Time Flies When You're Having Rum!

My, oh my, has it been this long already? I must admit, it is rather shameful to see that my last post was from Christmas Day LAST YEAR. This is no way to run a blog, and me thinks it's time for a heartfelt apology for having let the reigns dangle for so long. The team of blog-oxen (bloxen?!) needs a firm hand to guide them on their way to plow the field of creativity. Please forgive my tardiness, dear reader, and accept my sincerest apologies. To make good, I will do my best to entertain, enlighten, and engage, with a little catch-up post.

So, what's up, you ask. Well, let me tell you... Much has happened since last we spoke. The world has been turned topsy-turvy, and what once was up, now lays flat on its side, with a flushed face and sweaty brow. Life as we have known it, is no more. What in the world has happened to the world? A virus, you say? Yes, but we've had those before. Why the sudden panic? Why put an "Out of Order" sign on the world, and tell everyone to go home? It makes one think, doesn't it?

Now that we are either wondering why we're cooped up at home and not being allowed to go to work, or why we're forced to keep working while the rest of the world is cooped up at home, many of us wonder what to do with the time we now have. As a musician by trade I fall squarely into the prior category. I'm one of those "unessential" workers, as opposed to medical staff and supermarket cashiers (!!). Who needs live music when all venues and concert halls are closed?

Having been without a gig for over 2 months (my main source of income), and Mrs. Casual having been laid off, we sat and wondered what to do. Whenever there's work, one wishes to have more time to do the things one really wants to do. Well, be careful what you wish for... So, after pondering the situation for some time, and hoping that money won't run out before too long, Mrs. Casual and yours truly went into "Let's do this" mode. Inspired by the old adage about the relationship between life's troubles and the production of a tart fruity beverage, we adjusted the wording ever so slightly and turned it into "When life gives you COVID, make art." It may be slightly platitudinal, but applicable nonetheless.

With pep in our step and singing hearts, we ventured into our living/dining/bed/multi-purpose room, fired up the old idea machine, contacted Mrs. Casual-mother-in-law, and started recording. Below you will find the fruits of our labor; our renditions of 2 classic tunes, which we hold near and dear to our hearts. (The links lead to YouTube)

(from the Wizard of Oz)

(from Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang)

The recordings were done in true quarantine style: Mrs. Casual-mother-in-law recorded her wonderful piano playing in her snazzy music room in Indiana, Mrs. Casual recorded her sultry vocals in our tiny (but over-priced) New York City apartment, and yours truly finished everything up by adding some of that orchestral sugar to our musical lemonade. Came out pretty darn yummy, if I may make so bold.

Now grab yourself some ice, pour yourself a cup, and enjoy. I'm sure you will not be disappointed. If nothing else, Mrs. Casual and I hope these songs will give you little break, a moment to breathe and let things be what they are. We do have a few more songs in the works, and depending on how long this quarantine will last, in the end we might have enough material to put out another album. We may call it "The Quarantine Session"... Silver lining, I guess!

In the meantime, stay healthy, stay positive, and keep creating!



It's the most wonderful peaceful sexy stressful time of the year. Christmas means so many different things to so many different people, but some things we all can count on when it comes to the season of forgiveness, holly jolly sugar overload, eggnog induced tummy aches, and maxing out your credit cards. Here's a short and not very comprehensive list:
  1. The anxiety you feel when there's another little off-pink sticker on the front door, saying that you've yet again missed the mailman.
  2. The stress of trying to finish Christmas shopping in time to miss the mailman, who is just now leaving another little sticker on your front door.
  3. Running to the store on December 24th, because the package you've been waiting for, wasn't redelievered by the mailman, who just left a sticker on the front door while you were out trying to finish Christmas shopping in time to miss the mailman, who left a sticker... You see where this is going!
  4. A Christmas video featuring Mrs. Casual, aka Jae Parris on those sultry vocals, yours truly, Casual-T, on most everything else, with a special guest appearance by Butterfingers Slim on the slide whistle (we flew him in from Lapland, particularly for this incredible performance. Not a cheap endeavor, but well worth it, I'm sure you'll agree).
I'll leave it up to you to decide which of these is your favorite.

This year we present a fancy version of that old Bobby Helms Christmas classic "Jingle Bell Rock." Let the sultry vocals of that gorgeous lass, Jae Parris, and the productions and recording skills of that man, that myth, that pastry chef, Casual-T, rock your jingle bells like they've never been rocked (or jingled) before. Featuring a special guest performance by Butterfingers Slim on the slide whistle. We flew him in all the way from Lapland, for this particular performance. Not a cheap venture, but well worth it. His performance, I'm sure you'll agree, is nothing short of pretty good.

Click right > here < for some super sexy Christmas awesomeness.

And with that I'm wishing every single one of you a very merry Christmas, and a happy and successful new year. And to top it all off, here's a very special Christmas photo with yours truly moonlighting as Santa at the local mall. Gotta pay the bills somehow!!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

The Thanksgiving Tiger

And a very merry (albeit belated) gobble-gobble to one and all. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays I harbor somewhat conflicted emotions about, mainly because I never much cared for the dry and generally flavorless experience of eating turkey. Throughout the years, the thought of ingesting a bowl of freshly harvested bellybutton lint seemed more appealing to me, in terms of providing a rich array of intriguingly complex tastes and beguiling textures.

And so it was until, at last year's Thanksgiving shindig, Mrs. Casual decided to try something new and put that overgrown chicken in an oven bag. Lo and behold, Thanksgiving hasn't been the same tasteless, dry, and rather depressing affair, since that fateful decision was made. Flavor explosion is a phrase I never would have dared put in proximity to the word turkey. But here we are... Just another curve-ball the multiverse decided to throw my way.

So, to keep things in accordance with the occasion, I would like to mention that I am quite thankful for a number of things in my life, not least of which are oven bags. Anything which makes my life juicer, gets a thumbs-up from me.

And since we're on the topic of thumbs, I am also quite thankful for this blog, and for being able to share some of my ramblings with this small but ever so delectable community of readers (yes, that means you over there!). Many thanks to all involved—as well as oven bags. (How this relates to thumbs, I will leave for you to figure out. Please report back, should you find the answer.)

Now, you may be sitting there twiddling your thumbs (Aha!!), wondering what in the blazes the above picture of a tiger could possibly have to do with Thanksgiving. Well, here are a few ideas. Maybe the tiger identifies as a turkey. After all, it is the current year, and from what I’ve been witnessing as of late, nowadays one can claim to be whatever one wants to be. As long as you want it, it must be so... Or must it? (But I digress.)

On the other hand, the tiger’s connection to Thanksgiving may simply be that he just ate a turkey. Do tigers eat turkeys? I assume they do, simply because they can. If you were a tiger, wouldn't you?

Or, perhaps, the tiger is from Turkey… You see where I’m going with this.

But here's the simple truth of the matter. Mrs. Casual and I have a little Thanksgiving tradition, which is that, on Black Friday, when stores are overrun with deal-seekers, consume addicts, and those adventurous (or silly) enough to participate in the customary sales-bin stampede at the local mega-store (risking life and limb in the process), we grab the opportunity to take a leisurely walk in the other direction. We like to spend the day after Thanksgiving at the Bronx Zoo.

This year I figured it’d be a great opportunity to take the new camera for a spin. So, there I was, happily clicking away, minding my own business, capturing colorful images of tropical birds, perched on crooked branches looking like a witches index finger directing Hรคnsel and Gretel toward the oven; shy desert mice enjoying a nibble of fresh fruit, while hiding behind a rock looking like... a rock; when, suddenly, this fine fellow placed himself squarely in front of the lens, barely two feet away from where I stood.

The crazed look in his eyes belied his calm demeanor. I could tell he was hungry. Panic started setting in (me, not him!). Would I be able to get the shot before the monster decided to charge and rip my clothes off, so as to get to the succulent meat within? (My body has been seasoned with all manner of exotic spices and fermented marinades since before oven bags were a thing. I’m sure it would make for an exhilarating culinary experience for any tiger of class and distinction.)

Hungry tiger or not, a photographer is as a photographer does. And what a photographer does is press the shutter button. My trigger finger spasmed. The shutter crackled like a baby elephant stomping across a field of Rice Krispies. My focal point fixated on the eye of the tiger (it’s the thrill of the fight); cold nervousness running down my back. Seconds turned into lifetimes; lifetimes turned into eternities; eternities turned into whatever is longer than eternities.

Did he move? I thought I saw his shoulder jerk ever so slightly. Ready to pounce? The flame of my life mere seconds away from being extinguished. Alas, I knew he wouldn't dare kill me just yet. I hadn’t gotten that shot yet.

And then it happened. The moment in which all the pain and joy of my life, the successes and failures, doubts and convictions, tasty food and olives, culminated into one ultimate climax. "YES!" I shouted, triumphantly. “Yes, indeed!” The elephant took one more, heavy step, as I toppled backward, crumbling into a trembling heap of cold sweat and hot nerves. The perfect picture was mine. Finally.

As I lay there, I looked upon the majestic beast. His eyes became mine, and for the first time in my life I observed the world without fear. Come and feast upon my flesh, king of the jungle. I got the picture. You can kill me, but you cannot hurt me. The purpose of my existence is fulfilled. I am ready now!

I waited.

Eternities became seconds.

Without another word the tiger shrugged his shoulders, and leisurely walked away.

Confused but somewhat relieved about not having been enjoyed for lunch, I pulled myself up. Wobbly-kneed I realized that all this time there had been a 2-inch thick pane of glass separating myself from the tiger. This, I suspect, had been the main reason this Bengal royal hadn’t proposed to tear me to shreds.

And thus the story ends.

You're still sitting there? Still twiddling your thumbs? Ah… You’re probably still wondering what any of this has to do with Thanksgiving. Well, let me come straight to the point (after having spent about a thousand words of circumventing it). All this was simply to say that in addition to oven bags—which keep turkeys juicy and flavorful, and thusly a joy to eat—I'm also very thankful for glass panes of multi-inch thickness— which keep me uneaten (yet juicy and flavorful!).

Welcome to the Graveyard Shift

Good day, old bean. So glad to see you here. You’re just in time…Tea's ready (and T's ready)! What shall we talk about today?

Ah, yes, I'm glad you brought it up - The Graveyard Shift. As some of you fine dudes and dudettes may very well know, it is my day job to be a musician at night. At first read-through this might seem counterintuitive, but bear with me. It was as a wee lad back yonder, when I first heard that being a musician was actually a thing. I knew there were people making music, but I didn’t realize making music was a thing that could be done. As in: For a living. You dig? (That’s old-school musician lingo—in case you thought it was an inquiry in regards to your garden work—meaning: Don’t be a square, Jack! Although, to be honest, I often wonder where that saying comes from.)

I had caught the drumming bug listening to Ringo do his thing while bobbing his head side-to-side and looking like he was having himself a grand old time. (In case you don’t know who Ringo is…He was the drummer in The Beatles…In case you don’t know who The Beatles were…Uhm…Well…Let’s move on.)

For about a year, I’d been drumming and practicing the piano, which was all I really was interested in doing. It was fun. It made me happy. It kept me out of trouble. But, as mentioned above, I was not at all aware that this music thing was something people did professionally. See, I come from a time and place where people strictly worked for a living. You know, burly guys in blue overalls, out and about at 5 in the morning, bellies swollen with last night’s lager, carrying small lunchboxes containing tasty morsels prepared for them by their loving wives who were glad to have them out of the house until six in the evening (which was when they better had the next round of ale cold and ready). We’re talking carpenters, brick layers, metal workers, construction workers; all doing a full day’s work for half a day’s pay. There were no musicians—professional or otherwise—within earshot of my childhood.

I remember it as if it was a mere 30 years ago. Or was it 40? No, wait, it was in 19...Uhm...Or…No, hold on…Well, anyways, I remember it as if it happened quite some time ago. My mother, who was very much alive at the time (oh, how things change!), was in the process of purchasing a new used car from her old used car salesman of choice—for legal reasons we shall call him Honest John. Here I was, a strapping lad of nearly a decade, minding my own business, when Honest John looked at me and asked what any man named Honest John would ask a young buck minding his own business: “So, whaddaya wanna be wenya grow up, son?”

By that time in my life I had been asked this so often, I had my answer well prepared: “A TV repairman, or a chef, or a baker, or an electrician.” It basically meant, I’m barely ten years old, Mister, and I really don’t have a clue what I want to end up doing day-in, day-out, for the rest of my life. Honest John looked at me, fairly unimpressed. But then something struck me. It might have been the dead look in his eyes, or some need from deep within me, which led me to venture into the unknown. I shyly added: “But what I really want to do is play the drums.”

“Ah! A musician, eh!” Honest John said, a slight twinkle entered his eyes, his interest piqued. “I used to play the organ in a band before I started selling cars, you know. Yes, lad, I even studied music when I was quite a bit younger.”

“Studied music? What’s that?” (Oh, the innocence!)

“Well, looky here,” Honest John said, enthusiastically, his eyes sparkling with newfound life. “You go to a school where they teach ya all about music and how to play your instrument.”

Looking back at it now, I can see that this might have been the clearest moment I’ve ever experienced in my life. And it was from that point on, that I had but one goal in life: I was going to be a musician; I was going to do this drumming thing for a living. Remembering how much fun Ringo seemed to have, and judging by my own experience of practicing the drums and loving every minute of it, this was most definitely the way I wanted to spend my life. Getting paid to play the drums—A dream come true.

Fast forward an undisclosed number of decades, and I find myself in a bar in Downtown New York City, somewhere around the 3 AM mark; I sit by the bar, on break between sets, tired—exhausted might be a more apt adjective. Silly music rattles through the PA system—they really need to get new speakers here. Oh baby, Yeah, Oh Yeah, baby!! Lyrical prowess at its finest. As long as there’s a simple beat and someone sings a hook that’s easy to remember. Oh baby, Yeah, Oh Yeah, baby!! Drunk folk stumble across the dance floor, more or less in sync with the beat. I often wonder who these people are, that hang out in a bar at 3 AM on a Monday morning. Oh baby, Yeah, Oh Yeah, baby!! Enough already with the Oh Baby, Yeah! Don’t these people have to be at work in a few hours? Well, whatever, they pay my bills.

Frank, the sound guy, comes over. “Hey bud, how’s it goin’?”

I like Frank. I’ve known him for many years. Although I don’t recall every having seen him in daylight. “Alright, I guess,” I answer.

“You good? You look a little down.”

“Sure. Just wondering what the hell I’m doing here,” I say, eyes half closed.

“Making money, bruh. That’s what you’re doing here.” He’s the pragmatic kind.

“Yeah, it’s just that when I set out to do this music thing, this was not what I had in mind, man.”

“I hear ya.” He takes a sip of his cranberry soda. “Sorry that the dream job turned into a nightmare, bruh. I know the feeling.”

“Maybe I shoulda stuck with my initial plan and gone into TV repair.”

“Ain’t nobody repairing TVs anymore.”

He chuckles. I nod.

Break’s over. Let’s start the set with a fast tune. Maybe I can get one of the drunk guys to trip over his own legs. Time to make some money in my dream job. Time to dig my own grave, in the graveyard shift.

Hold up…I think I just figured it out!

Happy One-Year-Closer-to-Death Day

Every year around this time, when the days grow shorter, the nights grow colder, and the lush green ocean of leaves swaying in the summer breeze, turns into a succulent kaleidoscope of color, exploding into reds, oranges, yellows, and browns—and it’s once again time for me to get the winter tires ready for the coming traffic mess—Mrs. Casual makes it a point to remind me (repeatedly) that it's not only her birthDAY coming up at the end of the month, but rather that it is her birthMONTH, ALL month, and she intends to celebrate it that way. Yes, you read that right, four weeks of cakes with candles, presents with bows, and all manner of goodies in honor of having made it one year closer to death.

Now some of you may find the mention of the word death a bit surprising, jarring, or, perhaps, even scary; particularly when discussing the happy occasion of a loved one's birthday. And you would be well within your right to feel that way. Birthdays are, more often than not, associated with, well…birth; which, by definition, is the opposite of death. But then again, let not the fact that I have lived in New York City for an undisclosed number of decades, obfuscate the simple truth that I was born and raised in the city of Vienna—a place in the heart of Europe, known for its chocolaty treats, 150 varieties of coffee, and an age-old morbid fascination with anything having to do with death. As any good Viennese citizen knows from very early on in life, birth is merely the beginning of the end. 
This is why, in the old country, we have found a number of ways to put a less threatening spin on this whole death & dying thing. This, of course, doesn’t change the reality of death, its terminal pain and sadness, its finality and unpleasantly bitter aftertaste (for the living; the dead, on average, don’t care too much about it, one way or another)—but it puts a nice coat of sugar on top. And if there’s one thing the Viennese like, it’s to sugarcoat just about anything that isn’t already pure confectionery. 

Keeping in that spirit—of adding a sweet glaze to anything bitter and sad—there are a number of phrases used in the beautiful city of Vienna, which describe the act of handing over one's membership card in the club of the living and calling it a day for the rest of eternity, but somehow make it seem like it's just another day of you and your sweetheart floating along the gently swaying Danube in a rose-colored rowboat on a sunny summer’s day, sipping fragrant wine and munching on freshly baked Topfengolatschen (a traditional pastry and personal favorite of mine). Here are but a few translations of some of these verbal sugar coatings:  
  • To stretch your slippers
  • To give up the spoon
  • To put on a wooden pajama
  • To look at the potatoes from underneath
  • To check if the cover fits (That's the coffin cover we're talking about)
  • To take a ride on the 71 (The 71 is the tram that leads to one of Vienna's major cemeteries. This is the Viennese version of crossing the river Styx.)  
As I'm sure you can tell, Viennese is a wonderfully inventive language, and the creative ways the Viennese have come up with, to describing the last moments in a person’s life, without actually describing the last moments in a person’s life, are to be commended. Nonetheless, it is still death we're talking about. I therefore restate my point that every birthday we celebrate, is, in actuality, just another One-Year-Closer-to-Death day. 

Coming back to Mrs. Casual and yours truly, it is one of our annual traditions on this particular day, for me to grab my camera and a couple of snazzy lenses, for her to make sure her hair is the right color and her lips are just the right shade of red—which usually ends up with her insisting she needs to run to Sephora to grab three lipsticks, 2 different mascaras, a color-neutral foundation, and a new bottle of perfume (although I suspect the perfume has not much to do with the photo-shoot!)—and for us to venture into the wild, colorful world that is Autumn in Upstate New York.
So said, so done...And, dare I say it, the pictures seem to be getting better year by year. Could there be a correlation between getting closer to death and looking better against a backdrop of blurry blobs of colorful leaves? I'll leave it to more learned folks to figure this one out. All I can say is, the pictures came out beautifully, and I'm glad to report that neither the missus nor I are, as of yet, passengers on the 71.
Happy One-Year-Closer-to-Death Day, Babe! Hope you like the pictures…

Pets, Plants, Views... Oh My!

As fate—that fickle old rascal—might have it, a few weeks back, when summer was in full swing, and those silly little battery-powered fans you can clip onto your baseball cap, didn’t seem like such a silly idea after all, myself, the missus, and the little squirt, ended up going on vacation. Well, it was more of a glorified weekend trip to PA, but for a family of New Yorkers that most certainly qualifies as a prim and proper vacation with all the trimmings.

According to the tenets of New York City life, any activity which includes pets, greenery, and a decent view, can be considered a vacation, because daily life in the apple that never sleeps includes none of the above. Pets are not allowed in our (expensive, but too small) Bronx apartment, and plants of all religions and denominations worldwide consider me their mortal enemy (having not two, not three, but TEN brown thumbs), and the view from our apartment is exactly what one might expect from a place named after a man who unironically sported the last name of Bronck.

Thus it is with great pleasure I present to you, dearest reader, Gracie—the closest thing I'll ever have to a pet.

Gracie lives a quiet, equestrian life on a small farm in rural PA. Our eyes met the moment the blond-headed Amish boy led our small tour group into the whitewashed stable, filled to the brim with the unmistakable aroma of reality. There she stood with a yearning look and a mouthful of hay. Within a mere moment the air was abuzz with the sizzle of magic and romance (It may have been horseflies, though. I'm not 100% sure).

I said: "Why, hello Beautiful." She playfully nuzzled my forehead. I laughed gaily and pulled an extra-absorbent napkin from my pocket. I then offered her a big lump of sugar, of which I always carry a few (you never know who you might meet!). She excitedly stepped forward, graciously accepted the sweet treat, and returned the favor by giving me a massive lump on the shin. Stars filled the room, ecstasy overcame me, and twenty-two simple words imprinted themselves upon my heart: Sometimes love, true love, pure love, the kind of love that makes you go "Mhm, mhm, mhm," is so real, it hurts.

"But, Casual-T," I hear you say, "what about Mrs. Casual?" Yes, of course, you are right. I am a married man, and I love my wife dearly. I would never leave her (for a horse). But I simply can't bring myself to forget those tender, honest, and ever so bittersweet moments I shared with Gracie on that hot summer's day in Pennsylvania. I will remember her for as long as I limp. (Have you ever seen a shin the color, shape, and consistency of an eggplant? It's quite a sight to behold.)

When It Rains...

It's a rainy day, here in NYC; glum and damp, and quiet. Quite lovely, actually. The perfect opportunity to grab a good book (Wyrd Sisters won!!), maybe pull a glass of my finest cranberry juice from the rack in the cellar of my imagination (the 2011 is just delightful; nutty, yet smooth, with the tiniest twang of a tingling after-bite), and crawl into a warm corner, right next to the fireplace.

Well, so one might think. Problem is, the landlord of my over-priced NYC apartment hasn't turned on the heat yet (and probably won't until icicles make it a sporting event to dangle from my nostrils, seeing which one can hold on the longest). And a fireplace (with actual logs crackling and sparking!), let's face it, is something I only know via fairy tale descriptions by the Brothers Grimm. And just to make the experience perfect, I've existed on bread, water, and Alka-Seltzer for the last couple of days. Yes, the sickness of doom (as my family calls it), once again, has me tight between its clutches. As every year around this time of changing weather, I welcomed it like an old buddy returning from his yearly summer vacation in the southern hemisphere. "Good to see ya again, old chum. BRCHL!!" I coughed gleefully.

Sick or not; rain or shine; daily duties won't accept rain-checks from anybody, least not me. So out we go, into the wet, cold, gray, grim, fall weather (but with golden,warm sunshine, and rainbow farting unicorns in my heart!), waiting to see who's going to win this time around. "Bring it, Fall. Lemme see watcha got!" I croak, with a reverberating cough and jolly sniffle every once in a while. Then I take another dizzy step, supported by the ropes of the boxing rink of life, just to let good, old Boreas know that I may be down, but I'm not yet out.

Perhaps I'll rewatch Rocky I tonight, just to get pumped up about drinking raw egg yolk with Tabasco Sauce, and running through the rain at 4 in the morn. I'll have to pass on the one-handed push-ups, though. Every time I try, I end up with a bloody nose... So maybe just another episode of Star Trek will suffice. They just poke a phallic looking utensil with an orange light-beam shooting out of it, up your nose - Problem solved. No push-ups, running, or egg yolks required. Now where's that remote?