April 3rd, 2018.

I think I’m exhausted by volunteer work. I think I’m exhausted by particular connections from which almost all of my current stress comes from – and it is those things from which I see the least return that I receive the most angst. And I’m tired of it.

I really Love playing music. When it comes down to it, I really like a lot of the things that go with it – even some of the booking aspects. I like making the posters, updating the website. I like running events. I like video editing.

It’s the things where… where I didn’t really “volunteer” so much as NOT take a step backwards when people asked someone to step forward… and everyone else stepped back. And I hate this stuff. These are things that I despise – because I’m somewhere in the middle.

I’m not the performer that shows up and plays the show, and I’m not the person 100% in charge. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m in the committee. I’m dealing with meetings and being politic and dealing with the opinions of people who – haven’t done it – don’t really know what IT is – didn’t have the charisma and solely have a position because they’ve got the time to have it.

I’m appalled by how I’ve let things I hate slowly encroach upon a relatively large amount of my time. So. Gotta fix that.

I’m sorry to Vaguebook all up in my Journal – but on top of everything else, my skull is beginning to tell me I’ve been staring at a computer screen for far too long. Kristen’s watching Terminator upstairs with a big fuzzy cat – and I have the suspicion that I’d rather be doing THAT.

Saturday March 31st – off to see my wife’s band Lulu’s Fate playing at Four Hour Day Lutherie – which is also a lutherie! Here are the latest ukulele bodies hanging waiting for the next step… curing to the sounds of Kristen and Tom and Kara…
Lulu’s Fate playing at Four House Day Lutherie in Baltimore, MD.
Huh? Whuh?
Finally! Band practice! MAN Band Practice!!!!
You know what man practice entails… swabbin’ yer didge.
Monday April 2nd – my featured artist Ben DeLaurentis could give my favourite male vocalist Matt Nakoa a run for his money….

 

 

Last Night I Dreamed of the Devil….

I dreamt Satan was in the front row. He was stereotypically Satanic – big and beefy and red. I was playing “Stagger Lee” and kept screwing up the lyrics, nervous about getting to the last verse where Stag goes to Hell and beats up the devil. I started spouting bad poetry trying to keep the rhythm, trying to hedge the lyrics around something a little more acceptable to the devil, but he was obviously growing impatient with my mistakes, tapping his cloven hoof less with the rhythm and more with impatience.

April 4th – gig one – ilyAIMY playing at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, MD. Good to be surrounded by art.
Gig two : hosting a singer/songwriter showcase at Hershey’s. I’ll be honest – the turnout SUCKED – but the talent was stunning. Emma G was new to me and thunderous, Laura Baron is someone I’ve known for a very very long time and I forget just how very, very good she is. Domenic Cicala is someone I’ve brought up to Baltimore a number of times – it was good to come down to his neck of the woods. Once we got over not having many people to play to, we played to one another and in hindsight I realize this kicked off the month’s joyous showcase string that I’ve been really really enjoying all of April.

I doubt that had any effect on my mood on Monday – but my mood on Monday was not a good mood. I woke up tired, dragged as I dragged myself to Teavolve. Dreaded the drive, struggled to park, dealt with my typical difficulties with less than typical grace and, because of my mood, kicked off with “Perfect Day”. I know now to never kick off with Perfect Day. I forgot the bridge. I soloed. Circled back. Picked up the bridge. Got asked to turn the whole thing down. Pushed through the whole night being perhaps a bit manic as I struggled to not fall prey to a bad mood, and more importantly, not take that bad mood out on those around me.

Saturday night I got to record a Live album for the Silver Strings in Takoma Park, MD. Here I’m just getting things set up as Pepper checks how his butt will look to the audience. (I don’t think that’s what he’s ACTUALLY doing….)

People who knew me knew… people who didn’t maybe had a good time. It was hard to tell.

The Silver Strings soundchecking in Takoma Park, MD – Saturday night.

Last night I was Dan Magnolia’s featured artist at the Black Squirrel in Virginia. I wasn’t worried about it until the gig Heather had for the night fell through and she decided to be in the audience instead. I’ve grown to be a fairly confident solo performer, but having Heather in the AUDIENCE rather than by my side was slightly harrowing.

Dan Magnolia sets up for his open mic night where I’m the featured artist – a good night at The Black Squirrel in Vienna, VA.

But I rocked it. Despite rocking it, the vast majority of the room made it through 4/5 of my set but some how didn’t make it till the end. I would’ve been really struck if they hadn’t almost ALL come up and tipped before they headed out – but I had that horrible feeling like I’d said something wrong, or I was too loud, or SOMETHING. I mean LITERALLY all the musicians that had already played left before the end of my set.

Oh. I didn’t know it… but this is totally what I needed (to lie in some dandelions in Sterling, VA)

Still – the players who hadn’t played (with the exception of that one guy… you know the one… the one who asks you to sign him up in advance, barely makes his set, and in the process manages to miss just about everyone else and those he IS there for he talks through?) though – those people all stuck through the entire night and we hung out long after the music was done talking about production and hosting and Star Trek and the Smiths. That was kind of Lovely, close to exactly what I needed. A sense of community in a different community, an end of a night where I didn’t have to break down the gear and could just let people swirl around me, focusing on what they say rather than wrapping my cables.

Heather capturing hearts and minds at Epicure Cafe in Falls Church, VA at Ron Goad’s showcase Wednesday night.

We came back to Heather’s brother’s place and let ourselves in quietly. In darkness we found our beds and climbed into them. I didn’t sleep well but had strange dreams, indigestion, confusion and music in my head.

Today : work, orders, tech support, this, that and also the other. I should’ve order t-shirts and cook books earlier. I’m slow at too many things. But the diner was good. The sunshine was good. The garden was good. I lay in the grass in the sun and smelled the earth and Justin accidently dug through the Cicada Layer and we unearthed one, wriggling and displeased, half-baked and moist. As the garden boiled with earthworm activity, he was the sole source of jointed legs and exoskeleton, displeased to see the sun, he failed to flail himself back underground and eventually we re-interred him with a shovel-full of soil.

Tonight – another gig where rob and Heather of ilyAIMY are rob and Heather not ilyAIMY. We’ll be ilyAIMY tomorrow. But tonight – we’re individual entities. Separate but equal. I’m a little concerned about going AFTER Heather. I’ll just have to ratchet up my game a little… bit…. More….

 

The House We Built

So our time in Virginia has been pretty idyllic. No small part of that is that this is my first visit to my friend Justin’s house. He’s been here for over a year and I’ve never been out and I have no-one to blame but myself.

Did I mention idyllic?

Owning a home is something that generally carries a lot of negative weight for me. My parents purchase a new house shortly after I was born and that was the home I spent most all of years before I turned 18. All the years I can remember. All the years that matter. The house always had problems. Seabrook was a poetic name for a neighbourhood built on a filled-in swamp and the house had started settling shortly after my Dad bought it, while simultaneously sinking, occasionally flooding and generally pulling apart in a number of directions. A crack in the Living room, a crack in the dining room. That corner was going that way and that door was no longer flush. At some point before I’d reached high school a summer was spent literally jacking the house up off the earth to redo the foundation. It only took another couple of years to show that this effort was futile – but the continued settling didn’t show up fast enough to keep that company from making a KILLING in the neighbourhood with like efforts financed by expensive loans and second mortgages.

What it’s all really about at Parallel Wine and Whiskey – where we played on Thursday night.

Truly – growing up I was constantly aware of the house being a Problem. And since my Dad owned it… it was HIS Problem. The movie “The Money Pit” was a crappy 80’s comedy that nearly brought my father to tears of rage because there was nothing funny about a house that just had one more problem…

Thursday – when everything went according to plan till the wind picked up.

And so the American Dream never seemed TOO dreamy – and as I reached the age where even my younger friends were purchasing houses I really have always waffled about the idea of moving on from the renter Lifestyle. I’ve got the money. I’ve traveled the nation and have a pretty good idea of where I wouldn’t mind Living. But every time we have that conversation, every time we start eyeballing for sale signs – well…

Heather playing at Parallel Wine and Whiskey in Broadlands, VA.

Brennan’s basement flooded. Julie’s roof came off. Amy’s house has BEES. Sewer lines, weeds, yardcare. Flaking paint, flaky neighbours. Sharif’s neighbour’s house caught fire and the fire department kicked HIS door in. Rowan had a tree fall on his house. Home insurance put him in an apartment. The apartment flooded. The apartment put him in a hotel.

OH the wind.

Ya know? My dishwasher wouldn’t close. I called my landlord. He fixed it. My dryer quit drying. I called my landlord. He replaced it. Every year he has a guy check the furnace. Every couple of months he checks on things. Every week come summer he takes care of the yard. There are cracks in the ceiling. The house is settling, sinking and possibly pulling apart in a number of directions… and it’s absolutely, positively, in no way my problem.

And so I have few positives associated with home ownership. But Justin… Justin makes me download Zillo. Justin’s place makes me think about my stocks. Justin makes me look twice at the For Sale signs in the neighbourhood.

He said it himself – as a young bachelor, it might’ve been a LOT smarter for him to buy a condo in the city, use public transit to his job and Uber to the hot nightspots in town. He’d meet more people, those people would probably be hip. He’d have his finger on the pulse of DC, or at least he’d have a grip somewhere near the reins if not has hands around its throat.

But he wanted a garden. And he wanted a workshop. He wanted some place where there would be space to MAKE things… and the money goes a LOT further out in the burbs… and he has all of those things he wanted. And he’s made the space where he’s made the tools where he made the planters for where he’s going to plant the plants that he’s going to eat in his massive kitchen. And he’s got a yard big enough for his sister to get married next year. And I lay in his dandelion patch and thought “huh… having a house isn’t too bad”.

Though as he opens his tax assessment for the home he owns and doesn’t pay rent on but totally owes a mortgage and taxes on I think “but… maybe later”.

His house BREATHES future and there’s a general pervasive optimism and beauty of possibility here that I don’t know that I’ve felt almost anywhere else. But I have the suspicion I have too much baggage for a house. I’d move my stuff in just in time to get back out on the road. I’d come home to unpack my gear from tour with just enough time to do laundry before packing my gear for a gig. And five years later my house wouldn’t have a pervasive atmosphere of anything other than stuff I’ve been meaning to get to.

Or maybe that’s my father talking.

Leaning on the Wall.

I’ve been thinking about downtime. Which isn’t a bad way to spend some of my downtime. I read once that wasted time isn’t wasted it if you enjoyed wasting it. Killing time is maybe bad, wasting time isn’t wasted, downtime will help you stay up when the time comes.

Paanda.

I leaned against a 7 Eleven for about 3 minutes today waiting for Heather and Kristen. If I hadn’t left my phone in the car I’d probably have texted someone, entered a thought, taken a picture… if we weren’t on the last day of our data cycle with about 200mb left I might’ve checked Facebook, Instagram, the news…. I’d have found some way for that moment to be occupied. But pleasantly, I just leaned against the wall and felt the sun on my face and listened to the traffic and my body for a moment.

Oh, the turnpike. I think we spent close to $60 in tolls today.
I do Love bridges… driving up to NYC.

High strung mariachi accordion shredding from one car, a bad muffler on another. No-one talking. The clank of gas pumps and the growl of engines. My own high strung heart pushing blood through my own high strung body as I think about the drive ahead of us. New York City this evening – an up and back which may be slightly ill-conceived but no other gigs came together for the weekend and though we’ve got the offer to stay up in Brooklyn tonight, we’ve been away from home a fair amount and I’d like to just come back and sleep in my own bed. It’s a lot of driving – seven hours if traffic treats us well – it’s a lot of tolls to take direct and doing the drive all in one day means we won’t be circumventing ANY of the tolls (including two over-ten-dollar bridges!) – and maybe I’m making a mistake not making the decision to spend the night and hang with our hosts for the night… maybe I’m sacrificing the chance to be a better member of a community…

Zombies?

But tomorrow we’d come home in heavy rain. Tomorrow is tomorrow. I miss home.

When we arrived, the temperature was perfect for hanging out and swinging… unfortunately the temps dropped precipitously before the show.

This week was an interesting one. Running around Virginia and playing these songwriter showcases – a lot different from most of the things I’ve been playing recently – even though I’ve been playing a LOT of these songwriter showcases the majority of them have been things I myself have been running. The difference betwixt that and being a relaxed member of the group versus the leader of it isn’t something that can be overstated. For as much as being in charge takes a slew of things off of my mind (how’s the sound going to be? Are things going to be running on time? Do I know where to park? What IS the food like?), relaxing in to the downtime of NOT being in charge and realizing that the sound’s not going to sound like I’M running it, but it’ll be okay – things will run at their own pace and that’s alright – we’ll figure out the parking thing because parking things are meant to be easy to figure out – and the food’s going to be awesome because my friends wouldn’t be booking places with crappy food… It was okay, they did, we did and it was. And I had some downtime.

Our host Coco making an exquisite lemon-based dressing for dinner….

Sitting at various tables in poorly-lit bars, listening to other players lay out what they’re laying out. Some are heartfelt, some are mathematically laid out, some are struggling and some are effortless. Some are political and others are politically tone deaf. I get to be aware of it and take responsibility for none of it, because at this moment this is not my circus.

Heather warming up at First Acoustics.

Dan Magnolia continues to be one of the most genuinely supportive, enthusiastic and grateful people I’ve ever met. I’d happily bask in his aura if that were a thing. Restorative and eager, we chat about music, we chat about Star Trek, we chat about Host Shit – sound and venues and difficult open mic goers. I appreciate being able to hang out and have a conversation without simultaneously wrapping cables. I’m grateful to chat with another player without feeling they’ve got an ulterior motive because we’re not on MY turf.

Dan Zimmerman nabbed this pic right as his pic nabber died. ilyAIMY performing at First Acoustics in Brooklyn, NY.

Ron Goad – another fantastic host. Not an open mic tonight but a showcase. Again, support and humour, attention. Where Dan runs an open mic something like a classroom or maybe a really good support group, Ron runs his like a late night show. Charming and funny, friendly and loose with an ability to jump up on the drumkit and jam with anyone. I didn’t try him out behind my songs but was invited up to play with others and had a great time.

Playing lead for Sol Roots was terrifying but enlightening. I need to play with others more often. That’s SORT of like downtime.

A good week capped – and now we’re off to New York. You don’t have to say “City” when you’re talking about the “City”, or so I hear – Brooklyn is two hours away yet, people are playing damn fool games on the highway. My allergies are beginning to kick into high gear as genuine summer explodes into being around us. Back home it’s 80 something degrees and the air is already thickening. I’m pretending that New York will have a touch of spring still in the air.

Driving Driving.

I’m so very grateful that Heather likes driving. There was a time long ago when I really enjoyed the physical act of it – I think – but I guess it’d be more true to say that I’ve always Loved the freedom and possibility of it. My old Volkswagon certainly had a wonderful physicality to the shifting, the pushing, the hauling of the wheel. Climbing in and climbing out, feeling the jounce and bounce of the vehicle – but I don’t know that I’ve ever really felt the JOY of driving in any other car – and really it could be as simple as that having been my first car, my first exposure to the experience as a whole. I enjoyed sending my bus careening down tight alleys and over sharp hills, struggling up mountains and cautiously edging through rutted streets that she had no business traversing. She was my tank, she was my ticket outta here… briefly she was my home… but yeah, she was also my first – so who am I to say?

Let’s blow this thing and head home.

The Saturns I never LOVED that way. Heather’s Elantra? Nope. Kristen’s Hundai? No. They’re fine – but they’re not FUN. I Love my friend Sanfy’s Bronco II – but in the same ways I Loved my bus.

Anywho – Heather does almost ALL of the driving and I’m very very grateful. Long hauls, short hauls – and most especially today’s haul : New York City.

I hate the word “trigger” in today’s context. I grasp the concept, and trauma can result in pitfalls of persona that yes… provide very real psychological triggers – but I hate the ease with which we’ve thrown this into every day conversation to mean “I don’t like” something.

Driving in New York City? This TRIGGERS me. My heart has been racing all day, and didn’t cease till we got back on the Turnpike well into Jersey on the drive home. DC is similar. I spend the whole time in a near panic because I simply feel like there’s no way I can keep track of all that’s going on around me… the moment I turn my head one way I’m certain something’s coming at me from another direction. It’s absolutely terrifying.

Today was the first time where I didn’t try to navigate. I didn’t follow along on the map. I didn’t look over Heather’s shoulder. I just looked out at the passing landscape and this seemed to work a LOT better. Minus one minor moment when we were all glad I happened to be looking up at the right time, I managed to mostly give the world a thousand yard stare that had a LOT more to do with the scenery and almost NOTHING to do with where we were or where we were going.

I’ve decided this is a far superior approach. My heart raced but I didn’t sweat. I didn’t spend the whole time in a panic. That seems to be just about all I can ask for.

The show we drove up for was awesome. We were guests of Coco and Bruce for their First Acoustics house concert – the last of their 10th season – and with temperatures all day yesterday hovering in a very summery 80+ territory and most of tody being the same, we’d hoped the weather would hold for a picnic dinner – but it didn’t. Shortly after 6pm the temperature started plummeting and soon we were all regretting not having brought legit winter jackets.

The show was marvelous. Great audience, incredible house. My friend Kosi came out and while I was walking her to the train station afterwards I realized that though I despise being in a car in this city, this part of at least is Lovely to walk through. Music coming from different clubs, all the different smells – I know that I should mention at this point that I was in Brooklyn – and that will mean I wasn’t in any other part of New York City and I will be judged for enjoying it too much or not enjoying it more – the natives will say that that’s really New York or SOMETHING – but I don’t care. It was probably one of the first good experiences I’ve ever had in the city….

Even with about $40 in tolls each way we’ll have mae good money. Even with a little over 7 hours of driving it’s not an unmanageable day trip.

Of course – I was that NOW. It’s 1.07am, we have another hour and a half left ahead of us… and of course, Heather’s driving.

Note to self : driving at the speeds my Volkswagon could manage? It would’ve taken a LOT longer. Still… I miss that steed.