Tag: Music

Outside Looking In?



I was looking through CD’s this morning to find something to add to my iPhone. I wanted something mellow to listen to while walking or running. I came across Outside Looking In – The Best Of The Gin Blossoms. Sync completed and the music takes me back home to Arizona.

Outside looking in is how I feel sometimes as writer. Or how I felt as a musician. I suppose some of this feeling comes from feeling stuck along the fringe. The perpetual wallflower.

But how do we define being in or how do we define success? Success to me now means nothing more than enjoying myself along the way as I do the things I love. I would write for no one much the same as I would play guitar for no one. Anything beyond that is a plus.

Back to Arizona and the Gin Blossoms. I spent the majority of my life in the east valley area of Phoenix (Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale). There was a bar/grill in downtown Tempe called Long Wong’s where we used to walk or ride our bikes to at least once a week for cheap beer and chicken wings. Long Wong’s had a small area set up for live music in the bar section. For the better part of a year, it seemed the Gin Blossoms were playing there more than any other band.  I spent many Fridays and Saturdays enjoying their music at Long Wong’s and other local venues.

7th & Mill

7th & Mill

On New Year’s Eve, the Gin Blossoms were playing at a club around the corner from Long Wong’s (much larger venue and with two floors).  It was one of those New Year’s Eve specials where one buys a ticket in advance and the evening includes a concert, some sort of food, and cheap champagne to toast at midnight. There was a second band called August Red who should have been the headliner but oddly opened that evening, the reason unfolding later.

When it was time for the Gin Blossoms to go on stage, a local radio DJ came out to introduce the band. During that introduction, he announced the band had just been signed to a record label. Headliner explained and a few months later in the early 90s, the rest of the world got to enjoy a band from my neighborhood. Success.

I got to see them a few more times over the years. Surprisingly, one of those times was at a music festival in Racine Wisconsin. I wore an ASU sweatshirt but never got close enough for the band to notice. Or anyone else to make the connection for that matter. It’s alright. I knew the connection. I’d have worn a Long Wong’s shirt if I had one.

7th & Mill Today

7th & Mill Today

Maybe I’ll see them again. I just read they’ll be on my new side of the country in July and August. Twenty five years later and they are still making music. Yes, they’ve had their own tragedies over the years. Who hasn’t? No, they are not selling out venues they might have easily sold out in the early 90’s. Long Wong’s is long gone – a casualty of corporate greed. The Gin Blossoms are still around.

So am I.

Outside looking in? More like the inside looking out. I can relate to that.

Some bar on Broadway in Tempe

Some bar on Broadway in Tempe

Photos courtesy of me, NewTimes, & Google images

What Does The Instrumental Say To Us?


Back to serious writing this weekend so some quick thoughts on music and writing.

I have a lot of different music on my iPhone. Music for working out, music for driving, music for writing, and music for just chilling. This morning I am writing and listening to a playlist I’d titled – Mellow.  Songs by artists such as Van Morrison, Carol King, James Taylor, Toto, R.E.M., and Cat Stevens are included in that playlist. I also included a few songs by a guitar playing duo from Mexico probably because I didn’t know what other category to put them under.

I have a playlist called Workout/Road in which I have everyone from Creed to Iron Maiden. It’s mostly comprised of hard rock.  Power music. I do however have one instrumental on there: Orion by the group Metallica.  I liken the instrumental to art or poetry in that it says something different to all of us. This song for example, would be a great backdrop in a book trailer for a dark thriller. The beginning of it speaks of a determined pursuit while the complete shift in the middle speaks of some dark question answered in a not-so-climactic way. Maybe the finding of a body in a deserted cabin deep in the woods that only leads to more questions and/or pursuit? That’s my interpretation and it suits my current WIP.

There is another version of this song, performed by Rodrigo y Gabriella. If you love guitar music, these two are amazing. I happened to listen to their version of the song this morning and it said many of the same things to me although in a much softer, less powerful way and with a Latin twist. Maybe a dark thriller that takes place in South America or Spain? It could work.

Same song, yet two different feelings on interpretation when it comes to levels of darkness, pursuit, and scene setting.

How about you, do you use instrumental music for inspiration?  What can an instrumental say to you ?







I Wish I Knew Then …


I wish I knew then what I think I know now…but would I have lived life any differently?

By this time next week, my wife, twelve-year-old, and I will be waking up to a different dynamic in our home. My oldest will be gone. He’ll be waking up in a dorm room, probably both excited and nervous about the journey he is about to start. This upcoming experience, from my parent point of view, led me to thinking about my own journey that literally started the evening I returned home from my High School graduation. I left home that night, which is a story in itself.

A Letter To My Eighteen-Year-Old Self

I’ve read a few similar posts like this over the last year and they’ve always made me wonder what I might tell myself, assuming that was even possible, and, would it have made a difference? It did for John Conner in the second Terminator movie but that’s Hollywood. This is real life, and my thoughts and influences at that time were what guided me… Then.

Let’s just pretend for a few minutes that it’s possible. A letter from the future, to be opened and read that very first day on my own.

Dear Bill,

If you’re reading this, you’ve decided to leave home. You’re probably a little confused by now and wondering just what you’ve done. Last night was a turning point in your life. It wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. Standing on that football field after graduation only to find nobody was there is something that will eat at you for some time. I’d like to tell you why it happened like that but I don’t have a clue. My biggest advice is to get over it or you’ll spend too much time and energy wondering why. And while you’re at it, you should find forgiveness sooner than later. Trust me on this one.

So where do you go from here? What path should you choose? Regardless of what I tell you, you’re a stubborn kid and are going to do what you want. “No regrets” is what you’ll tell yourself later in life but you will have a few. And you’ll get over them. What words of wisdom do I have to share with you? Patience is something you won’t learn until later in life so I’m going to be brief or you will probably quit reading this. There are a few things however that you should know.

* Let’s establish one ground rule first. You’re eighteen. Although you think you know everything, you don’t. The reality of it is – you never will, and that’s okay. Lifelong learning should be your mantra.

* Adults. The first thing to know is that being an adult doesn’t automatically make one wiser, kinder, or more mature. Far from it. Some of the same BS you experienced in high school will continue throughout your life. I would love to tell you something different here but it’s just a fact and the sooner you realize that the better.

* Despite your wishes to pursue a career in the arts, you’re going to fall into a technical career. Embrace it. I know you fought this idea but you’ll learn to love it and it will provide you with a great living and you’ll be very good at it. You will travel, see many places within the U.S. and get to see a few places abroad. It can be as fulfilling as you want it to be. The best part is you’ll never lose the arts. Read. Write. Play the guitar. Who knows what can happen

* You convinced yourself that college is just high school with ashtrays. It’s so much more. So you f’d up and passed on scholarships. It would have been much easier on you had you just attended college immediately after high school. You’ll take the long route and still attend college albeit part-time. You’ll graduate. And with honors.


* The eighties. I could write a book on this subject. Suffice it to say it will be called a decade of decadence for a reason. You’ll live to tell about it and it will make great writing fodder someday. Just be careful.

* The nineties. This is when you are going to find yourself, not that you were lost. You’ll find true friendship and a long lasting love. How will you know? For this first time in your life, you won’t be looking for any of it.

* You will be a father and it will be the greatest high you’ve ever experienced. You’re going to be scared, and for good reason. Understand why you are scared and the rest will take care of itself. Embrace both the responsibility and challenge that parenthood will bestow upon you.

Tata, Nana, & Me

Tata, Nana, & Me

* As time passes, and it will at an alarmingly faster rate, never forget where you came from. It’s easy to get caught up in a life that most of society deems successful. Much of that is overrated. You’ll figure out what truly is a measurement of success.  

* Understand a few guiding words and make them a part of your being. Love, live, learn, listen, light, character, forgiveness, compassion, loyalty, friendship, respect, ethics, and passion are but a few.

* Simplicity. I saw a Hispanic comedian once who described the mystery of Mexican Food. He was asked what a taco was and he said: meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese in a tortilla. A burrito? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans in a tortilla. A tostada? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans on a tortilla. Do you see where I am going with this?

It’s all going to work out kid,


That One Song

A short post for me this Memorial Day weekend.

I often mention music in my posts and writing because music is something we all relate to. Songs remind us of a time in our lives, a person, or maybe a place.  Markers engrained in our minds.

When I was young, the small town I grew up in had dances for kids all the time. The schools had dances, the Y had dances, the church had dances, and local organizations held dances. For adults, there were weddings, anniversaries, and bars.  There was a song that played at most very event I ever attended and it was somewhat unique to the culture I grew up with.

I left that town when I was sixteen and moved to the city. I returned once in the late eighties to attend my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. That song played and I danced with my grandmother. It was the  only time I had ever danced with my grandmother.  Years later, my grandfather’s brother celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary in Tucson. I was married then so my wife attended with me. When that song played, I jumped up and pulled her to the dance floor. It was the first time she had ever heard it, but knew by the look in my eyes what it meant to me. It didn’t take her long to look around the club and see what it meant to all my relatives. It’s our song, part of our culture and now by being married to me, part of hers.  She loved it.

There is a famous guitar player most of you know: Carlos Santana. What most of you don’t know is he has a brother who is also a gifted musician: Jorge Santana. Jorge played in a band from California and recorded a song that probably is still being played today at dances and family gatherings across the Southwest.

How about you, what is that one song?  As for that one song that means so much to me –  I’ll share it with you.



Music Association – Into The Mystic

photo (1)

Music is genuinely a part of my soul. Like reading or writing, music can raise my blood pressure, bring me to laughter, or bring me to tears. Most people I have discussed this with hold the same relationship with music. Whether it’s the lyrics or the musical arrangement itself, it resonates with us. We have workout playlists, mellow playlists, rainy day playlists, and so on. I would imagine the lists are as complex as human emotion.

For me personally, a particular song, or sometimes an entire album or artist, often has some association with it: a person, a place, an event, a mood, an object, or a particular time in my life. Sometimes that connection is stronger depending upon the magnitude of what I am associating it with.  For example, there is a Creed song titled Arms Wide Open. My association, and an easy one, was my anxiety of becoming a father for the first time. AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock? My Gibson SG. Fleetwood Mac’s Silver Spring takes me back to an airport where I said goodbye to a girl I was dating so she could return home to an ex-boyfriend who had pleaded for one more chance. Iron Maiden’s Wasted Years: long story, lol. Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters: my wife. I could go on and on with this.

I haven’t posted for a few weeks because I had a death in the family. My uncle passed away in February and his death hit me harder than most.  I wrote a tribute to him HERE because I needed to write but then spent the next few weeks trying to comfort others all while sitting over 2000 miles away. His service was last weekend and most everyone in my family made it to Arizona with the exception of me and few other relatives and friends. I couldn’t go for a number of reasons and it was tearing me up.  Throughout the weekend, I got texts and updates from numerous family members including pictures: the funeral service cars being led by a group of motorcycles, the bikers lining the walkway with American Flags they’d had folded up on their bikes, two young Marines folding a flag, and then pics of family members and friends. They made me a part of it despite their own grief. That was last weekend. I had cried the morning my mother texted me he had passed and I cried when my sister sent me the pictures of the Marines folding the flag but other than that, I have been a bit numb and not really dealing with this.  That was until last night.

Thursday, my uncle’s fiancé texted me asking me about the town I live in and if it was in what’s called the Southern Tier, in NY. I replied yes. She had friended me on Facebook and I noticed she had gone to college at a University that is located about 15 miles from me. I was going to mention it to her earlier but felt it wasn’t the time because she was obviously grieving. It turns out she is from this area and was born about 25 miles from where I presently live and grew up in neighboring towns. Her mother and two of her kids were born in the same town I live in now. The same town my wife was born in and my reason for now living in NY. And it hit me, what are the odds that a boy and his uncle, who both grew up in a small mining town in Arizona along the Mexican border would find their soul mates from the same small rural county in New York? Crazy.

So back to last night. People have been continually posting things on my Uncle’s Facebook page.  I’ve read most of them but somehow missed two posts.  One of them was re-posted by my uncle’s fiancé, thanking the man who had posted it. It was a tribute he had done for my Uncle with photographs of his time in Vietnam along with an old CCR song playing in the background.  Last night I decided to watch it again and started to get emotional. When it ended, I noticed the same guy had done one more so I watched it and completely lost it.  I don’t think I have cried like that in years.  Maybe I needed it.

So… Fortunate Son and Into The Mystic now have a face, a time, a place, and so much more.

Meet my uncle – Charlie Sotelo:


Beautiful Day

I had a post in mind I was going to write but decided to save it for next week. Instead I decided to just write about what a great day I had yesterday, and more importantly, what a great day my wife and kids had.

Yesterday, I woke up early like I would any Saturday morning. The two to three hours of complete quietness in my house is something I look forward to each weekend.  A cup or two of hot coffee and time alone to read or write is my weekend morning routine.  I did have an hour to myself but had to wake my eleven year old up at 6:15 so he could be at his school by 7:40. My wife, who loves sleeping in on the weekends, also got up so she could see him off.  He and a few of his classmates were selected to perform at our All-County Honors Festival along with a number of other kids from neighboring towns. The festival showcases a string ensemble, a show choir, and an intermediate band. My son plays trombone.

The plan was to get him dressed in concert attire, let my wife take a few pictures of him, and then drive him into town to catch the bus with his classmates.  Concert time was 2:00 so I would still have time  to spend  with my wife, leave early to pick up my eldest who had spent the night with a friend of his in a small city about forty five minutes from us, then drive another forty five minutes to the small town where the concert would be held. No problem. Okay, not entirely true.


If you read my post a few weeks ago HERE you’d know my wife had foot surgery and few medical hiccups as a result of that surgery.  Her healing has been slow but headed in the right direction. She still is not allowed to have any weight bearing on the foot she had surgery on so her mobility is limited to a wheelchair, a walker, and as of this last week: crutches.  She has been off of work since her surgery back in early December and she only gets out of the house once or twice a week for doctor visits. We live out in the country and do not have a wheelchair friendly entrance to the house. We have steps and this creates a minor problem, strike that, more of a challenge in getting her from the house to the car and back. It’s worse with snow or ice on the ground but we work through it.

When I got home from dropping my son off, my wife had decided she was not going to miss his concert. Her original plan was to stay home and work on a scrapbook to give as a gift to a pregnant co-worker but she ran out of some type of tape and glue drops. How, I don’t know considering the amount of scrapbook supplies she has. She also wondered if we could stop by a store either before the concert or after so she could get the supplies she needs (most likely because I could not possibly figure out what she needed nor would I have the patience). We got ready, successfully completed our challenge of getting her in the car, and headed northeast on back country roads to pick up my eldest. After picking him up and stopping to get us all something to drink, we took the freeway west to make up some time before jumping back onto to another country road to head north. My wife was texting our son to find out if we were any stairs to get to the auditorium. He replied that he didn’t think so.  We were hoping he was right.

I made up some time only because my wife was sitting in the back seat instead of the front where she usually glances at the speedometer and tells me to slow down. Mistake on my part. I was driving around 75 MPH when I happened to see a NY State Trooper parked in the median area on one of those turnaround spots nobody is allowed to use. I passed by him, quickly slowing down as I did. I glanced in the rear view mirror only to see him pull out and  on to the freeway, accelerating towards us.  And then came the lights. Great. We are already running late, my wife and eldest are now scolding me for not paying attention to how fast I was going, and my heart is racing in anticipation of how much a speeding ticket is going to cost in 2015.  My last ticket was seventeen years ago and I was already factoring inflation into the amount. I was thinking that I am screwed.


When the trooper approached our vehicle, I rolled the window down and he introduced himself and told me why he pulled me over (in case I didn’t know). He asked for my license and registration and for about ten seconds I was thinking of something clever to say such as “Hey, I’m writing a novel and one of my main characters is a NY State Police Detective” or “I’m writing a novel and one of your co-workers is helping me with some of the technical details” or “We are in a hurry to see my son’s concert.” All would have been true statements but I sat there like an idiot awaiting my fate. He was reading my license and repeated my address to me, asking if that was my current address. I told him it was. Next he asked if I lived just past five corners. I drew a blank for a minute and then realized what he was talking about and replied “yes, we are about a mile down the road from there.” He told me he knew which house we lived in and that he used to live about a half mile down the road from us but moved about a year ago. I instantly remembered that one of my co-workers who lives over the hill from me had mentioned a few years ago that his daughter and son-in-law lived down the road from me and that his son was a state trooper. I asked if he knew my co-worker and he said “yes, he’s my father-in-law.”  He smiled, shook my hand, reminded me to slow down in the future, then turned around and walked back to his car.  My lucky day? More like small town living and I was grateful.

We made it to the concert in time and the one concern we had regarding my wife being able to watch it was of a non-factor. There were no stairs and my wife walked into the auditorium on crutches like a champ while I parked the car.

I love live music. Yes, I am an eighties rocker but have grown to love most forms of music. The string ensemble, whose participants included a few talented middle school kids and high school kids, performed Celtic Canon and an amazing version of Eleanor Rigby. My niece, who is in middle school with my youngest, played violin with the group along with one of my oldest son’s friends who played string bass.  My youngest also plays string bass in addition to trombone but only started playing it this year. The second group was a show choir and I instantly recognized a few more of my oldest son’s friends. There was a small band of musicians (teachers from around the county), who played for the choir’s performance and two of their songs just happened to be favorites of mine: Faithfully by Journey and Beautiful Day by U2. They did an amazing job with both and to my surprise, the guitar player would have made Neil Schon proud on Faithfully.

Last up was the intermediate band, made up of just sixth graders. They played Pulse Pounding, Portrait of a Clown and African Spirit Dance. Usually I can’t see my son playing trombone but we were so far to the right of the auditorium, we had a perfect view of him. These kids played their hearts out and closing my eyes, I would never have guessed that these were sixth graders. Best of the best and my son was so happy that my wife was there to see him perform.

Our son got to ride home with us instead of taking the bus, so we took advantage of my wife being out and ventured on to another nearby city. This would allow my wife to pick out scrapbook supplies herself; a big thank you to Walmart for having motorized scooters. We were on a roll and decided to push the envelope a little more when we left Walmart and decided we were going out to eat instead of heading straight home. Nothing fancy but it was the first time my wife has been out to eat since early December. My wife was mobile yesterday which might not seem like a lot, but to her and to my sons and me, it was everything.

What a beautiful day.

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