Musicians and Road Warriors

Musicians and Road Warriors

It’s easy to fall victim to the stereotypes of the working musician – for both the musician and fan alike. A life of public adulation, excess, and grandiosity (is that a word?). The exquisitely tortured artistes extracting beauty from life’s poignant moments all gypsified and moving nomadically from town to town. But the reality of a career in the creative segment is more blunt, and there’s entire curriculums of required knowledge they didn’t teach me in music school. The kind you have to skin your knees and bloody your nose to learn. The dirty secret of the game is that it’s not good enough to be a talented musician or artist- you gotta be a warrior in both practice and spirit if you wanna live the life longer than a year or two.

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becoming a single dad

Becoming a Single Dad

For the first 8 years of my son’s life, I was the breadwinner. The provider. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a dedicated and loving father, but we’d always split the duties of Devin’s parenthood right down the middle with virtually no overlap. My wife was a full-time mother, maintained the home base, and took care of our household and family matters, I hunted and gathered to fill the coffers, pay the bills, and put a roof over our head and food on the tables. For quite a while we were both happy with this split of duties and responsibilities. It’s what we’d thought we both wanted. But it wasn’t- and took a heavy toll on our relationship over time.

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The Thomas Fires in Ventura - sky view on Tuesday

The Thomas Fires

We’d had spotty electricity all day due to an automobile accident up the street taking out a power line, so when the lights started flickering back on and off Monday evening my son and I figured maintenance was still in progress. The sound of helicopters in the distance were a bit non-standard, but we still tucked in and went to sleep anyway – not knowing that the Thomas fires now ravaging the area were the new reason for the outages. It wasn’t until the sun peeked up and shone a blood-red glow into my bedroom that I realized things had gone seriously sideways while we slumbered.

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Jesse climbing

Remembering Jesse

Today would have been my nephew Jesse’s birthday.  We lost him due to still-undetermined medical reasons in his sleep, late last year.  The unexplained cause of his death makes it all the more unsettling, unresolved.  I’ve had to process a lot of loss over the last few years but Jesse’s death may have been the final straw, bringing me lower than I’ve been in decades.  I write to heal, and this is no exception. However, I’m writing this a few days earlier and scheduling it, as my hopes are to be somewhere along the coast with Devin at sunset to wish Jesse a happy birthday by the ocean he loved so much.

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Equinox

I woke up suddenly around 3:30am this morning.  It wasn’t just a minor stirring amidst the sheets, a quick mid-sleep water break or dazed round-trip to the bathroom.  My eyes came fully open and my head was clear, although my thoughts were anything but.  I’d gone to bed early after my Sunday rehearsal and a quick dinner. However, despite pleasant company throughout I felt unsettled and withdrawn the whole evening, and not in a particularly social mood.  Some words I’d spoken still hung in my ears:

“I feel like a stone in the eye of a tornado.  Like I’m barely holding onto balance while everything around me goes crazy. And I mean batshit crazy.”

At that moment, I hadn’t made any connections between that phrase to any other particular event or circumstance. There’s been an awful lot on my mind over the last couple years, and I know at times things have seemed a little scattered. It’s been sometimes hard to put a finger on exactly which brush fires are causing me the most heat, generally speaking. But when I looked at the calendar again things started to come more into focus.

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Seriously wrecked

partially OK

It’s been a long time since I’ve had my ass handed to me. Last month I got the comeuppance I’ve been due for quite some time, and it’s been incredibly humbling. I love to mountain bike, and in particular jump and hop said mountain bike around, between, and over obstacles both large and small. The feeling of flight and weightlessness is something I’ve chased since my skydiving days, and frankly, only get to experience when leaping a bike these days. Having been a rider for most of my life, this type of risk is really nothing new or unexpected for me. I’ve been doing it for so long I take my skills for granted, as the feeling of flight, speed and weightlessness are as close as I can come to feeling superhuman.

However, on October 12th of this year I took what was to be a simple, innocuous ride up and back on the coast- which ended in utter disaster. Approaching one of the many ravines I traverse on this trail, I really didn’t feel differently- no sense of foreboding, hesitation or even concern- I’d jumped off this particular ledge so many times that it’s almost become reflexive. A quick bunny hop off the top and I was floating over the edge, slowly rotating my center of gravity to match the angle of the transition 18′ below me. But as time compressed and weightlessness engulfed me, I knew in my gut something was wrong. The bottom of the hill had been churned up from the normal hard-pack and was instead loamy and soft. The angle I took over the edge had me going a few degrees left of my usual line, and despite a last-ditch effort to push my rear wheel out and down to adjust and shift landing weight off my front wheel, it still dug into the soft dirt and washed out just as I flipped my heels to pop the clips and get free of the bike, and everything went wrong. Horribly wrong.

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Connection

I’m going to the NAMM show this year, for the first time in almost 20 years. I’ve been saying 12 (when I last moved from Carpinteria, and its comfortable, less-than-8-hour drive to Anaheim), but doing the math it’s been 20, as I didn’t attend NAMM any of the years I lived here last, either. Craziness. In case you’re confused, NAMM stands for “National Association of Music Merchants”, and is *the* biggest music conference of each year. To be looking back at 2 decades of avoiding NAMM as a constantly-working musician is, frankly, a bit strange to me. Maybe even a bit embarrassing, honestly.

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Chill

The holiday break has been wonderful here, albeit a bit colder in weather than I would have hoped (which is mostly unnecessary whining, as we still wore shorts to the beach on Christmas Eve).

20121231-074438.jpg

(Yeah, I’m wearing thermals in the pic above, but swear I was actually wearing shorts over them.)

Mostly it’s been a quite chill-as-in-relaxing holiday week for me more than the get-a-sweater variety, and I’ve spent the entirety of it with my wife and son. Doing randomly stupid but oh-so-therapeutically-beneficial tasks like shooting stomp rockets at the beach, kinda like this:

But that’s not all…

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Proud

In retrospect, I’m honestly not sure how 2012 turned out so well, given how it started.

Last December I was suffering a job that demanded more and more of me in my time, ethical compromises, sanity and grey hairs, yet returned less and less as time wore on (salary and benefits notwithstanding).  My wife was increasingly depressed, struggling to keep a therapy business afloat in an area (Oakland) that was already ravaged by the macroeconomic landscape before Occupy Oakland and the Oscar Grant riots tore it even further apart.  My son was happy but at great financial and emotional cost – a very expensive school that would only support him for another year before we had to choose between bad, worse or unacceptable options locally, or ship him off to somewhere with an affordable option for the attention that his wicket-smart brain already demands.  (With a lot less of Oakland’s well-documented senseless crime to either tempt or threaten it.)  Looking back now, I can easily see how I rarely felt proud as a father, or even as a person in that environment.

So believe me, to say I’m really proud of 2012 is something I hadn’t seen myself doing, not by a long shot. And there’s a lot of reasons why.

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Momentum

Things are moving quickly now. We have a condo down South, movers scheduled to shuttle our belongings down to it, but have not yet sorted out renting our home in Oakland- which is proving to be a bit more challenging than I’d hoped. If we can close this game of property manager phone tag this
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Home

Friday afternoon I turned in my ID badge at the guard booth as I pulled out of the Adobe garages. “Oh, sorry” said the guard, making the safe assumption that like pretty much everyone else who leaves the ‘country club’ at 600 Townsend Street I just got handed a pink slip. I felt a bit
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Home?

It’s been almost 12 years since we left Carpinteria, but it feels like I never left once my feet hit the sand. Down South for ‘serious matters’, but trying to enjoy the zen of our old hometown while I’ve got the chance. Didn’t realize I missed this place so much.