Raggin' Piano Boogie

 

 
HIS SPIRIT LIVES ON! ... BONER, THE PIANO DOG ... November 27, 1994 ... February 20, 2010

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September 30, 2006

Pennsylvania

Today was a day full of fun, chaos, trouble and friendliness. This was my tenth year performing for Schuylkill Haven Borough Day in East Central Pennsylvania. This community exemplifies hometown America more than any other place I have been. Everyone is like family and this is a yearly festival where everyone cooperates to create a great day no matter what. The "no matter what" of the day was rain. Ugh. This festival does not start until the piano man begins every year and that is at 9 AM sharp. It was crisp and cool. That was not a problem. When the drizzle began, now that was a problem. I persevered until the water was dripping off my hat and then I came to my senses. I drove the truck under an overhang and went to buy myself a big fat smoked turkey leg that took me a half hour to eat. I ran back and forth in and out of the rain all day, I was using Boner's sweater to sop up the water off the piano keys. I was thinking, "I wonder how long the piano will last, the speakers are blown, I don't care about them anymore, I wonder if there is anything under the piano keys that will rust. I know this is all crazy, "it is what it is". I wanted to give the town their money's worth and to make a good day for everyone so I stayed around for the full day and continued to create performance when possible. I found my friend Celeste's beach umbrella and set that up over the piano. Having Bo with me was really the only thing needed to make people happy, they all love him so much.

The speakers were frustrating the hell out of me. Oh, that reminds me, my Country and Western singer friend Brenda also had a booking here today and her husband told me she took the word "hell" out of a song because these days it might offend someone. I said, "whats the world coming to", although I thought I was supposed to be saying it for the opposite reasons by the time I got to be this age. Anyway, the speakers created distortion with crack, sizzle and pop sounds that made it almost impossible to play at times. It was awful. It was ok with the Ragtime because it sounded like I had tacs in the piano for an old timey sound. I think the cones are busted. It was a lousy sound for the improve and as long as I did not accent any of the notes I barley got by with the Boogie Woogie. I was frustrated because this was my first opportunity to let my improv fly in a street festival performance, up to now it has been in parks. I was trouble shooting all day with the speakers, the amp, the batteries, the isolator, the inverter, the keyboard, and the trouble areas kept switching from one thing to the other.

I'll just state some visuals that I can remember like... this is a great crowd of around 40,000 people, the farm tractor parade travels by behind me twice every year; I used to lead it down the main street I do not know why I stopped doing that. Bo's hair is growing back for the winter; I give him a shave in the summer. He was shedding like a snowfall all over the piano and me as people are constantly petting him. I performed across the street from the local water rescue team; they sit for the dunk tank everyear. I was thinking it must have been freezing for them every time they hit the water. The police chief guy came up to say goodbye this will be his last year and he wanted me to know how much he has enjoyed my performances in his spot every year. A woman made a point to tell me how I turned her on to Boogie Woogie completely. She said that whenever she is having a tuff time with life she tunes into my version of the Flight of the Bumble Bee. It was a lot a fun for me to coax this guy up onto the truck to play, I knew he wanted to and he was great. He was really nervous, I was so happy for him that he was able to jump at the opportunity. Then one of my strongest fans Ellen, local music teacher, crossing guard, borough hall cleaning woman, known by everyone jumped on board with her dog Heidi to play. Bo was like, "what the hell is that dog doing in my truck". Celeste's husband Gary turned on the truck motor and hung out in the front seat revving the engine to charge the batteries that were almost dead while I tried to console the dog Heidi who was shaking like a leaf. Ellen had a good old time playing, "How Much is that Doggie in the Window". Yea it was a fun day!!!

September 29, 2006

Pennsylvania

Music created by the Dam in Bubeck Park, Schuylkill Haven Pennsylvania. Yea, that is where I ended up today. I arrived early for a booking tomorrow. Oh baby, the coldness is falling upon us. I actually love the change of seasons. No more denial, my speakers are blown. I will suffer through the job tomorrow working extra hard so that no one notices. I will notice. Yuk. My piano sounds like a little electronic keyboard. About fifteen hundred bucks this will cost. The price for playing in the sun, rain, snow, hot, cold and humid weaher. Most people do not realize the costs involved with the need for new equipment every two years. speakers, amps, keyboards, batteries etc... Playing in this new environment almost three hours from home, my energy is different I have a desire to create specific nuances with the music. Change is good for me.

September 28, 2006

Pennsylvania

The wind was strong today and the air warm, the sun was bright, it made me feel alive. I drove to the water's edge on the Delaware river in Northeast Philadelphia and I was feeling the power of nature and especially hearing it from the leaves in the trees. The tide was high and I like the full feeling that comes from that. I mixed improv with making sure that I remember my old repertoire because I have a booking coming up. I also needed to play some of the old stuff to help bring up my energy level for the improv. I tend to want to use improvisation to lull myself to sleep, which is ok sometimes, but sleeping does not help to develop my physical and intellectual skills on any level that I can be aware of. I need awareness. People were hesitant to approach me because of my placement on the grass, it would have been such a direct approach. I could tell they did not want to be intrusive so I called over one person; Cindy and she took some photo shots for me.

September 27, 2006

Pennsylvania

I went to the local school parking lot tonight. Blah, blah, blah almost the same old stuff. A four foot skunk ran right across the middle of the parking lot I could not believe how fast those things can run and how big they can get. I played to a beautiful crescent moon; a stray firework went off in the sky. Bo chooses to stay in the cab. The speakers were cracking and they have been doing that a lot lately. I keep telling myself it is from the batteries being low and not that the speakers are blown. I think I am trying to seep into denial here because new speakers will cost over a thousand bucks. I cannot remember anything about my improvising.

September 26, 2006

Pennsylvania

I am wondering how this daily improvising is going to work out once it gets really cold. Me soo crazy. I just drove out from a field by the local school to come home. I had my hat and coat on, kept my shorts on, and I am glad it was dark because I looked kind of silly. What definitely looks silly is what I look like when my body is failing around from the improvisation. I cannot help it, as I get into playing the music takes over my body and I don't want to inhibit what is happening, I really enjoy going with the flow. It will probably gross some people out when I get performing in front of crowds. It is what it is. I am so aware when I am present with the music. Yesterday I could not get there, tonight I did. I am a strong piano player, I always have been. I can be strong in a hard way and I can be strong in a sensitive way. I like versatility.

September 25, 2006

Pennsylvania

My sanity has been hanging by a thread today so I thought maybe the energy might make for some strong and charged music for recording. I headed to the easiest and closest place the local river access area. As I improvised, I realized that I just needed to feel secure with some basic structure so I practiced on my technique. I sat and practiced scales. After a half hour of that, I started to record and some of the music would have been great for the web but I am so crazy today that I put the recording output plug where the recording input plug should be and the input plug where the output plug should be. Therefore, I ended up with recorded music, nada.

September 24, 2006

Pennsylvania

The raindrops did not stop me today. Why should I be afraid if it should rain? If it rains, I throw the cover over the truck no big deal. I went to the Delaware river access area. First thing that crosses my path and I notice because they were very blatant, was a grown woman obviously giving some guy in a truck a hand job. It is not so cute when grownups do this in public. They were not attractive and seemed to want to challenge my sense of decency, they were going to give me a show. There is no challenge for my sense of decency because I have none, although my music is pretty decent. I could sense their desire to intimidate me. I thought, "they are going to love what I have to offer them in return, not really". I set up, Bo jumped onto the piano I started playing some music, I thought, "this is really going to wilt that willy, maybe the park systems should hire me to clean them up". They have these services now a days where country clubs and schools phone "geese chasers", guys go out with their dogs to chase canadian geese from properties because they are a nuisance. I could do that with park varmints. My music is not conducive to shooting up with drugs or lurking about with dark and seedy behavior. The couple's escapade ended, they vamoosed when all the little kids started to come over to dance with the music. Then came Silvia. Happy 42nd birthday Silvia. Her picnic group, a bunch of crazy Ukrainians pulled me to their picnic table area to provide some music for them. How could I resist? They were a sharp and intelligent group and I am fifty percent Ukrainian myself. I had an appointment at home or I would have stayed to party with them. I grabed some meat to eat and as I left they yelled, "freedom!"

September 23, 2006

Pennsylvania

Someone had turned around the no entrance sign at the parking lot in Neshaminy State park near the Delaware river in Bucks County. Usually a good seventy five percent of the parking areas are closed off. I took advantage of the opportunity to drive into an open area where there were no other vehicles around. A maintance guy came up for some conversation he is a teacher and also musical. A neighbor as it turns out, his name is Pete was riding by on his bike and stopped. He is a local music teacher who performs for his kids. I got him to do some piano jammin' and he sang with a great voice. He helped me to decide on having another piano jam for next Sunday.

September 22, 2006

Pennsylvania

God, what a crazy time I had. I decided to go into Philadelphia to play along the Schuylkill River near a dog park that Bo and I frequent. When I arrived, there was a big new large sign that had a big red X with DO NOT ENTER printed on it. I became hesitant especially because I would have had to drive across the railroad tracks to get to the other side and a big freight train was sitting there waiting for the signal to move. I did not want to get caught on the wrong side. I thought about the dog park but it did not feel right. I like to slip into spaces and tonight I would have come across as making a grand entrance. I drove around for another half hour looking for a river spot with no luck. It was late so I decided to go for Rittenhouse Square once again, the familiarity felt safe. I drove into the park and within 2 seconds, a bike cop raced to Bo's side of the truck and started to bang on the window as though it was not completely obvious that I knew he was there. I got out of the truck, as I did not want to reach over for the window; the guy was freaking Bo out. I said...." ", he said, "get out of here, get that dog, piano and truck out of here", I said, " ", he said, "do you want a ticket, what is wrong with you". I thought, "this guy must be having a bad day or has a need to feel self-important because he has no squad car". In any case, he was bordering on hysterical. I just got into the truck and left. That led to my driving to the Delaware river. I wanted water. I drove for over an hour looking for a spot with a water view in the city. There were none. I have been around the block a few times in this city but tonight I found places that gave me the feeling of being in another world. Lots of rats, trash and "lets take the stolen car apart " garages. I even found a one lane metal road, not railroad, bridge that I braved to drive across just to see what was on the other side. It was under the Betsy Rose bridge and the area was full of signs with the word transition on them. I was discouraged and thinking how I do not have this time to waste. I had also wanted to be helpful to a friend tonight but I would have had to drive back into the city and at this time that would be too much driving. I was disappointed. I could not find a spot so I decided to drive to an area close to where I was before at Lyndon Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. Ugh, it was dark by this time and the place was dirty even in the dark I could feel the trash, mud and lots of cars full of strangers lurking in them.



I drove up the street to where I have been in the past and maneuvered along side a parked car to drive up a small hill and onto the grass towards the river embankments edge. I got onto the piano fast and started to play. I heard someone yelling from behind and thought a good fight was going on in one of the houses across the street. About five minutes later, this young guy comes up and walks by the truck to hang on the nearby guardrail over the water. At one point, he kicks it hard and loud and I thought; "now I know who was doing the yelling". After a little while he turns around and stands there just looking at me until I stop and say, "what's up". He said, "thats really good stuff, I love to listen to live music and that really helped to calm me down". Now is where it gets interesting. I had a strong desire to be helpful tonight and also create some music in a comfortable setting. Can you imagine being a struggling twenty year old sitting in his car, the only car on the street, with no one in sight and while having an out of control screaming fight with your mother on the phone and a strange truck slowly pulls up along side of you and onto the lawn in front of you where no car has parked before and the truck has a piano on the back of it and some guy gets out with his dog and the dog jumps into the back of the truck and then again jumps on top of the piano and then the guy jumps into the back of the truck and starts to play creative piano music? It became clear to me almost immediately the two of us had crossed paths tonight in order to help each other. He said he was fighting with his mother and trying to get his life together. We were a "present" as in the moment for each other. As information is revealed it is discovered we both live by the twelve steps. I have been on my life journey for a long time and Ben is just starting his. I was meant to end up in this spot tonight. After talking for a while he went to go meet his girlfriend for a movie date and I went back to playing. No one had been around the entire time until after this guy Ben left. Then another person walked by and repeated Ben's phrase, "thats good stuff". I got what I needed. What a jolt for our sensibilities. It was no coincidence or much of a surprise to me that we had much in common, as this was not the first time a scenario exactly like this has materialized while I have been out performing. It happened almost one month ago to the day about ten miles North.

September 21, 2006

Pennsylvania

Balance is the operative word today on every level. I gave myself a break from trying to be creative in finding a new spot to play, I headed for my local river access area. As I have so much to do everyday, having even that little space in my head to use elsewhere was a relief. Musically, I practiced some, performed some, experimented some, and enjoyed some. The hot sun against my body with the cool temperature reminded me of how wonderfully alive I am, scared but wonderfully alive.

September 20, 2006

Pennsylvania

It was difficult for me to stay committed to playing today. I was in King of Prussia and wanted to try a new spot but that did not work out. I was driving home in the dark with the first cold snap of the season. I have very conflicting feelings at this time of year. I experience a child's fear of separation from his mother in going to school and at the same time feelings of snuggling under my mother's coat safe and secure. If anything, I do not want to be alone. With it getting late, I wanted to either go home and hide or find some dark bushes to hide in if I was going to play. I drove to the top of my street ready to go home but forced myself through my fear and drove forward to end up doing something really cool on a really cool night. I pulled into an open field near my house off of Route 132. It was a really large field and I was out there in the middle with emptiness a quarter mile in every direction. I was not alone with the steady stream of cars about a half-mile away in front of me. I thought about the grilled food I smelled from a nearby Applebee's and the large trees in the distance blew loud from heavy winds. I felt completely free to express what ever I wanted and was able to release much angst. I do not even remember much of what I created musically but I know my fingers hurt when I was done. I was glad that I accomplished my commitment. I would never have tried this spot in the daytime because it is very visible. I wondered if the truck would start and if I could get it home. It had stalled no less then eight times driving to the spot. One of these days, the truck will probably explode. I am not prepared to do anything about that yet and I am not interested in wasting my energy with truck worries... consciously at least.

September 19, 2006

Pennsylvania

As I drove to the local park thought about the fact that I have not been getting feedback lately and I was wondering what part of that fact belonged to me. People were looking at me wanting to connect but I was consciously avoiding them for some reason. I know the reason. I have been feeling vulnerable. After playing for about fifteen minutes finally the park maintenance guy Joe drove up along side the truck and started a conversation that lasted over an hour. People love to tell me how they discover me in the park. "I finished my lunch and heard the music but did not think anything of it. I was lulled into a nap. As a woke up I was thinking about the music. I was trying to figure out what it was, I knew the property next door does a halloween thing every year but the music was not ghoulish enough. Then I saw the dog and still could not figure it out. I really liked it a lot", etc... As we talked, I continued to improvise the entire time. The conversation stimulated musical ideas, nuances and accents. I grew up with a lot of chaos so thinking and hearing more than one thing at a time might be considered a talent of mine when I am relaxed enough.

September 18, 2006

New Jersey

A few weeks ago, I met a guy in a local park who recently called me asking if I would play some music for his mom's birthday in Cinnaminson, NJ. I had been impressed with the guy because he had some major physical body impairment going on but was able to maneuver almost unbelievably to his spot in the park where he relaxes. He also seemed well adjusted emotionally and was in fact a therapist for others with disabilities. I was looking forward to meeting this "mom" who had a role to play in this man's adjustment to life. She was seventy-one years old today. The three of us talked out the specifics by conference phone about three days ago. She was hesitant but I said I would go with the flow and do whatever was needed to bring her some "happy birthday" even if it was to play the piano off the truck and in the house for her. I told the guy that I did not want a fee but to extend his generosity, as I knew he was not a moneymaker and it felt right and good. Well, I arrived and all the goodness and generosity came to a stop. Mom had just arrived home herself with her friend and the first words out of her mouth were, "that dog is not coming into my house". I said, "not to worry he stays in the truck, I play music outdoors." She started to speak to me as though I had personally insulted her and her intelligence... to think that she would ever allow music to be played on her property where a neighbor might see or hear it. It continued downhill from that point on and it was all without me saying a word. When she was finished and I realized I was dealing with a psycho, by the way, it takes a lot for me to know that I am at dead end when giving, I said, "your not being very gracious, in fact your being abusive in your language and manor to me." That was difficult to say but very necessary. I turned around and left. In all of my years of working with people, this woman's unprovoked behavior was as demeaning as it gets. I called the guy and he apologized while validating that I had made a mistake in assuming that she was an asset to his life. He had just wanted to do something nice for her as she used to play piano and loves piano music. It turned out with me getting the brunt of some major dysfunctional behavior and the waste of a good day. I knew days ago that today was to be one of the last warm days and I had planned to spend the day at the beach because I had not one day vacation for the whole summer, I love the beach and I wanted Bo to have some fun in the surf. I had given up the idea to do something nice, so much for good intentions. I went back and forth in my mind trying to decide what to do. I could race to the beach for sunset or stay with the same old, same old. I decided for the beach making a stop off to pick up a hefty speeding ticket. I came home and immediately jumped into the piano truck and headed for the local high school parking lot to have some fun on the piano. Bo chooses to stay in the truck for the first time. To be completely honest it was the first time I did not have it in me to persuade him to come out. I really get good when I am allowing my body to follow the music. I have always been a physical player and people love it when I flail myself around while having fun with the Ragtime or Boogie Woogie. I am not so sure I will get the same response as they watch me flailing myself around while having sex with the piano through my own music.

September 17, 2006

New Jersey

Where the hell was I today? Somewhere in South Jersey, I know I was in Cherrywood Park. My friend Pat recently moved to the area and I went there to play some music for her. She loves piano music. The situation was different in that I played among a grove of thick maple trees at sunset. I was conscious of staying engaged with what I was doing. Traffic flowed by on both sides of the park but I just ignored it. Pat is my friend Cindy's mother and they sat to listen on a nearby park bench with a very special dog named Lacy. Lacy has the distinction of being the only other passenger dog that Bo will let ride in the Raggin' Piano Boogie truck. It is very close quarters in the front cab so everyone rides cuddling close together.

September 16, 2006

Pennsylvania

The sun came out hip hip whoreA? I drove to the local Delaware access area. Only a few people were there because the sun just started to shine. More and more I am giving Bo the option to jump in from the back because it is easier but he still wants to try from the side even if he can barely make it. He is an old guy now. I was able to record from my new laptop and the sound signal seems really good. It will be interesting to see what a difference there will be on the daily recordings from this point on. I hope the quality will be better and my music has more clarity in the moment. I want to play in the morning more often. I am stronger in every way especially with my ability to think. As the day goes on my mind becomes cluttered with thought, deeds and needs. I am finding that there is a difference between creating music with thought and intent versus creating music while being lost in it, at least that is the way it is at point of my development.

September 15, 2006

Pennsylvania

The weather could not decide whether to drizzle water down on us today or not; it was on and off all day. Finally, at dinnertime we got to go out and drove to the local school field where I positioned myself up against the wall of a deserted middle school and played while watching Ecuadorians play volleyball and while soccer mom and dads scurried around their kids. A few came over to investigate. I was surprised they could hear me a quarter mile away. The clouds were billowing and brown. Through them, every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of bright blue sky and sun far beyond and behind them. I was recording music for the web site so I attempted to have short complete thoughts of music. I thought I did well but alas, when I came home I had recorded the entire time through the truck speaker and not the piano. This means the sound of leaves blowing on the trees and my musical grunting was as loud as the music. Oh well, there is plenty of music in this head of mine.

September 14, 2006

Pennsylvania

Someone asked me today what I do in cold weather so I will take advantage of this drizzly day for a "flashback"! Cold... First, I take it on as a challenge. I love a fun challenge. I focus and motivate myself with the uniqueness of the situation, the accomplishment, absurdity, money, the people I am with. I enjoy being a trooper and finding a way to make things work where others say, "I don't think so...". With the Ragtime and Boogie Woogie, it is very high energy so as long as I am moving I am creating body heat. If I am excited with what I am doing, I am not thinking about the cold but about getting the job done.

Heat and humidity was has been a bigger challenge and amazingly enough I found myself more physically fit than ever just this last year while performing at top energy level non-stop for three hours and twenty-eight minutes while dressed as Elvis Presley for a crowd of 500,000 in the Metairie, New Orleans Mardi Gras parade. I was in so much pain my fingers swelled up and both legs had charley horses in them but I figured if I was going to die in the moment, this would be the way to go! You can read about that and see pictures on the Raggin' Piano Boogie Tour Blog link.

I have had fifteen-year runs with local Christmas Parades. I have been booked indoors when it is cold for example the last six years I have played for the Philadelphia Car Show Black Tie Gala. I suffered the cold for about two years through many an Acme supermarket opening back when they were restructuring. I performed in three feet of snow for Providence Rhode Island's First Night one year with 59 mile an hour winds in 20-degree weather. It was so crazy... right up my alley. Bo was wearing three coats and his paws were wrapped. I had a ski mask on at one point. We would run inside a different building every twenty minutes or so and thaw for a few minutes while recharging for another run outside. God, that was fun. We would drive through the streets and stop on street corners to entertain people who were waiting in lines to get into a show. For the last five or six years I have performed for Haddonfield NJ's First Night. I need more motivation with $$$, excitement, co-workers or on behalf of someone significant in order to keep going!

September 13, 2006

Pennsylvania

I could not resist taking a picture of my favorite fan today. He laid in front of me for a good twenty minutes closely watching and listening to my creating music in the park. I was at the Delaware River Access area in Bensalem PA. I was playing very lightly and almost still today just letting my mind escape from thoughts. I don't know what I am going to do about this performance log. People are getting the impression that I just go out and play for free. The need to move this blog to another place is becoming more apparent everyday. The message being sent is that I go out and play the piano just for fun. The operative word in that sentence is "just". I have not spent the last thirty years refining my craft, self-promoting it and working my ass off "just" for fun. I do it to pay my bills. I need to make a living. I want to play the piano for people without charging a fee. So, this playing for fun verses work stuff is getting very confusing for me. I want to work for fun. God, I hate saying this part... I am going to need to go and get business or patrons to pay my bills so that I can continue contributing my music and everything that I can offer to the world. I cannot continue to do this alone!!! If anyone out there in the internet world has money to blow around in the wind... blow it my way.




September 12, 2006

Pennsylvania

Danny found a new spot today and it was Roosevelt Park across from the South Philadelphia sport stadiums. It was nice except for the trash in the parking lots and quite the cruisy area. I found an open space where I had to choose between facing a large scummy algae covered lake with a non-descript building on the other side or an open field with route 95 rush hour traffic in the distance housing a skateboard park underneath it, the old navy shipyard beyond, traveling freight trains inbetween and airplanes coming in for landings overhead at international airport. I spent the time interpreting plane landing patterns into musical phrases. A couple sat and listened on a nearby bench and took a picture for me. The planes were a lot larger than the one in the picture. As I left, there were many after work tailgate parties happening along the road out. The guys would yell at me to stop to play as I drove by them but I had an appointment to get to. I would have done it for fun. I thought to myself, "habits die hard, I'll bet this tailgating is an extension of the games and concerts these guys go to all the time across the street. It's better than and probably cheaper than sitting in a bar after work."

September 11, 2006

Pennsylvania

I was playing in a beautiful quiet and peaceful spot in Core Creek County Park, PA. I have been there several times in the past and I parked next to a lunch area where vehicles often park to unload supplies. A young couple sat with their two children on a nearby park bench enjoying the music and a guy is sitting in the grass behind me meditating to the music. I was about five feet off the paved path. Up drives Barney Fife in his park ranger van. He waves his thumb backwards like a hitchhiker at me, "into the parking lot" he croaks. "Ugh, an ineffectual, self-important park ranger I thought". I said, "it would be silly for me to play music in the parking lot sitting next to cars. He thumbs back to me, "into the parking lot". I went to the park office because I felt it necessary to assert my right of voice. "There are hardly any people around and anyone present was enjoying what I was doing", said I. "I was non-intrusive and what I offered to the park was healthy for it." I got the standard reply, "Someone might complain, they complained about the light show at Christmas time". I replied with, "I appreciate your vote of confidence but I doubt if I would attract the 80,000 people who were coming to see the light show every year." " My appearances are random and not very often". If anyone would have complained I would have left but that has never happened. I would say I might attract around 50,000 on a good day, tops. Heehaw... So back to the conversation... she goes on, "you might come across as promoting yourself." I wondered how many times I was going to take this conversation around the world. "If someone is riding a bike in the park... the brand name on the bike could also be considered promoting". On she goes, "other people will want to do it". I decided this would be my last. "How many pianos have you seen on the back of a pickup truck", I asked. Yet again she goes... "you can't even bring an accordion into the park". "Now your getting ridiculous" I replied and left. A friend told me a bagpiper is always walking through the woods and everyone loves it. This was once again typically bad bureaucracy always looking to see what can't be done. I feel very strongly that a community park should have a welcoming feel not a policed feel. Lunacy and its not even a full moon! Healthy contributions should be left allowed to co-exist without impediment. I went to my friends backyard around the corner to play.

September 10, 2006

New Jersey

Here is something new, a first for me to say without any reserve whatsoever. I love my job! Wow, after all these years I can say without reservation I love my job. If you ever heard me say that before, I lied. Bo and I just finished playing for the Hamilton Township New Jersey September Fest. It was a killer gig because of the performance time, five hours on top of the last two days performances. It was no sweat and I had a great time. This was because I was able to pay around with my own music as well as the Ragtime and Boogie Woogie. People have the same response no matter what I play. Bo is pooped out. As an old guy, it is not easy for him to be so attentive for a five-hour stretch. Everyone enjoys him so much he was willing to do his job and let everyone ooh and ahh all over him. I had a playful time experimenting musically. I learned how to end an improvisation with a big bang to create a response from people. It is amazing to think that I have improved on a job less than twelve times ever. It feels so natural and I get more confident and comfortable every time I do it. It is amazing to find the energy I can draw from people to give back to them. My stamina is almost back to where it was 20 years ago. I talked with many people; my interacting has become an integral part of my appearances. Many people asked me about my wildest dream with Oprah as I remembered over a thousand people from this festival signed my sheets of support for it last year. I had about fifteen people get on the truck to create some music. I love to watch the intent in people's eyes as they put forth the courage or abandonment or curiosity of just plain fun to play in public. People have been sending me pictures they took and I appreciate that a lot.

September 09, 2006

New Jersey

Today was the day for Franklin Township, New Jersey. I have had a relationship with this community for over ten years. It felt great to be acknowledged from the stage as part of the family. Young adults now come up to me to say I remember you from when I was a little kid! Hahahahahahaha....ouchocuhocuhocuhocuhocuhocuh. I got stuck in traffic on the way so I was a few minutes late and had to hop to it. They hooked me up through the main sound system so I was really "present". I was LOUD!!! I had to deal with a delay in sound for the first time in memory from the festival speaker system. When I played the sound was like two notes past what I was playing. I was not focused yet and the guy from the sound both yelled, "just play from the heart." Yea right, easy for him to say. Every person in the place could hear every single note and nuance... LOUDLY. Love that bass. They loved it. I love them. It was a love fest. I started to play Nola and thought, "you idiot, what are you a masochist, you have not played this in a month and you chose to bring it up right now before your warmed up, while still in a rush and it is all going through speakers from every corner of the place??? Good thing I have my new attitude of "it is what it is" in my heart because I know that I cannot miss when it comes from the heart! I traveled to different spots throughout the day. A couple had followed me and I asked if they played. They said no they just like to listen to music. I am sorry for writing this so often but I need to get it out of my system my accepting and the newness of people listening to my music and enjoying it, my trusting that. The truth of this is new to me as of these writings and I know most people will not be able to understand that or believe it but it is the truth of my life. I want to cry just writing about it. I am so grateful for being able to grasp onto what small trust I have developed. I must have some really serious relationship/trust issues. Anyway, I set up a multi colored umbrella for Bo which worked well especially as the event was a Mardi Gras theme. Lots of kids jumped onto the piano to play. I improvised while watching two fire companies have a water fight over a keg tied on a rope. It was like a tug of war through water for the keg. People responded to the improvisation, it was interesting because every situation improvising is different and new and as a result I am able to let loose in a new way. Like for example I can just slap my hands on notes randomly and hardly anyone would notice, so I can pretty much do whatever I want as people enjoy the performance subliminally which is ok by me because IT IS STILL NEW FOR ME AND I AM STILL GETTING COMFORTABLE when they consciously listen.

September 08, 2006

Pennsylvania

Bo attended my fifth paid improvisational performance tonight. Of course he did. He is a critical player in every aspect of my life. Bo supports me as a friend, co-worker, audience member and soul mate. He hung out as always on top of the piano. Boner really enjoys his work. We performed for the Woods community in Langhorne. This was my third time this summer for these people and I always appreciate the opportunity to connect with them. I felt an unusual ability to be creative with people's body language tonight. There was not much inhibition concerning physical expression. Everyone took full advantage of the opportunity to explore musical expressiveness in fact, I especially loved it when they could not contain themselves and started jumping, swaying, flinging themselves around spontaneously. They gave me a lot of validation, "wow, great, your good" etc... This helped to create a connected joy with each other. This one short guy who could barely see as his eyes were almost permanently shut and he could not talk stood next to the piano pretending to play on the upper keys for about 10 minutes with me. We were definitely jammin' together, we totally connected with the music. I congratulated him when we finished. It was real. As everyone left to go home, I stayed and played while a couple of guys shot some baskets with a ball on the court next to me. I choreographed whatever musically came to mind according to the strategic hits and bounces of the ball.

September 07, 2006

New York

I love New York city, I really do. As I was driving home riding across the night lit skyline tonight I thought, "New York is like a brother city to me, it feels like a brother that I do not get to visit often enough." Then the word "kishke" came to mind with my coming from the city of brotherly love. I'm not sure why. I started out today visiting my friend Stephen in Brooklyn and hooked up with a friend of his, Duke. We went to play on the docks overlooking the East side of Manhattan. After looking for about a half hour for a view, we found a dead end street with nothing but two warehouses on it and a rush hour view of New York City from across the water. Within five minutes, ten people had drifted into the area to hang out. It was a beautiful day.

After about a half hour of music we drifted over to McCarren Park in Brooklyn not to play more music but to get a bite to eat. I did in fact end up playing where I was parked on the street because the cook of the restaurant initiated a conversation about honky-tonk piano and England where he came from. Crowds are starting to gather when I play and it feels good. It used to be just single people drifting into my musical space. A woman came running down from her fourth floor apartment with her young boy. He had been in his bathtub begging to come down before it was too late to see the piano man on the truck with the dog. He wanted to give a donation. He did so with a quarter, wet and wrapped in a bathrobe. I returned his generosity with a Raggin' Piano Boogie poster I found behind the seat of the truck. His mouth dropped open in awe. I live every day to the fullest through experiences such as this. I was not done. I was on a "tear" today as I do not get up to New York often with the piano truck.



I had an appointment with my friend Brad in Manhattan so I decided we should meet in Washington Square. I wanted to perform inside Washington Square. As we drove to the area, we all pumped each other up to get the nerve to drive in. As I circled the park to scope out the area, I settled on parking behind the huge cement arc. As we drove in and past the arc we discovered a band performing in the spot I had chosen. I was already in there I was not going to back out so I started to make my way through a major crowd of people. It was still daylight so I could see fairly well. The guys started with, "oh my god, oh my god" and I kept saying, "shut up, shut up". We continued that way, as I drove around the bends looking for a spot to settle in. "Oh my god, oh my god", shut up, shut up, oh my god, shut up, oh my god, shut up." I found the perfect spot and it became even more perfect because the dog park (which I did not know existed) was right next to us. The guys jumped out and started taking pictures for me and Bo jumped quickly onto the piano. I followed and began to perform my improvisation. I was friggin' scared, my fingers were shaking; I could not look up at anyone. I thought, "they are just seeing is my energy and that is good". It was a major crowd for me to be playing in and everyone stopped walking when I started. When they clapped, I was thankful that it was not so loud as too draw additional attention. I could not stop because people applauded every time I did so I just kept playing.

Some guy came over to share his special white chocolate covered raisins with Bo and me. I could tell it meant a lot for him to share them with us. I especially enjoyed watching a couple sitting directly in front of the truck. They stayed the entire time. As I began to play, they immediately picked up on the music to make use of it with some romancing. As I changed modes of musical energy, they would change positions and behavior. At one point, oh my God it was so funny I cannot give the visual justice through my words. I had just finished intensively going real deep into the music and when I "came to" I looked up from the piano to see them sitting there like they were passed out. Their heads were hanging back over the bench as their arms dangled loosely at their sides. Then they composed themselves to look at me and smile. God, I love body language. We left when it got dark. This was a real high for me. I am still processing it. I used to hang out in Washington park in the early 70's!

September 06, 2006

Pennsylvania

Today I found a little park area on the river in Croydon PA where pleasure boats are launched. It felt like an Indian Summer day and both Boner and I needed the sun. I tried not to focus on the trash by the waters edge. Lee, a biker stopped over to say hi and tell me how great he thought the music was. An older couple wondered over from the neighborhood they needed to get out of their house on this beautiful day and they were happy pups in finding me. The sat together for a time on a tree stump in front of me looking out on the water and then I watched as the woman waded in bare feet by the waters edge and as they both looked for treasures that may have run a ground. I needed the distraction of mind with my music to just hear something else from my spirit other than the rambling of random resentful thoughts. Music really helps when my frame of mind is chaotic.

September 05, 2006

Pennsylvania

"Flashback"! In the old days before Raggin' Piano Boogie was born I used to play piano for parties in the Philadelphia society circuit. I was also the piano man for many of the cities organizational fundraising dinners. The Boy Scout scouts held six or seven of these dinners every year and I was the official Philadelphia Boy Scout piano man for all of them. The performance run lasted a good twelve years. I was affectionately and quietly nicked named honorary because I never made it as a real boy scout. I went to about three cub scout meetings as a kid and chickened out of the rest of them. When Raggin' Piano Boogie began and I started to switch over to performing solely with the truck, the Boy Scouts were real team players and continued to use my services whenever they could. This lasted until all of their controversial trouble began. I was "in the club" so they wanted me no matter what. This resulted with my first indoor appearance with Raggin' Piano Boogie. We did it in the Philadelphia Horticultural center. I went to drive the truck through the front entrance doors of the banquet room and the truck got stuck in the doorway. This was a men's event and everyone was already sitting, about three hundred guests, the party had begun. I had one shot at getting this truck into the room and the drive needed to be straight through. I was a little slanted in my approach. These great guys responded as good scouts do and they all got up from their tables to come running to my aid. They completely surrounding the truck and then proceeded to shimmy and shake the truck lose while lifting it up to straighten it out so I could finish driving in. This about twenty-five guys between forty and sixty years of age. Concerning the Raggin' Piano Boogie truck in performance situations from that point on I adapted the philosophy that there is always a solution of you want to find one.

September 04, 2006

Pennsylvania

The weather was perfect today and I am grateful to have shared the day as well as to have shared my music with other people. I pulled onto the ground overlooking the Delaware river where the first piano jam was held last week and I noticed two cool looking bikes leaning against a nearby tree. Boner jumped into the truck and onto the piano, I followed. As I began to play I noticed a couple having a picnic on a large cement slab down in the water about fifty feet below me. I thought, "this could not be more magically perfect." I had fallen into the space above this couple and here I am providing just the right music for their picnic. We stretched to acknowledge each other and then went about our business. Can you imagine picnicking with someone special on a beautifully sunny day by the river and along comes a man with his dog and piano to lull your tete-a-tete into a double whammy of romance? I was in my own world looking out over the water. I never saw as many boats as I did today, there were hundreds going up and down the river, all different shapes and sizes and colors.

September 03, 2006

Pennsylvania

I drove to the Keswick area outside of Philadelphia and found an open playground where Bo I settled under two trees. As I started to play it felt the same old, same old. A guy came by with his three sons' and they hung out on a nearby fence to listen. They had recognized me from past Raggin' Piano Boogie performances. I was thinking I might contact the Keswick theater and see if they would be interested in using me as an opening for some of the performances there. I can definately see myself now on stage for about twenty to thirty minutes. Two kids were playing on the swing sets and stopped over to say I was awesome. The girl who was into theatre said, "you are the best thing that has ever happened to me, this is so cool." I thought, "so what if that comment was over the top it felt good to hear!" The boy said how cool it was to watch everyone just hanging out doing their thing while I created music. After meeting them I started to be more interested in what I was doing and some new ideas began to emerge. I am feeling better and better in trusting the fact that people are hanging out to listen to me perform.

September 02, 2006

Pennsylvania

As it rained all day, today I played a little inside for a friend. Now I will tell another favorite "flashback"! I once played pied piper for a local summer camp in Willow Grove PA. The camp director drove the Raggin' Piano Boogie truck while I played throughout the camp. It was in the morning and we were waking up all the kids. As they heard us they would come running out of their tents and as they did they were thrown kazoos and told follow us. We all headed for about a half mile down a tree covered path into the woods and drove while I created a raucous with Ragtime music until we came out the other side and onto a sunny, grassy clearing where I began to play the "Boogie Bumble" as in the "Flight of the Bumble Bee". The kids all started jumping around and circling the truck as they buzzed on their kazoos and then breakfast was served.

September 01, 2006

Pennsylvania

Before the rain started today, I went to the Delaware river access area near my house. This was the first time I played improvisational piano outside in the morning and I brought a friend named Sue with me. She may start helping me with bookings so I wanted her to se what I do. Bo jumped into the truck and I performed in the parking lot for about a half hour. The water was choppy and the river was full. There was a crisp breeze and the sky was cloudy. I wanted to just stay there all day and escape life into the music but alas, reality must come into play and I started to feel spritz's of moisture so we headed back home.