Odds and Ends #5 ("November Rain" if "November Rain" Were a Blog Post)

Hey. It's been a minute. Well, it's been, like, 192,000 minutes, actually.

Anyway, I'm so glad you're here!

Things have been pretty good. I've been up to stuff. Busy. Warm. Intoxicated. Sore. Cold. Fulfilled. Rich. Imaginative. Anxious. Grateful. Words like those.

I want to tell you about some of the stuff I've been doing and pondering. So I guess I'll just get into it.

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I Had Myself a Summer

It's true!

As a performer, I played shows on both sides of the Continental Divide and both sides of the mighty, muddy Missouri River. I played to empty patios and rooms crammed full of enthusiastic, funky hippies. I experienced fervent applause and heartbreaking indifference. All of it.

These are some summer 2019 highlights:

  • Byron Fest was fantastic! I broke four strings in one hour in the Missouri heat and humidity, but not before wringing some energetic tunes out of them. Columbia is loaded with world-class talent. I was happy to be a part of things. Mostly, I was delighted to hang out with my buddy Byron for the first time since the 90s and meet his lovely family.
  • Annie and I visited my sister in Omaha for a brief while. You should visit Omaha some time, too. It's a great city with numerous fun restaurants and shops and things. Ultimately, it is too moist for me, but I love to visit.
  • I wrote several new songs. I was messing around with the D A D G B D tuning and ended up with a handful of new tunes. I have not been as prolific in 2019 as I was in 2018, but I am very pleased with the quality of my new songs. I feel like I've taken a bit of a jump and I'm exploring some different territory, lyrically.
  • Performing at the Ancient Way Music Festival was a real gas, man. I played an inspired set and the people (those aforementioned enthusiastic, funky hippies) were way into it. If I could only do one-hour sets, that would be great. Alas...
  • I performed numerous two and three-hour shows, building character and growing hair on my chest. I had a lot of fun performing in breweries and eateries and nice places for the nice people over the summer. I hope I get more opportunities like this, but I also realize that that's not where the magic is going to happen in terms of advancing my music career and moving closer to my goals. I feel like I need to focus on recording, live streaming, producing video content and writing this blog versus trying to pack the calendar with exhausting live performances. I mean, yeah, I'll probably take just about any gig that's offered, but I kinda don't wanna unless it's really cool.
  • I stopped performing at Albuquerque's Red Velvet Underground. Damn, I used to be so excited about that place! It just was not a good fit.
  • I started rehearsing with a band. I met my new friends Jason and Melissa through communications associated with the 2019 NPR Tiny Desk Contest. They perform together as a duo called Meri Dean, and they are excellent musicians. As a bonus, they are also fine human beings with whom I enjoy hanging. And they are also from America's Dairyland! Good times! We've gotten together several times now, and things are jelling quite well. I don't know when you'll be able to see me perform in this new configuration, but I will let you know.
  • I took a nice, long social media break during much of the month of August. I think I need another one. You probably do, too.
  • I celebrated my friend Erin's birthday at the New Mexico Governor's Mansion. As a person who owns a public address system, I was responsible for the karaoke aspect of the party. It went really well. But not so well that I think I'm going to quit making music and just be a weird karaoke guy now. Dammit.
  • We had lots of ants in the house. They were very disrespectful. Now they're gone. Amdro granules seemed to do the trick.
  • I got my ass back into running and achieved my goal of being able to run seven miles in less than 60 minutes.
  • Annie and I went camping with her family in the East Mountains (east being east of Albuquerque). In a tent. It was groovy.
  • AND MANY MORE!!!

Stickers and Pins and Things

Guys! Sticker Mule kept telling me about sales on stuff and I kept ordering things. As a result, I have all these stickers and pins and things now. I'm giving this shit away for free, too, so just hit me up if you're interested. We'll work something out if you cannot see me in person. Pictured below are my sweet new 3"x3" stickers, business cards and 1.25" buttons. I also have bumper stickers. Hit me up!

Getting LOST Again

About a dozen or so years ago I got myself really into the show LOST. I became a super-duper fan and was a small part of the amazing online community that arose around the show to discuss theories, opinions, literary references, music choices and all sorts of shit. I was obsessed. Then the show ended. I hadn't watched it since 2010. Then I learned that an old friend passed away.

Things didn't end well between Kathi and me back in 2013. We shared lots of wonderful times together, many of which were centered on our shared enjoyment and obsession with LOST. We bought an RV together and traveled to Los Angeles to watch the finale with several hundred other superfans. Our RV travels led us through Albuquerque on a few magical occasions, and the city made an impression. So we sold the motorhome and moved here to the Land of Enchantment. She went back to Wisconsin after a year. I remained. Our friendship did not last. We stopped talking.

In July I received a text from Kathi's daughter with the news that my old friend and partner had left her body after a brief battle with cancer. I'm still shaken by this news. I had had no intention of reconnecting with her again. But I hadn't ruled it out completely, either. Now that can't happen. And it's sad.

I decided I wanted to get back into LOST again after learning of Kathi's passing. I began at the beginning. Annie was in the room when I pressed play on the pilot episode (titled, "Pilot" for the pilot of Oceanic flight 815, Seth Norris God I am such a nerd). So she got hooked, too. We have watched about 75 episodes (of 122) over the past several weeks. It has been quite a ride.

I am not the same person I was when I was obsessed with LOST. My life has changed considerably, and positively. So it's been like watching a new, different version of the show. Trippy. So many memories and emotions and recollections of where I was and what I was doing when certain episodes aired (or when I watched them on DVDs rented from the legendary, Roger Ebert-endorsed Four-Star Video Heaven in Madison, Wisconsin). In many ways, I feel like the show is better suited to the person I am now. I am much more open to the spiritual message of the show, and I have accumulated life experiences that deepen my appreciation for the characters and their stories.

It's also crazy watching with Annie and experiencing her reactions to the show. Through her, I am seeing the show in new ways.

I'm enjoying the experience, but it's been a heavy, emotional one, too. I think about Kathi a lot, and I remember the discussions we used to have around the show. I wonder if she ever rewatched it. I wonder where her spirit is now – is she on The Island? Is she in a Flash-Sideways scenario? Is she okay? We had lots of good times together, but those good times dwindled considerably once LOST left us back on May 23rd, 2010. Now I'm back hanging out with Jack, Locke, Kate, Desmond, Sawyer, Juliet, Rose, Bernard, Charlie, Ben and the whole gang again. Kathi is not. So that's really sad. At the same time, I am grateful for the path my life has taken. It's led me here to this place where I can watch my favorite TV show of all time with the person I love the most.

On LOST, nothing awesome ever happens without something terrible happening simultaneously and vice-versa. Those original LOST days with Kathi were awesome. But they also happened concurrently with my brother John's deterioration and death. Now I'm rediscovering the joys of the show again, which is awesome. But my old friend has moved on. So yeah. The circle of life and all that. Live together, die alone. Don't tell me what I can't do. Son of a bitch. Dude. We have to go back. It's a bloody snowglobe. Words and phrases like that.

On a related note, Damon Lindelof's new show, Watchmen, is excellent! I read the comic back when I was obsessed with LOST, knowing that it was quite influential on the show I loved (Doctor Manhattan = Desmond, for example). I thought the Zack Snyder film adaption in 2009 was, like, okay? But Lindelof's show takes a completely different approach to the material. I dig it a lot and I feel like I'll be a lifelong Lindelof Stan. So yeah.

Listening to Women

I love being able to stream music. My platform of choice is Spotify. The algorithm has helped me discover lots of artists I would not have been exposed to otherwise. But the algorithm is far from perfect. It is probably not going to play many women artists unless you take matters into your own hands. Others have written about this. I try to listen to at least as many women as I do men. But then Spotify serves up a big old sausage party every Monday on my Discover Weekly playlist. Other playlists are dominated by dudes, too. Take Rap Caviar, for example, which is not a favorite of mine, but is considered to be the most popular playlist on the platform. The most recent edition of the playlist features 50 tracks. Only one of them is by a woman artist. This is true for just about every Spotify-curated playlist, if not quite as extreme.

So I made my own playlist. It's called Binder Full of Women after the dumb thing ol' Mitt Romney said that one time in that one debate. It features all my favorite women artists in addition to albums and tracks by women artists who just haven't gotten around to listening to on account of all the dudes trying to get into my earholes. I've been listening to that playlist almost exclusively since August. And it's working! Spotify is serving up many more women artists on its curated (for me, anyway) playlists. I've noticed a subtle change in my taste. And I've discovered some new favorites. Fun stuff!

So I Guess We're Staying in Albuquerque Now?

Yeah. Here we are. Annie and I have discussed escaping our complicated city at length and at various times over the past few years. It's got a lot to offer. It also has almost nothing to offer. One's perspective changes everything. And right now, we have settled in a shared mind space that views Albuquerque more favorably than not. It's a good base of operations. Most of our people are here. It's really cheap, too! So we're going to dig in and build our respective businesses here. We've even been taking steps to buy a house. It's not going to happen anytime soon, but it's going to happen.

Of course, this attitude toward our city could change at any moment. I will keep you posted.

Balloons!

My mom visited us in our complicated city last month to celebrate my birthday (I turned 43, yay for me) and attend the 49th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It was great! I love Balloon Fiesta genuinely, and I was delighted to have my mom here to experience it with us. We attended on the second Saturday of the proceedings, which happened to be the coldest day of the year. So there was some hardship to deal with when we arrived at 4:30 am in the darkness. But I believe that hardship made the eventual sunrise, warmth and launch of balloons even more delightful. The skies were clear and blue. The sun was bright and illuminating. We had an excellent time. Then we went home, cranked the heat and took a nap.

I Would Like to Find a Cool Hat

You know. Just a cool hat. Something I can wear on stage that would go well with my Dickies coveralls. Stylish. Timeless. Durable. Able to conceal my baldness. That kind of hat. Let me know if you find anything that matches the description.

The Bucks Are Back!

Holy shit! I can't believe the NBA season is here again. That was a really short offseason, wasn't it?

Anyway, the Bucks have played seven games at the time of this writing, and they've won five of them. Not bad! But not as excellent as the start they had last year. I am not concerned. It's a long, long season, and I believe my team will be exactly where it needs to be when April gets here.

I am pleased with the offseason my team had, too. Yeah, it sucks to get lose Malcolm Brogdon, but I feel like for all his attributes, he would not have been a very good value given the amount Indiana ended up paying him to be the Pacers' new starting point guard. I feel like the national NBA punditry is overestimating his importance. I also believe the Bucks have plenty of people on the roster who can more than replace Brogdon's contributions. They brought in Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver. And they've got hungry dudes like Sterling Brown and Donte DiVincenzo on the bench who are ready to demonstrate what they can do.

The consensus is that Philadelphia is the class of the NBA's Eastern Conference. That's fair, but I believe Milwaukee is superior. Honestly, I think Toronto is superior, too, even without Kawhi Leonard.

FEAR THE DEER!

I Got A New Phone

I guess I'm going to be doing the iPhone thing for another year or two. Verizon made me an offer I couldn't refuse – $250 off the purchase of a new iPhone XR. So I traded in my iPhone 7, which was getting a little slow and hard of hearing, and got the XR in groovy yellow. I am pleased. The battery lasts for, like, two days. Good times.

I Fell

On the same day my new phone arrived, I fell on my face. I was out on a run through the cottonwood forest that grows on either side of the Rio Grande near our home. I must have tripped on a stump or root or something. It didn't get hurt too badly, but I was shaken up. Nevertheless, I finished my run, got home and attempted to have a normal day. That was not possible.

We ended up going to the emergency room. No concussion. No brain injury. No internal bleeding. Just some cuts and scratches.

Annie wondered aloud what might have contributed to the fall besides the rough terrain; I am usually very sturdy and nimble. So I started wondering what was up, too. I realized that I had been experiencing some weirdness in my head that I had just been dismissing. Some strangeness in my left arm, too. Twitchy. Jittery. A little bit numb.

I started feeling pretty anxious about all this, so I went to the ER again. They examined me. Checked my blood. All that. Nothing out of the ordinary. But my symptoms persisted. I made an appointment with my primary care physician. We tested my blood some more. I got referred to a neurologist. Based on my symptoms, he diagnosed me with an Essential Tremor. That didn't seem quite right to me, so I (well, Annie, actually) pressed him to order an MRI for me.

I had that MRI yesterday. I'll meet with the neurologist in a week to discuss what, if anything, it reveals. I am nervous. A little scared. Worried about my ability to keep playing music. And very anxious. In fact, I'm pretty sure this whole thing is related to anxiety. I hope that is the case. I realize that I've actually been experiencing a great deal of unacknowledged anxiety lately. So it would not be surprising if it turns out this whole thing has been in my head. But all I can do now is wait.

In the meantime, I'm going to just keep doing what I do. And I'm going to try my best to continue that approach past next week when I finally find out what's going on, regardless of what that finding may be.

I will keep you posted!

Stay Tuned, My Sweet Friends

Wow. This has been quite a blog post. Another nearly 3,000-word epic. Can you tell I get paid by the word for my day job?

I promise to keep up with this thing more regularly. It's good for me. I don't have a lot of performance opportunities on the horizon, so this is an excellent way for me to express myself, connect with you and feel like I'm advancing my career.

I am also in the midst of recording my songs. They'll be released soon on all your favorite digital platforms, including the aforementioned Spotify.

There's a podcast in the works, too. I am really excited about that. Right now I'm working on the format and considering the types of guests who will join me. I hope to drop the first few episodes in early January. I'll let you know how that goes.

Okay. This has been a lot of fun. I hope you have a great week, friends. I'll see you next time.

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