Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bashed By Critics; and the Home for Wayward Musicians:part 1 of 3

***I decided to re-publish so this and the next two appear a day apart.****

My old friend, Joel, in NC has decided to try his hand as a literary critic. He's elected to hone his skills on me. If you ask him, he'll deny it.

However he informed me that my political commentary is of no value, that opinions on issues of the day are a dime a dozen, and that he doesn't even agree with my views. Obviously he has a misguided sense of what constitutes a free society, and of what is the true genesis of the problems we face today, yesterday, and no doubt tomorrow in the realm of soft tyranny and matters of state.

Far be it from me to set him straight. I prefer my friends enjoy a blissful life, and as they say, "ignorance is bliss", so what kind of friend would mess with that?

In honor of my dear friend's limited awareness in the stuff of freedom, and because he requested it, I will tell the tale of my residence in the Home for Wayward Musicians. It is a painful tale for me to tell, and it was a troubling phase of my life, but it did have its moments.

I think I'll have to make this a two or three post series.----It worked: parts 2 and 3 are probably going to appear Thursday and Friday, respectively--if not respectfully
Part 1; HFWM

It was somewhere around 1984, and I was an habitual drinker, and else. My marriage had been trashed within the last couple of years and there was nothing to temper my judgement and life choices. I was behaving as if there were no tomorrow, and co-workers at the car place seemed to believe there wouldn't be. They tried to talk me into letting them pay for life insurance and listing them as beneficiaries. How insulting. They were drunks! Yet I was elected most likely to meet the Reaper first.

Well, I showed them. My nifty VW van (a plush '82 Vanagon) got repossessed, primarily due to negligence on my part. I could have sold it, paid it off, and made a tidy profit. Tending to basic affairs of life was just not on my agenda. I almost never checked the mail. When I did, it was only because the box was stuffed to the point that you could hardly remove it without the use of special tools. I'd empty it and just throw all my unopened mail in the trash.

Finally, I couldn't even handle going to work, pretending I was trying to sell cars. I quit. I notified the landlord that I was leaving. I didn't have the dough for next month's rent anyway. I figured if it wasn't enough notice, take it out of the security deposit. At least the place wasn't trashed by me. Frozen pipes overhead had burst and made a fountain of the ceiling light, and the landlord did little to help the situation. The carpet smelled like death.

It was zero degrees and felt like minus infinity when the pipes burst. Must have been a bunch of dormant flies in the ceiling because it caused them to wake up. It was like a horror film. I tried everything on the carpet. Tons of baking soda. The landlord's guys had done the wet vac thing but it did not help the smell, hence my efforts. I vacuumed it all up before I left.

Having almost no money, few sober moments and no ambition whatsoever when it came to trying to reason with the property manager, I headed out on foot. I guess I didn't have too much stuff, because I am not overly clear on what I did with anything. I believe I gave a three sided screen, that I made to serve as window treatment, to the nice red headed girl who lived upstairs. We had an odd and somewhat one sided relationship. I guess she thought I could be saved. Or maybe she thought I could be easily and agreeably used and it would look as if I was the one incapable of anything more--which I was.

There I was, walking toward the Somewhere Else Tavern, hoping no one passing by would recognize me now that I was a professional pedestrian. I certainly hoped none of the nice people who'd bought cars from me spotted their once beloved sales creature.

It's true, I did have some fans in that regard. Blitzed or not, I had an aversion to playing games or hiding the truth. The car game back then could be a little odd. Mostly you helped people in the same way they put people into houses they couldn't afford by sinking them into loans they probably wouldn't be able to pay back. Dumb people, but who's got the heart to play on their greed to feed his/her own?

Sure, the people jumped at the chance, but it still wasn't the right way to do things. I spent more time trying to talk people out of buying than into it. I was not getting rich.

this is a good time to stop and go to part 2.

prelude prologue

The posts below which tell some of the story of my time in the Home for Wayward Musicians cover just a bit of the education received from the experience. It was during that time that I became adept at playing background with bands, finding ways to supply a little excitement to the music and find spots to fill without stepping on the tune.

It is interesting to note that at that time I was incapable of vocally testing a mic. I would test by playing harp into it but couldn't talk or sing into a microphone. Not the case now as I do both.

Within a couple of years after the story told below, I was again in Miami where I spent the better part of the next nine years. I played very little with bands during that time and for about four years after that. But the ability to jam and to handle a solo during the song stuck with me. My actual skill on the harp improved most when I got with the group in Memphis. And everything has improved since I started playing with Copper Creek here on Ballistic Mountain.

Playing is something that I've done and then not done and then done again. Otherwise I'd be better than I am and would have learned more sooner.

Even though I was in serious trouble in ways, the time spent in the world of the Somewhere Else music scene was the best foundation for knowing how to jam that I could imagine. So many quality players and, in my case, the necessity for becoming versatile. I wanted to play and often my only chance was to play on the stuff other harp players wouldn't do because it wasn't meaty blues harp material. I could usually find some piece in the fabric that lent itself to floating in a note or two. Some of those became my favorites.

I've never seen a true jam of the sort they held at Somewhere Else anywhere since then. That is probably because noone I've encountered knew how to hold it together, yet ensure it wasn't overly structured like Aubrey aka McGoo, keyboard player-scratchy wild vocalist. He's since passed on, and he was a good man. Dave the drummer was highly under rated for his ability to help a guy like me feel confident and feel the joy while playing. They taught me to take chances and they tried to teach me to be comfortable being myself on stage.

Sometimes we'd have ten or more musicians on stage and on a good night it clicked. On a really good night, what started as a jam off a particular song would evolve into something that went on for half an hour and took some really good turns.

The real confidence came when I hit Memphis and realized that though the players were good, they lacked much of what was taught at Somewhere Else. I wish I had videos of some of those jams. Otherwise there is no way you'd believe the quality, spontaneity, and energy of those events. Not to mention some of the connections to bands and divas you know.

I should add that when I quit being drunk and drugged, my playing improved.

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Ballistic Mountain, CA, United States
Like spring on a summer's day


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