the usual weekend retrospective kinda stuff…

now playing: sunday night football

so somehow this five day break from work has evaporated…it’s coming up on eleven o’clock, and i have to hit the hay soon.

i’m not sure where it went.

today felt as though i spent the whole day in the van…although we did have a pretty hilarious sit-down at the chinese buffet, courtesy of dylan and his buddy derek. they can be a bit much sometimes, but they seemed to be in a pretty complementary frame of mind this weekend – not quite annoying as they can be at times, but animated enough to be funny as hell.

i know i promised an accounting of my trip to the doctor, but i just haven’t had the time to sit down and do it justice yet. i’ll try to tomorrow or wednesday.

i have a front tire on the van that’s showing about an eight inch strip of actual steel belting – so tomorrow i have to try to find a set of front tires for the van before the end of the day or i’ll probably end up cancelling rehearsal with nik tomorrow, since i don’t feel very comfortable taking the van onto the schuylkill expressway with a blowout waiting to happen.

sam’s club usually works people in relatively quickly – i’ll see if i can sneak in there tomorrow after work and get outta there in time to make rehearsal…he wants to work on new stuff, and leigh is supposed to be making it in as well, so it’s an important rehearsal to make – but i’d prefer, personally, to make it in one piece.

stone road played one of its final three gigs on saturday night – at a fire company in northern berks county. it went well, actually – the sound was good, i could hear all the vocals really well, and my guitar sound was back into the zone it’s been missing for the past few shows. i brought my dillion sunburst les paul standard to the gig, and i found myself wondering why i’ve been leaving that at home in favor of my goldtop…what a great guitar. it’s lighter than most guitars its size, very resonant, and it just screams when you open it up.

i was watching (but ultimately didn’t bid on) a set of seymour duncan antiquity humbuckers on ebay as a result of playing that guitar last night…i was going to buy them and save them for one of the ’61 SG copies that are due in sometime in late january, but i’m not so sure that i’ll need them for that guitar…i think i’ll reserve judgement until i’ve gotten a chance to play it, once it’s here.

i met and talked to the lead singer from vertigo vibe last night for quite a while, and i noticed when i was talking to him that the only guitars i had brought to the show last night that weren’t dillions were the strat and telecaster that keith amos built for me…i brought the goldtop and the sunburst standard, the firebird, the tv yellow les paul junior, the jaguar…and keith’s guitars, plus my trusty gibson lap steel. at the end of the night, i took the lap steel out front, laid it down on a table, and started playing it with a stray beer bottle that was sitting on the table i stopped at.

i’m such a campy bastard sometimes.

i did actually enjoy myself last night, though…i seem to have forgotten that this band is on its way into the twilight, soon to be swallowed into oblivion – for a couple of hours, anyway. there were some nice moments last night, and i felt comfortable with my own sound (with a few exceptions) for most of the night.

everyone is starting to formulate their plan, though. donnie told me that he’s putting together a new version of his old band, and asked if i was interested in doing that….keith told me that he was playing with black hills now, and that jerry had asked if i’d be interested in doing that…pete from shame was at keith’s shop while i was there on saturday, and we talked about my involvement in some of the shame shows after the record came out to thicken the band up somewhat…and the ragu project is hanging over my head, as well…

oddly, though, the one thing i seem to be looking forward to the most right now is having all my weekends off for a couple of months after the first of the year.

this weekend has been a prime example of why.

as usual, i set out with a shitload of stuff on my “to-do” list for the weekend, and ended up accomplishing a fraction of what i had wanted to…i started off strong – washed every dish in the house and every piece of clothing i owned, started doing some reorganizing in the studio…but i had a gig on wednesday night…a gig on friday night…a gig on saturday night….and for me, a gig is usually a guaranteed sleep-in the next day until at least eleven o’clock the following morning. i got up early on saturday to make breakfast for dylan as i’d promised the night before, and stopped at keith’s for a bit, but that was it. today i slept until 10:30, thursday i don’t even remember what time i ended up getting out of bed…

…the weekend wasn’t a waste of time, by any means, but i feel like it had a lot more potential than the end result would indicate.

i did, however, make sure that my kids enjoyed it about as much as it was probably possible for them to. even if i didn’t wash a damn thing, i think that would make it a success…but i do think that i thought i’d feel as though i accomplished more when this night rolled around.

it’s all good, though…i do have a pretty focused list for the upcoming week…and it really is out of necessity. i gotta narrow down the things that i need to get done (especially in the early part of the week) and get through them…i’m being dragged into that pre-holiday scramble to make sure that everything arrives when it should (thus avoiding what’s referred to nowadays as the Christmas Disaster of 1999).



i’ll try to be funny tomorrow.

would that those days but come again…

now playing: tom dowd and the language of music on the sundance channel

for the second time tonight, actually. i stayed up to watch it twice.

wow. what a graphic reminder that we’ll never again see times like those that have passed us.

i think the thing that struck me, as i watched this biography of one of the greatest recording engineers and producers who ever lived, is that this guy was present as the idea of being a musician went from being looked upon as a derelict to being looked up to as a role model…the guys he worked with when he was cutting his teeth – the jazz cats of the late forties and early fifties – were second-class citizens…looked upon as beneath those who had more routine existences, more acceptable vocations.

certainly, that’s changed in the time since.

he talked about how booker t and the mg’s couldn’t work in their hometown of memphis, because they weren’t a racially segregated band…and one thing about him that i absolutely didn’t know was that he was drafted into the military during world war II, but was sent back to new york city to work on the manhattan project.

i was touched watching his conversation with ray charles, realizing as i watched it that neither of these men are with us any longer…and that we’ll almost certainly not see either of their kind again.

tom was present as the process of record making went from cutting the sound of a single microphone direct to an acetate through to the modern day digital multitrack process that it’s become now…and was at the forefront of many of the innovations that have made the act of recording what it is today. i mean, this is the guy that recordedlayla, engineered records by ray charles, the drifters, the coasters, thelonious monk, john coltrane, charles mingus, revitalized the process for atlantic subsidiary stax…oversaw records by skynyrd and the allman brothers…

if any of this is important to you, see the movie. seriously.

among all the stories and the history covered in this movie, what you see is a genuinely kind soul. he recalls his stories with a genuine warmth, without bragging…with no evidence of ego.

also, i want to share with you a note from his daughter, posted on the official site of the movie:

For those people who never met Tom Dowd I am truly sorry. He was the most positive, gentle, polite, intelligent and charismatic man I ever met. For those of you who did know Tom Dowd, I think you’d all agree that he was blessed with a warmth and comfort that no other human being in the world possesses.

…Growing up with a father in such high demand was never easy, but he always made time for his family.

When I lived in Boston he spent over 45 hours on the phone with me on one particular week translating a book from French to English to help me write a paper on the Bastille. There is no one else in the world that I can imagine that would do something like this. But that was my father, loving, caring and giving.

This past February 2002 my father received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy’s. Seeing my father with all of his peers and colleges one last time was one of the most special things I ever experienced. I think that Eric Clapton put it best when he wrote in the Grammy program “There is a tribe of musicians, spread all over the world who have been fostered and nurtured by Tom Dowd. We know who we are, and we are proud of who we are, but most of all, we are proud of him. I am honored and privileged to be one of them.”

call me crazy, but somehow i just don’t see sean combs gettin’ the same props when he finally passes on….

i haven’t left the house much since tuesday night – i had plans for wednesday, but i woke up with some discomfort…i actually had planned on following through, but i put some laundry in and laid down on the sofa and slept until almost 2 in the afternoon.

so much for good intentions.

i did make my gig on wednesday night…with a fender twin borrowed from keith amos, since my own twin is under the knife, getting a complete retubing and a cap job…and my standby amp is in the shop after failing me during my last gig. all was well until about halfway through the first set when a strange squealing noise started coming from the amp – actually, it was a strange cross between squealing and a noise that sounded as though every note i played through it resulted in the additional sound of footsteps crunching on gravel….

…so once again, i had to rely on my trusty 12-watt fender princeton amp.

that is, until todd showed up and saved the day.

he came in after the second set and i brought him over and demonstrated the situation, and he said without hesitation, “that’s your reverb. try it without the reverb.”

and ya know what? i turned down the reverb and the nasty-assed racket went away.

i don’t know when todd became an amp guru, but he’s there, man.

by the way, todd’s doing the retubing/recapping job on my own twin. i can’t wait to see how it turns out.

so, heavy props to todd. he knows his shit.

rice and beans



now playing: joni mitchell, “let the wind carry me”


mondays sure do have a way of bringing you crashing back down to reality.

it’s JFK day, by the way….41 years ago in dallas.

i was a total conspiracy theory freak when i was a kid…it was around the time of the 1979 re-opening of the case. i was all over that stuff, man.

what a geek.

had a great weekend, for the most part – spent yesterday at the philadelphia guitar show with my crew – keith amos, lil’ ragu, dylan and wendy, and a fella named jerry who remembered me from singing with me at a private party i played at when jayda and dylan were babies.

slightly freaky, yes.

it was a great show, though…took pictures of luther perkins’ 1956 tweed bassman amp…of dylan staring longingly at a replica of stevie ray vaughn’s often-duplicated “number one” stratocaster, and of him standing beside a 1951 original fender precision bass. i came close to buying an imported f-style mandolin that sounded pretty amazing (if you can hear an instrument over the din of the inside of one of these shows, it has plenty of volume, believe me), and ended up passing it back and forth between myself and a fella named jeff roeckle, who played guitar next to me in the first band i was in after i moved to pennsylvania…the last time i saw him was at charlie degenharts’ cd release party at the colonial theatre back in 2000. and that was the first time i’d seen him in at least six or seven years. i also bumped into bob stirner from living earth and steve wheelock…i didn’t, however, bump into allen james, who i saw there last year.

amazing guitars everywhere…wendy ended up picking up a purple, heart-shaped daisy rock bass which was precisely her size – she fell in love with it. dylan went apeshit over the SRV guitar, too…but i happen to know someone who can build those, so i didn’t feel too compelled to buy the one we saw.

let’s see, what else? rich robinson’s 1970’s gretsch white falcon was there, and for sale…a dead-on replica of clarence white’s famous tattered b-bender telecaster was there (and was manned by the guy who built it, who was no slouch as a player – ragu and i had to keep pushing our jaws back into place), and quite a few old strats, les pauls, and telecasters….and more paul reed smiths than i ever hope to see again.

i was looking all over for the ’61 SG reissue that i’ve been looking for – the duane allman slide guitar. i saw a couple there, but i didn’t see the one. i may end up buying one of the dillions and having keith “relic” it for me when it gets here. i’m keeping an eye on a set of seymour duncan antiquity pickups on eBay for it. i exchanged emails with my dillion source today, and he says they’ll be in in january.

which is perfect, because it’ll be post-christmas, and money shouldn’t be the factor that it will before then.

and once i get that one, i’m going to collect all the dillions in one spot and take a picture of them, send them to john dillion and buck for an endorsement deal.


well, maybe seriously.


discussions have begun anew with regard to dylan moving in with me – he’s continuing to have issues at school, and still seems to be far more comfortable with taking liberties with the truth than i’d prefer that he be…and until today, there was no way to verify that what he said he had for homework was, in fact, what he had. he’s supposed to be writing his assignments in his “agenda book”, but he can choose to write (or not to write) whatever he wants in this book, without anyone having checked it…

…until today.

from now on, his teachers have agreed to initial his agenda book on days when he has no homework. so now, if there’s no initials in his book, then he has homework – whether he wrote it down or not.

so now it just remains to be seen whether or not he’ll actually comply with this, and stay on top of things. he’s got big plans academically for “after he moves in with me”, in his words. there’s a performing arts school that he has his eye on, but i can’t see my way clear to doing anything to make that happen if he’s not going to pull his weight and keep his grades up.

it’s obvious that i need to make more of an effort to stay on top of him about his grades. as one of his teachers pointed out, he does quite well in the things he’s interested in – it’s the things that he doesn’t feel compelled to stay on top of that suffer.

so i’m not doing nano this year (god knows how i’d make time for it this month…not that this month is that much different from other months, in a lot of ways), but i went on a tear looking for something i thought i wrote in my journal a while back, and what i thought i wrote here turned out to be a passage in the book i worked on last year…and reading back over it, i decided that – well, i decided it kinda sucked. but i did feel, based on what i saw, that i should probably give some thought to starting over on it sometime…i doubt it’ll be this year yet, but when i’m in a reflective enough mood, i do want to dive back into that.

it’s actually something of a shame that i don’t have time to dive into it now…what with me being in a plenty reflective mood these days…

one more thing, then i gotta bolt…

jayda called me last week to ask what time i was coming home – that particular night, there were a number of problems that i was trying to get through – which were compounded at the last minute by a phone outage right after we lost power. she said that there wasn’t anything to eat at her mom’s that she wanted and wanted to eat at my house…i told her that if she could get her (unemployed and agendaless) mom to drop her off, she was welcome to eat at my house if she wanted.

when i finally got home, there were two settings on the table – one for her and one for me. she’d come over and cooked for us both. she made rice and beans, tostones, and chicken, and waited for me to get home before she ate.

parents of 14 year olds aren’t often on the receiving end of such thoughtful gestures, to be certain.

being a parent isn’t easy, by any stretch – but it has its rewards.

the introspection sauna



now playing: aunt pat, “weather”


from a recent email:

not a single political post since the election – you ok?

well, frankly, i feel like i’m wasting my breath. i think that most of those of you who stop by here share my opinions, and anything that i might write about from a political perspective probably only serves to affirm my stance on an issue where my thoughts were probably pretty predictable, at best…and i’m tired of venting. and the apathy is kickin’ in, big time.

so the dems wanna lie down on the porter goss confirmation? reap the benefits, motherfuckers. stand there and scratch your asses while he does the exact opposite of what he promised, in terms of his pledge to remain nonpartisan – and watch him clean house and sweep all those “disloyal” agents out the door, critics be damned.

cabinet members are resigning like rats on a sinking ship, and being replaced by people like gonzales (the guy who drafted the legal opinion that the geneva convention was “quaint” and “outdated”. i’d love to get some of the troops’ opinion on that one), and condi, sweet condi – got herself a big ol’ promotion.

i’m sick to death of hearing the democrats’ whining and hand-wringing over their “message”. i really am. it makes them look every bit as weak and pathetic as they’re perceived to be.


there’s nothing wrong with the sermon. there’s something seriously wrong with the congregation.

your message is being filtered in the heartland by homophobic skoal-dippin’ reality TV addicts who listen to country music blaring from the speakers in the back of their hemi-powered dodge ram with the NRA bumper sticker on it.

ignorance is bliss, and they’ve made it as clear as they know how that they don’t want you sissy, homo-lovin’ raghead sympathizers pissin’ in their cornflakes, thank you very much. so you should just move to iraq if you hate it so much here and get outta their faces. “fear factor” is on, and you’re drownin’ out the tv.

“angry? oh, heavens no…i certainly didn’t mean to give that impression…” – zell miller, to wolf blitzer

me? i offer no such apologies. i really don’t know how i feel about sharing my country with these assclowns.

and since we’re stuck with this asshole for the time being, i pretty much have to grin and bear it.

but that doesn’t mean i have to think about it every waking hour, like i did when i thought we had a very real chance of sending his ass packing.

so i choose to occupy my thoughts elsewhere. and life seems to be only too willing to cooperate, in terms of providing material.


every so often in relationships, you find yourself having those talks – the one john cusack referred to as “one of those state-of-the-union type conversations”, where complaints and grievances are aired and cards are placed on the table, and decisions have to be made about your collective general direction…

i woke up in the middle of one of those conversations on sunday, and i’m still processing it days later (among many other things), trying to figure out exactly where i stand on things.

i think what it boils down to, for me, is that i have to make some decisions about what i want my life to look like and i need to communicate them to those around me who may or may not be part of that picture and act on it and move on. reading that back, it sounds pretty abrupt and final – i don’t know that this is the case, but i think it might have the potential to be.

somehow, i’ve gotten away with just being who i am for the better part of 35 years, without having to give huge amounts of thought to trying to change who that is. this is not to say that i haven’t spent some serious time in the Introspection Sauna in my day, for that’s certainly the case. but most of that has been examing my past and how it has manifested itself in who i’ve become…in identifying some faulty thinking on my part and working on changing that, at times. i’ve never put myself in the position of thinking, “ok, i need to become less of this and more of that and i need to add this trait to my resume and get rid of that one…”

i don’t know if i’m even capable of that. well, maybe i am, i don’t know…i’ve never been put in the position of having to find out. i mean, i’m no more capable of “becoming” certain things than i’m capable of becoming a middle-aged black woman simply because i decide that’s what i want to be.

i’ve gone through some changes, though, in the time since we committed to each other, and she’s most certainly done the same…not the kinds of things that typically temper affections in relationships, either…but certainly, i think she’s more than capable of making the case that what she got isn’t exactly what she bought…and i don’t blame her for being disillusioned about things.

i’m just tired, though. tired of thinking about it.

between the emotional energy i sank into this election, negotiating the breakup of my five year old band, dealing with raising two teenage children in concert with their mother in separate houses, my elevating disillusionment with my job, some soon-to-be diagnosed potential health issues, and walking into a house that resembles the old house more with every passing day, i’m finding that i’m tired of thinking about a lot of things.

i’m finding that it’s easier not to think about certain things, and there’s a danger in that.

on the road that i’m on, the assholetown exit isn’t that far ahead.




now playing: lyle lovett, “north dakota”


yesterday, darryl (drummer for stone road) called me and told me that he, too, was retiring after the last gig in december.

so that’s two down, now.

(regular readers will remember that barry, the bass player, gave his notice about a month ago.)

there’s work booked for next year – i’m not sure what we’re gonna do where that’s concerned. i’ll probably talk to the guys about it next week when we get together.

we have four shows left…one of which will be our “last waltz”…our farewell show. hopefully, quin and maybe shawn will agree to get involved. i mentioned the idea to darryl yesterday, and he was receptive. now all that remains is to call everyone else.

mitch was out for the show this past weekend, and we talked about it for quite some time afterward. mitch is, without a doubt, the biggest fan of this band there is, and he’s as bummed as someone in that position would be. i can’t say that i’m not a little disappointed, but i’ve been pretty philosophical about it – to quote jeremy pivens’ character in serendipity, “when god closes a door, he opens a window….”

i told him that i thought it was a good time to call it quits for this band, as we hadn’t really improved as a unit, we’ve been stagnating musically, and we’d been doing too much of the same old material and it had been becoming increasingly obvious with every passing gig that we were phoning it in, to a certain extent. and a lot of the gigs just weren’t fun anymore.

the show on saturday was a bit of a scramble, to put it nicely.

barry called me on my cell phone as we were driving home saturday evening and told me that darryl had been called in to work, and wasn’t going to be able to make the gig. my first thought was, “excellent! i’m off the hook and i can get some stuff done at home…”

and yet barry seemed pretty determined to pull this gig off…and we did, by the seat of our pants. he called donnie, who got in touch with a drummer friend of his (affectionately named pinhead) and asked him to come out and sit in with us for the gig….but i had to bring my drums up from the basement, pack them into the van, and cart them to the show in order to be able to pull it off. i was running later than i wanted to be in the first place, and all that extra work really set me into the hole, from the clock’s perspective. barry had dropped kathy off at a bar that i knew how to get to, so i picked her up for directions once we got on the road (the location of the gig was a rod and gun club in the northern berks county woods with a healthy amount of taxidermy on the walls behind the stage).

we were up and playing by roughly :20 after the hour…so everything was going ok at that point.

for about seven minutes.

at that point, my lab L-7 amp (the one that i’m depending on to work right now, because my fender twin is getting a new set of output tubes and a cap job) shut itself off…and didn’t power up again for the rest of the night. so, for the rest of the night, my little twelve watt fender princeton that only just happened to be in the van carried me. i plugged the speakers from the larger amp into it, and managed to get a little more headroom…enough to finish the night, anyway.

saturday night was the official debut of the two new guitars that keith amos built for me, and i was a little upset that things panned out the way they did. now, the princeton actually held its own for the course of the night, which is a small miracle…all things considered. when you consider that i was across the stage from a hundred watt marshall with a 4×12 cabinet, it’s amazing anyone even knew i was there.

there’s something magical about that little amp. i’ve never had it examined or repaired for anything, because it’s never broken…but it’s the loudest amp of its class that i’ve ever played through. and not just for the sake of volume, either.

when you crank it up, it just sounds better and better.

now, the only problem with that is that once you’re over 6 or 7, you can put any notions of a clean sound out of your mind.

but the new strat and the black ragu tele certainly held their own.

our saturday morning meetings are becoming a ritual for the three of us…keith, ragu, and myself. mike noecker stopped by a couple of weeks ago as well, since he had a pair of instruments in to be worked on. we’re considering forming a band behind the three of us in the spring. we’re all ready to take the winter off.

ragu is a master storyteller…i could listen to that guy for hours. some of his stories aren’t necessarily funny, but you end up laughing anyway. i have to get him to retell his story about the kid who wanted to fight him at the village for my son when he’s around next…he’ll get a kick out of it.

but saturdays…we end up gravitating to keith’s shop, and while keith works on whatever is at hand, ragu tweaks whatever project he’s working on at the time, and i either come in with something else that needs work or check on the progress of whatever might be in the shop at the time. inevitably, i’ll end up picking up a guitar and ragu and i start playing off each other.

on saturday, i had brought my princeton inside to test one of the guitars and i started playing “that smell” by lynyrd skynyrd, and ragu started playing the other part…and when the time came for the dual lead at the end, he and i damn near nailed it, including the swapping,
ascending part that comes right after the dual lead.

now, it should be remarked, that he and i got it well before donnie and i got it….it’s still a little shady when stone road plays it.

so anyway, keith is working on a headstock joint repair on a 40+ year old gibson es-335, and it’s up on a stand on one of the benches, next to its case.

ragu and i go over to inspect keiths’ joint repair, and as we’re standing there looking at it, keith says to us, “hey…you gotta open the case, man. get a whiff of the case.”

and, without saying a word, the case gets opened up, and three grown men all stick their heads down into the case cavity and inhale as if we were smelling what was cooking in the oven.

then, at some point, one of us looked up and we all made eye contact – it was one of those moments where you’re doing something embarrassing and you get caught by someone who is also doing something absurd….

and we all doubled over, laughing, and ragu almost wet himself…he had to run to the bathroom.

and as of now, an official phrase has been coined for our affliction.

we’re all guitarded.

in fact, we’re talking about getting t-shirts made to proclaim it to the world.

grown men…reduced to lowly case sniffers in the presence of a vintage guitar.

geetards, every one of us.

the great american guitar show is in philadelphia this coming weekend, and we’re
going as a group.

it’ll be like therapy.

or maybe more like a threshold rehabilitation services field trip….


now playing: marty higgins and blake allen, various songs rotating endlessly in winamp

i certainly can’t claim to have any proof of this, but i’d dare say that no one is as adept as emotional self-mutilation through music as yours truly. it’s one of my gifts.

this week has descended into a place i’m a little too familiar with for my own good…in fact, when i was searching the blog archives the other day, i couldn’t help but notice that i was dealing with some of this same stuff last year at around this time.

i know how cryptic all this must sound, but i’m just going to leave it at that for the time being. i don’t know that i really feel like getting too far into it here. there’s a dialogue involved already, and i’m not ready to recap a work in progress just yet.

she was right, though, when she said this…

…closure doesn’t really erase pain. We sort of store it in our bodies. It is the space in between us and other people.

and not just the distance between you and the person who hurt you….but the distance between you and anyone else who dares to venture into that space once inhabited…

wendy called, distraught, from the library last night. she was promoted to library director less than a month ago, upon the board having fired her predecessor – so no real transition period at all, unfortunately.

now wendy is more than capable of picking up the torch and running with it, but she’s working two jobs at the moment doesn’t seem to be ready to do things any differently at the moment…at any rate, she was feeling overwhelmed as a result of everything she’d had to take on in such a short time, and all she really wanted from me was for me to listen, i think.

i don’t think i did a very good job, in retrospect.

i think i interjected a little too much of what i’d do into the situation, might’ve been a little more judgemental-sounding than i’d have preferred to have been…i just don’t think i was much of a shoulder at that point in time.

i’d been sitting here at work, stewing in my own juice…and the phone rang. and i just wasn’t where i should’ve been to be the person she needed me to be at that point.

she and i had a conversation some time back in which i insisted to her that i wasn’t a very nice guy, and she tried to defend me to myself…i’m still convinced that i was right. i’m really not a very nice guy. i don’t know when this transition took place specifically, but the kind, generous, sympathetic person that i was once upon a time seems to have vanished and has been replaced by the guy who can’t even just listen quietly to someone who needs an ear.

(i know i’m gonna get some dissention from some of my friends on this point, but i’ll continue to beg to differ. in fact, i’d go so far as to say that during the course of that phone call, i might’ve gone from simply a former nice guy over the edge of the fence to assholetown…and frankly, if my disposition doesn’t improve soon, i may as well start looking for an apartment there…)

the one moment of levity last night was provided by jayda, whos’ taken on impersonating rachel dratsch’s “stepdaughter” character from saturday night live and was following dylan around last night, chanting, “rick, rick, rick, rick, RICK! can i get my ears pierced, rick? can i, rick? rick, rick, rick, RICK!” she was standing behind the sofa doing this and leaned over the back of it and flipped herself over the back of the sofa and onto the floor…at which point they both broke up laughing.

i almost pissed myself. it was the funniest thing i’d seen in a pretty dismal week, thus far.

there’s obviously a lot more on my mind of late…but i really need to do what i need to do to get the hell out of here for the weekend.

lifestyle maintenance

now playing: styx, “crystal ball”

so last night, we finally got around to watching the director’s cut of almost famous…and man, there are some edits that were made that i sure as hell don’t understand.

there’s one scene, in particular, that almost had me in tears.

the scene where russell hammond and william miller walk out of the hotel towards the pool, and “simple man” by lynyrd skynyrd is playing in the background – the “just make us look cool” scene?

well, here’s the dialogue as it originally appeared in the movie….


russell to william: see, i grew up with these guys. and i can’t play all that i can play. i’m past them as musicians.

(looks out at pool)…but, the more popular we get, the bigger their houses get, the more responsibilites, the pressure, y’know….

…the harder it gets for me to walk out on ’em.

(looks back at william)

then you forget. you forget what it’s like to be a fan. you hear it, when you’re in bands all the time, it doesn’t sound like music anymore. it sounds like….lifestyle maintenance or something.

(william chuckles)

i used to be able to hear….the sounds of the world. everything. to me, it sounded like music.

and…now, i don’t hear it….

…i don’t hear that anymore.

do you understand what i’m tryin’ to say?

(william nods)

(laughs) what am i doing? i’m tellin’ secrets…to the one guy you don’t tell secrets to.


for some reason, i thought that i’d written a post about this particular feeling before – i felt, when i saw the movie, as if cameron crowe had been reading my blog. but i just finished going back through the entire archives, and i couldn’t find it. where i did find the sentiment i was talking about was in my ill-fated NaNo attempt from last year:


to call him a rock historian would be something akin to calling bill gates a computer nerd – it was a slight understatement. he had picked up the bug from the time he’d gotten hooked on the radio. he kept a running, written list as a kid, later as a teenager, of all the songs he’d heard, by title and artist. it was as if he was afraid he’d forget them, or that he needed to keep a record of having heard them and wanted to have a point of reference. later he would discover the midnight special on friday nights with wolfman jack and company, which he stayed up to watch religiously to see who’d be on the show any given week. he vividly remembered crying when he saw a jim croce clip on the show, a new grief stemming from actually seeing him perform and knowing that he was gone…and that footage like this was all that was left. he remembered seeing jackson browne and james taylor perform on saturday night live as a teenager, seeing bands play on the old soundstage program on pbs…for a kid growing up in his particular set of geographical conditions, it was all there was – the only means by which to put faces to the voices on the radio. it was a time before mtv, before radio had been dethroned as the peoples’ outlet – when stations like WKIR still existed, and corporations like clear channel hadn’t yet bought them all up. his only connection to the music he loved was the radio and the occasional copy of creem or hit parader bought at the grocery store newsstand…and he eagerly devoured it all.

these were the days devoted by so many his age to discovering girls, to dealing with hormones, to finding ones’ place within their social structure – and it was no different for him, but he traversed those trials with his unseen friend always at his side. music made his adolescence equal parts better and worse – they tempered the angst and punctuated the victories, these songs that peppered the air around him almost constantly…whether by their actual presence or the memory of them in his head. these songs were full of mystery to him – rock and roll was brand new, as far as he was concerned, and he wanted to know everything there was to know about it. the radio was on from the time he got off the school bus until the next morning when he got back on.

so it was only natural that he would eventually pursue the deeper mystery of how to play it.

he remembered sitting in the front row at church on saturday nights as a kid, watching the gospel groups who came through and feeling that sound wash over him…they looked like they were having so much fun. it certainly didn’t look difficult. but the music they were making was a million miles away from the bands he heard on his radio.

for instance, everyone he knew at school seemed to have a KISS t-shirt. he had never heard them on the radio, but when he saw that they were going to appear on paul lynde’s variety show, he watched with his grandparents…and sat horrified at the spectacle that he couldn’t really name – blood, fire-breathing, makeup-wearing half-men, playing incredibly loud music that, in the presence of his grandparents, scared him to death. later it wouldn’t seem so threatening, but he could feel the judgement hanging heavy in the air in front of the tv that night.

it was too late, though, to deter him…he spent hours listening to the radio, watching music on tv when he could, trying to break the code. he’d listen intently to every nuance of the songs he heard and wonder, “how did they get that amazing vocal sound?” “how do they make the drums sound like that?” “why does the guitar on that song sound so much different than the guitar on the other song on their album?” every new song was a new chapter of the perpetual mystery waiting to be explored. every band was brand new, every album a new path to explore, every day brought a new singer, a new sound, something that he hadn’t heard before.

now, though, after over ten years as a professional musician, there weren’t many mysteries left. what remains to be deconstructed of your favorite songwriter once you own all their albums and you’ve read all their interviews? he used to have dreams about the “missing dan fogelberg album”, convinced that there had to be a record between captured angel and netherlands because of the huge stylistic differences between the two of them. in those dreams, he could hear the songs as clear as day, as if they actually existed…but his subconscious made them up for him, just the way he’d pictured them.

now, after studying rock and roll and the means by which it’s made, he could often tell by listening to a record what kind of guitar was used on it…the out of phase honkiness or the neck pickup throatiness of a fender stratocaster, or the midrange-laden power of a humbucking pickup on a les paul – he could hear it. that mysterious whoosh heard on the drum break on journey’s anytime? a flanger. he remembered how he thought as a kid that the difference between the guitar sounds on boston’s dont look back were the result of two amps, one far far away from the stage and one right up front and turned up really loud. he had to chuckle at that now…now that he knew better.

for him, now fifteen years older and a lifetime removed from the sense of wonder he took to bed with him each night as he tucked himself into bed next to the glow of his trusty clock radio, there were few unexplored mysteries anymore. the magic created in his mind by those records he heard as a thirteen year old had been replaced, a little at a time, by the knowledge of how that magic was created.

and how he yearned for the ignorance that drew him down this road in the first place.


i think i need to finish that book someday.

right after i send a nice, polite what the fuck email to cameron crowe.

invasion of the rachels

now playing: marc cohn, “dig down deep”

they’re everywhere, they’re everywhere…

tonight, i was invited to the annual “ragustock” show as a special guest. lil’ ragu is a local blues legend in my area, and a regular at the saturday “hangs” at keith amos’ guitar shop. that’s where i met him.

he’s such a great guy – dylan was there with me that day, and dylan immediately fell under ragu’s spell…he’s enamoured with him. and dylan was supposed to accompany me to the bash tonight, which he did…but i’d kidnapped him from a wedding reception to take him with me, and apparently he’d eaten something at the reception that didn’t sit well with him, and i had to take him home due to some pretty serious indigestion. i had spent a good chunk of friday night and some time earlier this morning teaching him la grange on the bass so that he could sit in at the end of the night and everything, but he just wasn’t up for it.

so i went back in after taking him home, and ragu said my name over the PA at the end of the set, as they were getting ready to take a break…not long after, a very bohemian looking, slender straight-haired brunette who looked a little like rita coolidge came up to me and said, “are you tom?”

it was my ex-girlfriend samantha’s friend rachel, who used to work with her. turned out that her boyfriend, kerry, used to play drums in ragu’s band. now, this was the kerry that ragu had confided in me that he really missed when he’d left, who had such a great snap to his playing, et cetera…and it was rachel’s boyfriend. i had known that he was a drummer from the days when the two of them were friends…i guess it was only a matter of time until we crossed paths.

i could see why ragu liked his playing so much…he’s a great pocket drummer with a kick-ass sense of timing. and he knows the importance of being able to hear the snare above the rest of the kit. it was a pleasure playing with him.

there were a lot of musicians there tonight – and twice, i was “recruited” by other guys who were there. the one guy, i had mentioned to kerry after the show, seemed as though he came there specifically looking for new guys to put a band together. pretty smart, though, if you ask me.

you guys may remember my having mentioned yet another rachel in one of my entries from last week – rachel, jayda’s classmate from school whom jayda had defended from the republican throngs the day after the election?

well, i finally got to meet her.

jayda had a conference on thursday night that i attended regarding her gifted classes for the year, and jayda pointed rachel out to me, sitting at the table right behind ours.

i walked over to her, and said, you’re rachel, right?

she turned around, somewhat sheepishly, and said, “yeah…”

i said, “i hope you don’t mind, but i’m gonna give you a hug.”

then i introduced myself and told her who i was….after probably freaking her out a bit.

after both families were finished with our respective meetings with the guidance counselors, the kids, their mom and i talked to rachel and her mother for a good half an hour there in the lunchroom of the high school. her mother also teaches there on occasion, i found out. and rachel?

she’s brilliant. really.

she struck me as the personification of leelee sobieski’s character in never been kissed somewhat…she has a sparkle in her eye, very pretty, ambitious, and smart – too smart, really. too smart to ever cross over onto the jessica alba turf, and that shall, in all likelihood, be her salvation. her mother is incredibly bright, and is doing a great job of raising a child with a fully-functioning brain in her head.

i hate that they have the shadow of her brother’s deployment hanging over their head.

and i wonder which is worse…the hypersensitivity of the american population in the post-vietnam era, when people vented their frustrations from an unjust war on the soldiers, or the modern day pretentious, patriotic chest-beating that’s going on in the face of all this ridiculous bravado at the peril of the families of those who end up going?

there is no happy ending for so many people in their position. even when he does come back, what effect will the things he’s about to see have on him? is it likely at all that he’ll be the same person who got on the plane?

let’s remember, folks…chimpy has earned political capital in this campaign, and he’s going to spend it.

it will inevitably be paid by people like rachels’ brother.

and all you assholes out there with your little yellow ribbon stickers on the back of your SUV’s who voted for this sonofabitch will have their blood on your hands.

support our troops, indeed.

you can fool some of the people some of the time…and if they’re stupid enough, you can fool just enough of the people at precisely the right time…

and earn your place next to LBJ in the history books.

oh, and the other rachel? we may have to resort to email – my ability to use instant messaging at work seems to have mysteriously disappeared last week (probably related in some small way to the fact that daily kos has made its way onto the “403 forbidden” list. i’m real interested to find out what our CEO’s thoughts on that are, considering his own political leanings, but i haven’t seen him in the time since…yet.) point being, i’ve disappeared in the afternoons for a reason. say hi to spence for me…and thank him for the weather report. 🙂

there are storytellers…

now playing: lynn miles, “the ghost of deadlock”

and then there’s joe walsh.

this is a story that he told, printed in david crosby‘s autobiography, long time gone. i’m sure that i’ll eventually get a polite legal letter regarding my having reprinted it here, but i stumbled across it recently and i just had to share it. i love this story.


I had a 41 foot sailboat and I lived in Santa Barbara, California, and I was in the Eagles. We came off a tour and I was on my boat, wishing I knew how to sail it or how it worked.

I heard, by word of mouth, that David’s boat and David were in the harbor. There had been amazing sea stories about his ability to handle any situation that Mother Nature and/or the ocean could come up with and I had heard from Jimmy Buffett that David Crosby was one of the finest sailboat captains. Humbly, I walked over to his boat, met his crew, and later that day, while I was sitting on my boat, David stopped by and introduced himself, looked at my boat, hung out, and said, “we should go sailing sometime.” A year later, in 1978, David was in the harbor again with his boat, found me, and invited me to go sailing for about a week so he would teach me how. I said, “Okay.”

Boy, did he teach me how.

I got to go to the grocery store and get a bunch of groceries and carry ‘em from some station wagon about a half a mile down the docks to his boat and I got to help him put all the groceries away. Then he said, “See this? This is a halyard.” And “See this? This is a this. This is a that. This is an anchor. This is how you do this.” He showed me his boat, which is one of the finest sailing boats I’ve ever seen. Finally, he says, “Be down here at five in the morning, ‘cause that’s when we’re leaving.” I got on my boat and all the groceries we had were potato chips and M&M’s and stuff. At about 5:30 the next morning, I left the harbor in my boat and followed David to an island called Santa Cruz. We went over there and anchored in a harbor and dinghied over to his boat later in the afternoon and were invited to stay for dinner, which was good because after a hard day of sailing, potato chips and M&M’s are not enough. I wished I had at least bought some hot dogs or something, but that wouldn’t help because I couldn’t get the stove lit. So we went over to his boat and had dinner and he told me all about sailing to Tahiti, showed me a sextant and gradually I learned how to sail.

Then we went to Catalina Island to a place called Avalon. We stayed there for a couple of days. I learned how to go buy groceries and put ‘em in my own boat, which is a good thing to know. Next we went to another island called San Clemente Island, not to be confused with Nixon’s West Coast White House – this is an island, fairly remote. We went around to the far side and David warned me about how much fun it was going to be. We pulled into a beautiful little harbor and I got anchoring lessons. When everything was secured, we went over to his boat and he says, “Come on, we’re gonna go scuba diving.” And I said, “I don’t know about that. Aren’t there sharks and stuff?”

He said, “Yeah!”

So, the next thing I know, I have a wet suit on and I’m underwater, breathing air out of some tank, and I guess I did pretty good. I passed. The next thing I know after that, we’re back onboard, eating a bunch of really good things like lobster and mussels and abalone. I also learned how to pound abalone so you can actually eat it; if you don’t pound it right, it’s like chewin’ on a balloon. It’s kinda like getting a pizza with rubber bands and balloons on it.

Toward late, late, late afternoon, a naval patrol boat, like a PT boat, pulled up and a bunch of officers broadcast over their PA system that the harbor had to be evacuated. There were one or two other boats there, some lobster and abalone fishermen. What I didn’t know was that you can’t even go onto this particular island ‘cause for the last fifteen years it’s been a target for the Pacific Fleet, a firing range for battleships and destroyers. The Navy guys said, “You have to get out of here because at twelve, seven…nineteen-thirty zulu,” or something, “we’re going to have target practice.” And all these other boats left.

And I said, “We better get out of here, don’t you think, David?” And he said, “No problem.” Then they came around to tell us that we had to go, but they wind up saying, “Hey, Cros!” The entire U.S. Navy knew David Crosby. He sent over a few six-packs and introduced me and they knew my tunes, so I was okay with them. Then Cros says, “Where’s the best seat in the house?” And they say, “Over here by us.”

We pull up our anchors and go over near them, right? Once we’re there, Crosby says, “Now the fun starts.” It was almost dark – the sun had just left the sky – and we could here these Navy guys next to us talking to all these big battleships just over the horizon.

It looked like lightning at first, twenty miles away. Then we heard the shells coming and a flare went off, a sighting flare, and shells the size of a Volkswagen start to hit the cliffs of the island. The object of the game was to get these three shells as close to the sighting flare as possible. And it was like the 4th of July and it went on for, like, an hour and a half. The guns would go off on the horizon and you’d catch a glimpse of a destroyer or cruiser or something, then in about ten seconds, shells would come screaming overhead. We were maybe three football fields away from the cliffs on the island and they would slam in there. Ka-Blam! The last thing that you heard was the actual sound of the shells being fired. The guys in the PT boat would say, “Aim a little more to the left.” Or “try a blue flare this time.” “Hey, Cros, you like that one?” I was very nervous. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen and it went on for an hour and a half.

The last thing that the battleships did was to fire a sighting flare directly over my boat, when they were supposed to be aiming into the cliffs. The inference was that there were three shells coming next! I remember standing on the deck, yelling at a battleship twenty miles away: “No No NO NO NO!” Yelling at the top of my lungs, which the Navy thought was hilarious because they had a microphone open and all the guys on the battleship were listening to me going berserk because I thought three Volkswagens were going to land on my boat. Cros had set it up with the Navy guys!

I got set up pretty good on that one.

we are…we are…

now playing: janis ian, “tea and sympathy”

 from sources unknown, yet passed on to me by legendary philadelphia civic activist mitch deighan: 

John Kerry – the REAL concession speech:

My fellow Americans, the people of this nation have spoken, and spoken with a clear voice. So I am here to offer my concession.

[Boos, groans, rending of garments]

I concede that I overestimated the intelligence of the American people. Though the people disagree with the President on almost every issue, you saw fit to vote for him. I never saw that coming. That’s really special. And I mean “special” in the sense that we use it to describe those kids who ride the short school bus and find ways to injure themselves while eating pudding with rubber spoons. That kind of special.

I concede that I misjudged the power of hate. That’s pretty powerful stuff, and I didn’t see it. So let me take a moment to congratulate the President’s strategists: Putting the gay marriage amendments on the ballot in various swing states like Ohio… well, that was just genius. Genius. It got people, a certain kind of people, to the polls. The unprecedented number of folks who showed up and cited “moral values” as their biggest issue, those people changed history. The folks who consider same sex marriage a more important issue than war, or terrorism, or the economy… Who’d have thought the election would belong to them? Well, Karl Rove did. Gotta give it up to him for that.


Now, now. Credit where it’s due.

I concede that I put too much faith in America’s youth. With 8 out of 10 of you opposing the President, with your friends and classmates dying daily in a war you disapprove of, with your future being mortgaged to pay for rich old peoples’ tax breaks, you somehow managed to sit on your asses and watch the Cartoon Network while aging homophobic hillbillies carried the day. You voted with the exact same anemic percentage that you did in 2000. You suck.

Seriously, y’do.

[Cheers, applause]

Thank you. Thank you very much.

There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time for healing, to bring the nation together. Let me tell you a little story. Last night, I watched the returns come in with some friends here in Los Angeles. As the night progressed, people began to talk half-seriously about secession, a red state / blue state split. The reasoning was this: We in blue states produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining about ’em. We in the blue states are the only ones who’ve been attacked by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a war in our name. We in the blue states produce the entertainment that you consume so greedily each day, while you in the red states show open disdain for us and our values. Blue state civilians are the actual victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are the ones standing behind us and yelling “Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!”

More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I’m impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons and daughters who might die in this war know it’s not true, the people in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it’s not true, but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I really envy that luxury. I concede that.

Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and excoriates us… we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values. You knew better: America doesn’t need its allies, doesn’t need to share the burden, doesn’t need to unite the world, doesn’t got a human shield of pointy-headed, atheistic, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never have. Because we’re “morally inferior,” I suppose, we are supposed to respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that for 20 years, we’ve done just that.

It’s not a “ha-ha” funny joke, I realize, but it’s a joke all the same.

(end excerpt)

yeah, it’s just a tad condescending, but i’m not quite finished swishing my anger around in my mouth to try and wash the taste away yet.