joannebest











 

 

bestfamilyI was barely 5 years old the day I met my baby brother for the first time. Excited beyond belief at the thought of no longer being the youngest, I was going to have a tiny little brother to fuss over. I was sure life was going to be wonderful and I was going to be the best big sister that ever existed.

I remember every detail of that day, the clothes I wore, the constant trips to the window impatiently waiting for Dad’s Rambler to pull into the driveway bringing my Mom and new little brother home. After what seemed like forever, they finally got home and I ran as fast as my little legs would carry me. In a portent of things to come, I grabbed onto the porch railing, my soft little hand landing squarely on a very angry bee who decided it was more important to sting me rather than welcome the new arrival to the Best Family. In retrospect, I should have realized what life with Tommy would become.

Never boring.

It wasn’t long after his arrival that the two of us contacted a nasty case of chicken pox, our poor Mom spent half the time applying calamine lotion and the rest of the time trying to convince us to not scratch, not an easy feat when you’re dealing with a newborn baby and a 5 year old, but we made it through unscathed.

Living in Newark raising 3 young children didn’t last long as our Parents decided it was time to move to the suburbs, and before we knew it, we were living in Sayreville NJ, a 4 bedroom house giving each of us kids our very own bedroom. There was a 5 year age difference between the 3 of us, so in a way, Donald was almost a generation older than Tommy. Being in the middle, as well as being the only girl-child, it fell to me to keep an eye on Tommy.

Believe me, it sounds a lot easier than it was. Tommy had a lust for life and a fearless nature from the day he was born and he never lost that. Nothing scared him, nothing kept him from living life to the fullest on his own terms.

I have so many memories of growing up with Tommy I could easily fill a book long enough to rival War and Peace, but I would like to share just a few.

As most of you know, Tommy loved music and was a drummer in a few bands, most notably, Genocide. His obsession with drums began before he could even talk. We had an ongoing feud when we were kids that could be broken down into 2 sentences: Tommy complaining to our Mom about my neverending singing. “Ma! Make her stop singing!” he would say constantly, to which I would reply, “Ma! Make him stop playing drums!” It didn’t take long for us to realize this was a battle neither of us would ever win as he grew up to be a drummer in a band and I became a singer in another band . Tommy never needed a drum set back then and he didn’t need drumsticks, he would use anything he could get his hands on, including his fingers to bang away on any and every thing in his sight. One 4th of July he marched around the house using a garbage can lid and a red magic marker as a makeshift drum set. In true Tommy fashion, the marker exploded, covering Tommy from head to toe in what looked like blood but turned out to be magic marker.

When I was around 17 years old and heavily obsessed with the Punk scene, I got it in my mind that Tommy should have a drum set. I brokered a deal with one of my President Park Punk friends and lo and behold, at the age of 12, Tommy got his first drum set. Now although our musical tastes were similar, we had to keep it on the down-low. It wasn’t cool for a brother and sister to share too much at that age, but when he didn’t know I was in the house, I caught him switching his Iron Maiden and ACDC albums to my “borrowed” Ramones and Dead Boys albums. I never let on that I knew, but I was secretly pleased that we were becoming closer, at least when we were out of the public eye.

Fast forward a few years and before I knew it, somehow Tommy’s friends and my friends became one and the same for the most part. We drifted apart a bit after Tommy got married and had 3 children, but I was so proud of him whenever I saw him with his children. He lived and breathed for Tommy, Danny and Alexa. There was nothing more important to him than his children, he loved them with every ounce of his being and in fact the last words Tommy said to me was this : “If anything happens to me, please make sure my kids are taken care of.” I didn’t think much of this and in fact asked him why he was talking like that. I knew he was having problems with his heart but I also knew that there was nothing that could take him down. Not Tommy. He was, as our Dad used to say “Strong like bull”, he lived through war and made it back, there was no way any kind of illness would defeat him. He lived through a nasty divorce which I won’t describe out of respect for his children, but I will say that after his divorce, he had the most difficult years of his entire life.

He lost his home and Family in one fell swoop without warning and moved back home with our Parents. After a week of so he broke his leg yet it didn’t stop him. Very soon thereafter Hurricane Irene did a number on our Family home and by the Grace of God, Tommy, hearing a loud boom ran downstairs, broken leg and all, called 911 and got our Mom and Dad out of the house before the entire house collapsed. I shudder to think what would have happened to them if Tommy hadn’t been there that night.

As soon as the State of Emergency was lifted, Mom, Dad, and Tommy moved in with my husband Mike and me and my sister-in-law Pat. It was a full house, with 6 adults, 2 dogs, and 3 cats, but we made it work. After Mom and Dad found an apartment to live in until the house was repaired, Tommy continued to live with us for nearly a year. When Christmas rolled around, Tommy was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to give anyone any gifts. Every penny he had went to his children yet still he worried about us. As long as I live I will never ever forget that Christmas morning. Santa, in his infinite wisdom, delivered a stack of gifts from Tommy to all of us. Now I’m the first one to admit we tend to go overboard when it comes to Christmas morning, we always feel a childlike joy when it comes to giving to others and that year was no different. We spent hours unwrapping gifts, and as the morning progressed I noticed Tommy would get up periodically and leave the room. It wasn’t until a few days later when the two of us were alone in the house that Tommy told me that this particular Christmas was the best Christmas he celebrated in his entire life. Never in his life, he said, had he received so many gifts as he did that year. He also filled me in on a little secret I wasn’t aware of, Christmas day, my husband Mike took Tommy aside privately and gave him a Christmas card containing quite a few hundred dollar bills. Tommy tried to give it back but we have a rule, no such thing as take-backs when it comes to gifts. That was the first time in my life I ever saw my 6’3″ baby brother cry tears of happiness, love, and acceptance.

I’ve written a lot of words here in an attempt to give you a little insight into the Tommy you may not have known. He was a gentle giant, a big guy with a heart of gold, he would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need. He was a quiet hero, helping anyone, whether he knew them or not. One day, Tommy and his Family were driving back from a day trip and saw a terrible accident on the Garden State Parkway, a van full of people had crashed, rolling over trapping everyone inside. Without a thought for his own safety, Tommy literally crawled through broken glass and got every single person out of that van, covering them up with his own jacket and sweaters and anything else he could find. He even crawled back in one more time when one of the passengers realized his medication was in the front seat of the van. By the time the EMT’s and Police arrived on the scene, everyone was safely out of the vehicle, Tommy told the Police what happened and like a true Angel, Tommy disappeared, never getting credit nor wanting credit. Because that is who Tommy was. And that is who Tommy always will be, an unsung hero who will live on through his children, and a never to be forgotten baby brother, living on in my heart for the rest of my days.

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{September 11, 2015}   I Can Never Forget

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who is having a hard time getting through another September 11th. I tried desperately to write today but found myself staring at a near blank page and clicking back and forth between writing and looking at Facebook.

Basically wasting time.

I can’t even muster up the ability to write about that day in 2001 from my perspective, but it nags at me, to post something. I can’t ignore the day without acknowledging it some way,  yet I can’t write anything today, the words are stuck in my heart because my head is filled with all the what-ifs, all the lives that were touched that day, and how there was a ripple effect that day. You didn’t have to live in New York or New Jersey or Pennsylvania or Washington DC or Boston, it doesn’t matter where you lived, the World changed that day and Innocence became a memory the instant that first plane hit the first Tower.

I dug out some of my blank books, the books I use to keep track of rehearsals and write lyrics. I also tend to doodle when there’s lead singer down time, and it just so happened we had rehearsal on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. I wanted to cancel but in the end we decided to go to the studio and try to not think for two hours. We had a gig coming up where we had to add a few cover songs to usual original set so I had a bit of doodle time while the musicians musicianed other people’s songs.

So I decided to take a few photographs of my doodles, and the lyrics to a song I wrote that night called “Lay Me Down”, just my feelings about that day jotted down quickly in a blank book as the horrifying terrible smell was everywhere and the smoke continued to take over the sky no matter where you turned.

This year was worse for me. Don’t know why, it just was.

So I shall share some pages from journals written and doodled on Tuesday, September 11th,2001 at Stage Right Studios while our Innocence disappeared slowly, nearly unnoticed, like that tragic scent and the never-ending smoke. I never claimed to be an artist, but I just needed to share this, and hope to sleep tonight nightmare-less, unlike last night when I had one of those same nightmares where I’m lost in New York City alone in the dark.

If you click on this photo you can see a scribbled NYC skyline, the one I saw every single day.

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If you click on this you can see my mental me unravel a bit, writing down words to songs my Mom sang to me when I would cry and she’d sing “Why oh why oh why oh, did I ever leave Ohio?” Neither one of us ever went to Ohio but it became our code song, kind of like clicking your ruby slippers three times or Calgon, take me away type stuff.

Just me then? [shrugs]

 

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These are the lyrics to Lay Me Down, the song I wrote that night, the song sitting in another studio waiting for me to finish some vocals and a few other touchups. If you click on the photo I was surprised to find the words legible. Um, just me then? Either way, I believe I may have posted them previously, if not, perhaps I will.  Right this moment, this is all I can do.

I’ll get back to my WIP tomorrow after Dad Duty. How do you make an almost 89 year old ex Navy Man who was actually there on D Day let you help him? He doesn’t want my help, he wants my Mom back and so do I but that isn’t possible. So I shall visit and clean and do laundry and go food shopping, shout louder than I sing so he can hear me, and bite my tongue near in half at the way he talks to me and the fight he gives me about cleaning. He can do it himself you know. That translates into what I call Covert Cleaning. I’m getting better at it. Oh, my point, I will have to remember to post my lyrics if I already haven’t. I think I may have but my head is telling me to watch Anthony Stewart Head in Dominion then sleep. Without lost in NYC dreams please.

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Well would you look at that! Over 700 words, much more than I thought I had in me.

I have to thank Kate Richards and Nina Cooper, their collective words to me on Facebook healed me enough to post this. Thank you both, you are truly amazing women I am extremely Blessed to know in any capacity, this virtual world we gather in really does make miles disappear. For that I am very grateful ❤



me and mom“Mothers hold their children’s hands for just a little while, and their hearts forever”~ Irish proverb ~
Someone much wiser than me recently told me my Mother flows through my veins, that every pump of my heart pushes part of her through my body and my mind, so she will always be with me. Always. It wasn’t until I was a few miles away from Cape May that I began to feel anxious the other day, uneasy almost, as if I’d left something behind when I packed my bags to head north. Which, of course, I had, when I stood alone on the slippery jetties and scattered my Mother’s ashes where she wanted them, in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape May beach.
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In the last ten years or so, Mom and I started a new tradition, 2 to 3 visits a year to Cape May, just the two of us. The only rule we had was we had to stay at The Victorian and we had to stay no less than 5 days. We began to think of The Victorian as our home away from home, always warmly welcomed as Mom checked in because I couldn’t stop petting the cat all cozied up on a comfy chair purring away in tandem with the thumping of the dog’s tail. We didn’t even care if we left the room, although we did spend many hours wandering through the most beautiful town in the world. What mattered was the talking. Two best friends talking who just happened to be Mother and Daughter. Those are the times I cherish most.
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Everything happens for a reason some say, and I’m still trying to figure out the reason Mother Nature decided Saint Patrick’s Day, the day I planned to bring Mom to her final resting place, was a good day to dump 7 inches of snow in Cape May while leaving the rest of NJ alone.
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But I was on a mission.
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After a longer than usual drive into howling wind, freezing temperatures, and snow nearly up to my knees in some drifts, I trudged my way, Mom in hand, down to the surf.
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I don’t remember ever being so cold and I talked to Mom as we got closer to the waves crashing over the jetties.
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My closest friend Shawn came with me so I wouldn’t have to be alone, but since she knows me so well, she understood my need to scatter Mom’s ashes by myself, but in true Best Friend Form, she walked with me to the beach, staying back just a bit so I could say my final goodbyes, just me and Mom, alone together for the last time.
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Is there ever enough time to say everything you want to say to someone? Usually we put it off or hope they just know how we feel.
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I am so Blessed to have a Mother who taught me to always say ‘I Love You’, so thankful that we never even ended a phone call without saying it to each other, and beyond grateful that the last words we said to each other were “I Love You”.
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Is it possible to feel relief and dread at the same time? Relieved that my sweet beautiful Mother is in that good place now, yet dreading each day without her in my life. I will never say goodbye to Mom, I will say until we meet again, I will feel your presence with each breath I take, feel you watching over me as you did all my life.
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And most of all, I will love you for the rest of my days, until I see you again.
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Rest In Peace, my beautiful Mother.
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From Buffy The Vampire Slayer ~ The Body
Anya (crying): But I don’t understand! I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s, there’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore! It’s stupid! It’s mortal and stupid! And, and Xander’s crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why. (She puts her hand over her face, crying.)

anya from the body
My own version of the yellow brick road, where life is magical and anything is possible.
road to cape may



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One little photograph.
And it’s not even a well taken photo, it’s blurry and off-center, nothing that you’d see in a magazine or framed with a pricey tag slapped on the corner of the frame. But this picture is magical.
If you look really, and I mean really close, there is a lifetime of love captured in a microsecond with an impulsive snap of a camera phone.
My Mother, standing on the deck of the Victorian just watching over Cape May.
Standing there, on that very deck just a few steps away from the door to “our” room was a piece of Heaven to Alice Bridget Carey Best, also known as Mom to me.
Ok, sometimes, Maaaaaaaa, and don’t even try to convince me you haven’t used that tone at least once. A day. Probably more.
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Last year, the end of March, we got one of our Mother/Daughter always-wanna-see’s, snow in Cape May. It wasn’t a big snowstorm, although for one magical day snowflakes fell, lot’s of them, it was beautiful and perfection as we looked out the window and munched on Fish and Chips from The Pilot House (thanks to the wonderful owners of the Victorian for the recommendation!). It was perfection. Warm and cozy and together.
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It’s human nature to look back and think of what we should have done to have avoided a life-changing event, a catastrophe, but the truth is only the Big Man Upstairs knows that stuff. It must be terrible to know all the heartache that inevitably comes, maybe that’s why we’re meant to remain ignorant of the future.
I had no way of knowing that was the last time Mom and I would go to Cape May together.
Little over a week later she had a broken shoulder and she was gone in a flash, like turning off a light switch.
I can’t ever find that switch, although I still find myself reaching for it, but there is one thing I can do and that thing is keep a promise.
Mom told asked me to make sure she was cremated and make sure I took her back to Cape May, the one place in the world she loved most, the place she and I spent countless Mother/Daughter getaways.
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Let’s just say there were threats of haunting if I didn’t at least sprinkle some of her ashes into the Atlantic Ocean, more specifically of course, Cape May.
Did you ever have to deal with a five foot two red headed blue-eyed angry Irish ghost? Me neither and I’m not about to find out thank you very much.
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Hence the insanity of driving to Cape May tomorrow morning straight into a snowstorm originally meant to hit all of NJ but now, yeah, Cape May.
I hate driving in snow.
But drive I will.
So wish me luck, or better yet, how ’bout we just cancel the snow and get on with Spring.
That’s me-talk for I hate driving in snow, it freaks me out and I’m kinda petrified about the snow the weather folks are scaring me with but I’m on a mission.
I think I’ll pretend I’m Emma Peel and drive to my magical place, where miracles happen and I can always breathe.
A place I know my Mom will always be, watching over Cape May.
And me.
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{December 28, 2013}   I’m Singing Again

bbtrainI’m the girl

Well here it is, after two years of not playing, tonight my band Bullet Train will be playing at The Dogs Of War Benefit.
Stage fright? Nope.
Nervous? Kinda.
Excited? Definitely!
As I said in my previous post, all money raised is going to a family affected by cancer.
btrrainme singing

Wish me luck my friends, it’s been awhile since I’ve been onstage but I know the Spirit of the Season and my Guardian Angels will be right there with me.
I wish each and every one of you could be there with me tonight but Sayreville New Jersey is a long way from where most of you live so I shall carry you all in my heart and if you don’t mind, I’ll be getting strength from you as I sing my heart out in the name of love and charity.
btraindowwme singing at a previous Dogs Of War
Anyone interested in attending can see my previous post where all the details are because I can’t get the link to work



{December 27, 2013}   The Christmas Dogs Of War Benefit

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Every year at Christmastime there is magical musical tradition in my hometown of Sayreville NJ, a Benefit called The Dogs Of War.
Unfortunately, most of us know someone with cancer. It’s an ugly painful horror for anyone to go through, whether it’s you or a family member, a friend or neighbor, cancer has it’s way and there is nothing we can do but offer support and be there for our loved ones.
One day, over 25 years ago, a young man lost his Mother to cancer. He lived with that loss, as we all do when we lose someone we love, but he turned his pain into something that grew and grew over the years, leading us to the point of this post: The Christmas Dogs Of War, a benefit where every single dollar is handed over that very night to a local family affected by cancer.
This year there is a young family, the husband has cancer, his wife is pregnant, and her Father also has cancer, who can use our help.
I can’t imagine the horror they are going through, I saw my Mom go through breast cancer, she had just reached the 5 year mark of remission the month before she died, and I did the only thing I could do for her by going with her to each and every one of her treatments yet still I felt helpless. My Mom had excellent health insurance but she was lucky for that, so many people are in need these days and don’t have the benefits she had.
Hence The Dogs Of War. In the words of Mike Grau, the young man that dreamed up this yearly benefit:
The Christmas Dogs of War Christmas Cancer Benefit has been around a long time and it raises money for a local family dealing with this terrible disease. ALL the money raised goes directly to the family in CASH it’s that simple. It’s an evening of dreamers and screamers and strange holiday music. Al Muzer will MC this year’s event as well as offer terrible things for people to give money to own. Scheduled to perform (but obviously not limited to); Schnitzel,Bongo Jones, The Trip Dogs , El Muchacho,Joe Canzano , The Marbles ,The Pretty Goats, The Dead Pony Cats,Keith Beck, The Molecular Blues Machine, Bullet Train, The Whale Ashtray, Marty and the Great Unwashed Music Band, Rachel…etc etc etc
It’s a great night and everyone will have fun until Schnitzel performs

And it is a great night, always. Good music, a million bands including {blatant self-promotion} my band Bullet Train, crazy auctions, 50/50’s etc. In one of those magical coincidences, the weekly newsletter promoting the bands each Saturday just showed up in my email. Written by Mike Grau, the Einstein of musicians and organizer/inventor of The Dogs Of War, please allow me to share his newsletter with you, and believe me, it’s well worth the read:

Good People of Metropolis;

“Every time a bells rings an angel goes to their neutral corner.”
Christmas has been turned into a conveyor belt. A line stretching out as far as the eye can see waits to board the belt two weeks before Thanksgiving. Angry wrinkled business men with bald heads and thick eye glasses operate the belt. Hapless, hopeless Americans, exhausted from their workweeks, hop up on the conveyor belt because the media told them to “go”. Happily confused and unaware of the financial pounding they are about to receive the belt drives them toward a monolithic mall owned by Disney, some cable companies, Adolph Hitler and a shell company owned by members of Congress. Along the route gigantic billboards remind the dimwitted masses that “There is no God”, “Jesus was an Ancient Alien” and “Do Not Say Christmas…. Say Holiday”. At the end of the belt stain covered families flop into the lobby of the Mega Mall. They are presented with amazing choices for their hard earned public assistance checks. They can buy plastic things that promise to make their sedentary lifestyles easier. They can purchase huge sweat suits for their fat bodies and double wide television chairs to place near mammoth snack trays filled with high calorie, zero nutrient goodness in the shapes of their favorite Hollywood heroes. They can be places in motorized chairs and rolled within inches of low cost jewelry which can be altered to fit their bloated unhealthy American saturated fat fingers. They can gaze in wonder at electronic devices that promise adventure and freedom and creativity but deliver only eye strain and further estrangement from their fellow man. It is “idiot world” and the conveyor belt keeps flopping stained clothed, unthinking, hypnotized, bloated, Americans into the Mega Mall. The meaning is lost or broken. This country and it’s people should pray one last prayer together. We should all come to together and pray for a great famine. A famine that leaves crops unharmed but eats through every television in our country. A famine that poisons the internet, murders smart phones and ends social media. A famine that shortens the workweek, bridges misunderstandings between family members and reminds us all that we need each other. A famine that reminds us of God , shines bright light on the manipulators and removes power from the wicked. A famine that reminds us that love is all that matters. A famine that brings us clarity of thought. A famine that mends broken hearts and brings about the use of the phrase “I’m sorry that I’ve hurt you.” A great famine that unifies Americans and erases the puppeteer hatred brought down on party lines.

I want that famine.

And speaking of the “unspeakable” This Saturday Night @ Buddies Tavern it’s The Christmas Dogs of War !!!
Over 1 million bands and people who think they are in bands will swarm down onto Buddies Tavern at 8 p.m., pay their 20 dollars and see what has never been seen before.
So come on down and give some money to a great cause. All money raised will be handed to a family in Sayreville who is dealing with cancer 24 hours after you hand it over…. And that’s a guarantee.
See you at the show
Mike Grau
And because I want to have the last word, I would like to extend an invitation to anyone who lives close enough to attend to come on down, see a bunch of great bands including me singing, and give to a family in need. We can’t beat cancer, but we can make a difference, however small, by raising some money for a young Family in need. Your heart will grow at least 3 times larger. Click on the link below for more information as to directions and time, etc. Go on, click!!!
dowThis is Schnitzel, do not be afraid.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1427110850840670/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular



et cetera