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."


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


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


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.
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.


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


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

Oct 21, 2014

Parker - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album

She named him Parker.  

He was a baby bird who fell out of its nest and into the back yard of our house on Staten Island.  She found him out there, on the concrete next to our gas grill.  She called me outside to come see.

He was about the size of a peach, with a long thin beak.  One of his legs appeared to be injured.  I picked him up and set him atop our outdoor table.  We put him in a shoe box stuffed with shredded newspaper and cotton balls and tried to save his life.

She named him after Charlie Parker.  The famous jazz musician.  The Bird.  Very clever.  She gave everything a name.  Cars, plants, stray animals.  And she loved music.  She dragged me to Dave Matthews Band concerts until I was grooving to "Cornbread" with the rest of the stoned whiteys, she bought me Tool's 10,000 Days on one of our first dates.

Music.  That's how we met.  She came to see one of my Q*Ball shows, at The Wicked Monk in Brooklyn.  I was single and I thought she was cute and I asked a mutual friend about her.  She had a boyfriend.  But there she was in the crowd a short while later, bouncing to my cover of A-Ha's "Take On Me," smiling up at me on-stage.   After the show, I gave her my Q*Ball business card.  She told me I was 'mad talented.'  We hugged and said goodbye.

She was a fan.

We wound up together in that house on Staten Island three years later - newly married, with our crazy Westie dog, Buttons, in tow.  I bought the detached ranch from an old Jewish couple who had lived in it for over 40 years.  I renovated the entire basement so I could expand my independent record label.  Bald Freak Music.  I would hire employees, start signing other acts and release more albums of my own.  I would write, record, and rehearse on my own property.

The following summer, she discovered Parker in our back yard.  She had a vegetable garden back there where she would often retreat after our many fights.  It calmed her - for a short time, at least.  I crushed up some pretzels and filled a shot glass with water and we left Parker outside in the shoe box atop the table.  Later that night, we fell asleep on opposite sides of our shared bed.

We both loved Soul Coughing, Deftones, The Doors.  She got me into Chuck Klosterman.  She was living with another guy when she came to that Q*Ball show with her friend and still she pursued me.  She wrote poetry about me.  She told me she was with a boy and she wanted to be with a Man.  I gave her my Love Is A Cliff speech.

She wanted me. 

I let Buttons out back to do his business before leaving for work and I checked on Parker.  The baby bird was still alive, chirping in the shoe box.  He had eaten some of the pretzels.  He seemed comfortable.  Maybe things would work out after all.  Because sometimes things work out. Because sometimes wounded birds can still be saved.

Weeknights, I would make her a music mix on my laptop and pour her wine while she cooked us a delicious dinner.  We saw The Beastie Boys in a small club in New York City, Faith No More in McCarren Park, Billy Joel at Shea Stadium.  We saw Nine Inch Nails play The Downward Spiral at Webster Hall, sweating and headbanging, arm-in-arm.  The next night at Terminal 5, we got into a screaming match in the middle of the crowd right before the show started.  We had to be separated by security in the outside hallway.  At one point, we were asked to leave unless we calmed down.

She was unpredictable.

So too is life.  Later that morning, my phone rang.  It was her.  She was crying.

"Parker Is Dead."

I sat in my office as she tearfully recounted Parker's final minutes.  She had gone out back to check on him just as I had a short while earlier.  Buttons was with her.  Parker was still in the shoe box atop the table.  He looked up at her, then jumped out of the box onto the ground below.  Parker took his fateful leap and fell prey to The Beast.

The Beast was Buttons.  She gave him that nickname - 'The Beast'.  She gave everything a name.  I wasn't there to witness the murder, but in that moment I imagine my dog did what dogs inherently do when they see a smaller living creature - mice, squirrels, insects.  Birds.  They chase - and often, they pounce.  Parker never had a chance to negotiate.

She wasn't home when I got back from work.  She didn't handle adversity well, but for once, I empathized.  I felt this overwhelming sadness when I went out into the yard.  She had left Parker's body in a paper bag atop the table.  The shoe box was gone, there was only the little bag with the little bird in it.

I got a shovel from the shed and dug a hole.  It was a hot July afternoon, I was sweating and crying as Buttons looked on.  I yelled at my dog through the tears, not caring if or what my neighbors heard.  They had likely heard worse during our time there, those bad moments that soon became the rule rather than the exception.  The slammed doors, the cursing, the threats.  I opened the bag and looked at the lifeless little bird inside and I broke down.  My marriage was over.  I knew in my heart that it was over. 

She was no longer a fan.

She loved music but she didn't love that her man was a musician.  She had a good heart and I know she tried to do better.  She could have tried harder.  I know I could have too, but I no longer wanted to.  She had worn me down to the nub and I had turned into someone I no longer recognized.  Like that poor little bird, we couldn't be saved.

I asked her to leave and she did.  She took all my Simpsons DVDs and Calvin & Hobbes books, a lot of my CDs and even more of my money.  She didn't take Buttons.  I moved the piano into the middle of the living room, set up some microphones and a little audio mixer and I started making this album.

She was no longer an anchor.

We got together after Sandy.  First time we saw each other since the divorce.  It had been almost two years.  We shared a rice ball, a bottle of red wine and hurricane stories at Joe's of Avenue U.   I talked to her about my excitement over becoming an uncle.  I told her about the girl who had just screwed me over a month before the storm.  Talking to my ex-wife about another woman?  Surely these were different days.

I drove her back to her apartment, dropped her off.  "This was nice," I said.  We hugged and said goodbye.  I thought we might end up friends, but just like our marriage, it wasn't meant to be.

I often wonder how things may have turned out for Parker - for all of us - if, instead of dropping into a canine's clutches, he flew up and away to freedom.  Where would Parker be today if he went up instead of down?  Where would we all be?

We are all defined by the choices we make and the roads we dare journey down.  By the people who love us and by the people we choose to love.  I know in my heart that parting ways was the best medicine - not just for me, but for both of us.  I hope she's happier now.  I hope she has found peace with the choice I made.

A little bird dropped into our life for one night, reminding me that the only way I could fly was to fly away.  High above the trees.

The Last Q*Ball Album by Ron Scalzo - available on iTunes and Amazon
OCTOBER 29 2014


In my dream you always fly away
High above the trees
Maybe someday you'll even lay some eggs
Start a family
At least you'll live to see another day

But I will always be your friend

But it wasn't meant to be
You took your fateful leap
And fell prey to the beast

In my dreams you always fly away
High above the trees
Sorry that I couldn't save the day
But I will always be your friend

But it wasn't meant to be
You took your fateful leap
And fell prey to the beast

In my dream you always fly away

Ron Scalzo - piano, synths, vocals
Daniel G. Harmann - vocals
Bill Nordwall - synth bass
GG Reynolds - violins
Matt Brown - guitars, loops
Shea Bliss - drums

Music and 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

Sep 23, 2014

Last Call at Uncle Johnny's

It's Last Call at Uncle Johnny's

Life is a passport.  Sometimes we plan our trips.  Sometimes life has other plans for us.  Four months ago, I made an unexpected pit stop at Uncle Johnny's.  Now it's time for Last Call.

She took this picture of us - the woman who set me afloat again with her lies and her bullshit and her empty promises of maturity and change and commitment.  Johnny and I posed for her this past holiday season.  Look at us.  We have no idea that - five months later - our lives will intertwine.  No knowledge that, thanks to the latest misadventure in this very interesting chapter in my life, Uncle Johnny would be stamping my passport and welcoming me into his madness.

Uncle Johnny isn't really my uncle.  In fact, I'm not sure he's anyone's uncle at all - not in the biblical sense, at least.  He's a friend of my boss who makes occasional appearances on the syndicated radio morning show I work for.  We both have no hair, fake teeth, and we both sing.  Uncle Johnny sings Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World" and I sing about 40 electro-pop songs you've probably never heard of.

I moved into Uncle Johnny's apartment in May, a displaced victim of infidelity still recovering from being displaced by a superstorm.  I can still remember that feeling after Sandy - that numbness No, it wasn't the drugs.  It was a feeling like you're on another planet.  Everyone around you is doing their everyday and you're a homeless person, a charity case, maybe even an afterthought.  Everyone's train keeps on a rollin' and yours has gone completely off the rails.

Sandy was like that - first everyone cared a lot, then everyone cared a little, then most everyone went back to their real lives, leaving only the people who were affected to continue to care a lot.  Hey Obama, you're still coming back to Staten Island, right?  Right???

That numb feeling had returned, even if this wasn't Sandy.  Even if this new challenge wasn't much of a surprise, even after all the 'told ya so's were elicited by friends and family alike - politely and otherwise.  It was a risk to cohabit with someone who had already shown her stripes, who had already proven herself to be a Love Landmine.  But love is love and faith is faith, and I am who I am, and I took the leap.  I'd say I have no regrets, but unlike the person who let me down, I am not a liar.

I had just unloaded my watery Staten Island mausoleum, short sold it to the highest bidder.  HERE.  TAKE IT.  An acceptable loss after all that had happened just two Octobers ago, after an 18 month battle with the bank that essentially became a second job.  Moving back in was never a serious consideration - a different dude bought that house 5 years earlier.  That dude drowned with all the Batman comics and the Led Zeppelin albums.  Staten Island wasn't exactly a mecca for dating.  The Express Bus and I were already mortal enemies.  It was a half a million dollar washout, it was most of my life savings and almost all of my life inside.  And I was glad to be rid of it.  I was not in debt to any institutions even if I still felt indebted to all the people who had helped me get through that strange Sandy trip.

And now I was in this kickass new construction building with all the fixins - doormen, amenities, a view of the NYC skyline.  I had come all the way back.  But something was up.  Something was off.  I had felt this feeling before, my burning gut.  I had gotten off the mat and was up fighting again, only I was fighting against a tidal wave of bullshit this time, all coming out of the mouth of one woman who I had chosen to put my remaining stock in.  It was just like the house - an investment that quickly turned to garbage.  Only this was easier to walk away from.  It's always easier to recover when something predictable happens.  The night I finally discovered the whole truth, a sleepless night where I was forced to take shelter at my friend's place nearby, he put it into perspective. "What did you really learn tonight that you didn't already know?"  Truth.

And so I found myself on my way up to midtown a few weeks later, walking down from Penn Station to Uncle Johnny's.  I stopped in front of the church across the street and saw the building's exterior and I immediately knew this was where I was going to live.

Because I'm big into signs and there it was staring me in my fat face.  GROW.  This is what it has been all about for me - this over-stamped passport denoting five different residences since Sandy - this adult limbo that I've been trying to shake.  Something amazing had to come from all this.  Moving to Park Slope after the storm, running the NYC Marathon, getting the girl.  I was workin it, girl - all with one thought on my mind.   

Don't survive.  Thrive.

And now all that was behind me, but there was still plenty of growing to do.

Uncle Johnny lives in a factory building.  He's lived in this apartment for over 30 years and he hasn't exactly renovated the place.  Describing the architecture of Uncle Johnny's apartment is simple.  Just imagine your grandparents' unfinished basement, only moved up to the penthouse.  Then add lots of green crystal, candelabras, zebra print, and Marilyn Monroe memorabilia.  Hey, maybe your grandfather was Liberace.

Oh.  And let's not forget the foliage.

Welcome To The Jungle

Uncle Johnny has 18 plants - I spent thirty minutes a day with Johnny's little green watering can, twice a week, trying to keep these monstrosities alive.  I was not entirely successful.  Uncle Johnny now has 14 plants.  Sorry, Johnny.

The building's single elevator is straight out of '70s-era horror films like Dressed To Kill - it's key operated and opens up right into the apartment.  Uncle Johnny's floor is the only one not separated by a door, so basically any stray homeless people or serial killers that get into the lobby can stumble right on into the living room at any moment.  It's really quite thrilling.  Needless to say, my baseball bat was never too far away.

Another "feature" of the elevator is that it stays open on your floor unless you send it back down to the lobby manually.  One night while I was making dinner, my dog Buttons was sniffing around and the doors closed on him, sending him down alone.  10 seconds later, I hear Buttons barking like a lunatic 7 floors below.  I would spend the next hour running up and down the only stairwell in this place in flip-flops, screaming my dog's name at the top of my lungs like a madman - "BUTTONS!!!!  BUUUUTTTOONNNSSSS!Buttons eventually turned up on the roof.  Boundless fun.

Uncle Johnny's bathroom was another adventure entirely.  For one thing, there was no cold water.  So if you're the type that likes skin scalding showers, this is the bathroom for you.  Ah yes, those hot August nights in Johnny's shower stall with a dozen mosquito bites covering my body (Uncle Johnny also has no screens on his windows).  Because, as we all know, scalding hot water is great for bug bites.

There were paintings where walls should have been, and I didn't dare to open the vanity under the sink for fear of what I might find inside there.  This was true army training - the sort of situation that makes you cherish the simple things in life.  Things like cold water and screen doors and a fucking bathtub.  Still, the bathroom wasn't without its charms.

Buttons and I were never short on company at Uncle Johnny's, sharing the space with all types of critters - roaches, skeeters, mice.  I soon became a vermin assassin.  The first mouse was a mercy killing - Buttons found it stuck on a glue trap and turned it upside down.  I put my face against my forearm, begged the gods for forgiveness and quickly stomped my foot atop the trap.  Sorry, Mickey.  The second mouse frizzle fried inside The Raticator.  Yes, this is a real thing - a Rodent Control System I bought online because Johnny refused to pay for an exterminator.  I returned from making music in Seattle to the smell of fried rodent and spent the morning scraping mice guts and burnt hair out of the trap with a wooden spoon.  Yep, this place was a real babe magnet.  Howyoudoin, ladies?

The third kill belonged to Buttons while I was at work.  Good boy.  By August, I was wearing war paint and throwing hand grenades - I was fucking Rambo and the mice were Afghan commandos.  They had no chance.

I retreated to the radio station one night in early July even tho I was on vacation.  It was cooler at work, and also vermin-free.  Heavy thunderstorms raged outside the window of my production studio.

I returned to Uncle Johnny's in the wee hours, waiting for the evil elevator to open, and I could already hear the water.  The doors opened and there was a waterfall in Uncle Johnny's living room.  The ceiling was leaking.  Badly.  It was the morning of the 4th of July, and Johnny was in Italy.  No one was coming to fix this problem, so I went up to the roof to discover about 6 inches of standing water on the level above me.

I laid towels and pots and pans around Johnny's living room, took a deep breath, and crawled up on Johnny's couch, where I always slept, thanks to my fear of things that creep and scurry in the night.  The rest of the weekend was hot and dry and the water on the roof dissipated.  Soon after, I was hanging on that roof nearly every night.  I had some drunken caucuses up there, I talked to God up there, I smoked a joint up there, I had some very public sex up there.  It was the discovery of the century.  Sometimes shitty things have to happen for new discoveries to be made.  That's pretty much been the story of my life for the past half decade.

Outside, it was pure madness.  Cabs, trucks, police sirens, drunk Rangers fans, crazy homeless people, tourists toting their luggage, tour buses, fire trucks, crack heads, prostitutes.  3 dollar a slice pizza.  Buttons hated it out there and who could blame him?  On the first night I stayed at Uncle Johnny's, there was a plastic container of piss on the sidewalk outside the door.  On the last day I stayed at Uncle Johnny's, there was a turd in the same spot.  Not doggie doo, mind you.  A man-sized dookie.  Welcome to Manhattan, American's toilet.

Up on the roof, however, Buttons loved life, always climbing to the highest point of elevation by the elevator shaft, surveying the rat race below.  My dog's well-being has become a big priority in my life ever since my divorce, ever since Sandy.  He has been through every step of this twisted journey with me.  Buttons could have had a complete meltdown at Uncle Johnny's, instead the situation became very manageable.  He is no longer crated, he gets on great with his boarder.  I take him on the subway now.  I take him to work sometimes.  He's running with me again, often 5 or 6 miles at a time.  And he fucking loves it.

Buttons healed up at Uncle Johnny's and so did I.  I ran in Hudson River Park, in Central Park, up the West Side Highway.  I discovered The High Line. I ate a Quarter Pounder with Cheese at 4 in the morning in front of Madison Square Garden and I didn't give a fuck.  I barbecued chicken on a small grill on Johnny's tiny terrace and watched sunset after beautiful sunset with a glass of whiskey in hand and my faithful dog nearby.

I was fucking free, and not just in the literal sense.  After Sandy, all those romantic feelings kept me tied down.  At the time, I saw it as motivation.  Live a better life, be a better man, and you will attain your goal.  And it drove me - more pushups, more miles on the pavement, more writing, more fighting, and more fearlessness.  At Uncle Johnny's I realized a few things.  I am a better man.  With or without anyone, I am a better man than I was before all this blogging bullshit, before all this bad luck and these bad choices.  I got fucked over - again! - but I didn't wallow in it this time.  I posted some true shit in this space that about 900 pairs of eyes saw, then I took it down and I moved the fuck on.

Some still tell me that living well is the best revenge, and I never disagreed with that.  Because I am living well again.  It's quiet in my back yard now.  I can hear the crickets at night, I have a tomato plant.  There is no evil elevator, no bugs, no mice - just plenty of space.  My piano is here, Buttons is asleep at my feet.  But revenge was necessary.  My boss told me that if slamming my ex in this space helped me move past the shitty feeling that comes with being cheated on, then it was a good thing that I did it.  Like most, he empathized.  And as usual, he was right.

Some still tell me that I should be writing full-time and I never disagreed with that either.  I'm just tired of writing about mishaps, about my shitty misadventures with unfathomable floods and insane ladies.  Sure, that's where the best material comes from. But it still feels more like my medicine than my destiny.  Some still tell me to leave New York and start a new life, and I made a real concerted effort to do that this summer.  But it just didn't happen and I'm at peace with it.  I put it out there to the universe that I'm game, I took that first big step.  it's just not time yet.

I went out to Seattle and made an album.  I surrounded myself with amazing musicians and once again benefited from the generosity of kindred spirits, only under much dryer circumstances.  I fell in love with a part of the country I had long yearned to visit.  I dated strange women and some not-so-strange women in five different cities, and I didn't fall for any of them.  Instead, I fell in love with making music again.  My new album will be out next month and it's nice to feel excited about the process, to be working towards another goal, another destiny.

And maybe - just maybe - I would never have done any of that if not for my time at Uncle Johnny's.  And so I'm grateful for the experience.  I dare say I'm enjoying the journey.  I lived in midtown Manhattan, a place I never thought I would spend more than an hour in without losing my shit.

It was pretty fucking awesome.  

It's Last Call at Uncle Johnny's.  We had a great time.  Just one more shot of whipped cream flavored vodka before I go.  Time for another stamp on the passport.  When I tell people about my time here, I won't think about the bugs or the mice or the cheater or the challenges.  I'll think about that GROW sign, I'll think about embracing more adversity, I'll think about this crazy shitty dirty city that I love, that I hate. And I'll think to myself, what a wonderful world.