A Message from Rickie... Big time! This is rickie mazzotta. We have been brought out to California to make a record with a fellow named Brad Wood. This is a good thing cause I don't do too much while I am at home. I used to have a job at Produce Junction, but I quit working there. I quit it for the greater glory, what that glory is, I am not entirely sure of.

Where I am at now is somewhat of a monument in my lifetime. I get to work with a man who stood by the side of many artists and bands that I fell in love with as a kid. His records took me through grade school, they took me through high school, they got me through college and they have me sitting here now banging on things with sticks. It's great. We have been in Los Angeles for two weeks now, and are into our fifth day of recording. We have plans to record thirteen tracks. I hope to have all 13 on there but you never know until you're done which will make the cut and which will be left on the chopping block. In the last five days I have layed out six drum tracks. We are all super thrilled to be working with dude. He is super nice, has a good ear and a great house where we sit all day and fiddle about with our instruments. Things couldn't be better. I am alive, am well fed, hanging with my best friends and making a record. I still can't get over the fact that dude worked with Liz Phair and Billy Corgan and Pete Yorn and Jeremy Enigk and now he is working with us. I hope you all enjoy whatever it is we put out; I am sure my excitement is more than yours.

My closing thoughts on Cali, Ralph's is too expensive, El Pollo Loco's avocado sauce is incredible, it needs to rain more often, hot tubs are better than cold tubs, the record is going to satisfy and I am too tired to be awake. thanks for reading, hi mom....rickie
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Greetings from the Studio... from Mike

We seem to be moving right along, even a little bit ahead of the ol' schedule. The typical studio day has been pleasantly laid back so far mainly because we are recording right here at Brad Wood's house. Once we started to make ourselves at home here, recording the music has become a lot like playing back in Rickie's basement. It's a fun, family atmosphere. I wouldn't trade this for any stuck up studio.

We get to record the music for about 1 song a day, sometimes 2, so we all are working on something every day so far. Aaron has been sparse around the studio, I suppose he's off pouring his heart out into his lyrics book somewhere. The music has been coming along amazingly so far. We've done some of the best work as a band this past week and I'm super proud of my friends/bandmates. I guess it's just nice to finally get these tunes tracked and sounding the way we all know they should sound. We played 4 or 5 of them on our last tour, but a good amount of these songs are freshly written and are just now getting fleshed out properly.

I realized today that we have a great collection of music here and that we are making an album which musically dwarfs our first LP. As pleased with [A->B] as we all were, we are only sounding better and better in our sessions here. Maybe all of our touring and playing together over the past two years has shaped us into something beyond anything we thought we had in us. Well it's all coming out now and I hope it never stops. - mike

2.19.04 It's been so long since i've written on here mainly because there has been too much happening and God has been too wonderful to write anything about. in fact, he still is, and I'm sorry to even bother. really, I don't want to be typing on a computer but living in the world, and maybe you should get up from your computer and go take care of someone who is hurting - they are everywhere, I can assure you!

I saw a very simple vision of the kingdom of God, of loving my neighbor as I love myself, of loving God above all, and I realized that it's possible with the love of Jesus, and may we not be content for the half-hearted, lukewarm dishonest faith that is bought and sold and advertised and put in books and on records and in buildings and that dresses in 3-piece suits, and may God have mercy on me even now, for thinking i'm better than everyone else.

there is an entirely new way of life that Jesus came to bring but we don't live that way. ajw

10.24.03 We've had our cat Gizmo around for the past 17 years. she used to be a plump, healthy, mean-spirited cat but as she got older she lost all her weight and become much more affectionate. lately her meow had turned to a deep, muffled groan, and she seemed very weak and wouldn't eat hardly at all, even when I got her favorite (tuna fish). Tuesday night I fell asleep in the dining room watching her wobble sadly around the milk bowl from across the room, and I woke up with her beside me. yesterday she was hiding her face in a jacket in the corner of the basement, and when I came near she raised her head and rubbed it against my hand. her eyes were watering and her mouth crusted and so I said good-bye. she died this morning, and my dad and I buried her body in the garden with some kitty litter and cat food. neighborhood strays came by trying to eat the cat food, but I shouted and waved the shovel, "Go away kitty, this isn't for you!" we marked the grave with a makeshift tombstone, a piece of ceramic tile I found in a dumpster painted over with a passage from the Bible: -ajw

"are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? and yet not one of them is forgotten by God." -Luke 12:6

10.03.03 It is a peculiar stupidity that allows me to become so easily discouraged. my usual order of things: (1) pray for God's guidance and wisdom (2) ignore or betray the convictions He gives me (3) charge or doubt Him because of the disorder and confusion in my life. is there peace in our hearts? are we not lying to ourselves and others, professing a faith we scarcely believe in? may God forbid we become comfortable here! but rather than seeking happiness we should value this restlessness. if we didn't first feel the pain of a cut, what would prompt us to clean and wrap the wound, preventing infection or worse? this emotional pain of ours (if I may assume I'm not alone in my sadness), as with physical pain, is often a sign that something is wrong. rather than dress the wound, or even question the cause, don't we choose spiritual numbness (entertainment, socializing, education or career ambitions...) and so decide not to feel the infection of our entire lives? this sickness or infection is disobedience and self-absorbtion, a lack of love for God and other people. I am sick with myself, and too much with this world. but there are certain moments, radiant with sorrow and pity, where my soul is set on fire by the love of Jesus! he does not avoid or deny the suffering of the world, but takes it upon himself in its most extreme. far from our mediocrity and compromise, his crucifixion challenges us to suffer wildly, dares us to love recklessly, even foolishly. my friends, when will we grow tired of mediocrity and compromise? God, forgive our selfishness. please soften our hearts and open our ears to your truth. let us die to oursleves, and give us a new and wonderful life. help us see You in those around us and show them the patience and gentleness You've shown us. let us love the unlovable as You have loved us. You are beautiful, just beautiful, my Lord! -ajw

08.31.03 People seem entertained by my last journal entry, which was a lot of the idea really, but a girl the other night said how that story was a display of my trust in God's hand of protection, which made me immediately embarrassed and regretful, as the truth is, I know my own heart at least enough to recognize when I'm just showing off. and should I really be so proud of that sort of behavior? I'm reminded of the story of the man who walked up and down the railroad tracks repeating "Jesus will protect me," right up until the moment the train killed him. the idea is not that Jesus won't protect us, but that maybe his protection is less like stopping speeding trains (or lifting us out from rivers) and more like giving us the intelligence to stay out of senseless danger. I don't at all mean to say our ultimate goal is to prolong our life on earth! Christ calls us beyond petty risks - even to lay down our lives for the sake of God's kingdom. no, we shouldn't fear death, but to put ourselves in harm's way for the sake of mere exhilaration is foolishness. maybe the worst thing about my trying to come across to you (whoever is reading this, and for whatever reason) as some wonderful, spontaneous, free-spirited Jack Kerouac type is that I know very well who I truly am. and in case I've misled you up till now, maybe I should set something straight. would you care to know? my name is aaron. I'm almost 25 years old and I live with my parents, and my dad does my dishes and my mom does my laundry and a few months ago I wet my bed. that's who I am. do you want to know who else I am? I abandoned duty and loyalty to Jesus and to the girl of my life for the sake of an exciting, vulgar new world of fantasy and egomania. that's who I am. do you want to know what else? I am full of sadness and confusion and shame, and despite my knowing the beautiful truth about the mercy and peace of the God of Love, my actions only prove that I don't care about anyone in the entire universe but myself. that's who I am. pleasure to meet you. -ajw

08.14.03 Without much planning I bought a one-way greyhound ticket to Washington DC where unwed sailor was playing. after a long ride and a long walk to the club, well I missed their show, and tho I'd planned on spending the night with them afterwards, I felt a strong compulsion to be alone, so they reluctantly let me out on the capital belt loop that surrounds the city and I put out my thumb. this at maybe one AM. after a few hours of walking on the shoulder and no rides, I tried the onramp and it worked much better. a middle eastern fellow gave me a short ride, then a few more hours of walking and a sweet southern trucker picked me up, mumbling incoherent under his mustache. he dropped me at a truck stop, but after one or two hours there and no takers I walked back to the highway and got picked up by an old stoner who said all the religions of the world are united and consistent with science, and he also called black folks monkeys. I was speechless, and expressionless, wondering is there a right way for me to respond? he left me on 95 along Baltimore and I walked a while on high bridges that shook when the real big trucks rumbled by, I mean the very concrete shaking up and down. I was scared until finally a work zone gave me room to walk, and get this: the onramp there had a stop sign, and I waited there looking people in the eye real pathetic for some pity, covered in my own sweat ten times over at this point. but no one would even look at me, so this one flatbed with a tread caterpillar one-man forklift chained to the back stopped there and I took my chance, hopping on the back and hoping no one else would see, and they didn't. so I laid down on that flatbed and I zoomed north through the NO HAZMAT tunnel headfirst out of stinking hot Baltimore laying my body between the treads of the tractor and hiding my face under my book bag from so traffic alongside couldn't see me laughing out loud and thinking, now this is living! but the truck left the highway before long, and I hopped off when it slowed down just enough. I got another ride so fast I couldn't believe it, the fellow so happy to stop for me he almost got rear ended. the son and the grandson of preachers and we talked about the Bible. where he left me I walked a ways just north of Aberdeen and finally a state trooper stopped and gave me a hard time and frisked me and warned me and put me in the car and said I couldn't walk on the freeway, especially because of the bridge coming up, how there's no room to walk. he drove me a few miles away, to a lousy business road that runs along 95 where no one's going anywhere far like Philadelphia, and tells me to walk along there. man, this is after about 10 hours and I'm still seventy miles from home, so I walked and got a short ride back to 95 and kept on walking north, but brother, that bridge! with me afraid of heights and it was maybe a mile long, no space to walk, cars ripping by and death or worse if I fell it was so high, the trooper was totally right. well I climbed down to the Susquehanna riverbank and in one of my more severe fits of stupidity I thought maybe I could build a raft to float my stuff and swim across, so I found some logs and a long strip of vinyl trash and strapped them together, and they floated on the water level, so I put some old 2x4’s on top and then took off my clothes and put them and my books in these plastic bags, wrapped them in an old raincoat I found and set them on the 2x4’s. then I found some rope that someone had used to tie up mystery animal bones to a tree maybe in some sort of ritual, and I untied it and took the skull for good measure, tied the skull to the raft and the raft to the rope and the rope to my neck and started the swim. not even one tenth of the way there I start cramping up from all the walking I'd done, and I got scared and grabbed onto some fixed driftwood and waved down this fishing boat. half out of the water and only in my underwear, a yellow bundle floating ten feet away on a makeshift raft fastened to my neck, I started, "I know how this must look, he said I was unsafe, but he wouldn't give me a lift maybe cause it was all too weird, so he insisted I turn back, and I said I'm going on with or without him, so he sped off and I got back to swimming and praying out loud. I did the backstroke, so the prayer sounded funny in my head cause my ears were underwater and I trusted God and thought what a funny story this would all make (tho I'm sorry it's so long; hypocrisy again noted). then I would turn over and swim the breaststroke with the rope between my teeth, and switching back and forth like that for over an hour I made it maybe 2/3 the way across and finally waved down some real nice water-ski family who picked me up and fed me a bologna and cheese sandwich and dropped me on the north shore.I took off what little I had on and on a lonely old rock lay down in the sun next to a rotten fish skeleton. the distant roar of factory machines, the steady rush of cars and trucks going where they're going much faster than me, a big spider web blowing around above me and the warm wash of sun all put me to sleep, but I jumped up after maybe a minute disoriented and paranoid and naked, sensing the fallen tree trunks and dead leaves and close flying dragonfly were conspiring against me, and it made sense at the time, that's how tired I was. back on 95 only a few minutes before another trooper, the same routine, hands where I can see 'em, and he found the skull in my bag and it put him on edge. when he ran my ID and came back he said weren't you warned about walking along this road? yes sir, I said. then what the f*ck are you doing here (it was a reasonable question). I told him the truth, I was just trying to get home, and when I told him my raft story he lightened up a lot. ah, it was about 21 hours in all and I made it home, but the rest of the story's downhill, except I got picked up by this fellow who says he's a Pulitzer prize winner, PhD, published poet, songwriter for Alicia keys and all this other stuff. I tried to be very impressed because those are the most impressive things a person can do in a sense. I'm not trying to come down on the guy, that's how we all are I think. cos look, can I ask your forgiveness for something? in saying all this, all I'm really trying to do is make myself out to be adventurous and cool. -ajw

08.09.03 On my way up to New York and very tired from a night full of no sleep, a seven hour conversation with a friend, full of good for nothing words, an argument I guess, but whatever it was, so many words, back and forth, and isn't the Bible clear enough on this one? "God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few," or, "you should be slow to speak, quick to listen." preposterous, this desire to prove my-Self right! really, what on earth good does any of it do, what is there left of me that's worth defending? Jesus said no one is good but God alone, so I can't imagine what sense there is in defending myself against anything. we come to God all the while, supposedly begging for mercy, crying "oh I'm a wretch, I am hopeless, I need you completely," we simply must not mean a word of it - when someone else suggests that we may actually be right, we throw up our fists. how we invalidate our every prayer for forgiveness! (next time someone cuts us down, perhaps let's remember that they entirely underestimate our wickedness!) in rare form, I even used the scriptures to back up my own arguments, in an attempt to prove him wrong. strange that even something so pure as the Bible can be twisted to suit my wants (remember how the devil used the scripture to tempt Christ in the desert). I'm reminded of when I first became a Christian, my compulsion to "witness," to share my faith, which in my case was more noise than anything else, just starting arguments, a chance to tell people what I knew (remember Paul, "if I have not love, I am only a clanging cymbal"). God forbid we use his precious truth this way. maybe this is only more of that, more empty words and if so I'm sorry for it. I should be very careful, and I should be praying much more, I know that. but if I must, at least let me say this: let's all keep our mouths closed a while. maybe vows of silence like the monks would help, but even that I don't expect to solve our problems. what we should desire is not the absence of idle or destructive speech, but rather the presence of Love. I'm sick with speech maybe because it's so easy, and as John's first letter says "let us love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." -ajw

*as for this being perhaps the wordiest journal entry yet, don't think the irony escapes me!

07.17.03 There's a feeling like I've been taken by a strong current, being carried by the longings and activity of my flesh and neither in control of my own thoughts nor bringing them into the captivity of Christ. an exciting and satisfying enough place to be, but I sense the danger of it, this laughter that will bring weeping one day, the self-exaltation that brings humiliation. my friend Shane gave me the good advice to fast from food for time enough to clear my head (what good are do these ambitions for success, for approval, what room for sexual desire when your body is hungry and weak?). very good advice! but on a trip to my Nana's house word got out that I wasn't eating, and she got upset on account of that being pretty unfamiliar behavior to most (for some reason?), and cause she's seen both of my parents lead such strange, radical, often self-destructive lives, and she's weary of any sort of extremity. well anyhow I broke my so-called fast so as not to upset her terribly (ah, Christ tells us to fast and keep it a secret, me, I tell everyone I'm going to fast, then I go feast on a Greek salad and Chicken Parmesan!), but it's alright cause I think God burned bright in me during the time I did manage to go without eating, enough to heal at least some of my scatter-brained-ness. so listen, then another friend read me Isaiah 58, where it says about God's real idea behind fasting: "Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I." I thought, man oh man. -ajw

06.18.03 We're just now getting home from Europe. gone for two months, I took the first shower with shampoo and soap in 5 weeks (the water was a dark gray, almost black), and I'm glad to be back, that my cat's still alive. I kept a journal of shows played and also words I was writing, phone numbers of people I met, and it was stolen in Rome - all our bags were stolen. so maybe I'll write more later, whatever I can remember from the traveling in case anyone's interested (?), or you can ask me if you see me around, of course. the main thing I think, remembering the trip: thomas merton wrote, "every instant of my days will be designed to wound me with the realization of the world's insufficiency, until I become so detached that I will be able to find God alone in everything" what sort of ambitions have I been holding onto, my hoping to be liked in music, to be married, some other ideas of happiness? I am more blessed in moments of distance and disappointment, more clear-headed when I don't plan on any of these things but I am lost for even a minute in Christ. and then, my heart swimming in peace, I will look at my band, Amanda, my plans, and truly submit them to God, that his will can be done. -ajw

04.18.03 We leave tonite for the Netherlands and the rest of our Europe tour. and tho I'm happy to be going it's still sort of a sad time. been trying to finish things up back home - mainly: 1. preparing, packing, saying goodbyes 2. a silly book I'm putting together, a birthday present for Amanda 3. recording vocals for Ray's solo project, "bella Futuro." it's just about done now (so if anyone has a label and is interested in releasing an EP of experimental hip hop/indie rock out of philly, do write me, or e-mail Ray at neatonintendo@yahoo.com) today is black Friday. Amanda wrote me, saying "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. I want that to be the only thing that i know." we met today for lunch at Temple, banana and strawberry crepes with powdered sugar, chocolate syrup and nutella, which we ate in the building for college of music, near a girl practicing her flute playing. we prayed a bit and read the crucifixion from Matthew, and as always I was most upset by the soldiers blindfolding Jesus and beating up on him. it's getting late. about time to go to the airport. so long, mom and dad! so long, friends! may God watch over us while we're apart from one another. -ajw

03.28.03 I asked Amanda to marry me on Sunday at church. we were all singing "I need thee every hour", which is a song I've always liked, so I gave her this ring I'd bought, a tiny pearl surrounded by lavender amethyst gems on pink gold. see, she wasn't even my girlfriend so she was very surprised. she cried and said yes. the next night she called and she was crying again, but the sad crying, and when I asked if everything was alright she said no, it wasn't. we talked and she said she doesn't want to marry me right now. good reasons I won't bore you with, but ah, it's been a confusing sort of week. there's a Bible verse somewhere, says "it is well with my soul," but I wonder where this wellness of mine comes from. detachment is one thing, but I'm afraid sometimes that maybe I don't care about a thing in all the world but myself. maybe you could keep me and her in your prayers, if you do that sort of thing? one thing is certain, and my brothers and sisters sang it all around as I either made a step toward God or another awful mistake: "oh bless me now my Saviour, I come to Thee I need Thee every hour, Thou most Holy One oh make me Thine indeed, Thou Blessed Son" - ajw

03.16.03. Amanda and I left early thursday for her dad�s house near scranton in my new �83 chevy van. a big van, and Amanda seemed across the room from me, even in the next seat over. on the turnpike maybe 50 miles from home smoke started billowing from the bottom of it, so we pulled over somewhere near Quakertown, and there's transmission fluid pouring out of the gear box. we took our bags, my acoustic guitar, scratched a sign that read NORTH and headed back to the turnpike on foot. no one would pick us up. a state trooper eventually nabbed us, lectured me about the dangers of hitchhiking (but he was kind) and brought us to the car rental place. we were on the road again, this time in a silver suzuki compact. Amanda was much nearer to me now, and the whole ordeal was magnificent. we made it safely to her dad�s. dinner was steak and a green salad with pumpkin seeds and oranges, and we retired early. the next morning after some french toast with bananas and farmer's cheese and fresh maple syrup (they make their own there, tap it straight from the trees) we started out for skiing/snowboarding at Elk Mountain. toward the end of the day, I tried to show off on two of the bigger jumps. brother I fell both times, ending with a sprained wrist and a concussion. we borrowed her dad�s car and made our way toward home. after stopping at my van in Quakertown and stuffing up the gear box with gummi bears and wrigley�s gum we headed south in both vehicles. this job held a surprising 40 miles, but it melted apart about a half hour from home. the whole fiasco obliterated the transmission entirely. only the reverse gear still worked, so we headed out on the 6 mile trip to the junkyard backwards, neck craned leftward out the window to watch the road behind (ahead?), my eyes full of wind and ghosts. one more run in with the cops (again, very kind) and finally even the reverse gear gave up. we got out of the van, again smoke just everywhere, and where were we? right in front of the junk parking lot! I got sixty-five bucks for it and made it home happily, praising God for bearing with my foolishness. -ajw

02.28.03 It's a hard night, always excited to come home at the end of a long stretch out anywhere, traveling or touring, whatever, just missing a few things about Philly, but the problems are waiting for me too. they don't have much to say to me anymore, tho, and I can't make this very clear, mainly because I don't want to, but let me tell you one thing, perfectly clear. our worrying and our anger and jealousy and fear and selfishness, it's all perfectly crazy, and maybe that's what we were dealt, I dunno, but we are not who we once were. Jesus tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin, but to righteousness (to him), and I'm alright with that. what's more, I believe it, and I'll take those conditions of following him. tonight I do anyhow, when the big plans and schemes of my pathetic heart are laughable, and the big promises and tall talk of the wicked world are seen maybe for something like what they are. these pleasures of ours, call them small tea candles, call them tiny one inch flames that give us a little light to read by, and imagine that light when the blazing sun comes up and lights the entire world, how insignificant those little candles! and doesn't his righteousness shine that bright in the moments we'll really fix our eyes on him? my God, my God, you are so beautiful, and what a terrible mess I've made of my life. please send some more saints my way, praying for me, tearing me down, and build me back up as you will. -ajw

01.16.03 I started keeping a record of what I'm dreaming about, writing down everything I can remember first thing in the morning. whatever crazy stuff there is, there's always something about pinball. every night. it's time to slow things down I think. I've been playing more pinball than praying and reading the Bible put together, and there's no real excuse for that (plus, I already got my initials at #1 on the nearby Monopoly machine - best to quit while I'm ahead...) we're leaving for tour late late tonight and I'm excited to see my friends in Norma Jeanand Beloved again. my birthday is in a few days, and Dan's as well (I think we're playing in Virginia that night). please pray for us while we're out driving all around. today is one of the best days I've ever had, my stupid simple life. sewing, eating olives, harassing my cat. praise be to God! -ajw

12.20.02 Just back from the Netherlands now. amsterdam was good to us, with it's canals and cobblestone, sad shells of people and open sores, drugs around and sex for sale in store front windows. irreverence would make perfect sense if God wasn't real, but God is real! in Ede things slowed down...a day of healing, a day of confession. water for the drinking, wood for the fire, a bike for the riding. I watched Chad pedal by me, the only other moving thing in sight, and the tree branches seemed to open even wider. thank you Karel and Max