OUR GROWING FAMILY
Lonna and I welcome Tayla Isadora Kontras (formerly Erdy) to our family. She and Adam were married three days after Christmas and we were able to fly to North Hollywood for the event.

The Rehearsal Dinner was held at "The Great Greek" on Ventura Blvd. The owner, Theodore, was our host and waiter.

L
Left to right: RaeLynne (Adam's mother), Karen (Talya's mother), Talya, Adam, Allan (Talya's father),
me and Lonna

Karen and Talya

The Wedding
There are three excellent videos of the wedding that can be viewed: The first is the drama that occurred prior to the wedding. Yes, there is profanity. The second is the ceremony, which has some very comical moments and no profanity. The third is the reception, which has some profanity. Special thanks to Adam who caused me to put the words "profanity" and "wedding" in the same paragraph.
 
 
 
 
 
The wedding and the reception were held at the Braemar Country Club in L.A.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Honeymoon
Well... portions of the Honeymoon.
 
 

CALIFORNIA BLASI'S

While in California, we had an opportunity - at the beginning and end of our stay - to spend time with Lonna's brother, David, and his family who live in Seal Beach. BTW, Lonna took the picture with her iPhone and other than correcting the dog's eyes, there was no retouching done. A pretty good photo for an amateur photographer with a five megapixel camera in a cell phone and using only the available light.

 
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It appears we will be adding another family member in 2012. Kenny and Amy have announced their engagement and are planning a wedding in late fall. Kenny continues his work at Hill Distributing as the only mechanical technician for the truck fleet. Amy now manages an Advance Auto Parts store and is back in school studying cyber forensics. (We could have an FBI agent in the family sometime in the future.)
A couple of Kenny 's "Toys."
 
 
Amy with their puppy... then
 
 
Kenny with their not-so-puppy... now.
 

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Lonna continues to be her parents' primary caregiver but has received assistance from her sister, Lissa, who drove from Memphis (TN) several times this year to help out. Lonna is in her seventh year at Greenleaf Job Training Services. Her responsibilities are many and she handles all of them with grace. I know I've said this before: I don't know how she keeps everything going.
 
Here's a couple of pics from our Christmas Eve with her parents, Jean and Lou Blasi.
 

 

Meet the Blasi Triplets!
I had some Photoshop fun with her when she was showing me new clothes she purchased recently.
 
After years of begging her to get rid of her little flip-top cell phone, she finally decided it was time to get a phone that would help her keep track of all her appointments, contacts, e-mail, etc. Now, she and her iPhone are joined at the hip. I've never seen her take to a piece of technology like this. Don't misunderstand me, I think it's wonderful.
 
But seriously, she's obsessed.
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Kelso and Koal are both doing well. Kelso has been experiencing allergy issues so we're working through that medical maze. Koal, on the other hand, seems indestructible and at the top of his game. He continues to remain in charge of the Domestic Animal Agenda in the house.
 
No surprise there.

 
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My duties at work have increased considerably since I was promoted to the Marketing Team and also became the Assistant to the Senior V.P. / Regional Manager. It's a dual role, for sure.
 
On the administrative side, my job encompasses budget disbursements, invoice management for the entire central region, expense reports, travel arrangements, event planning and video conferencing.
 
On the marketing side, I create or help create point of sale materials such as B2B, consumer and recruitment brochures. I also develop print ads for newspapers and magazines. I'm involved in the branding initiative and brand awareness for the company, creating standards for logo usage in all media. I'm also creating presentations both in video and PowerPoint formats. It's non-stop. I am in my fifth year with the company.
 
This is a video presentation I assembled for our annual dinner that highlights all the community activities, TV and radio advertising MAPFRE Insurance did in 2011. Below are some print ads I created.
 
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WHY THIS TITLE?

I'll start with the second word first: PNEUMONIA.

Holy Crap! My first-ever experience with this challenge was a nightmare, not just for me, but Lonna as well. (We had to sleep apart for over a month so she could get some rest.) It started out as sniffles and a sore throat on October 5th, which usually leads to a minor head cold and takes less than two weeks for full recovery.
 
Not this time.
 
Into the second week, my condition was not improving. Instead, my body was creating more fluids than I ever thought was humanly possible. Although I continued to work and play music, it was becoming increasingly difficult. By October 17th, I wasn't sleeping more than 2-3 hours a night. I finally had to stay home from work on the 19th because I was so sleep-deprived. I tried to go back on the 20th and was falling asleep at my desk (not the way to impress your boss), so on October 21st, I visited my physician.
 
"Your lungs are filling up. You have a viral infection that has turned into pneumonia."
 
"What? How do sniffles and a sore throat turn into pneumonia?"
 
"Well, you're not twenty-five anymore."
 
Smart ass.
 
He prescribed doxycycline for ten days and demanded that I follow up with him right after that. He also prescribed… Vicodin.
 
I thought he was joking when he said that it is a very good cough suppressant. He said to take one a day, about a half hour before bed, and I would sleep through the night. The effect would not last more than six hours.
 
He was right. I took one each evening at bedtime for seven nights and by then, my lungs were starting to clear thus allowing me to sleep without medication. But I was still hacking all kinds of foreign substances and now my right Eustachian Tube and middle ear had fluid in them, wreaking havoc on my normally very good hearing.
 
I revisited my doctor twice in early November to make sure my lungs had cleared and to make sure there was nothing wrong with my right ear drum because the fidelity was so out of kilter. He said it looked fine and that the Eustachian Tube Dysfunction would go away... eventually. He said to try Mucinex D for about 5 days, to see if that wouldn't help to relieve the symptoms.
 
No luck. There's $15.99 I'll never get back.
 
As November continued, it seemed that some of my symptoms were returning - more mucus, intense coughing, etc. One night, I reluctantly had to take one of those Vicodin in order to fall asleep. I revisited my doctor again on the 22nd. He prescribed… Prednisone!? 60MGs for two days, 40MGs for two days, 30MGs for two days, and so on.
 
"Really? That'll work?"
 
"This will knock it out of you. What's happening is your body is still fighting as if the infection is still present. The medication will bring you back into balance, basically reducing the hyper-activity of your system's antibodies."
 
"You're the doctor."
 
I thought for sure he was losing his mind. I'd never heard of using cortisone meds in this fashion, but then I'd never been in this situation before.
 
It worked - for the most part.
 
By the end of the month, the symptoms - even the post antibiotic symptoms - were nearly gone. But I was still having right ear dysfunction issues which included a very slight, almost inaudible hiss. (Imagine a tiny pin hole in a car tire and how close you would have to get to hear it.) My doctor referred me to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for a second opinion, just to reassure me the condition was temporary. Unfortunately, I couldn't get an appointment until December 12th.
 
Sidebar: My hearing is critical to my future because I would like to be able to write, record and engineer my own recordings in retirement. I want to know that I can continue to mix audio correctly as I have done all these years. I've gone to great lengths to protect my hearing, even to the extent that I wear ear plugs on stage when I'm performing in high volume situations.
 
The specialist said the he had to look at my chart to be sure of my age because my hearing falls well within the normal range - in both ears. No scar tissue on the either drum, and nothing to suggest that all my symptoms were anything but temporary. The hiss that I was experiencing was slowly - very slowly - fading.
 
In the first days of 2012, symptoms I experienced in early October were starting to return, so I returned to the doctor on January 5th. What I was experiencing was not a resurgance of the pneumonia, but a bronchial infection. I was prescribed the well-known "Z Pack" for the first time. According to the doctor, I probably picked up the "bug" from someone at the Blasi household in California (where at least two members of the family had colds) or on the flight back home. Apparently, my immune system is still not up to parr.
 
As I write this, it appears I'm well on my way to clear bronchial tubes, esutachian tubes and lungs.
 
Here's hopin'.
 
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ROCKIN'
(More Than Ever Before) 
 

I performed in six bands this year. Of the six, three were just fill-in positions for bands that needed a keyboardist for a special occasion. I even played one venue three different times, in three different bands.

 
 
 
Powerline performed its final gig on January 15th. Without going into all the details, I'll just say… it was time. The project was over two years old and seemed to just lose its steam.
 
 
 
I answered an ad in February for a band that was looking for a keyboardist to fill in for one gig. Before I came to the first rehearsal, I was offered the position as keyboardist. Unknown to me, another band's lead vocalist had been keeping an eye on me because he wanted me to join their band. More on that later.
 
My first gig with "Enchanted" was May 1st. We had eight more dates booked through October 15th. When August rolled around, I noticed that no more dates had been added to the calendar and no one wanted to rehearse. It seemed as if this project was also losing steam. I decided to look for something else. I gave the group a 2+ month notice promising to complete the remaining engagements with them, thereby honoring my commitment.
 
The group decided to use their former keyboardist for the last two gigs. In an ironic twist, the bassist, Rick Anderson, who first placed the ad that I responded to, is now with the group... (later)
 
 
 
Joanne Blum was the minister of Unity East Church in Pickerington, Ohio for many years. She retired from that church but did not retire from ministry. Her musical group, In Spirit, continues to perform for special events and is often featured at other churches.
 
They also have what they call a "First Saturday Chant with In Spirit" each month, which is held at the Unitarian Church on West Weisheimer Road in Columbus, from 5pm to 6pm. It is a spiritual service that revolves around music, with at least ten songs performed at each gathering. There's a message and a meditation woven with the songs that is very uplifting. Joe Lambert, Joanne's husband, handles the live sound and also performs with the group.
 
I performed with them on Saturday, September 3rd . What a great experience! I played keys and was asked to sing John Lennon's "Imagine." Here's a shot of us preparing for the chant.
 
 
Later in the year, they released a CD of music from these chants and I was so surprised to see that included among the many great tracks, was my performance. I was flattered beyond words. In addition, I play keys on tracks 3, 4, 6, 8 & 12. Click on the song titles to hear each cut from ths CD.
 
Hopefully, I'll get an opportunity to work with Joe and Joanne again. They are wonderful people.
 
 

 I remember Joe and Mary Stone from my days as a solo artist. They used to perform in many of the same venues that I played. 

Geoff Pomeroy, a very good friend, works with Mary. She was asking him if he knew a keyboardist that could fill in with Legal Tender. When Joe called, I gladly accepted the offer to work an outdoor gig with them in downtown Westerville, OH, on September 23rd. We only rehearsed once because I knew most of the tunes, having played them for so many years. It was fun working with them. 

We may do something again next year.

 1
 
 
 
 

This is just as much about connecting with old friends as it is about playing music. Flashback's drummer is Pete Goldhardt, the man who started "Reflection" with me back in 1975. Their guitarist, Fred Francis, and bassist, Darol Gilkerson, started Flashback shortly after "Reflection" was up and running. They started with a female lead vocalist who was with the group for a short time and then replaced with Michael Bova, the former lead singer for a group called "Slinky & Surprise." Michael has one of the best falsetto voices in the country. For those of you with musical knowledge, he easily hits G above high C. Don't believe me? Listen to this live recording - especially at the end. BTW, he's only a couple years younger than me.

 
The group needed a keyboardist for their gig at the Annual Italian Festival on October 8th, in downtown Columbus. I was glad to help out. We had a great time, especially during the two rehearsals. Many of these guys could easily do stand-up comedy. We had some great laughs talking about old times when all of us were performing for a living. I would enjoy working with them again.
 
 
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This is a two-year old story.
 
In early 2010, I received a call from a local singer who wanted to use the studio to do some voice-over work. He was also wanted to work with me on some original tunes.
 
That preliminary conversation led to the real reason he called. He was scouting me to possibly replace the keyboardist in his band. He noticed that "Powerline" had not started gigging yet and wondered if there were problems within the group. I thanked him for the offer but I told him that we would be going live soon and my loyalty was to this project. I also told him, "…no one can predict the future." I never like to burn bridges, even if I haven't crossed them yet.
 
Just before I took the offer to work with "Enchanted," he contacted me again, and I told him that I really wasn't sure I wanted to work that much (the band performed about 50-60 times year) and that I also wasn't sure I wanted to be working in bars again, so I turned him down. He was very polite and not at all insistent.
 
In August, when it was obvious that "Enchanted" wasn't progressing, I contacted three bands to let them know that I was looking to move on. "Stockton Way," "Flashback" and "These Guys Live."
 
"Stockton Way" wanted me to "jam" with them at a rehearsal even if I wasn't going to join the band. That didn't interest me. Also, they were playing music that really didn't require a keyboard player. I think they were looking for an additional voice, because they only had one vocalist.
 
"Flashback" wanted to give their current keyboardist a little more time plus they had gigs coming up so a change would be difficult during this period for them. (This was in August, prior to them asking me to play in October.)
 
I then contacted "These Guys live." The afore mentioned singer that was keeping tabs on me was Michael Doctor. We spoke over the phone for a few minutes and then set up a lunch meeting to discuss all the details.
 
During this lunch, I learned that their current keyboardist was leaving the group at the end of the year. I also learned that they were somewhat concerned with his behavior so they created a back-up plan, just in case he decided not to honor his promise to stay.
 
The surprise came when I learned that Paul Bernard, one of the guitarists from "Powerline," was their back-up plan. They were going to be a two guitar band without keyboards, if they suddenly found themselves short a keyboardist one night.
 
Two other twists in the story:
 
1.) The keyboardist I replaced had also played with "Flashback" about three years ago.
 
 
2.) TGL's bassist, Richard "Fletch" Sears (above), resigned on January 4, 2012 and we replaced him with... Rick Anderson, the former bassist for "Enchanted."
 
 
 
He also worked with Michael Doctor many years ago in the very popular group, "Felony," so Rick is no stranger to classic rock and high energy shows. He is a welcomed addition to the group.
 
"These Guys Live" is in its fifth year and shows no signs of letting up. The group is very popular at Columbus' far east side venues in Pickerington, Pataskala and Buckeye Lake. We also perform many private functions and outdoor festivals. Our 2012 calendar is filling up quickly.
 
You can learn all about us at www.TheseGuysLive.com. If you would like to be on our mailing list, please sign up at the site or e-mail me.
 
 
 
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Not only was I asked to perform with a variety of groups this year, I was also asked to record keyboard tracks for another CD, at another studio. "Know the Day' is Keith Smith's debut CD and he was kind enough to ask me to perform on three tracks: #6 - I Believe; #8 - Know the Day; #9 - Jailhosue Rock. Keith acknowledges the artists on the CD on #13 with interviews of each of us. Click on the song titles to hear each cut from this CD.
 
 
Among other studio projects in 2011, I had a rapper and a songwriter record original material.
 
Mac Burke, a college student in Dayton, Ohio recorded "4791."
 
Trina Schone, a singer-songwriter from Lancaster, Ohio had her first-ever recording studio experience with a song she wrote called "Coming Home." She was skilled enough to play the piano track for the recording which rarely happens.
 
Work has also begun on a three song promotional demo for "These Guys Live."
 
For more information about my studio, including testimonials from some of the artists, click on the "SA" logo above.
 
 
 
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AND THE BOOGIE OOGIE TOO
When I played with "Flashback" at the Italian Festival, one of the tunes in the set list was "Boogie Oogie Oogie" by Heatwave. So now you know the entire reason why I chose this title.
 
 
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OLD BANDS, NEW WEBSITES
 
 
I've embarked on a long-term project to create and/or maintain websites for some of the musical groups I've been involved with over the years. The project is not yet completed. Link on each logo to go to that band's website. You can also get to the websites from my home page by clicking on their respective "pictures" framed on the wall.
 
 
 
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SOMETHING SPIRITUAL, BUT NOT RELIGIOUS
 
I don't often mention reading material because I believe what you read, watch on TV and listen to on the radio is personal. Occasionally however, I run across something I want to share, only because I think it might interest others, not because I want to influence anyone else's thinking.
 
Many of us who were born and raised in a traditional Christian environment have grown up to find ourselves asking many questions about the concept of God. And while many have decided to stay with their upbringings' teachings, others have moved beyond them, seeking more enlightenment and understanding not only about God, but organized religion as a whole. A book I read recently shed a very creative light on these issues. It's a quick read and a great story.
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A SPECIAL THANKS

Our goddaughter, Meghan, baked a cake for me for my 61st birthday. She celebrated her 16th birthday in the same month. Thanks, Meghan!

 
 
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MY COUSIN, MY FRIEND
 
My first cousin, Nick, passed away in January from a very rare form of skin cancer. He was only 56 years old. To say that he is missed is a huge understatement. He was like a brother to me, and most certainly a very good friend. His kindness knew no boundaries - with anyone.
 
I talk about him at length in one of my blog posts called A Letter to Cousin Nick.
 
I was also very flattered when he asked that I create his Memorial Video.
 
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Once again, I find myself apologizing for not writing more regularly. I had every intention of writing at least one post a month, but the year filled up quickly, and the blog kept getting pushed down the list. Even with all that has gone on in politics and other events, there just hasn't been time. I won't make any promises other than to say I intend to write - even if I have to wait until retirement.
 
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PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE DEMOLITION DERBY
I have to admit I haven't been this entertained by politicians in a long time.
 
While an incumbent president obviously has the upper hand when seeking a second term in office, there's no denying Obama's opposition continues to shoot itself in the foot. Why they don't realize that they can't rattle this guy - after all they've thrown at him - is beyond me. Instead of coming up with new ways to "defeat" him - at the expense of the middle class - why don't they try doing something good for the country? Even if it isn't in their best interest politically, they would at least have some accomplishments.
 
And now we have the Demolition Derby that is
the Republican Debates and Primaries. Truth is, the smart conservatives are not running. They know they can't beat President Obama so they're waiting until 2016.
 
Those that are running are clueless. They twist historical timelines into pretzels, confuse Socialism with Fascism and without missing a beat, completely lie about what's gone on in the last three years. And sadly, about 45% of the population just stares at the TV, believing every word.
 
When all the debris from this derby is cleared, Mitt Romney will probably be the Republican Candidate for President of the United States in 2012.
 
Hey Mitt! You might want to give Bob Dole a call. He'll fill you in on your chances of winning.
 
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LATE NIGHT SURPRISE
 
During the years that I was employed full time as a musician, I would arrive home late at night after a gig to find Lonna asleep. Many times, she would hear me come in the bedroom, ask how it went, and then go right back to sleep, often not even remembering the conversation. Now that I'm performing again, the late-night single Q&A has returned. But sometimes she doesn't wake up.
 
One night in December, I came home to find another male in bed with her...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Yup. That would be the cat.
 
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Thanks for taking the time to read my 2011 page.
 
Sincerely,