Saturday, September 09, 2006

Some People's Kids Dude

Last night, as is their custom, my nephew's band (Jake's Grounded, a great name) were over at my place to practice. This usually works out well for all concerned because I have a pretty well sound proofed space, which while it is mainly designed for my recording purposes, can double nicely for a rehearsal space. I like it because these are some dedicated kids. They take their music seriously and are very open to anything that might make them better players. They like it because I usually am pretty hands off when it comes to management. In the words of my son, "You don't fuck with us over bullshit." I try not to do so anyway.

So, the kids are over last night, I check in from time to time. I even strapped on my bottleneck guitar to do an old blues number or two with them, then I go back to putzing around the house. At this point my son comes into the room and says "Dude, (yes, he calls me that all the time) did you know that the boys out there are drinking beer?"

I am floored. I know kids will drink, but I can't think of anything I've done that would lead these guys to think that it's something I would be alright about. My nephew in particular knows that I have been clean and sober for a long time now. He also knows from listening to my sister, my kids, and myself that my drinking and drug abuse was a huge problem that nearly destroyed my family, myself, my career, everything I hold dear. I can't imagine a situation where he would think that this is OK with me.

My first instinct (which is almost never something I trust of act upon, I tend to try and bring my reactions down and calmed to a point where I am on a level of say, Ghengis Khan) is considered and appropriately discarded. Then it hits me that, these aren't my kids. I figure that it is the duty and concern of the parents of the boys to find a way to appropriately deal with the situation.

I get on the phone and call my sister and brother-in-law and tell them what is happening. I ask them to call the parents of the boys involved and for them all to please come over and collect their kids. I don't feel good about watching a bunch of teen agers drive off in their cars after they've been drinking at my house and want them, when they leave, to be absolutely certain that what has just been taking place is not something that I will tolerate. I also don't figure it's my job to listen to a bunch of drunk teen agers explaining to me the facts of the situation.

One by one, the cars start to arrive. Things go pretty well until the last kid's parents get here. They are upset and angry. Not with their son, but with me. It turns out that they are the ones who got the beer for the boys in the first place. They tell me that it's none of my business how they manage their children. I tell them that I am in total agreement with that. I also tell them that the things that go on in my house are absolutely my business and that underage kids drinking is not something I will tolerate where I have any measure of control. I tell them that I don't give a flying fuck how they choose to rear their children. I point out that all I have done is make clear that this is not going to happen at my house. Everywhere else in the entire goddamned world is their business. My house, my business. As soon as they leave, and the sooner the better for that, they are perfectly free to do as they fucking well please.

Except asshole dad of the world here isn't buying in to this line of reasoning. He's wanting to get into my face. I tell him that the best thing for all concerned is to get the hell away from me and go on his merry way home. He feels there are things that must be explained. I tell him that I am done with this. That I am going into my house and if I don't see his fucking taillights leaving that I will call the sherrif's office. Then it hits me. Dude here is probably drunk too. I tell him that I am going into the house, calling the cops, and giving them his name, make and model of car, and his home phone number. He says "Go right ahead. I'll be right here."

I am amazed at the response time of our local deputies. I gave them a pretty clear run down of the events and said that while the asshole here is still standing around trying to prove what ever point he's trying to prove right now, he may experience a moment of clarity and make a run for it. Turns out I was wrong there. The guy is still out in the driveway shouting obscenities at my closed door when they roll up.

It also turns out that my instincts about the level of his inebriation were understated. He blows a 1.14 which is pretty drunk by anyone's standards. I end up being the one to drive his son home. I tell the kid that it really was nothing personal, that I didn't want things to go this far and tried to give his dad every opportunity to have it turn out differently. I tell him that any time he's not bringing booze with him he's still welcome at my house (I figure with a dad like that this kid's going to need a long fucking list of safe places to hang out).

Things have settled down quite a bit. I've settled down a lot. Here's where we are with things. The boys know that they still have a rehearsal space, and that this space is contingent upon them being drug and alcohol free while they are here. I will also be wanting to hear from each of their parents before they come over for a while. I want to make sure that everybody involved knows what's going on here. I haven't gone into stuff like drugs and alcohol abuse with these kids. I don't know if I even should. My gut says that if they should ask me about the needle tracks on my arms or ask why I don't drink I will tell them what I can about me and my journey. I'm not somebody that figures kids can make decent choices without being told the truth. I don't know where the dad that got taken by the cops is standing. I did tell his wife that if he decides that maybe it's time for him to try not drinking for a while that I will be willing to give what ever help I can.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Random Ten

Here we go again. Pull out the trusty old iPod and hit random.

Everyday I Write the Book - - Alison Brown (a bluegrass version it works)
Illegal Smile - - John Prine (I loves me some John)
Electric Avenue - - Eddie Grant
Symphony No. 9 - - Beethoven (under the baton of Arturo Toscafuckingnini)
They're Red Hot - - Robert Johnson
If You Want To Get To Heaven - - Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Going Down Jordan - - Harry Belafonte
Garry Owen - - Radio Theme where I blew a fiddle part and got mixed out
Whistlin' Past the Graveyard - - Tom Waits
Candy Man - - Professor Longhair

Bonus Track (hit random twice take the top)

El Paso - - Marty Robbins

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Sure Fire Way To Not Get A Gig

I related this in an ancient comment thread over at litbrit's a while back but I find it amusing. So much of a freelancer's time is wrapped around the search and getting of the next gig, the times where you just blow it sear themselves into your memory. However, I must admit, I would do this one again. I will set the stage a bit for you. This producer and I have a history. While a band I was in was under contract with a Major Label that shall remain nameless for the purpose of avoiding litigation this asshat was an A&R representative. I have always found him to be rude, arrogant and totally without a soul. He lives for the next deal even while you are trying to negotiate a current deal. Oh yeah, and while he was handling my band's account we managed to stay a full six months behind any current trends with a laughable excursion down the "white reggae band" trail which sent our album, with everything else this jerk produced for us, straight into the fucking K-Mart bargain bin. So, you might imagine my surprise when I end up with a phone call from him to come out to L.A. and play in a big time showcase gig for a "new young artist" (who actually turned out be pretty good) he is currently flogging around town. So here is my side of the conversation. This is a totally slanted reproduction that makes him look like an insufferable dickhead, and yet, that's also what his mom says about him.




Hey, remember me? How's it going?


I remember, and since you got my number from my agent you should have a pretty good picture of how things are going. What do you want?


I'm producing - - - - she's a songwriter who has a blah, blah, blah, standard studio pressrelease lies, waste of time bullshit smoke up the ass talk. . .


Just what the industry needs right? Another chick with a guitar and an agenda. Is she Fiona Apple hot? Have you scheduled her for plastic surgery yet? Do fat, older musicians with a limp turn her on? Why me?


Because for this showcase in L.A. we really want to show off her versatility and you bring several instruments and fluid genre changes to the stage.


So where is this gig in L.A. at?


It's certainly where we don't end with a preposition.


Ok. So where is this gig in L.A. at - - - - - motherfucker?

I didn't get this gig. Later, I did do some studio work with this woman when she was putting together a demo side. The funniest part of this story is that the young woman turned out to be very good. Good enough that some of the other old pro musicians and I were able to help her find real representation and management. She's doing well right now. I don't know where the producer is or if he has any projects happening. I don't think he'd call me anyway.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bad Poetry Night

April is gone. I am finally getting into a major sulk about it. I decided since I feel all shitty about life and stuff I might as well inflict some bad poetry on the rest of you. . .

we are very modern you and i
advanced in ways others
fail to understand

our lives are separate
distinct and apart
you to yours and i to mine

we walk along
holding hands across
the fence that defines

the boundry between
yours and mine
there is a you and i together

with no real definable us
to perceive nothing
to grasp and hold onto

the barriers fail and our
vital borders get crossed
on occaision

for a short time we rejoice
and luxuriate in each other
till without warning we notice

the division has returned
then we resume our
comfortable distance

you woke up this morning
and left just like you said
that you must

i watched you go i
even smiled and waved
goodbye like a good scout

a clever and modern man
sophisticated in his acceptance
wise in his understanding

although right now
sophistication and wisdom
cannot cleverly explain how
trustworthy, loyal, helpful,
friendly, courteous, kind
obedient, cheerful, thrifty
brave, clean and
reverent me will
get through tonight


Why I Don't Buy The "We Don't Torture" Line

The president today really hit me in a raw spot. Later, in an AA meeting I realized exactly how and why.

You see there's a tendancy people have in early recovery to be all excited about what great people they are becoming. Over and over I've been in meetings and had people wax all poetic about stuff like "After five years, I've gotten a legitimate driver's license" or "I got around to buying car insurance" or "I am working real hard at not being a racist."

What they are clueless about is that these are things that any rational human being should or should not do.

Somebody needs to tell George Bush that it is no badge of honor to stop torturing people after five years of depraved cruelty. One of the most chilling passages in the book Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks is when he deliniates the torture process that was done to Shiek Khalid Mohammed. Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, extremes of heat and cold, punching with closed and open hands, forced exercise, loud music, sensory deprivation, and all of that paled when his interrogators told him that they were going to harm or kill his young sons. This is not only not the way an American should behave, it is beyond the pale of human decency. Any information gotten through methods like these should be tainted and suspect. Those, like, Richard Clarke, who have studied the jihadi movement and its leaders agree that Al Qaeda was born, not in the mountains and plains of Afghanistan but in Syrian and Egyptian prisons. It was during his prison time in Egypt that Al-Zakawri's implacable and steely hatred of the west was formed after he was arrested following the Sadat assassination. Torture and mistreatment like that found in the Egyptian penal system breaks many men beyond all healing. Others become insane in their implacable hatred of any power that would resort to such abuses. Now our president is wanting us to tell him what a wonderful, moral man he is because he says (and I tend to disbelieve most anything he says without verifiable data) he's now going to bring these men he's been torturing for years to trial finally. That is of course if he can make sure that the court is rigged mightily in his favor.

Once I was in a meeting and a guy I actually like and care about said, after listing the racist gangs he ran with while in prison, "And I am working at treating black people without prejudice." I told him "You know, if I were to come into a meeting and say that I've grown so much spiritually that I no longer fuck other people's puppies no one would be real impressed with me." He responded that he had become a racist in prison to which I replied "I was in Viet Nam for almost three years, if I were to say that I no longer kill babies, would that be something that other people should be proud of me for? Of course not. You're not supposed to fuck puppies or kill babies. I'm glad you're growing and becoming a better person, I firmly believe that you have every right to recovery that I have, but just don't expect me to get all misty and choked up because you decide to quit doing something that is reprehensible."

The secret prisons, the torture, the brutality of our troops on the ground are all direct manifistations of the character, or lack of character, that our leaders have.

George Washington was faced with the problem of Hessian soldiers (hat tip to David Hackett Fisher's 1776 and His Excellency, George Washington in the hands of angry American troops. The Hessians had a reputation for brutally killing and then mutilating the corpses of the Americans unlucky enough to fall into their hands. In the battle for New York it was common to see American soldiers nailed to trees by bayonets. Stripping and slowly killing prisoners with heated bayonets was also documented. Many times during the Revolution, George Washington issued stern and specific orders mandating decent and honorable treatment of prisoners taken by the Rebels. He knew that Americans should never sacrifice the high moral ground of principle and honor. A by-product of this policy was when the Hessian rank and file soldiers started to realize that they would recieve better treatment as a prisonor than they would from their own officers. Many Hessian prisoners went on to settle in the german speaking regions of upstate New York and western Pennsylvania.

It's sad that our George is not even a pimple on Washington's ass.

I will end by saying that General Wesley Clark is currently raising money to help Democrats across the country in their Congressional campaigns. I loves me some General. I do. I just dropped a contribution on his page right here. It appealed to the old soldier in me that he is calling it "Take The Hill." Please give him a look and listen. If you can spare a little cash that would be nice too.

I promise in the days to come there will be much more music, many more recipes, and a lot less political ranting.

Carry on.

Had Catching Up to Do

My houseguest has made her departure. I have so far been able to stay out of my predictable sulk by catching up on the work that has piled up during my week of paying more attention to April than anything else.

I haven't written about how I work all that much, I don't see it as anything glamorous or exciting and if I wasn't a single parent to three teenagers (alright, alright, before you climb all up my ass Medschool Girl, you're 20, which means that I'm a single parent to 2 teenagers and a young adult with Medschool size bills for me to happily pay) I would not take half of the work I take.

Mostly, I'm a jingle whore. I don't mean whore in any kind of derogatory fashion it's just the most apropos word to convey my attitude. I do this for money. Very good money. I will do it for pretty much anyone who has a wad of that very good money. When I was first breaking in to this end of the business I was sometimes ashamed of the way I would not even bother to find out what they were selling when I laid my music tracks down. I figured that it was irrelevant to my task at hand. Then I heard myself playing on the TV at home underlaying a narration about one of those Payday advance rip off joints that specialize in cheating the families of deployed service men. (the one in question here was situated within spitting distance of a big ass Marine base) I called and suggested to my agent that maybe such gigs were things I might want to take a pass on. He chewed me out. Told me that I did not want to build a reputation for not taking gigs. This is a business that thrives on "yes." If there's any doubt in a producer's mind about my taking a gig, he'll call some one he's certain of and not bother with the chance of my declining. It's that simple.

So anyway, I'm stuck in traffic on the 91 coming back from a studio in Orange County (91 traffic is a living breathing monsterous thing) after spending the morning and early afternoon making money not music. I'm descending into a funk over the state of my life. My recovery was still pretty early at this point. My finances were on the road to recovery, but still tight. I also was realizing that by choosing to stay home and concentrate on the jingles and stuff I was putting the potential earnings cap way lower than I had been used to. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't going to be living in a shack eating government cheese, just now, I would have to think about my spending, pay attention to stuff I hadn't paid much attention to.

So there I am in traffic, getting myself all in a funk and this little voice in the back of my head says "Whore." I turned up the music in the car and tried to sing along with it, but everytime I would pause for a breath or a phrase the voice would come back, "Whore." This is going on from Irvine to Diamond Bar and I'm on the verge of losing it. I call my agent and tell him what's going on and he tells me to stop off at Frederick's and pick up a nice black leather miniskirt and fucking deal with it.

I call my sponsor Jessie Joe. I since have realized that things like this are common in recovery, especially early recovery. There's a tendency among us alcoholics to be the agents of our own destruction. We know that things are only going to hell anyway so by bringing it all down ourselves at least we aren't surprised. There's also the thing about not having exercised much conscience muscle so learning how to properly apply is kind of like learning to walk again after knee surgery. Jessie Joe listens and then says "Talk back to your little voice. Tell it how you look at things, then tell it Thank you for sharing, now shut the fuck up."

This is what I told my little voice: "Yeah, you're right I am a whore. I'm a whore who takes good care of his children. I'm also an expensive whore. My customers keep coming back too. My pimp loves me. I will whore myself out to anyone with time on their studio clock and a handfull of cash. The only thing I really want in life is enough time to brush my teeth between blowjobs."

I've been a proud whore ever since.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Arizona Candidate Prepares for Deployment to Iraq

All you REMF's and ChickenHawk Colonels in the 101st Fighting Keyboarders take notice of this story from this mornings New York Times.

Published: September 5, 2006

TUCSON, Aug. 31 — Jonathan L. Paton is preparing to go to war in Iraq. . .

Mr. Paton, running for his second two-year term in the Arizona House, is one of four Republicans in his district’s primary on Sept. 12 who are competing for two seats. The balloting occurs five days after Lieutenant Paton, an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve, is due at Fort Benning, Ga., to prepare for a five-month to six-month tour in Iraq and, maybe, Afghanistan.

I will take a moment here to say that I disagree with Lt. Paton on almost every issue where he has made his views public. From Illegal Immigration, to Voting Rights, to the general "Fuck Everybody But Me" Republican agenda. I must commend this young man (35 is young to me) for his willingness to serve. He could have gotten a deferment or a "pass" on combat duty because of his status as an elected official. Not this Lieutenant. From the story again:

Mr. Paton, 35, stands out. Unlike most of the others, he has asked to go, a decision that surprised and shocked some family members and friends, though he said most had expressed support.

Mr. Paton said he did not want his status as an elected official to excuse him from combat, something instructors in a training program he attended last year suggested would happen. He decided that his full-throated support of the war would seem contradictory if he was not willing to serve.

I understand his motivation. I do. When I was in the service and there was a fight going on, that is exactly where I wanted to be. I could see no other place for me, as a warrior. I do not get the sense that he is doing this for anything less than honorable, and decent motivations. I wish him well. I hope that when he returns from the war zone safely he sleeps better than most of the combat veterans, including myself. I want him to come home safely to his family and friends. If I were ever to meet him I would give him the respect and honor that warriors give to one another. I would still disagree, and disagree strongly with his politics. I would try to change his mind, he would try to change mine. There would, through it all run a bond, a connection that those who never answered this call (like those who started this whole hobo clusterfuck) will never have.

Lt. Paton, I salute you sir. Return to us safely.

You are a soldier.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Random Flickr Bloggin (6074)

Little Sarah was neither amused nor honored to be a part of her mother's winning effort in the "Labor Day Baby Toss" at the picnic this year.

Song For Labor Day

This is an old, very old, labor song. From bonny Scotland. This one predates the industrial revolution and shows a working man's awareness of his worth. I provide it here, without trying to accentuate the Scot's burr which is required to make the poetry truly scan and rhyme. The Clancy Brothers recorded an excellent version of this. Do some digging, it's worth a listen. This song was also the inspiration for the name of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger's group "The Weavers"

To hear the melody line in MIDI click

The Work O' The Weavers

We're all met together here to sit and to clack
With our glasses in our hands and our work upon our back
There's nae a trade among 'em who could mend or could knack
If it wasna for the Work O' the Weavers


If it wasna for the weavers wha' would ya do?
Ya wouldna hae no cloth tha's made o' wool.
Ya wouldna hae no greens, nor your greys, nor your blues
If it wasna for the work o' the weavers.

There's soldiers and there's sailors and there's glaziers an' a'
There's doctors and there's ministers
An' them as read the law
There's them as count up money but they'd do no work at all
If it wasna for the work of the weavers


There's folks tha's independant of another tradesman's work
For women need nae barbers and the dykers need nae clark
But nae o' them could walk about wi'out a coat and shirt
For a' tha' they must come to the weavers


The weaving is a trade which never can fail
As long as we wear clothes for ta keep a body hale
So let us all be merry an' o'er a beaker of good ale
We will drink to the health of the weavers


Of course, weaving as a trade vanished with the industrial revolution. But it's a good thing to remember that those work at trades like the weavers of old are well aware of the vital quality of their work. Mr. Shakes was indeed gracious enough to give voice to the lyrics, for which we are grateful.
Happy Labor day, to those who are lucky enough to have work to do, to all those who are looking. I offer my best wishes.


After a little more research, including the aforemention Mr. Shakes, I chose to turn the word in the first line, first verse back to "clack." I did this because that was how I learned the song. I did this even after consulting two confirming sources that listed it as "crack." I learned the song from an Irishman, so you have the whole Irish guy doing the Scots' accent, but there's a punnish aspect of having it be "clack" that appeals to me. They could be chatting, they could also be "clacking" at their looms. Hey, it's folk music. Don't complain to me I didn't make the rules of folk tradition which allow you to rework, rewrite at full liberty.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Scene from El Rancho Harpo (on the road edition)

Tombstone Opera House - Night - about 45 minutes after the late show
all are gone except the beautiful APRIL (looking
radiant in her green and gold floozie costume),
Dark haired and tastefully groomed violinist CINDY,
various workers clearing the night's mess and readying
the stage for tomorrow's shows, and THE MINSTREL BOY
seated at the piano, playing one of three songs he
can play on the instrument, CHOPIN's NOCTURNE, not
flawlessly, but with great feeling.

April smiles slyly and refills MINSTREL's water glass.

APRIL: That's for my lovin' man. Never can get enough.

MINSTREL: Enough? Never.

CINDY: (knowing the game and playing along wonderfully picks up her violin)

Is that "Old Dog Tray"?
Play "Old Dog Tray" and I'll fiddle with you.


CINDY: You know. Stephen Foster. "Camptown Races." "Oh, Susannah."

MINSTREL: Well, this happens to be a "knock-turn"

CINDY: A what-turn?

MINSTREL: You know, Frederick-fucking-Chopin

They all dissolve into silly giggles. The people working pause to applaud.

Sometimes, we can't help ourselves. We love that movie.