Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Turtles on the Tour Bus...

"Every trail has some puddles." - Old West Saying 

Woke up at 8:00 AM rolling around in the bunk.  It was dark, someone must have remembered to turn the overhead light off last night.  I seem to have lost my socks in the night, I assume they are on top of Ian in the bunk below right now, I'll get them later when he wakes up.  600 mile trip from Salt Lake City, so the bus is still moving.  John, the driver (also former touring country drummer and extremely nice fella from Louisiana) has had a cough for a week or so now.  I hear him up front hacking away.  Hope he'll be alright.  

The view rolling into Denver area is pretty.  Big, blue sky peppered with clouds.  Far off to my right are the snow capped rocky mountains.  In the closer view are farms, small towns, old silos and mills, new micro condos and assorted rural businesses.  The ground looks pretty dry, bet it hasn't rained much around here recently.  But it's the view I'm accustomed to seeing around here, beautiful rolling green hills for miles heading to the base of the vast mountain range.  It's unique to this place, and I'm lucky for knowing it.    

The front lounge of the bus is empty and quiet.  Only leavings from last nights post show activities.  In sight are 3 backpacks, coats and hats, the floor has maybe 6 pairs of shoes.  All black and ironically all Doc Martens or Vans, I suppose even the non-conformists conform. The table is littered with chargers, papers, wrapped pastries from the nice lady in Seattle who cooked an insane amount of food for us.  There is also a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book, the PS4 equipped with 4 controllers for optimal FiFA use and some floater water bottles.  

I took some of those floaters and poured them into the Kuerig machine for coffee.  I ate after the show last night, so it's daring having a coffee while we are still driving and before I'd had my morning poop.  The great tour conundrum ensues, what to consume versus when/where I can empty the tank. 

Everyone is still sleeping, I wonder how long this can last.  It's only a matter of time before somebody slips through that door and begins their morning.  Some brush their teeth, some eat cereal, some go straight to coffee machine.  But I'll soon be distracted by the flow of the herd, it's inevitable.   

My ears are popping, hitting in and out of elevations.  This coffee might have been a bad idea, the turtle is poking and no idea how long we get to Denver. On top of that, no idea if the venue will be open or if I'll be left, as I often am, to wander the streets looking for anywhere to poop. In a cruel twist of fate, I may have to purchase another small coffee for the privilege to sit.  

And so it begins, the herd has risen.  Marv at the sink brushing his grill while two others check their phones.   I'm distracted now, but glad I got to write this.  People say write what you know, the most unique thing about my life is this traveling musical circus and the methods and customs of its inhabitants.  So, that's a tour bus morning.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Gamblero…and an Altercation with my Sense of Humanity.

I'm a Brooklyn Nets season ticket holder.  If you asked me 20 years what my goal in life was, in general, it was paying rent through music and eventually getting season tickets to basketball.  I love the game, to me when played correctly it's poetry in motion and I can't get enough of it.  To that end, I have been driving in and out of Brooklyn close to 30 times a year to see my team play.  Even when they lose, I love it, because usually someone has to play beautiful basketball to get it done.  

Since the first few games at the new Barclays Center, a new fan favorite appeared in the lower section.  We've always had Mr. Whammy, an older local attorney who sits behind the hoop and curses the other teams free throws with his devil horns and funky gyrations.  But now appeared the Gamblero.  On the screen, every game, I'd watch this dude wearing hipster big glasses, neon undershirts and hats and a Jersey that says "Gamblero #44".   During timeouts or any stop in action, he would take to the aisles and do his signature dancing to the stadium music.  Soon enough, the camera people took enough attention that he was a regular stadium fixture.  You couldn't get through a game without seeing the Gamblero.  Always smiling, always dancing, always rooting on the Nets.  

Sounds nice enough doesn't it??  Well, here come my blaring lesson in humanity.  I ALWAYS used to make fun of him.  I wondered, who is this clown?  With the hipster rimmed glasses, the neon clothes, the funky dance moves.   He always had the best seats in the lower deck, something I assumed was hooked up through the Nets to have a famous super fan guy to promote, which I resented.  Most of the time when he came on the screen, I, like an asshole, made fun of him.  

About a month ago, he died.  Not in some natural fashion, but by suffering injuries leaping out of a 2nd story window in Queens.   I was shocked and immediately saddened and tried to get any information I could.  Digging through his history has been what's haunting me about my general attitude and judgement towards people.   

He was only 38 years old.  Had a loving fiance who was ruined by the news.  He, for whatever reason, lived life with a prosthetic leg.  He was a pretty well known graffiti and graphic artist.  He has parents and family and a life asides from what I knew of him.  Funky, dancing, smiling guy at Nets games.  

It turns out, in early December he was removed by security at Madison Square Garden during the Nets/Knicks game.  I'm not sure how it happened, but a video surfaced of him being carried up the aisle without his leg and eventually dropped by security guards.  I briefly heard about this story and brushed it over, not knowing the humiliation and pain he felt from this event left him scarred.  By word of his fiance, this was an extremely traumatic experience for him that lead to a lack of sleeping and some fits of panic and hysteria.  He was in bad shape due to this and was having a hard time getting back on track.  

Oddly, I saw him dancing at the Sixers game on December 12th without knowing any of this occurred.    I passed him off as I normally did, I had no reason to think otherwise.   Turns out it was the last time I or anyone would see him there.   The following night while sleeping at his father's house, he woke up hysterical, and threw himself out of a second story window.  The injuries suffered took his life not long after.  

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this.  My personal judgement, passed off for what reason?  Because he's not like me?  All subtle and wearing black in the upper deck, un-willing to show my spirit and judging people from afar.  What is it about me, about people, that has this tendency.  A tendency to de-value anything or anyone you don't know, minimizing them out of your conscious as something not worthy of authentic thought or compassion.   Was I insecure because he had the balls to wear what he wore?  Put himself out there like that?   He was always positive, always having a good time.  From the reports that poured in after his death, he was warm and giving and only looking to have a good fucking time.  I didn't see this guy with a story, with parents, with pain and suffering like everyone else, I just saw this image.  An image that wasn't congruous with my own, distorted sense of what people "should" be like.  

Luckily I never met him, or his fiance or loved ones.  I never took to social media to bash him and only shared personal shitty jokes about him in private to my friends I share basketball games with.  Harboring my own sense of judgement, almost definitely predicated on my own insecurities.  He never knew my attitude, and I'm glad.  But I'm living with guilt.  Am I really THAT guy?  Someone who sits hundreds of feet away holding vitriol in their stomach for no apparent reason.  What a dick.  

It's no way to live.  And it's no way to be with other people.  It's no way to help the world and my own personal community.  We should all be more positive and warm and giving.  Actually, he was doing that, and I wasn't.  I was silently judging the person who was putting themselves out their in a positive and refreshing way.  I mean, fuck, this guy was so positive he wouldn't allow disparaging remarks or signs about the other teams, because it brought the wrong message.  

All these things I learned about the man posthumously.  I had no idea his story was complex and cool and rich.  A full life that is not mine merits the same respect as my own.  And I will no longer view people as random, and less important than me.  Everyone has a story.  Everyone has pain.  Everyone.  It will have to be my responsibility moving forward to make that a focused and serious discipline for my life. 

See you later Gamblero, I hope you're in a good place.  You taught me a lesson without even knowing me.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kicking Away the Line in the Sand...

"If civilization is to survive, 
we must cultivate the science of human relationships - 
the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, 
to live together, in the same world at peace."
- F.D.R

I want to live in a place with strong workers unions, legal weed, gay marriage and overly strict gun laws.  I want to pay higher taxes so my parks and roads and schools and hospitals and social programs are well funded and work.  I want food that's not grown in a chemical process and I want some pony-tailed transplant from Iowa to make me a coffee with an option of almond milk.  I want politicians to run clean without big money financing. I want my country, which was colonized and then built by immigrants, to have a sensible, non-nationalistic approach to immigration.  

Uhhhh….I just erased the rest of this.  It sounded like a 14 year old kid reading the back of a Bob Marley record.  I'll re-think this one…hopefully from the perspective of an adult male.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Humans (Part One)

"Seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting.  It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse.  As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armor themselves against wonder."  - Leonard Cohen  

The fact that a person has the ability to get accustomed to anything might be the largest reason the concepts of heaven and hell do not make much sense to me.  This thought coming from a logical standpoint over a theological standpoint, since the two are often at odds.  

I imagine a billowy cloud with everything I could want on it…endless cheese, peanut butter, weed, baseball games and scottie dogs.   But eventually, I'd get used to it.  I'd want more or less of what I have, it's simply human nature.  And begrudgingly, I still have to be honest and check homo sapien on my census report. 

Not to mention hell.  Masochism, I figure…has to be a learned and nurtured trait in most humans.  Because of this, eventually you might grow fond of the steady heat of fire and brimstone…and according to the film 'Little Nicky', pineapples up your asshole.  

I've recently watched doctors and nurses work a lot, which brought up this thought in the first place.  Though they can come off forbidding and cavalier on the prognosis of a human you love dearly, I can understand how they become accustomed.  Eventually numb, maybe bored.  They still need to come home after work and manage to compartmentalize what they saw all day.  Not bringing that pain and agony you see back home with you.

I can relate in a similar sort of way.  I have a job that's incredible and unique.  What I get to do is special and rare and fueled by drastic physical and emotional responses on each side of the stage.  But, through they years,  I've eventually grown accustomed to it.  I can't lie and say that at times, my mind hasn't wandered.  I'm usually tied to every note in a very cathartic way.  But maybe once or twice, on the 486th show during Great Expectations, I thought about the standings of the NBA Eastern Conference…or, will Ian eat all the pizza before I'm done showering later?   

In a former reality I used to beg people to book and enjoy my bands.  I was ecstatic if someone who wasn't my friend bought a demo or a t-shirt.  Trying to accrue fans one by one by one.  Now it's possible to walk into an undersold House of Blues somewhere and manage to muster up a feeling of regrettable disappointment.  How that happened?  I don't know…but it happened.  A particular example of how a human can view themselves in dangerous ways without the appropriate checks and balances in their life.  

Life is funny like that.  Humans are some adaptable motherfuckers.  One of the reasons I still have hope in my species is our ability to adapt and grow accustomed and move on.  But, if there is a heaven or hell…I imagine it HAS to be something so far beyond human perception, because anything inside of the human paradox can get old.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

East London Insomnia…(Fear of the Dark)

"I am a man who walks alone
And when I'm walking a dark road
At night or strolling through the park

When the light begins to change 
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it's dark"

- Iron Maiden 

Do we choose to be afraid?  

It's 3:30 AM, I'm in a posh East London hotel watching World Cup replays and deciding whether to shower or exercise, or both.  Stomach hurts from the flight and coffee and beer and shitty finger foods I've been eating all day.  The air is thick in here, and for some reason hotels don't trust me to not throw myself or large objects out the window, so it's sealed.  I could go outside, but then I'd have to put on clothes, and who knows what variable could throw itself at me at this time of night in a neighborhood I don't know.  These difficult choices that muddle my mind from the real gray area of my life I should be paying attention to.   

Part of my long and tenuous battle with the night is clearly based on fear.  When I was a child it was of death, basic….I knew my greatest fear and met it head on every night.  Now I just lay anxious, my fears so muddled through time and thought that they lay in an unrecognizable pile.  A pile that should get sorted through, piece by piece…cleaned and then re-assembled, like an engine.  But instead, at 33, I meet it with a begrudging inevitability.  Digging through that pile sounds exhausting and painful and the idea of letting it sit is so much easier.  Maintained happiness feels like a full-time job. 

Anyway…the question is, do we choose to be afraid?  This topic has been taking more brain space recently because of a documentary I watched called 'Don't Look Down.'    It's about two "urban free climbers", one from the UK named James Kingston, who travels to the Ukraine to team up with acclaimed Internet sensation Mustang Wanted for a couple of tandem climbs.  Essentially, these guys climb up cranes, bridges and old or new building frames, with no roping or safety, and dangle from hundreds of feet taking pictures of themselves.  It's fucking gnarly, and kind of rad, and gives you that "too high" feeling which leaves a knot in the bottom of your stomach and top of your balls just watching it.  

Overcoming and not recognizing fear, clearly plays a role in such a task.  At one point in the film, Kingston talks about the only difference between your hands hanging on to a bar at 10 feet or 300 feet is how your brain decides to see it.  I love this.  It's the same hands, and the same piece of metal you're holding on to.  He just doesn't allow his brain to receive it as fear, knowing he's done it thousands of times and has trust in his ability.  I'm inspired by this, irrational fear comes from a place that can be conquered, not simply dealt with.  

So now I find myself in a battle of wits with different parts of my brain.  The rational and irrational meeting in a heated battle to determine the speed of my heart palpitations.   Tonight I'll choose to not be afraid, and I'll win.  Tomorrow night, well…I'll deal with that when it comes. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Racist Gun Jerks…and the laws that protect them.

"The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure." - Lyndon B. Johnson

In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on the morning of August, 5, 2012, a degenerate, racist fuck-up by the name of Wade Michael Page took it upon himself to open fire on unarmed and vulnerable Sikh men and women who were just starting to file in to their Gurudwara (temple) to prepare food for Langar.  A Sikh communal meal that emphasizes equality and common roots, which was to take place later that day.   

As some women cooked the feast and children studied in the basement below for Sunday school, he walked up, and according to a weapons instructor who lives nearby, "ripped off", meaning shooting as fast as you can pull the trigger.  The head priest, Satwant Kaleka, bravely attempted to tackle the shooter and was shot twice and killed, along with 5 others.  There was a fire fight with police, one of which seriously injured before the gunmen shot himself. 

They had no clue, no chance...a terrifying scenario to consider.  

Something in particular really irked me while reading through the information of this story, besides for the obvious horror.  The weapon used in the shooting was, predictably, a legally purchased semi-automatic hand gun.  

On July 28th he walked into the "Shooters Shop" in a small town outside of Milwaukee looking for a handgun, particularly a 9MM.  
He filed the written background check, which as I'll explain later, miserably failed.   The other "check"  to buy this weapon is what really shocked me.  

Kevin Nugent, owner of the store, was responsible to "feel out" the vibe of the purchaser to determine whether he was dangerous or not.  He said in later interviews that his justification to sell included:
"He did not look strange and appeared calm."
"He didn't have a shaved head or 9/11 tattoo"
"He didn't talk stupid or act stupid"
"He raised no eyebrows whatsoever"

According to an LA Times article, Nugent added he's very strict, and said he reserves the right not to sell to customers who appear irate or under the influence.  The same article says Page paid $650 cash for a Springfield Armory XDM semi-automatic with three 19-round ammunition magazines.  He picked up the gun two days later, took it to the shops basement range for target practice and left.  

Obviously this is the weapon he used to murder 6 people, 7 including himself less than a week later. 

According to the NRA website detailing Wisconsin's gun laws, the owner submits a background check through the Department of Justice to check for criminal history, domestic violence, involuntary commitment and tribal restraining orders.  If those are clear and you pass the eye test, after 48 hours the deadly weapon is yours.  

As if this process wasn't arbitrary and dangerous enough.  There WERE red flags on this maniac prior to the shooting.  He served in the army for 6 years before receiving a "general discharge", which are given to service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct expected of military members.  He was demoted and given his discharge for "patterns of misconduct" including being drunk while on duty and going absent without leave.  

On top of this, the Souther Poverty Law Center had flagged both of his bands (a singer apparently) for being "racist white-power" groups.  On top of that, the Anti-Defamation league had both his girlfriend and he tied to white power extremist groups going back years before. 

With those elements in place, leaving the judgement of a semi-automatic weapon purchase to a citizen, and private store owner whose general interest is to make money is deplorable.  I'm not blaming this man Kevin Nugent for the shooting, I'm blaming the laws in place for giving that man the authority or judgement to hand these weapons out.

Our system failed, again, and will continue to without change.    

It often blows my mind how the laws can be created and bent and mangled to protect things that don't need any damn protection.  I usually like to be optimistic and or "centric" in these articles, but the fact that I need more paperwork to get car registration than a gun and still have to hide pot from the cops, while this sort of thing happens, is plainly obscene and absurd.  Down with the NRA.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sorry Millennials, I'm trying not to be a prick...

"It is not the young people that degenerate; they are not spoiled till those of mature age are already sunk into corruption."  - Charles de Montesquieu 

When I was younger, about 14/15 or so, I got massively into slower, more "metal" hardcore music.  Bands such as Snapcase, 108, Deadguy, Overcast, Converge, For the Love Of, Starkweather and Undertow, among many others, were spearheading a new direction I couldn't have been more excited about.  I truly loved it, it affected me greatly.  The only problem?  All the old bastards around my area were telling me that this music was crap.  

All the local guys (wish I could say women, but sadly, our scene was painfully male and white), would tell me this shit isn't hardcore.  You wanna be real?  You want hardcore?  Listen to Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Warzone etc.  These guys even thought Dag Nasty  was "pussy shit." This new music was so offensive to them, they just couldn't let me enjoy what I loved.  

This brings me to the 2008 Warped Tour that Gaslight did an 8 show stretch of.  I, regretfully,  spent the first few days of the tour making fun of bands.  Our friends Against Me and Street Dogs were on the tour, and we had some egotistical idea that we were part of only a small group of legitimate bands on the show.  After a few days of watching Pierce the Veil and Devil Wears Prada and bands of that genre, I decided I will not turn into that old prick that I once hated.    

I decided that even though I'm not enjoying the music, there are obviously thousands of kids who are getting something totally real and legitimate out of it.  Pierce the Veil is their Snapcase, like it or not.  When I mentioned my epiphany to then Tom Gabel, now Laura Jane Grace, I screamed over the noise "I know this isn't my cup of tea, but these kids can play, and people fucking love it"… He looked at me and said very clearly "Nope, they are really just bad."  

He may have been right.  I still can't listen to the new,  A.D.D ridden, singing like Paramore on every chorus hardcore.  But, I can't deny how much younger people love it, and the effect it has on them personally.   So I guess it's not for me to say.  This got me thinking about millennials, and the general perception that Gen X'ers and Baby Boomers have about them.  

Recently I've been hearing and reading and listening to a lot of debate about the Millennial generation.  Apparently humans born between 1981-2000.  Being born in late 1980 makes me a true transition child.  A Reagan baby who was never affected by his policies.  

I've been a part of the switches.  From the rotary dial home phone, to the push pad home phone, to the cordless home phone, to cordless home phone/answering machine packages, to alpha/numeric portable pagers, to car phones, to alpha/numeric portable phones, to data ready flip phones with a camera, to the iPhone, to the chip in my wrist that will contain my life almanac and allow the proper authorities to shut me down like a bad robot in the Jetsons, and so on…

Imagine for a minute, people of my age, that Americans born around 1996-1997 or so, have consciously known nothing of their country but terrorism and war.  Throw in a major depression, and the largest political divide our country has seen potentially since the Civil War.  It took me until 11, after we began to "liberate" Kuwait, to begin my slide into paranoia and fear.  They get to be born with it.  

According to US census data, no generation has suffered more from the financial crisis than millennials.   Median net worth of people under 35 years old fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010; those over 65 took only a 13 percent reduction.  

Also, according to a 2012 Newsweek piece using analysis by the Pew Research Center, the wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record.  The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago.  

Add to those facts that they are the "study" generation for the effects that 24 hour news, brevity technology and smart phones have on people.  Just like my generation and prescription drugs.   When I think about it, I'm impressed they don't all have nervous fucking breakdowns.  And no wonder why you'd turn into a bit of a narcissist when every tool used to shape your own identity is one of self-aggrandizing.  For the way they are, how can I blame them?  I'd like to see someone of my parents generation have the capacity and comprehension to tweet, listen to music and write a dub-step song on their phones all at once.  I can't even figure out what happened on Lost, let alone navigate Tumblr.  They can, we can't.   

The people coming out of this generation have a growing cynicism of the "American Dream", and as far as I can gather, they have a right to.  And I assume as the years pass, everything they created will find balance and the next group of young people will talk shit about them.  That's the way of the world.  

But maybe it shouldn't be.