Sunday, June 23, 2019

Rich Caloggero

I wrote this to read at some undefined point during the course of my friend Rich Caloggero's wedding on the weekend of June 15th, 2019. I never found a good opportunity to hog the floor with a long speech, but I thought I'd post it on my blog.

There are so many things that I could say about a person I first met more than half my life ago. The vast majority of the time I spent with Rich was when I was in my twenties and early thirties, during the periods in my itinerant life when I lived in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I’ve only met this wonderful woman, Malvys, a couple of times, and for geographical and other logistical reasons, I’ve only gotten in little visits with Rich now and then in the past couple decades.

But Rich is one of those people where every time I see him, it feels like we’re just picking up where we left off the other day, even if the other day was a year earlier.

As time passes, memories fade and become more vague, and it’s the sharpest, most poignant ones that rise above the clouds, like mountain peaks, is how they often feel to me.

I remember meeting Rich, outside of a Grateful Dead show somewhere in Virginia, sometime around 1987 or ‘88. I was traveling more or less aimlessly at the time, having recently dropped out of college, unsure of my next move. Rich and Rodger offered to give me a ride to Boston, and I have no idea how many nights I spent sleeping on Rich’s floor, but I remember that eventually we were actual housemates. It’s the welcome, the kindness and generosity that I remember most from this period.

The next sharp memory is undoubtedly driving across the US, from Somerville to San Francisco, with a colorful variety of other folks, in Rodger’s VW microbus. For whatever reason, probably because we were young and foolish, we were making the trip nonstop, those of us who could drive taking turns at the wheel, keeping the poor old van on the road constantly. I don’t remember what month it was, but it must have been sometime in the winter, because everyone who wasn’t driving was covered in layers of blankets at all times. Whoever was driving, who had to move limbs and such, had to just freeze.

Through that long first night on the road I marveled at Rich’s ability to find things anyone was looking for. The rest of us were just groping around in the dark ineffectually. Somewhere in Indiana someone figured out how to turn on the heat, and for a while we were warm and cozy in there, until we broke down in Oklahoma in the middle of the night during a blizzard, which I believe was entirely my fault.

But it was when we encountered a freak snow storm on the highway in southern California, trucks jackknifed and strewn about the median like a giant toddler threw them all there, that I recall noticing the size and strength of Rich’s biceps. Our windshield wiper broke at this inopportune moment, and Rich managed to keep the wipers going manually from behind the dashboard, at great physical effort, until we got through the snow storm. I think we made it to the Grateful Dead show on time.

For many years, my memories of Rich are wrapped up with acoustic guitars and subways. There were different musicians who tended to play at different stops. On the days when I was playing at my preferred spot on Park Street (Red Line central platform), I’d often have reason to be going to Davis Square, where Rich could often be found, melodically flatpicking away at a blistering pace.

A memory that pokes above the clouds because of the sheer terror involved was driving on the left hand side of the road for the first time, while in the middle of the city of London, England. It’s a terrible place to drive on any side of the road. Although Rich was neither able to drive nor navigate (back in those days before we all had cell phones with built-in GPS’s that talked to us), his presence in the passenger seat was always reassuring and empathetic, like an emotional anchor in a stressful situation, a role he played in my life on many, many occasions.

Inevitably, a little piece of physical drama is one of the more memorable moments. Our trip to England ended up taking us to Ireland, through an Irish woman we met at a festival in England. Next thing we knew, Rich and I were traveling across Ireland with Josephine, heading towards her home town of Ennis, when Rich had to pee.

We were in the middle of green fields, which went on on both sides of the road for a long ways. None of us had explored these fields, apparently, but they were clearly there. There often weren’t any fences or stone walls or anything between the road and the field, but there was this little hump. By all visual appearances, the field was on the other side of the hump.

Rich encountered the hump, and kept walking, figuring apparently he’d get a little further away from the road before emptying his bladder. What none of us realized was that on the other side of the hump was the field, but in between the hump and the field was a ditch. Rich went over the hump and then quickly disappeared from view, at a pace that was immediately alarming to both Josephine and I.

We feared the worst, having no idea what that might be, but as it turned out, Rich landed well in the ditch, avoiding injury, though not emerging mud-free.

I could continue with other memories, but I’ll just leave you with that one, and make room for someone else to say something.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New year plan: more podcasting!

My plans for the rest of 2019 include making around 51 more podcast episodes, finishing the first draft of my first-fifty-years memoir, raising kids, and making a lot of espresso in the process (especially this summer in Denmark), among other things.

I've learned a lot about making micro podcast episodes since I started with this project last August.  If you haven't listened to one recently, I recommend them!  They're very short -- usually around 5 to 7 minutes long, and each one includes a song, sometimes written just this week, about a very recent event.

Making the podcasts each week, whether they include a new song or one written slightly less recently that's relevant to this week in one way or another, has become a preferred method of communicating with the world for me.  I've become a big fan of the format -- a short audio essay followed by a song.  Both forms of communication have strengths and weaknesses, and I think they work together well.

The micro podcast project has been well-received, which is very nice, because it's quite a bit of work.  Every week there are many hours involved with writing episodes (especially if they include a new song), a few hours recording them, and and a few more each week in distributing them through many different outlets.

The podcast phenomenon differs somewhat with other forms of broadcasting.  One of the particularly nice things about podcasts are how relatively easy it is to make them accessible on many different platforms.  In the age of Too Much Information, one of the biggest problems many of us (including me) have is keeping track of things I actually want to keep track of.  Different methods work better for different people than others.  This seemed like a good occasion to run through the various platforms where my podcast is available each week.
 
  • The podcast is embedded on my website, so every time there's a new one it appears at davidrovics.com/thisweek.  That's also where I have all the info about the podcast and where people can find it and support it -- it's the podcast's home page.
  • I send an announcement about each new episode to my email list, which people can sign up to on my website at davidrovics.com.
  • Every time I upload an episode via Podbean it appears there and gets automatically distributed every week to iTunes and Google Play.  So whatever podcasting app you have on whatever device, whether it's an iOs device that came with Apple's Podcasts app, or if you downloaded a free podcasting app such as Podbean or Podcast Addict, you can subscribe to the podcast by searching for it by name -- This Week with David Rovics.  On Podbean there's also an RSS feed available, as well as links and code for embedding the whole podcast or any individual episode on any website, blog, etc.
  • Every episode appears on SpotifySoundCloud, and YouTube, so if you don't use a typical podcasting app but you do use one of those platforms, you can follow me on any of them and hear about new episodes as soon as they're up.
  • If you follow me on social media like Facebook or Twitter I post new episodes there, too (but good luck ever hearing about them on a consistent basis that way -- it's not a good way to do it, especially Facebook, because of the way their algorithms work, and for other reasons).
  • The David Rovics app is available on both iOs and Android, and includes the latest podcast episode each week, first thing.
  • I upload each episode to the Pacifica Audioport for use by radio programmers looking for FCC-friendly, syndicated content each week.
  • I maintain a podcast blog where there's an entry for each episode that includes an embed of the episode followed by the transcript of the podcast.  And of course for those of you who follow blogs, the blog can be followed, and it has an RSS feed.
If you know anyone who tends to use any of the aforementioned platforms, feel free to tell them about the podcast.  I'll be very happy if it starts getting thousands of downloads every week, rather than just hundreds!

The podcast, like everything else I do, is made possible most especially by members of my Community-Supported Art program.