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While I’ve written about runs I’ve had in Sag Harbor, some very good ones, this post is not about a run. It is, in part, about not a run. This is because I’ve been bothered by yet another malady and fear the fat lady has sung, bowed, and had her make-up removed. I may go out tomorrow. But the bottom of my right foot is sore, with no precise explanation.

But Sag. I wanted to write a song, and it was suggested in a video course on song-writing that one select a place and build from there, and so it was that I selected Sag. It is partly in East Hampton and partly in Southampton, to the north. One of my sisters has a house there.

A few spots immediately came to mind: the American Hotel, the pier.

So a while ago I started a song that didn’t really go anywhere. It’s in the first person and I’m walking around before meeting a former lover. But it didn’t, as I say, go anywhere. I had written a chord-structure: Am, Em, F#m, D, Am, Em, D, G.

A few weeks back, my wife was meeting someone about doing a sale at his house and, as is my wont, I had my guitar with me as well as some lyrics. Over a half-hour I worked out the heart of the story, although not the ending. That came shortly thereafter, and I fiddled with it.

Realizing that I run into difficulties with too many syllables, I cut where I could. I then did a rough recording, deciding not to worry about a chorus. I sent it to my sister with the house in Sag and some others, and my sister said that while she liked the lyrics, the melody didn’t work. Indeed, it had troubled me throughout. I knew she was right. So I took my guitar and decided to play a G chord to see where it led me. And it led me to a C and then I had the tune. Almost.

Because I didn’t have a chorus, things droned on. So, voila, I decided to simply change the chords now and then and it worked. So the verses are G C G D D7, G C G D G, and the “chorus” C G C D C G C D G. Much more pruning and tightening and I had my song. I had a nice rhythm and not too many syllables. I played it last night at the guitar meet-up. I’ve grown to like it. Plus I’ve always liked saying “Amaganset”. Here it is: Sag. (While I have songs on SoundCloud, I have nothing to do with the songs that autoplay after “Sag”.)

SAG, by Joe Garland

Capo: 2: G   C   G   D  D7,  G   C   G   D  G
I was a little early   /   So I headed to the pier
Heard a distant      boat’s bell
I checked my watch    /   Realized the time was near
For our meeting at the American Hotel
 
It’s quiet in September   /   Mostly locals are in town
No back-up     at Division    and Bay
Sweaters over shorts   /   Things very much slowed down
My only thought was convincing her to stay
 
She was five minutes late   /   Kiss on the cheek, she smiled
As we left, I held her hand
She laughed at the sea gulls   /   She hadn’t seen one in a while
She said, “I hope you’ll understand”.
 
[PLAY AS CHORUS]
C  I said, “We can do that later
G  “Right now let’s not talk”
C  /   D  We headed for what had been our old café
C  Each step echoed loudly
G  On our quarter-mile walk
C  /  D  G  I still didn’t know what I would say.
 
Silently we strolled    /   A piano playing scales
On the second floor of a house across the way
To our left we could hear   /   The fluttering of sails
Of boats that were bobbing in the bay
 
As we reached the corner   /   Her hand tightened its grip
As I opened that old café’s door
We sat at a round table   /   I asked about her trip
She paused, said “I can’t take it anymore”

[PLAY AS CHORUS]
“As I rode out on the jitney   /   “It gave me time to think
“You were a fool for letting me move on
“You said you weren’t ready  /  For your universe to shrink
“Now you tell me you were wrong”
 
I was taken aback/ By the venom in her voice
More so by the fact that it was true
I’d made a lot of damn ones   /   But that was my worst choice
I feared there was nothing I could do
 
“Look I was an asshole   /   “And, yeah, a fool as well
“And I regretted my words before they were said
“But I own each one of them   /   “More than I can tell
“What a waste, I could have been with you instead”

“I can’t say I’m a changed man  /  Though perhaps I’ve seen the light
“And hope to be blinded by you
“Give me a chance  /  I’ll try to make things right
“And we can have a universe of two”
 
[PLAY AS CHORUS]
When we finished eating  /  I asked her if she’d stay
“No”, she said, “I’m Amaganset bound
“But please come meet me  /  Tomorrow, say, mid-day
“I’ll tell you if I’d like to stick around
“Whether I’d like to stick around.”

 

I’m not running much. I have to have an operation in early March — straight-forward but necessary — and hard exercise is verboten until mid-April so if one needs an excuse not to run, that’s a good one.

It gives me a rare opportunity to assess things, as opposed to the opportunity-forced-by-injury. And I will be able to focus on preparatory stuff before hitting the roads and trails again and maybe start in better core shape than is my usual.

Will the fires be re-ignited? Who knows. But I’ve noted the simple exhilaration of the run. Whether that will translate into serious training remains to be seen.

In the meantime, it’s all about that bass. (I’m in a band with our first gig in early April in the City and starting up with a second group in Westchester. I played a few times with a couple of electrics and drums whose bassist moved away; it was fun, but too, too loud for me so I had to back out.)

(I came upon the foregoing because I enjoy Postmodern Jukebox. I thought it was a cover for something older and only later learned it was something contemporaneous.)

I ran today. 2.2789 miles, or so, per gmap-pedometer. It was a struggle over the last 3/4 but I made it. 2014 did not have as many runs as I might have liked, what with injuries — never “serious” but often requiring a decent lay-off — and the days when the motivation to get out in the morning was lacking. One race in 2014. The Scarsdale 15K, which I ran something like (I’m not looking it up) 8 minutes slower than in 2006.

On the other hand, I’ve taken to relishing Sunday morning runs at Twin Lakes where I simply do counterclockwise laps. I got up to five when an injury of some sort or another got me. As to Twin Lakes, major changes going on, with resurfacing to smooth parts out and avoid drainage problems. Right now, it seems overdone in spots, but in time let’s hope it becomes more natural. I also wrote an article, which was heavily edited, that will appear in Trail Runner magazine in the spring, on the Paine-to-Pain race.

If there’s one resolution, it’s to work on injury-avoidance. Right now I’m taking it one run, one stride at a time. It is what it is.

As to music, it looks like the band, still unnamed, will be having its first gig, on April 9 in Manhattan. One always aspires to be “in the band” and I may get my chance. I’ve also started to play with a couple of electrics and drum in Mount Vernon, also playing originals. They’re all younger than I am (unlike the other band, which is two acoustics (plugged in) and bass) and we’ll see how that turns out. So far, though, I’ve yet to get one of my own songs into the set. I’m trying to figure which of my songs would be compatible with the way the others play and the types of music they write.

Playing lots of Bach to work on my bass technique. I’m still posting songs on SoundCloud, now with a bit of piano, on which I’ve been writing more and more. I’m finding it tricky mastering comping, which is accompanying, on the piano, but it’s coming.

This is a non-running post.

I didn’t realize that it was so long ago, but in February 2013 I posted about taking up the bass. Then I did posts on writing and performing with a large group of acoustic players just over a year ago. Well I’ve been doing a lot of playing recently. Craig’s List is a means to get together with others, and I’ve played the bass with a number of people. I learned that I don’t like to play with drums. (It’s the noise and the subsequent ear-ringing.) 

I may have found a potential band position with a couple of acoustics playing original stuff. Maybe gigs beginning in November. One of the fantasies is playing in a band. 

I’ve also written a lot of things. I particularly like coming up with some lines and not knowing where they will lead. It feels creative. Notwithstanding my voice, I’ve put many of them on a SoundCloud page. I think the most-recent ones are the better of them, The Call, Visit, 31 (the latter being a song for my anniversary). Slipping into some of the recent ones is a piano. I’ve gotten a “studio piano” — an electric piano that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles just a limited number of tones. I’m trying to figure that out and integrate it into my things.

With some early snow here in Westchester, my running, such as it is, is treadmill-centric these days. I’m looking long-term, so I’m not thinking of doing it every day. When I go to Brooklyn, it’s early or not-at-all, and I’ve been more of the latter than I should. That said, I am building confidence that I’m heading in the right direction for the late Winter/Spring.

I had toyed with joining VCTC but my fall during a Saturday run put the kibosh on being active with the group and in the end I decided that I’m more in sync with my old teammates on Warren Street, so it looks like I’ll be heading back there, if they’ll take me. Warren Street has a more-serious streak, notwithstanding its rebel-image and club motto — “they said sit down, I stood up” — and I think it’s a better fit for me. So as I get in better shape I hope to try getting in some Saturday morning runs with the group. It was a few years ago that I last did it, and some of those runs were really pushing it for me but I like the prospect of driving down to the City — it only takes about 15 minutes — and joining Paul off the train for a Central Park workout. Whether I’ll enter NYRR races again is up in the air, although the reality is that I’m not going to be much of a scorer.

Perhaps the worst part of winter is the snow. Fortunately there are areas near me where the streets are plowed early and the traffic is light — one of the objectives behind he NY Running Routes site was to identify such places (as an aside, BRC has put up some running routes, but they fail the first law of such routes, i.e., aiming for quiet, low-traffic streets (as a further aside, I don’t go there anymore after having been badly treated on my last two visits)) — which I’ll frequent. The problem is that my beloved trails, and especially my monthly (or more) trek to the Rockies, are off-limits unless we have an extended warming stretch because of not the snow but the ice. So it may be March before we get back up there.

Music

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time working on music. I’ve been playing the electric bass for about a year-and-a-half and have played the guitar since college. In the last six months, I’ve also tried writing, and I’ve posted a few things. Alas, unlike running, it’s hard to know whether one is decent or whether one sucks. In that vein, I invite people to hear some of my things. With the caveat that I CAN’T SING (as close family members who’ve heard some of this stuff have “observed”), you should be warned.

But what I do (generally) is record an acoustic guitar and singing. I have a bit of a problem I’m working on with rhythm, i.e., keeping the beat, so I’ve started to use a metronome. I’ve also learned that it’s hard to remember the words of a song I’ve written. I must write it down. Even then I miss things. So I put down, sometimes after several tries, a single guitar/voice track. Then I add the bass and one or more electric guitar things. I’ve found that even if the first acoustic track (I don’t use a pick) consists of plucking (as opposed to strumming), there’s no point in adding a strumming track. So it’s just electric fills.

There is a running one I did a while ago, but I’ve never put it down. Also, the levels can be all over the place. But it’s fun.

For a while I’ve been playing with an acoustic meetup group in Larchmont.  I bring my guitar, but generally play electric bass. The format: each participant brings copies of a song, passes them around, and away we go. Often, the first run-through is pretty ragged so we do it again. Then it can sound quite good. I find a bass-line, most of the guitars get the rhythm, and the rest put in nice fills. It’s something you can do with acoustics but more than a couple of electrics is really hard to pull-off. Neil Young, Stones, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell. That kind of thing. A broad range of ages. Ten or more guitars and the bass. Last night, I brought in Jackson Browne’s “Late for the Sky”. In college Browne and Springsteen were the pillars of my musical tastes (and when Browne was inducted into the hall-of-fame it was Springsteen who introduced him).

After everyone finishes after an hour-and-a-half or so, there’s a “performance” segment. When I was last there, I wasn’t willing to try one of my own songs. I thought of Julie doing her stuff on stage but wimped out. You see, doing so means I have to sing, and I’m not confident in that.

This time I was determined. So I went through my stuff and came out with my sappiest one, “Awake”. It’s a simple song and not too long, which is why I picked it. I wrote it after awakening from an involuntary nap on a Saturday afternoon. When Guy asked “does anyone want to perform?” I said I did.

It’s a slowish piece, although it picks up towards the end with a key change. (Nothing fancy, from C to G.) It starts with a simple finger-picking (I don’t use a pick) of the melody into an Am, G, F, Em, F, G line. The playing didn’t go as well as I hoped. There are folks at the meetup who really can play the guitar. I’m not one of them.

Fortunately, the song turns into basic chords, so that was when I felt more comfortable. C, F, C, F, C, G. I soldiered on, emotions mixed between enjoying the fact that I was doing it and hoping it would just be over. To me the performance is not the performance per se but the chance to perform my music and my lyrics. People did say nice things about the song, which I like to think were heart-felt.

AWAKE

C
Did I fall asleep?
F C
Did you wake me up?
F C G
Did you tell me you love me?
C
Or am I dreaming still
F C
Am I all alone?
F C G
Far From where I should be
G Am G F Em F G
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
G Am G F Em F G
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
C
When I am by your side
F C
With feelings no dream can hide
F C F C
Will you tell me you love me?

On many mornings
On many evenings
I reach to be sure you’re there
And when I can
Hear you breathing
I know I’m safe in the bed we share
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
So when it’s true
That I’m next to you
I can sleep because you’re there.

G
With you I’m no longer the dreamer
C Em Am
Who fears waking up every day
Dm G
Who finds things so much cleaner
Em D D7
Without reality to get in the way

G
When I fall asleep
C G
Please wake me up
C G C D
And tell me you love me
For no matter what the dream
I’ll be all alone
If you’re not next to me
D Em D C Bm C D
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
I’d rather stay awake
With your love to take
And know you are next to me
G b ccc d e f e c def ec e d

Not me:

This is me, recorded at home. 2013_07_20 Awake Electric

Having taken up the bass, I decided to write. It’s hard to do that on the bass so for that I revert to the guitar. I took an on-line course from Berklee College of Music in Boston, as part of the coursera system. On song-writing. There’s a bias that one needn’t/shouldn’t need a course to learn how to write. I found it useful. Boy things can be complicated. But the ideas were mostly about coming up with a structure for your songs.

In the recent Eagles documentary, Glenn Frey said that one has to write lots of bad songs to get a good one. When you write, though, it’s hard to tell which are “bad”. I use time on the subway and bus to write. Lyrics first. Then simple chords. Then fleshing out. I’m having problems with choruses. Strangely, the tunes that bounce around my head are of songs that I’ve written. Each has its own personality and they needn’t be autobiographical, although some are.

I can’t sing, but that doesn’t matter in the confines of my den, where I usually play. I want to improve because I enjoy singing them. And there’s the dream of doing it before other people.

When I say each has its own personality, it’s that they each have, I think, a unique sound. Even if there’s overlap on the topic.

I read this article, on a 2 train in Brooklyn as it happens, about the “Brooklynization” of music. It’s a call-to-arms of maintaining one’s own, or at least one’s own regional, sound. As a guy writing on subways and playing in a den, it’s a reminder akin to what bloggers should remember, that no one else cares what you say, or write, or sing. Or that you should act as if no one does and then everything is gravy.

You create characters. On Friday, for example, I put together some lines on the subway and got a verse-and-a-half. I had no idea where it was going  but when I put it to music — C F C G F C, as simple as it gets — hitting the lower strings of the guitar it had a Springsteen “Nebraska”-era sound. The start could have gone either way, but as lines were added I realized that the guy I was writing about was going to die. Turns out, he died in a “silly street fight” after “he was caught up in a lie”. I don’t know his name, in fact he went to a new town where “no one knew his name”, but he left a young child (the toddler next-door wandered about as I was working), a daughter, in a town far away, who he never really knew and would always wonder why he “gave up on her”.

New Town
                       C
He didn’t know anyone cdcdec
C
But he went anyway cddcde
 C                       F
He needed something different cdcdfc
F                        C
So he couldn’t just stay cdcde
                        G
It was a long trip ffefgd
                         F
Made longer by delay dddcde
                          C
He didn’t know anyone cdcdec
G                       C
But he went anyway cddede

Wasn’t what he expected.
He thought it right for a new start.
Sure it had museums and things.
He hadn’t come for the art.
Soon he was settled in
In the next to the toughest part.
Wasn’t what he expected.
He thought it right for a new start.

Chorus: G   C   G   F  C   G

Things had not gone the way he thought they would.
Sometimes he didn’t understand; he always tried to do good.
Was it too late to change? He needed to know.
Which is why he couldn’t stay but needed to go.

The days were getting longer.
Lots of things to be thought through.
He left a small child,
Who he never really knew.
He felt it made him a coward.
But it was all that he could do.
The days were getting longer.
Lots of things to be thought through.

He started as a stranger.
No one knew his name.
Free of all the baggage
He’d shed before he came.
Hoping that having done so,
Things wouldn’t be the same.
He started as a stranger.
No one knew his name.

[CHORUS]

But it didn’t matter.
He was the same man deep down,
Whether he had stayed home,
Or moved to this new town.
He couldn’t change things,
In the end he’d have to drown,
It just didn’t matter,
He was the same man deep down.

It was a silly street fight,
And a stupid way to die.
He had gotten hostile,
When he was caught up in a lie.
He had the chance to back-out,
He didn’t even try.
It was a silly street fight,
And a stupid way to die.

For no reason
He’d orphaned his flesh and blood,
Who’d never understand
Why he just gave up on her.
He never really knew her,
Didn’t want to drag her through the mud.
For no reason
He’d orphaned his flesh and blood.

(All rights reserved.)

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