EAST HOPE AVENUE

October Skies

when the sunlight in the morning, glistens off the snow
and when the faces loose their sparkle, like the friends I used to know
when the chilly winds of winter, surround your every thought
and the daylight is so blinding, and my mind is all distraught
and the last thing that your left to face, before you say goodbye
is the mirror-like reflection, of her bright green emerald eyes

I can feel the tires sliding, as I'm shifting through these lanes
these emotions race inside me, that I almost can't contain
man, it's always such a drag, how the summer races by
now all I see is rockets; and the cool October Skies

The graveyards all are haunted, like the basement in her house
and my heartstrings all are taunted, by the buttons on her blouse
my heart burns like a fire, of piles of leaves in fall
cause I burn right up to nothing, till on my knees I crawl

When the chalk hits the blackboard, is when you know the summers gone
and when the wind changes direction, thin ice coats the pond
I used to think of walking on it, just to see if it would hold
but I've been on thin ice my whole life, and the water is just too cold
I can see the distant rubble, from the pin holes in my eyes
like reflections off the water of stormy summer skies

Dorothy always told me, hey let me see that smile
and if I had my way, she would have stayed around for a while
but she lye awake all summer with teardrops in her eyes
cause all she felt was autumn, and the cool October skies

The graveyards all are haunted, like the basement in her house
and my heartstrings all are taunted, by the buttons on her blouse
my heart burns like a fire, of piles of leaves in fall
cause I burn right up to nothing, till on my knees I crawl

on back to you babe
on back to you babe
I keep crawling back to you babe...everytime

the autumn comes so subtle
like the roses in the spring
and you wake one day and realize, 
man it's such a beautiful thing

so keep on shooting for the stars, or you'll end up in the mines
and you'll never see the daylight, or the emeralds in her eyes
keep on shooting for the stars, or you'll end up in the mines
and you'll never see the daylight; or the cool October Skies

October Skies (the story behind it)

I used to work as a valet at an upperclass hotel in York Pennsylvania. It was one of the many jobs I worked while living in York and trying to get my life together….it's the only one I stuck with and the only job I ever worked at for longer than a year. When the winter months would come, things would slow down a bit and the job became pretty laid back. We were actually allowed to read while on the clock, and sometimes I even used to bring my guitar and sneak in some practicing. Our little valet both had a one way mirror in it, so I could see cars pulling in (or if anyone from staff was coming) but they couldn't see me. I got hooked on a few books while working there, one was Anthony Kiedis 'Scar Tissue'…love that book, read it twice. Another book that a friend- Jami Novack, now drummer of Cabinet, gave me was Hazrat Inayat Khan "The Music of Life". A very, very profound read. 

One day while I was walking through the upstairs of the Martin Library on East Market Street, I saw a book called- October Sky sitting on a special 'featured' stand in the non fiction section. I immediately felt drawn to read it for no particular reason whatsoever.. I didn't even know what it was about. Over the next month or so I read the story of Homer Hickman and his struggles between following his intuition to do what inspired him (build rockets, work for NASA), or to listen to what everyone else (teachers, authority, the collective conciseness of the town where he lived) thought he should do (which back in those days, in that part of West Virginia, was to work in the coal mines) and I somehow related. 

I started fiddling around on the Takamine acoustic guitar that I was playing at the time, and came up with the basic idea for the song 'Octobers Skies'. As with most of my songs, the lyrics where penned with a mostly 'stream of consciousness' style of writing. Most of the time I will write a song and then months or even years will pass before it will finally dawn upon me what the true meaning behind the song actually is. It started as a very slow song, I rarely played it, and it stayed that way for quite some time. You can hear the slow version at www.archive.org from the live WVIA sessions at Sordoni Theater on 10/11/10 (when I pulled it out of hibernation) done three piece with Kris Kehr on baritone mandolin and Freeman White on piano. One day during band practice at the house I lived in on Pen Y Bryn Drive, we decided to see what the song felt like with the tempo sped up a bit. It was Freeman White, AJ Jump, Kris Kehr, Bill Stetz, and myself (a particularly good line up of musicians indeed!) and we decided to have Kris kick off the tune with harmonica. I never thought the song was going to end up on East Hope Avenue, let alone, be the opening track, but when the whole band kicked in with Kris's harmonica screaming and moaning, something just felt good. It felt great. We decided to get into the studio and get it recorded asap. I give huge props to the musicians at the practice that day and their enormous contribution to this song for letting it grow into the (feel good, windows down, sunny day, opening track of the album) song we know it to be today. And also to Bret Alexander for getting a fantastic sounding version worked out in the studio.

When I think of the opening lines: "When the sunlight in the morning, glistens off the snow, and the faces loose their sparkle, like the friends I used to know. When the chilly winds of winter surround your every thought, and the daylight is so blinding and my mind is all distraught." it always takes me back a few years prior when I was living in a halfway house in Lititz PA. We had a huge snowstorm that left over a foot of snow behind, and the morning it all ended and the sun came out, I remember looking out the window at the blinding sun reflecting off the glazed layer of ice on top of the fresh snowfall. I remember being still enough to appreciate its beauty for a minute but feeling irritated that I was stuck inside this house, not allowed to leave at that particular point, and frustrated at myself for ending up in the situation I was in.

"I can feel the tires sliding" is like a metaphor for the way I felt inside at times when: 'I - the consciousness that I am' is observing- 'myself-or my thinking brain/ego' doing something hurtful to myself or others around me and can't seem to make myself stop. Kind of like being in a car thats sliding on a patch of ice headed straight into a ditch and not being able to do anything about it. I have used this phrase more than once in songs…another reference is in 'Casket'.

The chorus to the song is about being attracted to someone so much that it's sometimes painful (kind of like the way Homer H. felt in the book about a particular girl named Dorothy that he had his eyes on)… and how I never had much patience or willingness to nurture relationships in my life…especially close ones….and sometimes I would "burn right up to nothing, till on my knees I crawl.." 

I always liked the line "When the chalk hits the blackboard, is when you know the summers gone" and was really glad when Dennis McNally took a liking to that line too, and even mentioned it in our press release. "When the wind changes direction, thin ice coats the pond. I used to think of walking on it, just to see if it would hold, but I've been on thin ice my whole life, and he water is just too cold." When I penned this line I must have been thinking about Paupackan Lake in Lakeville PA, a place where I spent a good portion of my childhood and a lake that was right outside the front door of my house during that time. I have definitely walked out onto thin ice on many occasions…literally and metaphorically speaking.

"I can see the distant rubble from the pinholes in my eyes, like reflections off the water of stormy summer skies" is one of my favorite lines of the song and I know any person who has a similar history as I can relate. 

In the book, the girl who Homer was in love with was named Dorothy. He never ends up with her in the end. My Grandma's name was Dorothy and she loved me to death. Growing up, every time I would leave her house she would say " let me see that smile!"..and make me give her a big smile. This became her little ritual, and thats what I am referencing in the song. She helped me believe in myself and encouraged me to play music. My dad asked me to join his band -  which was named 'Uncle Jiggs Band' (after the groups backbeat and legendary local drummer Jiggs Shorten who actually played in a band with Noel Reading of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at one point. Rest in peace Uncle Jiggs..) when I was 16 and we practiced in Grandma's basement in Moosic PA. Sadly, we lost Dorothy Mizwinski to cancer in the summer of 2002. 

The last part of the song ties in the grand meaning behind it all. "Keep on shooting for the stars or you'll end up in the mines, and you'll never see the daylight or the emeralds in her eyes. Keep on shooting for the stars or you'll end up in the mines, and you'll never see the daylight.. or the cool October Skies". Homer eventually ended up working for NASA and its a classic heart warmer ending, for the most part. I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania, a region well known for it's coal mining heritage. I think of it as a little mantra to keep my head above ground and continue to do what inspires me, whatever that may be.

-Mike
(from an airplane well above the Atlantic Ocean headed to Berlin, Germany. 1/16/12)

more to come...stay tuned!