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Entries in maladjustment (17)

Saturday
Dec032011

Jesus the Shape Shifter +20

This year of 2011 is drawing to a close and with it the +20 (years) aspect of it leading me to weigh what was going on twenty years ago. There are a few reasons 1991 is worthy of a look now twenty years on; it was the year of my high school graduation and then starting school at Mesa College after that; working at Subway where I met Matt Zuniga and where our status as exiled suburban drummers led me toward recording and all that; and a year where I traveled to Europe for the first time; and in some ways, some early brushes with a deeper level of life outside my comfort zone.

It was in the middle of the year of 1991 when I pretty much began my personal journal that now has gone on for two decades. The kinds of long form, introverted, and exploratory posts now on this site are not all so different than what I wrote in the early years (though they are far more legible and generally better composed). My friend Shelby, still causing me to spill pixels for as I process some of these earlier instances with a bit more perspective, was a huge figure that year, though never for the reasons I had hoped for. A completely mixed mind is sprawled out over various loose page journals from the second half of the year, and of course, she continued to shape things for years to come, until the crash.

One of the foundational experiences occurred on August 2nd. It was just a week or so after she got back from a trip to Russia that lasted a month. Her trip was quite a boldly timed thing, given the fact that the Soviet Union was only then in the process of becoming a historical nation. When we had this conversation on August 2, Gorbachev was weeks from losing his place as leader. When she was there, she saw the collapse as a citizen of the republic would have—empty store shelves, long lines for what could be had, and all that. For a 17 year old only nine days my junior, that was world wisdom that even this old man did not have. And, in America in the early 1990's, living as a suburbanite, even as a son of a working man, I only knew a baseline of what constituted comfort by the standard of about 98% of the world's population. But I didn't really know that. I didn't grasp it at any existential level. So Shelby was my rude awakening. She saw to it.

For the two weeks smack in the middle of her trip to Russia, I was in Europe. She saw the bread lines and empty shelves. I landed in Geneva and was met with absurdly common instances of Swiss watch shops, chocolatiers, charcutiers, and everything else that constitutes the enviable European good life in one of the most well-off nations on earth. About as much friction as I perceived there was some graffiti on the outside wall of one such shop. It read, "Yankee Go Home!" and was a kind reminder to my nation to not let let the fall of the Soviet Union become a power-trip, a stimulant. We had just "won" the war against Saddam Hussein in February after the six week campaign. I was in Geneva in June. If not for that bit of vandalism—totally out of place in Geneva, which has to be the cleanest and nicest urban space I've ever been in—then my trip would have been just a little bigger a deal than a trip to Disneyland. The places my old man/tour guide selected were pretty controlled sights to see—largely places that cater to tourism. For my time there, I spent all my time, heart aflutter for Shelby, thinking I'd be in a new golden era with Shelby once we came back. I got her a Swiss watch—rather dainty, comparatively speaking. She got me a Soviet one. It was big and manly with Cyrillic marks in red and black. Of course, not too long after, it broke and never worked again! 

But while our reunion in the late-middle part of July was met with my heart thumping out of my chest after not seeing or hearing from her for a month (and the hype associated with entering that period is a whole other story), she had just come home marked for life by her experience of seeing the dark side of the empire, getting to know real people. Maybe she's a bleeding heart liberal in a way that I can't relate to. Sometimes her rants did sour me, mainly because I was raised in a quite Republican/conservative setting and really had little idea what she was talking about. It was one of those rants that reshaped our history for years to come.

So on August 2, 1991, we went to breakfast. We scheduled it several days before. I was thinking we'd go to Denny's or something. That was breakfast at a restaurant, right? And maybe we'd go out at 10 am or something? Nah. She wanted to go out at 7 am! This was a jarring thing since I was getting to be later and later during that summer. But since I was so nuts for her, I was ready to do just about anything to get near her. She came over and picked me up. We had no idea where to go, but she said she'd like to go to Old Town. WTF? That's kind of far away, isn't it? There's nothing in Old Town but Mexican restaurants that cater to tourists. There's a Denny's just a few miles over in the other direction... Furthermore, she accosted my sensibilities by wanting to go to a Mexican restaurant for breakfast. Mega-WTF? Breakfast is eggs, bacon, pancakes! (The thing is, I was hyper sensitive to breakfast foods then. I tolerated cereal. Too many instances with "institutional" eggs that made me grimace. Cereal was breakfast for me.) I talked her out of that, so we went to downtown, some miles more. Didn't find anything appealing and agreeable. Her patience was thin and I was aware of that in a totally guilt-ridden, I ain't making no headway here kind of way.

We turned back to Old Town and the same Mexican restaurant we had just left. I felt like I was doomed in every way. I ordered something I thought would work out—a total gringo copout in the form of pancakes—and tried to eat some. All the pent up anticipation of seeing her again (I'd seen her a time or two since our return) and a wild case of nerves conspired to ruin this day, starting with the wrecking ball to my appetite! I took about three bites of these pancakes and pushed the plate aside. Then the browbeating came. I felt sicker than ever. 

Watching the news and seeing the state of the USSR at that time was one thing. It was safely at a distance. But sitting there with a friend who had actually seen past the Iron Curtain and was a new convert to what reality was, even in the lives our our arch-enemies, all that was mercilessly demolishing my ignorance. I don't know if she was rehearsing such a rant as I got that morning over pancakes, but she delivered it with passion, and I pretty much melted into my seat. I knew she was right. "Americans take everything for granted. I'm never again going to take anything for granted." I could tell I pissed her off. I made some vague offer to do something responsible if it made her think any better of me. I don't know if that was to take the food and donate it or to pay double or what, but it was what came to mind. 

I was well clammed up about this and a lot of other things in that great summer of transition. The thing is, a moment like this was golden, even as it was painful. But I'd have to wait nearly a decade before I actually got out what I had to say all those years before. It had nothing to do with Russia or food. I just wanted to be with her. She lit up my life. I could tell even the hard times were ones to learn from. But she never wanted the same and I never had the fortitude to get that message across without equivocation. When I did, it collapsed like a house of cards. But that is well discussed in the link above.

Skip ahead a couple months to the end of the year. I started working at Subway a few weeks later and by this time in December was about three months in and had progressed (by attrition) to be a "senior" employee, if not by age (18), then by the fact that I had outlasted the others and was now essentially the longest tenured closer, training other characters like Matt and Sarah. (You can read about my early Subway experiences here.) By the start of December, I was weary. I had already given Subway my nights and weekends. I noticed that working so late on Saturday was making it hard to be in church on Sunday, so I stopped going. In a time of transition out of high school and into my little experience with community college, I was rather foolish to isolate even more by dropping out of church. My social life, such as it was then, was largely shaped by returning to Subway on my days off so I could get dinner (which at that time was total culinary liberation compared to the garbage available at home). Or maybe I went in half an hour early and made my sandwich. By the time this journal of December 11/12 was written, I was newly faced with the reality of having turned my drums over to Matt just two weeks before. I was depressed. I think I got the flu. I was feeling pretty low.

Then I guess Jesus was out there to greet me on the way to work that day. He came in the form of a 40- or 50-something woman standing out near my Subway shop, but closer to the McDonald's driveway. As I biked in, I saw a sign that in 2011 would not shock me so much: "Homeless, Please Help, God Bless You" or something like that. I biked past her originally but as I was parking inside the Subway, I realized with a few minutes I had before shift-start, I could go out to offer help. I felt like maybe my own employee sandwich for the night would be the most reasonable thing to offer. So I walked back out and made an offer if she needed some food or to get out of the cold for a while. She did come in. I did get some food and drink for her. She said she was sleeping in a canyon with her husband. I don't know exactly what canyon, but that message was clear enough. Even in San Diego, a December night spent outside is no one's first choice.

My journal from that day recognized that this experience was the fruit of the seed planted by Shelby a few months before at that terribly uncomfortable breakfast. Okay, but I know that celebrating this is rather self serving. And I've perhaps done more in the time since, and without the kind of Shelby-is-watching self consciousness that accompanied this deed. But what surprised me about the original journal entry was what followed.

August 2 wasn't the day but December 11 was. [...] Christmas has come to mean less and less to me, especially after last year [a family Christmas blowout concerning a power struggle about which store to buy from, signalling decay in Lucas Land], as I usually can't stand the commercial shit out there, and there is little family unity. Sometimes, I feel better if I'm doing something for someone. But it's usually because I'm told to do something, not spontaneously, like today. Doing something like that seemed to be the only right thing to do that would make me feel a little better about this season that so often gets me down. I saw this opportunity and took it. Hell, my Christmas is made. I've got my CD player [a big thing that year that I know was bought a few days before], but not everyone is so lucky. Some people need to rely on donations such as the one I made today. Not because I was told to, but because I do feel a bit guilty about getting so much handed to me "on a silver platter," as it were. 1991: Ed's material year: bike; trip to Europe; CD player [CDs were a form of music playback device in the 1990s, LOL]; a job; way too much spending money; new cymbal [interestingly bought just an hour or so after the notorious August breakfast with Shelby]. And what did I pay for? Only a $100 cymbal! Everything else was given to me! It's about time I give back, or give away.

[Snip some musings on how I'd model my ideal self on some key people I respected then...]

I think the whole key to being such a person that I'd like to become is to take a walk in the other person's shoes, to live by the golden rule, and to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me. I was happy with myself.

A mixed bag of degrees of consciousness. I originally titled this entry "Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons" but I was thinking of how Jesus appears to people at various stages in the evolution of our consciousness. Some people respond better to the coercive Jesus who is the law man, the enforcer, the one who shames you into right action, and maybe it takes hold. Others respond to invitation. Jesus enters the room and at some level, one can only respond in the best possible way with one's being and presence. In this story of mine, I was a bit more responsive to the latter, the woman with her sign was more motivating than being browbeaten with Shelby's guilt, even as right as she was.

I'm still a bit embarrassed to post this bit of naive and rather condescending self-reflection. Such is a mind in transition. But I was really surprised to be reminded of the fact that even in 1991, I was already moving along one side of the fork in the road with regard to holidays and commercialism. I can still sense the revulsion and disgust at watching how my family was grappling with missing Eda (for several years by then), aging (both grandparents less and less able to host much for the holidays), and the strife surrounding which bargain department store should be used to buy stuff for me (my old man, a staunch K-Mart man, bitterly opposed my grandmother's more lenient purchase of a gift certificate from Mervyn's. He knew that could only mean I'd go buy Levi 501s which he seemed to have made a personal crusade against for a few years prior). Christmas 1990 was a new low point where I was beginning to see behind the veil of false joy that the holidays typically wear in this culture. Even doing the bit that I did for the woman at Subway was an early way to grapple with finding some alternative, even if it was a mechanical and self conscious act for me. As my father Richard Rohr says, we have to act ourselves into new ways of thinking, not think ourselves into new ways of acting. Baby steps.

In those days though, my world was rather small, and I had not really left the figurative apron strings, expecting the care to flow toward me rather than the other way around, or ideally, in a circular fashion. That was rather distant still. One thing that Shelby's method did not really account for was that I was not ready to come out of a shell that I was raised within. Granted, she delivered a few critical blows to it. She had her iconoclastic tendencies and got to make some real black and white statements, even in those earlier years. I guess she did provide me with the "nag" in a nagging conscience about my place in this Earth-scheme. She did that in the same way as my step mom Eda gave me a steady dose of God-talk that I was not ready for, and then when I was, I still had to adapt her language and vision to suit my vision of the world. (Interestingly, the reopening of my in-person contact with Eda was just around the corner from this date in 1991. Only a month later I was I saw Eda on the down-low for the first time in years. That's next year's drama, folks!) 

A lot is made about Christmas being a time of giving. If you read your biblical stories without a contemporary American/consumerist mind, you don't really see it that way. (You could read Lee Van Ham's perspectives.) Christmas is a time for hope in the darkness, and the symbol of hope, the symbol that God really gives a shit about humanity is that a helpless baby bore the divine image. The baby Jesus is, as Richard Rohr says, a divine lure to a deeper humanity for all of us. The incarnational aspect of divinity merging with the stuff of the human being—the dust, as it were—is the miraculous message of Christmas. The scandal of the birth of Jesus was that God hid among us, among the most helpless and simplest of our kind, so that our hearts could be softened and our minds transformed. I'm probably not alone in being rather slow to get it. My journal reminded me that there were some awkward and clumsy steps along the way. Giving is important but it is not the real nature of Christmas. Giving flows from the transformation of one's mind and the softening of one's heart, and that doesn't happen with lightning bolt clarity at all times, if my slow progression is any indicator. But using the model of a divine lure, that isn't the point. The point is to keep moving in the right direction, as Christmas draws us toward Easter: the lure of divinity draws us to the cross of pain and heartache and the death of self and ego, but that paves the way for the next wave of life, and ultimately that patter is one of repetition.

Who knew how the cosmic tide was rising for me twenty years ago? I barely knew I'd get theological as this when I started this very entry! Shelby, the sometimes cantankerous bleeding heart liberal who usually identified as an athiest-agnostic (and who ironically I met in a church as she explored religion as an anthropologist or student of comparative religions would), and the poor woman begging on the corner at Subway both figured into effecting transformation in me. Seeing it now, both had the shape of Jesus, with different levels of my self being able to interpret it as such. All the years later when I was delivering veggies in the commercial food industry, the seeds that these two women planted in me all those years ago were grown up. Working in the food industry, I did see a huge amount of waste at the very same time I saw growing numbers of homeless people almost literally outside my warehouse doors. This time around, for the three years at that company, I was far better prepared to act. I suppose I was making good with Shelby after pushing my pancakes away.

This time around, having more organically absorbed a sense of the pathos of the world at international and domestic levels, but also the pathos within me, it was easier to respond not because of Shelby's looming presence over my shoulder, but because it was inside me. I don't know how much food I tried to divert from waste heaps by literally grabbing and going on my own parallel mission to serve. I only know there was more to grab and more people to serve and that I could never do it all. Some food (veggies, milk, bread) went to the couple social agencies I was connected to; some went from me to homeless at the street corner. What I could not give away that specifically, I literally just dropped anonymously in known hotspots where it would all take care of itself. With it came this surge of the divine spirit that comes with doing some of these counter-cultural things like doing both my boss' work and God's work on the very same trips. I don't know if the company ever knew of that, or if that was exactly what led to my dismissal, but for much of the time there, I was regarded by facts and figures alone to be one of the best drivers there in terms of actual "productivity." I just don't know if my little charitable operation was known of! Maybe it was. I did things of this sort even as I was training new hires, in part to shape their own consciousness of how our industry was so wasteful, and to set their minds thinking of how to do something useful however they could.

During that period, 2008-2010, I have to say that there were so many of these opportunities that I began to feel the presence of Jesus at each of these corners. Each became a sheep-and-goats moment for me, as my pastor preached on a couple weeks ago, instead of it being a matter of judgment, the sheep and goats story is one of a reality check we could always have in our mind. Are we attentive? Do we pay attention to the world around us? Do we know who is in need? The America I am in right now is a different place than I think it was in 1991. But I recognize the signs. It was almost that that woman at Subway was brought forward in time by a couple decades, a vision of 2011, a vision of what America's own collapse will be like. No wonder people turn away. I didn't want to see it. After that instance, I went back to sleep for I don't know how long. I hit snooze. Being reminded of this first instance though, it brings to mind a few other moments where I acted just as awkwardly in years to come. Jesus kept appearing and it took a good long time before I recognized him and was prepared to act. 

Tuesday
May172011

May Gray 

I find it is still hard to get back into a normal life in Sandy Eggo after time at Red Mesa. I miss the structural element of having a job, but seeing how I am trying to develop my digital media abilities in hopes of finding something that calls on more than my ability to pilot a vehicle or move boxes, I am having a harder time finding work than usual. I've had a couple interviews but really it was a step backward from my time delivering the taters and onions. Resumes sent to organizations looking for media people have gotten rejections at best, and ignorance at worst. Not working gives me time to dabble in a lot of things, and for better or for worse, I have pressed on into the world of social media options, and yep, that stuff takes time to work on. I still have my reservations about it all, though. A year ago I wanted nothing to do with it all. Now for the sake of helping JEM or Kelli with the new WomenWhoSpeakInChurch site and its Facebook version, and the stuff I do to keep amused (with Buber the Dog's FB site, and one other that shall go unnamed), I am pretty much trying my hand at the various ways these things can be made to work together.

Since Kelli's ordination I've been messing with video programs and it hasn't always been fun. The couple cameras that captured footage both had breaks in the program, both during the same song that Kay sang, but at different points. So neither camera got unbroken coverage. An audio CD did get a pretty good mix off the board. (I did all the audio at my old church.) Trying to settle on a strategy for making the experience available to those not there that day, and to make it concise enough to put on YouTube (in shorter bits) has been a challenge, and I found myself needing to push into a couple new programs to get stuff happening. The material will accumulate at the WomenWhoSpeakInChurch YouTube site.

Red Mesa has made worship in a church seem kind of bland and uninteresting on the whole. The times I have gotten to church since my return I have been as likely to sort of drift out to another room to sit and be alone, or to wander back in for the sermon. Or not. I resigned from the Christian Education commission, which I felt rather useless at. I found that the things I do in the context of the young adults bunch seems to sustain my interest more and feel more effective in real time. No procedural meetings. Just contact that gives me a chance to periodically assume my role of teacher, but otherwise as fellow student, and just trying to create community among people who, about two years ago, were strangers, or not even involved yet! So I feel that has been quite a success, and actually, the togetherness and level of participation of this group has been rather notable compared to other upstarts from the same period of about 2-3 years ago. We're planning our own end of the world party for June 11. I call it the Post Apocalyptic Regressive Communion. Maybe Kelli, now fully ordained, can bless the scavenged food elements of Tang! drink and perhaps nuclear-safe Twinkies or Wonder bread. Fun!

Maybe it is the May gray, but I do feel down. Not being active for work has left me to stay home a lot, and frankly, I put back the weight that I lost while in my bike riding heyday. And I feel it. I just don't feel that I want to ride anywhere anymore. I don't leave the house too much but to walk the dog, go to church, errands, and such. I know it is the stuff that leads to depression, but I am trying to stay productive with my digital projects which seem to blossom even as I get them done. Ongoing ones like podcasts take a few days to get right; Photo work to present my trips is an ongoing thing; I blog once in a while; learning video is a new trick; editing my whole site a few months ago was epic; getting Google Apps set up for two domains was a big deal, especially when it came to transfering three email accounts; and then there is the social media stuff. Once in a while, it's time to look at manuals or tutorials online. At any given time, I've go plenty on my plate of jobs to take on. And not working is an unmatched time to get that stuff done. I hope it pays off as I push toward positions that might be more able to call upon my actual interests and enthusiasm.

 

Sunday
May082011

Mother's Day

This year for Mothers Day, I suppose I could entertain thoughts of women who have played mother-like roles in the absence of the relations that were my birthright. Nancy and Sharon come to mind. But this year my own mother's birthday was also on Easter Sunday, and today of course brings it all back to mind whether I like it or not. Across the ebb and flow of the years, we've generally had estranged relations, with a period of about five years off, and maybe one year on. Lately, I've been in another period of unease about the whole thing, this time a bit ahead of schedule. It has been three years since the last attempt crashed and burned.

The fact is, I know my mother has had a rough life before and after I came onto the scene. I know she's torn up by the sordid events she's narrated for me over the years. I know she's done what she thinks is right in the moment. I know we've had our own kinds of heartbreak and suffering at the hands of the same man.

What breaks my heart is that the damage seems so thorough that that message won't ever be made clear to her. Three years ago, the entirety of family collapse was such that I was half joking that it would be a good idea to have a public memorial service to mark the state of affairs. But that sounds a bit bogus. I mean, yes, I do live without support or even contact with people who once constituted family, but I can't pretend completely that they don't actually walk the earth anymore.

Some people have families die in car/plane/boat accidents or acts of genocide and war. Tragic as it is, the finality of that seems to at least take one to a place where it is inarguable as to what has happened. As for my situation, all of these people still walk the earth, breathe the air, and drink the water. Most are 100 miles away, one still in my hometown. Years of estrangement takes its toll. Years of therapy to move on helps get past particular crises but doesn't change the underlying reality that everything is shattered but still so close.

At the moment, I am not the football they used to volley or play games to win and control. I am a free person, except for the ghost that hangs around. In an odd way, this terrible and painful series of experiences has led me to understand both parents in more forgiving ways, and I am wrestling with how to channel that. I am also wrestling with the fact that history tells me that no real good will come of this for myself, but that in being so damned stubborn and persistent, I will be acting not so much in reaction but proaction. It could very well be that this is a dumb thing for me to concern myself with. Lots of people ask me to consider that.

My hero, Jesus, preceded me in understanding how family just doesn't get it when junior grows up and forms a self. 'No prophet is accepted in his hometown, etc.,' 'Who are my mother and brothers and sisters but those who do the will of my Father in heaven?' This has certainly paved the way for me to move toward other figures who offer more life and vitality as I struggle to molt the old skin of my identity as a son/brother/uncle/nephew to all the people who now keep their distance or are so toxic that I can't really be around. Still, the gravitational pull is strong. I know there is precious little that can be fixed; the brokenness is too great. I often feel I am the only one who recognizes it and perhaps has a scrap of a clue what to do about it. Everyone else is locked up tight, frozen at the soul level. I've done a range of things, followed a few paths to try to make sense of all this and at least set it aside so I could progress as myself.

The men's work that I have done primarily is built on one goal: to help men realize their beloved sonship of God. (No slight to the ladies out there: you can claim your beloved daughter status too.) This isn't radical or new. Mark's gospel puts it up front: before Jesus was the heroic, larger than life figure we know him as, he first discovered his innate beloved sonship. The rest flowed from that. He was able to relinquish all the other markers of social prestige and standing—"normal" family and clan relations first and foremost, and to love and live as he was loved by God. I wonder if the whole Joseph story was a way of conveying Jesus too was from what we call broken and dysfunctional families, and that the only father worth a damn was God, who he called "daddy," a title which otherwise would have been the term for Joseph.

What is clear from my own experience and from the path that Jesus laid out is that this business of beloved sonship of God is hard business. Who among us—the lay people, the clergy, the scholars—knows what happened in the missing years of Jesus' life, and what kind of heart rending questions drove him to join the cult of the crazy baptist at the river, and then go off and live so counterculturally, but with a particular message that only the Father in heaven matters? What sort of agonizing dissolution of normative relations did he have to endure before he was empowered to get past the birth-issued family relations and all the shit they can drag a person through?

My first answers to this kind of thing came three years ago when I think I understood the pain and rejection that gay and lesbian people might feel when faced with owning who they are, particularly before family members who spent a lot of years shaping them according to other ideas, other aspirations. Maybe it wasn't coincidental that the church I found myself drawn to was a place where such folks gravitated toward in order to feel the kind of safety to be oneself. I didn't know how similar it was until a few years ago I found myself on the outside of all the family I ever knew, all for the sake of exercising some self determination, or marrying the "wrong" person (a woman, no less!), and otherwise finding myself.

If claiming my beloved sonship of God is what I must do, then I suppose to ride for real, I have to let the training wheels go. In fairness, it isn't that they did me no good; it is that they have become limiting, in the way.

Sky, ever hungryA few weeks ago I was at a ranch in New Mexico where a mutt dog named Sky had her puppies in the space beneath the trailers. I never saw the pups with my own eyes. Maybe they were miracle, virgin birth pups since no father was present. Whatever the origin, I know I was oddly compelled to feed Sky. I was overcome with a feeling of compassion for her, and fed her almost obscene amounts of food, which she gobbled up as if her tongue was a conveyor belt! She drank a gallon of water at a single stop. She went on to steal into the trash enclosure and compost heap for whatever else she could find. I could not help but think of what kinds of things my mother had to do to protect her kids, even me.

In nature, there is no right and wrong. There is just survival. We humans make the laws that limit or even prohibit survival. We certainly have the kinds of laws that divide people unnaturally. That is the legal basis for the separation between my mother and I. But after that expired, on a few occasions of trying to reconnect and revive relationship, things went no better. A lot of times it has felt like death. Trying to earn my own mother's love feels like death, and is something I intellectually know is uncalled for and impossible. Jackhammering through all the layers of alienation and mistrust and hurt is a vast task that I am not particularly wise to embark upon. Been there, done that. I can't really change the hearts and minds of 67 year olds who have racked up so much hurt in a lifetime and never learned to deal with it. I know people do what they think is right in order to self preserve and to survive. I guess that is what happened here. Sometimes I feel like the pup that got dropped on the escape path and had to be forsaken for the greater good. For whose greater good, I can't say.

But there is also the parable about the 99 pups and the one pup for which God doesn't rest until it is found... That's it! (Okay, so I paraphrased.)

Saturday
Feb272010

Critical Mass!

critical mass storms fashion valley on bikes on black friday!Critical Mass storms Fashion Valley Mall on Buy Nothing DayLast night I went on the Critical Mass ride, the fourth such ride I've taken part in. Each has been a lot of fun, with the opening part, leaving Balboa Park and maneuvering through Hillcrest or Downtown being an adventure, never knowing for sure where things are going. Last night's ride was an adventure and while some of it was a review of some of the things we've done already in the three previous rides, the one new adventure for me was that finally I was swept up into riding Texas St. out of Mission Valley and into University Heights. Yup, rode up Texas St.! Texas St. was near the end of the 25 mile path the Mass took around town. But I've been working up to it for a while now, riding hills extensively in my various commutes. I fancy it a job well done because with just my fixed gear Globe bike, I was passing all the geared-bike riders who chickened out after exploiting their granny gears for a while and then resorting to walking up the hill, and a few other fixed gear riders who had to do the same because they brought their 52x14 geared race bikes. Oh, they look impressive going DOWN hills that way but a versatile gear it is not. (I'm sort of glad I didn't take the Torelli bike with its steeper gear (46x18), else I would have walked too. Usually that bike is my go-to bike for this type of ride.) I just chugged along at my low 38x16 ratio and then took Texas in one shot! I ROCK!!! It was quite a heavy breather though.

Also, a few weeks ago, I was doing a trackstand at a stop light on the way to work (before 6 am, in the dark, fortunately) and with my shoes still clipped into the still-newish SPD clipless pedals on the Globe bike, I finally fell to the ground from a standstill! D'oh! Fortunately it was not a crowded intersection at that hour and I didn't make too much of a scene. I was told this would happen. I just took five months since I got that type of pedal. I have since relaxed the spring tension as far as it would go so I can get in and out easily! With Critical Mass rides there are enough times when there is a good need to not be clipped in, or to evasively unclip, hence not wanting to ride this bike to such events, lest some stupid topple incident happens in the midst of it all. And I saw several of those last night!

critical mass in the driveway/entry to fashion valley, with a cop. shot from the upper level.CM in Fashion Valley Mall with copsBelow are a few shots of some totally delightfully scandalous moments during the four Critical Mass rides I have taken part in in recent months. These aren't even as outrageous as they come. (The most notorious ride was last summer when the Mass was headed by a few who decided to ride the Coronado Bridge. These are a bit tame by comparison but a lot of fun.)

Halloween Critical Mass at Mission Beach, just before everyone lifts up their bikes with revolutionary fervor. Halloween 2008 is when I heard about the Mass but it wasn't until 2009 that I finally took part. Kelli and our friend Nancy were originally the voices to say 'no, don't ever do that' because they experienced it the wrong way first: in their cars without even knowing what it was, and I think it scared them shitless. Okay, it's 1500 bikes that go for a ride all at once in more or less the same direction for about 30 miles around town. The whole thing fills the streets, and some people do really idiotic things, but many hold firm to the mass and it all chugs along (maybe taking up a mile of roadway at once, I just don't know how long it stretches on for) as if one big vehicle with no driver but for the most fervent riders who get up front and pull it where they want to go.

critical mass bombs the target store in mission valleyCM cuts THROUGH the Target storeFebruary Critical Mass bombs through the Target store in Mission Valley! Yes, we rode through the Target store. The customers were less welcoming than in the rest of the mall. Hmmm. I hope we do Wal Mart someday.

Last November Critical Mass rampaged past the security goons at Mission Valley Mall on the high holy days of the consumer economy: Black Friday! I couldn't resist this shot of a lone goon (on a bike no less) being utterly helpless in the face of all this, just outside their little security office outpost. He'd have more fun if he joined in. Heck, the SDPD rides in the mass too, but more so they can get a feel for the flow of things and radio for patrol car support if needed as the Mass does its winding path through town, often down one way streets and through malls and hotel or airport driveways and such.

The cops have typically functioned as escorts of the Mass but once in a while, the Mass takes them over too! I've been in two Mass rides that have hit Fashion Valley and Mission Valley straight through the heart. Culturejamming and biking are fun when mixed together! I think you have to be there to believe it. Pictures don't do this stuff justice because it all becomes a circus with people yelling and hooting and honking their horns or whatever noisemakers they have. Most of the Mass is still on the upper level with me, not on the ground yet. Others are storming down via the parking garage driveways. I was thinking it might be like the Goths storming Rome.

Fun.

Monday
Nov062006

No Prophet Is Welcome In His Hometown

Yeah, I know, it has been a month and more since I wrote last. It isn't for lack of things to write; it is for too much to write. And it isn't even that I am not writing. It is that I just can't really do all I've been writing AND blog too. It has been a busy month.

Each of my Bible classes at Mesa have me writing journals each week, so there has been a good ten or more of those between both classes since the last blog entry here. The New Testament class keeps to more academic pursuits—was Jesus this or that, and how would our image of Jesus look if we had only these books to work with, et cetera. The Old Testament class journals are more free association, and the teacher really gets a kick out of journals that take it up a notch past the assignment. One that I wrote was ostensibly a journal, but in typical TAPKAE blog form, was really a six page essay. It was on the matter of picking a law from Leviticus and evaluating its relevance today. I chose to write on the law that says we should not oppress the strangers in our midst, because we were once slaves in the land of Egypt. I used that as an entry into our disastrous and inhumane approach to the immigration "problem", and reminded the reader that Sodom and Gommorah were not destroyed for sexual licentiousness as much as for their harsh treatment of the strangers who entered their midst, and the fact that to neglect a stranger in that time and place was to break one of the most widely recognized social rules—to provide generous hospitality at all times to all comers. The correllary was that in doing so, one might entertain God's angels. So then I ask, what does it mean to our nation that we have turned our immigrants and strangers into scapegoats and the invisible working class that holds up layer upon layer of injustice?

That was one such journal.

But really, the real project going on here is far deeper for me. I've been making appeals to members of my church to think carefully about the likely prospect of a parking lot repave job and what it would mean for our church life. There is an old guard contingent there who are firm in their belief that the parking lot needs to be repaved so that we could have more members attracted to the place. I contend otherwise. I contend that we need to take the money and use it for more meaningful educational and ministerial things first and foremost. The money comes from a second cell phone tower transmitter contract we will be committing to this coming year. It is in the tens of thousands just in its initial payment. The parking lot would take about 2/3 of that in one fell swoop. Other capital improvements would take even more. Money for programs, scholarships, charity, and so forth would be culled from the scraps. I think this is a big mistake. So I've been e-vocal with various emails and stuff to paint another picture than the predominating one that assumes that capital improvements is the leading and best use of this money. I make this appeal at a time when it is becoming clearer and clearer that there is a huge demographic shift upon us. Many of the key players are older, many 65 and more, and some large share of leading players are about 80. There is a small group of us who are younger than about say, 50, and between 30 and 50 there are just a few of us. Needless to say, most of the trend is toward what works for the older set, and not so much that appeals to us young'uns. There has been a decline in activities over the last few years, and hardly anything to replace them, and it is getting lamentable for me and some others who have the same concerns.

Complicating that further is my quasi-staff position that I do make time for and wouldn't mind doing if I didn't feel the ever-present conflict between doing that out of real loyalty and rejecting "real" work that pays, but that I often don't want to do because most of it is degrading to me. My capacities at church have expanded to being the soundman, webmaster, and audio archivist. One of them I've had going for four years (audio recording and archiving). The web site was something that took two years to get started, and then two years or so I have had a creative involvement in it and ultimately most of this year I've had the full thing to myself after the other party who did it before couldn't hang. Then the sound business now is the newest. Basically, I work a part time job there with just those tasks. That doesn't even include the seat on the board of trustees, or other volunteer things that I do, and other activities that are just of interest. I proposed the idea of a paid position for my web and audio work, but that so far has gone down like pork chops at a bar mitzvah. Ironically, you see, the parking lot is more important than a guy who does all their electronic media work and has some ideas for church life renewal.

But going a bit deeper, it isn't just what it would seem. I have this other layer that not everyone can see or that not everyone else in my position would face.

It goes back to the family for me. My grandmother died in 2001 and within the year to follow, I found I wanted to go back to church. I suppose a certain amount of it was to be in an environment that was familiar even as that whole year had been tumultuous for a number of reasons. She was a founder of this congregation, I was born into it with my folks getting married there, and my baptism, and over the years, various levels of involvement for me, peaking in high school, then ten years away, then in 2002, I started back when Kelli and I began dating. She too was about that deeply rooted to the place. It was fulfilling in more ways than one. I had familiarity there. But that was before I started developing my world view in recent years, and slowly letting it show more and more. I have a relationship to that church that is that of a kid; most everyone there are not just older, but they will always perceive of me as Virginia's grandson. And, I'm finding it hard to forge an identity that does not stem from that. It isn't that I think it is bad. It is just restricting. My grandmother has a great name there for all the best reasons. In my way, I am echoing her level of involvement, but my ideas are not what they recognize as something that would spring from her. Everyone knows I do the web and audio stuff, and they might be appreciative, but I've been vocal for a while that I do that with reservations, and that I'd rather see programs develop and have more interaction and fellowship, and with that as a base, more outward reaching ministry that we can do together.

The real nut for me to crack though is that the general idea of what constitutes a future plan for the church is quite similar to the sorts of things that my father has repeatedly said would make my old house more valuable. In both cases, the leading voice is that the church or the house is more valuable if the building is somehow improved. By contrast, my sense of value is floating more and more toward the intangible. To me, the value in the house or church is not the building, but in the people and relations within. And, after the most tortuous year of being kicked out of my house last year and being subjected to the tyranny of a man who thinks that the house is more important than the home, I am now having an echo of that in the church, where certain opinions are expressed that lead me to realize the same thing is at work. Never mind the programs, we have to make the building right, then people will flood to the place! I consider it a matter that is essentially reducible to "house" versus "home." In the case of my house and my father's ideas, I ask, why try to make the house more valuable by a garage addition or patio/jail cell if it infuriates the resident who happens to be your son? And, why does one need to raise the value if one has no plans to raise the rent or sell the place? In the case of church, there is one figure who is racing against the clock to do all these improvements to the facility with the idea that people will flood to the place if there is just a fresh parking lot, or new paint, or whatever. He is working like mad to leave his legacy before he is unable, but it places me in a weird place of having to stare the gift horse in the mouth. On one hand, he does do appreciable work like no one else does. But not all of it has to be done, and a lot of it is like polishing the brass on a sinking ship if we don't do the real work of renewing our membership and invigorating church life so that it is relevant to people who otherwise could do without it. The price of my father's determination was that our family fell apart for the last time it seems. His vision of value is to build property, and mine is to build relationship. At the church, the mission is to build value in property, but what of the interior life? This is what has me scared. The realization came to me recently that the church is the other home of my grandmother's and the last living tie to her that I stand to lose, if you discount that I have furniture and possessions of hers. In fact, this church I think was her home more than the house where I lived. So it is no surprise that I've made it mine, particularly in the days after my house being taken from me. The threat of a repeat of that whole loss is in my mind.

Being stuck as I am as a young person with admittedly radical ideas compared to the usual fare, I am grasping for something that I hope won't be as disappointing and hurtful as the episode surrounding my house last year. It doesn't need to get that far. But right now, despite some thanks and congratulations that come from audio and web work well done, for the most part, people don't really get me. I apparently am not doing something deemed worth paying for, but am also a little too much in my role as rabble rouser. I'm being drawn into the business end of things, and that has been valuable as a lesson, but drawn away from being as participatory as I'd like in what I think would really matter there. I'm being subsumed by the older set's values, while not really being one of them. I have been allowing myself to think that maybe it is time to move on. Kelli is at another church as an intern, and the offer has been extended to take part in things there, but I am pretty tied up at my church. She is there doing her thing as an intern to essentially escape the snares that I am facing here, namely, how does one grow up in their home church and break the old identity down and build a new one? Not easily. That's why she is at another church as a seminarian-intern. They do that intentionally so that the intern can start with a clean slate, no burdens of old relationships and familiarity issues. They don't just let her do work at our church as an intern. She has to start new relationships, establish new trust with people, and she gets a better deal; she comes in as an adult to serve them, not as a child who stumbles and falls before the congregation, who must now be seen as an equal-to-superior. But for me, I'm seeing it's hard to change that impression, even if people like me and express some appreciation for what I do.

Add to all that that my biblical classes at school have had a mostly deconstructive thing about them, and it has been quite a mixed experience being a person struggling to find a place in the greater world of the Church (large form, not just my congregation). While struggling with an identity issue at my church, I am also exposed to a lot of evidence that most of the Bible is not what I thought it was, for better or worse. I wouldn't say I am at a faith crisis; I knew it would be like this, but it is interesting being immersed in a range of relationships to this Judeo-Christian life. This has been a year of trying to learn about that and a host of other deeply felt issues. It's all a search. One thing that I take a mixed solace in is that my dilemma is not new. Jesus was never lauded in his hometown as much as he was outside and among other people. Maybe it isn't my place to convert my family, in both senses. It could very well be time to move on, painful as it is to entertain. Things I've learned and experienced are not for naught, but they might be of limited use here. Better to walk into another place with a more fully formed personality that is not with the inherent conflict of being the boy who grew up there but now wants to tell us how it's gonna be. All this talk though runs contrary to something I began to take seriously about 8 years ago, and that was to not just cave when the going gets rough. I don't want to think of this too as one of the disposable things chew up and leave behind. I hung on to my house as long as possible because I wanted the thread to go more than one generation. Ditto for trying to make a name at this church, even in the shadow of my grandmother. I know it doesn't equate to failure if I can't convince people to forgo the parking lot, any more than it equates to failure that my father schemes and manipulates to get a house he doesn't need and has it out for anyone who would challenge him. But I would sincerely like to hope that I'd be able to move on from church with less confusion than I have now.

Thursday
May112006

An I-Sore

First off, many of us who do gigs there as band or crew refer to it as "The Hotel HELL." To wit:

The Hotel Del Coronado is about 125 years old or so. When it was built, my industry (live sound and lights, amplified events, and other complex staging-related things) didn't exist. Back then, if there was a band playing, it was the poor standup bassist who had to struggle the most, maybe the drummer. The rest of the guys came in toting horns and strings and case of sheet music. That was great. I'm sure they didn't complain much about how to get to the ball room or the lawn events. They weren't loading in trucks of gear that weighs primarily in the "several hundred pounds" category.

I've done too many gigs at the Hotel Hell. After last night it was "one too many gigs at the Hotel Hell." The whole place is just horrid for this sort of work. I can't blame the building, but sometimes I want to shoot poison arrows into the people who can take it up a notch and make it so that this line of work carries with it an extra few reasons to keep hatred alive and well in the world. For my part, I travel light. All I show up with is my piano dolly carts and some tools and my personal effects. But whoever I work for has the gear, the truck, and ultimately the burden of maneuvering it to the best place for the load in. Occasionally, I have to do that myself, but by and large, I just get what I get. Yesterday was one of the shittiest load paths ever, shittier than the rest of the Hotel Hell experiences. Let that say something.

The stage was on the lawn that sits closest to the ocean side of the hotel. Before I knew it was cut off from the most logical path due to a lot of new construction, I was thinking it would be easier than usual. No such luck. So Mitch and I went to work looking first for the lawn, then for the shortest and flattest path that would connect it to the closest place we thought we could leave the truck—a 24' truck, 13' 6" high with a massive lift gate—great stuff to use for transport, but usually a liability in a place like this with no real plan for accommodating such trucks, except in the back where the loading area is. (Notice I didn't call it a "dock" because there is no dock per se—just a deep driveway, and this route would have been pathetically complex to navigate today.) So, in accordance to an ethic of convenience we've adhered to for years, Mitch pulled the truck up to the place that made the most sense—it just happened to be right close to the entry way of the hotel where all the taxis and buses drop off the slick tourists and conventioneers at the front. We all know what to expect, but the ethic of convenience we take in this line of work is "better to ask forgiveness than permission!" Usually, once we would situate ourselves in the place of our choosing, it's only a matter of saying "oh, we'll be done in just a few!" or something like that. Sometimes we would be chased off, sometimes not. Today was maddening because it was one of those times when the valet goons swooped in on us before the truck was even turned off. They came out and told us that we had to move it because, frankly, this truck is an "eye sore" and that there was some boss of his who had a window overlooking this space. Mitch wasn't even restrained in saying "this is the last fucking gig I ever want to do at this place" which, in an effort to find the humor in the situation, leads to talk about at least charging a 'hassle tax' which is equivalent to a doubling of the night's rate for the sound and lights he offers. We'll see. Might be real. He says he does it for shows on the USS Midway museum, and having done just part of a load in there, I can believe it. Never mind that this particular place was at the top of a slope that rose out of the parking lot below, and that is where he wanted us to go, and where we had to go. Never mind that it gets to be longer and harder (mind out of the gutter please) to push a multitude of roadcases up a hill that is nothing for cars, but a back- and calf- buster for the poor sods who get stuck behind said cases, which also typically will be the wheels for the things that don't have their own—all the loose stuff—mic and lighting stands, other cases or bags, all ready to fall off at a dip or bump, and always that the least opportune time. So this valet robot goon, acting only out of fear for his own job/ass, told us to take the truck down the hill, about 150' or so because he could not venture to let us offload quickly then move the truck. As it was, if we had gotten to use that space, we still had to look forward to cutting through hotel guests along the public paths in front of the shops and restaurant, down a short hill with erratic pavement, and then down a wheelchair ramp, and finally to the stage below. All of this was under the "May Gray" sun which can give a person a sneaky sunburn even on what looks like an overcast day! Our push started just before four pm—the worst time of day for this shit.

With our push extended by about 40% and with that part of it being the worst part of it—up a slope, pushing a few 400 pound cases with untied stuff on top, it just gets hairy. All that you need for it to be a disaster is a small stone, or to hit the cracks in the sidewalk head on, or to have to dodge some idiot hotel guest who can't even bother to notice or care that there is some dude pushing twice his weight along beside them. The sidewalks, even when they appear flat to walk on take on a whole new meaning as they either provide good geometry or bad geometry that helps the load or doesn't.

I'll just skip the news of the gig, except to say it was with a band that I had worked with repeatedly in the past, and the drummer was the first guy who ever invited me to do this sort of work. It was sort of nice to see some faces that I had not seen in years, and some that have not been seen in months anyway, and to trade stories, but overall, it was the same scene: hellish load in, quick set up and sound check, then a break before the show, some time in the green room with a meal (today was some tasty and tender pork, a pasta of some sort, and a nice salad). Then, it's time to sleep while the band plays, but I did that and read some in my truck while I had to go back to it and take back other items. Then, later on, it was load out time.

The only good thing I can muster to say about the Hotel Hell gigs is that they almost categorically shut down loud stuff at 10 pm, ensuring a relatively early night compared to other gigs that go till 12 or 1 or later. But then it's time for the dreaded load out, and this was no easier. It was actually more nerve racking, not less because it was down that same driveway, and shit goes just as crazy in the down direction as it does going up. Sometimes, by the end of the night at certain venues, there is a chance that we can take advantage of the driveways or alternate routes not afforded us earlier. Tonight, not so. Even though the sun is gone, by that point in the evening, it becomes a sweat fest as the night gets a little more damp.

By the end of the night, I was fucking sore. The whole piece of work was not a lot compared to a day at AV Concepts, but it has been over a month since I pushed a roadcase, and far longer since anything as ridiculous as this. In my role as driver at AVC, I barely had to do load ins—there were stagehands and loaders just for that, so I have been a little out of shape for this. Add to that my newly aching right arm that is rebelling due to carpal tunnel, and it was starting to burn by the time I got to my truck. But the certain losers were my calfs, which had not been subjected to this shit for who knows how long. Another thing that separates AVC from what happens in most of the other work I do is that AVC is always in a position to overstaff for gigs—a load like this would have been about 1/3 the effort under their model. But then again, Mitch and others like him are not corporations who can redundantly staff their events. Both ways have their merits. I like the wild west approach of what Mitch does, but the army of labor hands that appears at AVC and other corporate gigs is nice. I prefer the band work to listening to doctors and capitalists tell how they will mold the world to their liking. But when it comes down to it, a roadcase is a roadcase, and a truck is a truck, and frankly, at the end of the night, I hurt from all the pushing and lifting. Consider it an I-sore that I can't abide. I wish that maybe I could get some valet to understand. He could walk a mile in my shoes, pushing a roadcase with shit perched perilously on top, while spinning plates, and dodging republican tourists. Maybe then there could be a little understanding of what a true I-sore is, and not worry that their precious image is being marred by the temporary arrival of an eyesore of a truck.

Monday
Mar202006

Of Sublimation And Guilt

I have it again. That nagging feeling that materialism is keeping me from being something far greater than I feel I am now. I have been plagued by this off and on for about three years now in particular, and it usually comes in the form of a profound insecurity about whether or not I have any use for my musical gear anymore. Most of my time with this equipment has gone essentially useless and frustrating. I peaked in my materialism in 2001 when I inherited about $26,000 from my grandmother who had just died earlier in the year. I spent most all of that on new gear—primarily music and recording gear, but also my first computer and some of the things that accompany that. Most of this stuff has been sold off in a long and slow process of downsizing to get to what seemed to be a core of items that would allow me a wide range of options while not having the redundancy that I had in 2001. But now, the core itself seems to be a cancerous lump, and I am having more and more thoughts that it's just time to ditch most of it and get clarity. This would of course mean that I would essentially cease to be a musician, but most of the time now it is almost all frustration and self doubt when I try to do anything in music. All the little things I've tried, and all the big things I've tried have not really ignited a fire under me to work with the dedication to my recording and composing craft like before.

Last summer, when it was time for Kelli and I to move on from the house that I had hoped to live in for many years, I was confronted with all the gear I had, all the furniture, all the books and other household junk that accumulates when you don't have compelling reason to clear it out. Add to that all the similar stuff that Kelli has, and it was a total nightmare of trying to prioritize what to keep and what to toss. I'm sure we could have bailed on more. But specifically, the music stuff was like a dead limb for me—a vestige of some life I'd led four or five years before. It's not stuff that should just be thrown around willy nilly in a shed, or at a storage space. It's still useful in every way as if it was new. It still could be used as a great tool to provide diversion to my life, or to change the world. It's not junk in the least. But it's a lot of stuff to move around, all the while not knowing what to do with it. But the thought nags still! I could get rid of it but then would I soon realize what I had done, feel some loss, then mourn a decision which could not easily be reversed? If I hang on to these things, I have them. They are ready. They are within reach. They won't have to be bought. But if I ditch them, they will be gone and not available to me, and I'd have to spend money to get that sort of experience back, or borrow stuff.

And the greater thing than the fact that maybe I'd put myself out of a guitar or bass is that I am essentially not a musician who plays music solely for the fun of it. I don't know anyone else's songs, I barely know my own anymore. No, I have always used guitar and bass essentially as something to use to record things, sort of like a painter uses brushes or sponges to place paint on a canvas, and the recording for me is the art which sits on the canvas. So for me, or at least the me that I recognize, musical involvement is more than just strumming some Eagles songs on the couch. It's a far bigger thing. But it's a headache to move this stuff—now twice in the last several months, and likely again within the year since my current space is available for that period, with a general expectation that it will end when Adam returns from Brazil. It's a headache to move it all around, get it put together, make it work, relearn how to use things. I am growing ever shorter of patience with regards to gear, technology, material items. I find most of it just tormenting sometimes, quite like when I was seven and took my entire bike apart for fun but was ordered by my grandfather to put it back together, and I was just crushed because I knew I could never really do that.

Essentially, the lofty ideas I had in 2000-2001 about being a cottage industry of music production and promotion has just been a miserable failure, essentially because I gave up the devotion to music when I got on the computer and was sucked into that world of options. Now I swear it all drives me bonkers and furthermore, with my married life on a basically good track and being removed from some of the unnecessarily empty pursuits I ordinarily engaged in, it's just odd to choose to lock myself in the studio environment in hopes that somehow artistic greatness will flow from me. I do dabble on guitar, bass, and drums (all I have left for instruments—no keys or other things), and some of the things don't suck at all, but my ability to turn any of this into art is just lacking. It doesn't happen. My old reliance on "throw shit on the wall and work with the stuff that sticks" is fruitless. I'd prefer to totally erase all signs of an hour long jam if it means sifting for 10 hours to find the good stuff, yet I am not really in control of making good stuff at will. It's maddening. So I frequently storm out of the studio, frustrated, angry, and saddened, often with the idea that I will just turn back around and go to Craig's list and put up a hundred ads for all my shit.

I recently had an odd idea come to me regarding what would have been my muse back in my "main sequence" back in 1997-2000. An odd parallel hit me, and the question is more whether I am attributing too much to the coincidence, or not. Really, it revolves around this non-relationship with Shelby, a girl who I knew I would never ever really get with, but that for some reason, she was the target of my passion. She had primarily been out of town for most of the time I knew her, but I longed for the times she was in town. One time, there was a period of over two and a half years when we had no contact whatsoever. Then, in a total coincidence of me being called to work in La Mesa on a day off from the Pizza Hut, and only being asked to come in at will before rush hour, and making a 20 minute drive to do so, I happened into this Shelby in the lot right as I walked in. It was the first time I'd seen her in two years and eight months. We hugged and it was like angels singing on high for the rest of the day. We agreed to stay in touch again. It was on August 10th. Three days later, I was at a music shop where I bought my VS 880 recorder which was the hardy little machine which I used to record everything on for a few years, and historically now I see it was the best stuff overall.

Anyway, Shelby was on her way out of town soon after our meeting though maybe we met another time or two to reconnect. She was off to Louisiana where she was in school. This was after time in Alaska (where I had seen her last just after the start of 1995), and northern California, and before that back in San Diego, where we had originally met at my church in 1988. Since she was back in my life, I had this overwhelming desire to finally get with her, and was just nuts over trying to somehow get her to come around. I wrote long and charming but still tentative letters to her. I told her all sorts of things that I hoped would make her feel wanted. Blah, blah, blah. My other outlet was recording. If I wasn't somehow focused on this girl and our future relationship, most of my time was spent recording all sorts of things with my new toy. First it was at my apartment for about ten months, then finally at the old Hog Heaven studio at my grandmother's place. The spring of 1998 and the summer to follow was time when I was utterly beside myself with gaga for her. It also happened to be a very lucrative recording period. See, the big fuss was that she was coming to town, leaving Louisiana, and coming to stay at her mom's for a while, and maybe going into the Peace Corps. So of course, there I was licking my chops at the promise of a new period to work on this project with her. Blah, blah, blah.

The summer of '98 was incredible, not because anything actually did happen between us, but because I believed even to a fault that something would happen. She ended up going into the Peace Corps and going to the eastern part of Africa. This lasted for all of two years and more—basically the same period of our total silence, but this was not going to be a total blackout. I was like an eager teenager too choked up on the stagefright to actually say anything that would destroy our friendship, so I always tippytoed around my real feelings, though they had been batted down rather harshly back about eight or nine years before in the earlier days of our knowing each other. The reason I had to tippy toe is because I knew full well it would happen again. But I had hoped that maybe all those intervening years took some of the edges off.

After she left for the PC in September '98, I began a rather prolific two years of recording. I had the space, the gear, the time, and apparently the muse to do that. Oh, I was just head over heels about her, even though I realized that nothing would ever come of it. I continued my letter writing, each time trying to evoke something that would make her come home to me, blah, blah, blah. All through 1999 and 2000, I was recording my own stuff, and things for Loaf, Tamara, Mike Keneally, Mark Decerbo, and others. That little 880 got used like mad.

In the last half of 2000, right before this Shelby was to return to San Diego, giving me another giddy spell of anticipation, I had finished my CD Receiving. In the few days before she actually returned in December, I engaged in a mad flurry of recording activity while I spent about a week recording what turned out to be my Hog Heaven Holiday Theme Music CD which I originally made because of another girl who had entered my life: my four year old neice Kaitlin. Kaitlin and I met only before Thanksgiving when I launched another period of relationship with my mom and her family, most of our lives estranged from each other. Anyhow, I had recorded 15 minutes of music in about a week and was excited to have done it, despite being essentially creatively drained after mastering the Receiving CD in September and having worked on it for a year before that. I finished the Holiday CD on the 21st or so. Shelby returned on the 22nd.

To make my already long story shorter, let me say that our "relationship" that I had so patiently tried to cultivate came crashing down in a single day on the 22nd of December—the day she returned and when we met for lunch and some errands. Total wipeout. I knew my worst fears of it failing were coming true, but in my effort to salvage it one last time, I wrote a long letter with the exact feelings that I'd never revealed to her—good, bad, ugly. I told her of all the times I hung on to this relationship like there was nothing else in life. But I was ready to let it go. I delivered it by hand to her mom's mail box in La Mesa. After that, we barely exchanged a word. By that point, it was in the email realm and I don't think anything exists between us since March of 2001.

The odd thing that freaks me out is this. In the same way as the most prolific recording period of my life started in the very same week as she and I started a new chapter, I am just now catching on that it ended in a similar way, in reverse. I've said for some time that the Holiday CD was the last good thing I recorded that actually got finished. It's the last thing that was done in my usual production style, and to my usual standard. It was the last whole project that started and ended. It was the last one that was done exclusively on the 880, before I went in search of other possibilities with all the gear I bought in 2001.

I'd hate to give this broad more credit than she deserves, but the story has baffled me for a few days now. I already knew she had worked on my psychology for a long time—I already knew I was sublimating a feeling for her and turning it into musical art. I just had not really realized how the times were linked—the new recorder and her reappearance in my life triggered nearly two and a half years of mad recording, and both the recorder and the artistic streak came to an end essentially in the same week as this broad made her final exit from my life.

So now I wonder what my muse really is. Shelby isn't around to mess with my head and drive me to record, and nor should I want that. But what does drive me to record now? I've had some great emotional pain from moving house, or dealing with my psychotic old man. No real music to come of that. I spend my time entertaining notions of civilizational collapse and environmental destruction. No music to come of that. I love my wife, we do things together. No music to come of that. I am aligning myself more and more with the Christian model. No music to come of that. What gives? I find myself asking 'what button do I push to get something out of myself, musically? Who or what is my muse anymore? What the fuck is the hold up?'

If my muse is gone, and I don't get off just playing Eagles and Stones music on a guitar just to pass the time, I find myself wondering what in the world all this gear means to me any more? I have a nagging feeling that maybe $26,000 could have been placed elsewhere, or not spent at all. Who knows what killed my muse? Who can blame me if I find that I'd rather have dinner or a talk with my wife, and not isolate in my little box? Who can hold it against me that maybe I now have what I was so desperately pining for all those years? I don't know that anyone is holding a gun to my head expecting to hear my new music. I guess I just don't feel the need to do this, or to do it the old way. What I keep insisting would do me good would be to find a band and channel my energy that way, but it's hard—I've tried that too, on somewhat my own terms, but it's such a hassle to find people who can work together for more than a few weeks. Even Glenn is too busy working around the clock. I have a shifting schedule. It's hard to make the time for this if people are going to be let downs. That is why I worked solo for so long—to avoid being the victim of letdowns. I've asked Kelli to take part in recordings too—we did one in 1998/9, but to no avail.

So I don't know what to make of it. As gear is concerned, I get crazy messing with options. I get neurotic. As art, I generally have relied on lots of paintbrushes and other applicators to do my painting. As an investment, it's still useful if it's called upon. I got rid of most of the completely gimmicky stuff. My gear now should enable me to make a durable piece of music using the time honored guitar/bass/drum formula, if I can coax ideas from them. I'm just lost.

Saturday
Dec102005

Have I Told You Lately?

Have I told you lately how much I hate the corporate mindset and method?

Lots.

Thursday
Nov032005

Still Hung Over

I seem to remember a year ago the feeling of having had a bad dream on November 2. It still feels that way, but I think the whole thing got worse. Most days, it makes me want to puke.

Against all reason and logic. Bush is still "president." Man, that wasn't supposed to happen.

Tuesday
Oct112005

What A Difference A Decade And A Half Makes

Fascistfest!

An event that used to be the high point of my year in the mid-late 80s is now seen by the present me to be a fascist freeforall. I'm a little surprised and maybe saddened for it to taken me this long to figure it out. Sometimes I'm a little slow.

Ah, Miramar Air Show! There are big billboards along the freeways that surround Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. They offer businesses the chance to watch their business "take off" if these businesses want to get a booth at the show right in the midst of the F-18s, C-130s and whatever helicopters they have up there right now. Finally, this week, it hit me! Duh! Fascism is the mingling of state and corporate power. Duh. And here it was right in front of all our eyes!

When I was a kid, I idolized the Blue Angels. As a display of flying prowess, they are still at the top of their league, and taken solely as a superhuman feat of coordination and technology, I still get shivers watching them from my dad's rooftop. (He is within a few miles of regular ops at Miramar, but gets some good flyovers during airshow season.) But I've come to assess airshows differently than when I was 12. Especially now that we are at and about to pass peak oil. One has to wonder, while the rest of us are paying unheard of prices to get to work and the grocery store, the government can still fly a half dozen F-18s for show??? While our government can't be bothered to help people in New Orleans, it can afford to not only fly these jets to the show, do three or four shows in a weekend (one strictly for press and VIPs), but it can also get all the other planes and hardware to the same show—all from scattered bases in the region, across the 5 services. Multiply times the number of shows of this sort, all for show!

No redeeming value except to give companies a place to advertise, and to glorify the machines and methods of war. And it's a good thing, because you know, Americans are getting a little fed up with this war business, so it's time to kick the PR machine into overdrive. Americans are forgetting how to love war, so the air shows are here to remind them of what a great thing we've got going.

Just think—in one weekend, Americans will have these things happen so cleverly to them that they might never know it.

First, they will be oooohing and aaaaahhhhing over machines they paid for which are used to kill people with utmost efficiency. Somehow the speed, turning radius, paintjobs, and other distinguishing features will help people forget their government really is out to suck the money from their pockets while taking their liberties and getting other nations to submit or die. Or, as Ray Charles would have said, the government is "pissing in their face and calling it spring rain." They will also forget that every gallon of fuel used to fly all those planes and copters, and to move the armored vehicles and tanks is another gallon of petrofuel that won't be coming back. It won't be available for their ride to work, or to take their children to school, hospital, or on vacation to New York. Or, every gallon of fuel used for tha air show is one less gallon that can be used to save a victim of a Gulf Coast hurricane. Gone. And the government positively doesn't give a flying fuck because they decided they needed this air show more than any one of us need to live our lives. Let's not forget the amazing waste of fuel it is for all those people to drive their SUVs and trucks to the show, often in stop and go traffic, with the line going for a mile or more out to and sometimes well beyond the front gates of the base.

From the Blue Angels FAQ page:

How far can the F/A-18 fly on a full load of fuel or with external fuel tanks?

The F/A-18 can travel approximately 1,000 miles on a full load of fuel without external tanks. Adding the external tanks extends the range to approximately 1,200 miles.

How much fuel does an F/A-18 Hornet use in a show?

On the average, one F/A-18 uses approximately 8,000 pounds or 1,300 gallons of JP-5 jet fuel at a cost of roughly $1,378.

How much fuel is used over the course of a year, including transportation, training, etc.?

Over a one-year period, the squadron, including Fat Albert, burns approximately 3.1 million gallons of fuel.

Do we have that kind of fuel to just chuck away on this shit?

Second, they will be advertised to while more or less captive. As if Clear Channel did not have enough advertising under its control, their radio stations will be out in force along the tarmac, vying for listeners with their gimmicky prize giveaways. Banners for home improvement, banks, cycles, cars, mortgages, and who knows, maybe even Viagra! Like we need to go to a fucking air show to be exposed to this? Well, what could be better? You make the public flock to a closed perimeter military base and while they are getting the sunburn of their lives, you pummel them with the same garbage that already adorns the sides of buses, billboards, magazine ads, and is plastered all over parts of the internet! Ah, the genius of advertising.

Third, the young men and women will be approached by recruiters. For recruiters, it's like shooting fish in a barrel! Hell, I've been to airshows before. It's all PR. That much I understood years ago, but I didn't understand the layers of what was behind the appeal. Once upon a time I wanted nothing more than to be an F-14 pilot. Good thing I have poor vision and a bad attitude which pretty much blew my qualifications by the end of ninth grade. (Now I get to serve my country by being a polemical watchdog.) But another generation of young men are turning up for the war machine, their options limited by their ethnicity, geography, income (or lack of). They will certainly be oooohed and ahhhhed by the gear on display. Too many (even if it's only one) will be in the recruiters office by Monday to give their lives over to the world's most dangerous job. Sad.

Well, so much for government regulating business. Hell, now it's in the business of helping business. Just think, the businesses get consumer dollars when they get back to the shop, and later on they get a nice break from the government too. The airshow is one big circus to extract money from the unsuspecting public so that government and business can get in the back room and suck each other off and then trade hi fives with cigars in their mouths.