Thursday, December 2, 2010

Suing the Bastards

The ACLU is in process of suing the RI public school system.  We're with it- this place has failed us miserably as concerns our eldest daughter.  In fact that failure has not only affected our household and the flow of life here, but is a widespread issue for families of all stripes, all over the state.

Our own situation is represented by several major episodes in our child's education career, hi-lit by a couple I'll reiterate here...
In the 2nd grade she was "kept in for recess" to complete a "paper" on Christopher Columbus.  This situation endured for an entire half of the school year.  Her desk was found filled with rumpled sheets of written-on paper which had apparently not 'passed muster' for the presentation.  The teacher explained these were attempts at "a paper she owed me", for which she'd been held during recess.  Our kid was generally the only one in the room for that period- so she wasn't always the only one...  This situation was discovered at a 1-on-1 parent/teacher meeting between wife and our child's teacher during a school open house.  As she was leaving the meeting and was in the hallway, my wife overheard a piece of a conversation between said teacher and the school principal who had entered the room.  There was shouting... it seems that holding a child from recess, for any reason, is against the law.  And this went on for an entire semester...

At the local middle school our daughter was taken from a table of new friends she was in the midst of getting acquainted with during lunch-time.  The guidance counselor approached her table, leaned toward her and said "Oh no, take your tray and follow me".  Our daughter was led to a lone desk and chair at the front of the cafeteria before the other 200 children in attendance, and told to take a seat.  She would be eating her lunch there instead of with her friends.  Our daughter had done nothing to actually have lined herself up for this unusual psychological punishment... it was in fact done to enforce an after-school detention for tardiness, that we had asked to have a meeting about before it was implemented.  She was not in fact "tardy"... and we had reason to believe that this was not an appropriate route to take for our daughter (or anyone's child for that matter).  The "detention" was implemented, without our knowledge, during regular school hours- a violation of policy as written in the school's own Student Handbook.  It was also a violation of good faith on the part of the school administration.  Our daughter said later that during this strange and unexpected lunch room event, she looked up at a photograph of some fish on a reef underwater on the wall overhead.  She said she felt like she was drowning... if you're hip to psychology you'll see that this represents the onset of anxiety.  Later that evening, at home, Andrea experienced an anxiety episode at bed time.  We got her through it, and then removed her from the school.

There is more, but that gives you the idea.

We had a meeting with the principal the next day, which we shortly came to see as fruitless and pulled her from school, partly on recommendation from our daughter's pediatrician.  "Truancy Court" letters followed, of which we saved one- in case it were ever relevant... it now appears to be.  But we have come to terms with what this is here:  What we have available in the way of publicly-funded education is a system that does not serve the child.  It serves other interests, but does so with the false premise of offering the service of providing enlightening education and preparation for entrance into society.  Talk about your disappointing crocks of shit.

I have to give them kudos though, for tenacity- for walking on doggedly after a method for getting a thing done.  But that's where it stops- unfortunately they're doing everything wrong!  They have in fact done everything that it takes to destroy a child's zeal for learning.  Their evidently purposefully blind and obdurate attitude, neglecting any consideration for the fact that these are fledgling people in a free society who need guidance, respect and freedom to think creatively, is in practice a bludgeon and a paralyzing agent to the sensitive processes of growth and awakening perception; for those who cow to the system they are surrounded by it's a crusher of self-confidence, and a strange hurdle to the development of personal or practical skills.  For those who rebel against it, it presents other, more socially innovative possibilities as they find themselves assuming the posture of an outsider... if you can't win, play another game...you can "do your own math" on that one.

If these people are willing to put the parents in prison for the sake of the child's education, then perhaps they should rather be willing to foot the bill for an alternative education solution- one where the child will actually be educated... and have their parents too.

As for our daughter, she's been enrolled in a local private school and is now thriving happily.  We would be interested in a little of that bill-footing action if it were to become available.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Belief

My 12 year-old got by it a year or so ago, finally coming to honest terms with herself about it; not only in her own mind, but as concerning the fact we told her a huge, heinous, spectacular lie.  Now, sure, we think it's cute that little kids are so trusting, endowing us so easily with the care of their young unspoiled souls, hearts, and minds as well as their physical aspects.  We love to see the wide-eyed wonder of their curiosity, their delight at having their fond desires met by a kindly grandfather who knows all, sees all, forgives and loves us.  It's a figure of our own desire to be cared for.  We relate to it, are captivated by it, wooed, and entertained... and we see it- and excuse it- as innocent.  Of course they'll learn that it's a mere crock of shit.  In fact, in an ideal Western World, their first run at dealing with crocks of shit and the disappointment they inevitably represent is the one called "Santa Claus".

It's not innocent to put kids through it though.  Put yourself back in those vulnerable shoes, and remember what it was really like to grow up with divorced parents, to find out your father's heart was long gone from you, or to hear, by the grapevine, that your girl/boy/best friend had betrayed you.  Santa Claus was your first lie, the first (and perhaps most brilliant) example of what this life would be delivering so much more of.

Our 10 year-old, in her almost aggressive leaning toward things bright and beautiful, hopeful and wholesome, is still holding tenaciously to the myth.  I don't know if- or how much- doubt has set in, but I'm pretty sure she knows she's alone in her enthusiasm at this point, so long before that season of wondrous magic and joyful celebration...  Last night she was in her room listening to Christmas music, making Christmas cards.  She was cutting up magazines with the big scissors, crafting Christmas wishes and blessings for her long list of loved ones.  I think she suspects...

And the part I don't look forward to isn't so much her view of me or her mother, but the fact she will end up feeling like a blame fool, and perhaps come to doubt the truth of anything that carries with it the power and promise of the impossible.  I think the fact we've made so much good into such a lie is the worst thing we could have done- especially to one for whom hope and faith are such a mainstay.  It was destructive, and boy am I sorry.

But she'll get over it.  Her sister did.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gas Relief Syndrome...

...The opposite of "Gear Acquisition Syndrome"...

So you know that post earlier, where I said I wasn't going to sell my bass amplification gear?  Well I sold most of it.  Yes, I did, and I'm really alright with it.  No rants!

The Bag End cabs and the GK 400RB head have their new home at The Mill, here in Greenville, RI.  The Mill is a small music academy/instrument refinishing and rebuilding shop/music venue here.  They have a nice live set up and can record shows or do 16 track sessions.  They now have their own very slick little bass rig, and the GK 400RB is a back-up head to the resident Ashdown Evo-II 500 head.  What a sound!  They needed a nice bass rig- the cab that had been there was nice too- an SWR Big Bertha 2x15, but it was on loan and finally went the way of all things on loan... so now they're set.  The local music scene is a little bit bettered for it, and I scored a little bread to help out with our scene here at home.

I have this now:



This plus a small, home-made pedal board (plywood with carpet stapled to it) with some essential effect and utility pedals on it, powered by a DC Brick power supply is all I actually need to play, make a gig happen.  I've picked up a nice little extension cab to go with this potent little box, and it's coming in a week or two.  Sounds great, and I still have a backup head.  I'll find an additional cab as I go, but for now this stuff will totally take care of needs.  Portable, sounds punchy and present, and it's already been beat up, so now all I have to do is play it!

I have found, finally, that I really like the 80's-90's Trace Elliot stuff (models no longer produced), and it's all I have now.  Fine.

Anyhow  you gotta do what you gotta do.  Meanwhile work is picking up, our relationship with kid's school is improving.  Money is still sucky, and now we're going to have a bad time in the USA with all the new attitude in congress.  Sorry, politics have to come in sometime- and the air is certainly thick with it.  Even our drummer is at the polar opposite end of the room with me politically, but we're playing music, and I'm not ruining that for something as superfluous as politics.  I like my new band, and hope it gets to play some music we want to play!

Speaking of, our guitar player brought me an Audio-Techinca AT RMX64 console/4-track cassette recorder, and I'm in the process of fixing it.  Maybe that'll be a blog... more later.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Work

I'm finding myself gravitating towards a direction of creativity and resourcefulness concerning work and my ability to make bread, brought on by the desperate feel of our present economic chapter.  I've got  a 'Linked-in' page, I'm on 'Facebook' publishing photos of stuff I've done with/to wood in the context of home carpentry, as well as more novel applications, and I'm chasing down folks who have bits of my work installed in their homes to ask if I can come over and snap photos of it.  I hope it's all still standing- I do believe it is...

Today it's raining, and I'm sitting here plotting, editing photos, forming ideas and letters to send down the tube to prospective clients.  I'm really hoping to ramp into some other form of employment (I almost said 'excrement'!...) beside/instead of carpentry.  I have some pragmatic reasons for this as well as the more general, economy-derived concerns:  I have a condition known as 'Peripheral Neuropathy' which means my nerves send signal slowly along their paths to and from my brain.  Now I'm still quick on my feet, and reaction time, when I'm awake, is good.  But my hands and feet go numb-ish sometimes, and I have other limb/nerve issues as well.  I'm also very slight of build, and It's a drag to be dealing with cold weather in the context of manual labor.  I'm a scrawny bastard, see, and I have virtually no insulating properties to my physical being- no bulk, per se.  This means I get too cold when working outside in winter to be very effective for long; and "it's a drag" to go around being severely uncomfortable every day!  I don't see the need of it, so I'm looking for a novel approach to work, and hoping to find something near a reasonably dependable heat source.  Like South Florida, for example...

All that said, here's an example of a piece I built, off-the-cuff, for a fellow musician who's also a composer and performer of ancient music, Steven Jobe.  It's the stand for this custom-built 10' long, three-person-operated hurdy-gurdy (I'm pretty sure it's a one-of-a-kind instrument):



The stand, made of 3/4"plywood and minimal 2x framing lumber, is in two pieces, the cradle on top set around the top edge of the lower rolling base.  The instrument sits in its cradle, its resonant body effectively isolated from the cradle arms which are inclined at a 20-degree or so angle, facilitating manipulation of the melody-producing pull-handles by the performer.  Two additional helpers operate the three cranks at the bridge-end of the instrument, which activate two drone strings, and an addtional drone string that travels through a rhythmic "Clatter Bridge"... very medieval...

The 'gurdy's inception and execution was based on a painting by Heironymous Bosch called "The Garden of Earthly Delights", taken from the right-hand panel of the triptych, entitled "Hell".  Steve was composing some scores that involved the Bosch Hurdy-Gurdy as it was getting some final tuning-up from its builder after completion, and asked if I might be interested in building him something to hold it- so he could play it!  If he was going to perform with it, well it was going to be hard to sit such a device in one's lap and reach the melody keys.  Out came the wire-bound notebook, and a few days later there I was in the basement, sawdust and funny-looking jig-sawn plywood bits whirling about my head.  We seem to have nailed it:  The darn thing sounds very cool up in the air like that, and I'd say you'd be lucky to catch a performance from it.  Steve's got the thing 'wired' and it's a fun way to make some music.

*Next post I'll get the guy's name who built it!  Seems something one ought to know, sorry.

Anyway, the above is an example of where I'd like to go next with carpentry.  It's not fine furniture, I don't have those chops.  But it's form-after-function, and if I can make something that becomes invisible, but invaluable in use, that's what I'd like to be able to offer.

Another day, another bright idea.

I'd also like to do some writing, which is another reason for my "worrying" this blog page.  I don't know what it is exactly that I've got, but if I don't start forming up something then I'll never know!  So I ramble, hopefully...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Warning: Grievous Post... A Rant.

Too much to say, too little time to say it in…

On the way to driving my kids to school this morning, late- it was a hard morning- I found myself annoyed with my fellow drivers to the point of near-anger.  On the way home I repented, begrudgingly.  I realized the reason I'm so angry with humanity at times (often) is because I'm a part of it, and all the stupidity I see in my "fellow man" is light fare compared with what I myself exemplify.  I'm worse than my complaints about other people, and I find that discouraging to say the least...the crimes committed against my own self even bare witness...

...I allowed some misdirected people to take the wheel at a time in my younger years, to drive the leading edge of my life, so as to bring myself to utter shipwreck, leaving a trail of broken hearts and personal destruction to myself and to those who actually loved me.  Since turning my back with deflated heart, for the benefit of that twisted situation, ( a long and arduous story) on true, neon-lit, pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow opportunity for success in a field I still love as my first choice, I now live hand-to-mouth working low-end carpentry jobs to fight off the bank from the borders of my children's house and inheritance.  I can't even attain the simplest of life's pleasures without holding my nose above water- not only financially but often emotionally as well.  One gets tired of continually knowing they've allowed their hopes to be stolen from them- even handed them over to The Enemy.  Especially when the rest of your life looks pretty reasonable!  I’m working on retrieving the remnant of them, sure, but damn… when you’ve screwed the years you could have used as investment in that good gift you had (still might have), you know you are going to remain sort of screwed.  It becomes a condition you learn to live with.  This morning,  however, is not going well.

Learning to live and survive, never mind thrive, has taken 49 years.  All the musical talent that might live and be realized in this coil is largely unattended, and no you can't just play and record music and dismiss work and responsibility to other people unless you're Jimmy Page or his ilk, and that's reasonable.  My wife and children have been redemption for all my stupidity, mistakes, sins, and embarrassments.  I love them and would trade them for nothing... in fact in a better moment I don't care about the rest of this tripe I'm punching out right now, before I go, late, to work!  But it does seem that so many people I know with a considerable musical gift have already had a day of it, had their decent time of making a life, and are either playing reunion shows, getting letters from their grandchildren, or forming new projects playing their 20-30- year personal favorite instruments.  I'm playing a used bass I've had now for 3 months, since I can't manage to keep anything I really love... I can groove a circle around most of the local scene within a 50-mile radius given some regular playing time and a venue, but I have nothing to show for it. Yes that's a flip remark and liable to get me in hot water with somebody, but I'm feeling it.  I'll repent later...

That's humanity for you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Better Half

Let me tell you about my wife.

My wife is the hardest-working person I know, and I'm often after her to dig her heels in a minute and sit down, stop and rest a minute.  But she's raised our two kids and they're now able to sit at a lunch counter with cross-country truckers or show up for tea with the Duchess of Windsor- without batting an eye or seeing a difference between the two. Her tireless focus and giant conscience from their beginnings of person-hood here on the earth have earned her the coveted "Mother of the Century" award.

She married me, whom when we met lived in a plain room with a pair of turtles, a girlie calendar, a bass and amp, and rode a bicycle to a restaurant job.  I owned nothing, and on our first date picked her up in a car with no hood and took her to "Free Wings Night" at the Ocean Mist in Matunuck, RI.  Honestly, I can't figure the girl out, but we had a laugh and a lot of the same thoughts on life.  For me that's a rare bird indeed, and we stuck happily.  Besides, she was a knockout.

Marriage for me, who had never been able to stick with anyone successfully for 3 months, was a revelation.  The arrival of children brought me to the realization that the only way forward was to strap into the cockpit and hit the gas!  I was in for an education, and those around me, who had chosen to love me, were in for it with me... It's taken 12 years and some significant sweat and tears (for other people, like my wife) to get this far, but I think we're out the other side.  I owe her a life of leisure and rest at this point, but I can't give it to her.  My children are the redemption of my life, given and brought to thrive by her.  Okay, me too, but it would have turned out way different without her constant love and attention; and the experience of having pretty fully grown up, which I did not have.

She's an accomplished musician and artist, intellectually gifted to the point of making me a poor blockhead (not hard to do anyway, but...), funny as a fine-dining waiter with a streak of sarcasm serving in a biker bar, and a stunning example of earthy, yet unearthly, beauty.  She has put up with my embarrassingly awkward social skills, brutally compromising expression of badly conceived opinions, skewed points of view and lack of general understanding for 14 years.  Now that I'm maybe straightening up a few issues I sometimes worry that I've done irreparable damage to the poor girl, but she remains straight as a Georgia Pine, maintaining the wry innocence of a pretty young nun with a flask hidden under her habit, looking for when it's safe to 'praise the Lord'.

She's a cool kitty, and I owe her something better than the better part of my life.  My occasional callousness and loose, cavalier attitude has at times potentially compromised her socially- without my meaning to do so- and I think it's time I made better effort to show off all the good, brilliant, wonderful thing that she is to my life.  I won't get close, but I have to try.  But if I'm being objective, and telling the truth, I really won't have to.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Virtuality is Not as Good.

I lost my Gmail account- and this blog- for a couple days, and pretty was ripped.  Full-blown ornery even.  A couple years' worth of contacts/networking, and this blog, which I really like and has been the receptacle of some soul-bearing and earnest expression, were apparently lost forever.  Oh well (I tried to choke it down), a hard day's lesson learned...

I'll skip the long story, but an errant venture on an iPhone, trying to access my Gmail 'account' during a work foray away from home stuck a shim into Gmail's security morass.  A full day and a half of clicking, typing angrily, waiting for text messages that wouldn't come- because my phone won't accept them, duh- and cussing, availed nothing  but frustration.  I called my brother-in-law with the iPhone in question, who, it turns out, had read my facebook post complaining about it.  He deleted the offending app from the device after having read my post.  That apparently availed nothing to alleviate the problem, and therefore fell temporarily under the category of 'Alarming'...

I hadn't noticed, during my episodic head-trauma from this minor disaster, that you could request to receive a "voice call" from the good 'people' at Google, however.  "Voice call" is evidently the new nomenclature for what we old people used to refer to as a "phone call".  Not a "text"... This was pointed out to me by my computer-and-internet-savvy brother-in-law, and I tried it.  The stress, and anger at the vagary of The Unreachable Google People had got me blind in one eye, I guess.  It was right there on the screen in front of me...  I got a return phone call in less than five seconds, a recording of the verification number I'd need to send to Google so they would restore my account.  I did the thing, and my Gmail account was restored.  The blog too! 

So we're living in this age of "information" and easy resources.  But it's as easy to foul your virtual scene and lose quite a lot if you're willing to just trust the system.  If it's important, now I save it to my own machine and print it as soon as I'm able.  Hard-copy it!  I've logically extrapolated this digital/cyber realm, and the ramifications of it, based on this little misadventure of mine to a fanatical extent, and am sure that if my life is being entrusted to "someone else's care", they had best be someone I actually know- made of flesh and blood- and actually trust.  And not someone made of bytes and code...

Monday, October 18, 2010

I almost sold off my most used, most worthy bass gear:  A GK 400RB and 2 Bag End S15D speaker enclosures.  I've had a real bad time with bread, had almost no work at all.  Out of the blue I got a call late last night to go off to Cape Cod to do some work on a house there for a few days, and there may be more to do from the same person, don't know.

My regular employer is cool with it, seems to get it that I'm up a creek and need to keep our house, feed kids, etc.  So if more work does surface for better bread we might be able to work it out- but I still think it's worthy to keep an investment in my "regular" job... seems that that one might become actually regular, we'll see.  Anyhow I've pulled my for sale ads from 4 different forums, and am now wearing a virtual bag over my head and keeping low for a while.  I've hemmed and hawed  a couple times about selling this stuff, and have bailed twice in a couple instances!  Lousy...

I'm still selling a couple items, ones that I really see as 'extra'.  Fine, I could use the space!  And the 'scratch'. But I piled up my gig-able gear into one place, and really it's not all that impressive a wall of gear!  An amp, a back-up amp, 2 small cabs and a little combo for dragging to rehearsal and living-room jams.  See:




Big deal!!  And I did sell off a bass, so I have 2 now- enough to keep it going if one has an issue.  Yep, gotta keep it together Rog, quit running off with your head bouncing around in your hands...

Off to the Cape.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More About Panicking

It's bad.  Never good, always leads to an aggravating of whatever had got you into a twist in the first place.  So I've gotten myself smoothed out a bit, and am just doing what's at hand in life for the weekend.  The wife is off practicing for her church service/performance tomorrow (fledgling organist), and I took the kids to the local fire station open-house for face-painting and pizza, then placed ads on some internet forums of note (craigslist, etc) to sell off some bass amp stuff. 

Anyway, a new potential work prospect is looking hopeful, though it will likely incur some friction with my still-present employer.  The slow build-up of anxiety created by lack of steady work has borne with it a new, most urgent necessity.  Almost no adequate heads-up or notice will likely be given, and bad feelings are almost sure to join the fray of an already much-tested relationship (with present employer).  But I gotta do what I gotta do.  Such is life.  But I'll get to stop panicking, and so, thankfully, will my wife.

Friday, October 15, 2010

About Panicking

I'm a carpenter for a living.  I'm not really so much a contractor, per se, as I'm a poor business-man.  But I do know something about how to put two or 500 sticks together and make them stay up for the rest of one's natural life, and I can make a living at it in the right context.  I'm not particularly afraid of heights, I'm only sleight of build but am strong and fit enough to climb most anything, I can crawl under/through tight passageways, don't mind working all day at something I can 'get a bead on', and I can put out a nice tight piece of work.  I'm pretty savvy about working with other people on a good day...

I'm also kind of a temperamental, semi-thin-skinned, ever so slightly volatile dude.  And honestly, there are things I'd rather do than go fuss over some almost-wealthy white-collar guy's Mahogany back-porch with a cantilevered, overhanging trellis above what looks like a high-end Chinese chicken house... or some other frivolous swing of fancy he can afford to worry over... but that's not relevant to the post today except to reinforce the unstable aspect of my own character.  I'm not jealous of such a person or his station, just kind of sick of running after his squeaky-white trivial temporal desires.  So ancient Rome...

Anyhow, all that aside, the last aspect of this is THE ECONOMY.  Tired of those words?  Me too... in fact I'm just so entirely done with living in a state that this artificial system- that doesn't belong to me- has me in, that I'm really interested in getting innovative.  Not in the criminal sense, but in the much tamer, even more creative sense.  But that's a slim market right there!  It's in the pot anyhow, simmering with all my other grand, out-of-reach-for-today ideas... but this economy thing is real enough that I have to contend with it, and quite frankly work has been utterly stupid-slow.  I haven't had steady work in a long time, and there are different reasons for that.  Some are my fault (I just want to play my bass, it's true).  Some are not...  My current employer has had a very slow time with producing work for me/us to do, and I nearly skipped town for a couple weeks to go earn some "real bread"- but weather would not permit.  By the time weather did permit I figured I'd better try and keep my regular job safe and I declined to go off in the end.  Someone else got the gig, and here I am, typing this blog entry instead of earning a nice personal home bail-out package.

I have a kid in a private school- we can't actually afford that, but she's really starting to do well and we've had issues- not with my kid but with the school system here.  I won't go there now, but it's  been damn ugly.  I should have sued them... didn't.  But I have to pay for the private school, and there's been no steady work.  I have to pay a mortgage, buy stuff, pay for lights and (soon) heat, you know the drill.  So the result of all this inability to pay for stuff has been... panic.  I'm selling my music gear- 2 bass amplifier heads, 2 cabs, a bass, other stuff.  I'm left with enough to go play, but it's gotten very Spartan.  Okay, I like Spartan.   But I don't like being pressed in this way. And I don't like to panic.  I'm starting to feel a little sick...

Hopefully things change soon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Random

So the Hamer bass, the '83 black Cruisebass with the pointy horns, is NOT the one used by the bassist for The Romantics (I don't even know his name.  You don't either, do you?...) for their video hit "Talking in Your Sleep".  It turns out it has a different serial# than the one sold to them, and theirs was an '82, not an '83.  I got a letter back from Hamer saying so, and the recommendation to 'enjoy it for what it is'.  Which I will do, I'm starting to like it and may not sell it at all.  Still gotta fix that saddle I screwed up though.

I took a 1-week, high-paying gig in Cape Cod which never transpired after all, and so now I'm missing out on playing 2 paying gigs this weekend.  And I've missed some regular work as well.  Well in fairness the cape Cod gig was going to pay some seriously good bread!  I took a chance and lost.  Life... but it's seriously bad timing for "life" to step in and tell me "You lose"!  I'll catch up, but it doesn't do our morale any good for the next few days here.  I'm pressed like a rumply shirt in a Chinese laundry, and am going to be officially not working for days.  Yes we'll live... it's what we do!  Meanwhile I'm off to go see a man about a wall.

Peace all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Every Day..."

My 10-year-old was standing in the kitchen this morning, waiting to go meet the bus for school.  She was making up a little song as she milled there by the table, and paused a minute.  Then she asked me, "Dad, what were the first words I sang that song with?"  I thought a moment, remembering, and said, "Every day."  I caught it...

These are typical of the words that resonate from the lexicon of made-up songs of grade-school children.  Words you tend to take for granted, even dismiss for their utter simplicity.  But step into the small world they thrive in, and see that they imply an innocent presumption of days in a row; many days of waking up, enjoying the sunshine, playing in the soft, refreshing rain, having adventures in the snow and other inviting environments the world offers to explore, discover and create in... to build the substance of their lives within.

The words smack of forever, expressed within the constraints of this most material life.  No gained knowledge of science, mathematics, the arts of language or "How to Succeed in Business Without  Really Trying" can make such inner, naturally integrated, born-with understanding less meaningful or inherently precious.  No matter what shape your life takes in the world, no matter what expanse of knowledge one can attain, there is nothing that can outshine the simple but eternal knowing of innocence.

I hope my daughter doesn't forget her songs.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Road Crew

So my Hamer bass seems fine, even though I can't adjust the intonation screw very far after screwing it up the other morning.  Not a happy ending yet, but I can play the thing. 

Speaking of music, I was thinking about my old friend "Matt" this morning (not real name).  We met in music class at Coral Gables HS around 1980.  The teacher pointed at us in turn around the room, and we stated our name and if we played whatever musical instrument.  I said, "Roger, I play bass guitar."  I noted Matt looking sideways over at me, regarding me briefly.  It got to his turn, he said, "My name's Matt, and I play guitar."  I likewise noted him...  Matt was a big kid, had near shoulder-length hair and wore one of those blouse-like, big-sleeved Indian shirts.  He had a diamond-stud earring.  He was a rocker, from the blues-based school of the Big Electric Jam.  We got together later and talked about playing, Matt had a band started with some other kids not in school, and his friend who played "excellent guitar" had just arrived from Missouri.  I was pretty psyched, being at the bass only about a year by now.  Everything was still new and unknown, and here I was meeting a new crew of folk who just wanted to play.  That's just what I wanted to run into.

I met Matt's friends, we became "Papa's Will"- named after an early Ted Nugent song.  Matt had the "Band Box", wherein lived all the cables, some pedals, general stuff that served as the utility/first-aid kit for all the techie needs of a rock band.  Tuner, string-winder, etc.  It was an institution, that Band Box, and Gawd help you if your hand wandered into its recesses... you were quickly-but-good-naturedly, and perhaps sharply on a particularly intense day, chided for the intrusion.  You just... didn't do that.  It was Matt's own territory, and because we all dug Matt and because he was danged good at that kind of thing we went with it.

Matt could fit 2 guitar amps, a bass amp, the Band Box, 2 guitar cases and a bass case, a cooler of beer, a duffle bag of hardware and several other considerable, bulky items into a '69 Volkswagon Beetle.  He loved it, was good at it.  Matt ended up years later doing road-tech work through Mesa-Boogie.  He was  Bill Wyman's bass-tech for the duration of the Rolling Stones' "Steel Wheels" tour- a year and a half or thereabouts.  He's got several evenings' worth of entertaining stories about being backstage in the presence of Keith Richards, failing at getting Carlos Santana's signature sound tweaked-in during a performance (Carlos gave him a brotherly, forgiving bear-hug immediately after the high-intensity stress episode, right on stage), his dad meeting him back-stage before a Rolling Stones show.  When he came back from touring we all sat around a table listening to his war stories, enthralled, over a few beers.  It was great fun to have been only a degree away from all these people we grew up listening to.  It was great for Matt to have been able to share it with us.

Now my high-school years were pretty ungainly, and I wasn't very good with people much of the time.  The fact I had friends at all, well I sometimes think it was just because I could play 17 notes in a row on 4 strings.  Matt found himself at odds with this trouble of mine at times, and honestly I have to say here that I did more to compromise my friendships with most of my associates than I actually ever saw the results of.  I had patient friends who were more complete as people, more mature than I.

Anyway after Matt returned for a visit from the rigors of the high-profile road, we pulled the band together and had a little reunion gig at a local club.  We were going to video-record it for posterity.  Matt was now a seasoned veteran of the "Road Crew" (Motorhead reference), and had always had a way of 'taking charge' of things; but now I found myself running around and doing a little sweat-dance to get my act together for him, who had sort of rounded up the organization of gear and logistics.  Now this was nothing new to us, but I, in my limited way of thinking, began to feel like an 'employee'.  This was a mistake and came largely from a baseless, semi-imperious attitude of mine that I had yet to see as a problem.  I wanted to relax, and to not be made to rush and push... but Matt was just trying to get this mess out of the way so we could all have a good time, you see.  I really don't think he was lording himself over us, though Iwas aware that I wasn't the only one who had noticed themselves "doing the hustle".  I was the only one who said anything to him though!   Naturally...  Anyhow I'm leaving out a lot of earlier history, but we'll suffice to say that I once again made myself an obstacle to my friend's just trying to get on with it, in his own, perhaps "robustly" assertive way.  We got on with it anyway, but not without incurring some feelings, which were going to retain some air in the remainder of the evening.  That was too bad, and that was the last time I saw Matt.  Really, I should have just given it to him, let him take and run the show... it was making him happy and giving him a place he liked in the order of things.  See, Matt wasn't the star of our band back when we started- he was at best an adequate, albeit enthusiastic guitar player.  He was, in fact, at a point early-on, retired from the band... yeah...

I have learned since then that it's okay to give a little for someone else' good time.  Especially when you get to be there too and take part.  It's taken a long time to get this far!  Hope I get to see Matt again someday.  And the band.  Miss my old friends, I do.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Nervous Energy and Socializing

I have a lot of what's known as nervous energy.  I burn more calories standing still thinking for ten minutes than a crew of bricklayers does working an eight-hour shift on a cooling tower for a nuclear power plant.  I can drop a pencil and grab it again before it hits the ground.  That's not martial arts training, it's NERVES.  I've discovered I'm wound like a top, and to ease back on the tendency to red-line I've adopted a "Walk, don't run" policy in all things.  Sometimes I forget though... for example:

I have a facebook account.  Wheee... except that it's been a pretty cool thing to be able to run in to old friends, even to actually speak with people I knew of, but never got to know at all.  That's been interesting.  I actually introduced myself to a cat who's been a bass player avatar of mine since I started playing- actually I'd been at it about 2 or 3 years when I saw this one dude play.  But there have been  three such major characters in my interior musical life:  John Paul-Jones, Wally Voss (now gone home on the Big Bus), and this bassist I caught up with on facebook.  Note:  I'm learning to leave names out of these entries unless everyone concerned knows and it's cool- everyone knows John Paul-Jones, and Wally Voss is gone, God rest him. 

When I'm not at ease I tend to rush, maybe run on at the fingers (we're typing to communicate these days).  You might know how it is- you start to run and can't really stop before you've begun to look an arse, first-rate.  Ah well, humanity- you're part of it.  Trouble is I bother myself with it after the fact, after saying something clumsy, or posting way too much verbiage in lieu of a simple response.  I give myself no peace at all, I tell ye.  At the end of such a peaceless episode I generally find my way back to 'Aw @*#! it'.  And remember who I am... I just wish I could start out that way!

Anyway I wrote the guy I mentioned above a facebook message, sort of stating my reasons for doing so, and he wrote back.  Now I thought that was pretty cool... we wrote a couple back-and-forths, talked about playing... I got to thank him for all the bass lessons, all that.  And that was a fine thing.  The one most very cool thing accomplished by this, however, was the happy transformation- in my own mind- of the guy from a mere symbol of something I'd aspired to be for so many years, into an actual person!  In my own consciousness I had relieved him of the trouble of having to be something superhuman.  I found out he had kids, had a history like everyone else has, had victories, disappointments... all that dynamic stuff people tend to have in their lives.  Much of my view of this person- ok all of it, except the bass-playing part- was fiction.  Of course!  The latent discovery was relief to my own self as well.

I started this post with "nervous energy" because when I can't seem to find myself, or a familiar reference for a situation, I maybe start grabbing at straws.  When you socialize with someone on facebook, unless you knew the person before-hand, you will never really know them, see, so that 'at ease' thing is never quite home when talking to folks you actually meet on those pages.  Now I know I'm not a complete imbecile... but sometimes I end up feeling like one, and it tends to last a long time.  I wonder how much of it is noticed by others, or if it's any kind of a factor for other people?  AM I a complete imbecile when I talk too much and it goes down for all to read?  When I say something thoughtless that could be easily construed as coarse?  The sorry little process is always a pain in the neck, either way... but I'll probably stop thinking about it sometime tomorrow.

Screw

This morning was on the rough side.  My daughter is a veritable wall of sleep in the morning, and getting her up to make the bus to school is generally a walk in the briar-patch.  I'm getting handy in the briar patch, but it's what it is.  There is a strategy laid out, and a procedure to follow.  The rest is all about being relaxed, tenacious and resilient.  We made the bus, all is well there... and to my kid's credit she's on her way to becoming a rock-star in her own right.  She loves school, and is finally getting what she needs to succeed.  looking forward, looking good!

My wife is a fledgling church organist.  She's got talent, and she's a perfectionist.  She had lessons years ago, before motherhood, and we're setting them up again so she can really nail this gig.  But they're giving her 8 pieces a  week to learn!  That might be alright if she were a regular, working musician but she's not.  She's been Mom for 12 years, manages a daughter with a chronic history of difficulty in school (and I'll add here that it's not our kid's fault- it's the fault of the school system and I'll go toe-to-toe with any professional on this), she works part-time as a CNA in an Alzheimer's unit, and has a penchant for taking on more than she can handle... she's a strong kid, my wife.  But she's got too much on her plate, and sometimes the stress of it spreads like milk from an upturned glass into the cracks of an old hardwood floor.  We are pretty pressed.

I need glasses.  I had a pair which I ran over with my van one day.  Not for nothing was my nick-name "Space" in high school- I'd left the glasses on the rear bumper one day in front of the house.  I moved the van, got out and picked up my glasses.  Was I upset?  Well, it's not like I wasn't prepared for this!  Yep, gotta figure that expense in now to our already thin budget.  I still am going without them until December, when I can get a new pair on insurance.  Like my grandfather did at 80+ years old...

So this morning, between keeping after the bus-bound school-girl, making lunches, the necessary coffee administering, checking weather and doing my now required daily "crunches", I decided to throw that adjustment screw into the bridge of my old Hamer Cruisebass.  I'd scored it from a kid on talkbass.com, who claimed it was the very same axe used by The Romantics in their 1983 video for "Talking in Your Sleep".  I do believe it's the one:  Factory overspray of Jet-Black over the original Trans-Red, serial # from '83.  Saw the vid, looks just like this now-beaten, well-played relic.  I still have to write Hamer about it, but who has time for such trivialities...  But in my unnatural pace and with my compromised, myopic vision in the semi-light of our above-ground basement, I evidently cross-threaded the screw into the saddle-piece, trying to keep screw, spring and saddle aligned through the little hole at the back of the bridge... you bass and guitar players'll see what I mean here.  So now I need to write to my good friend Herr B√ľnning at Schaller Guitars and order a saddle for the 3D-4 Chrome bass bridge.  Yay, international pen-pal fun.

'Morning, all...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Feather-Stuck-in-Hat Dept.

My wife likes to call me "Deacon" sometimes.  It's because seemingly, when the occasion arises and there's need of something to be said or a query to be satisfied, I can come up with what hits the spot.  A word in due season, as it were.  Now I'm no sterling character, no Man for All Seasons, no Dudley Do-right.  It's a talent, and has nothing to do with me really at all.  The name has no place in me, I don't think... but ok evidently it does, and the rest of me is wanting to 'catch up'.  I'm in no hurry, I'm afraid.

There are some things I am 'getting' though, and it's all ground-level basics:  Just keeping my head on right and remembering to look through the Objective Lens- the one that isn't already installed in my poorly-jigged head- instead of my own distorted one; walking and not running through a day; being kind instead of reactive.  These aren't high-reaching goals, they're more about just being present of mind than anything.  If you can do it, you can live with other people, so I'm at it.  I'm a family man, after all...  Basics, mang.  Because I'm really, down deep, a pretty selfish, unambitious, socially narrow and un-forward dude!  I can build something from a plan, I can pull a funny quip out of my hat when the pressure's hot, and I can play a tune and make a lot of noise with my bass guitar.  But those are not basics... 

Anyway, you are what you is and you get what you got.  I'm learning.  I'm Deacon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Deep Thoughts...

I had something really good today to post.  It was a real twist, witty and provocative.  I've been working at a carpentry job in the East Side of Providence, which as a neighborhood has a sort of vibe conducive to little glimpses of intellectual 'expansion', if one is so inclined.  There's just a feint edge of the not-so-mundane woven in there.  Don't know why, maybe it's the Brown University association... maybe it's all the liberal world-travelers/Peace Corps organizers/commercially successful artists who pepper the wending side-streets.  Either way I think these 'little glimpses' is all I'll ever get, but I'll take even a momentary respite from any day of the arduous and often mind-numbing procedures involving working around/against the unforgiving rule of gravity for the sake of the logistical convenience of the garden-variety house-dweller... i.e., house carpentry...

Anyway, aside from the special influence of this magical neighborhood, my mind has been a mine-field of emotion and trial due to issues not new to mankind, like those having to do with raising young and educating them.  Smarts abound in our small household's inheritance, but so do some other elements of the human equation, combination of which can manufacture "problems".  The more questionable elements in our case are probably passed along from my own self, who have had my share of such issues in my youth.  Just ask my folks... so, a gratifying but small offshoot of all this stressful activity in the mind/soul realm lately has been the surfacing of these glimpses of understanding I mentioned above, these small inspirations of enlightenment.  But if I don't write them down right away, they become lost in numbers, angles, nailing patterns, carbon-steel cutting-bits and clouds of rough wood dust.  That's what happened today.  So I don't really have anything to write now.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Music

Somehow, among all the failing and broken parts in my own mind here, I am still elevated by the prospect of musical participation.  Talking with my wife this morning about our kid's playing of Vivaldi is suddenly uplifting.  There's some kind of engaging 'science' to all this music that swallows me up in a good way and energizes me.  It has nothing to do with me, or my "standing" anywhere else.  I could be in prison and this would be a constant element of who I am.  It's weird.  I suppose it's why they call it a 'gift'- it's just there, with or without your having earned it. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Learning to Write

My wife said an interesting thing tonight.  About 100 years ago people used to write letters.  You know, with pen and paper.  They did this a lot, because it was good to keep in touch with people you knew and there was no telephone or internet, etc.  People were skilled at this letter-writing business; they had an understanding of how to exchange information, and what information was proper to publish.  There was decorum, consideration for feelings and sensibilities of the reader.  Language was articulate, concise, eloquent, nearly art.

Then we had the telephone.  Then tv, and the rest of modern media.  Letters fell largely by the wayside- I remember my mother having to nag me to write "thank you notes" after Christmas.  It was a chore for a spoiled, jaded kid growing into an artless world...

Now we have the internet.  There are open on-line forums where anyone can 'register', choose a screen-name, and start posting on the subject of their choice:  If you can Google it, you can go raise some virtual hell about it!  For we are a whole new generation not raised on letters.  Poorly skilled communicators, unable to properly frame their thoughts or intentions now run rough-shod through the cyber-universe, hazarding conflict and acrid retorts from other disagreeable, distant enthusiasts- whom they'll very likely never see or know.  It's a potential orgy of misinterpretation and ill-appropriated  counter-blows than can, with little provocation, erupt into volatile "flame wars", complete with grammar and spelling errors a 4th grader would snicker at.  And perhaps some language a 4th grader wouldn't know what to do with.  All because we can't really say what we mean.  That takes practice.

I posted some items here over the last couple days that were really a tad less than appropriate in one way or another.  Won't say why, just suffice that I've discovered some remedial communication skills of my own to pull together.  I'm just not a 'man of letters', you see, and I may bump into myself here more than once.  I'm going to keep a sharp eye on it.  And try to have some fun as I learn this new thing...
I promise to post something happy next time.  : )

God and Losing

I came out of a 5-year period of Christ-cult involvement.  That's what the song I wrote, "God", is a reference to.  Now since a close friend of mine has discovered God I sometimes feel like I've been sucked right back into that unhappy vortex of guilt, mixed messages from the "office of the Spiritual Realm", ascetic self-denial, general severity and alienation... and blind "obedience" to, uh... God, I guess.  Becoming spiritually awake is a mind-changing experience, and can be intense... but it doesn't have to be the cult-trip that ruined everything for me, such as I had.  This'll probably come up again some other time...  Quick disclaimer: Names have been appointed to characters here in this true story.

Of that which I did sacrifice to the god of agendas, the very most precious and close-to-home was Nineh, a beautiful Lebanese woman who'd been raised in England.  I met her in Miami one day as I was having an argument with my girlfriend.  My girlfriend went home after a fight nearly went down with a bristling male passer-by in a pickup truck... the air cleared, I walked up the street 100 yards and Nineh swooped in to see about me.  Lucky me, she was beautiful and unique to my standardized sensibilities.  She won me after a day of torment in my own, loyally-disposed heart (head) from Ellie, the girl I'd been arguing with earlier, who had become a bit of a regret by this time.  Little Ellie, easily impressed and young enough to need to explore everything new that stepped into her path, had had a rendesvous with a bandmate after a show late one night... which I found more of a compromise than I could easily deal with.  She sort of lost me right there, although I tried to keep it together with her.  I didn't like change, see...

I'll never forget Nineh.  She changed my life in a good way.  When she left Miami to go back to England (some legalities incurred by an associate of hers while here) I think I became almost embittered... I felt ultimately lost after such a beautiful time with her- it was like a dream, in a way.  She took the lead in our affair, and it suited me, who was hardly able to cope with a simple life on a daily basis.  She loved me for no reason at all- and I laid down in it like a man lifted from 30-days in an ocean-bound life-raft and set in a pillowy, soft bed.  When she had to go home, well it was just plain unfair.  Drop the rescued guy off at the homeless shelter...  A year or so later, after my impression into service for The People of the God-thing, I was "encouraged" to never see her again.  She came back into town that year and I wouldn't see her.  I was afraid not only of God's disappointment with me, but of the retribution our cult-leader and His self-appointed servant "Duper" (obvious name-alteration here) would lay upon my poor soft head for being "unfaithful".  What a load of crap.  I'm sorry still that I treated Nineh that way, like I'd made her something unclean that would tarnish my spanking-new, shiny soul.  I had been moved up a rung in the order of things, you see, and could no longer play with my dirty little mud-pie-making playmate.  Just plain disaster.  I'm sorry, and will remain so for the rest of my days.  I'm not sorry for my life now, just for how I treated someone who genuinely loved me, with all her heart and soul.  What a prize for giving your heart to someone- to be suddenly spurned.  I might as well have run over her in my mini-van.

And now, it's time to go make pancakes... it's Saturday morning...

Friday, September 24, 2010

So my wife's and my friend Stella called tonight.  I was dozing in a chair in the living room while my youngest played a computer game, and the phone rang.  Yackety-yak, oh were you sleeping, etc... and in the flow of our ramblings around my still semi-sleepy head she says to me, "You should have a blog".  Evasive manuevers followed by some cajoling and reasoning by Stel... and here I sit.  I think it's a good idea- I'll give myself 5 minutes a sitting to hammer something down, a one-shot run at articulating the thought of the moment.  Should be interesting, sometimes... maybe over time it'll form up something coherent, unified.  And it's not like I haven't thought of it before, but it was nice to hear someone interested enough to push for it.  So I know I'll have one reader, anyway.

Today's item?  I wrote two songs the other night.  They were started by some real, somber over-indulgent thinking about episodes in my life that made lasting marks (i.e., "scars").  I scribbled a blurb of soulful, wistful stabbing into the ether down into my purple wire-bound "Dad's Notes" book... and it expanded, with some liberality and loose interpreting, into a 2-verse song with a bridge.  Hal, my old friend and the leader/vocalist of a group called "The Volunteers" I was in for a few years once said to me, "Who says it needs to be true?  Just write a song man, just roll with it".  So I wrote two.

One is called "God", and is a short story of doing exactly the opposite of your desire- in a big, life-changing (ruining) kind of way.  The other is called "Dream Walking", and is about not paying attention to, or having any interest in the affairs of the world around you.  And they are both about true events or conditions that exist/existed in my life, mostly.  So much for good advice, thanks anyway Hal!