Archive | February, 2012


29 Feb

I just reached 18,000 views or hits to my YouTube instructional video. The next step is in the works — preparing a tutorial explaining this exercise in detail. The 2-5-1 sequence is the most common pattern in popular music.  If you can master this pattern in all twelve keys, both major and minor, you’ll be able to play perhaps 90% of everything written in the last hundred years. You’ll need to know the melody line, but once you have that, then this 2-5-1, plus another important one (2-6-5-1), will get you through most of the selection.  That’s why I was able to start playing for money at the age of 15.  I studied “classical” for three years and then, at 14, I started jazz lessons from a famous teacher in Hollywood.  I mastered this exercise in less than a year and that’s all I needed to get to work.


My 2-5-1 exercise video at 18,000 views...


My other exercise — the 7-9-11-13 pattern — has over 7,000 hits… not as popular, but it is a very useful sequence to know, and it forms the basis for a good “block chord” sound.

Barry Harris of New York — — has some excellent patterns and exercises to learn. That’s on my list of things to do — to get to New York and spend some time with son John and his family and also to attend Barry’s workshops on Tuesday evenings.

all for now…





Possible route change for next year…

29 Feb

There’s a possibility that I may change my travel plans for next April. As of now, I’m planning a six-month trip around the southern part of the USA to play the piano, promote my Route 66 graphics business and meet with family and friends.

But, things change over time and I think one should be very flexible, as time goes by — don’t set your plans in concrete because concrete is a very hard substance. If you change your mind due to circumstances within your control, it will be easier to make changes if you don’t have to deal with concrete.

So what could change over the next year… my mind.  One of my high school buddies moved to San Miguel de Allende in the early eighties.  He’s a writer (Tony Cohan –, but was a jazz drummer during high school and in the years after college. We worked together in high school, but I haven’t seen him since 1957, although we re-connected via email several years ago.  He and his former wife moved to San Miguel (SMA) in 1985 and lived there for many years.  They divorced at some point and then he relocated to Guanajuato, where he currently resides.

I have an excellent relationship with many Mexican people. My dad moved to East LA from Milwaukee at the age of 12 (1923), and lived in that part of town until he married and moved to West Hollywood in 1936. East LA was the home to many Mexican people, so he had many Mexican friends and neighbors.  He must have passed on good reports of his relationship with Mexicans to me because when I was in high school, I was very interested in the few Mexican kids at our high school.

I didn’t live near any because our neck of the woods (Pacific Palisades) was lily-white in those days. I was in a YMCA club in high school called the Celts (it was referred to as a “Hi-Y” club). There were about thirty guys in the club… all from the Palisades area and the membership was solidly white. I got to know a guy by the name of Chico Ortiz — very nice guy and really good basketball player. Since our club was heavily involved in sports I thought he would make a good “Celt.”  I brought him to some meetings and eventually he was voted in … the first Mexican in the Celts.  Then I met Carlos Cornejo on campus, and the same thing happened. He wasn’t sports-minded, but he was a very interesting guy and he joined the club.

All of the above was going on around the middle fifties — that’s when the 55 Chevy appeared on the scene — my favorite car of all time. One my dreams is to own one … like the one below:

My dream car ... a 55 Chevy 2-door with post - V8 with Tractionmasters (


Then in 1965, I married Sylvia Bergin of Dublin, Ireland. Yes, we’re still married. Interesting development… turns out she’s fascinated with Mexico and Mexicans. She has studied Spanish for many years and is close to fluent, but not there yet. One of her recent instructors told her that if she were to be dropped in the middle of Mexico somewhere, she would be speaking fluently within a couple weeks.

So, perhaps you can see where I’m going.  We have discussed the possibility of moving to Mexico for a year or so… just to try it out and see what happens.  But, the kids don’t like that idea, so we haven’t pursued that one lately.  Although Sylvia has said that if I want to spend a few weeks there to “make sure” it’s something I’d like to do, then she would go for it, at least on a trial basis.

Therefore, the possible route change for next year could result in me changing my plans from “The USA Trip” to “The SMA Trip”… it’s possible.  The reason I would consider it is that San Miguel de Allende has an expat population of about five to six thousand English-speaking residents (USA types; Canadians and English), which would be very helpful to me.  Also, it’s a town focused on art and music (right up my alley), and it is becoming a haven for old (and young) jazz musicians.  A famous trumpet player by the name of Doc Severinsen retired there a few years ago, and now many jazz players are following his lead. Here’s his latest work:


Speaking of jazz… here’s a photo of my all-time favorite vocalist and piano player: Diana Krall

Diana Krall -- my favorite jazz piano player / vocalist


Living in SMA for awhile would allow Sylvia to become a fluent Spanish speaker– something she would love to accomplish. And, I’d like to see what I can do with my piano playing and maybe some silkscreen art projects.

So, that’s the possible route change for next year. In the meantime, back to work tomorrow. I’m scheduled for the 3 pm to midnight shift. Wednesday night is the prep time for the sales that start on Thursday morning — lots of sign work to do. Then I’ll be there on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Then on Sunday I’m driving up to Long Beach to meet Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND. She’s a doctor of the future… combining both the MD disciplines and the ND disciplines… very rare approach to medicine. Her talk on Sunday afternoon is entitled: “Death by Modern Medicine” Detox and Rejuvenate Instead. Her focus is on the value of magnesium — a mineral that most people lack in sufficient amounts. Check her out at

All for now — off to the races…




USA trip update…

23 Feb
“I thought you were going on a road trip???”

Yes, I was.  But, due to LBB (low bank balance), I had to postpone.  I need a cargo van to take that trip and I just couldn’t see where it was going to come from — I was sort of expecting it to just appear one day before the departure date, but as time went by, I realized that no such appearance was going to occur.  I was in my customary “dreaming” mode, and, over the years, some of my “dreams” have come true, but this time it didn’t happen.

So now, with the job at Home Depot, I’ll be able to save enough to not only buy a van, but finance the whole trip before I leave — that’s the ideal situation.  Also, between now and next April I’ll be able to assemble a few dozen Route 66 prints that can be sold on the road and used to promote my Route 66 postcard art business (  And, I’ll have time to work on the jazz piano instruction business (

Also — one other item related to Home Depot. Now that I’m in the Home Depot “family,” we could transfer to one of their 2,248 stores here in the USA, and spend some time in different parts of the country, like Columbia, Maryland (near our daughter Angela and family), or Brooklyn, New York (near Johnny and his family).  Many options appear to be appearing on the horizon.


Here’s one of my favorite signs…


That’s it for now…




Room for improvement…

22 Feb

This will be an update on my situation at Home Depot. I finished all the video training last week and actually started working there yesterday. I’ve been assigned to the paint department and I spent a few hours learning the ropes. I’ve been around and have used paint for close to 60 years, so I’m quite comfortable in that environment.

I helped several people with their paint-related inquiries — it was fun. Then in the afternoon I made a couple signs for one of the assistant managers. He showed me one sign that needed to be replaced — same copy.  So, I made it for him, but had to use their non-existent tools (some beat up markers) with the sign panel on a table (instead of an easel). The layout was good, but the lettering wasn’t.

I went to the store today to take back a couple keys that didn’t work and while there, I walked over to see if he used my sign. Nope. No sign of the sign.  He, or someone there, made a new sign that actually looked worse than the one it replaced.  Maybe they don’t need or want a professional sign guy there. But, as the HR lady said at orientation… (about 12-14 people there) — “you were not hired for your skill set — you were hired because of your customer service experience and your nice smile”…!  So, I’m off the hook — they don’t need my skill set.

That store opened ten years ago last month, so I’ve been there several hundred times over the last ten years. And, I can tell you — I have never seen a professionally lettered sign in that store (other the corporate stuff that comes in).  So, I’m beginning to think that they don’t want good-looking signage there.  I went through the whole store the other day — looking for one good sign… no can find even one good-looking sign. I took some photos (see below) — you be the judge… are there any professionally made signs in this collection?






These were all done by amateurs — they have some degree of what we call “brush control” only they don’t use brushes — they use markers.  I did see a few signs made with brushes, but I’m quite sure they weren’t quills (those are special brushes for sign painting) and they didn’t use lettering enamel (it looks like they used regular house paint).  At any rate, I think my best approach will be to just keep quiet about their so-called “sign” program and focus on customers in the paint department — that’s what they hired me for (with over 40 years of customer service, I’m sure I can handle that assignment).

I read this item in their company literature…

Commitments to Our Associates

We promise to maintain a safe and healthy workplace for all of our Associates and to treat everyone with respect and dignity. We will be fair and foster a highly ethical environment worthy of our Associates’ loyalty and pride. We are committed to a workplace that encourages new ideas, high quality work, career opportunities, a balance between work and family and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The phrase that struck me was “We are committed to a workplace that encourages NEW ideas…”  I wonder if that’s really true or is it just a mission statement that they need to put forth.  I’ll find out in the weeks ahead.

A “real” sign department will have (1) an easel, (2) an opaque projector, (3) several quills and red sable lettering brushes, (4) a computer and a sign program – Corel Draw is an excellent program, (5) several bottles of RichArt poster color, (6) a few pints of One-Shot lettering enamel, (7) Speedball pen nibs and holder, (8) a couple bottles of black India Ink, (9) some #4 pencils and a couple Art Gum erasers. None of the above are in that store.

I would like to set them up with a professional sign department and show them a system that anyone could use to make attractive signs.  But, unless the store manager is open to “new ideas,” they will continue to produce their amateur signs — that must be what they want.  I know I can do a good job for them in the paint department. I like working with paint and paint-related items and I like working with people. So, I’ll be one of their paint department dudes — make my ten bucks an hour and put most of it away for that van and trip next year.  That’s the goal — six months on the road to see people and places in 24 states between April and October.


All for now…




Family photos…

11 Feb

Here are a few photos from an old flash drive I found… it sure is nice to be disorganized — it’s always surprising to find these gems floating around the drawers and in boxes…


Birthday number 70 celebrated at Angie's in Ellicott City, Maryland - April 2010


This is almost every one in the immediate family – celebrating my 70th birthday at Angie and Majid’s home in Ellicott City, Maryland.  Rob and Steve couldn’t make it. We did have another smaller get-together in Escondido, but they still couldn’t make it…


Sylvia and Pauline finishing the Dublin Marathon in 2010

Another gem on this flash drive…  this is my wife Sylvia and our eldest daughter Pauline coming across the finish line at the Dublin Marathon in October of 2010. Her 70th birthday was on October 9th and she accomplished three major goals during her 70th year (actually her 71st year) — (1) running the Dublin Marathon, (2) riding the Solvang Century in March of 2011 – 100 mile bike ride, and (3) climbing Mt. Whitney in September of 2011.  She and Pauline ran the Dublin Marathon together in 2000. They hope to run it again together in 2020 (at age  80).


Sylvia at the London Marathon in 2009

There she is again — the athlete in action. Our daughter Pauline lives in London with her husband Peter and daughter Nicole. Sylvia was visiting and wanted to get another marathon in before heading back to Escondido.


Sylvia at the LA Marathon in 1995

This was her first marathon — the Los Angeles Marathon in 1995.  She was 54 at the time. She has been doing triathlons, marathons and century bike rides since 1984. The most difficult events she has done were the California Half Ironman here in Oceanside several years ago and climbing Mt. Whitney last year.


Randy Bresnik - out in space... November 2009

This is my cousin Randy’s son.  It’s EXTREMELY rare to become an astronaut, but Randy is an extremely rare guy — a major credit to the Bresnik family.


The shuttle crew for the November 2009 mission

That’s Randy on the right.  His dad flew helicopters in Viet Nam — was shot down twice and survived. Then he flew for the LA Sheriff’s Department until he retired a few years ago. Our son Johnny in Brooklyn is taking flying lessons — he loves to fly. He’ll have his license this summer.


Trio album cover - August 1961

I recorded my first album at Gold Star Recording Studios in Hollywood. I then designed and screen printed this album cover. Still have a few left. The album is now on a CD and at some point I’m going to get some copies made and sell on my site ( So much to do and so little time.





16,000 and counting…

10 Feb

In the spring of 2010 I had a video made of me doing a demo of my primary jazz exercise. I am very surprised that it has been viewed on YouTube by over 16,000 people, worldwide. Here’s a still of that video shoot that was taken by Liz Riley…


brez at the piano - spring of 2010 - photo by Liz Riley


I’m going to do another video that will expand on that particular exercise — here is the link to the one shot by Alexis Grenier ( —

I’ll be getting more involved in the jazz piano world later on — right now I’m focusing on this new job with Home Depot.  Imagine getting hired at age 71 (72 in April)… very unusual.  I’ve been looking for a part-time job (off and on) since I was laid off from Champion Signs in San Diego five years ago – April of 2007.

I’ve had a few interviews, but no job offers.  But, Home Depot came through … so far, I’m very impressed with the company and the people. I’ll be sharing more of what goes on in my particular situation there. They make hand-made signs every week — dozens of them. But, they don’t have a sign department. Hard to believe. They don’t even have an easel set up to make the signs.  But, from what I have observed, they’ve never had a professional sign-maker on the payroll.

I hope to make some changes there and set up an authentic “sign department”… good signage is critical to having a successful retail business ( I’m sure they know that at the corporate level, but at this store level, they need some help, or should I say… a lot of help.  I’ll take some before and after shots to show you what takes place as time goes by.

Here’s another shot of the piano player…


"Always play the 2 minor seventh chord before the 5 chord..."


All for now …




Odds and ends… bits and pieces…

6 Feb

I’ve been interested in photography since I was a little kid. I had a Brownie Hawkeye camera when I was about ten.  See below:

Brownie Hawkeye camera by Kodak

It took 620 film. Point and shoot.  It was a start and I enjoyed composing the photos and had quite a collection, but it disappeared somewhere along the way.  Then I kept moving up — got an Argus C3 in my teens — the best camera I had was an OM-1 by Olympus… had a very nice zoom lens.

Olympus OM-1

Great camera. We moved to Ireland in 1980 for a one-year sabbatical and I took this fantastic camera with me, naturally.  But, guess what happened… it was stolen out of my car, along with my enlarger, tripod and other equipment.  If you parked your car in the wrong area, it got emptied. I was new there and didn’t know the ropes.

At any rate, here are a few interesting historical photos…

Here’s the house I lived in for my first eight years — on Dorrington Ave. in West  Hollywood, near Robertson and Melrose Place. This is how it looks today – taken by the Google camera…

8815 Dorrington Ave -- first pad... from 1940 to 1948

From here we moved to the Palisades — a small community at the western edge of Los Angeles. I lived there with my parents until joining the Army in 1961. During those thirteen years I went to Palisades Elementary, Emerson Junior High, University High, Santa Monica City College and Arizona State (in Tempe, Arizona).

When I was around fourteen, I joined a YMCA basketball team with some buddies from school — probably when I was in the 9th or 10th grade. We had a tournament at some point and came in first place…

Basketball team - first place that year

That’s Chuck Jones on the left, then John Van Atta, then Chuck Schumacher, then yours truly and Jack McMillan. We were all in a Y-club called the Celts.

Next interesting shot was taken at Legoland in Carlsbad a couple years ago. Our son Rob and his daughter Skyler were making the rounds and Rob noticed a familiar face and asked if he could have his picture taken with her.  She said OK — Rob said she was very nice and not at all standoffish.

Rob, Skyler and Hilary Swank at Legoland

Rob’s our oldest son (we have five altogether) and then Pauline is our eldest daughter. Here’s a famly shot taken last year…

Family in front of the house - taken summer 2011

left to right: Johnny Boy, Nicole (Pauline and Peter’s daughter), Pauline, Sylvia (wife) with Julia in front (Angela and Majid’s daughter), Angela, Susan and Eric (my mother’s cousin) and then Eli, Angela’s son.

Here’s a photo of Steve (our youngest) with baby Skyler and Sylvia…

Steve, baby Skyler and Sylvia - 2003

Time to go — all for now…