Nine Eleven 9/11

Me and friends. WTC 2001
Me and friends. WTC 2001

I’ve almost never spoken about it. I certainly never spoke about it publicly.

Personally, that day was a mile-marker. It marked the beginning of a massive spiral downward. My life hit it’s lowest point ever nearly a year and many substantial events later. I gave up – on myself and everybody else too… and I really fucked my life up. I don’t know if I can blame that day alone – but it is an irrevocable part of the whole story to be sure.

I was here, in Manhattan, and watched it from the window of my apartment. My wife watched too, saw them fall, from her rooftop, though back in 2001 – though she and I had yet to meet.

I slept in that morning, on the pull-out bed Jennifer Convertibles leather sofa that filled most of my studio apartment, 49B.

I heard sirens pass by outside – not an unfamiliar sound. They didn’t stop and kept going, and going until I abandoned my cozy bed and got up to look out the window and take a leak.

I didn’t see anything right away, but checked my email and saw an ABC Breaking News Alert in my inbox. “Small plane may have flown into World Trade Center…”

I stood on my tub and looked out the bathroom window where I could get a good sight line downtown. I could see plumes of smoke rising.

I flipped on the TV, and by then the second one had hit.

I alternately paced back and forth from the TV to my bathroom window.

I saw the first one fall on live TV.

The next day, Wednesday, I walked down as far as they’d let me and stood with crowds and we applauded the crews exiting the site.

We smelled that smell together. I won’t even try to describe it. It lingered for weeks maybe months. Sometimes I still smell it.

– Photo: Charley and friends at Christmas Party. Windows on the World, World Trade Center Tower One, Top Floor.

Singer in the Subway

Musicians in the subway are pretty common. I see them every day. Some are impressive, some not.

Last night I was leaving the gym after an especially tiring workout. My legs felt like rubber and I just didn’t feel like going down into the hot subway right away – so I caught an uptown M104 and rode it cross town and up to Columbus Circle where I caught the A train.

As I descended down to the platform, I heard singing. I thought it was a woman singing tunes by The Temptations. Often singers and performers will sing or play to backing tracks blasting from boom boxes or battery powered amps. They nearly always sing through a microphone of some sort. I usually listen for a minute and go through my usually critiques: Are they in tune and singing in the right key? Do they know the song? Is there anything different or unusual about their style?

There was something that captured my interest last night. As I looked across the platform to the other side I scanned the Friday night crowd to catch a glimpse. I couldn’t seem to find her – although I did seem to locate the direction of the sound in the large underground echo chamber that is the station at Columbus Circle.

As I looked closer I saw an old man sitting on the wooden benches, mouth moving in time to the music and I realized he was the source of the music. He completely blended in with the crowd. He sat in the bench spread legged with his hands on his knees and sang the tunes with the the background tracks.

He sang the tunes spot on and then riffed around the melody. When the tracks stopped he kept singing. He’d go right into the next song when it started. He had no microphone – so the vocal was all him. Just that old man sitting on the bench completely filling that huge underground space with the the power of his voice and his love of the music.

My train came and I left. My parting thought was how utterly natural he was. Genuine. No hype. No glitter. No effects.

Just an old man sitting on a bench doing what he was born to do.

Passing Judgment In The Subway

I write a lot about the subway. I spend a lot of time there. It can be a depressing place. It can be a fascinating place.

The train was not full today. I left for work quite a bit later than usual and missed all the rush. I sat down in my favorite seat on the end near the door. A man got on the train and began to panhandle for change.

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen… My name is John… I am homeless… Can you spare some change so I can get something to eat…?”

This is a daily event. There is always someone who gets on the train asking for money. As a rule, I do not give out money in the subway. I just don’t. I don’t often have money readily accessible and getting one’s wallet out in public in New York City is one of those things you try not to do.

John was nicely dressed in comparison to some of the other panhandlers. He was young and wearing clean clothes.

When John got to the other end of the train, he said,

“Thank you, God bless, have a nice day…”

This is typical – but I always thought it was at least somewhat polite.

At this point, a middle-aged man sitting at the other end of the car spoke to John,

“Are those ROCKPORTS you are wearing on your feet…?”

John replied, “Rock WHAT…?”

Man, “Those are $200 shoes… and you are here begging in the subway… why are you begging…”

John, “WHAT? $200? Hell no! If that’s true, I’ll sell them to you for $100 right now!”

Then there was more conversation back and forth… the self-righteous comments from the man; and John’s replies… it was pretty clear John was a bit off balance…

As I listened to this unfold, the anger in me began to grow, and grow, and grow…

Finally I walked over to them. I spoke to the man –

“What gives you the right to pass a judgment on him? What do you know?”

The man laughed uncomfortably and mumbled something about begging and handouts…

I said, “Would you like me to pass a judgment against you…? Well… I think you are an ASSHOLE”

At this point I pulled out my wallet, gave John $20 and returned to my seat.

You could have heard a pin drop.

John got off the train and as we pulled into the next stop, a man across from me said, “I really respect that…”

He and another man across from him were talking about it – and there was a LOT of love coming my way this morning on the subway… People were smiling at me and nodding their heads in approval.

I just felt shaken. I still feel shaken – out of breath and a little sick to my stomach.

I’m not sure I believe in Karma or rewards anymore. That wasn’t why I did it. I fully expected nobody would say a thing to me. I did it because I was angry. I did it because somebody needed to say SOMETHING.

Nobody has a right to sit in judgment. Nobody knew what John’s situation was. Maybe he’s an addict, maybe not. Maybe he is schizophrenic and lives on a substinance income from the government. Maybe this is just his way of getting a little extra coin – for whatever he needs it for. Maybe he can’t work. Maybe he really is homeless.

If you don’t want to give people money in the subway, don’t. That is a perfectly acceptable choice. In fact, the MTA asks that you do not.

Just don’t make judgments against people. You don’t have the right.

Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect? MY ASS…

Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect…

That’s the motto of the New York City Police Department—painted on the side of every squad car.

Well I’ve got a different story to tell tonight about one of New York City’s most un-civil servants.

I often leave work after seven which means I have to cross 42nd street at Lexington Avenue to get to the subway. They close my building’s entrance to the subway early, so I have to go outside.

Tonight I stood at the corner waiting for the lights to change so I could cross 42nd Street and get on my train home.

There were at least a dozen or more other souls with me, waiting for the light to change. There were some German tourists, a few tired businessmen, a pair of pretty girls and some kids out on the town.

The light changed and I made a dash for the cross walk. Several people strode out in front of me.

Our pack was halfway across the street when suddenly the handful of fast walking citizens in front of me came to an abrupt halt as a New York City Police Department squad car came to a squealing halt right in the middle of the crosswalk.

He’d’ been trying to beat the light and failed.

The stunned passersby got themselves back together and continued around the police car as if nothing had happened. The car couldn’t go anywhere yet as there were those dozen other souls still crossing the street (and so many more witnesses).

I came eye to eye with the cop driver, a young man of Asian decent in his 20’s. It was an odd perspective having been on his end of this particular visual angle just a few too many times.

I asked “Where’s the LIGHTS, where’s the SIREN?” He used neither his headlights, strobe lights, horn, nor siren

He looked at me with great disdain and inquired, “why, you too STUPID to look?”

All I could think of were the years of shitty pay and misery he would have wasted had he actually hit someone.

I didn’t get his car number, don’t suppose I’d  bother even if I could.

You see a very similar thing happened to my wife and me just a few years ago. She was nearly hit by an NYPD squad car racing down the street (no lights, no siren). A voice sounded over the loud speaker “Ya fuckin’ retard”

We got the number that time and followed up on a complaint.

Of course the answer was there was no wrong doing found. So yeah, Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect… MY ASS.

Now to all those cops out there who really do give a damn about serving and protecting with true professionalism and respect, I say Thank You – and where the f*#k were you tonight?

Just for laughs, here are a few links:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/19/nyregion/19hit.html

http://youtube.com/watch?v=LfFfUxBDMDY

http://youtube.com/watch?v=7FPokZXLoI4
 

Thinking About Music and The Ghosts of Past, Present and Future

Charles Socci with New England Jazz EnsembleI’ve been thinking about music a lot lately—playing music. If you’ve seen my main site, www.socci.com then you probably know I started out my adult life as a musician. Indeed from the time I was eleven or twelve years old it became my life’s main mission.

Somewhere along the way I got lost. I lost faith. I became bitter and discouraged. I gave up. I even considered it a victory.

I’ve told the story of my musical education and history here. I won’t bore you with that.

Music became everything to me while I was still in high school. All of my friends, everything I did centered around music. As soon as I could drive I was sitting-in at a dark and funky jazz club in the south end of Hartford. The owner wore a gun on his ankle, but he was a true patron of the music. I didn’t have my first real girlfriend until I was 18; and she was a music student where I went to college.

I met Jackie McLean, the legend, in my teens. He took a musical interest in me as he did many young men. Eventually I entered into his African-American Music department and earned a Bachelor of Music degree with a major in Jazz Studies.Tony Scherr

This college period is something i continue to try and understand today. I had two options for higher education: one was to follow my friend Tony Scherr down to North Texas State where he was quickly rising to the top and getting recognized for the amazing talent he is. My other option was to continue following Jackie and attend his program at the Hartt School of Music.Jackie McLean

I chose to stay with Jackie which may not have been the best decision for me at that time—although these things are had to tell—and hind sight being what it is, who really knows. I had already around two years of private Saturday lessons with Papa Jackie. Saxophonist-ic-ly speaking I had already received about as much as I was going to receive from him in that period of time. Jackie’s style of teaching the instrument and the language were mostly about mimicry—I remember his wife Dollie’s comment one day when she heard me practicing that all Jackie’s students sound just like him. Most players start out ‘aping’ or mimicking somebody. But Jackie’s influence was just so strong… And there wasn’t anybody else around to counter it. I eventually switched from alto to tenor. The lessons were also about playing together, learning tunes, and being exposed to recordings of saxophonists I might never have been exposed to—Earl Bostic, Don Byas, early Dexter Gordon. He showed me and demonstrated the nuances of Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt. He taught me to navigate Giant Steps. But I think after those two years I had gotten most of what Jackie was going to give me.

I decided to enter the Hartt School for a variety of reasons. It would have seemed like a betrayal on some level to leave Jackie, I felt a strong responsibility to stay near my Mother and my Brother (who was extremely disabled) and I was probably just plain afraid of going away and actually standing on my own two feet so far from home.

North Texas State was a world famous school for musicians at that time. Jackie’s comment about it was, “well what are you going to do…. look at cows?”. But the truth of it was that instead of a few saxophone players, all vying for Jackie’s attention and all trying to out best the other at impressing him, there were dozens or maybe even over a hundred saxophone players. What I needed was the experience of finding myself, my own voice, and then rising to the top of that group of other players. I needed that kind of challenge. I already had all the Jackie McLean I needed to absorb, or could absorb. Where the experience at Hartt was all focused on replicating the small jazz ensemble classics like Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers; North Texas had a full spectrum of music. There was an emphasis on commercial viability for a musician… Were you ready to go out and join the real world and make a living playing music; or were you going to go out into the world with limited skills, no doubles, and little exposure to the vast pallet of musical genres – or worse yet maybe an attitude that the music you had learned in school was the only ‘real’ music, or hip music, and everything else was square. There was a whole community of musicians of various styles and skill levels who played together frequently at North Texas. It isn’t always the school, or who teaches at the school. Its about your peers and the overall philosophy.

I realized the need for doubles while I was at Hartt and I began incorporating them into my bag of tricks, finding instruction when and where I could. To mention hind sight once again, I suppose if I knew then what I know now I might have been able to get a whole lot more out of the place professionally.One thing that stands out strongly from my days at Hartt are Jackie’s History of African-American music classes. These classes were filled not only with learning about the African origins and obscure pioneers of modern American music; but also became a mouthpiece for the expression of Jackie’s political and social opinions. His first hand stories of the jazz legends were also fascinating and could only truly be delivered with his inimitable charismatic style. These things—like his playing—formed an indelible impression on me.

I hung out with the A-list Hartt jazz guys for most of the time. Then I started to develop something of an attitude in the way of having my own feelings about certain things that didn’t quite fit the A-list Students of Jackie McLean club. I found myself cast somewhat out. I took a few lessons with some other famous saxophonists which probably alienated me from the clique even more. Somewhere around my junior or senior year everything stalled for me. I remember dealing with a depressive episode, which I hadn’t dealt with since high school. I became very emotional and broke down one day. Jackie’s response to that was to say that in the nursing homes they take the depressed people and move them away from everyone else so they don’t bring everyone else down. He also expressed negative opinions about me taking any kind of anti-depressant medication. When I look back on Hartt, I wonder if those last two years or year and a half were really a waste. I should have moved on.

I graduated in 1988. Jackie shook my hand on stage; and that was it. I was turned out into a world I had no idea how to deal with and was also completely unprepared for.

My first real gig out of school came through one of my friends from Hartt, a fine pianist majoring in accompanying. Norwegian Cruise Line needed a saxophonist for the ship band on the MS Southward. SouthwardA small cruise ship by today’s standards, it seemed quite large to me. I never really had a contract. There was a contractor who staffed the musicians. I sent him a photo and some cassette tapes of myself playing some lounge tunes. I was hired and flew out to Los Angeles to meet up with the ship.

The Southward turned out to be a pretty tough experience. The band I joined decided to hate me from the start. Part of it was that I was simply very young and very green. I had a huge Jackie McLean sound on alto and that concept just didn’t fly in a lounge band playing The Days of Wine and Roses. I hadn’t really developed my tenor playing yet and it just sounded rough. My doubles on flute and clarinet were a little weak. Part of it might have been some jealousy—they bet each other money on who could pick up a certain ‘babe’ in the disco one night. I won. The trumpet player was a vicious alcoholic and used to beat on my door in the middle of the night on his way back from the crew bar and tell me how badly I sucked. It was rough—really rough.

I stuck it out. I never even really thought about going home. They tried to get me fired. The contractor came on the ship and stood next to me all night as I played the gig. After the gig he said he didn’t know what the big deal was. He said I was a little green but other than that I was doing fine. I did learn a few things from the band leader/pianist who was from New York and half Cuban half Columbian. He taught me how to do a proper head butt if I ever got into a bar fight… I never have gotten into an actual bar fight (witnessed more than few…); but i continue to remember the maneuver just in case a smile, psychology and reason aren’t enough to overcome the situation.

Soon, those guys went home which was a huge relief. The band was replaced (and I stayed) by a super gentle band leader/bassist named Sam Goldenhar from Houston who was also a North Texas State guy, Manny, a pianist from the Philippines, Las Vegas Larry on trumpet , and my friend Jim from Hartt. We all got along super well and the music was good as ship lounge bands go. I was glad I stuck it out. I went home in December and was promptly dumped by my girlfriend. It turned out we’d both been unfaithful during my four month absence. She didn’t want to reconcile. I was suddenly stuck in Connecticut; in December; alone with no idea what was going to happen for me next. (note: I’ve since learned there are two kinds of people, those who wait for things to happen and those who enable them to happen – being the second is a huge advantage in the music business).

Fate is funny thing. Two weeks later, Tom Murray – another Hartt saxophone player – called me to see if I was interested in doing a ‘bus and truck’.

“What’s a bus and truck”

“That’s where they take a show on the road and you ride the bus and everything else goes in the truck”

It turned out to be a non-union tour of the Broadway show 42nd Street. I auditioned and took the gig. This gig was probably the greatest opportunity I had to really start trying to get some kind of controllable sound together. A big sound would be great for playing with Elvin Jones, but not so much in an orchestra pit. It helped me get my clarinet going pretty well also. I was out with that show for about four months. Charles Socci 1989We went to Israel which was an educational experience. Hanging out with the cast and crew was the most significant exposure to gay culture I’d ever had and also an educational experience.

Through 42nd Street I became affiliated with a summer stock theater in Long Island and spent two summers playing shows there. Again, this was great training in terms of discipline and the doubles. I was pretty sure I’d have an entree into some kind of music scene in New York now and I used the money my Grandmother left me to buy a studio apartment in Washington Heights, Manhattan, NYC.

This was followed by a national tour of Dream Girls. It was pretty low budget all the way. The bus leaked. There were petty rows among the cast; but we did over one hundred performances all over the country. I can now say I’ve been to all 50 states except Utah and Nevada.

After Dream Girls and another summer of summer stock I started really questioning what my musical career was all about. I will say this though, in terms of keeping your chops together, playing a show like this 8 times a week or more and having to play it EXACTLY the same way every night is incredible discipline. Boring. Soulless. But, great discipline.

The first thing that drew me in to music and jazz specifically was the language. The language I couldn’t speak with words. Telling the world what I was feeling in my heart. Expressing and creating. Those things always felt so good to me. I could always escape in the music and say exactly what I was feeling even if I couldn’t put it in words. Musical theater just wasn’t making that happen for me…I moved back home with my Mother and dated a local girl. I worked in an office for a while. I played with a local party band on the weekends. I scrounged up some cash and made my first CD, which I did nothing to promote or distribute. I drank wine and smoked pot and played around with a tape recorder and my instruments at night. My brother died. I taught private students at home and through various music schools during the day. I got my chauffeur’s license and drove limousine and taxi part time. I broke up with the local girl and met another local girl who soon became pregnant and gave birth to my son Alex. Three years later my daughter was born.

Charles Socci and Mike Jones with SharkpoolI found other bands to play with. Some were better than others. I was starting to get work with some of the better wedding bands around. I played in bar bands and drank a lot. I played in Puerto Rican Salsa and Merengue bands (great for building chops). I made another CD, for an actual label with actual distribution but I never promoted it. Most of the stuff I was doing was leaving me empty inside. Little of it had to do with that internal soul language. I got bitter. I resented the bubble headed brides. I resented the bubble heads period—the yahoos. I was working so much between the limo, and the teaching, and the gigs and I had nothing. I made $18,000 that year – with no benefits. NobodyCharles Socci forced me or put me down; but I felt like a real man would be taking care of business; not living with his Mother and being a dead beat Dad. Marriage plans with their Mother never worked out. I had a quick fling with a 20 year old chick I met in one of the bands. I began getting really bitter. A trumpet player friend of mine had enrolled in technical school and was loving it. I’ve always been technical. I had a computer long before most people. I began thinking I should exploit that technical interest because the music thing had become bullshit as far as I was concerned. So I did just that, graduated at the top of my class and had a job before I even finished. $37,500 and full benefits. Man, I thought I won the lottery.Charles SocciSo I became a professional computer guy. I stopped taking a lot of the gigs. They stopped calling. My horn went into it’s case in the corner and has mostly stayed there.

I think about this and it is just weird. It seems like a waste. The music was me and I was it. There could be no Charles Socci without it. That all changed.

Time has flown by. I moved into that New York studio when things with the BABY MOMMA finally died for good. I got another computer job and did really well with that but never returned to the music.

I was afraid in those years I hung out at my Mother’s in Connecticut. Those were the years I should have been in NY trying to get around and play. I did a little bit but the whole thing terrified me—like sick to my stomach, walls closing in, have to get out of here NOW terrified. So I just couldn’t do it… try and hang on the scene. Hang on the periphery of the scene. Begging the question, ‘What Scene?’ – there is so much going on in NY. There is so much talent. New talent continually comes in. The thing was I felt like the only thing I was really good at was bebop saxophone a la Hartt and a la Jackie McLean. I was really mixed up as to who I was as a musician. I didn’t know. When I say maybe Hartt was a mistake for me, that is what I mean.

Today, my horns sit in the corner but my keyboard stays on. I married and share a two bedroom apartment with the sweetest and most wonderful woman in the world.Charles Socci Kristin Socci I haven’t had a drink or used any drugs in four years (7/18/03). I’m constantly playing piano. I love to play free form improvisations that wander in and out of different keys and tonalities. There was a time when I was playing saxophone this way and making private recordings of myself. It was very freeing. At the moment I’d almost pay for the opportunity just to play with some crappy band at a wedding. Even the soulless musical prostitution that it is—I just miss having the horn in my hands and communing with the band.

My intuition tells me that opportunity will arise again. I’m just not sure exactly when. So guess i better get out those horns and start putting them in my mouth.

Please bring this piano to meOh – and by the way – I’m definitely lusting for the touch and growl of a fine piano. This 7′ Baldwin will do nicely. If you feel charitable, won’t you buy it for me? I hereby send this wish out to the Cosmos for one grand piano. (my wife only agreed to a full sized upright, and I guess I’d settle… but I’ll give up my comfy chair if i can have the grand… Pretty please?)

Information Technology – Under Water

I’ve yet to write anything here concerning the thing that consumes most of my time, IT. I can’t think of much that is more dry or uninteresting to talk about than IT, so I don’t.

I love the challenge of it, all the little puzzles and the problem solving; it engages a huge part of my mind. I learn new things every day and it earns me a living—but IT as the stuff of inspiration or conversation—not so much. My boss has to drag me to IT expos, even though they give away free stuff like foam dice, keyring flashlights, and steak dinners…  None the less, I guess it is about time for some kind of piece about the thing I spend so much of my life doing… So here goes.

Several years ago I was working as IT Director, Chief Cook, and Bottle Washer for a very vigorously growing company in downtown Manhattan.

I was very happy at this job for the most part and my boss was more than good to me. Change then came in the form of business strategies and management structure. My Mother and Father both became ill. Life changed and it was clear my own time for change had arrived.

I have to say that while I lack the nice office and view; and a good percentage of the salary; I feel better about things now—working for an organization that functions not for profit but to make human lives better in areas of war, terror, and natural disaster. Despite my personal pay check I know the company I’m supporting has a much deeper purpose and I feel very good about that.

With all that said I wanted to tell an IT horror tale from my days at that other company.

I was sitting in my office, next door to the server room, gazing out the window at the Chrysler Building and across the East River to Queens; when in walks Eddie the maintenance man. Eddie was looking quite concerned and strode right into my office and began checking all the pipes under the window and above the drop ceiling.

“May I help you?” I asked…

“Oh, I’m just trying to see if I can find a small leak… You haven’t seen anything have you?”

“No, I’m afraid I haven’t – can I give you a hand with that file cabinet over there?”

“No, I’ve got it, thanks…”

“Well, ok then.. I’m going to go to the men’s room and leave you here at it Eddie, ok?”

“Yeah, no problem…”

So, I leave and go to the men’s room and take a seat upon the john. I call the third stall from the right “the library” because someone always leaves at least one newspaper in there. Usually its the Wall Street Journal, but occasionally you’ll find the Post (much more appropriate for the surroundings) or even a Vanity Fair if you’re lucky.

I stayed a leisurely fifteen minutes or so before leaving the men’s room to walk back to my office. As I turned the corner, I saw all the girls from accounting standing at the elevator. We all seemed surprised to see each other.

Someone asked me what did I think of it all?

“What do I think of what…?”

“You know, the FLOOD.”

“The WHAT, oh I know – you guys are pulling my leg aren’t you?”

“No, really… You mean you haven’t seen it?”

“No, I was reading…”

At this point they all kind of looked at each other like ‘Oh Shit’ and I hurriedly made my way back to my office and the server room.

As I rounded the corner I beheld a sight I shall not forget for the rest of my life. Hundreds of gallons of water were pouring a deluge directly over one of four server racks. The water was pounding the top of the rack and cascading down the sides. There was already four inches of water on the floor.

Our developer and two man IT team stared on in shock and wondered what to do about the ELECTRICITY, seeing as the power supply to the servers was fed with around 400 Volts. Sparks and smoke were flying…

I decided that something had to be done so I put out my elbow and ran as fast and hard as I could run through the water toward the master power switch, which I successfully hit (with my elbow) into the off position. The only remaining power issue would be the existing batteries and breakers in the power supply which were still live to the breakout panel feeding the servers. We later manually pulled out batteries and switched off breakers on the back of the power supply itself. We had no documentation on it and none of us had been around when it was installed. We did the best we could with it and got APC on the phone promptly thereafter to do a completely safe shutdown.

The fire department came, axes ready but there wasn’t much for them to do at that point.

The Vice President of Global Operations came downstairs and asked me what was our plan. I more or less told him I didn’t know. We both stood and surveyed the destruction for a while as it slowly sunk in that about 95% of our IT infrastructure and data had been completely wiped out.

We began pouring water out of servers and taking them apart to dry, with hope that something might power on and give us enough time to recover something. Of course we had data on tape stored off site, but that was two weeks old and required retrieval. Also, our tape drives and library were part of the wreckage – so at that particular moment tape wasn’t going to do us much good.

I was able to get one domain controller operating and seize the master active directory roles onto this server. I was then able to get one mail server and data store on line. So before the night was out I was able to restore email which was a pretty big accomplishment.

We didn’t have much hardware that wasn’t ruined. Most of our older hardware was less damaged – the cases were bigger, the internal components spread out more, and the fans were not placed directly next to dense circuit boards. The newer servers were all one or two rack space jobs and the internal electronics were really densely packed. The fans were set in such a way that they just sprayed water all over everything. None of those new servers survived, but some of the drives did.

It became clear I was going to need some working servers to try and bring everything back on line. Of course this was a Friday night, and we were now in the middle of a snow storm as well. I was able to get an entry level Compaq server and a high end Sony Vaio workstation from a local IT dealer. This was the best I could do. The store was about two avenues over and 8 blocks up. I went over and purchased the two machines with my Amex. I also purchased power strips, extension cords and anything else I could think of. Somebody else went to a department store and picked up some hair dryers and towels. The hair dryers brought my cell phone back to life.

We placed all of this equipment (server, workstation, cords, miscellaneous hardware) onto a cart and two guys from the store and I wheeled it back in the snow.

Over the next 36 hours (I worked 36 hours straight) I was able to bring all of the data back on line in a temporary fashion using the purchased server and workstation, plus some of the other equipment that was still partially running. Over the coming weeks and months we turned the experience into a positive one by replacing all our old hardware with brand new hardware using the insurance money.

I received a very generous bonus which I promptly turned around and used to buy my first digital SLR.

It was quite an experience and I really hope I never have to go through anything quite like that again!

I GOT THE JOB!!!

I haven’t written about it, partly out of superstition, but I’ve been waiting over the past 10+ days to hear back from a potential employer regarding a possible job offer. Today they called and offered me the position and I’m absolutely thrilled.

I’ve been out of the workforce for a while. Family illnesses, my Father’s death, and some personal crises are to blame. I’ve also been carefully looking for the RIGHT job, which has less to do with salary than it does with the right business and environment. I’ve hoped to find something with either a non-profit charitable organization or a corporate business who’s product is related to the arts.

My new position is with a very large nonprofit humanitarian organization based here in NYC. The company works to provide social services and relief all over the world. I’ll be a network administrator and in charge of managing the network and servers, both local and remote, and doing all the other things IT folks usually do in concert with the Technology Manager, domestic and international support people.

First Manhattan Bike Ride of the Season

I went out for my first NYC bike ride of the season. I can’t store my bike in the hall or the basement; so it has to be parked inside my apartment – my 365 square foot piece of New York City heaven. My wife Kristin bought a wall mount bike rack that is now mounted above my desk. Fortunately the bike is fairly new and fairly light – so lifting it on and off the wall isn’t too big a task. The hardest part is maneuvering the thing out my door, past the dog’s piddle pads without stabbing myself in the gut with the handlebars…

It was a perfect day, around 70 and sunny with a nice little 10 mph breeze from the north. (precisely due north as I’d discover on my ride back home). I came down 181 Street from our building; over the footbridge next to the famous collapsed retaining wall of May 2005, and down the steep winding path into Ft. Washington Park. From Ft Washington Park you can follow the bike path and Greenway (with a few minor detours) all the way down to Battery Park without having to contend with much auto traffic. There is a little detour around the 130’s to just past the Fairway around 125th but there usually isn’t much traffic. Just watch the lights and be extra aware of what’s around you – like delivery trucks, opening doors, etc… And it does get a little crowded with pedestrians around the Intrepid and the cruise ship terminals.

I rode down just past Chamber’s Street today and then turned around and rode home.

It was on the ride home that I realized just how out of shape I am… That wind from the north felt more like a gale and I had to ride straight into it for all of the twelve or so miles home. I’m six feet tall and over 250lbs – not exactly aerodynamic. Of course I neglected to eat anything, or drink anything except four cups of coffee this morning. About two or three miles into the ride home I wanted to puke and all I could think about was scoring a very large bottle of Poland Spring. Winter definitely took its toll.

Now I just can’t wait to do it all over again.

An Afternoon at the Fort Tryon Dog Run

Today was my first opportunity to get out of the house and welcome spring which has finally arrived in New York. Kristin and I took our two dogs, Thelma and Louise – two Jack Russell/Chihauhau mixes, up to Fort Tryon park which is about a 20 minute up-hill walk. The girls (that’s Thelma and Louise) just love it.

While we were there I got to meet a young autistic boy named Jose who was there with his aunt and his sister. My own brother was born with Downs Syndrome and was taken care of by my Mother at home for his entire life. So I usually have a natural affinity when I meet people with such special needs. Jose was facinated by my camera and kept trying to pull it from my hands. He first approached us and first grabbed Kristin’s hands and put them to his chest. Then he came over to me and was putting his arms around by back. I knew his aunt was thinking “oh my God, how are these people going to react…” and I knew this from my own vast experince as a care-taker for my brother. I just smiled and said “What’s your name?” and assured his Aunt that it was all quite ok. After he reached for the camera several times (he kept going for the lens) I turned it around and showed him how to look through and then I snapped the picture which I showed to him. I’ve been so down in the dumps lately just wrapped up in my own problems and feeling like I don’t have anything to offer anybody. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to make Jose and his Aunt comfortable and perhaps show Jose some kindness and understanding too.