My ceiling is leaking.
It's been over a week now. In my living room, an arm's length from where I'm sitting, typing away.
Drip drip drip.
I'm a renter. The last piece of property I owned got bitch slapped by a hurricane. So renting is just fine for now, drips and all. Because that's my headline nowadays: My ceiling is leaking.
There are no floods in my story anymore. No fractured relationships, no divorces, no love triangles. No bank battles, no bedbugs, no mice, no moving trucks. No insanity nor infidelity. No drama.
It's hard to believe that I was sleeping on a friend's couch with one eye open and my aluminum baseball bat nearby last summer, fearful of things that scurry in the night. Hard to believe that one of my best friends was still alive a year ago. Truly, everything is relative.
One night last summer, I returned home to my temporary midtown Manhattan pad after a typically intense July-in-New York City thunderstorm. I was standing in the creepy elevator that opened right into the apartment. Before the elevator door even opened, I could hear it all very clearly - the steady sound of water against a pizza box I had left on the coffee table.
Drip drip drip.
This leak was pretty severe, doing its best waterfall impersonation above the area that had become my full-time dining room, living room, and bedroom. The industrial ceiling above me was flaking away. I walked up one level to the 12-story building's rooftop and soon found myself wading knee deep in dirty rain water. The owner of the apartment was 4000 miles away.
Suddenly, I found myself in a situation with no immediate solution. Situations such as this - these were the headlines for the past five incredibly interesting years of my life. They had become my new 'normal,' these mishaps and misadventures. Was I really married once? Did I run a record label, buy a house? Did I really endure a superstorm, run a marathon? All would still be considered 'recent events' in a normal lifespan, and yet, to me, they all seem like another guy's life. And I think that's great. It's nice to feel distance from all of it, like more of an observer than a participant. There are few physical reminders of any of that life, just the crazy fuzzy white dog that has been at my side during every second of it all.
Maybe it sounds odd - but it's nice to have that feeling of detachment, to even struggle a bit to fill in the blanks on the stories and the songs that were inspired by all that madness.
Now the biggest headline is my ceiling is leaking.
Drip drip drip.
A little leak is fine nowadays, because when I started writing this album, I was already drowning.
I never touched another woman while I was with her.
The last time I went down that road, five years before I even met her, I paid for it dearly. I made my excuses, just like those who stray always do. I internalized it all, justified every indiscretion. I covered up my crimes well, and I still paid. Yeah, I was only human. I still am. But I was just a boy back then, and now I'm a man. I know what karma is, I understand morality.
I never touched another woman in the five years we were together - but I had checked out way before things were officially over. In public, it's always "It just didn't work out." But those who knew and loved us knew all the reasons why I already had one foot out the door. Our troubled private life often spilled over into the lives of our friends and relatives thanks to our very public blowouts.
Privacy was The Big Issue, one that we all deal with on the daily in relationships both online and off. This was a woman who checked my laptop's browser history (with zero recourse to do so) and discovered that - ohmigod - I had actually looked at some other girls' profiles on Facebook! This was years before the advent of Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat and all the other "Look At Me!" social networking nonsense that would have completely crippled our union today instead of slowly maiming it half a decade ago. After all the screaming and every brawl between us had subsided, I was always absolved, temporarily.
"It's not that I don't trust you, I just don't trust everyone else."
Nonsense. But in the end, I was also at fault. Because I was far from innocent - certainly my heart had strayed even if my body had stayed put. Even if I never kissed another girl or held another girl's hand, I was still committed - yet my heart, which often gave more than it got, was growing elsewhere. These feelings were indefensible, but they were genuine. I was unhappy where I was, and I equated happiness elsewhere as my escape, my immediate solution to an unwanted situation. My life preserver.
Before the flood, I didn't understand how things can change on a dime, how dramatic a shift your life can take in an instant. Nine feet of water changed my philosophy overnight. Before the flood, all my romantic breakups were these long drawn-out things, even with the girls who I didn't even love. I often held on longer than I should have, either selfishly or selflessly, and it was always a mistake.
In that last year in my house on Staten Island, the headquarters of Bald Freak Music, I wrote and recorded Filling In The Cracks. I co-wrote it with a friend and former band mate, who, as I type this, I no longer have a relationship with. The house had become our clubhouse and recording studio after my ex moved out. He became my surrogate partner, my 'Bro's-before-Ho's' buddy, and we had some good times in that last summer before Sandy came. We would ride back from lower Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry, talking about music and girls. I would barbecue steaks in the back yard while he rolled a joint and played fetch with Buttons. We would blast The Beastie Boys and Radiohead thru my basement speakers, then get high in my studio and spin records all night. I would roll tape and the ideas would flow and some cool tunes were born from our bromance, including this song about a girl I was falling for that was musically inspired by our love of Faith No More and Tears For Fears.
Then a new woman came into my life, before and then after the storm. There were no more speakers, no more records to spin, no more ferry rides, no more basement, no more house. My musical bro and I were permanently unplugged as collaborators, and so I chose to pursue the ho instead. This middle aged man Unfriended me on Facebook soon after. We never had a discussion about why he was upset, there was just the cold shoulder followed by the Unfriending. Ah, how we draw our lines in the sand in the 21st century....
The dude who would play guitar on Filling In The Cracks, engineer it and mix it? No longer in a relationship with that guy either. He abandoned me via e-mail a year before Sandy, the culmination of a series of heated yet passive aggressive back-and-forth messages between us that led to our split. It's like we forgot how to communicate like real people - something that has become the norm in most everyone's lives these days. Like a lot of other ghosts in his life, I guess this person thinks I was out ta get him. It wasn't just my ex that had trust issues. The humble little record label I built partly thanks to and partly because of him was already awash in problems before the ocean water crept in, and so too was our once more innocent partnership and friendship.
Drip drip drip.
I love both of these guys, I didn't send them away - they just decided they didn't want me in their lives anymore. I'm sure they have their reasons, just as I have my reasons for not extending an olive branch of my own even if I hold no ill will towards either. I equate that time in my life as mostly wasteful, filled with disappointment and frustration, not just with others, but with my own self.
The whole 'bands are like marriages' cliche is true, not just for The Stones or Fleetwood Mac, but here in the underground too. Maybe distancing myself from all of that - and from the characters involved - has been for the better. I sleep pretty well at night these days. I'm not just no longer complaining about my women problems to these guys - I'm no longer complaining about these guys to my women.
Either way, I think we made some really cool music together.
Then there is the subject of Filling In The Cracks. My muse. My escape. My solution. Nothing about this situation was practical, my existing relationship notwithstanding - but my heart had other ideas, and there was no shutting it down. At that time in my life, I truly never wanted anyone as much as I wanted this woman. It took its toll, but I could do nothing about it. I was too busy filling in the cracks of a relationship that was already broken beyond repair. Then I was dealing with the fallout of a failed marriage. Then I was filling a dumpster with all my ruined, waterlogged stuff.
Drip drip drip.
I'm not in any sort of contact with this woman anymore, either. Instead of us connecting once I was single and free of any crisis of conscience, we did the opposite and just faded out of each others lives. The timing was all wrong. When I confessed my feelings in person - the one and only opportunity I would have to do so - she replied, "Now???" As if there would be a better time, or even another time at all. Sometimes "Now???" is the only time even if it's also the worst time. Sometimes those tugs on your heart don't adhere to a clock or a calendar, never mind practical sense.
Months later, I was the middle aged man doing the Unfriending, proving that I, too, can be a petty slave to social media. I felt so lost during those last two shitty years on Staten Island, like a dude wandering the desert, and I saw this woman as my oasis, but she turned out to be a mirage rather than a miracle.
Sometimes people come into your life and shift your path. When you fear change, no matter how unhappy you may be, sometimes you need that extra push. This girl was that push, but that doesn't mean she was meant to be any more significant than she was in that moment.
Either way, I'm happy she showed up in my life.
I would learn, in my next relationship, that mirages are a dime-a-dozen, and that Unfriending/Unfollowing someone and actually eliminating someone from your life are two completely different things. It wasn't until this past, drama-free year that I've appreciated what an impact the latter makes - that when you truly stop looking, you truly stop caring. Lord knows it's harder than ever, with every ex just a mouse click or a double tap away. But it is far from impossible. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.
These days, there are fewer cracks to fill, and after all I've been through, I deal with all my little leaks with a smile (or less of a scowl) on my face and with gratitude in my soul. For truly things could be so much worse. Truly they have been worse.
Each droplet of water that falls from the ceiling reminds me that there is no such thing as a stress-free life - that situations with no immediate solution will continue to exist, even during the best of times. These past few years have taught me that happiness is about attitude and perspective, not about who you're banging, how many Twitter followers you have, or how much is in your bank account. Read this book if you don't believe me. It's what you do with your problems - it's how well you handle them and how much you learn from them - that makes all the difference, and often the best art.
When you've dealt with crazy bitches and crazy band mates, going it alone doesn't seem so tragic. When you've dealt with the relentless crash of a tidal wave, a leaky ceiling is indeed just a drop in the bucket.
Drip drip drip.
The Last Q*Ball Album is the last of Q*Ball, but it signals a new beginning, a new chapter of creativity and music making. It's the first solo material that I've released as me - Ron Scalzo. Just me, the shy bald dude who came out from behind the virtual curtain a couple years ago and started writing about his life and all his misadventures in this space - romantic, musical or otherwise.
The ten songs represented are as pure and honest as anything that I've ever created, and they're already breeding more music while my reflections here breed more relationships, with new friends and strangers alike. Surely I have met some strange and interesting people thanks to what I write in this space, and I take every new encounter in stride. Nowadays, be it romance, music making or office politics - when I feel things starting to sink, I no longer try to stop the flood, I just swim away. As my Dad always says, there are plenty of fish in the sea.
As for me, I'm no longer drowning. I'm floating downstream, on to the next adventure - the next project, the next lady, the next city, the next song. There is no longer a destination, only the journey. I feel lighter than ever. I require no map because I'm no longer obsessed with finding treasure. I require no compass because I can go in any direction I want.
The urgency that dominated my life when I wrote Filling In The Cracks no longer exists. I embraced those feelings because they came with passion and flights of fancy - but in the wake of all the water, I can see now that they were a burden. That doesn't mean my heart won't fill up with love again, or even that my house won't fill up with water again. Whatever comes next, comes next. You've gotta keep an open mind. It doesn't hurt to keep a life preserver nearby. Just in case the dam breaks.
Drip drip drip.
The Last Q*Ball Album by Ron Scalzo
Available now on iTunes and Amazon
Limited edition CD now available at lastqball.com
FILLING IN THE CRACKS
I'm riding on a camel
Shotgun in my hand
And I'm almost there
I'll travel far across the desert
All across the land
Just to find out where I am
There comes a time in life
When there's no turning back
You'll win or lose
Sometimes I spend all my time
Filling in the cracks
Cuz I'm broken too
I Never Wanted Anyone As Much As I Want You
Michael Bandolik - loops, percussion
Ron Thal - guitar
Music by Michael Bandolik and Ron Scalzo
Words by Ron Scalzo
Copyright 2012, 2014 Bald Freak Music (ASCAP)
Recorded at Hurricane House, Staten Island, NY and The Hermit Lounge, Princeton, NJ
Engineered by Ron Scalzo and Ron Thal
Mixed by Ron Thal
Artwork by Joseph Milazzo
Mastered by Michael Judeh at Dubway Studios