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Posts Tagged ‘Proximity’

Where have I been you ask?  I really hope no one is posing this question.  There was a time when my life could have been like one of those “Where’s Waldo” books.  These days I am rather happily complacent (complacent is a stretch) at my quaint Santa Barbara home.  To be honest I am rather happy, at least the happiest version of Chris Lisanti I have yet to know.

For the last seven days I have been running amuck back in my old stomping grounds Manasquan, NJ and the East Village, NYC.  Life is funny, five months ago if you told me I would be sitting in an airport terminal at Newark, NJ in August writing a recap blog I would have made some strange PHSSSSST type sound effect and cruised.  Here I am.

Proximity

How did I get here?  It all started with a night of depression drinking followed by a series of parties.  That’s right every now and again my reckless lifestyle puts forth an opportunity.  I met this incredibly nice guy, Ken at a party of a mutual friend.  We got to talking and next thing I know he was calling me to work on some music with him for this original play he was looking to put on over the summer.

At first I was hesitant, but I read the script and fell in love with the play, well I think it is the last few lines that always get me all choked up being a hopeless romantic despite my cavalier façade of a womanizer.  Then Ken played me some of the music and I was sold.  He had written one of the most fun contemporary scores I have ever heard for a show.  Being rather burnt out on doing any work what so ever for musical theatre this was saying a great deal.  I signed on not quite knowing what I was getting myself into.

I showed up to this potluck dinner at this ridiculous mansion up in the hills of Montecito, immediately thinking I was in the wrong place.  As usual I arrived about a half hour late.  I find it easier to walk into a party with everyone already there so I can case out the situation and make a stealthy escape if I find the scenario to be one of agitation.  Upon walking in the door I found myself being hugged by eight different people.

That was almost enough to send me running for the hills, but they seemed harmless enough and they were after all theatre people.  It was an amazing evening and the passion these young people had for their craft was mesmerizing to me.  They ended up sucking me in to their “family”, the Proximity family.  Being on my own again for the first time in two years it felt nice to belong to a group so full of goodness and love.

We delved into work and next thing I knew I found myself learning dance steps for a music video, on the beach dressed in all black running through the ocean like a banshee, playing saxophone at a benefit event in a group who’s style was deemed “electro-pop-funk” where I took the stage for the first time in eight years.  Then there were exhaustingly frustrating eight-hour rehearsals, tantrums, disagreements and finally the formation of a remarkable piece of work.

We ran three shows in Santa Barbara for a packed house and were well received.  I had friends in the audience who never even knew I played the sax and were blown away.  From Santa Barbara we were rushed out to NYC to do the show all over again in the East Village, the first time I would play in the city in ten years.  Life can be amazing at times.

NJ

 I took full advantage to of the opportunity.  I usually only get to see my family once a year at Christmas time.  The last time I was at the Jersey shore in the summer time was when I lived there four years prior.  I decided to build a few extra days in before the show to go spend some quality time with my folks and sister.  Truth be told I had been feeling a little bit home sick the last few months and wanted to remind myself why I left.

All I can say is that NJ is a hellhole.  Its hot and sticky even at 2am in the summer and then in the winter you freeze your ass off.  No thank you, I will take the predictable moderate climate of Santa Barbara any day.  The surf was flat the entire time yet some how I managed to break my toe while fucking around in knee high surf finless.   If you want to know more about my Jersey surf sessions visit the surflog.

It rained nonstop for two whole days and was deemed by the weather service a record rain fall for that time of year.  Seriously?  Last time I was home for Christmas I got dumped on by five feet of snow and was stuck inside for three days.  The last time I surfed in NJ before this trip I cut my foot open requiring eight mattress stitches and severed a tendon that never really healed correctly.  That is what you get when you don’t have medical insurance boys and girls.  I am telling you New Jersey hates me.

I did have a grand old time on the party scene, getting to pre game with my boys Kiefer and Greg P at his pad in Asbury, met up with my old roommate and downtown SB partner in crime Cory Kisiel, which lead to a black out, old habits die hard.  Kooky Kyle brought me by the Porch to catch up with none other then Bojangles and Scotty B.  My friend Micheala took me to some fun bar in Asbury that had plastic sand pails full of rum (that was a mistake).  Kooky, Val and I went to some bar in Avon that had tiny little 8oz beers for a $1 where I ended up getting absolutely sloshed for $13.

Kooky and I hit on some random girls just to show my sister what a lurk was all about.  I pretended to be from California, but it went horribly wrong.  As it turned out they knew me from when I lived in NJ and call me out. “Your name is Chris Lisanti right? Weren’t you a pro surfer?”  We slunked away defeated into the corner and had a laugh and half about it.  They were ugly anyway and lucky I even talked to them.  It was only to entertain Val who was nice enough to be my designated driver.  I have a woman I am seeing back in Santa Barbara right now who as far as I am concerned is far better looking, intelligent and straight up more amazing then anything Jersey could even try and temp me with.

I even ran into former Jerseyite Beth Anne, now living in Laguna, but was in town visiting her family as well.  As usual we exchanged the same words “I hate this place, can’t wait to go back to California”.  I bumped into former Lisanti Land character Jiggles, who I barely recognized thanks to a major weight loss.  I guess we should not call him Jiggles anymore.

Catching up with my family was as good as it ever could be.  Besides a few tiny scuffles my mother and I got on famously.  We had some quality walks on the beach, I cooked a few scrumptious dinners, and breakfasts, including banana fosters waffles.  I think everyone gained a few extra pounds on my stay.  My parents and I played a round off golf at the course I used to be the assistant greens keeper at (I asked if the same horse’s ass owned it and I could immediately tell by the look in the girl’s eyes who took our fare that it was, look for an odd jobs on that job one of theses days).  Apparently they have been practicing cause they stomped my ass.  I was easily fifteen strokes behind.  I think it is just that I play better high and the chronic in NJ sucks, on top of being highly illegal.

On my last day I even got to catch up with my good old friend and one of my very first minions, Sorbo.  If you remember back to the myspace.com days he was almost killed in a horrific motorcycle accident.  Since then I guess he has been just floundering trying to figure out his next step in life.  We ended up bombing some hills in the Brielle Cemetery together.  I had not skated that since I was in high school.  I gave him a passport to Lisanti Land and an open invitation.  I really hope he takes me up on it.  A little time out in my world I think will do him a bit of good.

NYC

The last time I was in New York City was also four years ago and my time and a good deal of my money was spent at these gnarly ultra private clubs in the meatpacking district.  I am talking about places with no sign that look like an abandoned building, but then were super luxurious inside.  This time I was there on business to help tell the story of Shandy Wilkes through the melodic prowess of my soprano saxophone.

The show ran from Thursday the 18th to Saturday the 20th at the Robert Moss Theatre in the Village.  Initially I was far from impressed by the capacity of the small sound stage.  As soon as I pulled out my horn and began to blow I fell in love with the room.  By far one of the best sounding spaces I have played in.

Taking the train in everyday was quite the three-hour adventure, driving from my parents’ home in Manasquan to Metro Park, 45 minutes.  Taking the train from Metro Park to Penn Station another 45 minutes, then finally walking from 32nd street to 4th street in the village around another thirty minutes or so.  It was fun for the three days I had to do it.  If I had to commute into the city every day like most workers do I would kill myself.

Friday night’s show went down in front of a packed house, standing room only at times.  I felt in my opinion it was the best I had seen the actors perform the show.  I was blown away and that is saying a lot for me.  Saturday I went into the city with my parents, where we met up with my aunt and ejoyed a nice Italian dinner before heading over to theatre.  It was the first time my parents have heard me play live in ten years.  They really enjoyed the show, although no comment was made about my personal playing either way.  From my mother that means it must have sounded good cause although not apt to give a complement she is the first to criticize.

All in all I would have to say it was one of the more enjoyable trips I have had back to my childhood home.  Still it is very nice to be back in California, which really feels like home to me. One thing I will say and maybe this is me getting sentimental in my old age is that I felt a bit sad to be leaving my family behind for another six months till Christmas.

A special thanks goes out to Micheala for filling Nick the Kook’s shoes in his absence, being in Chile, driving me to surf, lending me a board and helping me stay in the party.  Sorbo gets a salutation for helping me pack and ship some new threads I bought. For those of you who don’t know him, Sorbo is a master at the art of packing and shipping.  Kooky Kyle and Cory Kiesel for buying me one two many drinks and my folks for being decent to me.   And my boy Ryan back in California for holding down the fort.  Thanks everyone, with out you Lisanti Land would be not half as fun.

Here are some really terrible photos I took with my cell phone.  Enjoy and thanks for reading.

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That was probably one too many exclamations points, but then again there is proper reason for excitement.  Tonight is the opening night of the play I have been working on for the last month or so with the theatre group PROXIMITY.  You remember back in July when I was fundraising for this cause?  Well if you don’t we needed to raise $20,000 to get the show off the ground and into the theater, see I am Not a Whore and Im Calling Out to You for more details on that.  We got the money during our benefit show at Soho, read About Last Night for more on that one and have been since working very hard on putting the play together.

When I say very hard I mean it.  These folks have been practicing eight to twelve hours a day for the last month at least.  I did not have do even a quarter of the work they had to and just that little bit was exhausting.  Tonight is the culmination of all of our hard work, Opening night at the Center Stage Theater.  The show starts at 8pm and tickets are $20.  I can personally vouch for the validity of the  integrity of the performance and you have yours truly on the soprano saxophone, so you know you can’t go wrong.

Come and check us out tonight 8pm at the Center Stage Theater in Downtown Santa Barbara.  If you cannot make it tonight or love it so much you need to see it again Shandy Wilkes will be running Thursday (8/11) and Friday (8/12).  For my east coast friends you can catch us next weekend at the Robert Moss Theatre in NYC Aug 18-20.  Hope to see you there.  Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to have a grand old time and support the arts.

Here are some videos for a sneak peak at what you will be missing if you do not come out:

Shandy Wilkes Promo: Burning Dance from Proximity Theatre Company on Vimeo.

Shandy Wilkes Promo from Proximity Theatre Company on Vimeo.

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Eight years ago I sold my soul for a measly $100 a gig playing with a discombobulate excuse for a jam band called Wooden Satellite. The name itself was a god dam oxymoron.  I mean if you built a satellite out of wood it is surely going to burn up in the atmosphere.  That is what for the most part happened in our case.

 

The group was myself on the saxophones, a guitarist, drummer and bassist.  Practices were spent with a three way drunken fight among the three while I blew Coltrane on my horn.  The fights always ended with a good old fashion bong rip session.  It did not take long before I stopped going to practices.

 

The gigs were a joke always at dive bars, but they had a following and I always got paid.  Finally it all ended because we lost a very lucrative running gig at a local bar. The three idiots did not want to pay their bar tab.  I felt like I was in the movie Blues Brothers sans Aykroyd and Belushi and the talented players.  Lets loose a $400 a week gig over a $100 bar tab real fucking smart fellas.  Rip another hit.

 

It was at that moment that I vowed never to pick up my saxophone in pursuit of pleasing the ears of others, who did not deserve to hear what I had to offer.  Fast foward eight years later.  You can only begin to imagine the gigantic internal conflict I was faced with when asked by my friend Ken to get up on stage with his solo project and blow.

 

I had been playing my horns regularly again and thought why not take a risk?  I spend more time then not preaching to everyone here to go out and lay it all on the line.  Since I hate hypocrisy I made the decision to put myself out there vulnerable for all to see.

 

What the fuck am I talking about you ask.  Well as most of you know by now I have been working with a small nonprofit theatre company here in town called Proximity.  Last night we had a fundraiser at this quaint music venue here in downtown Santa Barbara called Soho.  Initially I figured I would just go for support but then found myself up on stage with three saxes around me just like old times.

 

The music as Ken put it was “Electro-Funk-Pop” a very unlikely combination, but when all was said and done it came out awesome.  I had a few very close friends show up to the gig and the room was plenty packed with all sorts of cool cats out to support a good cause. I showed up and did my usual pre performance routine.  I put myself in a corner away from everyone where I could get in the zone and be alone with my thoughts.  Focus on the task at hand so to speak.

 

Normally I would have had a drink or two to set my mind at east, but I promised Ken no drinking before the show.  Then it was time to take the stage and my mind was a complete blank.  I knew what needed to be done and I was completely focused like the pinball wizard.  I was just a side man, but the thing about my playing is once I get going I never seem to be able to stay in that role

 

I looked out at the audience just as we were about to get started and I remembered how much I loved looking out from the stage into the lights, just barely being able recognize faces.  That moment of anticipation right before that first note is blown.  I recognized a new person in my life whom is steadily becoming an important character in Lisanti Land.  I was glad she came and could share that moment with me (look for more on this mystery woman soon, Im not quite ready to expose her to you folks yet).

 

The first two songs kept things mellow for me, a few easy riffs, some long tones and melodic lines.  The next few began giving me some room to blow.  By the end it was guns a blazing I had fully remembered why I got into music in the first place.  The crowd was on their feet.  I did my usual non-committal eye contact, half bow, turn of the shoulder thing that I always used to do on stage. Got my horns and stepped off.

 

The whole ordeal was eight years in the making and it went down in a mater of 35 minutes. In that short time I was reinvigorated.  Any doubts I had about my life after all the bullshit I had to cut through the last few months were gone.  I remembered exactly who I was and why I exist.  I define who Chris Lisanti is and no one else.

 

As I got off stage everyone was hugging each other and celebrating.  Turns out while we were performing my theatre company reached our goal of $20,000, the reason the event was happening in the first place.  The gnarly thing was we had only raised a little over $13,000 before going on and there was only about 16 hours left.  If we did not make the full quota we would have gotten nothing at all.  Big things are about to happen and just when I thought the golden age of Lisanti Land had passed we go and enter an even stronger age.  Cheers everyone.

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A few weeks ago I wrote a blog Im Calling Out to You.  The basic gist of that blog was to solicit funds for this theatre company here in Santa Barbara that I am currently working with called Proximity.  I am not going to reiterate what was mentioned the latter blog, you can click on the link above if your interested.  Instead I thought I would make one more plea to all of you for help.

Proximity is this nonprofit theatre group whose sole purpose is to perform high quality original shows that not only entertain but leave the audience with a thought provoking message, a message that may just help change perspectives and break down barriers.  More importantly we are a group committed to the avocation of the performing arts at no personal gain to ourselves besides the satisfaction of a job well done.  Everyone in the group is a super talented individual bringing his/her personal strengths and creative diversity to form an impervious unit.  Believe me all you need to do is see us in action and it will all become clear.  A picture is worth a thousand words after all.

If we are not in it for the money then why do we need it?  Unfortunately even if our time is free of cost other extenuating circumstances need paying for: rehearsal space, performance space, costumes, sets, and travel.   This summer we are putting on an original show called Shandy Wilkes written by talented NYC based play write Karina Richardson.  We will be taking the stage here in Santa Barbara at The Center Stage Theater From August 10-12th.  Immediately following the Santa Barbara shows Proximity shall be whisked away to New York City to perform Shandy Wilkes at the Robert Moss Theatre in the East Village from August 18-20th.

Why am I wasting your time?  Some of you have contributed already.  Let me be the first to thank my old friend, Sayreville bowl partner in crime and house party enthusiast Nick Kiefer for contributing to the cause.  He actually threw down the first day I wrote about my cause.  I also would like to thank my father Joseph Lisanti whom also made a very generous donation.  There all sorts of little incentives as well for different scales of donations, not that you need such motivation, but its always nice to get something in return for your kindness.

Proximity is a legit nonprofit organization meaning your donations are tax deductible.  If your looking to clear some heavy earnings with the IRS this year  for $10,000 we will credit you with director of the play.  Think how that would impress a date.  You take to the show, she opens the program and reads that you are the director.  She does not have to know you did nothing more then give $10,000.  You can just look into her eyes with an air of satisfaction and watch her melt right there in front of you. Trust me you will definitely get some that night.  For $1,500 you can name a character in the play.  Think of all the fun you can have with that, while helping out a great collection of artists.

Seriously there are over 3000 readers on this blog now and believe me I love each and every one of you, even the those I don’t know.  SurfingRuinedMyLife.net is my heart and soul.  It is me personified. My life out on the internet exposed to the public for all to read and be entertained, be it good or bad.  I don’t censor too much. When I’m hurting I write, when I’m happy I write, when I have crazy bizarre ideas I write.  If you have noticed the content here has gotten a thousand times better then it used to be.  That is because it takes me longer to compose a good coherent blog.

Here is what I am asking from everyone as a thanks Chris for giving me something fun to read all these years.  So far we at Proximity have raised just over $9000, but we still need another $11000.  I know we are all broke, but if everyone here just gave $1 dollar then that would $3000!!! If a few gave $5 or $10 then who knows what would happen.  I am going to up the ante even more for you folks.  Kick starter gives me a list of backers whom have donated.  It does not tell me how much you put into the pot, but if you end up on that list I will write a special blog just for you about anything you want.  Anything.  It could be a special recipe, a blast from the past, a drunken tale, a blog all about you, a fictional story about a hover cat.  You name it I scribe it.  I hope I have to write 3000 of these things.

Once again thank you Dad, Nick Kiefer, and even Nick the Kook for mentioning us on his blog staywet.net.  If you feel so compelled to help out click here to donate: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kenurbina/proximitys-shandy-wilkes-in-sb-and-ny.  If you need help just let me know and I can walk you through it.  Oh and Kiefer don’t worry you will get your blog too, just let me know what you want it to be about.  I hope if you are in the New York or Santa Barbara area for any of the show dates you will come out to see the show!

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*all the blogs linked in here are because they explain how I ended up where I am.

Maybe I should not put three exclamations in the title line.  Someone once told me that is the equivalent of shouting.  I could have put it in all caps too.  I’m not trying to shout at anyone in particular, but to shout out to all of you my faithful and truly loved readers, your friends, family and diverse spheres of influence.  I…well we, need your help.  Sit back, relax, read on and find out just what it is I ask of you.

Well it all started over a glass of port back in early April at a small little beatnik hole in the wall off State St.  It was right around when I wrote: “The House of Lisanti is in Disarray“, wow that seems so long ago now.  I went downtown with my friend Jules to pretty much cry about my desperate situation.  Early on in the evening she ended up bailing on me for one reason or another leaving me sitting all by my lonesome looking rather pathetic at this tiny little table in the corner.

While there weeping in my $8 glass of less then stellar port this group of four people came up and asked if they could join me.  There were plenty of available tables yet they were rather persistent.  The ringleader of the group, this strange looking Australian dude just would not take no for an answer.    Too distraught to put up any type of fight I agreed.

They asked what was a matter and my response was” you don’t want to know” To which they insisted to hear my story of deceit, heart ache, despair, destruction and ultimate heart break (although at that time I still believed I had a chance). You can read about that story in “Bowing Out.  They were pretty genuine people and all seemed like worthy and respectable individuals, traits very uncommon amongst many today.  With their careful prodding and fun input the story took on a life of its own and when all was said and done I had four new friends.

Turns out the Aussie, Nick was throwing a party at his house the following day and invited me to come.   Although my plans were to stay in bed for the next five days or so I decided to attend.  The party turned out to be a ton of fun where I met heaps of wonderful people.  About a month later right after “One Last Perfect Day” was dropped, Nick had another party, which I also attended.  Trust me if you ever have the opportunity to go to one of his events make sure you grab the bull by the horns and show up.  They are just about unsurpassed.

Since my life went down the crapper everyone loved to tell me that everything happens for a reason and other bullshit cliché stuff of that variety.  Up until now I did not believe them and just frankly wanted to bash skulls in each and every time I heard that type of stuff.  Now looking back I realize there may have been a lot of truth in that adage.

The thing about these parties is that I seldom know anyone at them because everyone is rather new to me.  It is a completely different circle then I am used to traveling in.  The majority of the attendees are really positive, hardworking, professional people all around my age, instead of the typical burnt out waste of space characters I usually choose to keep around me.  I must admit it is a very refreshing change.

At this particular event I began talking with this pretty chill guy Ken, who ended up with in the course of a few casual question most likely just to be polite and make conversation got wrapped up into a string of tales from Lisanti Land.  Poor guy.  As it turns out he is a musician as well and we had very similar musical roots.  Ken apparently runs this theatre company here in Santa Barbara with his lovely girl friend Kyra called Proximity.

Through the course of the evening Ken said he thought he could use me in the company.  We exchanged numbers and then I cruised out to meet up with some friends at the Wild Cat, after all is there any other way to end a perfectly good Saturday? I think not.  I was thinking it a 50/50 chance he would hit me up.  I was sort of hoping he would though, because I have just recently been wood shedding on my horns hardcore and would love to work my way back into the arts.

About a month passed and I figured that Ken was no longer interested.  It was no worries I was not sure if was ready to play in that capacity anyway.  Then I got a call from him that he was having a potluck dinner meeting with the group and if I would like to join.  I still sort of thought he was just trying to get me over so I would cook a banging dish for his group (I did my usual go to pot luck dish: Baked Ziti, it feeds a large number and is absolutely scrumptious, don’t worry I promise to post some new recipes soon).  Turns out he was pumped to have me and so was everyone else there.

What an amazing group of people he had assembled for Proximity.  With out even seeing them in action I could tell these artists were very talented (after experiencing their capabilities, I can vouch for the entire group).  They were all so passionate about what they have going on.  I had not seen passion like that since my early Berklee days and it was refreshing.  It’s not about the money or the accolade, but just about the pure love of putting on an incredible performance and that warmed my heart more then anything has in some time.

Important!  Read Here:

Why have I wasted your time with this pointless boring story you ask.  First off you should all know by now I am rather long winded much like Hawthorne, except I am not paid by the word.  Second I, we at Proximity need your help.

We are a very small group who are doing this for the love and not the money.  Proximity is also a nonprofit organization (its legit and tax deductible!)  This summer we are putting on a pretty big production of an original show written by group member Karina Richardson entitled Shandy Wilkes.  It’s a pretty cool story that I will not get into here but will furnish a link to it at the end of this blog.   All I can say is that it is guaranteed to be an excellent show.  The plan is to run it here in Santa Barbara from August 10-12 at The Center Stage Theater and take it to New York City from August 18-20at The Robert Moses Theater.

To put on a performance of this magnitude it is not going to be cheap and this is where I am personally reaching out to each and every one of you.  We are looking for donations (like I said before whatever you give can be used as a tax write off) from anybody looking to support something great. You can give as little as $1 or as much as you wish.

It’s not like me to go soliciting for money or I would have a donation button here on my site. Considering that, you have to think I must really have high hopes for this project.  All I can say is that this group has given me something to believe in again, has helped me get my life back on track and allowed me to once again enter into the music world, a place I once swore I would never take part in again.  I am very excited for this, but we can’t do it with out your help.  So if you have anything to spare even if it is just $1, throw it in the pot cause every little bit helps.

You can donate and learn more about the project here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kenurbina/proximitys-shandy-wilkes-in-sb-and-ny

Check out Proximity and what we are all about here: http://www.proximitytheatre.org/

Support this cause for no other reason then to get me back on the sax.

Thank you for listening.

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