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.