Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Streetlights

Happy Thanksgiving, Comrades!

Wow, I've got a lot to feel grateful about this year, and one of those things is you good folks reading this! I really appreciate the audience.

Thanksgiving is an increasingly complex holiday for me. It used to be lame. No presents.
Then it started to get meaningful. Then I lost my cousin a few days before the holiday. I now keep a gratitude journal, and that got me thinking. I'm often confused with the topic, and unwittingly alienate and offend people with my persistent questions on the emotion. This is in contrast to the times I intentionally alienate and offend people, mind you! It all boils down to this: People say I should be grateful to be breathing. I answer that it's the default state for a healthy person like me to breathe. I finally got it hammered out. If I substitute "Appreciate" for "Gratitude", I've got it.

I always think of Thanksgiving as the gateway to the holiday season. My mom has told me before that she thinks of Christmas as hope and light in the darkness. I always liked that. In lieu of my cousin's passing, this theme of light in the dark seems to take on a more urgent meaning, and the need to appreciate imperative.

The theme of people mattering, and letting them know that they matter, has become an important one to me. So what better time to think of it than around Thanksgiving.

One of the things I'm most appreciative of this year is The Streetlights. You're probably a Streetlight. This term hit me the other day. I went across the street to buy yet another box of veggie burgers to microwave. (I really need to pack a lunch.) I ran into the guy who keeps the frozen food isle stocked at Food Lion. He's probably about my age, and we're always laughing and joking, saying "Hey man, why'd you take the burgers off sale?" Without fail, because of that guy, I leave the frozen foods section of the rather dingy store with a big grin on my face.

Then it hit me - he's like a street light, illuminating a lonely corner of the world, and providing light for the passerby.

We all want to matter. We all want to count. Celebrities garner all the attention, and they're like the screens in Times Square. They illuminate the way for a lot of people. But anyone can be a Streetlight, and sometimes we're most grateful for the lonely lamp on the dark country road in the rain.

This can tie in to guitar. Next time you're playing a lousy gig, instead of cursing your luck, or hating Justin Bieber even more, illuminate that room with a righteous tone. Of course, strive, aim to burn your brightest in the best possible location. But always, always light up where you are. Don't wait till you're in Times Square to throw some photons to the good people.

Ya never know who's lost in the dark.

Shine on, and Happy Thanksgiving.

- Josh

Friday, November 19, 2010

Light up the Sky

I wonder if she was writing it about this time three years ago today. Her goodbye note. I guess the pen really is mightier than the sword, 'cause it sliced 'n diced everyone pretty good that time. I went down by the river today, and watched the wind converse with the water, and saw an eagle negotiate his passage with the breeze. Everything was bright and fresh, and her absence in this world was unnoticed to the eagle and the breeze as a stone tossed in the swirling waters, it's concentric rings of influence fading fast. But for those of us on the shore, the sound of it dropping into the darkness remains.

I'm going over to Mom's house to put up Christmas lights with the fam. We probably won't light them yet, but they'll be there. It seems a nice thing to do today...To put another beacon in the world to light up the darkness.

Maybe if we're all lighthouses, then those of us who can't see through the storm will find their way. Maybe if we shine that light of attention and caring out into the squall, we can light up the sky and bring someone safely to shore.

I'm always annoying people by asking "are you really OK?" I figure the worst that happens is they think I'm rude, and that's probably a given, anyway. Start asking people, yourself. You never know who you'll help. I wish someone had asked her.

And if you need to talk, I'm always here.

- Josh

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Honor, In Memoriam

The leaves are falling today, and they cover the ground. My feet rustle through them, and I look at them all, lying there, fallen from the trees. It's Veteran's Day here in America, and it's a rather fitting time of year.

I saw the old men in their World War II hats collecting pocket change for the VFW. I strode across the parking lot, feeling as young as they once did, and shook their hands to thank them. I wanted to put something in the jar, but money's a little tight right now, and I only had a few twenties in my wallet. I lied to their courageous old faces and said that I had just dropped my money off at the bank. Ten minutes later, I realized - banks are closed for Veteran's Day. D'oh! Mannn....So, in honor of them, and all of the soldiers, I turn to the format of the blog.

I'm a fiercely political animal, and probably will always be. I read the editorials almost every day, and watch the politics play out in Washington like a mean-spirited football game. I've volunteered on several campaigns, and have been involved for years. I also love history, and am fascinated with the stories. Throw all that in the mix, and you could imagine how I ponder on days like today, when I see my friends wound up so tight from time spent in Iraq...When I shake the hands of those guys from the VFW, and wonder how many times those frail fingers had to pull a trigger...When I look over at some music gear that a vet friend gave me, and wonder how in the world did he emerge from brutal war to be so generous and kind, much less alive?

It all confuses me, and the first place I go is the causes and solutions of conflict. But then my political questions subside, and I put them away. It strikes me that we should have a day, maybe the day after Veteran's Day, when we ask ourselves these questions.

For me, today is about them, and honoring them, and realizing what a part of their lives they've given up. To remember their buddies who, like the leaves today, covered the ground, and who aren't around to reach for the sunshine. To reach out to the grunt who just lived through hell in the desert, and who's maybe having a bit of a tough time getting used to life stateside. To remember all of the wars, and all of the tears, and all of the struggle and sacrifice. I think of the chill I got looking at the Iwo Jima memorial, and how they left plenty of room on the pedestal - that's where they carve the names of the battles. I think of all of this, and the immensity of the thoughts are staggering. I'm not quite sure what to do - except to shake the hands, doff my cap, and honor their sacrifice.

And I do.

In Honor, In Memoriam,

- Josh

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Frank Zappa and Stevie Ray Vaughan...

Is who I was (sorta) compared to in my LATEST CD REVIEW!!!

OK, Comrades, a lot has happened in the past week or so. I had a CD release party and student recital. It rocked. I went to the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally. I kicked a baby there. Accidentally. The stupid yuppie lady wouldn't move her three wheeled stroller. Ooops. I wore my communist shirt with an "I Voted" sticker on election day. Ironic. I got on iTunes. Exciting!

But check it out - someone used my guitar playing and Stevie Ray Vaughan's name in the same sentence. WOWWWWWW! LOOK AT ME!!!! LOOK AT ME!!!!!

Urban, one-man band, releases CD

Friday, Oct. 29, 2010

Click here to enlarge this photo
Submitted photo
The cover image on Josh Urban's new CD.

Early on, it's industrial blues. Later, Josh Urban's debut EP, "Signalman," conjures, if you can imagine it, a blend of industrial rock and jazz fusion.

The five-track effort ends, meanwhile, with a feisty foot stomper, "The Good Lord's Lasso," which comes out just in time for Halloween. None of this, though, is about to be undone by the third track, a spoken-word ramble aptly described by its title: "Radio W-HAM."

Tired of playing in bands, Urban, a guitar teacher in Waldorf, has ambitiously spearheaded his own one-man band project. In other words, everything you hear on this album, and everything you will hear at his CD release concert tonight, was set into action by him, be it Stevie Ray Vaughn-flavored guitar licks, Frank Zappa-like vocalizing or the sounds of a looping drum machine.

If you would like to see Urban's one-man show and, as he puts it, "his trademark tacky fashion style," head to his party.