Lou’s Favorite Handful of Songs From 2015 He Did Not Write About

5 more great songs from 2015

I’d be ashamed in myself if the clock strikes midnight tonight and I didn’t give these handful of songs a shout-out.

1.) Some of My Friends by Hemming

Instant classic (in my opinion) from a local band that will go very far if they continue on the path that is making great music! A great late night sing-along number. If you can find their cover of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ from the XPN Holiday Show this year, I advise giving it a listen. And if you’re tired of Christmas songs by now, put it in your queue for next year.

Some of My Friends

 

2.) 24 Frames by Jason Isbell

A very powerful song that showcases how fast life passes us by. This song has grown on me throughout the year. This artist deserves all the recognition he has been getting.

24 Frames

 

3.) Yellow Eyes by RayLand Baxter

This song talks about how in our lives, many times, we can be our own worst enemy. It’s a catchy tune. I haven’t had much of an opportunity to explore his catalog but I most certainly will in the next couple of months.

Yellow Eyes

 

4.) Die in a Dream by Frank Cervantes

I have not showcased or talked about my brother’s music since starting this blog (that will change in 2016). He’s a great songwriter with a lot of passion for his music. This song, from his Lost Country ep, is one of the best songs he has ever written. I’m looking forward to what he has in store for the upcoming year and will do my best to promote his future work.

Die in a Dream

 

5.) Blaze On by Phish

A bit of a controversial addition considering that this is a band you either love or hate. And they aren’t really known for their songwriting though they have plenty of great ones. The truth is I’m a Phish fan and over the Summer Tour this past year they debuted some of the best stuff they’ve written in years. This tune, which is sure to be on the new album they are reportedly working on, is one of those songs even a non-Phish fan will dig.

Blaze On

New Year’s Resolution

Work on cutting out the ‘woe is me, self-deprecating’ posts that have been turning off some of my readers. They say you can’t please everybody but as a writer I have duty to listen to my fans. Thank you all for reading and have a Happy New Year…bring on 2016!

 

 

Lou’s ‘Social Rejects’ Guide to Xmas 2015

It’s only as wonderful as you want it to be

 

1.) Use the holidays as a time to be the better person, for once in your life.

Overweight, underpaid, even more under-appreciated…no problem. Don’t let the holidays be a time for people that are better off than you to revel in being better off than you. In fact, use this as a time to embrace not being good at life by finding ways to put successful people in culpable predicaments. Spiking the punch, as I like to call it, is a way of making sure the successful people around you get the extra kick of holiday cheer they’ve worked hard for all year. I prefer using anything that accelerates putting them into compromising situations. There should be no excuses to discontinue serving them. Remember, many of these people followed the rules in life and have earned the right to show the world how much better off they are than you. And deservingly so, while they were making socially acceptable decisions you were probably wandering random alleyways in the wee hours of random Wednesday mornings looking for fun at any other time of the year. They deserve to make you feel worse than you already feel and they have the white-washing of the ever powerful Baby Jesus to use as an added spiritual component to their social dominance. Now they’re not only better than you in the trials of life, they are also better than you in the eyes of everlasting judgment. Let this be a time to let them revel in their glory before the clock hits midnight on December 31st. What’s the best way to fight their pride, helping those whose lives are in more disarray than your own. This is the best way of putting a brief dent in their otherwise perfect lives as they usually sit back for one brief second and realize that they too are just as horrible as yourself.

2.) Watch Trading Places.

Trading Places is not only the greatest holiday movie of all time, it’s a Philly movie. Social rejects have a hard enough time getting through Christmas dinner without some entitled comment from somebody better off than they are that exploits their shortcomings. Trading Places exhibits how most of us really aren’t that different. Or at least it gives us the impression. It’s also way more true to life and entertaining than all the other movies out there. Bad Santa and The Ref are additional classics that should be on the late night queue.

3.) Give service over gifts.

Social rejects are unconventional. We don’t shop, we don’t fit-in, and we don’t have time for being fooled by forgiveness in the form of a gift. A social reject knows that most people who forgive have an ulterior motive anyway. This ulterior motive is usually draped in a promise of everlasting life and orchestrated by a pseudo-spiritual homily. Social rejects aren’t afraid of hell, we’re used to it because most of us live in it. The one thing we have that most people don’t is nothing to lose. We’re perfect for helping-out what society labels the ‘worst people’ from the ‘worst neighborhoods.’ Besides, if something horrible happens to us, more people will feel relieved rather than burdened…particularly in knowing that now they no longer have to have us ruin what otherwise is a perfect Holiday get-together.

4.) Find your magical inner-city Dunkin Donuts at 4 in the morning.

The first step before finding a magical inner city Dunkin Donuts at 4 in the morning is understanding what makes a Dunkin Donuts magical. First off, it’s not the food. The food sucks. It is the collection of characters you can find if you stumble into a good one. I know of one I’m particularly fond of that looks like Nurse Ratched’s ward from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s hidden in West Philadelphia. I have had the pleasure of talking with the homeless shelter that buses these folks and the Hindi owner that allows these mentally disabled homeless people to use it as a place of warmth and community on cold winter nights. If you happen to stumble upon one of these magical places, don’t be afraid to buy some donuts for these people. They’re just as much as a social reject as we are. Some of them can also play a mean game of chess.

5.) Ask a politician or member of law enforcement how you can be a more efficient member of society.

Actually, come to think of it, this might get you arrested or killed if you attempt to do this in person. Write your local state representative, in fact, write as many social figures as you possibly can. A fun game can be finding the one letter that may be genuine. If that letter exists, give your full support to that public servant. This shows they may actually value your input and there’s the slight chance they could use it in making your community a better place.

 

Finally….a LouHaiku for Christmas

 

LouHaiku Christmas 2015

Jesus was not a
White guy. He never had the
Keys to a Lexus

Under a lit tree.
He never even had a
Tree. Or a birthday

In late December.
It’s a good time to honor
Him now rather than

The Winter Solstice.
And what better way to give
Thanks than by showing

People with nothing
How great your life is. Your gift
Is a deduction.

My gift is a hand
Or a brief conversation
With someone in need.

Either way, it all comes
From somewhere inside of us.
Sometimes we find it.

Other times we get

Lost searching for it. Jesus

Was not a white guy

And to add insult
To injury, he preferred
Hangin with derelicts.

Merry Christmas Everybody!!!

Lou’s Mystery Girl Haikus vol. 4

Female Syrian Philadelphia Walmart Shopper
New Damascus looks
Much like Philadelphia,
Though you wouldn’t know

By watching the news
In this country. Billy Penn
Is shaking his head,

We’ve mistaken him
Again for another shot
At championships.

Sorry about those
Bottom of the ninth strikeouts,
Crucial missed lay-ups,

End zone fumbles and
Squandered opportunities
During power plays,

It seems we’ve confused
Making America great
With making us act

Like assholes, again.
Please pardon the ignorance
Of all these people.

If I could show them
The picture of innocence
Lost in your smile,

You wouldn’t have to
Worry about your mom and
Dad’s safety, again.

They too could see that
Christmas tree inside City
Hall and think about

How much that building
Reminds them of a place that
Used to be called Hom(e)s

While learning about
Broad Street Bullies, “Fo-Fo-Fo,”
Phillies phitin and

Eagles flying high
Under the watchful eyes of Billy Penn.

Lou’s Holiday Traditions vol.2: Gifts for Clients

Lou’s Holiday Traditions vol. 2: Gifts for Clients

December is a perfect time to show the people who put you in business a little appreciation. Below I’m going to list a few of my personal favorite gifts to give to people over the holidays. Hopefully this may help my trusted readers in making a decision to show their thanks in the form anything other than saying ‘thank you.’

1.) Alcohol

This is a no-brainer. You can actually replace the word ‘alcohol’ with any vice or craving though ‘alcohol’ is the most socially acceptable in the world of cravings. A craft beer basket or bottle of wine seem the most standard fare but if you’re a hardcore guy like myself I’d suggest whiskey. Homemade moonshine, bathtub gin, and mead are all on the table. If you have trouble coming up with a selection, take them out for a night of drinking just make sure you don’t do anything you might regret like trying to sleep with them or their significant others.

2.) A Day of Manual Labor

Who doesn’t like a good servant once in a while? The important thing about this gift is knowing whether or not you have what it takes to be a good servant. While there’s no Union for people who use servitude as gifts there is an unspoken clause about having at least two 15 minute breaks and a thirty minute lunch during the eight hour shift. Paying for janitorial services (out-sourcing your gift) does not carry as much significance although it does a better job ninety-nine percent of the time.

3.) Playing Santa Claus

Somebody’s got to do it. There are generally two ways to pull this off…the standard way and the Lou Cervantes way. I suggest the ‘show up with a candy cane and a smile’ standard way for all the gift givers out there not used to bartering labor. If you really want to get into it, my way is the surefire way to give your family a Christmas memory they will never forget. It all starts with you letting me break into your home on Christmas Eve (as I will not accept using a set of keys to go in through the backdoor). If your chimney is wide enough, I will go down it; all I am asking for is a trial run at some point in the weeks leading up to the event before making my grand entrance. Once inside, I ask that you leave some kind of key to use for getting back into the house because the reality is that while I can maneuver myself into your home, carrying presents while I do this can get very tricky. You also have to remember to turn off the burglar alarm. One last thing, no reindeers or sleigh, just me and my used ’95 Chevy Impala which I promise will be parked down the street. I will make sure to make enough noise to wake your children up but run away as fast as possible after they see me. As for cookies, Oreos and Vienna Fingers are my personal favorites.

4.) Lottery tickets (not scratch lottery, big lottery)

The only time I will ever buy a lottery ticket is for a gift. This is one of the more selfish gifts. My hopes is that my recipients win the lottery and share some of it with me. You would think this is the right thing to do if they win. Does this admission take away from the significance of the gift? Most certainly. Though I’m fairly confident other people have this same intuition.

5.) A prayer

There is nothing wrong with offering a prayer for somebody this time of year. Videotaping the prayer is always a good form of proof. If religion is not your thing, philosophy is a great substitute. If you condemn both, send out a YouTube video of your favorite song with a message to the recipient stating why this particular song makes you think of them.

*the honorable mention

An excuse for not getting anything, or as I like to call it, the Bob Cratchett

I’m actually ashamed to admit using this one in the past after rough years. It’s not anything to be proud about. Basically it’s showing others how poor you are and simply not being able to afford anything for them. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you can convey this sense of defeat to them. My only advice is that you come up with something original. I’m a fan of the classic story by Charles Dickens, however, the exploitation of a child’s handicap ala Tiny Tim in a Christmas Carol is completely not acceptable in my book.

Lou’s Other Muse

A Poem for My Mom (12/4/15)

My mom is my spark
When it comes to making art,
She lends her support

With love from her heart.
I am very fortunate
That she’s by my side

When times get tough, she
Will never hesitate to
Accompany me

On life’s wild ride.
She’ll be there when I need her
No matter the fight,

It’s not a struggle
If what you’re doing is right.
Her trademark gift is

A journal, bookmark,
And pen; she’d rather see me
Write than go off the

Deep end. I’m honored
To be the first born son of
This mother of six,

When everything seems
Broken, her encouragement
Always seems to fix

Life’s jagged pieces
That get lost in a day’s mix.
Her favorite saying

Came from her father,
Big Frank; it’s an outlook on
Life when everything

Else has tanked. It’s three
Simple words, easy to read,
When you don’t give up:

Success is guaranteed!

Lou’s Movie Reviews vol.7: Tangerine

T’s the Season

Six years ago, I decided to write a feature length script. It was a love story between a man and a transgender woman. My intention was to write a romantic comedy. The hope was to produce a low budget film with my cousin. I figured, back then, using a transgender actress as the love interest would not only be more conducive towards the shoestring budget, but if done right, could help the film garner exposure, especially during awards season. I was confident in this formula and felt that if it ever came to fruition it would be the ideal ‘calling card,’ opening the door to work on bigger projects.

Over six weeks in early 2010 I wrote a 117 page script. The joint consensus from the few people who had the opportunity to read it was that the main character, the transwoman, did not seem authentic. My cousin suggested I do more research in the terms of developing the character and using that research to write a more powerful story. For the next couple of years, I searched. And searched. And searched. After coming up empty, I started to think that the main character I originally had in mind for the movie did not reflect the actual community and was nothing more than a fantasy. I canned the idea and moved on with life.

When you pour your heart and soul into a project, the hardest thing to do is walk away. The quest to find this main character never left the back of my mind. My cousin once told me that if you could sum me up with one word, the word he would use is ‘quirky.’ I’ve never followed the status quo. Initially that was the one quality, being different, which opened up my fascination with transpeople. A little over a year ago I came across an article about a transgender college student who got into high end sex work as a means to support her transition. I met the girl with the intention of re-writing the script I had abandoned years ago. When we first began hanging out, neither of us realized how much we would impact each other’s life. To her, I was a free ride to the airport; to me, her life story was a motivator to revisit an old passion project. Over the earlier part of this year, I wrote a treatment loosely based on our (at the time) brief relationship while accompanying her to both Boston and Los Angeles for cosmetic surgery. The hope was to write a full script over the summer utilizing the language and capturing essence of the trans community.

This hope came crashing down after seeing the movie Tangerine. Every initial thing I wanted to accomplish with this project was accomplished by this groundbreaking low budget film. It was shot entirely on iPhones for under a hundred thousand dollars and it features two unknown transgender actresses (Kitana Kiki Ramirez and Mya Taylor) as the main characters. Like I had dreamt up six years ago, the actresses have brought a considerable amount of attention to the low budget indie. Their performances go above and beyond the call of duty, they’re a riot. As I write this, Tangerine is currently nominated for several major Spirit Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director for Sean Baker, who is also a co-writer. More importantly, it’s a great film.

While my initial low budget concept from five years ago has been executed with perfection by the team behind Tangerine, I’m not going to let this film get me down. If anything it’s quite the opposite, this is one of my favorite movies of the year. This blog was started on my transgender friend’s birthday earlier this year as a way to honor the original basis of our friendship, which was to use her story as an inspiration to write again. She’s been keeping up her end, staying on course to finish her transition and get back into school. When I sit down to write, I feel like it’s fulfilling my end of the bargain, though now our friendship has outgrown that early phase. My writing may be nothing more than a positive activity in my life that brings temporary joy to a handful of readers, but at least it’s a contribution. In the end, I went searching for a story, got lost and wound up with a friend. It’s a shame in this situation that I’ve lost a couple but it’s all worth it if this experience ultimately makes me a better person. If there’s one morsel of wisdom I can share with my readers on my 36th birthday it is this simple mantra: if you don’t use it…you’ll lose it. Despite all the hardships that may get in the way of life, the only thing that can prevent us from continuing our artistic passions is death.

Check out this trailer for Tangerine. The film is currently on Netflix. As an added bonus, the movie takes place on Christmas Eve and is a great addition to any holiday collection!

Tangerine trailer

Lou’s Holiday Traditions vol.1: The Cookie Tree

May the Cookies Be With You

Cookies in December. We all eat them. This is the month where they come in the most varieties. My favorite way to present cookies this time of the year is in the form of a Cookie Tree. One thing I have to be weary of when creating my personal tree is family members that may or may not have a nut allergy. My brother has been cursed with one. I feel for him the most when having to make an alternate Cookie Tree dubbed the ‘Vulture Tree’ not as much for his sake but rather how much better using walnuts as the bark for the brownie trunk tastes than powdered graham crackers. This is what he gets if he’s lucky enough to even get to the trunk. The dubious name comes as a result of the ‘Vulture Tree’ being set aside at the alternate table for all the young children to pick at while the main tree, or as I call it: ‘the Good One,’ is being created to shine strong in all its mid-December glory.

Another big difference between the two trees is that the alternate tree lacks any peanut butter. This makes me pity my brother’s ailment with the nut-allergy even more though I will say he seems to always enjoy eating sweets along with anything else put in front of him. It’s quite a hoot watching the ‘Vulture Tree’ go down. But that’s just life: the bad balances out the good. In order for the ‘Good One’ to shine something has to be sacrificed, in this case it is the alternate one. The first part he always goes for is the KitKat train tracks that go around the tree. Shank move! He should know better. I put the KitKat train tracks for the two younger nephews still in their HotWheel faze. He knows it pisses the youngest one off. This usually sets off contagious tears of excitement typical during holiday gatherings with children. How do you quiet down crying children? Go straight for the ‘brownie bark’ aka the ‘Vulture Tree jugular.”

Doomed Cookie Tree. It’s not even out for five minutes and the tree is already paralyzed and all because of a broken KitKat bar. Getting to the bark, though, means breaking through the Cannoli Star and removing the top layer of Tastykake chocolate chip bars that hold the Cannoli Star in place. This is the point where the lucky adult that happens to be closest to a crying child gets first dibs at arguably the best part, that sweet star. At least you would hope. Once word gets out around the house that the star will be eaten, everybody begins to get in line with hopes of getting to dip the chocolate chip bar into sweet cannoli icing.

The other caveat about the Vulture tree is that it is not baked with love like the Good One, it is assorted from random products (with the exception of the brownies). I’m not one to spill secrets but today I’ll list the difference in recipes. The only thing I actually bake is the brownies but as anyone into baking knows, the first batch is always the worst one. When I prepare this batch it is usually an uneventful procedure. The highlight of it is that it’s the one time of the year I get to listen to my favorite acoustic album of all-time straight-thru, intentionally: Jerry Garcia and John Kahn Live at Oregon State Penitentiary. This gives me plenty of time to reach into my bag and get the rest of my ingredients ready. Chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin pies, a box each, cut up in halves so they can be laid out around the brownie trunk like a tee-pee. Philadelphia is represented in the form of Tastykake chocolate chip cookies bars which make up the base. The cannoli dip is bought special at a bakery in Westmont, this may be the reason why it’s arguably the best part. I purchase the cannoli dip as is and it usually fills a styrofoam bowl…the star of the ‘Vulture tree’ being the glob of cannoli dip set out for hands of all shapes and sizes to conquer with pieces of cookie bar in tow. KitKats aren’t the only brand-name candy set out for sacrifice; Hershey kisses, Mallo cups, and Mounds make up much of the terrain. And as one final exclamation point, you can’t forget finding another excuse to put those dreaded candy canes to use. Make no exception, there’s no candy canes coming anywhere near ‘the Good One.’

Putting together my personal cookie tree takes time and effort. You can see this in the meticulous soundtrack created annually specifically for the special occasion. Since my tree takes time to build, the mix is thought out over the course of one to two weeks. The only rule is that it can’t have anything with Jerry Garcia on it since his legendary acoustic performance at the Oregon State Penitentiary in 1982 dominates the construction of the alternate monstrosity. To add, no other versions of the eleven tracks played on that legendary night can be added to this mix. No holiday music also, there’s plenty of time for that to go around this time of year. The concept is to piece together songs that sound like the holidays. This allows for the incorporation of a little classical and lots of jazz as filler to the dozen or so songs handpicked over the course of early December. One song that is always on the list is ‘Mr. Sandman’ for its sleigh bell sounds in the background. Usually a Sinatra song also makes the cut for ambience. I often try to run deep in my song selections yet you really don’t have to when it comes to Sinatra in this day in age. ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Night’ may be Vintage Sinatra but it just happens to work for this year’s collection. Plus, on this type of drawn out mix, it beats out just about any contender. Classic country and hip hop from the golden age are also on the menu.

It’s no surprise that the ‘Vulture tree’ is almost finished being eaten by the time my personal tree is ready to be made. This is all intentional. The purpose of the main cookie tree is presentation. It’s very simple, the first ingredient you need when making it is love. Or at least good intentions. What I like to do is stack walnut brownies about two and half feet high. I use chocolate chip cookies as my scaffold and maneuver in Christmas lights to create my product of wonder. For the star I find one relic from this previous year that signifies my current state of existence. This year I’m using an egg. To me, an egg contains can either fulfill your hunger or piss you off depending on how you open it. I look at that as a representation into how people view this blog.

The final ingredient is peanut butter…or more specifically…Lou’s homemade soft pretzels covered in peanut butter. They serve as a base for both the star and the tree. Creamy peanut butter only! By the time my personal Cookie Tree is ready to be lit, most of the family is either not awake or not interested in food at the moment. It doesn’t get to me, I light it for myself! It’s my holiday contribution. In the end, I’m also the one that eats most of it as the month rolls on. I don’t let this bother me. The ‘Good One’ is meant to be preserved. At least for one night, those lights are meant to shine in all their glory! The house around me has quieted down by the time I am ready to light it. Staring at a lit Cookie Tree in a dark room under silence is what makes this time of year so special. You really only have moments like this in December. Moments of brief artificial joy. As the lights of my Cookie Tree barely light the small dining room, I look over at the remains of the ‘Vulture tree,’ relish over its short existence and laugh!