6/25/07

Eating, talking, playing.

I took the weekend off, thank you very much...

Mike and Jenny invited me to go to Connecticut with them and I said 'yes, please', partly because it's one of the few states I hadn't seen and partly because their description of the place made it sound so nice.

We loaded up on Saturday morning and hit the road. Once we got out of the reach of New York City's sprawl it became a very pleasant drive through greenery and quaint old towns. We listened to science podcasts and songs the whole way up. In just under two hours we were in New England, which was just the way I pictured it.

Mike's family was gathering at Uncle Leo's place on Money Island. As legend has it, Captain Kidd buried his treasure there in the late 1600's. Today there are 20 or 30 summer homes overlooking the Long Island Sound. The place is gorgeous. We took the ferry over and had a look around. I met the family and felt comfy right away.

I chatted with an old guy named Cappy for a while. I told him about Oregon and he told me about everything. The Yankees game was on the radio so he told me his stories about playing trumpet at the ceremony at Yankee Stadium on 'Babe Ruth Day' in 1947, and how his son was recruited by the Yanks before he injured his wrist.

Mike and I decided to take a dip in the Sound. It was windy and everyone told us we were crazy, which made us even more determined to do it. It was cold but not frigid. Someone built a diving board on one of the granite rocks that stick out of the water.

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I did a triple back flip with a twist but unfortunately it was not caught on tape.

We ate pasta and fresh seafood. Then we ate a lamb roast and chicken cutlets. Then we ate dessert and coffee. Cappy told me again about his son, who was recruited by the Yanks before his wrist injury.

We took the last ferry of the evening and saw the sun set over the water.


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We spent the next day at Mike's folks' place. It was great...we ate, played ball, ate, played ball, ate, watched the ballgame, and ate.

I was too full to write songs this weekend.

I'll be in my own bed tomorrow night. It'll be nice. I'm looking forward to playing at Luna in Eugene, and to being around my friends and family for a while.

6/20/07

The weather is exciting

I had such a routine going with all of this blogging; once every three or four days, with metaphors and common themes...leave it to New York to break me of a good habit.

Everything is going well out here. The weather is exciting; sunny days for the most part, with the occasional thunder-and-lightning storm. On Father's Day I went to Mike's folks' place about an hour outside of the city. His folks were gone somewhere. It was nice to be in the country. I talked to my dad on the phone...I made a passing comment about having doubt that I'm on the right track. He said I am and that I should keep going. I'll take that advice.

The rest of the time I've been writing. The purpose of this trip is to write with Jenny Queen, a friend and fellow songwriter whose last record did well enough to warrant a follow-up. She writes words and I write music...it's fun. We've written 5 songs so far and I believe we'll add a couple more before I go back home. She's happy with the results, which makes me happy.

I've spent some time in Prospect Park watching Little League ballgames. Mike and I got a whiffle ball and bat and played 9 innings. He won by 2. I'll get him next time.

I read 'Coraline' by Neil Gaiman. He's a great writer. I just started another one of his books called 'American Gods'. I'm getting through it pretty quickly.

Looks like I'll spend a fair amount of time at home this summer. I've decided that all of this moving around spreads me too thin. I need to buckle down and record some more tunes. I need to make a record. I've been listening to Lyle Lovett, Patty Griffin, and Lucinda Williams more than ever. I have a feeling that the record will reflect that. There's something so sincere about their music and I'd like to aim for the same thing. Plus, I'm totally enthralled by pedal steel guitar.

I'm in a coffee shop in Brooklyn. Zep's 'Rain Song' is playing on the stereo and it's raining outside.

6/13/07

Weather

It never rains in Colorado except for every time I've ever been here, ever. For real. Every single time I come here the locals say "It doesn't usually rain so much. We usually see the sun 350 days a year!" Yesterday there was a big storm with thunder and rain and everything.

For a second I thought that I might have some effect on the weather systems, making it rain wherever I go. No...I remember there being a drought in California when I was a youngster. People were saying "If it's yellow, let it mellow..." and things of that nature. I have a vivid memory of a teacher explaining how to turn off the water while soaping and shampooing in the shower. Conserve, she said. It's for the environment. She told us not to water our lawns during the day, or at all if we could help it. At ten years old we were probably not making those decisions for our households. Still, it was good to know.

I've been thinking in metaphors and analogies lately. Food, gambling...I'll try another one.

It's either flood or drought, lately:

RECORD DEAL!
no record deal.
TOUR!
home, broke.
TOUR!
home, broke.
ETC!
etc.

What I mean to say is, life's weather is unpredictable and varies greatly from day to day. It seems like every time the sun comes out I can hardly get my shorts, towel, sunscreen, and flip flops out before it's raining again.

I don't mean this as a complaint. I'm learning things.

It's the same for everyone, especially in the music biz. I was just talking to a producer friend of mine about this very subject. He's well established and works steadily most of the time. Right now, though, he's not working at all. Why? Who knows...surely not for lack of talent, experience or connections. Drought.

I guess the key is to find ways to persist through any conditions. The happiest people are the ones who do this well.

Anyway, I have a couple of days left in Denver before I go to New York. I'll do a lot of writing while I'm there and I hope to come home with a batch of new material.

I booked a last minute show in Eugene on June 28th at Luna. Jessica Parsons-Taylor will be playing too...she's good! I'll have a little time in Eugene before I take another trip, this time to Nashville. Giddyup!

6/9/07

Betting in Las Vegas

What is so enticing about putting money into a machine, pulling a handle and watching wheels spin? Does anyone really expect to win big? Is the activity really interesting enough to spend money on it? What are people thinking?

I pulled the handle and lost the last 25 cents of the two dollars I allowed myself to play. Las Vegas airport, 8:00 AM, and I was wasting time while I waited to board a plane to Denver. Slot machines in the airport...we're a funny people. I had been up for 4 hours already and I was feeling a bit punchy. I took deep drinks from my cup of coffee and thought about the previous night.

It was my last night in LA. I'd spent the day working, but in a relaxed manner. Nadir (former band mate and current lodging provider) and I went to Venice beach to have lunch with a friend. I spent the rest of the day trying to finish a new song about people who make bad decisions.

Nadir had a gig that night; I was torn...on one hand, he's my buddy and I wanted to show my support. On the other hand, it would mean staying out late and getting little sleep as I had to wake up at 4:30 am to get myself to the airport. I decided I needed to see the show. He had been hired by an actor-turned-musician, Bryan Greenberg, who is starring in a new show on tv. The club was full of youngish girls who wanted to get an in-person look at the hunky actor. It was quite a scene...a couple of famous faces and industry bigshots were there.

As expected, I got home later than I'd wanted to and I got just a few hours of restless sleep before I got up to go to the airport.

So my layover in Las Vegas got me thinking. Is playing a slot machine in an airport really so different from betting on a career as a musician? Like sacrificing money to the machine, a musician sacrifices parts of his/her life with the idea that it might pay off in the end. I try to work towards this career in a practical way, but there is still so much left to chance. So many things are entirely out of my control and all I can do is hope that I am dealt a hand that I can play with. It creates some stress but at the same time it's quite exciting.

6/5/07

Recipies and Metaphors Thereof.

Life is like cooking from scratch with no recipe to follow. Yes, I'm attempting to be deep. Stay with me…

It's true. You have your refrigerator full of food, your cupboard full of seasonings and, if you're lucky, a little herb garden in the backyard. Maybe even a fruit tree, too. With these you make what you can. It's a process of trial and error, adjustments and discoveries. "Too much salt. A little sweeter. More protein needed." Unfortunately, you can't just stick to the same recipe every day, even if you find one you really like. Ingredients go bad. Tastes change. Etc., etc.

I use food for my metaphor because I'm hungry at the moment. Also, because it seems to work. Also, because I'm hungry.

Really, though. A month ago I was on tour with my friends, seeing the country, meeting new people in new places. It was a diet rich in heavy stuff; steak and eggs, cheese and beer. Full all the time. Then I made the decision to switch things up. I needed fruit and fiber. I needed fresh. I needed regularity.

I quit the band and said goodbye to my friends. It was time for me to push myself off in a new direction. It felt like jumping ship and rowing off in a little life raft out in the deep water and big swells of the ocean. Sorry…different metaphor. It felt like emptying my fridge and cupboard of its contents and then realizing that I would be hungry again soon.

Now I'm in the process of shopping for things to eat. Nice, because I can try new things and experiment a little. Difficult, because I need to eat every day and I don't exactly have the budget to stock the kitchen with good stuff to last.

I think I've worn this metaphor out.

What I mean to say is, here I am. So different from just a month ago. I'm in LA for a week trying to make something out of a few connections and the idea that I should write songs for a living. I have an idea of where to begin and what the end result should be, but the whole middle part is still very fuzzy. Do I sautee? Roast? Simmer? Barbeque?

I have to operate under the assumption that things will work out in the end. I just don't know where my next meal will come from, so to speak (I guess there's a little more to squeeze from the metaphor). I am not to the point of eating plant leaves or bugs, but I am starting to feel the hunger pangs coming on.

So, I'm working on my recipe. I've written two and a half songs in the past couple of days. Feels great; I hadn't written a song in weeks and weeks. I have my protein. Now I need some seasoning.

6/1/07

Tour Journal, part 2.

Los Angeles, again. Overcast and smoggy. I heard that the pollution was worse in the 70's and 80's; I can't imagine how that could be. Maybe one day we'll all wise up together and turn it around.

I'm staying at a friend's apartment in Hollywood. He's out of town for the weekend so I get the place to myself. I'm actually glad to have some time to rest up. My reserves are low. I'll go through his movie collection and pick a few to watch tonight.

So, Missy and Jud are great. They live in a house that Jud built in Central Point, Oregon, just north of Ashland. The living room is big enough to host house concerts; the Justin band played there a few months ago and we rocked out. I was happy to return...they always have a fun group of friends in attendance. The show was part performance, part discussion. I liked it! I believe art should be experienced this way...the usual awkward separation between performer and audience has always struck me funny.

We ate, I played, and then we made a discovery; many of the folks there were sci-fi buffs! I enjoy a well-made film or book every once in a while but I'm not exactly an expert. Kyle, on the other hand, is. He found his people! They talked about it for a couple of hours before we finally hit the road. I learned some things about Star Wars.

That night we stayed in Yreka, California. Totally unremarkable, except for when we went to the drive-through coffee shack and the coffee girls thought I was being stupid. As I reached out the window to take the cups and then pay the girls I couldn't look up at them because of my sore neck. It looked like I was bowing to them as I paid. They thought I was strange and Kyle made fun of me for it. I should have left him there.

I didn't leave him there. We drove on to San Francisco. I've always loved 'The City' (as if there are no others...) and it was nice to be back. We hung out at a cafe in North Beach and watched the city folk and tourists go by. We got some pizza and walked though Chinatown as we ate. I considered looking for one of those massage parlors but I wasn't feeling confident enough with my Mandarin skills to be able to say "No. Just the neck, please".

Back at the cafe it got crowded. A woman walked by us a couple times looking for a seat. She finally asked if she could join us, as there weren't any other tables available. She was fun and funny, and she told us stories of being turned down for marketing jobs after 9-11 because of her Iranian heritage. She told us about her experience living in Vietnam; her Cuban boyfriend was kicked out of the country for living with her. They didn't even give him a day to pack and say goodbye. Just for living with a woman out of wedlock. She was not impressed. We talked about other stuff, too, and Kyle eventually hit his stride and had us in stitches for a good hour. She eventually left and we did too.

The San Francisco show was fun. Cafe du Nord is a fantastic venue and the folks who run the place are very, very nice. I was thrilled to see The Bittersweets play, too. Hannah has an amazing voice, Chris writes wonderful songs, and Steve Bowman is still one of my favorite drummers. A ton of friends showed up and it was a challenge to spend quality time with any of them. I was happy to see them. Dave Getzschman, photographer extraordinaire was there. He really is quite good.



The next morning Kyle and I rose early to catch separate flights. It was time for him to go home to Seattle and for me to come to Los Angeles. As we were pulling up to return the rental car he got some great news about the comic book he's been working on with his brother. I can't say exactly what it was, but it's exciting and you should all go look at www.smashcomic.com.

We parted faux-tearfully and I was left with a feeling of faux-emptiness. He's a good friend.

I landed in LA. I bummed around for a couple of hours before going out to see some music. I saw my old bandmate Nadir play...he sounded great. When he was done we went to the Sunset Strip to watch another friend's band, Pedestrian. As we approached the Roxy we were passed by a couple of groups of guys who were dressed in 80's rock garb. Makeup, hairspray, bandanas...the whole nine. They weren't kidding, either.

Pedestrian is fantastic. The band is made up of 4 extremely talented musicians...the songs are great, the playing is phenomenal, and they brought an odor of class to the dumb-smelling Roxy (I was charged a dollar for a cup of water. Not a bottle of filtered spring water...a cup of tap water). I would highly recommend seeing a show should the opportunity preset itself. I was inspired.

Tomorrow I'll play the last show of the tour...I'll let you know how it goes.

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