Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ramblings On Akron: My Hometown

Last night I was reminded (once again) of just one of the many reasons I love my hometown. An evening spent at the Northside listening to live music from a great band reminded me of the rich music heritage that exists in our little corner of the the Akron/Kent/Cleveland world. I grew up here, and like many of my friends, have gone through stages of lovin' it and wanting to move. Although I admit that most of the "wanting to move" reasons hit me in February!

I was at Kent State during the heyday of the "New Wave" scene in the late 70's and early 80's, and regularly hung out at JB's to see The Numbers Band, Unit 5, The Action, and Hammer Damage to name just a few of the local bands who played the bars during those years. I also recall an amazing country/rock band, Buckeye Biscuit, as well as one of the great blues guitarists who still plays around, Frankie Starr. Of course our area also has its claim to fame with artists that went on to be downright famous in various genres: Chrissie Hynde, Jim Brickman, Tracy Chapman, Eric Carmen, and others, but last night was a real treat, because I sat and watched some amazing local players who gathered together for a jam session under the name of "The Mid-Life Chryslers".

The Chryslers, with Akron native Mark Lee Shannon and a guy you might have heard of: Michael Stanley also featured a cast of great players, most of whom have played together in various Michael Stanley projects. This formation treated us to a blend of rock and blues, featuring some of Marc's originals as well as covers of classic rock and blues songs from Sly and The Family Stone, to The Rolling Stones, Clapton and tons more. Paul Christensen was exceptional on sax. Marc's passionate guitar playing and vocals were soulful. And Michael had a few blistering guitar solos himself. It was a great evening of music.

One of the highlights of the night for me was non-musical. I met one of the owners of the Northside, Michael Owen, who gave me and my friend the rich history of the building that is home to the club. The rooms above have been lovingly restored and contain an artist colony featuring boutiques and galleries upstairs. The galleries are housed in a myriad of small rooms, one after another that in Akron's historical heyday, was a brothel. Each of those rooms were used for, get it. Across the street in another historical building is a glass blowing gallery. And of course, the famous Akron institution Luigi's is right next door to the Northside!

As Michael talked about his "neighborhood" on this little block of downtown Akron, he made me smile. He said Akron has all you need. it's a small big town--or a big small town, and it has at least "one" of everything you'd want to do. From every genre of live music, to live theatre, to art galleries, museums and such. It's just that once you do it, you have to keep going back to the same place!

Working in radio, I am blessed to see a lot of live music. But there is nothing like watching a gathering of exceptional musicians who are playing because they just love to play--having the kind of fun you can feel in an intimate setting like the Northside.

To quote a famous MSB song "This is My Town"...Akron. And I don't have to apologize that I grew up here, raised my girls here, and am still gainfully employed here (Thank God) And I fell in love with it again last night.

And oh, the weather helps too.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Faith and Religion: Reflections for Easter

I have never doubted my faith. Raised in a traditional Catholic family by parents who lived what they believed, I always knew there was a God. As I got older, I went through the phases most of us go through. Questioning the doctrine, or what I perceived to the "rules and regulations" that made up the Catholic Church. In college, and in my young adult life, I went from trying various churches and denominations, to not going to church at all. Marriage and children had me running back to the Church, wanting to instill the faith and value system I grew up with into my children.

I worked in Christian radio for 5 years before coming to my current job, and I was exposed not only to some of the greatest music in the world (along with country music of course) but also a great many faith-filled men and women. I was also exposed to more churches over those 5 years than I ever had been in my life. Not only the various denominations inside the umbrella of Christianity, but also non-denominational churches. And on this Easter Sunday morning, as I read the various scriptural accounts of the disciples of the events that happened on that Sunday over 2000 years ago, I reflect on the strength of my faith, and the weakness of my religion.

I think of the many sermons I've absorbed that were different interpretations of the very same passage. I think about the tolerance of one religion's stance on an issue and another's lack of tolerance on that same issue, and I smile and think "who has it right?". Could it be that this great God of ours has allowed there to be so many different paths to the same destination because He knows how different we all are? I think many of the men and women who think they have it all figured out will get to heaven and look over on the left, and see the Jew, the Methodist, the Pentecostal, the Charismatic, and the Orthodox, and then look to the right and see the Lutheran, the Catholic, and the Baptist; and ahead to the man or woman who never went to any church at all and say "Hmmm, they made it too!". And the Three Who Are One will just smile along with us, and impart the ultimate understanding to us all.

For me, today is a day to focus on those things that unite us. To reflect on the strength of my faith and on the weakness of my religion. And to ask for continued help on this journey I'm on. I don't know much, but I do know this: I believe the various accounts of what was written down and passed along through the ages. Because even through thousands of translations the message remains the same. I especially love the Easter passage of the women who ran to the tomb on Sunday morning and were greeted by the Angel who said:

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” Matthew 28: 5-7.

The Easter Season begins today.

Happy Easter.