Blog

Let's face it....I'm too busy living life to write about it.

So...what happens in a given year (or two)? Life! The baby is suddenly closing in on four. She has a baby cousin who turns a week older every Thursday. School projects loom and then become all-consuming, and then they're done and it's off to the next one. Favorite music venues close (farewell Oasis) and new ones become the regular haunt (hello Americana and Six Mile Creek). Favorite relatives and bandmates and neighbors are suddenly gone  -  a youngest daughter sets her sights on California....

     I think it's becoming apparent that this Blog spot is going to be dormant more often than not. I'm going to keep it up as a reminder of milestone moments, but I wouldn't come here looking for breaking news! Thanks for your kind indulgence. See you out and about.....

One year and 9 weeks after...new beginnings!

Yikes  -  It's been a year since my last entry! On some level, that makes sense: the doctors said it would take "about a year" for me to get back to my regular activities, and that was pretty-much true.

9 Weeks After

Well, the bottom sort of fell out of my life there for a while  -  diagnosed with atrial fibrillation back in January, two "severely leaking valves" in March and scheduled for open-heart surgery in early April, with a "6-8 week" recovery period before I could "resume regular activity." The period between my first diagnosis and surgery on April 12th found me more and more drained and depleted, to the point that it was exhausting walking from the car to the house.

The annual Ithaca Festival (first weekend in June) seemed the logical target date for my return to action. It was 7 weeks after surgery (halfway between the "6-8 weeks" I'd been promised) and most of the town would be on hand to see if I'd actually made it. The logical group for my coming out party was Transistor Radio London (the smaller version of the full band), and we managed to get a nice time slot (5-6 p.m. on Saturday in the park).

Unfortunately....a side effect of heart surgery is severely depleted breathing capacity, especially when it comes to singing. My heart sank the first time I tried to sing for the first time (after I was able to actually hold a guitar). I couldn't reach desired notes and I couldn't get through an entire line. It was scary.

My self-prescribed therapy was to sing one song per day all the way through (starting with something manageably short like "Twinkle, Twinkle"), and to build from there. The break-through was when I asked Lynne to sing one with me (we went with The Roseville Fair) and I was able to sing the harmony part. I had goosebumps.

The short version is that I met with the guys three times before the Festival. Each time I was stronger and more solid. The Festival weather was beautiful, hundreds of people turned out, and we played a terrific set.

I think it's safe to say that I'm back for good. Lots of shows are lined up over the next many weeks (check the calendar page) and I feel SO much better than I did before surgery.

Hooray for modern medicine. Hooray for loving family and friends. And hooray for music! I couldn't have done it without any of them.

Thanks for your patience....

xo

Photo from The Ithaca Festival 2013 (thanks to Eric Humerez)

What becomes of the brokenhearted?

Just about at the time I was posting my most recent blog entry I was delivered a medical bombshell: I've got two severely leaky heart valves that need immediate attention. My life was turned upside-down. I had to cancel a number of school jobs and a number of band dates. I managed to limp through a few high-profile events relatively smoothly (one was to a middle school gym holding about 6oo students for a Black History Month presentation, and one was Radio London's annual Hawaiian Beach Party), but I've been losing steam steadily and alarmingly.

It's been two-and-a-half months of medical appointments, naps and quiet internal activity (old movies, crossword puzzles, guitar playing...).

The good news is that we live in these days of modern medicine  -  and that I'm relatively healthy, in the grand scheme. I'm scheduled to leave for the Cleveland Heart Clinic one week from today for open-heart surgery. I'm told that I have about 6-8 weeks before I can start to be active again.

In the interim, my wife has created a Caring Bridge page for anyone who'd like to be kept abreast of my progress. Here's the link: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/johnsimon3

Thanks for stopping by. I'll be back with an update once the smoke clears  -  and then back to the music!

Be well.

If a tree falls....

It's a stormy weekend here in the northeast. Toasty and cozy in our wood-heated home, and eerily quiet and comforting as cars have been ordered to stay off the roads  -  you could almost hear the snow falling out there  -  but stormy, nonetheless. A great night to hunker down with an old music movie ("The Commitments"  -  remember the Dublin soul band?) and curl up with my sweetheart for a quiet night at home. That is...until the reverie was shattered by the crashing sound of a falling tree, inches from the wall behind us. Branches and tendrils are actually touching the window pane.  It's a miracle that it didn't break the glass (or land on our roof  -  or come through the house and land on us).

Right now everything's covered by this fresh blanket of snow. When it melts we'll be faced with the task of cutting it all down to size, dealing with the fallen twigs and bark scraps and figuring out just what happened back there. Our house is surrounded by trees and some of them are not well. We depend on them for shade in the summer (no air conditioning units at our house). Our squirrels and birds live in them. It's a complicated relationship.

In that spirit, here's one of my favorite songs. The tree in question is different from the fallen tree out back. Thanks to videographer Tony Ingraham for his work here  -  and to my mates from the Fine Kettle of Fish (Fred Koslov, David Frumkin and Stuart Douglas). Love your trees.

 

MLK Day and the Itinerant Musician

Today is an official holiday for much of America (Cornell, notwithstanding). Cal Walker and I are slated to perform a short piece at the local MLK Luncheon, sharing the bill with Vitamin L (local youth group led by my colleague and band mate Jan Nigro), Keynote speaker Sonali Samarasinghe and one Barack Obama (albeit he on the large screen). The set list is basically planned, the guitar's in tune and I'm planning to arrive in time to double-check the PA and get a sense of the space.

I've been waiting for something monumental to occur before my next Blog post, and it suddenly hit me  -  nothing "monumental" ever happens and EVERYTHING is monumental in this line of work. Every day is a new adventure with its own challenges and hurdles, and each group I encounter is experiencing something novel and fresh  -  even if I'm doing something I've done a thousand times already (like "I'm Going to Mail Myself to You," for example  -  3 times last week alone).

Last week I met a group of 85 2nd graders who'll be all mine for the next few weeks (2-3 days per week 'til we're done). I spent an hour with about 25 7-9 year olds with special needs (along with about 8 of their teachers/caregivers), visited two schools for Pre-K shows, met-and-rehearsed with a local Montessori school to prepare for their winter concert (I was their hired accompanist) and had a rehearsal with the 22 Strings of Love (billed as "Transistor Radio London") for a February 2nd show.

THAT should be the fodder for this blog spot. We independent arts people often operate in relative isolation. Maybe this will break the vacuum seal. It may seem mundane to me (and to some of you), but this work changes lives on some levels. That ought to be worth a quick read now and again.

To quote the immortal 7" record called "King Holiday" (from back in '86):

Don't play on the holiday  -  work to find a better way!

See you next time.

~ John

Into the 21st Century....

Welcome to John Simon's new-and-improved on-line headquarters! After years of wrestling with an archaic design that wouldn't let me update photos (I was eternally stuck at age 42), I'm excited to launch this new user-friendly interactive site. Things are constantly changing around here and I hope to keep the world informed of new developments in a timely fashion.

Major musical projects include the bands Radio London, the Yardvarks and the 18 Strings of Love. There's also the musical world of WVBR-FM, Ithaca's long-time "real rock radio" station which airs John's Rockin' Remnants and Vinyl Departure shows. And then there are the musical projects that grow out of John's work with the Family Reading Partnership, The Hangar Theatre and his independent school programs. Plenty to write about over the coming months and years.

I hope you'll check this spot regularly for brand-new audio clips, new photos, news about the new recordings which are in the works and more. In fact...here's one we just recorded yesterday. These are 4th Graders from Newfield Elementary School, from their play about Equality as an important component of Citizenship. PLAY IT when you're ready.

See you right after the holiday break!

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