Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Random Ten, Light Posting Ahead (like that some kind of change or something)

I'm heading off to San Diego for the weekend. There's a big ass 50th wedding anniversary bash where a shitload of raspberry truffles will be among the delicacies offered to the guests.

I should be packed and rolling by noon. See ya'll Mondayish. Unless I get distracted at the beach. . .it's happened before, I make no predictions, but no apologies.

Here's the Random sampling from the morning. . .

Joan of Arc - - - Leonard Cohen (live bootleg)
I'm Biting My Fingernails and Thinking of You - - - Ernest Tubb
Behind Blue Eyes - - - The Who
Oyster Shuffle - - - Professor Longhair
Light From the Lighthouse - - - Blind Boys of Alabama
Diggy Diggy Di and Diggy Diggy Low - - Doug Kershaw
Low Spark of High Heeled Boys - - - Traffic
In Your Room - - - The Bangles
Fairy Tale of New York - - - The Pogues
Something In the Way - - - George Harrison


I'll Tell Me Ma (when I go home) - - - Tommy Makem

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Road Story (with road cookies)

One thing you have to remember about most of these road stories is that they happened a long time ago, before I got clean and sober and my memory, well, shall we just say, it's spotty, for the most part, and let it go at that. There. That's better.

One of the things people always want to ask about is the cookies. Road cookies. Some folks call them groupies but I prefer cookies. It's a much nicer metaphor and summons up images of sweet smells and enticing flavors and a nearly endless variety of little snacks.

That's all it is too. Little snacks. Diversions. Treats. It shouldn't be something viewed as exploiting or degrading. Those kind of things ruin it all. I'm talking about consensual, adult (or close enough for plausible deniability), goofing around. Where nobody gets lied too or about, nobody expects more than what is there present and visible.

It works both ways too. Usually there are only two reasons somebody picks up an electric guitar and puts in the time and effort it takes to learn how to play it well enough to approach making a living. Sex and revenge. Anybody tells you different is probably a lying son of a bitch. Sex and revenge. Primal and powerful stuff. While the football heroes and class king and his court were all getting the shit beat out of them on Friday night my band and I were setting up to play the dance. More than once the cheerleaders ended up in our van while the boyfriend was in the ER getting his stitches done or the cast cured. Nights like that were among the best because they involved sex and revenge. Most of the time it involved a beating or two come the next school week, but most of my school weeks involved that shit anyway so it was just one more little point on my side of the scoreboard.

Once the road started being involved it got even cooler. There was a transactional thing that goes down between a traveling musician and the road cookies. We provide them an opportunity to act out their best mainstream pornolit Erica Jong zipless fantasies and then poof! we're gone. Nobody left behind in town to tell their mommies, daddies, and friends at church what depraved little minxes they are. All the dirty little secrets and desires are allowed to run rampant around the cheap little hotel room or the bus's back room for a little while and then they all get safely tucked away back inside their nice, dark, safe little closets. And, we're gone.

It's like an adolescent version of peek-a-boo. When we're out of sight, we don't exist on the physical plane anymore.

Every once and a while though, local stuff would rear its ugly head. Sometimes things we thought were all about some good clean dirty fun would turn ugly in a southern gothic sort of way.

I was playing with, shit, I don't even remember. We were a great big hit that night though. There was a whole passel of local talent who talked their way into our breaks. Some of them even broke out some pretty good local swamp grass (hey, it might have been Florida or Mississippi) to compete with our 1 toke Maui stuff. We were having a great time. The ratio of girl to band guys was working out to be around three to one while at the same time showing every indication of expanding before the night was through. On our way back in to play the drummer and I were talking about seeing Superfly Jimmy Snuka and some other "tag team" greats of wrestling. I was going to need a drool bib to get through the next set without shorting my gear.

The last break showed an increase in the number of young women on the tour bus, along with some pretty telling asides. There were references to starting rosters, second strings, and props. Yes sir, this was shaping up to be a legendary performance back at the old hotel.

It was an old hotel too. Every deep south town has at least one of them. It's not a chain, it's local owned and operated. There's somebody at the desk all the time, usually chatting on the phone, but eager and willing to assist a guest.

I don't know what it was that set the inbred kid at the hotel desk that night off. I don't know what rang his bells. It might have been seeing five of us going up to our rooms with nearly fifteen local girls. It might have been the fact that two of us were "colored" to use their most polite terms and the girls were all very, very white. We'd been playing a place that served liquor so any questions of underage were not on us. The bar's supposed to check that shit.

We weren't even being that loud. Or kinky. At least not in my room anyway. I figure three to one odds is about all the kink this old boy can manage. It's a lot of work trying to make sure that nobody feels left out or neglected, it takes sensitivity and common sense. All of which can be in short supply after a long night of music and debauchery both imagined and executed.

About an hour and a half into the festivities the knock at the door was followed by a voice proclaiming that owner of the hotel was on his way. We figured "So what? There's plenty of beer and dope for one more." The owner arrived and said that he needed to check the place out for damage. We said cool and offered both beer and dope. Satisfied that there was no property damage being done he left to consider his next move. After another thirty minutes or so, and extra paragraphs on some small town girl's penthouse letter, the knock on the door was followed by a loud voice saying:

"If you don't have this sinner's convention wrapped up and over in fifteen minutes I'm going to go get the Sheriff!"

It didn't help matters that when I opened the door to the room the first thing I said was "Well Goddamn Mr. ------, I thought you said you didn't want to come up here again tonight."

What chilled me to the bone was the little girly voice coming out of one of the rooms where at least eight commandments were being gleefully and happily broken.

"Well you just go ahead you old fart. Call my Daddy! See how long you get to keep this fleabag shithole open after that bullshit!"

A firm grasp on what constitutes the better part of valor had the whole band, mostly clothed and semi-packed, on the bus, on the way out of town in less than ten minutes.

Two stowaways were discovered at the pancake stop and left behind.

This wasn't 'Nam, there were rules.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Road Story

This is one of the more epic moments of a Minstrel Boy's career. It had a little bit of everything.

I was excited about this show to begin with. I was playing with a southern rocker who has been around for a long time and written some great grits boogie stuff. His music really showcased some of the things I do best. Swooping and snotty slide guitar licks, fatback rhythm guitar. Even some times in there for me to turn it all up and soar. We were the second of three acts, our job was to get the crowd ready for the headliners. We were given free rein to go out and kill. The blowoff band didn't care, they were perfectly willing to wait until the crowd quit yelling for us and started yelling for them, no matter how long it took.

We were also playing the Murph (the football stadium in San Diego). It was very close to a hometown gig for me. I had spent heavily on making sure I had a lot of my friends in the audience, and they were throwing a full on beach party for us after the show. It was stacking up to be one of those peak performance nights. Everything was looking great.

Usually before a show I've very quiet and contained. I keep to myself saving it for the stage. This time though I was almost jumping outside my skin. It was all starting to climb up my ass. I left the green room and went around the back of the stage to take in the crowd and check out the first band.

They were doing alright. Not shining but not sucking either. I was looking out over the folks in the standing room area and I saw HER. Everything you would dream about on a California afternoon in the early summer. Blonde, no wait, that really can't explain this girl's look. Beach Blonde, California Blonde, Look at this girl and Jan and Dean songs start playing in your head blonde. Tanned, together, totally drop dead gorgeous. If this girl was carnival food she'd be babe on a stick.

Normally I don't get noticed much in situations like this. I'm nobody's poster boy anything. One of the reasons I started playing was that I took an honest assesment of myself in the mirror one day and said "Dude, if you don't learn to play an electric guitar, you're never going to get any." Most of my assignation and even first contact stuff comes after the show. After they've seen me in action.

Out of somewhere in serendipity she noticed me. She smiled and beamed. Maybe it was the backstage pass thing hanging off my neck, maybe it was that I was flanked by a couple of security guys, who knows? Something made her look at me and smile. I beckoned her to come over and talk to me. She asked if I was with a band and I told her my band was on next. I told her that I would get her up closer and that I would get her a pass for backstage if she would like one. She explained that she was with a friend and before I saw that the friend was just as beautiful I said that there woudl be no problem with that told the muscle head in the tight tee shirt to rustle up two backstage passes and then I asked his running mate to please clear the two ladies a path to the lip of the stage.

Once everything was all arranged, names (now long forgotten) were exchanged, and an invitation for the beach party that was expected to go late into the night and deep into the weekend was issued I excused myself and told her I needed to get ready for my set.

Backstage I deal with my stage fright with a lot of ritual and routine. Going through the same things night after night gets me ready for the action to come. Having a familiar pattern focuses me in the ever changing world of performance. I sit by myself and go over the proposed set list, making sure I have each guitar voicing and tuning all ready to go. I go over the cues and licks of each song. This was long before I sobered up so I also got my dope ritual happening. A shitload of coke and an equal dose of heroin. Then it's time to throw up. I can't blame that on the dope, most of the time I still throw up before a show at fifteen years clean and sober. It's more a stage fright thing. I throw up, brush my teeth and feel better.

This time, I threw up, brushed my teeth and threw up again. There was plenty of time for another tooth brushing, but I figured I might have mixed a little too heavy on the coke end so I hit half a joint and down a couple valium with a double shot of irish whiskey. Things settled down a little bit and I chased it with a club soda and started feeling ready to go.

Right before I went on I did one more little booster shot. Not the monster I did a half an hour ago, just a little booster. I always felt that heroin and coke together was a perfect performing dose. I could ride the coke rush out onto the stage and then the heroin would even things out and let me play. Fuck it, it worked for me. Being the professional that I am I made sure to wipe the blood off my arm and roll down my sleeve. Appearances must be kept up don't you know. . .all about the presentation baby.

Our set was going great. Halfway through the first song I look over the front of the crowd and see the California Blonde and her buddy the Other California Blonde right there at the front of the stage, right in front of me. I smile, they smile back. I spend the rest of the song paying attention to my performance enough to keep things rolling. I also spend my spare moments working the Blondes.

We get into one of my favorite songs. I really get to do some totally rude slide guitar licks. Tonight, I'm on. Even the singer is amazed. Normally I'm a real lunch pail kind of guy. Get the job done is what I do. Tonight though I'm all over it. I'm roiling in between the phrases, growling and threatening musical violence, sounding like I'm ready to explode at any moment. When my solo comes I'm all over the first few notes like Mike Tyson on Michael Spinks, it's out there full bore from the starting gun and halfway through the first verse I'm showing no signs of letting up. By the time the chorus rolls by the singer is jumping up and down pointing at me to take another. I take another phrase and it's even better. I'm all over this, I look at the Blondes and they are beaming at me, glowing and stuff. Usually I don't get much looks, even when I'm soloing, a lot of the time I play with my back to audience or I'm focusing on the rest of the band. Not this time, I start moving over to the girls, slinging my hips and my licks all over the stage. I lean into the girls who reach for me. I lean a little closer, wailing away on the guitar the whole time, leaning closer and closer, almost touching.

Then I threw up again.

big brass blog

Cloned Stem Cells Cure Parkinson's Syndrome In Mice

Maggie Fox, Science and Health Editor for Rueters News Service

In today's Washington Post writes:

Researchers who used cloned embryonic stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease in mice said on Sunday they worked better than other cells.

The researchers were trying to prove that it is possible to make embryonic stem cells using cloning technology and use them to provide a tailor-made treatment.

They took mouse embyros, inserted the nucleii from skin cells of the subject mice who had been given a specific symptomatic array of Parkinson's. They used the cloned embryos to grow the exact stem cells they needed to address the disease.

The mice got better folks. From having distonic paw movements and compulsively circling in one direction they became normal mice. When the mice were killed and autopsied, they found that the introduced stem cells had bound with other cells in the body to create new nerve tissues where previously there had been diseased tissue.

By using cloned cells specific to the patient, things like inflammation were greatly reduced and the ability to target exact types of cell and body locations were enhanced.

We're a long way from being able to bring this type of treatment to humans. Many levels of scientific discipline must be met and surmounted.

Oh, and before we forget, another thing that must be surmounted is the fact that we have a religiously deluded incurious son of a bitch in the White House who wants to send these scientists to jail and then straight to Hell. That's right. His decision on this issue did not come from studying the science. Bush can't understand that shit. Besides, it would require him to do uncomfortable shit like think and read and learn. Rather than go through all those messy, icky mental gymnastics our President based his decision on the word of Ted Haggard, who paused long enough from snorting methamphetamine off the butts of gay hookers long enough to explain to him that God was very much against this type of research.

I cannot find words to express my disdain and disgust for this. I haven't the writing skill it requires. My mother is condemned to a life of limitations and poor health because of this man's delusions of God and grandeur. I am foursquare behind a strict interpretation of the separation of church and state. I am all in favor of allowing people the liberty to follow their hearts and their inner voices in the matters of religion. Let me say this. When you inject your brand of religion into the policy and government, you have not only violated the Constitution, you have injured my mother you bastard. Every day she, and the patients with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, Spinal Cord and Brain Injuries (and your foreign policy is making more of these motherfuckers every single day!) are forced to endure symptoms that have a very promising path to treatment and cure because of your religion is a day that I despise and hate you more.

Know that. I know you won't have any long dark nights of the soul behind this. That takes a fucking soul in the first place.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

spring, beauty, flowers, poetry

voices to voices,lip to lip
i swear(to noone everyone)constitutes
undying;or whatever this and that petal confutes...
to exist being a peculiar form of sleep

what's beyond logic happens beneath will;
nor can these moments be translated:i say
that even after April
by God there is no excuse for May

-bring forth your flowers and machinery:sculpture and prose
flowers guess and miss
machinery is the more accurate, yes
it delivers the goods,Heaven knows

(yet are we mindful,though not as yet awake,
of ourselves which shout and cling,being
for a little while and which easily break
in spite of the best overseeing)

i mean that the blond abscence of any program
except last and always and first to live
makes unimportant what i and you believe;
not for philosophy does this rose give a damn...

bring on your fireworks,which are a mixed
splendor of piston and of pistil;very well
provided an instant may be fixed
so that it will not rub,like any other pastel.

(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneyed son for a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

each dream nascitur,is not made...)
why then to Hell with that:the other;this,
since the thing perhaps is
to eat flower and not to be afraid.

e.e. cummings (tulips & chimneys XXXIII)

Now, because we are also beginning a new baseball season, I want to take a moment and remember someone who was not only the finest songwriter I've ever known, he was a good and decent guy. He wrote some of the best songs in the American songbook. Like he lived his life, he wrote them quietly, he was almost embarrassed when he'd perform them. Still, he would touch some great beauty. Steve Goodman and I for a few years when I was in San Diego made a little tradition of attending each other's home opener together. I was able to introduce him to the joys of fish tacos from a pushcart by the beach, he pointed out the guys in the left field bleachers at Wrigley who, in the fifth inning of an opening day unfurled a "Wait Till Next Year!" sign. Steve, very early in his life was diagnosed with leukemia. At the age of twenty he knew what was going to kill him, and he knew it would kill him soon. I loved that guy. I've told many people when I explain how much I hate traveling on the wrong side of the Pecos river that I've only known one person in my life from Chicago that wasn't an asshole, and he died young. This is Steve Goodman, a good man, a cub fan, refusing to go down without letting us know what was on his mind. . .

Finally, because one good Goodman truly deserves another, this is my favorite song of his. This was the last song he and I played together. There isn't a recording or any film of our performance, but this is one of his best done by him at his best.

I miss you buddy. Bring on Spring!