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...