A Kase of… Biking in Key West. At night!

16 08 2010

I lived in Key West, Florida for almost three years.  I don’t tell people that as much as I used to because the response to that statement is almost always “Why did you leave??” thrown at me in disbelief.  Believe me, my Key West adventures could fill enough blogs for a year; in fact my blogging buddy Adam Gercak of Throwing Quarters thinks there’s a book in some of my adventure stories… we’ll see…

One of the best and worst things about Key West is the weather.  I can picture the shaking heads of my fellow current residents in the Cleveland, Ohio area as they think of the 5+ months we have of cold, gray weather on the “North Coast”.  However, this past week Cleveland (like many parts of the US) was sweltering under very Key West-like weather with temps in the 90s and very high humidity.  In Key West, we had five months of that weather. every. single. day.

Now before you think that’s a dream come true, I ask you to think about what the hot weather has been like over the past few days – meteorologists have used words like ‘oppressive’, ‘harsh’ or ‘brutal’ to describe the heat.  And that would be accurate.  In Key West, the sun would beat down on you all day, and many jobs were outside in the heat.  But, in the evening, as dusk approached and the tourists all gathered at Mallory Square to watch the sun set, I would hop on my bike and ride around the island.

This was one of my favorite things to do in Key West for many reasons.  The first was that for as harsh and brutal the daytime heat was, the night air had a gentle softness to it; a light breeze that brushed across your skin like silk.  You could smell the sweetness of the various tropical plants – the Bougainvillea, Hibiscus and Oleander, plus the flowers on the Royal Poinciana trees.  The scents would hang in the humid air and mingle with a freshness that can never be captured by any candle.

As I peddled down the narrow streets I often found I was not the only one enjoying the night air: many of the cats from the island would sit on stairways and fence posts and watch in silence as I rode past.  Some of these cats had found people to live with, others  just lived from the good will of people.  Yes, many of the cats were polydactyl cats and I would meow at them (I speak cat quite well), but most were just as happy as I was to be taking in the soothing night air.

The other fun part of biking through Key West at night was the rather voyeuristic opportunity to see  inside the lighted rooms of many of the old homes that had been built in the 1800s.  I didn’t want to see the people; I enjoyed seeing the homes!  I am fascinated by architecture and the  romantic nature of these beautiful old homes:  The Gingerbread houses, the Eyebrow houses and the beautiful Victorian mansions made of plank after plank of southern yellow pine, which held up through years of extreme temperatures and more than a few hurricanes.

The whole experience was very soothing and relaxing, and I found myself embracing the wonder in the small, simple treasures of the island.  That was part of why I had moved to Key West from Chicago – to ‘decompress’ from my city life.   The other thing to remember is that this was the early-to-mid 1990s, before we were tethered to a smart phone or a lap top.  Forget Twitter or Facebook- the internet hadn’t happened yet.  Most of us didn’t have cell phones.  Long distance calls went out over your landline and cost money.

Last week I went biking around my suburban neighborhood of Westlake, OH.  I needed to get away from my laptop, and the the modern technology I embrace  so heartily.   I went biking at night, in the dark, and the air was once again so gentle after the harshness of the day’s heat.   I was flooded with my Key West memories and I found myself longing for the serenity I used to feel on those nocturnal rides through the Southernmost Point in the United States.  In my opinion, the McMansions of the nearby development do not hold a candle to the beautiful homes in Key West, but I was still very relaxed from the experience.  I started to notice details of the neighborhood which evaded me when I drove through in a car.  I began to appreciate the little things I had been rushing past for months.

This time of year is always hard for me – I feel like so many people have already shifted in to Back-to-School mode, or are thinking about their fantasy football team when I want to continue to embrace every moment of summer, no matter how hot.  So please take a moment to feel the air before the summer leaves us all too quickly.  Take a night to turn off your A/C and open the windows.  Hear the cicadas in the trees, the smell of the hydrangeas, and maybe the meow of the occasional stray cat.

Summer comes and goes so quickly, and soon enough it will be cold, rainy and blustery; just a precursor to months of snow, boots and thick coats.  If you have a bike, get on it – go for a ride at night (yes, have lights on your bike and be smart about it, ok?) or for an adventure in your neighborhood during the day.

Coming up on Wednesday, I’ll fill you in on the details of my 10 mile Sunday bike ride which included unexpected stops at cemetery and a public baptism in Lake Erie.  If I had been driving in my car, I would have missed it all!  Slow down, explore and enjoy!





It’s one for the Bucket List

22 12 2009

Being able to go backstage at a rock concert really is cool.  I’m not going to deny it; it is one of the elite experiences that is an earned privilege.  It’s one of the things I would have everyone put on their “bucket list”.  You cannot buy a backstage pass like you can with “special vip” seating and parking at certain concert venues (a smart, albeit annoying, marketing ploy in my opinion).  So I always look forward to when Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) comes to Cleveland and I get to go backstage.

I have “earned” this privilege as WNCX (the radio station for which I am DJ) was the first station in the country to really play TSO, and my boss, Program Director Bill Louis suggested to TSO creator Paul O’Neill that he take the story and do it as a concert.  I have always been a big advocate and believer of the band, doing my best to promote and support them and the individual side projects as well.  The first two years of TSO shows were very “evolutionary” compared to the current, regulated grueling tour schedule; back then TSO would have a show in Cleveland, then 3 or 4 days off, drive to another city, then come back to Cleveland.  The band got to hang out a lot here in Cleveland, and that’s how we all got to know each other.

This past weekend marked the 11th year TSO played in Cleveland, with matinée & evening shows on both Saturday & Sunday. Yes, I was at all four shows and I stayed true to my philosophy: I want to share this fun experience with friends and family who have never seen the band and/or have never had the “backstage experience” before (so they can check it off their bucket list!)

This year my guests were:  Mary Kay Stahley, Executive Director of Malachi House, a wonderful facility which provides hospice for the dying poor www.malachihouse.org @MalachiHouse;  Adam Gercak (@acgercak), the man behind Throwing Quarters blog & podcast www.throwingquarters.com/ and his lovely wife and graphic designer, Jenn (@jmacgercak); Susie Sharp, CLE social media enthusiast and soon-to-be blogger (@SusieSharp); and a last-minute fill-in, Pat McKay, good friend of Adam and a drummer with local band The Poland Invasion http://www.myspace.com/jenpoland, who was blown away by Jeff Plate’s drum kit!  (http://www.jeffplate.com/)

I told my friends to forget about any pre-conceived notions of backstage drunken debauchery; this tour is now a well-oiled machine, with no time for shenanigans.  But there is awesome catering (sushi bar, lamb chops, prime rib & even a full cooler of Dippin Dots!) Plus it just looks cool to see everything works.

With four shows in two days, you know these peeps work hard!  To help them blow off  some steam, there was a special after-show private party Saturday night at the Q – a Karaoke party for band members, crew and friends.  There was a similar party 4 or 5 years ago (the years have begun to blur).  The last party was hilarious as professional singers mixed with, er, “non-professionals”, singing everything from Madonna to Metallica.  I’m not a singer, so I never thought to get up and “karaoke” last time.

HOWEVER, that changed THIS year!

Yup, after quite a bit of prodding from Rob Evan (who, btw, starred in the original Broadway cast of Jekyll & Hyde, playing the title roles for three years and over 600 performances www.Rob-Evan.com ) I got up to sing in front of a bunch of professionals.  I didn’t have any booze for “courage”.  I had never done karaoke before.  It was all pretty scary stuff- guitarist Alex Skolnick (@AlexSkolnick) was watching too!  www.alexskolnick.com.

Sorry, there is no “and then she was discovered” story happy ending here – the fact is, I bombed!  I tried to sing “Pepper” by The Butthole Surfers.  http://www.last.fm/music/Butthole+Surfers/_/Pepper I couldn’t keep up, so I had them start the karaoke machine over again.  My mouth was so dry by the end of the first verse, I could barely swollow.  But I stuck it out all the way until the end and finished the song.

Driving home later that night, I kept replaying my “performance” in my head, berating myself for doing so badly.  Then a smile slowly came across my face.  It didn’t really matter how well I did; just that I had done it!  How many people will EVER have that opportunity in their lifetime:  to sing Karaoke in front of broadway leads, rock stars, and professional singers? I had the opportunity and I DID IT!  (I should tell you that NOT ironically, you could see the giant LeBron Nike “Witness” billboard outside the window – the one that takes up almost the entire side of a building).

Another very cool, elite, and special experience I can check off my bucket list!

I’ll leave you with this thought:  The next time something comes along that seems too scary (or potentially embarrassing) to tackle, take a pause… maybe it’s the universe giving you an “at bat” with something from your bucket list.  Think for a moment; will you walk through your fear, or live with regret?  Nike gets props for this one, “Just Do It!”





From Stranger to special BFF in 48 hours: A True Twitter Tale (and a look at my life of late!)

19 12 2009

This is a “reprint” of my first blog post which was published on the “Throwing Quarters” blog/podcast (http://www.throwingquarters.com/) Thanks to Adam for allowing me to use it here; I feel it gives you all a good idea of what is currently going on in my life.  A birthday blog post will be up later today!

 

From Stranger to special BFF in 48 hours: A True Twitter Tale

 That is how I would describe my relationship with Adam Gercak (AKA Throwing Quarters).  So when he asked for guest bloggers to help cover his posts over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, it seemed the logical thing to do; the next progression of our friendship. It is also an honor to have this, my first ever blogpost, featured in his blog. 

 But in order to appreciate where Adam and I are today, we need to look back and review how we got here.  Ours is truly a happy story of the ‘social’ aspect of social media; of some of the best results one could hope for from this new era of communication.  The coolest part: versions of this story could be happening to people everyday, maybe even to you!

 The Common Question (?)

 “So how have things been?”  “What’s new?” “Whatcha been up to?”

“How ARE you?”

 How many of us will be asked these ubiquitous questions over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend?  How many times will we answer with polite, generic responses: “Things are the same”, “nothing much”, “I’m good”. 

 I was recently asked these very questions by a friend I hadn’t seen in a few months.  I looked at her and I wasn’t sure where to begin. Instead of giving her one of the usual scripted responses, I was honest with her, telling her how I had been let go from my ‘day job’ on 4/3/09 – and I that am still job hunting.

 I saw her look of concern and sympathy, but before she could say anything, I told her it was all ok – even better than ok. Now she looked puzzled. 

 I explained I felt like Dorothy when she opened the door from her black and white world to the new world of Oz in Technicolor, or, maybe more appropriately, like Neo, when he swallowed the red pill and wakes up in ‘the real world’ and begins to understand the true nature of The Matrix.

 No, I wasn’t on drugs: rather, I had finally discovered the world of social media, and I couldn’t imagine how I had ever lived without it.  She looked skeptical and dismissive, possessing the same attitude I had toward social media only 6 months ago: Facebook and twitter are a playground for self-absorbed people with way too much time on their hands.

 Extolling the virtues and conveniences of twitter (especially once I had been shown Tweetdeck) fell on deaf ears with her, and the glazed look in her eyes made me realize I was losing her.  I offered to give her an example of the power of twitterverse….  Here it goes….

The common (or not-so-common?) occurrence

 My first day on twitter was Friday, 7/31/2009; just five short months ago. (I’m @KaseyCrabtree, BTW).  Two weeks later, Friday August 14, 2009, I experienced my first #FollowFriday using Tweetdeck.  It was so exciting – I felt like I had arrived! I think I had about 75-100 followers at that point and was excited to connect with new people. 

 @TeamNEO (an organization that promotes business growth and development in NE Ohio) had several #FollowFriday suggestions, many were business, but there was one in the list that was just a name – @acgercak.  I clicked on it and stumbled across one of Adam’s great Throwing Quarters blog entries discussing an “off day” vs. a “day off”.  The quick read was entertaining, candid, witty and well written. I was intrigued.

I tweeted him back complimenting his writing, and so began a dialog between us.  Based on some of his writing, I wondered if he worked in retail?  yes he did; I then shared how I had recently been let go from a high-end retail job myself.  As our short tweets continued back and forth, we both began to see a picture of each other and how many common interests we shared.  Moreover, he was working practically right across the street from my condo, AND we both regularly frequented the same Starbucks.  It was quite the series of coincidences!

 I can’t remember the exact sequences of events as he discovered I work part-time as a radio DJ (Adam also has some radio experience), and I then invited me to attend the taping of a ThrowingQuarters podcast on Sunday Aug 16th at The Barley House.  Sunday rolled around; I went to the show featuring singer/songwriter Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorMusic) and then found myself sitting in on the recording of the podcast, interjecting questions.  It all seemed so effortless, so natural, so comfortable.  By the time the night had ended, many smiles had been exchanged and pictures taken.

 Adam seemed like a friend I had known for years, yet 48 hours prior, neither one of us had known of the other’s existence (Adam may have heard me on the radio).  Now, I couldn’t imagine not having this kindred spirit in my life.  I told him he was like my new BFF GF, but he wasn’t a girl, nor was he gay!  However, I felt like I could talk with him about almost anything, and I have!

 We are still good friends; I have come to know his wife Jenn, and I tease both of them about the fact that they may have named their new daughter Addison, but I already had a 3 yr old cat by the same name.  See??? Yet another coincidence. 

 Now remember, this wonderful friendship is ALL a DIRECT RESULT of having connected on twitter.

 So what did my friend think of this story? She was intrigued, but still concerned about my current status. I acknowledged that on paper, my situation might seem bleak:  I am divorced with no kids (I have 3 cats), I have been unemployed for over 6 months, plus I am deeply in debt and terribly behind on all my bills.

 I smiled and looked her straight in the eyes.  All these facts are true; these are all hurdles for me to overcome.  However, I have more hope and a stronger positive feeling toward the future than I have had in over 10 years!  I feel that our society is on the cusp of a new dimension of communication, almost as significant as the invention of the printing press. 

Yet more importantly, I feel like I have finally found “my people”.  A community of caring, positive, foreword-thinking people who embrace change and the future, with excitement and awe.  I have happily stepped into the new world of Social Media, and with every bone in my body; I believe it represents my future. 

To paraphrase a line from a favorite book, please join me; please join US, as we ‘tweet the road of happy destiny’.  See you all in the twitterverse!