Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Swimming With Sharks

Got screwed by dealing with Craigslist, but it was my own damn fault.  The details are now too tired for me to reiterate another time, but suffice to say that although I knew it was indeed my own (un-) doing for dealing with inscrutable miscreant/angling con-job types who populate that venerable soup-line of internet trading posts, still you gotta recognize that dishonesty in the face of good faith (mine) sucks worse than a three-hour bus ride with your best friend's mother-in-law. 

Anyway I now have a noisy bass preamp to replace the beautiful, albeit too-hi-fi Eden WT-405 amplifier I used to own.  Didn't love the Eden at all really, but it was better than the odd, and loud, hum and hiss in this poorly laid-out Ampeg SVP-Pro I do now own.  The newer edition of the SVP-Pro, that I don't have, is great- and really this one actually DOES SOUND really good, aside from the noise...  I will bring it to B-Sharp Music in Providence to see if Dave can do anything for it, but we've spoken and he's doubtful... I have to try everything though, since the stupid thing's here.  No, wait- it's just a box with a bunch of circuits in it.  I'm the one who went through with a bad deal to get it...

Craigslist can be a great thing.  If you find what you need for the right price, sell something because you need the cash, or run into a great deal or opportunity then it's a good resource.  In fact I recently got a nice little gig off Craigslist, building a set of 'end-caps' for a retail display.  Might generate some more work, which'd be fine.   I also found a Portuguese festival band to audition for, which I've been with now for about 3 years.  Okay, winners.  But this was a profoundly gone-south, bad episode.  It's left me sour and morose.  Because it was, again, my own fault.  God I hate that.

Okay so briefly, here's what went down.  I posted an ad to sell the Eden.  Got an answer, a proposal to trade it for my recent desire, an Ampeg SVP-Pro that the guy had laying around.  I have wanted an SVT all-tube bass amp for years to replace the one I traded off to Ric's Music in Seekonk back in '95, so it sounded like a way to get there without the needed $1,000 or so, which I ain't presently having.  So having read all about this special-est of all bass preamps here and there, I decided I'd do it.  The guy ended up implying to me that if he were coming to my place he was going to want to know it would be a deal.  He had sort of a hard-luck story, so I went with it, figuring I had worn such shoes before...  I plugged it in when he got here, and it seemed ok.  I held to my word and we did the deal.  The Eden he went away with, I knew, was flawless... he left, "happy" in his more or less downtrodden state.  So...

Over the next month or so I found it very noisy after all.  Life is full of non-music things with school issues, family-man duties, work, kids, cats, house, etc... and now a couple months later I find time and the confidence to write the guy an email and voice my complaint.  I was met with "It's been too long, and can't do anything about it now".  But here's the thing:  The preamp has a noise issue, and he knew it did when he offered it, and when he gave me his hard-luck story to get my sympathy (brings a song to mind).  Well I can't make him deal with me without going postal... and getting wrathful and vengeful about it is not only distateful and unseemly, he also knows where I live.  I'm not living the "carefree" life of a bachelor...  so it's either be amicable about making it right, or it's a closed issue.  It isn't going to be amicably resolved.  So I lose, and have to cut it free and let it go.  God I hate that.  But ok, I'm letting it go. 

Sometimes I think that in 51 years I've learned damn little.  Maybe I've learned a little more today, because I hate it when I do this kind of thing.  At least I have my vintage, way-pre-Fender and good-sounding SWR heads, an SM-400 and an SM-400s, the latter of which is now having a loud, annoying 'Pop'.  Some of us had a loud annoying pop when we were kids, but this one's at the amplifier's input.  So when I go get the SM-400 out of the shop tomorrow I can drop off the SM-400s, along with the Ampeg preamp.  Maybe we can get a noise-ectomy for it.

Yay, gear. 

Monday, November 19, 2012


I'm sitting next to Lobo, listening to the strains of Serenada Espagnole played by my younger daughter and her violin teacher.  My kid goes to her house after school once a week, has been for about 6 years now, to not only sharpen, but truly realize a meaningful aspect of her musical talent.  Both my kids are nearly prodigious musicians with a natural feel for their respective instrument.  They've got highly sensitive and focused ears that I wish I had, and they both sing in a traditional Anglican choir.  I have, in recent years, come to understand just how much of a poor hack and a charlatan I really am in light of the prowess of my progeny, who seem to have a pretty good chance of doing something reasonable with what they've got.  Keeping them at it is the thing, but when I find myself "chasing rabbits" with them when it's practice time, I remember all the famous Grammy-winners I've ever heard thanking their moms and dads for all those years of constant prodding, and then I can muster up the energy to give them a good nagging.

Mrs. Freese is 85 or so, and used to play her violin on Broadway.  Her dad made her play hours a day, often not letting her leave her room until he was satisfied with what he heard coming through the door.  Her intonation has bent a few degrees south since those days of show-stoppers and ovations, and marriage to a man who wouldn't let her leave his sight has had to have some kind of adverse effect on her inspiration factor... but she's a good teacher, never leaning harder than what she perceives her student is willing to deal with.  She's got a good sense of where her students are at, and if the kid wants to play, they'll do it, she figures. 

Lobo is laying next to me on the old divan as I type, dozing fitfully while screeling glissandos sail and arc from a high D through the room.  He's a Pomeranian, small as a toy football and might be old enough to remember that day someone brought Fire back to camp.  He almost got put down last week, but seems to have come back, as it were; he took a fall halfway down the staircase a few days ago.  He's got a bum-leg, gets constipated a lot, and is currently severely dehydrated.  The whole house pretty much reeks of Lobo's presence- and incontinence.  But he's a good old fella, and it's certain that love suffers all things- especially little things, like not making it to the litter box.  I have a feeling we're going to be missing him pretty soon... and new carpets and some minor re-hab are going to be small consolation.  

 These animals we keep- the whole pedigree/breeding thing is so weird, and definitely un-natural, but somehow there seems to be an agreeable nature to the relationship.  Dogs generally accept their position as Man's Sidekick; even to the point of what appears to be the cheerful wearing of sweaters, hats, and other unlikely/human-like apparel.  They even- some of the more intensely bred varieties especially- seem to take on a sort of low-level humanity, even mimicking the personalities and nuance of their charges.  Dogs have an uncanny (pardon the suggestion of a pun) way of getting along with people, almost as if it's their commonly understood secret occupation to keep us company, help us out when the chips are their down-est, look out for us.  Even when, like Lobo here, we have to take care of them to the point of being a full-time nurse.  But I suppose they're giving us someone to bestow love upon, to keep us in some kind of good grace and keep us out of trouble.  Funny how I'm so ready and willing to believe there's some high-calling, some kind of mission these animals we've modified into our own likeness must be on.  I just came here for the violin lesson, and now I'm writing science fiction. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Red Room

So it's been a while since my last entry... I'm sitting in our 'Purple Room' here at home, waiting for an answer to my morning phone call inquiring into the day's activities, and musing over the events of late.  Two days ago we created "The Music Room", and did a little home arranging, trading 'purposing' between spaces (I hate the new lingo, the making of verbs out of nouns, seemingly at the whim of the moment).  It's much nicer to be in the house now, and there's the beginning of an environment that is actually civil in nature and comfortable to be in.  It's been 14 years, it's about time I guess- now that the kiddies are old enough to appreciate it and learn to take care of it.  As am I, finally...

I was also able to- and really it was by necessity, as one thing is tied inexorably to another around here- get into arranging the band room in the basement.  Got some clutter like stray cables and junk "music gear" squared away, built a small shelf for the PA and recording jig out of some scrap MDF from a side-gig, the small refrigerator (for beer, etc.) holding up an end of the shelf.  It's tidy, in a junkyard office-trailer sort of way.  And it was just in time for rehearsal last night, how convenient.  "The Same" are beginning to get our feet under us, just a little bit... as long as I'm on the subject... and I do mean it when I say "a little bit"!... but it's happening and that's encouraging.  We're even doing a Cheap Trick tune, "Downed", from the In Color album.  We don't sound like Cheap Trick though... we don't sound like Husker-Du either, or The Dead Boys.  We sound like The Same... which is, so far, on the good side of lackluster- but, there's a voice trying to emerge.  You know, in fact I'm cheating us with all this disparaging talk- we really are sounding alright.  We sound 'like something'... pretty good, even.  To really be fair, this Bad News Bears of basement rock bands might just go play a few shows and generate some kind of notoriety pretty soon.  That's notoriety, not to be confused with fame.  And a little notoriety might even be favorable... especially if we're good.  More on that...

Anyway we've got all the acoustic instruments, and the piano, moved into one space, what was until now referred to as 'TheRed Room'.  'The Grey Room', where the piano used to be, is adjoined to the kitchen, and that was a bit of a schized-out and uncomfortable situation.  It was incongruous; the Feng-Shui was all wrong.  Now the Grey Room is for sitting, next to the busy-but-homey kitchen, and that relationship works.  When you have company, see, you're not flustered or harangued, and you can make tea or cook an orderly dinner in the homey kitchen while taking part in a reasonable conversation that's going on in the sitting room. 

The Red/Music Room now has its proper place removed one more environment away from the kitchen area, and its personality is finally established.  It's comfortable in its new purpose, and the '74 Polytone 212-300 bass combo amp snugged into a little recess by the entrance to the room really finishes the vibe off nicely.  It's a strangely period-appropriate 2x12 combo amp that'll be perfect for my elder kid's piezo-pickup-equipped  string harp, on the occasion it needs to be amplified for those loud, semi-drunken bluegrass jams our local bluegrass-festival-mongering friends will make us have now.  We still need to put away some bins loaded with pictures and kids' artwork that are taking up some precious floor-space, and hang the more novel framed items on walls, but what's ever finished in your house anyway?  We're not of retirement age yet, and spend too much time on our feet to really need everything all settled anyway.  But home is a good place, when you make it home.  Takes a lot of work to make that happen, and it might even require a serious wake-up call- as one can get used to an environment compromised by seemingly endless vibrant activity.  But when you finally do it, it's worthy.  I like being home. 

Now, where are my red shoes...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Day

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is loping along her wanton path somewhere several hundred miles south and slightly west of us here in RI.  Word is she's supposed to be turning west into New York and New Jersey by now.  It's about 4:45, and her intensity in our little neighborhood has only 'moved up a notch' since I was up on the ladder at 7 a.m. screwing 3/8" plywood over all the fragile old window sash on the front of the house.  I might even say I'm just a mite bit disappointed in the low-level performance of this "Monster Hurricane" we've been hearing about for the last 2 days.  I haven't really been checking in on weather a few hours now, as it's been sort of a quiet and uneventful time here.  We've all whiled away the day sort of hanging out, each of us with our own rendition of "doing nothing".  Been kind of nice actually. 

I watched the first episode of "Battlestar Galactica" on Netflix, after having spent a couple weeks being brought up to speed on the otherwise, to me, incomprehensible story by the entire season of its pilot prequel,"Caprica", which provides a reasonably entertaining back-story.   The original version of "Battlestar" was in fact produced in the 80s, and it's recieved a good deal better production this time around.  The story has also been made a fuller experience with inclusion of the afore-mentioned prequel, and is all together pretty engaging and not so campy at all- the only potential exception being in the ultra-hot, ambitiously blonde Cylon nymph who inhabits the mind of the traitorous human scientist (but I'll concede it's actually an intruiging nudge at what we in our pop-society call "mental illness")... funny I don't remember her character's name...

My wife has been entertaining the piano to facilitate learning her music for choir practice, between visits sitting outside the kitchen door to commune with Sandy's periphery and cooking various food items for us all to browse through the day.  My kids are upstairs playing "Animal Jam" on-line and being checked in on from time to time by their annoying parents.  My elder kid and I took a walk out to the pond earlier today to watch the wind-spirits fly across the surface of the water, look for still-living palm-sized snails, and lean back into the wet gusts of wind. 

So far we haven't had need of any emergency measures or hunker-down sessions.  It's just been a quiet, sort of pleasantly listless day of rest.  I'm almost bored... and quite content with it.  Ah, and now I think I'll go see if  I can dig up that bottle of Moxie I bought yesterday, which seems to have disappeared.  Might be my kids have taken after their old dad. 

And with that I'll sign off, leaving you with the word my friend and band-mate Larry said to me over email early this morning, "Stay dry and vertical".