Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Tunes

Winter is my second favorite season of the year behind Fall.  Yes, I'm a fan of snow, cold weather and even ice when it comes to ice skating.  I know it isn't Winter yet and that Chicago really hasn't had it's first official snow fall in my eyes.  Nothing has stuck to the ground yet.  I'm in full swing holiday mode.  Well, not exactly since I don't have my tree up.  I'm talking about all the holiday lights, the bustling shoppers and the wonderful Christmas music I've been playing since a few days before Thanksgiving.  Then there are the really good ones I sneak year round or for my Christmas in July.  Yes, it's never to early to listen to a catchy holiday tune. Today's blog will be about my 10 favorite holiday songs.
10.  War is Over - John Lennon & Yoko Oko
I really like songs talking about social/political issues.  I wonder if Marvin Gaye and John Lennon ever collaborated on anything.  The lyrics to Happy Xmas (War is Over) are simple, yet they tug at my heart.  The kids backing up John and Yoko are too precious.  It's has a great sing-a-long chorus part too.
9.  All I Want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey
 I liked the video for this song.  It's a very catchy little tune.  This is the perfect song to sing to a significant other while dressed up in a cute little santa suit.  Santa Baby would be fun as well, but I think there's a chance to be categorized as a gold digger.  We don't want that hovering over our pretty little heads. 
8.  It Must Have Been Ol Santa Claus - Harry Connick Jr.
Mr. Connick Jr. is a brilliant musician & composer.  His acting isn't too bad either.  Who wouldn't want to be the little kid in this story?  You believe in Santa when you're little, but once you become a big boy, you know it's dad.  Then one magical Christmas Eve you meet the big fellow and a talking Rudolph!!  Santa lets you take a ride above the city in his fancy sleigh and he gives you his cool red hat.  What an awesome ride Connick takes us on.  You know what the best part for me is?  It's the syncopated rhythm with that jive hand clap.  I love trying to keep count during the entire song.  There's a lot going with this song.  Great New Orleans feel.  This is one of the songs I play year round. 
7. Do They Know it's Christmas Time - Band Aid
It's another great social song for a good cause.  I'm still fans of some of the artists who participated in this collaboration.  It's a song that makes you realize how blessed you really are. 
6. Merry Christmas Darling - The Carpenters
For some reason Karen's voice haunts me during this song.  It reminds me of a life that vanished too soon.  It reminds me of family back east.  This is a great holiday love song for that special someone you're missing.  
5. Last Christmas - Wham
Taylor Swift and the Glee cast did a nice job with the remakes, but no one touches George Michael's rendition.  It's my you broke my heart, shame on me, screw you, now on to better things.  See it all works out in the end.  I play this song after some promising dates go sour.  It's a year round song in my household. 
4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland
I just love the way Judy Garland sung this song in the musical Meet Me in Saint Louis.  It was sung from the heart with love.  
3.  White Christmas - Bing Crosby   
When it's 95 degrees, humid and too hot during those dog days of summer, this is the song I pull out of my CD collection.  I rather have the snow over hot weather :)  A white Christmas is what most people and kids would want.  It's the quintessential postcard photo: nice ranch house, smoke coming out of the chimney, huge wreath on the door, a vibrant red bow on the mailbox, the tree showing through the living room window and a snow covered yard. 
2. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Johnny Mathis
I think my birthday is the real most wonderful time of the year, but that's in October.  The winter season is a close second.  This song excites me for what's coming.  I must confess I've experienced none of them: caroling out in the snow, roasting marshmallows, parties for hosting or mistletoeing.  Go figure.  This time of year brings forth hope for the new year.  That's what counts.  Mr. Mathis makes me happy when he sings it.  Andy Williams does a good version as well.  
1.  O Holy Night
This is my favorite holiday/Christmas song of all time!  I love Celine Dion's and Clay Aiken's version as well as many others.  The first time I really remember hearing this song was in high school.  There was a young lady name Geraldine Montgomery.  I'm sure I don't have her first named spelled correctly, so forgive me. She performed this song at the winter concert.  I remember watching in awe at how beautiful and angelic her voice sounded.  It was then where I tried to really listen to the lyrics.  As my mom drove me home from my orchestral concert, I thought about the song and wished I could sing like Ms. Montgomery.  This song, this hymn is what the true meaning of Christmas is for those of us who celebrate this holiday. 
What did you think about my list?  Yes I omitted some big ones like The Christmas Song and Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, but it's a free country.  These were my favorites :)   Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On The Road Again

Since I've been in Chicago these 6.5 years, I haven't driven much.  I have a Zipcar membership, but have only reserved a car once.  I'm probably wasting money, but love to have the option in the event I need to run a quick errand.  One of the best things about driving I miss is listening to the radio.  I don't get good radio reception at home.  While I work, I listen to Internet radio.  It really isn't the same.  I'm kind of old school.  I loved blasting my radio and letting my hair blow.  I looked cute behind the wheel of my little Neon with the sunroof open.  This feature of Thursday Thoughts will be about some of my favorite road-trip songs.  Isn't that what summer is all about?
The 1980's had some wonderful music that I still love to listen too.  During a trip to New Orleans for the 1984 World's Fair, I kept hearing Missing You by John Waite and Drive by the Cars.  Two of the great ballets to sing to in the car.  I appreciated the power of lyrics at a young age. 
My favorite road-trip song of all time came out in 1985.  My parents were taking me to Disney World for the first time.  They drove all the way from New York to Orlando.  While our little Nissan was cruising along I-95, I must have heard The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News over twenty times.  I know it was in the movie Back to the Future; however, I now associate this song with my Disney World trip.  Mom and I loved singing it.  We probably drove dad crazy.  Even now if I hear it on the radio or play my CD, it takes me back to that wonderful time. 
I'm not a fan of the movie The Breakfast Club.  However, I must say the soundtrack rocks.  On family road-trips to Bear Mountain, Connecticut and Eastern Long Island numerous songs were played from the soundtrack.  Ironically, I didn't see the movie until 2009. 
As I reached my early teens, mom had a secret weapon to keep the peace in the car when it came to road trips.  The three of us all loved oldies.  When we were no longer in NY/NJ and couldn't listen to 101.1 for our oldies, she hurried up and found another local station that did.  Anything by a Motown artist, Elvis, Dion & the Belmonts, Johnny Maestro and the Crest or Brooklyn Bridge, The Del Vikings and Bobby Darin kept us all happy.
My solo road-trips in 2003/4 were mainly weekend getaway trips from Northern VA to Baltimore, Richmond, Annapolis or NY.  My taste in music changed to more R&B, Pop and Dance.  I had to go more upbeat to avoid getting sleepy behind the wheel.  Lots of Beyonce (Crazy in Love), Justin Timberlake (Rock Your Body), Missy Elliott (Work It) & Outkast (Hey Ya!).  Good times!!
Last week I had a long overdue vacation to the Hampton Roads section of Virginia. My dear friend Sofia was nice enough to drive me to King & Queen CH to visit my 100 year old grandma. We had a great time listening to the radio. This road-trip took us over the James River Bridge and on I-64 past Williamsburg. What were some of our favorite songs? Nelly's Hot in Here really had us jumping in our seat. It really was hot... over 100. Adele's Rolling in the Deep had us singing. Other good songs were Lady Gaga's The Edge of Glory and Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run.  We had some old songs and some new stuff to keep us company.
Do you have a favorite road-trip song?
Safe travels!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Chat with Dad

This past Sunday was Father’s Day.  Though my dad is back east in South Carolina, we still try to find time to chat a couple of times each month.  I’ve had in depth conversations with my mom, but never my dad.  He’s a private individual who doesn’t like showing his emotions.  When I told him I wanted to feature him for my blog, I wasn’t expecting a yes.  After a 90 minute conversation, I learned some stuff my mom didn’t even want to discuss.  For my Tuesday Talks, here’s an intimate conversation I had with my dad.

Cydania: How did you find out you were going to be a dad?

Dad: Your mom wasn’t feeling well for a while, she went to her doctor and found out she was pregnant again.

Cydania: Were you excited?

Dad: Of course.  Very excited. We tried for a long time.  Two years earlier your mom had a miscarriage.  We were getting up in age and didn’t think we were going to have a kid.  We went to City Island and had a lobster dinner.

Cydania: What were your first impressions of me?

Dad: You had a very hairy head.  Your hair was over an inch long.  All the nurses were like look at the hair on that baby’s head.

Cydania:  My mom also told me one of the first things the doctor said after I was born was congratulations you have a baby girl and she’s the hairiest baby I’ve ever seen.  I was cursed from a young age. 

Cydania:  I always get comments about my name.  Did you play a role in naming me?

Dad: No role.  Your mom already had the name picked out.  She wanted to know if she was carrying a boy or girl as soon as she could.  The doctors said she was carrying a girl.  You got Cydania.

Cydania: Was I a quiet baby?

Dad: You were a good baby.  You didn’t get in trouble.  No temper tantrums.  You didn’t run or knock over stuff when in the store.

Cydania: What was your favorite event with me?

Dad: We had a few.  We’d go to Flushing Meadow Park for a picnic or BBQ’s.  You liked running around.  You didn’t want to leave the park.  We were still living in the Bronx at the time.  We didn’t have a backyard.  You loved trip to the parks.  We also liked going to Orchard Park.

Cydania: I remember playing whiffle ball in Hempstead and watching wind sailors at Jones Beach.

Dad: We also went fishing a lot in Queens and at Long Beach.  You would catch more fish than me sometimes.

Cydania:  I always made you bait my line because I didn’t want to touch the worms.

Dad: When we moved to Hempstead, I got you a bike with training wheels.  You learned to ride quickly.  I didn’t have to run behind you that much once the training wheels were off.

Cydania:  Any bloopers or funny moments?

Dad: At the time it wasn’t funny.  You were learning how to walk in your walker.  You somehow got lots of speed and ended up crashing head first into the pointy end of the coffee table.  You cried, but you got back up.  You just didn’t go near that table anymore. 

Cydania:  I still have that little dent on my forehead.   I’m surprised I didn’t knock myself out.  I must have been hard headed.

Now you all have had the opportunity to meet my dad, Cliff.  Dad has always been a great provider.  He made sure that mom and I had food to eat, a roof over our heads and clothes on our back.  Though mom took care of the inner workings of the household, dad was in charge of the outside.  It was with him where I learned how to mow the lawn, trim the hedges, help change the car oil and brake pads, help dig holes for fence poles and put together a ridiculous utility shed.  Then there were times when my Pontiac broke down on Route 74 in North Carolina and dad came and got me.  He also gave me money to pay my bills when I was unemployed.

To my dad,

I thank you for being there for me and for letting me interview you on the phone for over 90 minutes.  Who knew dad could talk so much J


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guitar Time

Have you ever wished you were a kid again and playing with your favorite toy that gave you pure bliss?  I’m sure mine would have been my Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels or spending hours up and down the sidewalk in my blue and white roller skates.  I think I may have found another activity for this young 34 year old.  For this extensive edition of Thursday Thoughts, I want to share my new found passion for learning to play the guitar.

I’ve been taking guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music for seven weeks now.  I must confess that I’m having a blast!!  I can still remember my first day of class.  I was so nervous since I had never officially studied guitar.  My friend let me mess around with his guitars in the past, but I was never taught.  I’m walking into this auditorium with this amazing Takamine my friend let me borrow while at the same time being scared out of my mind.  While I mingled with the other students, I found out I’m the only beginner so far.  Yikes.  Three of the instructors asked everyone who needed tuning done to stand in one of their lines.  I stood in Linda Smith’s line.  As she tuned my instrument, I told her I was very nervous.  She asked if I was a beginner.  I felt like a four year old attending kindergarten all over again.  I timidly said yes.  Linda said it’s common to be nervous, but you’ll have fun.  She even said I’ll be able to play a song by the time lessons ended.  What??  Was she crazy?  Now I’m in shock.  All I know is that there are two E strings on the guitar.  This instrument has more strings than my violin.  I’m assuming the strings on the violin are on the guitar as well.  I find out that the beginners will have class in the auditorium while the other students perform in classrooms upstairs.  Great!  They already have us performing on the big stage in the auditorium.  Talk about pressure and being in the spotlight.

My instructor is Bob Goins, a self-taught guitarist.  He’s a long haired, hippy guy who can fingerpick like no one I’ve seen.  Oh crap!  I’ve gotten way in over my head now if he thinks the seven of us are going to play that fast.  We go around and introduce ourselves, mention previous music experience and what song we want to learn how to play.  We have some former musicians.  Half the class wants to play some Blackbird Song by the Beatles I never heard of.  I’ve been educated now J  I say I want to play Sting’s Fragile, any Rodrigo y Gabriela song or Johnny Cash’s Hurt.  Big mistake!  This is not going to happen for a while.  What does happen?  I experience lots of pain from very sore fingers as we learn the A7 and D chords.  You know what?  I loved it!!!  It takes me back to my violin days.  Linda was right after all.  We ended up playing several songs with A7 and D chords along with an early introduction to the G chord.  We played Pay Me My Money Down, Jane’s Addiction and other songs I’ve never heard of.  It’s all about learning and having fun.

I’m like the eager child wanting to get home and play with a new toy.  I practice those chords and songs at home for another 90 mins.  I didn’t put two and two together and stop after my 2 hour group lesson.  I sounded horrible, but I still wanted to play and make it right.  I was back in my violin mode of practicing 1-2 hours a day at home.  Come Monday morning, I have nasty blisters on my fingers.  Nooooo!!!  I want calluses.  Maybe this is good?  I don’t know.  I get impatient and pop them all.  Don’t do that.  Eventually, that pain goes away and my fingertips start getting rough.  Not pretty to touch, but the strings don’t hurt as much now J 

Five weeks later, I’ve added a few more chords, tried a few strumming patterns and I’ve increased slightly in my chord changes.  I’m no-where near the speed I had on the violin, but I must be patient.  I even had my first trial and tribulation when I thought about giving up.  I opted to return the dreadnought Takamine to my friend so I could buy myself a guitar.  Guitar playing is serious.  I wanted my own baby.  After a two hour stay in Guitar Center and 7-8 guitars, I fell in love with a Takamine Nex GS430S Acoustic.  I read once that once you’ve played a Takamine, you’re hooked.  So true!  I played Yamaha’s, Mitchells, a Seagull and another Takamine.  Nothing beats the tonality and resonance of a Takamine. Once I get home with my new Takamine things get sour.  What I didn’t notice in the store, I now notice at home.  My friend who tested all the guitars for me immediately noticed that the neck was too small for him, but might work with me.  I’m on the small size and didn’t find a dreadnought that fit me well.  Comfort first!!  My Takamine is a little smaller than a dreadnought, but bigger than an auditorium/body concert style.  I sound horrible on the majority of my songs.  I can’t hit most of my chords.  The neck size really messed me up.  I had to come up with a new game plan.  During my 1 hour practice sessions at home, I spend 30 mins just relearning all the chords and the next 30 mins focusing on some of the songs featuring those chords.  By Saturday, Sahara (my Takamine) meshes with me perfectly.  I just needed a little adjustment.  Sunday’s class was my best practice yet.  I was even able to keep up with the teacher on Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart.  That’s my favorite song we’ve learned so far.  That will be the one I’m going to perform during my recital.

What’s up next?  Guitar 1 Rep of course!!  I’m advancing to the next level.  I’ve signed up for another 8 weeks with the same professor.  First I have to buy a finger exerciser machine since we’ll be dealing with some complex chords.  I’ve noticed that my fingers aren’t what they used to be. 

Even when I’m at lunch or commuting, I constantly think about my guitar.  I can’t wait to go home and practice.  When I’m having a crappy day, I look at a picture of my guitar I took on my cell phone.  Sad isn’t?  My guitar is like a new puppy.  Sahara brings a smile to my face and takes me to another place where everything in the world is good and innocent.  I believe all adults should have this experience no matter what age.  Have you found your bliss?


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The List

The other day I came across an article about baby boomers and retirement.  Lots of these individuals said though they're near retirement, they have lots they want to accomplish.  Many had bucket list items.  It got me thinking.  Bucket list items shouldn't be for those late in life or near retirement.  Everyone, young and old should have a bucket list.  For my Thursday Thoughts, I'm going to mention 10 bucket list items I'd like to accomplish before I turn 40. 
10.  Friends know that I love to travel. I've always wanted to see the Great Wall of China. I know I could have picked somewhere more exotic, but the Great Wall is one of the few items you can see from space.  It's ancient and it's in a part of the world I have never been to.
  9.   I always wanted to go horseback riding on the beach as the sun sets.  It sounds romantic right?  I've never been on a horse either.
  8.   Help build a house for Habitat for Humanity.  I admire those who give their time and volunteer. 
  7.  Attend a NY Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.  I know it's shocking.  I've   seen all my Rangers games at the Cap Center, MCI Center and United Center.  I've never been surrounded by fellow NY Rangers fan.  I think it would be amazing!
  6.  Be in an exclusive, committed relationship with a nice chap.  Maybe I should give myself until I'm 60 for this one.  LOL. 
  5.  Be a mentor to a young child. I don't have any kids and haven't been around that many, but I think we could learn from each other.  I could tell the kid about art, classical music, literature and travel and she/he could teach me how to have fun.
  4.  I want to take private tango lessons and then dance the tango in Buenos Aires.  I already took salsa, merengue, cha cha and samba.  I missed my tango lesson.  The tango is a very passionate dance.  I'd love to be able to move like that.
  3.  Go skydiving.  I know it sounds crazy.  I would jump out of a plane with a parachute.  Of course it would be a tandem jump.
  2.  Be a home owner.  I don't need a huge 10 bedroom mansion on 30 acres with three lakes.  I'd like a cute two bedroom/two bathroom condo with a nice sized walk-in closet in the master bedroom :)
  1.  Write a screenplay or treatment for a television series.  I need to put those scriptwriting classes to use.
My month long blog trial is coming to an end.  I'm planning on using this time to start my creative writing again.  Who knows, I might even start a screenplay.  I'll still swing by and write something every now and then.  Thanks to all of you who read my posts and gave me words of encouragement :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bidding Adieu to the Queen of Talk

This week marks the end of one of the most successful talk shows in modern history.  Oprah Winfrey will say goodbye to her show to focus on her cable network (OWN) and her acting career among many, many projects.  For today's Tuesday Talks, I'd like to ask Ms. Winfrey a few questions.  I'll be good and not mention this job rejection letter I'm still holding on to from Harpo, Inc.  That's probably bad karma.  I should have shredded it after all these years. 
Dear Oprah,
May I call you that?  You seem personable enough for that.  I always thought we shared a common bond since we both have unique first names.  After spending 25 years in the living rooms of many homes, we've gotten accustomed to just calling you Oprah.  You were part of the family.  I recall my mom watching your show daily after General Hospital.  You had the 4pm-5pm time slot in New York when I lived there.  Of course I was doing my homework, so I didn't watch your show that much until the summer.  I do recall the show featuring the Alaskan men searching for wives.  I even taped that one.  Darn it.  If only I were older at the time.  There aren't too many places where men out number women.  You should have done more shows like that.  Maybe you can even feature a dating show on OWN.  I'm almost certain I mentioned a job I had in the past that required me to pitch show ideas to producers.  Sorry, getting off track.
We've all heard about the challenging upbringing you've had.  I commend your grit and determination to overcome all those obstacles.  What do you think were the keys to your success so far?  We know you have the brains.  Was it timing by being in the right place at the right time?   Was it networking or forming alliances?  The media can be a dirty business at times.
What were you hoping to accomplish by having your talk show?  Do you think you've succeeded?  There have been plenty of talk shows on since I've been alive.  Some have been on as long as you, others are still going and many have failed after a few seasons.
I noticed on your website that you have the 25 highest rated Oprah Winfrey Show episodes.  Do you recall any that you wished you had never done?  I still remember the episode you did when you lost all that weight.  You were in a great pair of fitted jeans and you came out with a wagon of fat equaling all the weight you lost.  I can only imagine all the pressure you probably put on yourself to try to keep the weight off.  Did you ever feel threatened by doing any of the shows?  I know you've done shows featuring the KKK or dealing with racist communities.
You worked in Baltimore, headed to Chicago and eventually started your talk show.  Why not New York or LA?  It seems like you have always had a passion for the theater and movies.  It would have seemed like either coast would have been a better fit.
In the beginning, did the network executives want you to change your format?  Did they believe Phil Donahue owned the market and that his viewers were untouchable?  What do you think about the flurry of talk shows that appeared on the radar after your success?  How did you feel about the format for Geraldo, The Jerry Springer Show, The Montel Williams Show and Ricki Lake?
If you hadn't found your niche in acting and hosting your own show, what would you be doing with your life now?  Did you have a backup career choice if things didn't go so well?
How do you deal with the harsh criticism that non-fans hold for you?  For all the good you have done philanthropy wise, there are many who still can't stand you.  They say you live in another world and that you've lost touch with the average person. 
Have do you deal with failure?  What have been some of the lessons you've learned from it?
As we wind down to the final two episodes, I thank you for paving the way for future women in this field.  We appreciate your openness, your vulnerability, your willingness to discuss challenging topics, your passion & enthusiasm and your courage to be you.  Best of luck with OWN!  If Rosie's and Sarah's shows don't work out, a dating show for minority women would be great.  Harpo, Inc should still have my cell number in their file.  You know where to find me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Real Pitchers Hit

We're almost a month from summer and it still doesn't feel like that in my part of the country.  I'm tired of all the damp, cold weather.  So much for spring weather.  When I think of summer, I think of amusement parks, cookouts, power walking and baseball.  I know the NBA & NHL have their playoffs right now.  I'm not a huge basketball fan and my NY Rangers are no longer in the hunt for Lord Stanley's Cup.  Now I focus on my NY Mets.  For this addition of Thursday Thoughts, I'd like to discuss the main aspect of baseball I despise the most: the designated hitter. 
For those non-baseball fans, the designated hitter a.k.a. the DH is an actual baseball rule that allows managers from an American League team to use another player to hit in lieu of the pitcher.  There are two leagues that make up major league baseball: The American League and the National League.  My beloved Mets play in the National League.  Notice how I said the American League uses the DH.  There is no DH in the National League unless it's interleague play or it's World Series time and those games are played at an American League ballpark.  For the first time starting this year, all All-Star games will have the DH even if played in a National League park.
I'm a baseball purist to a point.  I believe only the nine positioned players (Catcher, 1st, 2nd and 3rd basemen, SS, LF,RF, CF and Pitcher) should be able to come up to the plate and hit.  I don't want to see no stinking DH come up for an American League pitcher.  Go out there and hit and help yourself by advancing the runner and getting a sac fly.  Rumors have it that Connie Mack back around 1906 hinted at a possible DH because he got sick of seeing the pitchers attempting to hit.  Come on.  Babe Ruth started out as a pitcher.  Pitchers can hit if given the opportunity.  The DH didn't enter the rule book until 1973.  The American League used it, but the National League has yet to adopt it.  I hope they don't.
Having the DH is basically like having 10 players.  The DH doesn't even play a position on the field full-time.  Most DH's are back up 1st basemen like David Ortiz or Frank Thomas back in the day.  This player is only used for his hitting.  If you're an aging player who still has pop in his bat, but bad knees or shaky fielding skills you want to go to the American League.  You just sit on your butt the bulk of the game, make your millions and just come up 3 or 4 times and take a few swings.  Boo!!  Since the American League has adopted this rule, their batting averages have been higher of course.  They have scored more runs. 
When I think baseball, I'm more of a pitching girl.  Offense is very good, you need runs to win, but stellar pitching make the game better in my opinion.  I rather see a great old fashion pitching duel like Bob Gibson vs Sandy Koufax over a hitter's duel between Alex Rodriquez & Justin Morneau.  I love it when the pitcher is in a jam, maybe gives up a run, but the manager has faith in him and keeps him in.  The next inning, the pitcher is allowed to bat and drives in a run.  Paycheck well earned!!  Some of these National League pitchers have had a reputation of having some pop in their bat, not of the cork kind: Carlos Zambrano, Jason Marquis and Dontrelle Willis.
I'll deal with the DH during interleague play, the WS and All-Star Game.  It would be interesting to have the AL go a season without the DH so both leagues can be on the same playing level.  What do you think baseball fans?