Nov 4, 2015

You Deserve The Best

I ran my own record label for 7 years.

It was a constant source of anxiety - wanting to "succeed" on my own terms, to control my own destiny.  I could have spent those 7 years becoming a superior piano player, a better vocalist, a more refined songwriter.  Advancing my somewhat limited production skills.  Learning how to play a new instrument.  Doing more pull-ups.

Instead I chose to run a business.

I bit off way more than I could chew and my art suffered for it.  So did a few relationships.

Then a hurricane destroyed it all.

I became a musician again. 

I got into shape. Healthy body, healthy mind.  I started writing.  For therapy, for fun.  Friends and family encouraged me to continue.  "You should write a book."  We'll see.  But it was nice to hear those compliments, to hear the word "talented" from peers, from strangers.  It still is.  Most of all, it's nice to hear that people are affected by my words, my experiences.  

I released an album.  

First one of my own in 7 years.  First one since the storm.  No shows, no tour.  No press, no radio play.  No licensing deals, no favors.  No expectations.  I don't have an agent.  No manager, no PR company.  No assistant, no interns.  No one is out there peddling Ronnie Scalzo door-to-door while I continue to refine my art.  No one is teaching me synchronized dance moves or doing my makeup or setting up a tour.  No one is packing my CD into envelopes, filling out customs labels and waiting on long post office lines while I practice playing grace notes.

So it didn't matter that barely anyone cared.  I did it for me.  To close the door on the batshit crazy chapter of my life.  To exorcise a few demons.  To travel to new cities and make new adventures with new people.  To prove to myself that I could do it without someone else's money or someone else's help.

I made an album to see if I still cared about making music. 

And I do. 

I moved my piano into my apartment and practiced my balls off.  I learned how to play other songs besides my own.  I do my vocal exercises every day.   I wrote two new songs and finished two more.

Did I "succeed"?

I'm still up in the air on that.  I still feel like I'm not where I'm supposed to be - if that makes any sense.  Lots of things have happened in my life these past few years that don't make much sense.  Those events have taught me temperance, patience.  Acceptance.  I have been knocked the fuck down but not the fuck out.  I have rolled with the punches.  I have learned some hard lessons.  I have taken my lumps and become more resilient.  Braver.  Stronger.  Smarter.

I'm at my best.  I deserve this.  I hear someone I look up to say it all the time, to hundreds of thousands of people every day.  "You deserve happiness."

"You deserve the best."

So here we go again.  Four new songs - new babies.  No plan, no expectations.  Just pride.
I explored Seattle, I ventured to Tucson.  I played beautiful pianos in beautiful studios, I sang into vocal microphones more expensive than my car.  I ran through the desert listening to rough mixes and working on harmony lines.  I broke bread and shared a drink and a smoke with some music making dudes I had never met before and reunited with others I now call my friends.  I made love to analog synths.  I got to hear a trumpet player make my songs better.

I wrote two songs with my talented cousin Michael Celi, and strengthened a long-distance relationship that could have easily faded if not for a mutual admiration of each other's talent.  Cousin Mike and I share an empathy based on our unique and interesting journeys in the wake of our respective failures.

The music industry is not what it was when I began this journey.  But the passion still exists - to create, to collaborate, to share what you've made with the world and just let things happen.  I've seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears.  I still want to be part of that world.  I'm proud to say that I still am.

This new solo release will be out on iTunes and Amazon and all that jazz before the holidays.  No firm release date because what's the point?  Maybe you'll buy it, maybe you won't.  Maybe you'll like it, maybe you won't.  Maybe you'll send it to your friend who likes punk rock, or your cousin who likes Faith No More or your sister who likes Radiohead or your co-worker who loves Beck.

Maybe you'll listen again and again, maybe you won't listen at all.  Maybe you'll be too busy listening to the new Justin Bieber, Adele and Coldplay albums.  

It doesn't matter what happens next.  The most important part has already happened.

I'll be performing live - for the first time in over 5 years - sometime soon on a stage somewhere, and with some good friends in support.  Maybe I'll go on a short tour next year instead of into a recording studio.  Maybe I'll learn how to play the trumpet.  I can open any door and walk through it and go exploring.

For now, it's time to get down to business.  Copyrights and ISRC codes and digital distro and publishing info.  Artwork and mixes and website and social networking updates.  I'll write some more about the making of these new songs, in this space and elsewhere.  I'll send the music out to all my friends in the radio biz and secretly hope that someone will get behind it.

I'll send it to Pitchfork and NPR and KEXP and KCRW and the few "tastemakers" out there who matter to me.  I'll get it on Spotify and make .0003 cents every time you give me a spin.  I'll do all the things I did for myself - and for others - for 7 years, but with no sense of urgency this time around.

I loved making these songs and I'm proud of the progress I've made.

Life is good.  Bald Freak Music still exists, it has just been transformed.  Just as I have.  For all of you who have been along for the ride since the beginning - or maybe jumped on along the way - the best I can do now that life is better is give you my best.  

These new tunes are it.  They represent my resurgence.  I can't wait for you to hear them.

Jul 28, 2015

Filling In The Cracks - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album

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


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

Ron Scalzo - synths, vocals
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

May 18, 2015

Say A Little Prayer For Uncle Sethie

I hope there are movies in Heaven. 

I love you Seth.  I love you, man.  I can't believe you're gone.

I'm sorry.  I'm sorry I didn't write this sooner, so you could read it while you were still here with the rest of us.  Why do we always wait until waiting is no longer an option?  In the hospital, I asked you if it was okay to write about you - about your plight - and I never ask anyone if it's okay to write about them before I actually go and do it.  Just ask all my ex'es.  You said 'Yes' and I didn't write anything until now, and I'm sorry.

Yesterday, I got the call that you were gone and it wasn't a surprise.  LaSala broke the news.  He left me a voicemail while I was playing the piano in the other room.  When I saw that LaSala had called, I knew you were gone before I even called him back.  Anthony LaSala never calls anyone, as you well know.  Sicilian pirates rarely use cell phones.

Anthony called us all, just as he called us all a year ago when you got sick.  Lloyd and Jay.  Tween.  Skeery Jones, the Tuccillos and Pablo.  We all know each other forever, "The Brooklyn Crew."  We still wear our eternal friendship like a badge of honor, as if it were something special.  And it was always just that.  It still is, now more than ever.  Now that you're gone.

I was going through my latest romantic misadventure a year ago when I got the word that you were in the hospital.  You could barely talk when I paid my first visit.  I told you that I was being two-timed and you rolled your eyes and sighed, just like the old days.  Your sudden illness made my problems seem like a pittance, it put everything into perspective and actually helped me navigate through another tough time.

Back in the day, a Seth Kushner malady was like football on a Sunday.  It was almost always on the schedule, one of many running jokes that friends like ours perpetuate over the years.  But things were serious this time.  Leukemia.

I hope it didn't take one of my stoopid blogs for you to understand how proud of you I am.  How you fought to stick around, to regain that normalcy to your life that we all take for granted until things start to go haywire.  You were doing it til the very end, against all odds - sharing your opinions about various TV shows and movies on Facebook, taking in as much of it as you could in those final days.  You were in the home you had created with the family that you created - your son and your courageous wife - where you were always most comfortable, even before the sickness crept in.

The last time I saw you at the hospital, the prognosis was bad.  I expected to walk in and say goodbye for the last time.  I expected to see a battered man taking in his last breaths.  But you were a spitfire that day, you were optimistic.  "I'm not ready to say goodbye to you sonofabitches," you growled determinedly.  You were being strong, stronger than I had ever seen you.

Then a man neither of us knew walked in.  He told you he was sent by someone you knew, but you could not figure out who that person was, nor could he verify it.  Instead, he prayed aloud and sang a hymn as we sat there quietly in your hospital room, and then he was gone, some mysterious angel sent to give you more strength.

You were in a coma a few hours after I left, with a swift death sentence attached to it.  Then you woke up.  Weeks later, you were released from the hospital, declared leukemia-free.  You got to hang with your Hang Dai crowd, to spend time with your great friends Carlos and Marty and Dean, three dudes who got to know you better than I ever did and who loved you just as much.  You made peace with your Mom.  You got to spend your last days in Brooklyn like the tried-and-true Brooklynite you were.  You were a dead man walking, a temporary miracle, and so when I returned Anthony's call, I knew what was coming before he even uttered a word.

I still don't know what to believe, Seth.  I stayed positive, we all did.  You were never totally out of the woods, and now you're out of our lives.  Are you on Tatooine right now?  Are you anywhere?  Last night, I sat out on my back porch, poured a bottle of wine and looked up at the stars.  "Are you up there, Uncle Sethie?" I asked to no one at all.  And then the fireworks started.  Lots of them.  Last I checked, it wasn't the 4th of July.  And yeah, I'm pretty big on signs.

I'll never forget the look on your face the first time I saw you after Superstorm Sandy.  It's etched in my brain, one of those snapshot moments that stick with you forever.  My house had been destroyed and you walked into a Bay Ridge restaurant while I was hugging the rest of the gang, and I caught the look on your face as you walked in, waiting your turn to hug me too.

You looked at me as if someone had died.

In that moment, even tho I had been the one numbed by Mother Nature's wrath, I felt bad for you.  You were always concerned, even affected, by the misfortune of others.  When your friends were suffering, you were suffering too.  And in that moment, I felt lucky to have you as my friend.  Just as I do in this moment, now that your suffering is over even if the void you've left will be forever felt.

You were one of the staunchest supporters of my music - you came to all the shows, the good ones and the shitty ones.  You created the album artwork for all my Q*Ball albums.  You were an incredibly talented photographer, and I still feel like that was always your truest calling.  You co-directed my one and only music video.  You put me in a spaceship, you put me in a bathtub, you put me in a swimming pool with a powder blue suit on.  You put colored star stickers and Christmas lights all over my skull.  We were young kids trying to figure out how to convey an image, and then we were middle aged dudes still trying to figure it out.  Your hard work and creativity were always an inspiration, even when we got it all wrong.

We had a quarter century together, my friend.  Something to be grateful for.

Our primary language was cinema.  TV and books and girls.  You never forgave me for shitting all over Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull after we saw it together in Battery Park City.  We huddled down together in Brooklyn after 9/11.  You drove me home after I played a showcase at Virgin Megastore, then pulled over on Independence Avenue so I could go piss in someone's driveway because I couldn't hold it in any longer.  We bought you a lightsaber for your 30th birthday.  You got me home after I had a bad pot brownie experience at The Frying Pan the summer after the worst breakup of my life.  We interviewed Chuck Klosterman at his apartment in Brooklyn Heights and I almost erased the whole thing.  Calamity was always our second language.

We called you Chief Yenta because you liked to gossip.  We playfully made fun of your pale complexion, of your propensity for speed talking, and you always took it in stride.  You were there for me after my divorce, after the hurricane.  I got stood up on an online date in Bay Ridge one night, and you and Terra met me out for dinner, salvaging the evening.  You bonded with all my girlfriends - you were always rooting for my romantic victories and you listened intently and patiently after all the defeats.

You were a great friend, Seth.

And then it was your turn to taste victory.  It remains the fondest memory of our friendship, that fateful night in Boston when you met Terra.  Some slug got up from his seat in a basement bar in Beantown and Anthony and I nudged you into it, and there she was and there you were, and we hung back and left the rest up to you.  You sealed the deal that night and we were all proud of you.  Thrilled for you.  The Schmuck was finally victorious.

Your life was forever changed, and I'm sure you realized in the end that you had hit the jackpot with this woman.  I'm proud to have played my small part in all that, to see you become a loving husband and father.

Soon after you and I first met, you lost your Dad in a tragic accident.  He was riding his bicycle on Ocean Parkway and was struck and killed by a motorist.  Joel Kushner was a guidance counselor at my high school, Edward R. Murrow, and he knew me before you did.  And then he was gone and I remember hugging you at the funeral, thinking of how your Dad had left you too soon just as I think about you being gone way too soon now.

We became good friends after that, bound by a mutual love of geek culture, music and movies.  I had been to your house a time or two, inside the rubble you called a room, piles of comics, Rolling Stone magazines and action figures dominating every corner.  I met a lot of cool creative people thanks to our friendship, and even as our lives took divergent paths as we both aged and found new creative outlets, I still felt a closeness to you that distance and lifestyles could not tarnish.

And now you're gone, Sethie, and I don't know what to believe - but if I get to choose, I wanna believe that you and Joel are at the movies right now.  You're watching Star Wars (not the prequels, sorry).  Maybe you're 41, maybe you're Jackson's age.  Maybe you're not any age at all, maybe you're a butterfly or a Jawa.  Whatever you are and wherever you are, I like to think that you're with Dad.  You're reunited, and it feels so good.

That's what I have always hoped the afterlife is - a reunion.  We hurt so much for the people that are gone - seemingly forever - left to pick up the pieces, to try to keep the faith and make sense of it all.  I still hold out hope that Nana and Nicky and Uncle Sal will be there on the other side.  Uncle John, Grandma & Grandpa.  Blanche and The Big Cookie and Seth and Joel.  What we would give to spend just a little more time with those who have left us behind.

There's a whole world of people out there right now who feel cheated out of more Seth Kushner time, and isn't that the truest testimony of a person's vitality?  You mattered to us, Seth.  I hope you knew that.  Now it's up to the rest of us to keep your memory alive while we keep the faith that you are in a better place.

So keep a seat open for me, my man.  Just don't eat all the popcorn.  We'll watch all the Scorsese movies, Hitchcock and Kubrick.  Lost, Breaking BadSeinfeld and The Honeymooners and Batman Begins.  We'll hoist some brews and have another Ronversation, reminiscing and rejoicing over one of life's great friendships.

Say a little prayer for Uncle Sethie tonight, for his wife Terra, his young son Jackson and his mother, Linda.  For all of his family and for everyone who he has touched.  Say a prayer for one of life's true good guys.

I miss you already and I'll never forget you. 

May 13, 2015

Good For You - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album

The future doesn't exist.

That's what the man told us before we entered the sweat lodge - or Temazcal, as it is better known by its indigenous people.  The man said lots of things about life before we went inside to cleanse ourselves of the past - lots of things that resonated with me, and I told him as much.  I had been reading a book, had brought it with me to Mexico, that touched upon the same topics - ego, transformation, not sweating the small stuff, letting go.


We all sat in a circle in pitch black darkness and inhaled hot lava, sweating bullets and sharing stories.  The man asked us to call out someone we wanted to forgive, and of course she immediately popped into my profusely perspiring skull.  There in the dark, waiting for my turn to speak, I half-listened to everyone else while half-thinking about what I was going to say.

I had forgiven her before.  Often.  Foolishly.  Blindly.  Once again, magical thinking came into play.  She would do better because I was doing better.  Because I was stepping up.  This intense love that I had made a good deal of effort to push away had returned to my life and given me hope for the future.  I had lost my house to a hurricane but gained a new identity, a new sense of purpose, and she was at the center of it all.

I wrote Good For You in that house, the last song I would write there before Sandy came a-knockin'.  She had left my soon-to-be-flooded-home a month earlier, lying through her teeth about reuniting with her ex - not for the first time nor for the last time.  I busted her - not for the first time nor for the last time - in the middle of the night and we argued in the dark before she fled, carrying her dog and her lies out the door.

My parents had been over earlier that same night, and as always, had asked me how my romantic life was progressing.  I told them that things were getting serious, that she and I were making bigger plans, doing 'couple' things.  My older-and-wiser folks were skeptical, but happy that I was happy.

After Mom and Dad left, and while waiting for her to arrive, I took a shower.  I was scrubbing under my left armpit when the thought just popped into my head.  Something was up.  Something was off.  It was a feeling I would become all too familiar with over the next year and a half thanks to her lies and games.  My Dad called her "The Infidel" way before she proved him right.

Later that night, in my bed, I confronted her.  It was her phone that gave her away, her ex's contact info-less text messages buzzing on my nightstand while she washed up in my bathroom.  It occurs to me now that every time she was caught, it was her phone that betrayed her - the same tool she used to lure me back, the same tool she used to deceive me again and again.  Just another dumb girl with a smartphone.

I knew this guy was back in her life, I even said it out loud in the shower to no one at all before she showed up at my place.  "He's back."  But I remained quiet.  Once in bed, I tried to get intimate - a test - and she shunned me, another bad sign.  I called her out about the text messages, jumping out of bed and interrupting her peaceful deception.  Even after she was busted, she still denied that anything was going on, scrambling to come up with some half-assed explanation.  Another history that would repeat itself more than once in a future that was yet to exist.
Life and love with her would prove to be a vicious cycle, only where I lived and the names of the other dudes would change.  But the outcome was always the same - a heaping pile of bullshit was uncovered, upon which I was done with her.  Then she would inevitably resurface, gently tugging at my wounded heartstrings, orchestrating her way back into my life.

The future doesn't exist - but it can still be determined by the paths we choose in the present.  Whatever is inevitable can be nudged in one direction or another based on the decisions we make.  Getting married.  Buying a house in a flood zone.  Running my own record label, choosing to pursue a music career, getting divorced - these were all factors that led me into someone's fickle arms.


Why do we gravitate towards things that ultimately are no good for us?  Why do we reach for the cola and the cookies and the cigarettes, fearless of the consequences?  Why do we fall in love with the wrong people?  Don't we know better?  Haven't we learned anything?

About 5 years ago, I had a minor cancer scare.  I was in constant pain in a tender area, my issues further intensified by a lack of medical cooperation.  I walked out of urologist offices before even being diagnosed, panicked and stressed, waiting to hear the worst news possible.  I can still remember getting the sonogram, glaring into the bright light above me with tears in my eyes and silently swearing off my sins as I was prodded and probed.

"I'll never do ______ again."

And of course once I was in the clear, my fears allayed, I regressed.  It didn't happen the very next day, but it happened.  It's not like I forgot about my promise to myself.  I just chose to ignore it because I wasn't being punished.  The pain had subsided and the regret was short-lived. It's a lot easier to live with your shitty behavior when there are no consequences.

Years later, I was on the receiving end of "I'll never do ______ again," the recipient of yet another lie.  And I chose to believe.  I chose to have faith, to be positive about someone whose history and behavior were raising others' eyebrows.  It was an adjustment from the typical cynical Ronnie Outlook and I staunchly defended my position.  Instead, I suggested moving in together, knowing in my heart that this woman's next indiscretion would be my breaking point, and reminding her as much.  Rationalizing that it was all worth the risk.  Because I was in love.  Because the hole in my heart had been plugged, at least temporarily.

There, in the cement hut, I waited my turn to forgive her.  Then I heard someone else say what I was really feeling.  "I choose not to forgive anyone because I don't really need to."  The implication was that the past was the past, and something to learn from, maybe even be grateful for.  The person who said this did so without bile, without anger in his voice.  Maybe it was the fact that it was 300 degrees in the dark little hut, but I think the tone was more representative of this person's personal growth - a maturity that I, as someone who has often exhibited a much shorter fuse, have often admired.

When my turn came, I echoed this sentiment.  I didn't even utter her name, because in the moment - in the now - she means nothing.  Just another ghost, another hard lesson that needed to happen for me to acquire peace in my post-Sandy existence.

In those last brutal months where I smelled smoke in our relationship even tho I had yet to see the fire, she reminded me that she had stayed on good terms with nearly all of her other ex'es - and there were plenty.  She spoke as if letting people down yet still being their Facebook buddy was some sort of badge of honor, a validation that hurt feelings can mend. 

I reminded her about the guy before me - the dude who was her "boyfriend" while I was her lover.  About his last text to her, which was simply "I fucking hate you."  That didn't sound like a forgiving sentiment to me.  And then I was the "boyfriend" - the pixie dust had faded - replaced by the stress of sharing space and responsibilities, dog poop issues, phone addiction issues, bedbug issues.  Y'know - Real Life Stuff.  Adversity.  The deceit remained tho - and remained our biggest issue - and once my gut could no longer stop screaming, it was I who left instead.

In the end, it wasn't hard to let go.  What happened was far from a surprise.  On my way out the door, I set a little fire of my own, only these flames burned from an honest place.  Surely other men have done worse when faced with the reality that they are being two-timed.  Some use their fists, others use weapons.  I used my laptop.  

Before hitting 'Publish,' I asked clearer heads to advise.  I asked my father to walk a mile in my shoes, then ask himself if he would just walk away with his tail between his legs and just forget.  I reminded my mother that I had been held hostage by tall tales, not for days or weeks but for months - time I would never cherish nor ever get back.  On top of all this, I had been provoked - unnecessarily, immaturely - and the best medicine would be to use this selfish woman's greatest flaw - her dishonesty - against her.

My motivation wasn't to break up the cheating party - I knew that would never happen.  I wasn't interested in teaching anyone a lesson, because some people - whether we love them or not - never learn.  My motivation was to break that vicious cycle, and I succeeded.  I was finally letting go, tossing the poison away instead of choking on more of it.  No more yearning, no wondering what might have been, not a single tear shed.  No more unfinished business, no more smoke signals or cute little reach-outs.  No more tugging at my heartstrings.  I pulled the curtain back - and a year later, it's still one of the best things I've ever done for myself.  The bullshit still existed, but I was no longer knee-deep in it.

She would reach out one last time.  "The damage has been done," her rambling remorseless e-mail began.  As if I were the one who had wrecked things.  As if I were the damaged one.  Do crazy people really believe their own bullshit?  It's one thing to screw up, but how about a little accountability?

But cowards are never accountable, there's always someone or something else to blame.  Before we cohabited, life in the moment was great.  And for the first time in a very long time, I was happy in the moment.  The sex was great, the food was great, the wine and the weed were plentiful.  I assimilated myself into her world and she into mine.  I was being brave.  Meanwhile, she was conspiring, creating moments of her own behind my back.  Because, hey - the future doesn't exist.  But your past can certainly come back to haunt you if you let it.

I emerged from the stone hut and cooled off in a nearby pond.  After everyone else in my party headed out, I hung back and thanked the man for further enlightening me.  He hugged me and thanked me in return for sharing my experiences, having no idea that sharing experiences is exactly what I have been doing in this space for the past 2+ years, and in my songs for the past decade.  

And isn't that what defines us as musicians and artists, as writers and bloggers?  Sharing our experiences?  Relating?  The man in the hut reminded us all that we should all do it more.  In my post-Sandy life, I have been blessed with many gifts.  Good health, good friends, a speedy recovery from this mess.  I'm in a kick-ass place, ready to run another marathon, ready to make another album.  

I'm back to living in the moment, except the moment isn't shrouded in false hope and perjury.  The struggle was real and now it is over.  I'm free.  I survived a hurricane, I survived The Infidel.  I got back on my feet.  And nothing has set me free more than The Truth. 

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


Finding it hard to believe
You're giving me a fair shake
You just wanted to sleep
Knowing my mind was wide awake

I don't have the strength to fight you
I just wanted to satisfy you

And I still love you
The things you felt in your heart for me
You know I felt them too

And ain't that a shame
I knew that there was something strange
You think that things are gonna change
But what you are is just insane

And I still love you
The things you felt in your heart for me
You know I felt them too

And when it's over
You've gotta do what's good for you
And I've gotta do what's good for me
When it's over
We'll do it all over again
When it's over

Ron Scalzo - piano, vocals
Daniel G. Harmann - vocals
Bill Nordwall - synths
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
Engineered and mixed by Matt Brown

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

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


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