"  I thought about them after my divorce (Real answer: "Shitty, but relieved.")  I thought about them after a hurricane destroyed my house (Real answer: "Shitty, but grateful.")  I thought about them after I got cheated on (Real answer: "Not surprised, but angry.")

But we never give the real answer.  We put on our masks and we smile and we lie.

"I'm Really Super"

When we are clearly not.  Why, when we bare our souls, are we vilified?  Isn't sharing caring?  Why is honesty no longer the norm, rather exaggeration and deception?  Why do we want people to accept an image of ourselves that is clearly inaccurate just for the sake of being liked?  I tried a journal when I was 20 - it's fish food now.   It didn't take.  These songs I write, these words I type - they're part of whatever legacy I leave behind, and so I don't regret any of it.

I don't care about practical concerns when I sit down at the piano, when I sit down at the laptop and my fingers start running.  And I don't care much about these women anymore.  Will this woman who rejected me ever forgive me for my Facebook Unfollow?  Does she still listen to my Bette Midler mix?  Will people think I'm airing too much dirty laundry?

I don't care.

I didn't make The Last Q*Ball Album to get famous.  Seems you can't do that by making music anymore anyway, unless you're the asshole who wrote Gangnam Style.  I wrote these songs to help me get through the darkest times of my life, to bury the bitches who inspired them, to send a very distinct message.

You Don't Matter Anymore.


I don't think twice about whether or not the women who have wronged me still read what I write.  If I had to guess, I'm sure they do.  What matters now is that I'm no longer writing for them even if I'm writing about them.

My family comes to this space to get to know me better, so do my friends.  So do a merry band of fans and followers from the Elvis Duran Show.  So too do the fans of my music, of my once more traditional record label.  Total strangers sometimes come here too.  Maybe Harry the security guard reads this, maybe David from the mail room perused it.  When people reach out with compliments or words of thanks - if they share their own experiences - I don't know how to react besides relaying my gratitude and appreciation.  Thank you for understanding.  If these ramblings are a way to better explain why I am who I am - to relate - then all the better.

My life is better now too.  Happiness is blossoming in different ways.  I'm learning that I don't have to be in a dark place to best recount the darker times.  And I am trying to balance the shitty stories with the good ones.  Because there are good ones.  

I am trying to pay tribute to the people who I love who weren't completely broken or complete shitheads while I loved them. 

I can keep my mask and my cape off here.  I can just be a man, I can just be Ron Scalzo.  Whether my life is really shitty or my life is really super, I can share.  We should all be less afraid.  You never know when things will get better, when things will get worse.  And you never know when it will all be over. 

Until that time, all I can do is what gives me peace, what fuels my soul.  I will be passionate without regret.  It's at the piano and in this space where I seem to do it best.  For now.

The Last Q*Ball Album by Ron Scalzo
Available now on iTunes and Amazon
Limited edition CD now available at lastqball.com

I'M REALLY SUPER

We've both got troubles
You and me
Can't be together
If we don't break free of this stupor

I've had my Lost Time
Want to be found
Can't be discovered
If you're not around, I'm a loser

Blacklisted, tongue twisted
Take your knife and stick it in
Loud or silent I can't win anymore
Hot summer night as I make my confession
I need to tell you that you're my obsession
If you think I planned this, girl, you're wrong

Throw out your rule book
I'll throw out mine
Open the door
And I'll walk the line, I'm a trooper

Alphabet City, out with your crew
Getting to know everybody
But you still ignore
Stayed out all night, stormed out in a rage
Guess this was your way of turning the page
What made you turn on me?
What made you burn me?

I don't know you
I don't even know myself
I think I'm somebody else sometimes
But if you really want to know how I feel
I'm really super

Maybe I'd be super once you were here

***
 
Ron Scalzo - piano, synths, vocals
Daniel G. Harmann - acoustic guitar, vocals
GG Reynolds - violins
Matt Brown - synths, loops
Shea Bliss - drums


Music by Ron Scalzo and Steve Savona.  Words by Ron Scalzo.  
Copyright 2014 Bald Freak Music (ASCAP)

Recorded at Electrokitty Studios, Seattle, WA
Produced by Ron Scalzo and Matt Brown
Engineered and mixed by Matt Brown

Artwork by Joseph Milazzo
Mastered by Michael Judeh at Dubway Studios, NYC

Jan 8, 2015

Jam with Cousin Mike



After 5 different residences over the previous two years, I moved into a new place in mid-September.
One of the first things I did was move my Yamaha P22 upright piano in, as well. 
The piano was one of the few things salvaged from my hurricane-destroyed house in 2012.
It is certainly the most important material possession that survived the storm.
My boss, Elvis Duran, very generously arranged to have it brought to Z100 where it resided for 2 years until I got my life back together.

At work, the piano didn't get much of a workout, as work trumped play more often than not.
Still, I cleaned it up, kept it warm and it also got some love from the likes of John Legend, Mary Lambert, and more.


My cousin Michael Celi is from Tucson, Arizona and has undergone some recovery of his own as of late.
As part of that recovery, he has taken to writing songs on his acoustic guitar that remind me of artists like Neil Young and Lindsey Buckingham, showcasing a new style and a new attitude.
Mike's father, my Uncle Sal, was a big inspiration in my life - and still is.

Mike came to NYC for a visit in November and stayed here in my new place. 
We celebrated my birthday and worked on one of his new songs.
Our audience was a lone Westie dog, who is also recovering in his own right.


I'm proud of my cousin.
I was so happy to share this time with him and to christen this new apartment by making music together within its walls.
I love my new apartment and I love my Cousin Mike. 
I love that this is where I have landed.

I'm finally home.


Dec 23, 2014

Drive-In Movie - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album



What's it gonna be, boy? Come on
I can wait all night
What's it gonna be, boy? Yes or no
What's it gonna be, boy? Yes or no


Those are lyrics from Meat Loaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light," an overlong classic rock radio staple that I kinda hate.  I've always kinda hated that song.  But a lot of people love it, probably because it's one of those classic guy-wants-the-girl-to-give-him-sex-girl-wants-the-guy-to-give-her-love tunes.  It comes complete with the classic non-committal male and even sex metaphors featuring Phil "The Scooter" Rizzuto.

Go to a bar, put a dime in the jukebox, and select "Paradise By The Dashboard Light."  Then watch a bunch of drunken women put their arms around each other and start singing along to every note.  Why?  Probably because they identify with the song's female protagonist.

Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
I gotta know right now before we go any further
Will you love me forever?

Now here's a woman who demands respect.  She's not just giving herself to anyone.  But if she gives it, she's giving it all.

The guy, on the other hand, has less ambitious plans.  He's unsure.  Let me sleep on it. 

Because, y'know, guys are wolves.  We're wolves, we're cavemen.  We think with our meat loaf.  And the idea of "forever" - it scares a lot us away.  We can't be tied down.  We're Danny Zuko before he meets Sandy.

Ah yes.  Sandy.  For yours truly, Sandy has been the biggest bitch of them all.  Why, Sandy darlin, why?  Why-ay-ay-ay-ay?


"Drive-In Movie" is my Danny Zuko Meat Loaf song.  But in my song, it's not the woman who demands respect.  It's not the woman willing to give it her all, but the man.  It's not the man who is less ambitious, less sure.  It's not the man who needs to sleep on it.  It's not the man who needs to sleep around, but the woman.

The man wants to park the car - not just in the way your Uncle Chaz and Aunt Joanie did up on Make Out Point back in 1959 - but because he wants to stay put.  For the girl, staying put seems a bit too claustrophobic.

In my marriage, I was the one jumping out of cars.  On the way to dinner.  On the way to couples therapy.  I was the one who couldn't breathe.  I was the one who walked away.  And it never felt unjustified.  It never does in the moment.  In the moment, we always think we're right.  But it's how we feel once cooler heads prevail that define how flexible we truly are.

My last love was never cool.  It was intense.  It had me cursing the gods one day and thanking them the next.  I was never in control of it, even in the short time that it was real and pure and not predicated on lies.  For the girl, staying put seemed a bit too claustrophobic.  So she was the one jumping out of cars.  She was the one telling stories.


So I understand both sides.  I've stomped on a few hearts in my day, but it has been a long time and my stompin boots are long retired.  I'd like to think I've learned from the mistakes a younger, less experienced guy tends to make - the type of guy in the Meat Loaf song.

I learned that if you can't breathe in a relationship, then you have to get out.  Even if you're part of the problem - and you always are, even if not the main culprit - you should walk away.  Not just for your own sake.

But so many of us do not.  When you're not happy, you're not motivated.  So you're not motivated to work hard to fix something that was once fulfilling.  So we hang on for all the wrong reasons - selfish reasons - and that opens the door for the ol' double feature.  Why watch one movie at the drive-in when you can watch two instead?  Why get ice cream with one dude when there are ice cream shops - and dudes - everywhere?

And these romantic double features are showing all over the world.  Seems like we all know someone who's steppin out.  Friends, co-workers.  Some of us might be related to a person like that.  Some of us have been victimized by a person like that.  Some of us might just be that person ourselves.  Some people learn to live with the guilt.  Others create some sort of logic, some sort of justification, for what others would consider loathsome behavior.  Because it couldn't be them.  It's never them.  Cheaters somehow never create their own messes.  


One thing I have learned in the four year experience that spanned the making of this album, and the inspirations for it, is that I am weak.  I am weak for love.  I give in too easily to it, I get impatient for it, I give the objects of my affection way too much rope.  And as a result, I have gotten less than I deserved.   

For all the times I should have just walked away, I didn't.  I couldn't.  My heart wouldn't allow it even while my brain and my gut were sending heat seeking missiles chestward bound to destroy it.  I'm what as they called in those drive-in days, a "sucker."  Except sometimes I was worse.  Sometimes I stuck around even after I knew the game was rigged.

And that's on me.  That's on all of you out there like me.  Never settle for anything less than you deserve in life.  Don't be afraid to just walk away.  Be open minded, just don't be stoopid.  Demand respect.  Don't give your heart to just anyone.  If you're willing to love, then love with your all.

I've been stoopid too many times because I want Crazy Stoopid Love.  And the movies remind us that Crazy Stoopid Love never takes a straight line.  It's crazy and it's stoopid because it's complicated, it's problematic, it's larger than life.  You make yourself believe it's meant to be this challenging because that's part of what makes it so special.


But this isn't the movies.  Love shouldn't be challenging.  It should be easy.  The challenge is in trusting that you're getting out of it what you're willing to put in.

Drive-in movies barely exist anymore.  The world has changed in a way that makes us redefine the word 'innocence.'  It's too easy to get away with being someone you're not.  It's too easy to hide the truth in a virtual world, it's too easy to sin and to be sinned against.  The art of the con has changed, but there are still con artists everywhere.  And deceit has truly become an art.  

***
The Last Q*Ball Album by Ron Scalzo - available now on iTunes and Amazon
www.lastqball.com

DRIVE-IN MOVIE


Have you seen the double feature?
It's showing all over the world
And if things get too emotional
Put your arms around your favorite girl
Come on let's park the car
I don't want it
I can't breathe in here
Let's get ice cream
Don't just walk away
She said 'I'm hangin with Vanessa'
'We're going to the diner on 3rd'
I said 'You promised me a date and it's getting late'
'This movie's really great or at least so I've heard, so...'
Come on let's park the car
I don't want it
I can't breathe in here
Let's get ice cream
Don't just walk away
Come on baby let's go to the drive-in movie
Gonna put on a show at the drive in-movie
Got a ticket to ride at the drive-in movie
Cuz there's nowhere to hide at the drive-in movie
Put my hand on your shirt at the drive-in movie
Slide my hand up your skirt at the drive-in movie
Come on baby let's roll to the drive-in movie
Cuz you're driving me insane
Come on let's park the car
I don't want it
I can't breathe in here
Let's get ice cream
Don't just walk away

***

Ron Scalzo - piano, vocals
Joseph Milazzo - guitar, bass guitar, vocals
Alexa Criscitiello - vocals
Theodore Pagano - drums and percussion

Music by Joseph Milazzo & Ron Scalzo.  Words by Ron Scalzo.  Copyright 2014 Bald Freak Music (ASCAP)
 

Artwork by Joseph Milazzo

Recorded at Thump Studios and Teddy's Basement, Brooklyn, NY

Engineered and mixed by Chris Montgomery
Mastered by Michael Judeh at Dubway Studios, NYC

Dec 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Sista


It's my little sister's birthday.
Paula.
She was born one year, one month and one day after I showed up on this planet. 
We grew up together right from the start. 
Year after year.  Graduations, holidays, birthdays, vacations.  We shared a room til I was 7 and then we moved upstairs to adjoining walls.  Paula somehow got the bigger room even tho I was older, which, three decades later, I am still calling 'shenanigans' on.


My sister and I went to the beach together and played Uno atop old bedsheets while eating sand-filled ham and cheese sandwiches. 
We went to camp together, we went to all the same schools up until college. 
By the middle of junior high school, my sister was officially cooler than me.
She got into trouble more, which was still not a lot.  She had a boyfriend way before I ever had a girlfriend.  We had a lot of the same friends and, of course, we had the same family.
Over the years, I've come to learn what the word 'family' truly means - it goes beyond blood.


Family is a bond, it's a closeness that is difficult to maintain sometimes.
Family is a gift that we can take for granted.  It's a dance full of challenges and hard decisions.
Sometimes family is the problem rather than the solution.
I've encountered more than my fair share of people who epitomize that - who will never get how special that is, to have a friend, a confidante, someone to reminisce with, someone who knows everything about you since you were a little boy. 
Someone who is always rooting for you.


My sister and I have always been close. 
We have our parents to thank for that - and, of course, each other.
But my sister isn't just my buddy.  Tho younger than I, my sister has often been the pioneer.
She got married before I did.  She got divorced before I did.
One night, she came over to my apartment, emotional. 
We got drunk and played Candy Land in my kitchen. 
She cried on my shoulder and I felt this overwhelming sadness for her, one that she would feel for me on a night not that long after.


My sister and I are still both pimps.
She got remarried before I did.
She got back on track before I did, back on the horse, back in the game.
She bounced around for a little while before landing where she belonged, and with who she belonged with.  We have rarely fought, and it has always been easy for us to reconcile our differences.


Over the years, people tend to grow apart.  Not just physically, but emotionally. 
But shouldn't it be the opposite?
Shouldn't the bonds we have with those we love strengthen rather than fall apart? 
That's the lesson my sister and I have gotten from our parents 40 years later in spite of our own temporary failures.  And for that we count ourselves lucky.  Because what we have is rare.

I don't have many female friends, and I often wonder if my sister is the biggest reason why.  Sometimes she's the only friend I need. 
Sometimes we dance like idiots around the Christmas tree.

 

Two years ago, my sister had a baby.
My nephew, my godson.  Baby Anthony. 
I was in the waiting room that day, going through one of the hardest times of my life.
My house had been destroyed by a hurricane and my heart had been destroyed by a woman.
Just two months later, my sister was experiencing the most joyous moment of her life.


My sister is my role model.
She taught me that you can come back from hard times. 
You can come all the way back and find your true place in this crazy world.  This little bugger she birthed has given me fleeting moments of joy, not just during the times I get to enjoy his company. But also in seeing how he has affected the lives of the people I care about the most. 
Thanks to my sister, I get to be an uncle. 
Thanks to my sister, I'm still pondering if I wanna be a Dad.


So thank you, my sister.
Thank you for the long talks, for the advice, for the delicious meals.
Thank you for being a great mother to your son and a great wife to your husband.


Thank you for making me laugh and for hearing me cry.
Thank you for being the loudest fan in the room every time you came to see me play a show.
Thank you for monkeying around with me during my highest highs and my lowest lows.


Thank you for always being there for me.
I love you.
And I'm so proud of you.
Happy Birthday.




Nov 20, 2014

Monster Crushes - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album

Do you believe in passion? 

Do you believe in that overwhelming "duhhh...derrrr" feeling that you get for someone?  I did.  I've had my fair share of those type of feelings throughout the years and I've - sometimes helplessly - fully embraced them.

But are those feelings real?  Are they love or merely the infatuations of a passionate madman?

"Monster Crushes" represents one point-of-view.

Because my most recent romantic experiences have reminded me that the more you invest your heart in someone, the more you uncover.  And the more you uncover, the more you discover.  And sometimes those discoveries can be ugly and unforgivable.  Sometimes those discoveries serve to obliterate all those good feelings you felt in those better, more innocent moments.




But "Monster Crushes" is also about having feelings for someone you already know to be a monster.  And yet you love them anyway.  You make excuses for their misbehavior, sometimes you're even complicit in it.  You accept their shortcomings and in doing so, you lose respect for your own self.  You overlook their selfishness and their deceit because there's something inside you that just. can't. let. go.

That was my last relationship, that was my last love.  It was phony.  It was an orchestrated fraud.

It was just another one of those monster crushes.

I just had a birthday.  And an anniversary.  Sandy.  Two years since the waters came, since I started rebuilding.

Milestones.


My Mom reached out via e-mail with some typical sage wisdom.

"Don’t waste your time looking back for what you have lost, move on for life wasn’t meant to be traveled backwards."

Mom was probably referring to my autographed Nine Inch Nails tour poster, my Pez collection, my Led Zeppelin albums, my Microkorg, Nana's ancient Christmas ornaments.  They were certainly lost two years ago, amongst most of my worldly possessions.  I lost the house too.  But Mom's pretty savvy - she was probably looking beyond the material stuff.

And yet, my new album is about what my mother wants me to reject - Looking Back at all the Loss.  But The Last Q*Ball Album isn't my pity party.  It's also about moving on.  It's one final look back at the romantic nonsense I endured before and after Sandy put her stamp on my timeline.

The Last Q*Ball Album, in its own little way, is one giant leap forward.

"Don't touch a hot stove," a younger-yet-wiser friend advised me last summer.  And yet I returned for more.  Because no one knew how I felt.  No one could advise me because no one was standing where I was, no one knew what I was up against, no one knew what I had been through after that storm had taken all my crap and usurped me from my comfortable, if somewhat uninspiring, existence.

No one truly understood how badly I wanted it.

That passion, that intimacy - it fueled me, it consumed me.  So I ran towards the flames instead of away from the fire.  I ran towards that hot stove with a can of gasoline strapped to my back and I wound up getting burned again.

And yet I bear no scars.  Because I am free of those feelings.  Because as amazing and overwhelming as that 'duhh...derrr' feeling is in the moment, when you are finally able to step out of that place and see what you were so consumed by for what it truly is - when your eyes are finally all the way open - it is easier to forget.  Love is a long-term commitment, it's a long haul - not just over years or months, but over the course of a simple day.  And if you can't give that to someone else - through thick and through thin - well, then you're not in love.

And this is why we write songs.  Musicians.  Love's fools.  This is why we make albums even if we won't make endless bags of money for doing so.  Because we can bottle all those hurt feelings up or we can scream them out at the piano, at the guitar, in front of a microphone, in front of an audience.  I would argue with my mother that it's okay to look back at the past as a lesson for the present, for the future.  Because I look back and I don't lament it.  Instead, I try to make some beauty out of all the ugliness.  And in doing so - whether here in this space or in 40 minutes over the span of 10 songs - I can let the other passionate, hopeless romantics out there know that they're not alone. 

In doing so, I can accept that if I 'm not in love, I can still be okay with my life.  I can still be happy.


I find that passion returning again, only more cautious.  And cautious is okay.  Maybe cautious is necessary at this point, because there are phonies everywhere.  We live in an interactive world where lies and embellishment have become commonplace, where trickery has become simple, where loyalty has become challenging.  

But the truth comes out.  What lies beneath ultimately rises to the surface.  And at the end of the day, nobody likes a phony even if a lot of us like monsters.

In the wake of this most recent romantic challenge, I went out looking for apartments in Brooklyn (usually when your roommate is lying to your face about cheating on you, that's a sign to start looking for a new place to live, just an FYI for y'all) and I met my buddy Joe for dinner.

We talked about a lot of things over some delicious barbeque and some whiskey, we talked about making this album.  At some point, the conversation steered towards morality and desire and I asked Joe to weigh in on why I had put myself in this position to get hurt, why I laid it all out on the line again only to have my heart laid to waste.

"Because you're Ron Scalzo," he responded before devouring a rib tip.  His answer didn't need further explaining.  It was profound.  This is who I am. 

So maybe my passion has been foolhardy, maybe it has even been a bit of a curse.  But it comes with integrity.  It's pure, even if it has sometimes been misguided.   

It's real.

I'd like to think that's what makes it romantic.  And so I'm gonna hold on to it for a bit longer.  I'm gonna hold out a little more hope. 

I'm moving forward, Mom.  Can't wait to see what happens next.

***

The Last Q*Ball Album by Ron Scalzo - available now on iTunes and Amazon
www.lastqball.com


MONSTER CRUSHES


I'm not in love
You have to keep telling yourself
I'm not in love
I don't wanna date a girl that I know anything about
You'll just ruin it
It's just another one of those monster crushes
Do you think I'll stick around
Once I find out the truth?
I'm not in love
You have to keep selling yourself
I'm not enough
I don't wanna date a girl that I know anything about
You'll just ruin it
It's just another one of those monster crushes
Do you think I'll stick around
Once I find out the truth?
So 'Ha Ha!'
'Ha! Ha!'
Yeah you did it again!

***

Ron Scalzo - piano, synths, vocals
Joseph Milazzo - vocals
Alexa Criscitiello - vocals
John Philippidis - bass guitar
Theodore Pagano - drums and percussion

Music and words by Ron Scalzo.  Copyright 2014 Bald Freak Music (ASCAP)
 

Artwork by Joseph Milazzo

Recorded at Thump Studios and Teddy's Basement, Brooklyn, NY

Engineered and mixed by Chris Montgomery
Mastered by Michael Judeh at Dubway Studios, NYC