Friday, March 30, 2012


It used to be, long ago, that garments with a hood were called Parkas, or simply a garment with a hood. Somewhere along the way the term "hoodie" entered the lexicon. It is an easy, descriptive word for the sweatshirt type thing which includs a hood.

It is a comfortable item of clothing, and very useful when in cold, inclement weather. I've been a fan of the parka and hoodie from the first time I ever saw one. Growing up in Miami, I always longed for anything that spoke of winter. At one time it was the rage to have a madras parka.

They were light weight, cotton, colorful, and perfect for those 60 degree Miami winter days. Girls thought they were cool and I'm sure we all looked spiffy and cute as we crawled through the halls of the junior high school, which, by the way, was run by a disproportionate number of perverts and disgruntled communists who were ever so bitter that doctors and airline pilots made more money than they did. I can still name many of the abusive bastards who bullied kids, and took too much interest in "policing" the showers in the gym.

Now we've come to an age in which people who mug, rob convenience stores, and commit drive by crimes tend to favor the hoodie so they can wear the hood over their head for reasons unrelated to weather. We are also in an age where fashion in some circles follows the garb of punks and gang bangers. The market from a money standpoint is with the mindless wannabes who wish to belie their middle class status while pretending to be ex-cons and inner city, disturbed and angry bad asses.

I think I have more respect for the actual punks than I do for the wannabes, and that is not much respect at all.

Respect for the perpetrators of more of the The Great Pretense is also at an all time low. They have now turned an incident which resulted in someone getting shot into a debate about the hoodie. What a stretch. Now this garment is spun into some sort of racial statement. That is really pushing the bounds of reason and the whole truth.

I was not there that night in Sanford Florida, so I do not know for sure what happened. Neither do the people who are leading and following the witch hunt or the backlash. One thing is clear, the motivation is not truly a reaction to racial prejudice. If that were the case, then the killings and beatings around the country which are clearly based on race would be getting far more attention than this case. This is merely an excuse for those whose wealth depends upon hatred and resentment to foment violence and keep themselves in a position to extort and broker power.

None of it actually has to do with the garment, unless one is dumb enough to go around using a hood to cover his face, and by some stretch of the imagination thinks that would not raise a bit of concern. The utter stupidity surrounding the rallies which center on the garment is alarming, but not all that surprising, considering the attitudes and excuses of the times.

Our new racial hair-splitting term is "white hispanic". Now, I guess we have to apply this to all cases involving mixed race. "Our first white black president". The victim was a "white asian". "A black hispanic won the spelling bee". I'm uncertain as to the number of things I should put into the mix in describing myself. That is because I am not totally clear on what constitutes white and other. Surely we want to separate out the Irish, the Italian, French, Bosnian, and all the rest in one's ethnic heritage in order to describe them.

I guess you have to lump things together into the white category so you can keep the us vs them thing going. How can we claim this cracker shot a black if he is not really a cracker? He's a cracker hispanic. Future implications of this new class will be interesting.

Whatever the truth is, this incident is not about hoodies, per se, and not about race. It is about opportunism and the very real danger that mob rule is growing in popularity. It is about those who will use anything and anyone, without the slightest shame, to further their own ends, and to justify and deny their own shortcomings.

I like hoodies. I will continue to wear them when they suit my mood. It is another of those things like the rainbow--some damned group wants to hijack it for their own purposes and it ought to be just left in the public domain without political taint.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holy Rolling

Part of Copper Creek, my Ballistic mountain group for which I play an harmonica*, is active in a Lutheran church down there on the other side of El Cajon (pronounced: el cah-Hone). We got paid to play there once and it was a great time. Probably the best time I've had playing in CA.

Anyway, Lauren said she wanted me to come and play on a song she was doing at a Wed. night service. She and her husband, Kevin, have always shown me kindness above and beyond the norm, so no matter how resistant I am to church things, I couldn't refuse.

For various reasons, I have been to a few things there at the holy house, and am known by several of the regulars, including Pastor Andy. They are nice people and to my great surprise, I like Andy very much and find him to be full of wit and an easy person to be around. He's very intelligent, and does not play the holier-than-thou routine.

Lately, I've been possessed by some kind of internal frustration of unknown cause. It makes me feel out of phase, makes me grouchy and generally so off keel that I don't realize how I've said what I said until it is too late. Or I don't even realize anger was coming out. Mostly I have been sick of myself.

This little Wednesday service actually calmed me down. At some point it was time to sing, so we went up front and joined Kevin, who was already up there because he was the cantor for the evening. Lauren sang, and I played a couple of solo interludes to the holy song, and sang the low harmony when called for. That is very odd.

There were a couple of guitars backing the tune, and everyone did some harmony parts.

Mostly I just do it quietly and it blends. The tune came off without a hitch. No mistakes on the harp. It was a song which involved Jesus and stuff. Lauren's voice is so pleasing, she could have been singing about Obama, and stuff, and I'd have enjoyed it. Not to equate the two, even though some people do. Not to say I object to Jesus and stuff. I really do not. I'm simply not on board with how a lot of Jesus and stuff is handled.

My view of Obama and stuff is a bit different. We differ radically in philosophy. Semi-anarchist vs mega-archist. But, who cares? Maybe I should have used another example. Too late.

I live a strange life. A kid that reminds me of a 12 year version of my cousin's son was smitten with the harmonica, and he and his mom came up to me afterward to tell me. He looked at me and said, "That was awesome!". So, I asked him if he plays. He said that he doesn't and I asked him why not.

He turned to his mother and asked, "Hey Mom, why don't I play harmonica?" She replied that he doesn't play because he doesn't own a harp. I told him I could remedy that if he wanted, and he seemed eager for remedy. So, we went to the car and I gave him my Lee Oskar C. Now I have to get another.

Maybe he'll take to it, maybe not. I told him I would be glad to teach him if he wants. Maybe we'll find a way to keep in touch. I have a feeling this kid could use the encouragement at this point in his life. It was one of those gut impulses that I occasionally follow.

Actually, I was well into acting on the impulse before I realized what may have been at play. Then it hit me. Oh, he reminds me of J. Afterward, I learned a little of his circumstances, and concluded that my sixth sense was operating well.

I'm not a churchy guy. I have my beliefs, and they don't jibe in certain ways with most church doctrines, however, I might show up there if I find evidence that there's a chance I can do this kid some good. K and L will be on top of it, so we shall see. I need to be of use to someone.

*I've been looking for an excuse to say "an harmonica" ever since that MASH episode when Winchester was all flustered over wanting "an harmonica". Normally I'd say "a harmonica" because I pronounce it with a hard H.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Condensed Version of What Went Before

If only I knew what it is I am doing. This music stuff makes me feel like I am drifting away from reality, considering it is my main connection with people these days. I don't even know if I like music, much of the time. Strange.

OK. So we played the Crest community hall.
Some people there wanted my phone number, claiming they wanted to call me for a jam or some other play-my-harp situation.
That was nice.

I did not play very well according to my standards. I even made a mistake when I hit a squeaky note or something. Maybe I jumped up there and landed between two notes--the right one and the wrong one. It wasn't the conversation of the town around the breakfast table the next day. Of that, I am certain.

There are some people, including members of the two other groups who played, that seem good enough at what they do. I've heard more country, folk, and bluegrass in California than I did in North Carolina.

Anyhow my mountain friends, Copper Creek, sang well and did good harmony. It was a big hit with the Crest crowd. I'd say they liked us the best.

I'm left wondering again why it is that I do this. I can't relate to lots of things I've done. In Memphis and elsewhere the have all this "Blues preservation" activity. If people like it, why does it require a society to preserve it? It sounds like a movement to save a nearly extinct species of animal.

They have the same tendency in some of the folkish circles here. Maybe it is more wanting to freeze time back when people were smoking bananas and clicking their fingers in coffee houses. Nostalgia is one of my least favorite activities. Don't like the word, and don't like what it represents.

Why not form a society for the preservation of the rotary telephone? I liked pizzazz that could accompany dialing certain numbers. Push button lacks the flair and feeling.

I'd say a society for the preservation of freedom would be good, but western world, and what is left, have yet to really embrace the idea. To preserve something, it helps if it actually exists. At least the idea was bounced around for awhile with reverence and zeal. It may not have been achieved to its potential, but there was the thought, and thought usually precedes manifestation. I guess we are lucky that our part of the globe did more to promote the concept than anyone else.

Much of what is in this post did not come before, so you got a little of that and a little of this. Thank you.

Are those who do not have a health insurance policy really soon to be outlaws? For crying out loud people, this is not good. Not everyone who can't afford something wants to then jump through hoops and have government provide it. Some of us do not intend to burden you, regardless. So forget that excuse. Just let people you don't know live without your help, guidance and tyranny.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Cool Thing About Small Towns in E.County

Actually, small communities can be cool almost anywhere, but I live in east San Diego county, so there you have it.

In Crest, a community that burned down in the Cedar Fires a few years ago, they regularly hold a musical night in their rebuilt community center. My impression is that many of the townfolk pitched in to build this place. It is a cool little building with high, open beam ceilings, and fairly steeply pitched roof.

I'm still not sure how the music thing works. They have food and snacks, bottled water and maybe other drinks. People tend to bring their own beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages. There are several long tables and plenty of chairs.

It seems like a couple of guys handle the music stuff. They have a PA and microphones, and cords for plugging in. All the guitars I saw were acoustic, but they all had the plug thing on them, so I guess they have pickups somewhere in or on the thing. Those two guys also play music together. They do good harmony, with one playing a drum (jimba?) and the other on guitar. I like much of what they did, particular the original song. I'm partial to people who play their own stuff, especially when it is good.

There was also another group besides us. Two guys on guitar, gal on tambourine, and all three doing vocals. I think the one guy should have left his ax at home and just sang. He was just a hint off time with the other guy. The other guy was pretty much the front, and is capable.

As a matter of fact, that guy had asked me to play a tune with him at an open mic. I'd forgotten at first but it came back to me. I was surprised to see people from open mic on the other side of El Cajon at this shindig. I'm kind of glad he didn't ask me to play with them because the other guitar player issue would have made it tough for me. I get thrown off by things like that. I have a terrible time if one string is a hair out of tune. I guess it is because I don't know what I am playing as much as feel it, and when it isn't all in accord, it feels wrong and hinders the flow.

This kind of playing is not like the stuff I did in Memphis. I couldn't hear or feel much of the time there. It could be loud. But that stuff is easier to fake. When people can clearly hear vocals, and even understand the words, as well as hear guitar, and even the person next to them yacking, and the thing requires a slow single note interlude featuring you, it is abundantly evident when you are not with it.

We played mostly things that we did not record. Did I mention that all the chairs were filled? It is not a huge place. I guess there were a hundred people, give or take.

Each group played about half an hour, then we went through the rotation again. That is good because even playing easy melodic stuff, I get wound up tighter than a cork screw and am just settling in after thirty minutes of playing. The first group asked me to come play on one of their tunes and it worked out well enough.

A couple of people wanted my phone number for reasons only partially clear. One guy sounded like he's getting various musicians together for some kind of jam somewhere, and the other one I think wants me to play I don't know what. Well, play my diatonic harmonica, but when why where and how are unknown.

It's swell to be popular. I thought my playing was sub par tonight for some reason. Truthfully, I think the group was a little too tight--not in the tight group sense, but tense or something. Maybe just tired. Even so, their harmonies and general vocals were impressive. We fell down on the instrumental end more than anything. The people don't know, but if we hadn't they'd have liked us even more. I'd say we were a hit with this crowd.

Can you believe they have me singing the bass line harmony on some things? I'm not like one of those real bass singers who you hear. My voice sort of just adds a little fullness and bottom end. It is not as prominent but it works. I'm no bass, but I have a natural sense of harmony so what the heck.

To me that female voice in the mix makes it. Something about the sound of her voice I just like. There are people who can sing circles around some other people, but I like the one in the circle better just because of the way the voice sounds. Timbre and all that. Castor and camber.

People just donate money--throw it in the tip jar. Some goes to cover food, and not tell what the guys running the deal pocket, We made gas money because we don't live that far. About $10 each. The point is, I always feel better when I get paid to play, even if it isn't much. That ten bucks is more prized than a lot of other ten bucks I've earned and spent. An irrational view in economic terms, but that is how it goes. I think they actually took in a few hundred dollars. Maybe they use it to help maintain the place.

I think all the band members were getting complimented by people. They say I'm a harmonica whore because I'll play with about anyone who asks, like group 1. It is a running joke. Sad but true. What the heck, if someone can play and wants me to fill some background, I'm fine with it. I guess I am really easy. I prefer to think of myself as a warm person rather than easy.

It is easier to find a relaxed enjoyable event like this out in the boonies than it is in a city. I'd have found it a good time even if I didn't play. What a cheap date that would be. "Let's go see some live music. My treat!" Then you can just pretend to go up and put something in the money jar. Due to its location, faking it would be a cinch. And it would be much more fun than some dumbass expensive restaurant. I hate those places. Fine dining is for others, not for me. Of course, being a non-carnivore, those places rarely serve up anything all that great.

OK. Some Italian places do, but as expensive as they are, they aren't like some of those pain in the neck stupid joints. I almost went bankrupt about a month ago when I was with nobody you know and we decided we were hungry in Carlsbad. I thought I was entering an upscale diner, not den of extortion. Seriously, I couldn't even look at the break down. I just signed over the farm and pretended to be nonchalant, then lived on crackers and tortillas for a week or two.

Nobody you know would have paid, too. I forgot the excuse she gave for offering. Now that I think of it, good for her. Then again, she may never whip that card out again when it comes time to pay. That's OK. She's in another state by now. But the thing is, I just don't feel right not paying for things, or at least most things. It isn't her fault I've squandered my potenshya. (pronounced the way it is spelled, for emphasis).

Oh well, out of sight, out of fake diners who drain your blood and smirk at you. Maybe she ordered goldfish, and they were serious about it. It was some kind of swimming thing. Geez. Fish are all over the place. How scarce can they be?

I seem to have veered off the thought. Such is life. I no longer have a thought.

Oh, those kids who announced that I was sooo old that time they lied and said they weren't playing, but did, called for the second time in a week. Both times I no answer, they no leave the message. Eventually I know I'll talk to them and be nice. I find holding a grudge very difficult in this case. They are kids and don't know a lot. Look at what people have been exposed to over the last twenty years, especially kids. They've had nincompoopery bombardment from day one, even more than I did.

I'm not saying I would stop them from groveling and confessing and apologizing if it came to that. No grudge, but that may be the only path to my good graces.

It is tempting to put my mind to writing something good, since the Copper Creek--need to see if they'll change the name because there are too many other bands named that---vocalists are so good. I see potenshya there, should they use it as I see fit.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I Am Not Klan

Regarding Joel's comment on the preceding post, How was I to know that a place called the Men's Gun Club of Whitsett, which had an American flag on one side of the wall behind the stage, Stars and Bars on the other, and a wooden cross in the middle, with red light bulbs mounted in it, up and down and side to side, was an off color sort of cult?

It was beyond me that such a thing could be true. That sort of thing just did not compute.

I finally gave in to the prevailing view, among the locals, of the place. I played there many years ago with Mavrin's Rockabillys. That's the same Mavrin whose name was actually Marvin but he spelled it wrong with the stick on letters he put on his vintage Les Paul, or other fine make, guitar.

Those things were long ago. I escaped fairly unscathed from the gunclub and their troublesome teenaged daughters.

It was at another venue, which was not of that nature, where we seemed close to battle. The 38 to 2 odds weren't the real risk in that scrape--it was the she devil of a bar maid with the four foot beehive hairdo. As usual, we escaped unharmed. The bluff was too absurd even for them. They offered us a job before it was all over. How we made it home without serious accident is a mystery. I'm grateful I did not cause serious injury to others by being so irresponsible about the condition in which I operated motor vehicles.

Active alcoholics are idiots, no matter what they may tell you to the contrary. I may still be a dimwit, but I am not that kind of moron.

I do not care for any race obsessed groups; not kkk, black panthers, la raza, etc. I think business and political groups based on race or ethnicity are not helpful in the pursuit of a free country. And problematic to the evolution of a better society and peaceful culture.

I find terms like Irish-American, African-American, you-name-it-and-add-a-hyphen American to be absurd, divisive, and contrary to the ideal of a society in which one is free to seek opportunity as his drive and ability permit. Period.. Just pick a goddam country and go with it. It is like some kind of hermaphroditic form of national identity.

People are so quick to jump on bandwagons without knowing the facts. Sometimes the facts are hard to know when you are five states away from an event.

One thing about Al Sharpton, he has a record of championing the side that turns out NOT to have all the facts and truth. He's a demagogue, but what chance would he have of making money if he couldn't keep people feeling the hate? If his way had prevailed, in more than one case, innocent people would be doing time, and some would be dead. Oh, I forgot, I think some people have been killed due to his instigation and playing on blind hatred. Jesse makes his bread off of the same sort of thing. It is shameless and dangerous. Certainly no benefit to any group. I won't even address the implications of the latest case. Or the fact that he keeps leaving out that the hunted witch of the day is another minority.

I wasn't there, so I don't know who did what, and I guess I never will. But, good God, do these people even blink at the murders and robberies in every inner city, every day? In Memphis you can be in the wrong part of the outer city and I guarantee you'll get killed or maimed for your color...or lack of it. Get real. It is obvious that improving the overall situation of any group is not the motive. Outrage is too selective, calculated and does nothing to address real day to day problems which are so glaringly evident.

Oh well. I was witness that there was one strange place out in the NC sticks once upon a time. But they never did let on to me the true nature of their business.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Most Unusual Recording Experience; magic

So, Cliff, one of my Copper Creek bandmates from up here on Ballistic mountain, knows a guy who has let another guy we know set up some analog recording equipment in a giant log house which is not yet finished on the inside. I mean giant logs as well as big house. Huge timbers from Canada. Beautiful stuff.

The property is home to old lawn mowers, motor homes which tilt sideways, sheds, and just stuff that tends to bring out the sculptor of unusual things in me when I survey it. It is owned by a character sort of guy who knows more famous music gurus than I can remember to do the name dropping any justice, so I won't drop too many. I know Charlie Musselwhite, quintessential blues harp player has hung out there. Various bands and musicians have played and enjoyed cookouts there on his property. Another I remember is Doors keyboard player, Ray Manzarek.

Anyway, we needed some kind of demo CD if we want to hustle more gigs. The analog guy, who I knew to be an ace of a soundman from some other situations, was hot to record using his vintage, but primo, equipment and methods. If you'd have described it to me ahead of time, I would have been skeptical of the result.

We arrived before noon, were ushered inside and up the roughed in, temporary stairs to the top, unfinished floor. The bottom floor is mostly filled with wood working and construction equipment being used to gradually get the place built. This is a different world; the kind you only find in rural mountains and foothills. Of course there were a couple of mixed breed dogs, Sasha and Zox. I was pleased that they understood every word I said, and that they seemed interested. They remained outside.

There was no special sound padding or other obvious acoustical treatment in the area where we played, but for some reason the place worked very well. Maybe the shape of the ceiling or just the residual energy of those who'd been on the property in years gone by. All the buildings burned in the famous "Cedar fires" a few years ago. This log structure is built where once stood a large house.

John, the recording anomaly, was pleased that we were cooperative, and that we were prepared to play. He only had two microphones set up, with one actually doing most of the work. When he played back the first tune we played I was pleasantly surprised. The two acoustic guitars blended well and the vocals were stellar. The harp was not too bad either. I played it very conservatively but stepped up on instrumental breaks. This is more country/folk/semi-gospel, not in that order and only sometimes all at the same time.

The sound of this set up with John at the sound board is robust, and warm. I don't think I'd do an acoustic group any other way now if I wanted to record live, with everyone playing. I actually like to record that way at least as well as laying down separate tracks. Depends on what you are doing I guess.

It was really worth the 12 mile trip just to see the log house and the craftsmanship involved in this structure. And the size of the timbers. Huge. One main beam is something like 60'. Each end sticks out a ways and has an eagle head carved in it. It was hand chiseled by an Inuit Indian, I believe, up in British Columbia. A guy who makes real deal totem poles.

Dan, the colorful character who owns the place, has more stories than you can imagine. He's actually not that much older than I am. It was all spell binding.

We recorded 14 tunes. Only one or two did we re-record after first take. This stuff was going to an old reel to reel tape. Everything was tube driven. I have no idea what most of it was, but a sound board is a sound board, so that much was familiar. The main mic was a giant RCA thing that John calls his Bing Crosby mic. The other one he had just to catch the ambient room sound or something is what he called the Patsy Kline mic. Wonder if Patsy is K Kline or C Cline? I could look it up, but no, I won't. Both these microphones are definitely old school and expensive to buy today. That I know. Ribbon mics, he said.

I'm still stunned at the majestic sound. He put in a bit of echo I think. Not too much. It worked. This is pure 50's style sound recording, I'm pretty sure. Whatever it is, I enjoyed it. It took a little bit of adjustment to figure out when you'd be picked up and how much. I still can't believe the blend that was achieved. I'm all about the blend on things like this. The harmonies and vocals from Kevin, Lauren and Cliff were really on it. This will serve well as a demo to get a gig or two, or just so I have a solid representation of this adventure in my harmonica wanderings.

I guess we played a good five hours without much of a break. Not sure what took so long but I guess getting set up and acclimated took a bit; things like that. Laying down 14 tunes in a recording environment, in one day, and having anything half way worth a listen for a prospective venue is pretty good.

This is by far the most unusual recording circumstance I've experienced. It was also very pleasant. Can't wait to get my hands on the finished product. This is the 7th recording studio sort of situation I've played. For me, as little as I've pushed things, that is a lot. I've been lucky to play Sun and Ardent, and I can't remember the names of the others in Memphis--except one was at a school that had a nice fully equipped studio. Ardent and --maybe it is called Young avenue--or it is on Young avenue, or both--are the most cutting edge. I kind of liked Sun and the old studio which generally works with Black artists. Forget the name.

The other recording environment I liked very much was my first experience. That good friend in Greensboro, Joel, got me that gig. He may have done me a better turn than he knew b referring me to them.

A guy paid me to lay down harp on his unusual tunes. An engineer by day, and soundman at heart, had a basement made into a studio and it was pretty nice. I liked the people there, and the experience was truly a breath of fresh air and a relief during a time of stress domestically. A woman is to blame, of course.

Oh well, what can you do. Live and learn. And going forth learn to weigh the value of certain talents against the dearth of other, more important, qualities in a more rational way. Still, how could I trade that time of proving to myself that I could be a decent father to a little girl I loved dearly?

Ok, enough of that.

Thanks, Joel, for recommending me for that first recording opportunity.

They called me back in to play on their annual Christmas album that they used to make with musicians who had recorded there during the year. It was one of the few things (maybe one of only two) that I did for three years that wasn't related to caring for the woman-to-blame and her little girl. Believe me, I did not have the blessing and support of the lovely malcontent, even though I actually got paid some money.

I said enough of that. Sorry.

Well, I was told by Dan, the log house on forty acres owner, that I am welcome back any time, and that I can record on my own or with Copper Creek, or just come by for no reason. Someone is giving him a grand piano which will be in there before long. It won't likely being going up stairs.

There are so many instruments and things floating around there. I saw a pile of effects pedals, so maybe I'll see if I can experiment some time.

Here's the view of one end. I only had a minute to capture a little bit. I ended up on the junk side. On the other side is a swimming pool, a small cottage, a stage by the pool, and to the left it goes down to a creek and there are more trees and vegetation. The property used to be abundant with trees but the fire did them in.

Much gardening goes on there. It used to be zoned agricultural. The change up of zoning classifications is another matter altogether, and it hasn't worked well for Dan. You buy a place, work it, and plan your life based on the rules of the day. Then they change and can radically impede the progress of reasonably laid life plans. He seems to roll with the punches.

We played right behind those two windows on the top floor, at this end. You don't get much sense of the logs and such from this video. You can see one of the eagle heads to the right, atop all that scaffolding.

The place is actually more hospitable than I portrayed, and the things due to go in are going to make it a great jam house. He's tearing down the stage by the pool, "That's a fire hazard!", and laying one down out of concrete, slightly up the hill, to mention just one item. It is coming together a bit at a time.

Guess I just keep playing even though I always wonder why. This Saturday, if you are in the area, head over to Crest Community center because we'll be playing there. It ain't really rock n roll, and it ain't really not rock n roll. I'm sure I'll do at least a few minutes of some kind riffraff jazz.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Distilled Moments of Perfection

Every now and then I understand; I get it. Those times may be brief and fleeting, but they are the split seconds--sometimes minutes--which make life worthwhile. Or livable.

I had one of those moments tonight. For an instant, I had no thought of anything except, "this is great", as the rain and wind played their tune on Ballistic Cabin. I had just returned from an open mic night at Valley Music with Cliff and Linda.

I'd just finished making a sandwich which included a few good things, and a sprinkling of Richard's Delicious Seasoning. The rain picked up, filling the place with that muted sound which, if I'd opened a window would sound like a huge mass of people cheering or applauding. Or maybe thousands of angels surrounding the place doing a drum line routine.

I was settling in for the night and had not yet indulged the usual thoughts about what needs doing, what is not done, why am I so dumb, what will I ever do, woe is me, etc. No thought of any abstracts such as past and future, just the thought that I felt content, and pleased in that instant.

It seems that the real trick is to feel that good about life while doing things which make the world go round; like earning money, cleaning house, wooing women, wandering the earth...

At any rate, in that small moment of time, I think I had a grip on it, on life. Sometimes those moments are as frequent as one every day or two. Sometimes a year, maybe more, might pass without such a pause in all that bothers, or could bother.

Time passes between flashes of pure innocent pleasure, contented delight in being me (yet there is never a time when I would trade with anyone), where I am, how I am, at that specific point in time. I'm mostly OK with my life and my existence, (maybe passively resigned to it) but rarely so untouched by thoughts of the thoughts of others, my own shortcomings, blablabla.

It was a moment of perfection. I've had some serious ones which changed my life for a time. Maybe one of them saved my life many years ago. There I go, back to the past.

It was a fine time at the open mic night. I played with a guy who asked me to sit in. I didn't have a clue what either song was, but people appeared impressed, and said so. I'm so vain--if no one, or only one, had said anything I'd feel like I'd slipped up and queered the deal. (I like that expression because it is so almost politically incorrect. Even though it is technically safe and sound.)

I forget the song, but Cliff played a little tape he had in a portable cassette player through the microphone. I wish I could remember the song. It was a big hit for the Eagles, and the tape was of the guy who wrote it, singing it for the first time publicly, ever, by himself way back when, before he became part of the Eagles. Before there was The Eagles, I think. Famous song. Everyone but me knows it. Not the one about the girl in Winslow Arizona. Happy something or feeling whatnot. I don't know.

It was a significant little piece of modern music history there, and the only recorded record of it. The guy was playing Cliff's coffe house in the 60's at an open mic. They called it hoot night back then. You hear him say, "this song is really not completely worked out yet.". As it progressed, the crowd at Valley were blown away, singing along quietly. It was one of those tunes which marked a point the the lives of many people.

Well, I'm glad I could be so specific about the name I am dropping and the song he wrote.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

If You Don't Live Here, You Really Don't Know

People are bizarre and difficult creatures. They are the best we've got, and I belong to that class of being, so I can't say I hate them. Some people say that, "I hate PEOPLE!". To me, that makes zero sense since the person saying it is a people. If you really feel like we shouldn't exist, or that wolves and bears should occupy our space, then off yourself, or at least make your dwelling a home for such animals. No cages allowed--just let them in.

The misanthropic cry does not always relate to placing bears or other creatures above humans. Often it is just an expression of dislike for one's species, pure and simple. When you look at some institutions, and behavior of masses and countries, it can be understandable.

My frustration--one facet of my frustration--comes from the tendency of people to think they know what it is to be me. They assume they know how my brain and self view operate. I don't even know. I know that even though I may have demonstrated some ability or talent in a particular instance, I often have no sense that I can duplicate that effort in any way. I didn't say "always". I said "often".

I know the difference between believing I can do something and feeling like I have no idea how to do the particular thing. Even if I've done it a hundred times. That cog wheels up in the gears that make me go and the screen goes blank. If I'm lucky, there is some way to fake the task, and maybe even get the gears going again in the process. Some things don't work that way.

To compound the annoyance of that glitch, I have friends who simply think I am being self destructive or a wimp and that I voluntarily lose ambition or continuity of effort. Some people, who aren't here to do it, have had the ability to help me turn the wheel past the missing teeth in the gear. I don't know where they are now--the ones who are still alive.

My plan is still to get past that, but I am sure I will endure the ire of those who do not understand what this means. People who mean well, and firmly believe that what is obvious to them is the totality of what will work for me. One day it will, and the next, maybe not.

I guess one manifestation of the way this works is how I am able to immediately see the solution to a complex puzzle, or what one player in a chess game can do to get out of trouble and win, at a specific point in time. Another day, I may be totally incapable of seeing how the simplest puzzle is solved, and would have not the slightest clue about what to do in the chess situation. I might spend an hour looking at it. It is not consistent.

Someone told me such things do not vary to that degree--that IQ does not vary to any significant degree like that. Well, in my case it does. Massively. I could give you some accurate numbers, but I won't.

So, once again the case is made that it is better to seek to understand than to be understood. You are out of luck if you expect to be understood. And I don't care if I am understood all that well. I do care if I am second guessed in ways which are far from the essential mark. Thus, I hope I do not do that to others. It is why I don't suggest too strongly to others what they should do with whatever talent and resources they possess. If their windows cloud over, or become screens for imaginary scenes, the way mine do, I may be suggesting the wrong thing, or in the wrong way.

The benefit of this kind of fog is that I think it can be harnessed in some way. It may be that great creations and ideas lurk in that mist. Lately it has been more of an effort than usual to maintain a clarity and focus. I think I'm cycling back into an easier phase. Maybe I am.

People are creative little bastards. Most of them know what they'd do if they were you, but not what they'd do if they were they.
The ones who have a real handle on what they'd do if they were they are the luckiest people in the world. And I am guessing that they are the happiest and most successful. I don't know what I'd do if I were you or I. Ain't that a pickle? I guess that given certain scenarios I know what I'd do. But overall, I really don't know.

And I have to guess that when it comes to me, you don't either.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

An Old Plot Line

A teleplay I recently watched reminded me of a plot I've seen more than once. Spoiled rich heiress, or fiance of el jefe, or similar dame, is shipwrecked and ends up on the island or in the raft with the lowly boat help. Usually the heiress is a knock out of a white girl, and the peon is a swarthy, tough, intelligent Mediterranean or some such non-whitish guy. The woman finds him sexy, of course.

They argue at first due to her spoiled and unrealistic outlook on life, class, caste, and reality. Soon enough she is in no hurry to be rescued, as she schemes to invent ways to have him perform kinky acts upon her while making it appear not to be her idea. She at least arranges a thin veil of plausible deniability, just in case.

It would be great to be shipwrecked in good weather, land on an island which has easily obtained food, no hostile wildlife, plenty of water, and the dame finds me irresistibly clever and strong--in that Clark Gable don't give a damn way.

Actually I do better in that environment. Give me a piece of string, and some penny loafers and I'll build a shelter. Leave me in the middle of civilization and I can hardly make my way. I starve spiritually, physically, and emotionally. It should not be that way.

Civilization developed to provide safety, technical and philosophical advancement, relative peace, etc. Much has been accomplished since the cave days. Air conditioning for one. Go live in Miami for awhile and tell me you don't care about A/C. It should be good, but I have trouble.

The fault for this is not that human society is so evil or wrong. It is my inability to make use of, and recognize, reality in this setting. It is a fault of my conditioning, and possibly my organic make up. Whatever, I do not blame the world for the fact that I have not thrived in it. Just how it is. And it is not quite over, so who knows.

So, I think if all else fails, I will go get shipwrecked in the Caribbean. I prefer that to the cold Pacific. No northern oceans for me. I want the warm stuff, and I am afraid of everything in Asia so I may not go there to be marooned and lost.

I hope I find the right socialite/ hot rich, politically incorrect snobby lady to rescue in the process. Maybe this is a project that could grab my attention. "bout time

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Maybe A Last Laugh; crime and punishment series

As the previous post amply describes, I feel a bit of disrespect and chagrin from the way the Orange Picker boys first lied to me, then denounced me publicly for no good reason. I am what I am and I was born when my mother saw fit to let me out of the oven. No crime in that.

If the previous post was too long to endure, here is the synopsis:
The young brothers asked me to play so I played few times with them in public
it went well enough
They asked me to play Monday night.
I said OK. Then they sent a message at 630 saying they wouldn't be able to make it
I went to the venue to catch other acts and see what sort of people attend
They showed up and didn't notice me.

When they were on stage, the guitar player went on about how the harp player they had last time was really,
REALLY old, in a context which seemed meant to explain why I was not there. And in a ridiculing, derogatory manner.
The event MC did tell him the harp player was good. That was nice.

I've been a little miffed, and sometimes angry, ever since.

Today, I get a message from them asking if I can play on Friday night at the Egyptian Tea room and hookah parlor. Oh, so maybe someone told you that you sucked last time out? And maybe said you were better when the harp player was there? I don't know. One can daydream.

After seeing the guitar guy do his very bad Rico Suave imitation while playing, I was grateful I did not play with them Monday night. Not something I care to be part of.

Beyond that, if you lie to me, then publicly try to defame me for condition of birth, I doubt we have much to discuss. Ignorant people, who are clueless regarding themselves and others, young or old, are to be avoided and afforded no extra respect. My feeling is that attempting to explain the error of his ways would sound like a defense, could result in me punching him, and generally be no fun and not productive.

But I couldn't pass on a little opportunity to reply. Joel thinks they may be too dense to even get the little joke, and the lesson in it, and I think he may be right. I get it and that is what matters.

After several hours I replied in text to their text:
Sorry. I'm playing a benefit at the OLD folks home.
Raising money for viagra, memory loss research, as well as ego disorders

This gave me a little satisfaction. How they take it, like it, or anything else doesn't matter any more. I ,at least, got to say NO, and in a way I wanted to say it.

I'd love to hear what you think, but I won't hold my breath.

I'd already agreed to practice with the friends up here on Ballistic Mountain anyway. They feed me and appreciate my old and feeble way of making a harmonica squeak.

I've tolerated betrayal in one form or another many times in my life, and when I got fed up I always wondered why I put up with it for even a minute. This time I actually cut it off immediately. If any further contact is attempted, I will not reply. Just had to throw this one out there so the clever and even the mildly dim witted would know what is what.

And perhaps they aren't sure if I was there, or if someone in the audience knew me and told me. I like the thought that they may not know.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Can't Be Cruel If It Doesn't Matter

This has been bothering me for 24 hours now. I'm not precisely sure how I feel about it. My reaction has ranged from pity, to rage, to unkind laughter, to simple acceptance.

Because I have not just let it go, I finally decided to write about it. At first I thought, "This is one odd event that I will never share with anyone.". But, eventually, I came to the conclusion that I had no reason to fault or belittle myself.

As I have mentioned previously, I met a couple of young guys at an open mic, and I liked the potential I saw. It seemed like I could enjoy jamming and playing with them. They thought the same and got contact info, then gave me a call.

We went over some of their stuff at a couple of practices, and played a couple of open mic venues with which I was unfamiliar. One was particularly good as far as the set up and the players. The other was interesting, and we played better, in my view. They definitely played better; smoother and more on time.

So, Monday, I get a text asking if I can play Monday night at the well set up venue. I was working in Rancho Megabucks, and since they didn't think we'd be playing too early, I thought it would work out fine. The place is not much out of my way if I take the highways home instead of the back way. I was working into early evening.

About 6:30 I get a text that says it doesn't look like they can make it. OK, I say, sorry to hear it. I didn't mind. I figured, since I was already in the mindset, that I'd go on my way home from work to check out the place; see who plays, the demographic of the crowd, etc. The other time I was there, we played and that was that. I never got a good look at the crowd or the other players. Stage lights, back door, and all that.

I showed up about 9, and after circling around in National Heights or whatever that artsy place is called, finally scored a good parking place, maybe 100 feet from the entrance. It is free so what the heck. I sat in the back and caught a few acts, most of which were OK, even if they didn't overly trip my trigger. I liked them for the most part. There was one combo that I liked fairly well.

My coffee and water were in the car so I went out for a little break. As I'm out there, who do I see meandering in with their instruments? Yes, the brothers Grim. The kids who couldn't make it.

On our last outing, I did sense some indication that the vocalist/guitar/front/man may have been letting his ego get the best of him, and that he might have a tendency to foolishly become a little too high on himself. Previously he'd kept the front man antics toned down, without the overly affected thing that makes a lot of people sound and look like asses. He seemed to be drifting in that direction.

Needless to say I was a little bit shocked when they cruised in. I was not sure if they saw me, but I figured the ball was in their court. I went in and sat down again in the back. At one point the younger brother walked right by me, but he does wear glasses and had come from the front where the lights shine in your eyes. He's in many ways more about the music than his brother, the self styled star.

So, after awhile the MC introduces the next act and there they are. This place is good with the sound and they work it out before each individual performance. The MC was hanging around up there, sitting on the piano bench while the guitar guy is talking into the microphone. Guitar Lad started talking about the other times they'd played there and how last time they had a harp player. The MC chimed in, "That guy was really good!".

Guitar guy, "Yea, yea, he's good, but that guy is really OLD. Really, he's xx years old!" (talking over the MC's reaction of So What?) "Old! An old man, geez. OLD man." The tone was one of disparagement, not awe or respect.
MC--What? xx is a spring chicken. The guy can play.
Guitar player--clucking into mic "test test test"

I'm sitting back both enjoying this discussion, and horrified, all at once. I'd been nice to these kids, and thought I could help them be better. After hearing their set, I know absolutely they were way better when I played. The guitar player started doing all this affected guitar face stuff, and his licks were too lame to make it work. It was embarrassing. When someone is too stupid to nkow they aren't smart, or too convinced they are charming to notice that none are charmed by them, I cringe.

He was so convinced that he was wowing the women or someone that he let his posing and jumping around take precedence over playing. The tempo was so inconsistent that the bass had to stop several times trying to get him back on it without being so far apart that the notes clashed. It could have been worse, and obviously I have a resentment which might make me a bit more critical.

The truth is, I had hoped they'd do great so I could assume my job was done there, and not worry about it beyond feeling sorry that the kid is too inexperienced or cowardly to just say they wanted to go it alone. I'd made it clear that they should do that if they ever felt like it. I don't know all their songs, and some things may not be what I should, or want to, play.

What stung or seemed like it ought to sting, was being publicly described as REALLY OLD as if that was a reason any self respecting young super star wouldn't have me on the same stage. Many in the crowd had heard me play last week. No one was laughing or gasping in horror when he gave his assessment. I think, to this crowd, he was sounding a bit idiotic.

Believe me it was all I could do not to stand up and say, "Hey, I'm the Old guy, come on down kid and let me kick your young ass into next week!" Which I could. Another impulse was to stand up and yell something as I gave the finger and walked out. Didn't do that either.

I stayed for the set, felt pleasure at the lukewarm applause, and the guitar guy saying the last tune, which included the most outrageous of failed theatrics, is better with more distortion and something(?) else. They use the house amps at this place. Believe me, effects would not have made it work, unless there was something that wouldn't let you change the beat mid-measure. I tried to keep time to it and it was impossible.

Justice, I suppose, but never in my life have I been classed as some really old guy who repels an audience or children or talented musicians.

I still don't know what to think, except that I overestimated the maturity and musical passion of this kid. I give the bass player a pass because he just stared at the floor while this went on and said nothing.

What may have had something to do with it was that when we played the tea room/hookah parlor, people were commenting afterward that the harmonica "really made it. That rounded out your sound, and made it work". Comments like that are always tough to hear when you are the front man. What I know, and they don't, is that I am the spice. What's a baked potato without some butter or sour cream or something? And how much butter or sour cream by itself can you really handle? It's the combination that is worthwhile.

I wasn't planning to go to music heaven or anything, but I thought I might record some tracks when they do the studio time they plan in the near future. From what I saw, they are not ready. The only word I will ever speak to them again is "no". I don't plan to ever even say hello if we cross paths.

It is odd that they knew who I was, and my age, prior to the last couple of times we played, and that they asked in the middle of the day if I could play, then hours later lied about being able to make it. But to be publicly defamed as a player for something other than my playing, as if I had done something to them, kind of indicates that the kid is unaware of how I play, and/or his focus is not on what the product should be--delivering a musical experience. It does put him on my forever list of people to leave bleeding in a ditch if I should ever happen by when they are in such a circumstance.

And another thing; did he not know I was old until late Monday? That is a compliment in an odd fuckwit sort of way.

Bless that MC guy. Having him immediately give his gut reaction when I was mentioned, and for it to be complimentary, was perfect. It left the kid sounding stupid--but, but, but he's old old old!

Well, I've aired it out, and now I hope to deal with something more healthy, interesting and --for God's sake!!!- age appropriate.

Considering the source helps, however this has affected me. I've been very quiet for a day or two. I played with my Ballistic Mountain buddies tonight. They are both older and younger than I, and classy enough not to ridicule me for being too tan, white, black, old, sexy or anything else I can't help.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Joel May Have Been Right

This has been a phase of confusion and doubt. Long time friend and arch nemesis, Joel, gave me a long lecture filed with analogies I didn't get, parables that were equally unclear, and illustrative stories that covered everything from Madonna to who knows what.

The maddening part is that all the ranting had an impact and was helpful in kick starting a return to a more pleasant and productive outlook. Some friends are willing to tell you when you a messing up, and I have the feeling Joel enjoys it. He'd deny that, but over the years this has happened a few times. Many years ago his blunt assessment of my state of mind and spirit was one of the influences that probably helped me save my own life.

Let me go on record as saying that admitting Joel is right is totally against my grain. Thankfully, he is usually wrong, or I have no idea what the parable means so I am spared the impulse to disagree with the point. But, there are times, when it counts, when he is right. This was one of them.

I'm unclear what put me in such a sea of self doubt and confusion. And free floating worry. Some things in my life are not bad. I think it is the fear of being able to deserve of be prepared for the good things that freezes me in my tracks as I watch myself sabotage the gifts life lays at my feet. I can think of many reasons why I have to do that, but none of them really make sense.

So, I went to the Egyptian Tea Room, and hookah parlor, to play their open mic with the two brothers. It was an interesting place and a tough crowd to play, but not a bad deal, all in all. It is a cramped space to play, but I don't think the sound was half bad and we did a far better set than I expected. It was the best I've heard them play, and the best I've done with them.
I found myself playing a little different approach from what I did in practice, and did not detect any mistakes at all. Maybe if I heard it played back I would be critical of my part somewhere along the line. I don't know. I forgot to bring my flip cam.

At any rate I think it made an impression. I'm vain and like to hear compliments afterwards. I know I played what I was intending to pay and thought it gave a unique sound. I sort of did horn section, and sort of rhythm. There were a couple of rides in there and times I encouraged a little energy when it was needed. It was a tight set.

No idea what is next in that realm of life. I guess a few more people around town know there is an old harp player about who doesn't play the typical stuff. The challenge is blending and filling out the sound, not the solo stuff. This was a delight. There are even times when the guitar and I run the same notes.

I wonder if the things I say have any influence on these kids. I hope so. My goal is to influence them away from certain pitfalls in life and toward the good stuff. My input is subtle and not of the lecture variety. Mostly by example when situations arise.

In other life, there is a little bit of work to do, and schemes to hatch. I've given up worrying about why I play my crazy harmonicas with people, young or old. I must like to play, and I must think I am good at whatever it is I do. Lately I've been trying to broaden the scope a bit. Oddly that can involve knowing when not to play or when to lay back. I thought I was good at that, but I am noticing I am getting better at it. That is because I am listening to my judgement more on it and not that of others. People tend to want you to play too much or too little on songs. They just don't know best.

That goes for many things in life--it seems like others know what is what better than I do, but they probably don't. Just because civilization confuses me doesn't mean the players in this system have the long term solutions to my dilemmas. Or that the know much. It was not all that long ago that they said in the press that cocaine wasn't addictive. That is just one example in which the current wisdom was devoid of value. Happens all the time.

The trick is to know when my own thinking or behavior is devoid of value. When I know that is happening, there are a few people I try to call because they seem to bring me back. It is a short list and I resist calling one of those people due to reasons I won't state. Just being polite mostly.

It is the fate of some of us that we tend to react poorly to life's events, if we aren't paying close attention. It is simply the first reflex to go left when we ought to go right. Knowing it is helpful, and knowing the keys to arming one's self against the self created turmoil and confinement is essential. The rest is just living. Life is, and most of it can't be changed. How it is approached and appreciated probably is within an individual's power to direct.

I try. And I have difficulty with it. But I haven't given up yet. That may pay off. If I can accept the good stuff and be prepared for it. Luckily, I don't have the compulsion to criticize others and expect them to live how I think I would live if I were they. Doesn't mean I don't observe, grade drivers as I travel and note those who cannot grasp what a true jam is.

Anywa, Joel was right and it is good to have such a friend. But believe me, the guy argues with me about whether he is arguing or I am, and I wasn't even arguing. Ever have someone ranting and raving then tell you to chill out? Crazy friggin nut. But right is right, and what can you say about that?

It was much the same message my cousin delivered to me recently. I'm luck to have such a cousin too. Without these people in my life, I'd be sunk. I wonder if I am just lucky, needy, both, or if this is how it is for everyone.

About Me

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


Blog Archive