Up for Grabs: ArtsEmerson Membership!

There are a few Emersonians behind the scenes here at Crash Safely, and we were excited to get this donation from our alma mater.

Restored old theaters? A crazy variety of theater, movies other special events,from Shakespeare to Monty Python?

Yes, please!

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You can enter to win a membership  to ArtsEmerson this year! Membership includes:

  • One free ticket annually
  • No box office fees!
  • 25% off all film screenings
  • $10 discount on all tickets
  • Members only preview events

We’ll see you at the Paramount!!

Meet the Bands: Animal Hospital

Long a hidden treasure in Boston recording circles as a freelance recording engineer and a trusted electronics fix-it man, Kevin Micka has approached Animal Hospital over the last 9 years in the nooks and crannies of his schedule.

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During performances, Micka buries himself in a pile of electronics-shelves of effects, mixing consoles, amps and delay units-while patiently constructing a layered nest of loops consisting of live drum beats, guitar chords, scrapes, chucks, chimes, and melodies resulting in anything from more conventional songs to meticulously crafted ambient movements on to full on improvisation. Since the winter of 2011, a large ensemble version of his music has been realized with performances consisting of up to 30 musicians at times.

To date, Animal Hospital has released 3 studio albums on Mister RecordsMutable Sound and Barge Recordings.

Kevin has consistently toured the world (recently Japan, Australia and South America) winning followers from all corners of the music world, including spots with acts as diverse as The Jesus Lizard, Beirut, No Age, MAIN, Thrones, Dosh, Os Mutantes and Codeine.

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He’ll be sharing the stage at the Middle East on 10/17 with  The Field Effect, Township, White Dynomite, TRiPLE THiCK  and host D-Tension at Crash Safely this year, and if you haven’t had a chance to see Animal Hospital live yet, prepare to be mesmerized!

Meet the Faces of MS: Nick

Nick Zaino is a man of many talents.  He’s a freelance writer who’s covered comedy for the likes of the Boston Globe and the Boston Comedy Blog. He’s also written about music at BDC Wire,  Paste, the (dear departed) Phoenix and many, many other places.  He’s also a musician and has been busking, on top of regular gigs around Boston.

Oh, and he has MS.

When two writers and musicians get to talking about things they have in common, it can get verbose, but stay with us! You’ll enjoy this…

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“MS can be very powerful and it can crumble you. It can take things away. Important things. But it’s not the most powerful thing in your life, even if you have it, or it doesn’t have to be. You can give it the finger and keep doing things, keep going, even if you have to adjust how you’re doing them.”

What lead to your MS diagnosis?

I got a burning numbness that stretched from the back of my neck to my chest and a numb right hand. My doctor suggested shingles at first, but then the burning went away and the numbness started to move around my body, from my right hand to my whole left arm, then into my middle section (which led to an embarrassing emergency room visit), then down into my legs and feet, but never all those places at the same time. I had an MRI, and MS was one of the suspects, but it was another year before I was officially diagnosed. I went through physical therapy to get rid of a limp that had developed and get the strength back in my muscles. I lost the ability to play guitar for about a month, and as a songwriter, that was incredibly scary to me. I sat down with the instrument and couldn’t even place my fingers where they needed to go. I had to move my fretting fingers on my left hand with my right hand, and then I didn’t have the strength to push them strongly enough to make a chord. I was seriously considering how I might write on some other instrument and that maybe I’d have to become a real musician and learn notation. Luckily for me, the therapy helped, and my therapist told me that playing guitar and drums was good therapy for me to work up strength and dexterity.

I also had a spinal tap in the middle of this, but the lab messed up the test that would be most informative about MS. I was very worried about the spinal tap, especially once I learned there would be no anesthesia. It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, but they did have to tap me twice. They try to tap you as low as they can to stay away from the parts of the spine that could potentially cause problems if they disrupted them, but they couldn’t get fluid with the first tap, so they did it again, and then tests they were able to do didn’t indicate much. I had lesions on my spinal cord, though, and eventually that was rules MS. I am lucky in that I don’t have any on my brain, and the seven lesions on my spine have been basically stable since I started medication. It was about a year from that first burning numbness to the time I was finally diagnosed. Then I had to learn what MS really was, which is not an easy thing to grasp, and figure out what I wanted to do for treatment.

 What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve run into, professionally and/or personally, in dealing with MS?

Energy is a huge problem, and I have a couple of other things that complicate that. I had just been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes when I had my initial MS attack. Those two things together, I think , are responsible for rapid declines in energy that force me to stop what I’m doing to grab something to eat (which doesn’t always work) or try to sleep. That’s compounded by the fact that I am a writer and a musician, and have a tendency to work late at night on more creative endeavors. I can’t really sleep through the day because that’s when I need to be talking to editors and interviewing people for my journalism work. And I can’t always sleep through the night because I wind up staying up late to write songs or work on short stories or even write with a work deadline in mind. So my schedule is fluid.

It would be best if I followed a stricter sleep/meal schedule, but my brain doesn’t always work that way. I can improve things by forcing myself into a more regimented schedule, but something always comes along and breaks it. It might be a matter of just disciplining myself, but that wouldn’t resolve the problem altogether.

A byproduct of that is that it can be hard to concentrate on the project in front of me. My energy sometimes dips when I’m transcribing an interview or writing, and I can fight through it or wait it out. That just adds to the time it takes to finish something. And since I’ve had a few health scares in the past several years, I’ve been motivated by the idea that my ability to do the things that I think define who I am could be limited drastically or even taken away completely. So I’m working harder to finish things I should have done years ago. I’m finishing up my first full-length album of original material and working on a book of interviews with comedians I’ve done over the years writing for the Globe, the Phoenix, and other publications. There are days when I’m pushing myself harder than I ever have and it just breaks down, and I have to accept the fact that will happen and find a way to keep working. I have it easier than a lot of people who have a strict nine to five job, but it still affects my work.

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Has public disclosure hurt you in any way? If so, how?

I don’t think it’s hurt me in any way, at least not in any way that I know of. I’ve been open about it but I have sent everyone I know any sort of notice, so there may be people I know somewhat well who will read this and be surprised to hear I have MS. When I was first diagnosed, it was on my mind a lot when I talked to friends and colleagues, and it was hard to know how to bring it up.

“Hey, how ya doin’, Nick?”

“I have MS! How are you?”

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It’s not the most natural dialogue in the world, but I felt I needed to say something, if only because I was somewhat preoccupied by it and I wanted to get it out of the way so I could get back to a normal conversation. People talk so much about their maladies and anxieties these days that it almost feels like bragging to mention it. That could be my own ridiculous anxiety, but it made me nervous to talk about it, to make it clear that it’s something I’m dealing with, and fair topic for conversation, without making it seem like I was dropping a bomb.

My case also isn’t very advanced, so I don’t have the worst symptoms others display, so again, I’ve gotten off relatively easy so far. There are people faring far worse than I am, people who are having a much worse time of it, and it’s hard to say I have the same thing they do, because those people are fighting so much harder and my experience doesn’t compare. Yet, the reality is, I have this, and I’ve been reassured by doctors it is manageable, especially at this stage, but another attack could be out there. That’s often lurking in the back of my mind. I could wake up and have that same feeling I had when I picked up my guitar and couldn’t play it. It could be back to those same fears, the ones I’m convinced I would handle in a practical, rational manner, but could change my life, and my wife’s life, and perhaps others around me in some way. So there’s a feeling of obligation to have it out there, because maybe it might wind up affecting others in some way, too. Or perhaps the lesions are being created because my spine is pressing against my enormous, jagged ego.

What would you like people who know nothing about MS to know?

This is hard to say because I didn’t know a hell of a lot about MS before my own diagnosis. I knew it put Richard Pryor in a wheelchair, a man who abused himself perhaps more severely than any other human had and stayed on his feet. If MS took Richard Pryor down after everything else he’d been through and put himself through, it had to be something strong and serious. And I had read about Jonathan Katz, and eventually spoken with him about it. I saw a show of his I think the day after Pryor died, and he opened with the line, “I am now officially the funniest living comedian with MS,” which drew some silence and indrawn breath from the crowd, and then he tagged it with, “I’m going make Teri Garr wish she had Lupus.” I laughed at the sheer bravado and gall of that line, especially delivered with the understated, deadpan tone that Jonathan does so well. A lot of people didn’t laugh, may have been offended. My own symptoms and diagnosis was years away, but I think the line is even funnier now.

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“I am now officially the funniest living comedian with MS.”

So here’s the thing – MS can be very powerful and it can crumble you. It can take things away. Important things. But it’s not the most powerful thing in your life, even if you have it, or it doesn’t have to be. You can give it the finger and keep doing things, keep going, even if you have to adjust how you’re doing them.

There are too many awful diseases and conditions out there to expect the general population to research them all and have a working knowledge of it when you inform them you have that particular thing. But if you know someone with MS, know there are different stages and symptoms, and that you probably don’t have to be all that careful when you address it with them. For a lot of people, it’s an adjustment, but they are still keeping a full plate and doing things everyone else is doing. So don’t be afraid to ask questions and have a normal conversation about it. That’s the best help I can think of if you know someone who has it. And if you want to help in a more general way, there are plenty of charities to donate time or money to. Or you can come see some Crash Safely shows and help yourself, too.

Up for Grabs: 5 days/4 nights in Cancun

Vacations!  For some of us, it seems like we never get to go on any, so when we heard back from Sunset World, our bags were already packed!

5 days and 4 nights in Cancun, in one of their 4 resorts? With access to all four?  Why aren’t we there right now?

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Pictured: What we’re all missing right now.

The package is for 2 adults and two kids, although it’ll likely be fine if you bring less people.  After all, they have ‘adults only’ pools and a private beach.

Get an awesome vacation and help support the National MS Society!  We’ll be posting how to win this trip soon, so keep an eye out!!

Meet the Bands: Township

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Township have been putting out a ton of great music this year. An EP a month (at least), with some pretty trippy videos to go along with them.

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We may have just hypnotized you.  In that case, think of sweet, sweet guitarmony and don’t forget to grab you tickets!

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These are the droids you’re looking for.

Meet the Studios: Q Division

Ah, Q!

No, not this one.

No, not this one.

Q Division has become a record label, second home and annual BBQ yard sale funfest host over the years.  The Mayor of Q is even a Maybe Sump’ms team member! Encourage his athleticism by donating to him, and we’ll send you photographic evidence that he did indeed cross the finish line!

Q’s been part of Crash Safely right from the start, and they’re offering up a day in Studio B with Ed Valauskas! Ed’s also played Crash Safely with the Gentlemen!

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Studio B’s control room.

Check out Q’s studio time as well as all of the options ready for you to win. Bidding begins on 9/25, and this year, so keep that link handy!

Meet the Faces of MS, anonymously

As we’ve said many times, it can be hard for MS patients to publicly talk about what their lives are like, especially if they are employed and don’t “look sick.”  Some patients we spoke to said they’d love to tell their stories, albeit in an anonymous way.  Having to hide a big part of who you are is a foreign concept to many, but  it is sadly a big part of living with MS. Interestingly enough, many MS patients have adopted the language of the GLBTQ community in this regard and will often talk about the pluses and minuses of being “out.” Some will deride celebrities who have come out, stating that those are people who are “safe” in some way from the repercussions of their decisions.   As everyone with MS experiences different problems on different levels of severity, it can also be hard to form a shorthand to help people who are unaware of the complexities.  This patient spoke with us anonymously, so all of our usual promo photos here will be the blank avatars you see around social media outlets.

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“One of the hardest things about MS is that it’s really an assault on your sense of who you are.”

What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve run into socially, professionally (and any other public ways) dealing with your MS?

Most of the hurdles I face right now are predominantly in my own head, I think. I am self-conscious around my “limpy” gait and get nervous going to new settings. I’ve had some serious falls and I’m pretty scared about that. I know if I get a serious injury, or even a minor one, it’ll really be a setback. Places out on the world could definitely be more accessible for lots of folks with more severe handicaps than mine, but I think a lot of it is mental, for me anyway.

One of the hardest things about MS is that it’s really an assault on your sense of who you are. I was always a really social person, up for anything and now I have to do a lot of preparing for anywhere I go-thinking about the set-up, my energy level and how comfortable I may or may not be there. It really sucks and is a huge adjustment. I’m trying really hard to not turn down lots of fun things, but it definitely seems easier to just stay home sometimes.

It’s tough at work, because even though my boss knows, a lot of other people don’t. It’s pretty obvious I have something going on, but I basically say it’s just orthopedic problems. I’m not particularly private about it, but the look of terror in people’s eyes when you say you have MS is really tough to handle and I DON’T want to be pitied. Again, that gets to my sense of who I am-I’ve never been great at letting people help me or acknowledging my limitations (to be honest, I never really thought I had any!). There’s a real concern about job security too. Part of me feels like it can protect you a bit if you disclose you have MS, from a legal standpoint, but I’ve also heard stories of the opposite, so I’m cautious.

How does MS affect you (meaning- what are your usual symptoms and what ones are the worst for you)?

My gait and balance issues are the worst. They most greatly affect my life and give me the most difficulty. I actually have dreams of running and walking really smoothly again. I regret every time I took an elevator and didn’t climb stairs, not knowing it would barely be possible for me one day. I get nervous in situations where I may need to move quickly, like in an emergency- my dog gets loose or my son gets hit by a pitch in baseball and I have to get him to the emergency room. I sometimes am astounded that I have such a hard time walking – like, it’s so strange and something you take for granted. When I’m walking well some days, I completely notice it and am really psyched and feel like my old self. I can never predict when those days may be, though, and, unfortunately, they are becoming less frequent. At some point in the not too distant future, I’m sure I’ll need a cane. It’s really a loss and a grieving process.

What makes it hard for you to talk about your diagnosis publicly?

Like I said before, it’s really that look people get when you tell them- they look so sorry and horrified, like you told them you just had leprosy or something. I expected the people that love me to cry when I told them, and they basically did, but it’s other people’s reactions that get to me. I wish I was more public with my MS, because I feel like it would make me less self-conscious and I don’t like being insincere about what’s wrong with me. I just consider that part of my process and if there’s an upside to having an MS diagnosis, is that you really start to make yourself a priority and give yourself carte blanche to say and do whatever you want!

"The look of terror in people’s eyes when you say you have MS is really tough to handle and I DON’T want to be pitied."

“The look of terror in people’s eyes when you say you have MS is really tough to handle and I DON’T want to be pitied.”

What would you like people who know nothing about MS to know about it?

I would like people to have a greater understanding around how individual the disease process is to each person. You really can’t judge one person’s MS against someone else’s. It’s so unique and really means different things to each person who has it. Like any disability or chronic illness, the important thing to really focus on is helping people cope with the limitations as the disease progresses.

Meet the Bands: Tsunami of Sound

Tsunami of Sound

Summer!  There’s nothing quite like  surf guitar to set the mood, and nobody in Boston does it better than Tsunami of Sound!

Seeing as it’s been a bit cooler this weekend, we could use some summer tunes.

Check out their contribution to last year’s Crash Safely comp:

In case you’re wondering, they bring their own tiki lamps and bring the beach party to you, no matter how distant your beach blanket may seem.

Catch ’em at Atwood’s on 8/30 and make sure to see them at Crash Safely on 10/10!

Meet the Faces of MS: Amanda

Crash Safely has been introducing you to all of the bands, studios and items you can win this year, but there’s one group of people we’ve been omitting, and they’re the most important group!

That would be MS patients, their family, friends and bandmates.

It can be tough for MS patients to publicly talk about living with it, owing to misinformation and the unpredictable nature of the disease.  MS is different for every single person who has it, and that means that  it’s harder for people who don’t have MS to fully grasp what’s going on.
Our first interview will be from in-house here at Crash Safely.  If you have MS (or are close to someone who does) and want to participate, please drop Amanda a line!  You can participate anonymously as well.    Speaking of Amanda:

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What lead your MS diagnosis?

My dominant arm was sore and getting harder and harder to use.  After a while, that soreness crept down my arm to my side, to my leg.  The whole time, I was convinced that a) I had slept “wrong” and b) I had suffered some strange workplace injury. There didn’t seem to be any reason for what was going on.  I had an EMG (which feels really weird) and an MRI.  The MRI showed what was going on. When I was told it was MS, I was relieved.  All of the other tests were coming back negative and I was starting to believe that maybe I was going crazy.

What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve run into, professionally and personally, in dealing with MS?

Professionally has been a little harder than personally.  I’ve had some issues after full disclosure of MS at work, mostly with people not really understanding what I’m talking about and equating the phrase “chronic, demyelinating neurological disease” with a sudden, drastic drop in my intelligence.  Because my MS medication is an infusion, I have to have a talk about leaving work at a certain time every month to get the dose.  I’ve actually come up with a way to talk about that without saying that I have MS, but it still seems to make people think that I just want a long weekend. When one of my coworkers accused me of that once, I told her that I would gladly trade what she thought I was doing with what I was actually doing.  I’ve also invited people who questioned me on the infusions to tag along with me.  Unsurprisingly, no one took me up on that offer.

Personally, it’s been hard to adjust to the idea that I have to be aware of more. I’m doing much, much better that I was when I was diagnosed, but I still have to think about things that could mean the difference between me doing something fun and having to stay home.  How hot/humid is it out? Did I get enough sleep? Do I have enough time to eat/drink something before I head out? How far is the walk?  When I get there, will I be able to sit down without looking like I got something special?

I’ve had random strangers treat me horribly with regards to all of those things.  For a while, I needed to use a cane full time to walk around and I had people yell at me on the T because they didn’t want to give up their seats.

That can make you just a little bit grumpy.

That can make you just a little bit grumpy.

Has public disclosure of your MS hurt you in any way? If so, how?

It’s been more of a challenge professionally, and only then with the infusion talk.  I’m at a point where I figure there’s a big neon sign above my head that says I have it, so I forget that people don’t know.

What would you like people who know nothing about MS to know?

You don’t “catch” MS.  I didn’t do anything to cause it.  MS is a part of my life and there’s not much I can do about that (much like there’s not much I can do about my skin color).  I know it’s meant as a compliment, but “you look great!” can sound like a slag (unless you haven’t seen me in a while, then hey, I’ll take it as a compliment).  Why does it sound like a slag? Because, from my perspective, it sounds like you’re expecting that because I’m sick, I should “look sick.”  Living with MS is exhausting and expensive, even if you have really amazing insurance.  You have your PCP, a neurologist, medications, probably some kind of physical and occupational therapy. MS meds are speciality meds, so that means they’re on the highest copay tiers (and there are no generic equivalents right now). Probably mental health professionals. MRIs. If you take an injectable medication, there are extra costs there too (alcohol swabs, biohazard bins, proper disposal of the sharps). These are all for maintenance, so when things veer off track, it gets even worse.

Up for Grabs: Death Wish Coffee Gift Set

Coffee.  It’s a favorite drink of ours and we’ve had quite a lot of it to share over the years.

This year, we have  the strongest coffee you can buy.

What are you trying to tell me?

What are you trying to tell me?

Death Wish Coffee has an awesome name, awesome coffee and awesome logos.  How could we possibly pass them up?

They take their coffee very, very seriously (as do we).

Death Wish Coffee presents The Janitor from Death Wish Coffee Company on Vimeo.

They also have a coffee from Zakk Wylde called Valhalla Odinforce Blend.

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Which also has awesome artwork!

Coffee+ Rock’n’Roll+Great Graphic Design.  You can get it all with our Death Wish Gift Set!  It comes with:

5 lbs of whole bean Death Wish Coffee

Ground Death Wish Coffee

Death Wish T Shirt

Death Wish Thermal Mug

Cool spoon rests, coasters and stickers

We may even see about brewing up some Death Wish for the Early Birds at one of the shows as well!

Death Wish Coffee- who needs sleep, anyway?