Oct 30, 2012

Taking Inventory (An Open Letter To Sandy)

What's really important?

I remember when I used to be worried because a little water leaked onto my bathroom tile after a shower.  I remember it just like it was yesterday because it was yesterday.  "Gotta caulk that up," Dad would say.

Today I am homeless.  My basement and back yard are still under water.  I'm all out of caulk, Dad.

Anyone wanna go for a swim?  Water's a lil' brown....

What's really important?

I bought a house in the Dongan Hills area of Staten Island in October of 2009.  I was married and looking to expand, a Brooklyn native and Manhattan commuter looking to start a new, quieter life with my new wife and crazy Westie dog.  In March of 2011, I asked my wife to leave.  It was the same day I had to take my father to his soon-to-be-surprise 60th birthday party at Gargiulo's in Coney Island.  I asked for a divorce and celebrated my Dad's six decades on the planet all on the same day.

I've never really talked about my divorce outside of my inner circle, but that was back when I lived in a house.  Things change on a dime.

Anyone will tell you that a divorce is not an easy thing.  I was 35.  My marriage lasted 2+ years.  It was a rocky time.  After the 'we're getting married' high wears off, no high can truly mask the problems that exist - and will always exist - between two people.  I loved her, I tried.  It was un-fixable.  So I asked her to leave.  I kept the house and the dog, she took my savings.  As one friend aptly put it, "You're buying your life back."

I bought my life back, but at more than I bargained for.  Three months later, my central air unit fried out for 11 days during the middle of a heat wave.  "Gotta get that fixed," Dad would say.  Karma or coincidence?  Last August, Hurricane Irene did battle with my sump pump and I bailed dirty sewer water from one side of my house to the other through the entire night to prevent my basement from flooding.  My power never went out, and I beat that bitch.  I saw this as a sign of my resurgence.  That was last year.

I wanted the house and I would keep it, warts and all.  Fees were paid, changes were made.  I got back on my feet slowly.

What's really important?

I kept Bald Freak Music, my barely-functioning indie record label, open for business, as this was another reason I bought a house - to make music in my own space, to run a business and sell merch from my basement.  Y'know, the one that's under water now.

I continued to try to convince myself that I could make a living out of music making.  I rewired my entire studio.  I started archiving audio, learning the software.  I was making more time for it, finally, long hours and late nights in front of the mixing board.  I was going to make one last album, on my own, in my house.  Y'know, the one that's under water now.

What's really important?

I dated.  Poorly.  Predictably poorly.  I divorced a few friends and band mates.  When in Rome...

I met someone late last year who seemed very special.  We had both taken our lumps, so we took it slow.  It was a nice change of pace.  There was something there, something that made me believe again.  I had certainly lost faith, not only in women, but in the choices I've made in women.  But you have to believe, you have to want it, and this one felt different.  It wasn't just the great sex or her gorgeous eyes or how she looked in a dress.  It was hope.  If you don't have hope, you have nothing.  But you can fall harder.  And hope and I have often had our differences. 

My Westie and I evacuated last night to my almost-invalid uncle's house two miles north of my home.  All my radio co-workers were bonding in TriBeCa hotel rooms, my friends were with their wives and kids, my parents were in Pennsylvania, my sister and brother-in-law in Long Island, and I'm hearing all kinds of horror stories about my neighborhood via text and online while my dog slept on my chest, my uncle dozed off, and the surge hit.  People were together and everyone would have their stories to tell.

Laying there in the dark, all I could think of was her.  But she was with someone else.  And I was alone.

What's really important?

Dozens of people wished me well today thru social networks, a good amount sent a text.  Of course, few of these people would have known about the destruction of my home if not for social networking in the first place.  My parents called often, my sister, a friend or two.  That was it.  All most of us cared about before this storm hit were power, Internet, and a charged iPhone.  Myself included.  What would we be without them?  It felt insane to me to feel compelled to report to the world that my house was destroyed while others were posting about politics, their kids, football scores, and rock concerts.  What a fucked up world of communication we have ushered in for our children and beyond.

What's really important?

"Nothing else matters as long as you're safe."

Heard that a lot today.  Does it?  It feels like everything else matters.  I was taken in by a woman I haven't seen in 10 years and a man I've never met.  That matters.  My insurance company kicked into high gear to start what will be a long and ridiculously hard recovery.  That matters.  My traumatized dog has been by my side through all this.  He's finally asleep and soon I will be too.  That matters.

I fought to keep this house, I put my life savings into buying and upgrading it, then gave up what was left of that savings to keep it for myself and maintain it.  I could have left, I could have sold it.  Today, I lost computers, synths, flat screens, microphones, Blu Ray players, a massive vinyl record collection, toys, comic books, video games, baseball cards, important documents, furniture, food, photos, artwork, recording equipment.  I still haven't buried any of it.  I can't even get to it yet.  Bald Freak Music's entire physical existence has been obliterated.  None of that matters.

Love matters.
Companionship matters.
Communication matters.
Hope matters.

If you've found love, keep it close.  Nurture it, value it.  Anyone who gets lazy on love should be drowned in my basement.  Be true to your family and your friends.  Don't just offer to help them.  HELP them.  Talk to people.  With your mouth.  Have hope.  For me and for you.

Since my divorce, I have felt disconnected from the world.  But I've used that time to better myself, to learn to love again, and to take inventory of what matters.  Do you truly feel compassion for me?  Invite me into your lives.  Write a song with me.  Play a show with me.  Come visit my new place, wherever that will be.  Find me a girlfriend, I'm ready again.  Laugh with me, cry with me, have a beer with me, smoke a joint with me.  This is my one and only personal request to any of you who know me in real life.  Be there for me.  I need you now more than ever.

That's what's important.  Take inventory of your life, it is still your most precious asset.

Before today, I was a lost soul only in spirit.  Now I am truly without an address.  And maybe - just maybe - that's the way it was meant to be.



  1. Ronnie let me know if/how I can help you.


  2. Hey man, I partly understand what you're going thru since I experienced something similar in 2004, when a massive flood filled my home studio with watery mud.

    Things have been better since then. I refocused a little and I was lucky enough to get over all that with the help of beloved ones.

    Nobody should be put through what you've been, but sadly, that's how life works.

    Roll up your sleeves and keep working like crazy, things will change and you'll find yourself closer to your goal.

    Thank You for this deeply moving memory.

    Wish You the best!


  3. Hey Ron,
    I am really sorry to hear about all your troubles. This really suck. But you seem to be in the right head space to fight it.

    Good luck.

    I really hope Bald Freak Music will kick start again, harder and better soon.

    I'm an acquaintance of BBF, and I have talked to you a few times by email. I am in London, UK... And your story spoke to me.
    I am in a sucky situation myself at the moment, but nothing as bad as you.

    I trully wish you all the best, and if I can do anything to help (remotely only I am afraid), get in touch. you'll find my website in google (search my name + "magic"), and on there my contact details if you need me for something.

    Jerome Burnet

  4. Hey Ron,

    I've been enjoying my Bald Freak Music email updates for quite awhile now but this was the first time I scoped out your blog and the first time I glimpsed the person behind the music/writing. It's sort of eerie that I grew up in Brooklyn, moved to Staten Island when I got married, and just moved out to New Jersey when we bought our first house earlier this year. The destruction that all three of those places have faced is just mind-boggling. Going back to my neighborhood in Brooklyn (down near Sheepshead Bay if you're familiar with the area) was, hands down, the most gutting experience I've ever had. I saw my oldest friend's seventy year old father standing in his yard with everything they owned either on the street or scattered along the same space that my buddy and I spent so many years playing with our Transformers and G.I. Joes. I heard horror stories of people being stranded on the street--literally rescued by a passing ambulance or fire truck as the seven foot surge chased them down the block.

    What I think people fail to understand is the SCOPE of what happened. Everyone's houses in Gerritsen Beach would flood when it rained really bad; it's just how it was. What happened with Sandy though is almost indescribable. The water lines inside of these homes--some only a foot shy of their SECOND floors. And not just one home down near the water--oh no--not even a BLOCK. I saw the same destruction go on block after block after block. The neighborhood that my family has been in for eighty years had quite literally been underwater (saying nothing of the sewage).

    It was easy to be overwhelmed by the carnage--the sight of literally hundreds if not thousands of cars strewn about the streets, rendered utterly useless--people with their lives lining the sidewalks. When I got over that initial shock though what I was was pretty amazing: people coming together and helping one another in ways I didn't think possible. Group after group of guys and gals going door to door, clearing out one person's house and then another.

    The bottom line is that they were and are all in the same boat. A good deal of those people STILL don't have heat and electricity (it went out October 29th and it's now December 11th) but what struck me was how many of them said, "We got it bad but there are plenty of people who have it worse." There was Staten Island. There was Belle Harbor. And there was Breezy Point.

    In the end, the only thing you can do is keep one foot moving in front of the other and remember that there are a lot of other people out there who are in the same boat and an even greater number of people who want to and who can help. I don't have much in the way of musical equipment and what I do have isn't of the highest caliber but if there's anything I can give you to help you get the ball rolling, I'd be happy to. I have a USB interface (Edirol) and some recording software (Cakewalk Studio and Adobe Audition CS5) so if any of that would help, just drop me a line. My email is back on my blog.

    The worst thing that someone can say in a situation like this is "I know what you're going through" or "I know what you're feeling." I couldn't possibly know exactly what it is you're feeling and thinking but just know that people believe in you and your musical vision. I was a fan from the moment my Bumblefoot CD rolled in and I'm sure there are many, many more out there who want to help you get back on your feet man.