Rocket won’t leave my legs alone. Rocket is my parents’ cat – and she makes absurd sounds.
I have a purring, chirping, hopeful, Loving little black cat butting up against my legs as I wander the house, searching for a wireless signal. It seems strange that WiFi has become so common that even my parents’ neighbourhood is riddled with unprotected networks – but here I am, I’ve found a signal that stays pretty strong as long as I leave my laptop balanced on the breadboard. Sigh – it probably means crumbs in the intakes… I already melted chocolate all over it last night.
We spent the night with our keyboardist Sharif last night, and it was everything I wanted it to be – I was looking forward to a fun and kind of silly night with some friends that I hadn’t spent much time with – and the only thing that ruined it was me.
I felt COMPELLED to check my email – and it was a good thing that I did, but it meant that I got all businessy in the middle of everything. Dumb businessy.
We ventured into the surprisingly balmy March air last night to go play the Thai Gour, to advertise for Saturday’s show – and it was just a dead night. And of course, this is the ONE night we have a couple of friends show up to see what’s going on, and of course, it’s the ONE night where Heather breaks a string, and of course it’s the ONE night where there’s no acoustic guitars available from ANYONE else other than a left-handed one and a twelve-string…. it was a rough night.
A vicious, cruel, night, it seems. Despite deceptively mild temperatures – wait a minute – a whole NEW take on the night. The night WAS vicious, cruel, but spectactularly sneaky – the mild temperatures apparently made me soo relaxed that I also left stuff at my parents’ house last night.
Yesterday celebrated our 6 month… eversary of being on the road and on the run, homeless, jobless, and happy – and we really DO have things to a sort of science by now – so it’s pretty embarassing when the ONE place that you leave stuff is at your PARENTS’ house. When we were in Nebraska, I didn’t leave my toothbrush at Kyle’s house… when we were in Philadelphia, I didn’t leave my flannel pants at Shane’s place… but EVERY TIME we stop at my parents’ house, I leave the world behind.
The world consisting, this time around, of my toothbrush and my flannel pants.
I know my Dad, at least, reads the Journal pretty regularly – so Dad, this is a message for you: I SWEAR I don’t screw up like this ALL the time.
I know Tyler reads the Journal at least semi-regularly – so Tyler, I swear we don’t screw up like that ALL the time.
March 4th, 2004. Yesterday was nearly the perfect day. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if someone had come up to me and said “And TODAY your sushi shall be FREE!!!”
Alas, it was not to be.
Now, to retell – how did it all begin? We stayed at Sharif and Brian’s place, and enjoyed the 8.30am awakening of everyone but US going to work. There’s something beautiful about that – especially when you’re on the fold out bed in the Living room – everyone comes in, and yes – they wake you up, but you get to watch them, sleepily, as they gather their stuff, force down some breakfast, set their grimaces in place, and move out to face the day. And then WE went back to sleep.
But at noon – we went out to face the llamas…
Yes. Llamas. Rancorous, evil llamas. Beautiful, happy, sunning llamas. Lovin llamas and lazy llamas. Llamas as far as the eye can see: When I Lived in Edgewater (near Annapolis), I discovered the beautiful Homestead Gardens – which is the largest, most beautiful collection of plants I’ve ever seen, short of the DC Aboretum (but they don’t have llamas). They constantly change their set-up, and they have fantastic seasonal displays, so I try to get back their once every couple of months, to see the incredible worlds they’ve created.
Heather was in a bit of a funk, so I figured – what better way to get a girl out of emotional distress then a bit of llama Love and flowers?
There is no better way, I assure you – now, unfortunately, you’re going to have to bear (which ‘bear’ is used here?) with me for a bit, cause I Loooove photographin them llamas!
So yeah – wandering the beautiful Homestead Gardens. As a young Annapolitan (just three years ago?!), I would wander their enthusiastic, viridian aisles in search of something soothing, and I would invariably find it. In a place that large, there are a dozen tiny places to hide yourself away – covered in fronds and obfuscated by petals – I could lose myself for hours.
The day was sunny and bright and light and airy and fresh, and I’m coming to the realization that my beLoved winter was finally on her way out – to be replaced by a brief heaven that will last only moments before being replaced by a Hell of heat, pollen, and 17-year locusts.
After the gardens, we wandered in search of food. We decided to splurge on sushi for the day, and there was a turtle at the sushi place, which made us happy. He watched us reproachfully from a rock as Heather contemplated tempting him forth with Love and reptilian favours, but in the end we decided it was best to leave his turtley bits sitting in the water like a miniature, armoured Nessie.
(Heather mentioned Nessie over the course of the day – oh – in reference to the llamas – and I was impressed with this random bit of Fortean mention)
Anywho – after this, we hung out with Sharif and Brian for a bit, playing Halo (and getting shot, and shot… and shot…) before heading off to the Phoenix Emporium in Ellicott City.
Awesome night. Met good people, played strong, and had great french fries and crab soup. THIS is the Life I invision Living – playing with friends all day, exploring the world, and then playing every night to a really, REALLY appreciative crowd, and selling them a lot of CDs.
On the drive home I was thinking to myself, the only thing that could make the night better would be to get a sprinkling of rain.
As we pulled in to the house in Owings Mills – it came pattering down with the gentleness of … of something gentler than llama kisses.
I think I want to try to make sure I photograph our audiences from now on… this way I can keep track who comes to which shows, and reward (or punish) you accordingly.
Anywho – last night I felt just… so close to the room. There were a bunch of really, really good old friends, and then there were a HUGE number of new faces, too – a lot of people that had never seen us before. Heather and I managed to engage our chemistry and everything – and a fantastic time was had by all… which, of course,
meant that I was afraid of having my charisma exhausted for tonight’s show.
Ok, enough – I’m off to bed. In the morning I speak of great things – of ceiling wax and kings and the fantastic creation that is the blossoming Folk Art Cafe… I shall speak of Thai Gour and the Dean of Fire… of Shane the Visitor, and perhaps even Halo.
Though I’ve spent a lot of time dead recently, because of Halo, so maybe I’ll not mention it.
Who here remembers the Year of the Rabbit Coffee Pub in Bowie, Md? A fantastic coffee shop that served gourmet coffees and spectacular soups – they had a pristine sound system, a house piano, and the owner – Francis – was one of the most supportive venue owners in the area.
Well, Francis moved to Denver a couple of months back, and though he looked long and hard for a new owner that would take the same care and continue the Rabbit in the same spirit, we all despaired of his ever actually finding one.
Little did I know – Kathy and Callie from the Folk Art Studio and Gallery next door have decided to expand into the coffee shop business. I stopped in just to say “hey” – and tracked down Kathy buying cookies down the way at the Cakery – and she let me have a sneak peek.
Oh my GOD. Now, no offense to Francis – but this is truly what the Rabbit should have always been. It has been reborn in the guise of … I don’t know, it’s like the yarn shop where Mara (Heather’s mom) works filled with old furniture, hiding the works of the Samantha juice cooler… then take a bunch of art calendars and run them through the Shrike and glue them to every table and every surface. It is beautiful. I mean – I was utterly speachless walking around. It’s beautiful beyond words.
They are doing their grand re-opening on April 1st… and I don’t know what happens after that. I think they’re going to get the hang of things for a bit before inviting music back in (the sound system is still there) – I was really flattered that ilyAIMY has an open invitation.
It looks to be about the most beautiful coffeehouse I’ve ever seen… but I can’t decide… the Susan Seddon Boulet table (too new agey…) or the Waterhouse table (mmmm…. too classical) or… ah yes…. the Edward Gorey table.
The last week has been really encouraging. There has been beautiful weather, and really good audiences, and even good CD sales. There have been llamas and kisses and kindness and art. All in all, a fantastic week. A week that makes me think (hope) that pretty soon, maybe we won’t merely be surviving, but we’ll be REALLY “Living the Dream” – and maybe even getting to be that little extra bit of proactive in the world. Who knows.
Friday night we played one of Joe Isaacs’ “Songs that Matter” showcases. We shared the stage with Might Could and Joe Isaacs himself, and just generally made a nuisance of ourselves by having a fantastic time.
We convinced Amy Law to join us on stage for “In the Water”, and Sharif managed to make it out to make it a true ilyAIMY trio experience. We filled College Perk with all kinds of goodness, and I just felt so awesome about how the night went down.
Recently, I’ve felt that I’ve lost my grip on the audience. There have been a whole lot of contributing factors to that – but it all centres around confidence. And when you lose your confidence, you do poorly, and when you do poorly, you lose your confidence. It’s pretty damned cyclical.
The sun is taking long, flaming limbs, and is stretching them through the cloud barrier of Chantilly, Virginia. It is largely unsuccessful.
I was a fool, a fool in socks, who began the run down the driveway before looking outside, before looking up at the sky, and realizing that, yes, plus or minus 70 degree temperatures a couple of days ago, the sky was spitting snow flakes at my head.
I can handle snow. I can handle snow in bare feet… but the night before we had spent lazing in sunbeams at Audrey’s house, playing with a small dog and playing music and trading stories and … well.. generally lots of WARM things. Last night we played Jammin Java. It was warm there. We hung out with Damian, who was warm at us… and we slept in a huge bed… which was warm.
This morning was NOT warm. Unkind, stabbing coldness. Grr.
I find myself thinking about politics.
I guess I should count myself in the “apathetic American” corner of the world. I spent last night feeling mildly berated, as Ember Swift – a Canadian activist singer/songwriter called for a change of leadership and eating habits – and I knew that the most I could promise was to keep doing what I was doing… and to swear off aerosol cheese (long story)…
Before I write any further, I want to stress that I admired her immensely. Talk about a woman who knows how to play and write and sing and … she is everything a performer should be and more – she was fantastic. Ember filled with me with feelings of grace and joy and occassional shame. She did what we all try to do, which is to get people to sit up and take notice, to listen. Take a person and make them strain in their skin to meet you. I listened and watched and admired and wished the show would go on longer, which, for a person of MY attention-span, is a rare compliment indeed.
But I felt outside – Ember writes in HER Journal about how activist ideas can NOT be introduced to mass audiences without the right kind of packaging. And she knows how to package it. There are short speeches made, and amazing musical interludes, and moments of genuis as she draws between Goldilocks and urban dangers.
Packaging IS everything, though, isn’t it?
I mean, that often, once something is packaged well enough – yeah, there’s a message in there, but does anyone care anymore? Does it make a difference to all those people saying “Wow, that was a great song” – it might catch people here and there – but I don’t know if I believe that there is a way of changing the mass-mind. Just something for me to ponder, I suppose… unfortunately, I got my train of thought massively derailed… so… perhaps a better formed thought later…
Just a quick note about staying with Damian, my old office-mate from Glovia. Here is one of those people who frequently mentions “Sometimes I wish I could be doing what YOU’RE doing” – he is a contradiction, in a way – one of my most “grown-up” peers. Perhaps a sign of where I’m SUPPOSED to be. I always feel nervous around him for the moments of our meeting, because he’s just gone so much further in Life than I have, and without the drastic measures.
He Lives comfortable in a nice house with a beautiful wife – he hangs his photography on the walls, a journal of travels made easier by a steady job that he takes satisfaction in – something that he’s very good at. He has a natural ease and confidence and charisma that would make HIM an ideal on-stage musician if he ever put his mind to it (Plus or minus that whole tone-deaf predilection towards didjeridoo and 80’s pop)
He has that almost everyday Life of careful adventure and suburban joy that I sometimes find very, very attractive. I miss the ease of my Life back when I had a steady paycheck, and I admire how he just – deals with the world.
Whether or not touring and wandering and writing is an attack on the world – a full-frontal foray into meeting and greeting the U.S. face by face – or a tail-turned scampering run, escaping the realities of rent and utilities and a daily schedule…. I change my mind every day, but in truth, I guess it’s a combination of the two. It’s the only way I could make Living in this kind of world attractive. It is, perhaps, very much an act of desparation.
Today, we’re spending the day back with Chelsea and Beau, back in Richmond, getting ourselves ready for another show with the spectacular and intimidating Ember Swift – Beau has been sick, with a pretty nasty fever – sick enough that he remembered nothing of our arrival, just that we came in while a really hideous band was playing on Conan O’Brian.
And he’s right… they were horrible. We stood dumbstruck with how bad they were.
We’ve GOT to be able to get on that show.
Anywho, we were looking forward to playing outside today, but it’s just too damned cold. Last night we played an open mic and explored Charlottesville – and were somewhat confused by the prevalance of Lewis Carroll imagery – a mushroom themed pizza parlour, Jabberwocky Pizza, Brillig Books… just strange. Met a couple of other musicians, including a scrawny long-haired white boy who played the blues with a voice that was being channeled from a 300 lbs black man somewhere buried deep in the mud of the Lousiana delta (I told him to please excuse the homoerotic imagery, but that he had just slathered my body in thick warm chocolate and to please do it again), and Curt, who introduced me to yet ANOTHER method of looping one’s own music and being more band than any one man has any right to be.
Oh, and don’t let me forget Julie and April, the two unworldly blondes with angellic voices who “have never done this before” but who’s beauty (both vocal and facial) kept Heather and I in the back of the Baja Bean, chatting with them, long after we should’ve gone home.
A good night. I soo have to update my open mic list, but it’s so weird and unwieldy now… sigh.
Another night playing with Ember Swift. It’s amazing how repetition breeds comfort– and tonight it was smiles and familiar faces. A decidedly tragic turn-out, but the Gravity Lounge itself was such a cool room that I hardly had time to take notice. Part book store, part high-end feeding trough, part really nice music venue. It was Lovely.
The show itself was quiet and gentle with high-points of neccessary energy and angst, but all in all, very relaxed, very calm. Ember, of course, was spectacular – I ended up having to go to the bathroom towards the end of her set, but I don’t know that I’ve ever had better bathrooming music. It was just a great time – though I avoided using the hand-dryer for fear that that would be distracting to the 15 audience members. (YES I flushed) My poor pants were just abused.
Anywho, the real magic was afterwards. Ember was much more outgoing than she was at Jammin Java, much more approachable – or maybe I was just less NERVOUS AS HELL – I fear I was suffering from a bit of fan-boy syndrome, shaking and slightly wishing to be worshipful. Traded smiles and a shared appreciation of the waiter, stories of our Love for On-Demand programming… I felt guilty steering the conversation away from politics. I felt REALLY guilty for eating a roast-beef sandwich during her “Politics of Food” song – I felt like her eyes were watching, and I thought I saw her wince with one of my bites.
But we talked of roads and wandering and venue owners and I was so glad to find out that – here was a woman who’s been doing this for eight years (!) and who still Loved it, and who still enjoyed going back to places where she was known and Loved. Places, perhaps, that weren’t “strategic”, but that she just wanted to be. I can see myself doing that, Loving that, for a long, long time. Nothing I’d rather be doing.
Oh – and one last note. Upon our departure, we all hugged, and she SMELLED nice!!! Musicians NEVER smell nice! She said we did too, but I fear she may have just been being nice.
Oh – and one OTHER last night – you can’t tell from the website (www.emberswift.com if I’ve not mentioned it) but up close and in person, Lyndell is spectacularly beautiful. It’s just something that should be said.
So, with those thoughts in my head – good smells and good music and beautiful women in memory and in the car, we disappear down the road, wending our way to Washington on the way to Baltimore, with whispers of “happy birthday” to Heather’s Dad. We’re coming home.
Ok, tired of driving – wondering how Ember and Lyndell get along musically. I mean, between Heather and I, we have lots of problems. I mean, I have very sensible musical tastes – between my Led Zeppelin and Cypress Hill and Metallica and Indigo Girls and Mountain Goats and Spice Girls and disco, I’ve got all the variety anyone could ever want, not to mention all the good taste. How Heather can be frustrated by that, I can’t imagine… and why she insists on listening to Ludikris, or however his name is spelled, is waaay beyond me. Sigh.
The radio show on WRNR, 103.1 FM went surprisingly smoothly. Despite trying to fit us, Eighty1South, Ward Morgan and the Johnny B Band all into one 20 minute slot (and later into one elevator), we executed the whole thing with machine-like well-oiled precision. I even performed LooseN standing on one leg so’s as to get the mic and my mouth close to the same microphone.
I have a lot of affection for RNR. It’s got a college radio feel but with lots of experienced people who’ve been on the local radio scene for years. It’s got that freedom, and that seat-of-the-pants almost stunt-flying style that I think really appeals to the adventurous kid inside of us. Walls covered in posters, signatures and stickers, and friendly people genuinely excited by the constant stream of original music that floods through the doors. It’x one of the only havens for original music on MD radio dial.s
Damian Einstein, as usual, just glowed while listening. He has an intensity that is rare, even among music lovers – radiating his appreciation for what he hears. It’s been several years since we were last in his studio and it was good to be there again, even with the rushed circumstances.
After the Russanonymous showcase (which was what we were all part of) there was a performer who I unfortunately have completely forgotten the name of – Billy? – with a beaten leather jacket and a faded cowboy hat. I’m not completely sure what I was expecting. It’s always so tricky judging a performer by their appearance, but his gravelly voice cut into our goodbyes and had Heather and I and all the rest clustered around the studio door, peering in. Good slide guitar, good blues. It’s good to watch the PROFESSIONALS play. He wasn’t flashy, and you knew what chord was coming next. But it was solid, and it was real.
After RNR, Heather and I came back to my parents’ house for the night where I mistakenly sat on my Dad. It was rude, and I know that. I didn’t mean to sit on him, but I did. Sigh. Fortunately, he’s recovered, and he’s snoozing as Heather and I watch Fantasia 2000. I had forgotten how cool the Firebird was. The whole last piece very much reminds me of the Last Unicorn (which Heather had meant to bring with us to watch tonight). It makes me wish they’d get on with the Live action remake that’s supposedly in the works.
Expect typos, I’ve grown far too used to my own computer, and typing on any other machine is pretty alien to me. My pricey, custom-built Alienware 51m has failed me after only 7 months of use. A pretty complete death – by the time I was packing it off to Florida, it wasn’t even powering up. I was ready to cry.
Anywho, for those of you out there who are emailing me and suchnot and whatnot, that’s why I might be a bit slow about responding. I almost lost everything on my harddrive – luckily for me, my friends Allie and James – they had the POWER!!!
James got obsessed with my problem, and though it took him hours and hours of working and wiring and rewiring and a little bit of hacking – he finally got into my harddrive and got most of my data and saved it to DVD. Unfortunately, I have lost all of my email contacts and the emails themselves. It’s a frustration. I had a lot of old email from old girlfriends, not to mention Tyler’s old letters from when we were really flirty (back when I thought he was that cute little blonde).
I swapped RAM, I pulled my harddrive, I looked at a melted part of my motherboard. It was determined that a stick of RAM, my powersource, my display cardie thingie had all gone bad, as well as a corrupted user profile, and some other random disasterous stuff. I was pretty fucking pissed.
So, today it’s a long day of catching up, and trying to get Heather’s laptop to fill in the gap left by my machine’s unfortunate demise. In the background, the SciFi channel is running a classic Star Trek marathon, and based on their commercials, they seem to think that their viewership demographic is comprised mostly of women suffering from “feminine itch” as well as menopause… oh, and people looking for arthritis and denture creams.
That just doesn’t seem right.
Sigh, in the meantime – Captain Kirk’s body has been taken over by a chick. Most unfortunate.
I swear, when Heather wanders off to the next room, she misses the best stuff.
Brennan was having a very, very strange night. This was just a momentary evil face. I really, really think that he’s not as frightening as this photograph might, at first, suggest. It was really just gas. I’m assured of this fact.
Since moving to the College Perk, Brennan has gotten the added stress of being a half-a-PLOJ host, and frankly I’ve allowed MOST of the PLOJ hosting stresses slip to his shoulders. Actually, maybe THAT’s what that face is about.
The PLOJes have always been such fantastic gatherings. We’ve been running them for about five or six years now. We started on New Year’s Day back in 1999 – I was Living with Syl and Sara Smith and working as a freelance illustrator, doing a lot of random work for different telecommunications companies in Northern Virginia. I had just quit teaching high-school, and was really interested in finally persuing my Life as an artist.
Whatever type of artist I was going to be – visual or musical.
Syl had been the guy who had really inspired me towards music – before I was just a bass-player – but Syl inspired me to sing – mostly to impress him. I sort of feel weird, realizing that I started singing in high-school – but then became a bassplayer because I Loved being on stage so much… I learned to play guitar in order to impress Audrey – and then I really focused on being a singer/songwriter because of how much I admired Syl. Is anything I do self-motivated? Psh… don’t matter. I Love it anywho.
Off to Philadelphia and then Stroudsburg, PA… Tuesday night we continued our wanderings, and returned ourselves to the fine city of Brotherly Love. Shane welcomed us to Philadelphia, PA – where we played the Point before going back to the dorms of Drexel University.
The Point was bloody nightmarish. This was the place we went the first night of our Trip – and we’d been blown away by the talent and the overall feel of the place. Since then, we keep going back with fiercely high hopes – and keep getting disappointed. It was one of the most horrific nights … oh God. It was agony to sit through. I stood in the back lamenting with the host… wincing.
There were a couple of cool acts (we even ran into some friends that we’d met in Red Bank, NJ – Tommy Anton and I traded tour thoughts), but mostly it was just one of those nights that would never, ever end.
We crashed with Shane, and we played Halo. I didn’t die as much as I did last time, but there was no Slutty Tofu, either.
Wednesday we drove North up to East Stroudsburg University. Mapping it out, we realized that ESU was like… five miles away from the Deleware Water Gap.
There’s no reason to know of the Delaware Water Gap… of Minsi and Tamanee… calling me… except for an amazing Richard Shindell song – and Heather said that we had to go there, since we had the time. I plotted a new course and headed the car through Easton to the Delaware River. We wandered through some spectacular houses, some spectacular neighbourhoods – Heather’s asked me not to fill the Journal with pictures of the houses, but they’re gorgeous… I’m going to sit with those pictures flipping past me as I fall asleep tonight. I shall dream of Easton and their turreted houses and stone walls and fantastic things.
Poor Heather – after Easton, I look at her fine, fine figure… and think… “hey baby… nice roof. You’se a brick HOUSE.” Mmmmm.
The gig at Stroudsburg was very, very small. Above and around, you see pictures of literally half the audience. We had a rough night… a night that inspired me to sing “Bitches and Fuckheads”, which simply displayed what a good idea it is for me NOT to record every performance.
Sigh – anywho, we’re caught up, whether you like it or not. We could talk of the long long drive home, or of our deviations of course – lost on 83 South. We could talk of the New Deal Cafe open mic and the high point – Richard McMullin, and how much I Love listening to him play… or we could even talk of going to see Heather’s brother’s play tonight, “Bye Bye Birdie”, and why high school girls are the best screamers… but all in all, I think I shouldn’t.
The high-schoolers have come. Yes, we were fairly warned, but they came like locusts, decending upon the Lloydholme like a plague. There is techno pounding through the floor, with occassionally varied thumping. Cell phones are ringing and girls are screaming and boys are screaming and there is much, much, chocolate.
And this is beyond the chocolate threshold – past the point where chocolate is an orgasmic substance of sublime sugary potency, and is instead… goo. Nasty brown goo which you can’t even stand to smell.