a brief FYI…

now playing: tom petty, “straight into darkness”

next time you see one of those spiffy ads that dubya is flooding the airwaves with, blasting kerry for “no” votes on defense, think about this….

from a washington post article that you can find here:

Since Congress approved an $87 billion defense request last year, the administration has steadfastly maintained that military forces in Iraq will be sufficiently funded until early next year. President Bush’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 included no money for Iraqi operations, and his budget director, Joshua B. Bolten, said no request would come until January at the earliest.

or, for clarity’s sake, no more money for my unnecessary war until after the election.

short circuits



now playing: michael hedges (old vh-1 footage), “all along the watchtower”


somehow, this weekend has brought about a considerable amount of reflection as to what it is, exactly, that motivates me to do what i do, as a musician…and, dare i even fucking say, an artist…

i was sitting at denny’s earlier tonight, listening to the songs that were piped in over the speakers, a tune from the second jars of clay album came on…wendy said something about the song being about jesus – i immediately thought back to the amazing show i was at in nashville some years back, when they played at the ryman auditorium with a string section…honestly, it was one of those transcendent concerts where everything else falls away and nothing else exists but the circuit between the listener and the band. i remember the singer, at some point between songs, saying something to the effect of – “on nights like tonight, it’s easy to absorb all this – all this stuff going on around you – and start to think that you’re a bigger part of this than you are….” the gist of what he was saying, i thought, was that there was a secondary circuit between himself and where the music actually comes from.

and i was sitting there, staring at my plate…listening to this song, and thinking to myself that perhaps that circuit is a little weak for me right now.

i mean, i still play regularly, i’m gigging all the time, i’m still in the thick of this…as far as being active as a musician is concerned…so outwardly, all probably looks just fine.

i’m still pickin’…

lately, though, these little unrelated things keep happening – drunks walking up to me after shows and telling me that i should be doing my own stuff, for instance. there was a guy last night who spent most of the second half of the night playing drunken air guitar…he was wearing a kansas t-shirt and a lynyrd skynyrd baseball hat…your typical northern berks barfly, really…but he comes up to me at the end of the show and starts this self-righteous rant about how i should be doing my own songs, how people would really dig me doing my songs….

now, keep in mind this guy doesn’t know me from adam, nor i him…but it started to get under my skin after a while…in fact, i was actually starting to go pretty hard on him after a while. i so much as told him that he “didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about”. i asked him if he’d ever even played in front of people before, and he admitted he hadn’t, and i told him to spend a decade or two playing in front of people, slaving over your own songs, recording them and sending them out into the world to be largely rejected, and then he could come back to the village and tell me what the fuck i should be playing….almost verbatim…

earlier this week, angela – the woman in HR whos’ become one of a small circle of friends that i would have such a conversation with – told me that she was listening to my CD on the way to work, and asked what i was doing here (in the way that one does when they’re asserting that you should be doing something else). i gave her the short answer, with all the usual talking points – whereas, in jon cusack fashion, i pointed out “at least one and possibly all four of the following pieces of information”: the kind of music i do isn’t in vogue anymore, i don’t really have the ambition to maintain the kind of onslaught one has to maintain in order to hack through the underbrush, so to speak…i enjoy playing the role of sideman more than being the focal point, blah blah fuckin’ blah….

and the truth is, all of this is true. every bit of it.

then today, i had work to do at joe cala’s house (joe is the vp of sales at work, and one of angela’s superiors), and got the same question – the whole “what are you doing here” trip again…and i repeated the same schpiel again….

so tonight, i’m listening to jars of clay, and thinking about all the shit that we do to try and fill our various spiritual holes…with food, with sex, with material posessions, with guitars, with money, with whatever a given person might latch onto to try and satisfy whatever it is that they think they want out of their life…and remembering that there are two circuits at work in this exchange of energy that exists when this channel opens up – one between the performer and the audience, and the one that’s often overlooked – between the performer and the source of inspiration.

whether anyone chooses to acknowledge it or not, it doesn’t begin with them – as much as ego or vanity or whatever internal reasoning process might lead them to that conclusion, the good stuff comes from somewhere else – and in order to get to the really good stuff, that circuit has to be open.

i don’t know that this circuit is working well for me lately. in fact, i think i’ve all but shut it off completely in some ways.

i’m not entirely sure how this came to pass, but i think i have some ideas…but it’s after midnight, and i have to rejoin the ranks of the uninspired tomorrow to earn my living doing something totally unrelated to creativity…

the scary part is that getting up and going to work feels more natural than sitting down with a guitar for me lately…

….i gotta figure out what that’s about.

top o’ the ninth…

now playing: andy gibb, “i just wanna be your everything”
(and mlb gameday – red sox 4, yankees 4, top 8th)

it’s come to this – following baseball on the internet from work. i’m truly hopeless, man. This has turned into a pretty good game, though…you can only get so emotionally involved in a game when you’re “watching” it via a java applet that reports the results of each pitch through a window on your desktop. of course, it could be argued that it’s tough to get emotionally involved in any game this early in the season to begin with.

and i’d be inclined to agree with that argument, most of the time. but this is the sox vs. the evil empire.

i’ve been struggling mightily to stay awake today – i had to come in last night and take care of some odds and ends, and to drop off an assload of cardboard for recycling. got home this morning and into bed at around 3:30am. we were scheduled for a visitor from a potential painter today, so i busted my balls to try and get the major parts of the house into a presentable state…wendy did her part and cleaned up the living room and was nice enough to run the vacuum over the area of the dining room floor that i was using to slice cardboard…now if i can just stay awake long enough tonight to do the dishes and some laundry, i’ll be thrilled.

less than a week until spring cleaning day. i can sleep soundly afterward in the knowledge that i can navigate the corridors of my home without fear of breaking something…hopefully.

this just in: boston goes into the top of the 9th with a 5-4 lead.

and they’re bringin’ in keith foulke to close.

today is the last game of the Sox/Yankees Fenway run, today is the boston marathon, and tonight the bruins play game seven of their stanley cup playoff with their rivals, the montreal canadiens…

…glad I’m not drivin’ home from work in beantown this afternoon.

oh, by the way…that 5-4 is a final now.

goodbye to the hotel california

now playing: paul pccartney and wings, “silly love songs”

No Ice, No Rooms, No Guests. Now L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel Is Running Out of Time

By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 18, 2004; Page D01


If the light is right — and is the light ever really wrong here? — this city will sometimes do a halfhearted impression of its former selves, using places that still exist, or using a stand-in.
Driving west on Wilshire Boulevard sometimes feels like the back cover of an Eagles album. Driving east, however, toward downtown L.A., just before you reach MacArthur Park, is a ripped-out page of a Raymond Chandler novel. The problem is you get this kind of thing only in fleeting shots, with just the right palm trees casting shadows across just the right buildings. Something always comes into the frame (a “Starsky & Hutch” billboard; the a.m./p.m. convenience store; the Korean dentist signs) and your brain yells cut.

Then comes the Ambassador Hotel. Forlorn, darkened and, in a sense, gone.

It gives off a hulking, vacant sense of the beautifully doomed, except when someone needs it for a movie or TV shoot.

Britney Spears’s people have called, says Joe Ortiz, who has worked in the hotel for 28 years as a maintenance engineer, staying long after the last guests checked out. Britney Spears may or may not need to use the Ambassador for a music video the following week — the contract pending, the concept pending, Britney pending.

The Ambassador waits, too, its fate undecided. With its 455 empty rooms and its once-famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub, it can be anything you want it to be, and Hollywood still uses it, abuses it, romances it. You can lease it out and film anywhere except the former kitchen pantry, on the notion that it is sacred American space — the narrow corridor with the ice machine where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and five others were shot by Sirhan B. Sirhan on the night of the 1968 California presidential primary.

The hotel sits a half-block back from a busily evolved and presently pan-Asian stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, on 23.7 valuable urban acres three miles west of downtown. It is falling apart a tile at a time behind tall chain-link fences, draped in tangles of ivy and shielded ambivalently by palm and olive trees. Opened on New Year’s Day in 1921, it has been permanently closed to guests and visitors since two days after New Year’s, 1989.

Now, in the months before it will be at last torn down or partially restored as a public school, the hotel has become a kind of fetishized treasure, in a city where it is possible to drive around and feel an elusive sense of loss, even if you just got there.

read the entire article here

the transitional minute

now playing: carly simon, “anticipation”

had one small disaster dropped into my lap this weekend – a PC i upgraded for one of the top executives for the company where i hold court during the day can’t open up the files i restored from the pre-upgrade backup. seems that his wife was using an ancient version of wordperfect, and the new and improved (i shouldn’t even say “improved”, because i essentially replaced every important component inside the box) machine will not open the old files.

the old machine was an antique by nearly anyones’ standards – and the fact is, i wouldn’t have had to deal with it at all, save for the fact that he wanted it to have internet access via his newly installed wireless network. but, what with the machine running windows 95 with 16MB of memory, etc, etc, it weren’t havin’ none o’ that. so it had to be upgraded in order to deal with the wireless card that needed to be installed. otherwise, i never would’ve had to deal with it. now, though, the machine it is and the machine it used to be are worlds apart, and i’ve got a bit of a problem to deal with. there are some obvious solutions that come to mind, but it’s gonna take some time, and i’m not sure how much of that i have. we’ll soon see, i’m sure.

this was the transitional weekend here.

transitional, meaning that this was the weekend between actually hearing the heat kick on once or twice during the night to sleeping with zero bed covering on because it’s stinkin’ hot in the house. i already put jayda’s air conditioning unit in, and would’ve put dylan’s in as well, were it not physically impossible to get to that side of his room right now due to the huge amount of crap flung all over his room. just unreal.

i haven’t put ours in yet, either, but i doubt it’ll be very long before i will. i don’t do summer well. and, as per the usual transition here, it appears to have gone from too chilly to wear short sleeves outside for very long straight to jesus christ, can ya hand me a towel? without passing “go” or collecting two hundred bucks. this has become something of a tradition here. screw spring or fall…it’s either freezing or ridiculously hot. one or the other. no grey, just black or white.

i haven’t forgotten sweatin’ my ass off in nashville last summer, though…not feelin’ a huge need to jump back into that, either…

still majorly on the fence about that. have given that a lot of space inside my head this week/weekend. no closer to a plan now than i ever was.

jayda has informed me, however, that she wouldn’t mind being closer to the home of sonic.

neither would i, man.

the still, small voice with a southern accent….

now playing: paul mccartney and wings, “with a little luck”

…yeah….we’re back to the old shit again….

jayda and i went for a long drive last night…for a while, i thought i was lost. we saw, almost simultaneously, signs for shanesville and earlville…which, i mused, were founded by the famous explorers and woodsmen, shane and earl – which sparked one of my all-too-common dual conversations (conversations that i hold for people who couldn’t have them themselves, with me taking part in both sides of the conversation):

shane: dude…i like it here.
earl: me, too, dude, but i like it better over there.
shane: so what, dude? it’s major cooler over here. i’m gonna stay here, yo.
earl: whatEVER, dude. i’m goin’ over there. that’s gonna be my crib.
shane: righteous…can you hear me NOW? GOOD!
earl: DOOOODE! i can, like, TOTALLY hear you now!
shane: dig – i’m gonna call my crib…uh….shanesville.
earl: aaaaw, dude…i was gonna call MINE earlville.
shane: dude – you’re wiggin’. you’re only sayin’ that ‘cuz i already said my plot was gonna be shanesville, man. that’s just wrong, yo.

this faux-conversation goes on for about five minutes, with jayda laughing so hard that i would assume tears are coming down her eyes…i don’t know this, obviously, ‘cuz it’s dark. she remarks that her friend devena has to come on a ride with us sometime.

this conversation was followed later by another similar conversation that i made up in my head and had with myself between firefighters at the Stonersville Fire Company.

i won’t even get into that one. you can probably figure that one out for yourself.

anyway, i thought that after dinner on tuesday, the subject of nashville might have come up, but neither of us mentioned it. i’ve talked to jim, the musical director for this guys’ band, a number of times this week, and we exchanged some emails as well, and the consensus has become that they’re going to use someone local for the time being, as they’re on the road almost constantly, and they have some really important gigs coming up. i had hoped to be in town this past week to audition, but no ones’ schedule allowed for it. there’s only two days between their shows this weekend and leaving for the southwest on wednesday, and it would have ended up being the end of the month before we’d have actually been able to pull this off. and, under the circumstances, that’s just too long.

i think i was dreading the audition process, because i was somewhat afraid of succeeding. because if i have, it would have thrown my whole life into chaos for the rest of the year. even if you discount the fact that i have a wife and kids at all, it would have meant leaving my job, finding another job to tide me over until the summer work kicked in hard, finding a place for us all to live, setting up the move, and trying to determine what kind of lives my kids would have for the next three to five years.

now, if this sounds like resignation, then maybe i’m leaning too hard on all this. because this ain’t over yet.

i’m probably gonna try to give charlie a call later tonight to talk about this some more – the one thing i keep hearing from people i’ve spoken to, in terms of checking with folks about using them for references and what have you – is that i should be on a bus within a few weeks of arriving in town, because of all that i have to offer. while i find that flattering, and i appreciate the encouragement, i just flat out refuse to believe that there is a drought of musicians in nashville that do what i do. it can’t be that thin there.

charlie made the point, the last time that we talked, that i already had a foothold simply by virture of the people i know in town, and that may be true to some extent, but i don’t think it pushes me that much farther toward the top of the “call first” list. i’ve been around too long to be that willingly naive.

but i do think i can compete. i think that there are certainly gigs that would have my name all over them. marlene baker told me, when i spoke with her recently, that she thinks i should have done this ages ago, that it’s a great idea…she talked about how things only really started falling into place for her most recent client (mary gauthier) after she moved to nashville, and made the point that if this is what i want to do – the sideman thing – that i really need to be there to make that happen. certainly, everything that is happening in my life lately seems to be pointing in that direction…but i have to do this in a way that makes sense.

what i have to figure out now is…well, exactly what is it that makes sense about all this? how, at this point in my life, do i go about it in a sane manner?

two or three more years and i’ll be too comfortable to do anything about this.

it isn’t gonna happen tomorrow, but if it’s gonna happen at all, it’s gonna have to be soon.

charlie…is that your phone ringing?

wasted away again

em>now playing: lionel richie, “you are”

(and this, in a nutshell, may have been the real evil posed by the Napster era…when there’s that much free music available, you’ll download some awful shit just ‘cuz you can.)

i still feel, at 3:30 in the afternoon, as if i just woke up. pretty sad. but i haven’t gone to bed before 1 in the morning any night this week thus far.

tonight may or may not be any different.

we have a little ritual here in my town called spring cleanup…this is where the borough allows you to dump as much shit on your sidewalk as you want, and they take it away without charging you what would be an extra fee any other time of year.

let me tell ya how much i’m looking forward to this when it rolls around this year…i’m so ready to start throwing stuff out that i don’t know how to tell you just how excited i am about the prospect of uncluttering the house somewhat.

d-day is a week from friday.

in other news, i’ve just launched yet another domain – basementguitars.com. there’s a long, long story behind this, but i’ll try to narrow it down to the highlights.

some time back, i bought a really sweet copy of a rickenbacker 330/12 from an online auction, and out of that i forged a relationship with the company that was importing them into the united states. so solid, in fact, that i decided i would buy a few of them and sell them myself on eBay.

well, the reaction was swift and positive. within less time than it took for the auction to run its course, i had sold half a dozen of them.

and the happy ending would be inserted at this point, but there’s a twist…the guitars that i’d ordered to fill the sales didn’t actually exist. well, they existed, but they weren’t in stock. first they told me they’d have them in a couple of weeks, then the story changed to they’d only just ordered them and they were on a container on its way here from korea. well, unreasonable bastard that i am, i got just a little peeved. out of this experience of having been publicly humiliated and humbled to strangers who had trusted me to do the right thing by them, i decided that i could do this better if i just did it myself.

so i started doing some pretty intense research to try and find out what the source of these guitars might be. i had gotten an actual model number off one of the shipping containers, and i googled it…found a company in asia that carried the same guitars, under the “silver star” brand. so the next step turned out to be an exhaustive search of korean musical instrument manufacturers until i found one that branded their instruments with that name…then i started matching model numbers to make sure i had my man. everything looked perfect. so, this past monday, i called them to find out what the story was, and – sure enough – i had my man. so we exchanged a few emails at that point, and they’re sending me specs on their full product line. apparently, they manufacture guitars for a handful of very well known american interests – including gibson and dean and possibly others that they didn’t bother to mention on first contact.

so, while i was thinking that an initial order would be certainly multiple pieces, i wasn’t prepared for what their requirements were for the first one…long story short, it would require an investment of roughly $20K for the first shipment. so, in the time since, i’ve been recruiting partners for the venture, and it’s looking as though we may actually be able to pull this off.

when i told dylan about all this, his comment was, “dad…are we even gonna be able to watch tv anymore?” (meaning, “are the guitars gonna spill out into every crack and crevice in the house now?”)

this is a huge thing, to be sure…requiring a pretty serious investment of time and money. and all because i wanted to add a few pieces to my collection at some point in the hazy past. it has a lot of potential, though…the price they quoted me per piece for the models that we’re chiefly interested in is extremely attractive, and promises a kick-ass margin, depending on what our shipping ends up costing us.

it’s an exciting time…this is a promising venture, should we be able to pull it off.

other developments….

talked for quite some time last night to jim, the MD for the artist in nashville whom i’ve been entertaining thoughts of auditioning for – it doesn’t appear at this point that there’s going to even be an opportunity to audition until close to the end of the month. that, coupled with the fact that he’s got a couple of local people who are showing interest in the gig, could very well mean that this is a foregone conclusion at this point. certainly, stranger things have happened than something like this actually coming together in the eleventh hour, but they’ve got a pretty full itinerary and i can’t see them dragging this process out past the end of the month as it is. i had initially thought that this week would present the best opportunity for me to head down and do this, but this week is all but over at this point. next week, they’re leaving for the NM leg of their perpetual tour on wednesday, so that week is out – leaving the last week of the month.

dunno, man. i’m inclined to think that when that much time passes, either someone surfaces locally, or something else comes up. we’ll see.

in the meantime, i found out that the rigbees are looking for a guitarist, and they’re right in my backyard. might not be the kind of work that would be as lucrative and satisfying as actually gettin’ on the bus, but it’d be a nice change.

listening to me wring my hands over finding more work, you’d think i was sitting at home all the time…two bands aren’t enough for this guy, you might think…what the hell is his problem?

well, it’s not that there’s a problem, per se…i just feel as though for once in my life, i’d like to have the opportunity to get on the bus, so to speak. i know i’m good enough to be playing on that level, and i feel like it’s something i have to prove to myself. i feel as though i should be doing it if i’m capable of doing it. i think i’m getting to that point, now that 30 isn’t a fresh memory for me, that i feel like it’s time to prove it to myself before the window of opportunity closes and it’s no longer realistic for me to think about getting on the bus. and it just seems like a waste of the talent that i have to fritter it away playing rocky mountain way to a roomful of harley davidson enthusiasts every weekend.

i have more than that to offer…and i guess i just want to put it out there at some point.

no one wants to feel as though they’re wasting their talent…or their life, ultimately.