Thursday, November 28, 2013

THANKSGIVING 2013: Thanks AND Giving!

THANKSGIVING 2013: 
Thanks AND Giving!
_________________________ 

Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."Right on, Paul that's good encouragement, for sure. But today, I find myself feeling particularly thankful for some truly amazing blessings.

I'm thankful and honored to have had the privilege today to serve for a little while alongside of some incredible and inspiring people from my church, East Coast Christian Center, in Merritt Island, Florida.

Nearly 100 volunteers began converging on the ECCC property early this morning. The mission — to share part of their Thanksgiving holiday with total strangers by preparing and packaging meals that will feed people in need, at home and abroad.

ECCC:
Serving hot meals for folks in need.
Although I did participate in today's mission, be sure that I'm not bragging on myself. I showed up late, left early and exerted minimal effort. I am, however, bragging (big time) on my church and my church family members. Because of their consistent commitment to connection and compassion, many folks in our local community enjoyed a fantastic Thanksgiving meal (with all of the trimmings) and they experienced the true meaning of the holiday. As for the 20,000 meals that were packaged today, hungry people around the world also will be fed. And I look forward to delivering much of that bounty along with my ECCC missions team when we travel to Nicaragua next week.

I've encountered countless people in recent years who have expressed to me a desire to find a church home and an interest in serving others — including missionary work. To that, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone earnestly to seek out a local church, lock in and get involved — especially during this holiday season. The boomerang blessings will be enormous.

So today, I'm especially thankful. I'm thankful to God for sending his son to serve as the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus Christ died for me, for you, and you, and even that creeper over there wearing the slightly stained Foghat T-shirt. I'm also thankful for my family, my friends, my church and for the opportunity to give back by serving others. (www.FeedingChildrenEverywhere.com)

-Christopher Long
(November 2013)


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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

PINK TUESDAY 2013: Third Anniversary Celebration


P I N K   T U E S D A Y
IS BACK — AGAIN!
________________________

We witness the horrifying
drama 
unfold in the news each year —
millions of Americans camped
outside of supercenters on
Thanksgiving night. They brave
the elements — huddled together
with thermoses of hot coffee 
while schmoozing with their
newest "besties"— the same 
strangers with whom they will
soon fight Hunger Games-style
all for the sake of scoring a
few holiday bargains. Is this
what Christmas has come to?
________________________

In 2011, I debuted a new holiday tradition. Safer than Black Friday, sexier than Cyber Monday, it's...  PINK TUESDAY!

This is the day that I designated for ultra-hip and super-savvy shoppers to converge on thrift stores from coast to coast and to cash in on real bargains on truly groovy gifts for friends and loved ones on their holiday shopping lists. I mean, who cares about rock bottom-priced  iGadgets when you can give or receive such awesome goodies as Kenny Rogers  cassettes (with missing inserts), copies of Forrest Gump on VHS for 25¢ and slightly stained cocktail dresses from the '80s.


PINK TUESDAY always has, and always will, be observed on the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving. However, due to my missionary trip to Nicaragua next week, I  celebrated the 2013 tradition, today. And holy cow, I discovered a new thrifting destination!

Located at 2939 W. New Haven Ave. in Melbourne, FL, The Women's Center / Furniture and More isn't sleek or chic. However, it is a freaking treasure trove.

This year's PINK TUESDAY
celebration was epic indeed.
Nicaragua, here I come!
From clothing and accessories to electronics, DVDs, LPs, books, home furnishings and more, it's all here — housed in what I estimate to be a 20,000 square foot storefront. The selection is stellar, the prices are reasonable, the staff is courteous, and you don't stick when touching the merch — a big plus. 
  

When I first established the worldwide holiday two years ago, I predicted that PINK TUESDAY likely would get hijacked and I asked my legions of readers to remember that they heard about  PINK TUESDAY here, first  — from me, Christopher Long, the "Show Biz Guru." So I wasn't particularly shocked to discover yesterday that in 2012, Henry Timms had designated the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving as national "Giving Tuesday." Timms' brainchild was created to encourage people to make it a day of giving to their personal  charity of choice.

"Giving Tuesday" — an effort so awesome and inspiring that I don't even mind sharing what was MY day. (LOL)

I met Bernice, today while thrifting today. I
 expect us to be "Facebook Official" VERY soon!
Yes, I'll be in the jungle, battling Satan on this year's official PINK TUESDAY, so  I'm counting on everyone to make me proud. But wherever you may be next Tuesday, and whatever plans you may have, I encourage you to THINK PINK and give! Now go in peace, go in love and remember — Christ IS the reason for the season!

-Christopher Long
(November 2013)


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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Buddy Guy / Jonny Lang (Guest Post)

BUDDY GUY w/
JONNY LANG 
Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
West Palm Beach, FL  (11.20.13)
__________________________

Michelle Wilson returns 
with an up-close, first-
hand concert review. 
"Damn right, she 
got the blues!"
__________________________

It was a rain-soaked Wednesday evening in downtown West Palm Beach, FloridaBut that didn’t deter nearly 2,000 faithful fans from flocking to the posh Kravis Center. With the enticement of an all-out blues jam dangling like a kid waiting for Santa, co-headliners Jonny Lang and Buddy Guy shot down the chimney and delivered the goods with their  spectacular, individual performances.

With a stripped-down stage and inward-facing amps, Lang and his band casually appeared on stage shortly after 8pm. Clad entirely in black, the five-piece ensemble included Nashville-based rhythm guitarist Akil Thompson and keyboardist Dwan Hill, as well as Minnesota-based bass player James “Jimmy” Anton and drummer Barry Alexander, with Lang on lead vocals and phenomenal lead guitar. Thomson, Hill and Anton provided backing vocals and incredible harmonies.

Thompson, Lang and Hill
Opening with “Blew Up the House” from his 2013 release, Fight for My Soul, followed by “Don’t Stop (for Anything)” off 2006’s Turn Around, and “A Quitter Never Wins” from the 1997 record Lie to Me, Lang immediately set the stage for a blistering high-energy, 65-minute set featuring a smattering of tunes from his entire major label (studio) catalog.

Alternating his gruff blues-infused sound with a piercing falsetto and mad guitar skills, Lang was dripping with euphoric sweat by the second song. Watching the guitar virtuoso in action and seeing the expressions on his face as he shared his passion, one could only marvel at his ability. While hearing his music on a record is a treat, seeing and hearing him perform live is a very different experience indeed.

Next up, Lang slowed the tempo down a bit with the title track from Turn Around, including a somewhat lengthy jam which seemed to leave many fans a bit restless. Following this up with “Red Light” from 2003’s Long Time Coming, Lang veered into a Christian-based mini-prayer session and an audience-interactive Bob-Marley-esque “Everything is gonna be alright” chant. With the message delivered, Lang ramped it back up with his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ for the City,” a bonus track included on Long Time Coming. Including tender harmonies and featuring Thompson on guitar, Lang closed out with "That Great  Day," from Turn Around,  and “Angel of Mercy” off 1998’s Wander This World

JONNY LANG BAND
It seems worth noting that shorter versions of "Turn Around" and "Red Light" may have afforded time for more numbers, with noticeable absence of such classics as "Lie to Me," "Matchbox," "Still Raining" and "Wander This World." I also expected to hear the title track from Fight for My Soul, but this was not included either. Closing with "Angel of Mercy" seemed like an odd choice, and it left me feeling perplexed and waiting for more. All in all, however, it was a stellar performance by a truly talented troupe.

After a brief intermission, the one and only Buddy Guy (and his polka dots) took the stage at 9:45pm. Accompanied by talented, charismatic keyboard player and vocalist, Marty Sammon, drummer Tim Austin, bass player Orlando J. Wright and rhythm guitarist Ric “Jaz” Hall, Guy quickly informed the audience that “I play the kind of blues you can’t hear on the radio anymore,” and “I’m gonna play something so funky you can smell it!” Brimming with blues-based tales as only Buddy could recount, the 77-year-old, six-time Grammy recipient thrilled fans with a 90-minute set of storytelling, ad libbing, and f-bombs. Oh, and there may have been some guitar thrown in.


Raised on a Louisiana farm and influenced by the likes of the late, great Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, the self-taught guitar prodigy gave the crowd the thrill of a lifetime. He played his Fender Stratocaster every way imaginable, including behind him, above him, with a drumstick, and even with a towel. Yes, a towel. Paving the way for everyone from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughn and his co-headliner, Lang, Guy’s name is synonymous with iconic blues.

After confessing that he doesn’t practice with the band or use a set list because he never knows just what he is going to play, Guy proclaimed that the crowd was making him feel like he should play all night long. “’Cause I will; I’m crazy like that,” he boasted.

Opening his set with “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” “Five Long Years” and “I Got my Mojo Working,” followed by “The Things That I Used to Do,” “Someone Else is Steppin’ In (Slippin’ Out, Slippin’ In)”  and “74 Years Young,” Guy peppered the song breaks with witty anecdotes and life-long insights. “Skin Deep,” a song inspired by his late mother, recalls a boyhood moment when he told his mother that he was good looking, to which she replied that looks are only skin deep. A poignant lesson for a young boy that, as Guy confessed, left a lasting impression. 

BUDDY GUY
Other highlights included John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” Robert Randolph’s “Meet Me in Chicago” and “Messin’ with the Kid,” Guy’s collaboration with Junior Wells on the Mel London-penned tune.

The real “it” moment of the set came somewhere in the middle, when Guy alighted from the stage and came walking down the aisle, stopping adjacent to my section. Mic in hand, guitar slung around his neck, he proceeded to play and sing in the midst of his beloved fans, and they ate it up.

From a concert perspective, this was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever attended. Each performance had its own unique flavor and style of blues, and the upscale theater and superb mix only raised the level of enjoyment. 

-Michelle Wilson
(November 2013)
 ______________________________________ 

BE MY "GUEST"
Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.

-Chris
AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com
______________________________________

Sunday, November 24, 2013

THE MAXWELL C. KING CENTER: Committed to Culture, Community AND Kids!

MAXWELL C. KING CENTER: 
Committed to Culture, 
Community AND Kids!
_____________________  

Located in Melbourne, 
Florida,The Maxwell 
C. King Center for the 
Performing Arts has 
maintained a consistent 
commitment to, culture 
and community since 1988.
____________________ 

I recall fondly my first King Center experience in 1990 — a live stage production of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I attended the show with my buddy Doug and his (then) five-year-old son, David and it was an awesome family event. Good times, to be sure. And their recent summer youth theater productions of such iconic musicals as Oklahoma! and Hairspray have been absolutely superb.

Yes, not only does the annual King Center schedule offer an array of popular adult-appropriate concerts, stage productions, comedians and more — they also continue to host a variety of youth-oriented events. And they've got some most excellent ones in store for the community in early 2014. Check it out...

THE KING CENTER 
THEATRE FOR YOUTH 
AND OUTREACH PROGRAM  

STEAM TRUNK CIRCUS STORIES:
THE VANISHED VAUDEVILLIAN
Tues / January 14th / 10:30AM
Ticket Price: $11
(inclusive of ticketing fees)
Appropriate for: K – grade 5

Comedy, magic, juggling (plus a 
mysterious book and a hat belonging 
to Harry Houdini!) are brought 
together in this hilarious show 
featuring fantastic feats of fact 
and fiction. “Storyologists” Page 
Turner and Kenny need the help 
of the audience to unravel riddles, 
figure out clues, and solve the 
mystery of the “Vanished Vaudevillian.”


ALICE ROCKS WONDERLAND
Tues / January 28th / 10:30 AM
Ticket Price:  $11
(inclusive of ticketing fees)
Appropriate for: K – grade 8

The audience will sing, dance, and 
rock along in this rock and roll style 
musical adaptation of Alice’s 
Adventures in Wonderland. This 
high-energy show encourages 
reading and features original music 
combined with Lewis Carroll’s poetry.


VOCAL TRASH
Tues / May 13th / 10:30AM
Ticket Price:  $11
(inclusive of ticketing fees)
Appropriate for: General audience

An electrifying theatrical show features 
a cappella harmonies, awarding-winning 
urban-style break dance and drumming. 
Described as "Glee Meets Stomp," this 
green-minded ensemble delights audiences, 
globally, on a relentless pursuit to bring 
people together utilizing the universal 
language of song and dance.  
Think, "Urban Broadway." 

Tickets may be purchased by 
visiting kingcenter.com or 
by calling 321.242.2219.

These shows all look so fun and so cool, I'm planning to check 'em out myself. And I'm not even close to joking. Hey, "Alice Rocks" and so do I. I just hope that they won't be checking IDs!

-Christopher Long
(November 2013)


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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The LAST Movie Night

Photo: Kevin Roberts
 The LAST Movie Night
_______________________________

20 years — gone in a flash.
The guy who first said, "they 
grow up so fast," was genius.
And the day that I thought I'd 
never see, arrived today.
FYI, it kinda sucked, dude.
_______________________________

Some parents eagerly anticipate that day when their kids finally leave the nest. But not me. I've cherished being a dad.

Jesse was born on October 5, 1993. It was the greatest day of my life. And I can't imagine how a better father / son relationship even could be possible. I never had a lick of trouble with this kid. In fact, I don't recall anything other than wonderful experiences with my son. Despite a divorce, I've never lived more than 30 minutes away from my son, and in 20 years, hardly a day has passed when we didn't see each other or at least talk on the phone.


He's always been an overachiever — simultaneously earning his high school diploma and an AA degree in 2012. He's a budding musical genius and he consistently brought home the cutest girlfriends. That's my boy! 

It's been an incredible 20 years, all  filled with beautiful memories — like the time he rolled off my stomach as we napped together when he was an infant — plummeting head-first from the couch onto the floor. HOLY **** — I'd broken the baby! Clearly, we both survived. And then there was the landmark day in 1996 when he first recited the names of all four KISS members — a proud moment for any parent, right? 

I also vividly recall the image of Jesse at age five, standing at my mom's bedside in the hospital — holding her hand just before she died. She loved that kid SO much.


We walked up the sidewalk together on his first day of kindergarten in 1999 and we ran together "O.J.-style" through O'Hare in 2002 — rushing to catch our flight while on one of our summer adventures.

From MLB spring training games to the action of the NBA, we also enjoyed taking in numerous sporting events. We even saw Lebron James play during his first pro season.

Be sure, parenting hasn't always been a cakewalk. It was heartbreaking to hear Jesse's voice the night he called me, filled with anxieties following his first day of junior high. He needed me and I was 1,000 miles from home, on tour working for a world-famous rock band. But the look on his face was priceless as he chilled in his personal bunk on the tour bus when he joined me on the road for a couple of days a few weeks later.


I hated having to "play" disciplinarian — like the time in 2006 when he got into trouble for stirring up mischief at school and I revoked his MySpace privileges (for about five minutes).

Regrettably, during his early teens (when he likely needed my attention most), I became sidetracked — consumed by seeking such professional endeavors as touring, managing teenage pop star hopefuls and moguling book deals. I missed out on a lot — I regret those choices now. And no money can buy back the one thing I want most — another "little guy" day with my son.

Jesse (L) with his band, The Ellers, in 2010.
(Photo: Kevin Roberts)
Most parents are delighted when their kids follow in their footsteps. But I was horrified the day Jesse confessed to me his desire to play music. YIKES — anything but that! Gee whiz, son — couldn't you pursue something more stable and respectable — like a crack dealer? But I didn't want my kid to be a hack like me, so I immediately put him in private lessons with the area's top drum instructor. I sold my drums in order to buy him his own custom kit. And overnight, he became a virtuoso. Today, he's also a songwriter and a proficient guitarist. But I'll be honest, despite my trepidation regarding Jesse gravitating towards music, watching him perform a few years ago in his first band was pretty cool.

From getting his driver's license to homecomings, proms and finally graduation, Jesse's high school experience was action-packed. But like the other seasons of his life, those days also came and went — in a flash.


I remember last Christmas — Jess made me a most excellent gift — one of his infamous mix CDs, featuring many of my favorite bands: Cheap TrickEverclear, Fountains of Wayne and more. That one stayed in the deck forever!

Last January, Jesse and I traveled together on a week-long southeast tour as I promoted my latest book, C'MON! With book signings, it's hit and miss. Some nights are good while others are, well, not so much — as was the case with my 2013 trek. From Orlando, Florida to Chattanooga, Tennessee we went from blasting the AC in the rental van to freezing our nards off. And it was (for me) one of our all-time best father and son adventures. I didn't know that it would be our last. 

Me and Jesse in Macon, GA while on tour in 2013.
Over the summer, we drove to Orlando for the Crash Kings concert. During our conversation on the ride home, it all became crystal clear. At 19, Jesse was becoming restless and growing disillusioned about still being "stuck" in his small hometown while most of his high school friends were now out on their own, "doing life." I knew deep down after that night how this story likely was going to play out — my kid was getting ready to leave the nest. And before long, he was making plans to relocate to Colorado with his former bandmate, Livingston.

Yes, our time together always been special and personal. Our father and son nights typically all have been marked by going to dinner, then a walk through the neighborhood (often to the ice cream store) and then to the movies. Since the early days of going to see Good Burger at the dollar theater, Jesse has been passionate about movies. Even on the nights that we didn't go out to the movies, we'd at least rent one. And this past week, as he prepared to leave for Colorado, we went on our last walk together and kicked back on the couch to watch our last movie.

Celebrating Jesse's 20th birthday in 2013.

Jesse turned 20 a few weeks ago. And the whole family was there to celebrate — me, my dad and my kid. But a  few days from now, on December 6, I'll be turning 51 and we'll all be scattered. Jesse will be in Colorado, my dad will be in Florida, I'll be battling Satan in the jungles of Nicaragua — and my mom will be watching over us all from heaven, 'cuz that's where angels go.

The exciting thing about life is that we never know what the future has in store. Maybe Jesse will just do college — earn a fancy degree and cure cancer. Maybe he'll discover that next million-dollar-making widget. Maybe he'll compose and record the next "Abbey Road." But whatever he sets his sights on, the results WILL be epic.


I love my son — my only child. Now in my 50s, I'm an old man — a "veg." But Jesse has his whole life in front of him — a life filled with unlimited possibilities. I'm jealous, son. Now go knock 'em dead, kid. But never forget, I'm always just a phone call away.

You may be asking, what was our last movie? Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets from 1973, starring a very young Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. Fugetaboutit.

-Christopher Long
(November 2013)


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is available NOW on Amazon.

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