Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Playing With Takeru

And who is Takeru, you ask?

A band?

A person?

Well, Takeru is about about a foot tall, eight inches in diameter, plasticky, and gets hot vey quickly.

Okay, it's a rice cooker. Well, the full name of the thing is "Super Lunch Jar TAKERU" - say it really fast, as if you were some sort of deranged Japanese game-show host. It's labeled as a 'travel kitchen', with a nonstick metal bowl in a heating unit, kept in place by a locking lid that presses the bowl down on its heating element. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've been thinking about downsizing my foodbox for some time. I carry a full-sized electric skillet with me in said box whenever I'm on the road, but I probably haven't used it in close to a year. Damn, still getting ahead of myself.....

One of the main problems with being a musician on the road is finding a decent meal, or to be more precise, what to do when one is not freely available. Most of the places I play will comp bands a meal a day, though some don't comp anything at all - not even rooms for bands coming in from out of town. Though on the other end of the spectrum, when I played at Sam's Town in Shreveport, they comped us for three meals a day. Damn shame I really didn't get much chance to enjoy that, between the kidney stone and..... well, go read that adventure, it's in the archive.

But the problem is what to do when comped meals are relatively few and far between. I try to be able to adapt to any situation, and until about a year or so the big skillet, purchased at the Wal-Mart in Bullhead City, AZ while I played on the other side of the Colorado River in Laughlin, had been my jack-of-all trades cooking device. If I wasn't cooking something directly upon its surface, I used it as a kinda-sorta heating element for a small saucepan for soups and such. But using it for something other than grilling a sandwich, or cooking something that required that much space to cook in, got to be kind of unwieldy after a while. It's gotten to the point where I just don't use the damn thing anymore, though I still carry it for reasons still unexplained. Nowadays I just heat up water for Cup Of Noodles soups in my travel coffeemaker and eat cold sandwiches. Not a lot of variety there.

But Takeru changes things. Joy and I met Takeru a few months ago while perusing the household-goods section of Uwajimaya in Seattle. We were both intrigued by the little fella's claims of versatility, its relatively small size, and reasonable price (US$35), and we agreed that it might be a good fit for me in the future, and that I should get Takeru as soon as I had the chance. And after my attempts at buying a laptop during Black Friday failed miserably (though Joy is fully enjoying the Android OS tablet that I bought her), buying Takeru suddenly became an possibility?

But how? I'd never seen the thing at any other place than Uwajimaya. Then I remembered that there was an Uwajimaya in Beaverton, in Portland's western suburbs. It turned out that getting to the Beaverton Uwajimaya was a breeze, just off the OR217 freeway that runs from the Sunset Highway (US26) to I-5 in Portland's southern suburbs of Tigard and Tualatin. The store itself is in a nice enough neighborhood, right across the street from an Azteca and a Hawaiian Plate Lunch restaurant, with a strip club and porno shop just down the street....

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Portland is a very porny town. Or at least very open-minded to the adult-entertainment industry. I remember reading a article in the Seattle sunday paper about how there were 54 strip clubs in the Portland-metro, compared to only six or seven in the much larger Seattle-Tacoma metro. Hell, now there's only three or four Deja Vu titty-bars in the SeaTac metro, and maybe another half-dozen or so clubs in the rest of the state. And they're full-nude bars, not topless like they are in Washington, or even in Reno. And then on top that, Portland is the home of SuicideGirls. Maybe that's why I like Portland so much. Now if only SG could get a sponsorship deal to get their logo on Timbers uniforms. That'd be fucking epic.....

But I digress. Back to the lecture at hand.

Beaverton's Uwajimaya was nice enough, though it only had an 'Authentic Japanese Restaurant' (not a dig, that's just what place described itself as) on the premises in lieu of the flagship store's pan-Asian food court - not enough space on the premises for a big food court like that. I had Joy on the phone the whole time I was in the store, and the first thing I told her was that it smelled like Uwajimaya to me. Not a bad smell, not funky, nor was it some sort of overpowering scent of foods and/or spices. I couldn't really tell you what the smell itself was, just that the Beaverton Uwajimaya smelled just like the flagship store in Seattle, and that I liked it. After finding the housewares, I had to flag down an employee to find a Takeru for me in the back. I also picked up some green tea for my mother, then got back on the road, taking the 217 up to the Sunset Highway to get back to I-5 downtown. Got all that? Jeez, fire up Google Earth already if I've lost you.

I've been playing with Takeru ever since I got home, making myself lunch with it, and progressively trying out different things with it. Takeru takes about twenty minutes to make a decent serving of rice, and Takeru heats up enough to cook proteins in it if I desired. Last night I purchased a small steak for experimentation, and this morning I diced up half of it and briefly browned it before adding rice and water to the pot, and then at the last minute adding in some powdered pho (Vietnamese beef-noodle soup) base to the pot before locking the lid in place and letting Takeru do its thing. Twenty minutes later, the rice was very tasty, but the steak was overcooked. I kinda thought that would happen, so I think I'll have to use fattier cuts of beef or pork instead, or even chicken breast, instead of steak.

The irony is that I'll probably still need to take a skillet with me on the road. The only difference will be that said skillet will not be the one I currently carry. Instead, It'll be one of those mini-skillets with a surface area about the size of your hand. But that - plus Takeru - will still take up less space and weight than the skillet that sits alone and unloved in my foodbox. I think it'll be a good addition to my arsenal.

UPDATE: Takeru works much better with pork than with beef. A small pork sirloin chop, diced and par-cooked the same way as the steak was before, turned out very nicely, though a fattier cut of pork would still be better than the relatively lean sirloin chop. Sliced pork belly might be the ticket, and relatively cheap to boot.

UPDATE #2: Takeru now has a new playmate, as Joy and I picked up the mini-skillet I'd talked about before. We got it at the Big Lots! in University Place (suburban Tacoma), while doing grocery shopping that spanned most of our favorite grocery outlets - Trader Joe's (right next door to the Big Lots!), WinCo Foods in South Tacoma, and the Central Market in Poulsbo on the way home. I pulled the big skillet out of my foodbox today and replaced it with Takeru and the mini-skillet, and they take up a fair bit less room than the big'un did by itself, though I had to take Takeru out of its box to insure the foodbox's lid would close properly.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Honest Mistake

Seems like an eternity since I've felt motivated to write. It takes certain circumstances to get me into that specific mood, and despite several gigs of varying qualities with both bands, nothing has really gotten me into the mood to talk about it. But the last twelve hours or so finally managed to remove the logjam from my mind. So let's discuss, shall we?

On more than a few occasions, I've talked about how I'm ready to recast Dirty Joe into something better. Well, that time has pretty much come around. In the last few weeks, we've found that all the insulating that Roger has done to our practice space has done absolutely squadouche to our problems with neighbors complaining about the noise. But at least the Clallam County Sheriff's deputies appreciated the effort he'd put into it. And our most recent pair of gigs wound up being underpaid, underappreciated messes, with Ron really putting himself on the outs with us by fucking up Roger's guitar when he restrung it and messing up the axe's bridge pieces to the point that the guitar just wouldn't stay in tune. John and I have decided that it's time to go. The only question left to us is whether or not Roger will be a part of our future plans. I'm leaning towards 'no'. He just isn't leading a healthy life right now. He's made a lot of people mad at him for the things he's done recently, though I won't bore you with the details - he's just in a bad place right now, and has been for quite some time. He needs to get is life back in order to be able to resume both work and music, and I'm not really sure I want to babysit any longer.

And then things got worse today - sort of. Y'see, Joy and I have been getting ready to play a weekender at the Circus Circus in Reno, and we'd been planning on leaving a few days early to get to Reno in time for Joy's birthday, and to visit with her daughter and her kids. But Joy's health really kept me from wanting to leave when we'd originally planned, and my car insurance payment being pulled from my bank account with my permission (again, long story) put a kibosh on any early departure, though we had been thinking about staying an extra day or two to enjoy Halloween with Michelle and the grandbabies.

It turns out that not leaving when we'd planned was the smartest move we could've made without our even really knowing it. Mikey called me around noon today and told me that our gig at the Circus had been cancelled. Not for anything we'd done or said, but because of an accidental double-booking. Some other band was already in place for that weekend, though oddly enough, the Circus' website (www.circusreno.com/entertainment/cabaret_schedule.aspx) lists us playing this weekend, and not another band. That said, the Circus apologized to us for their mistake, and promised to make it up us in the future. They made an honest mistake, recognized it, and did the best they could to alleviate the situation. I have no problem with that. Hell, I'm quite sure that's the first time a venue has apologized to a band I've been in, when they made a mistake that cost us money. I can accept that apology quite easily.

To be quite honest, while I may have lost a gig, I'm not too broken up about it. Y'see, it was only a two-night gig. With my travel expenses, two-night gigs do not pay for themselves at all. And my expenses would've been even higher with Joy in tow. And it would've been even more expensive for Mikey, because since the Circus doesn't pay for accommodations for out-of-town-bands, he was paying for our hotel rooms out of his own pocket. So in the long run, we'll actually wind up saving money by not doing the gig. And with the Circus actually apologizing to us over the snafu, we know that we're on their good side. Hopefully this will translate into a better (read: longer) gig in the future. And I've always liked playing at the Circus, so that future gig oughta be pretty good.

But for now, I'll enjoy this unexpected week off. I can relax, knowing that I've got a three-week, eleven-show run coming up in two weeks. And while I'll miss Thanksgiving with my family - as usual - I'll have money in my pockets for Black Friday. Perhaps this will be the time that I can finally get myself a laptop of my own, so I don't have to lug around my entire desktop to gigs. At bare minimum, I should be able to buy Joy something nice for Christmas.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Do You Ever Forget, Happens To Me...."

One of my favorite lines from Ron White is the title of this post for a very good reason. Allow me to explain:

I'd just finished a reasonably good gig with Dirty Joe at a tavern in Sequim a few days before, playing for a wedding reception, and I was in a good mood as I climbed into my truck for the long drive down to Minden for a gig at the CVI. Well, I always seem to forget something a few minutes after I pull away from my house, so I invariably have to make a U-turn shortly after I get on my way. And this night was no exception, as I'd left a bottle of B-complex vitamins on the kitchen counter. I grumbled a bit, went back home, and got the vitamins, then headed back out on the road. About an hour down the road, I was listening to Dimmu Borgir's "Gateways" when it hit me that I'd forgotten something much more important than a piddling bottle of vitamins.

I nearly punched a hole through my truck's windshield when I realized that I'd left back in Port Angeles the small blue suitcase that contains my monitor mixer, microphones, cables, and the whiteboard I use to write down song lists, requests, dedications, all that stuff. And I was in Poulsbo, about sixty miles away from Port Angeles. Needless to say, it was a long hour back to PA to get the suitcase. But it could could've been worse - I could've made the discovery as I pulled into the CVI parking lot instead of only an hour away from home. Yeah, it could've been a lot worse.

But the trip continued without event, and I made it in to Minden about twenty-four hours ago. Now I'm surrounded by Model T enthusiasts and students of a private military special-ops school, but I could care less who I'm playing for, so long as I'm playing - and getting paid to do so. This is going to be a busy week for me, because as soon as this gig is done I have to drive straight back to PA to take Joy to her SS/D hearing in Seattle - wish us luck - then drive straight back to Nevada to play at Casino Fandango, then make a triumphant return to the Carson Station the next week.

I think things are finally looking up for me. But then again, I hope I didn't just jinx myself for saying that.......

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hot, Bothered, And Not All That Special

Well loyal readers, I just got back from my latest sojourn down to Nevada. Want to hear all about it? Want an explanation for such a weird title for the entry?


Last week was Hot August Nights down in Reno, a week-long celebration of classic-car culture and generally the busiest week in town for just about everyone, including the bands. Steppen Stonz was camped out at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks for the third year in a row (at least that's how many it's been for me), and ready to entertain. But like last year, we were not alone. This time around our early-shift support came from The Sterling Silver Band, a crew of nice older gentlemen from around Modesto, CA - sorry, no link for them, all I could find was a band by the same name down in Alabama. Mikey called me up a few days before Joy and I came down and asked me to call the other band's leader so I could contact their drummer about kit-sharing. For those who don't know, in a situation where two bands share a stage for a week, the late-shift drummer is the one who provides the kit both drummers use, since it would make no sense for the early-shift drummer to do so - he'd wind up having to sit around and wait for me to finish before he could tear down, and that's no fun at all. And while he was amenable to the idea at first, he decided to bring his gear along anyway, and wound up using it, setting his kit up to my left. This turned out to be no problem at all, since they preferred to use an off-set formation with the drums in the back-left corner in the first place. I did my best to help them get through their load-in and set-up Tuesday evening, and I think they did rather well.

Our five-night run went rather well. It could've been longer, like it had been before. Last year we played seven days, and ten the year before that, though that was probably more a fluke of scheduling than anything else. But with the economy in the toilet, who am I to complain? A gig's a gig, after all. Almost all of our regular friends showed up, and by Friday and Saturday, so many people were coming to see us, Nugget employees were actually setting up chairs on the casino floor beyond the cabaret to accommodate the overflow crowd. In so many words, we killed it. I would sincerely hope that this will lead to more and longer gigs there.

And Joy was with me this time around, and that made life a little more bearable. We took Michelle and the grandbabies swimming several times, drove up to Virginia City for a little while on our last day in Nevada, and generally drove each other crazy with all our little idiosyncrasies, the little things we do at home that don't seem to translate so well to a small hotel room. We were also able to visit Joy's Social Security/Disability attorneys in Reno, who seemed quite confident that Joy would finally get approved for SS/D, probably soon after her hearing with a judge next month in Seattle. While we were quite happy to hear that, Joy still was stressed out about the visit - so much so that she threw up while speaking to their medical-records representative. Hopefully, that will work itself out soon.

Now I'll bet you're still wondering to yourself, "what the hell was Joe talking about with that 'special' crack?" Well, Steppen Stonz just seem to be a magnet for the more..... interesting people. I don't really have a problem with dealing with the (let's be correct now) challenged people coming to shows. Most of the time, they're nice enough. Our friends Krissy and Josh were always coming to the Carson Station, and we still see them from time to time at other shows. But this week, I came across three new ones, and each one got weirder and weirder.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Names have not been changed to protect the innocent - I just don't know them.)

First off, there were Shuffle and Spinner. Shuffle, well that's all she did for the entire time - just stand directly in front of the stage and move from one foot to the other. Spinner, she was a different breed of cat altogether. I'd go so far as to say she wasn't 'challenged' at all - more like augmented. Y'see, she would just find a chair in the middle of the floor, sit down, and spin - for hours. All the time with a sweet, innocent smile. Then out of nowhere, she'd just stop spinning, get up and walk away without the slightest sign of dizziness. It was like she was born with an internal gyroscope or something! It was getting to the point that Mike and Arthur couldn't even bear to look this woman's direction, for fear of getting dizzy themselves from watching her spin around. But they never bothered anyone, so I can't really bag on them.

But then there's the guy I call, well I really don't want to tell you what I call him. It's not nice. This guy is higher-functioning, but I don't think he has a good handle on how to be polite. I posted on Facebook a few days ago that being 'special' is no excuse for being a prick, and this kid is unconscionably rude to us. Y'see, here's how he rolls: he sees us playing, and he runs to the stage. And I mean run. I've actually seen him push people out of his way to come talk to us. While we're in the middle of a song. And this is what he says:


I can impersonate this guy almost perfectly - and Arthur hates it.

He doesn't refer to us by our names at all, other than Arthur, though I know we've all introduced ourselves to him before. Mikey was genuinely surprised when kid actually said his name earlier this week. He wants to hear Kool & The Gang's "Ladies' Night", and he wants it right now, even if we'd just played it while he was already there. Problem is, he just doesn't seem to have an understanding of how to ask us nicely. If we're out talking to the crowd on a break, he'll just walk right up to any of us and interrupt whatever conversation we're having with "TELL AH-TA PAY LADY NIGHT!" and he won't leave us alone until we acknowledge him. Funny thing is, dude usually walks away midway through the song after he requests it, and we don't see him again for the rest of the night.

As you might have guessed by now, I tend to have rather mixed feelings about dealing with the challenged/disabled/whatever while I'm onstage. Usually they're not a problem at all. Our friends Krissy and Josh are usually quite good company. But here's a worst-case scenario for you. Let's say that you're playing a private gig, a gig for someone who's got a lot of money, and has offered you a good chunk of change to play for their backyard cookout. Now let's just say that during this gig, the mentally-challenged child of the person paying you to be entertain their guests decides to climb up onstage and demands to sing along with you. And since you have no desire to lose face with your employer, let alone your paycheck, you spend the entire gig having to deal with someone singing nonsense words and worse melodies along with your music, and singing loud enough that you have to turn the child's microphone almost completely off so they don't throw off the band.

And here's the worst part of it all: what I just described for you was absolutely true. It was for a doctor's summer cookout (I think it was a Fourth-of-July cookout, but I'm not totally sure) in Gig Harbor, Washington, about seven or eight years ago. I was playing in a three-piece called Backstreet Romance. While I'm still friends with the group's singer, her then-husband guitarist is a total piece of shit who remains on my permanent shitlist to this day for some very shitty things he said to me, trying to blame a disastrous New Year's Eve gig at the Tacoma Sportsman's Club on me. Maybe the dumbass should've listened to me and bought the sequence for No Doubt's 'Hella Good' from my friend the professional sequence-builder instead of using a karaoke disc, not rehearsing to it, and then flubbing the introduction and completely blowing the song to pieces. And on that summer day in Gig Harbor, we pretty much just had to take this girl's horrible screeching - for about three hours. I begged and pleaded with my bandmates to do something, find some reason to get the girl off the stage, but they told me that we'd probably wind up working for free if we did that. Ever since then, it's been my personal preference to keep anyone with any sort of difficulties like that at as far a distance from the stage as possible, and to not engage them at all when I'm offstage. I know that this probably makes me look like a dick, but you'd probably feel the same way if you went through what I did.

Truth be told, as long as you're not a total asshole to me, I just don't care. You're having a good time, be my guest. If you're nice to me, I'll be nice back. Most of the time, challenged people are far better-behaved than most of the drunks I deal with on a nightly basis. And like everyone else, it's only the total asshole who gets called out for boorish behavior.

Sorry about the rant. Maybe I'll have something more positive to say next time......

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wasted Day

Did you ever have one of those days, the kind that when all was said and done you'd wished that you'd have just hit the snooze button instead of getting out of bed? Yes, I know you have, I know we all have. But this is MY blog, so I have the right to be a little whiny once in a while.

So anyway, where were we? Well, when last we talked I was making my mind up to quit Dirty Joe. The afternoon after I wrote that, I gave them a rather stern yelling at. And much to my surprise, they admitted to their faults and agreed to try harder to be on time, be ready to go, to lay off the weed and actually work on things once in a while instead of just jam for thirty minutes, then take a thirty-minute weed break.

So I informed them that we'd be picking up some new material at tonight's practice. But not before I found out that I'd totally forgotten about a doctor's appointment this afternoon. Allow me to explain. Eleven years ago, I'd been diagnosed with a small umbilical hernia which was surgically repaired in September of that year. Well, about five weeks ago I felt a sudden 'pop' and a sharp burning sensation in my lower abdomen, just a little below and to the left (my left) of the small semicircular incision scar below my navel that's courtesy of said surgery. The pain only lasted for about thirty seconds, and then I moved on with my life. And what did I do to deserve this pain? Rolled over to get out of bed, that's all. And it gets worse, or at least more embarrassing. A few days later, it flared up again while I was trying to be........ intimate with Joy. Needless to say, that was a show-stopper. The next morning we called the local Volunteers In Medicine clinic and scheduled an appointment, which we both promptly forgot even though I was still occasionally having little flares of not even pain, just sudden discomfort.

So yesterday, I get a voicemail reminding me of a 5:30pm appointment at the clinic, and practice was at 6pm. So I texted the guys and told them I was going to be a few minutes late. Turns out I probably should've skipped the appointment altogether. The only good news I got was that I was losing weight, down to 229 pounds with only my shoes off. After being poked and prodded by the clinic's doc, she told me that it was quite possible that I had an incisional hernia (where the intestines poke through the scar tissue left from the original hernia repair), but she couldn't find anything. She gave me a form to fill out that would (given my current state of poverty) allow me to be seen by doctors and surgeons at Olympic Medical Center for pretty much nothing. She also told me that she'd look through the hospital's files to see if she could find records of my original surgery. I guess not knowing that something is wrong is better than knowing and not really being able to do anything meaningful about it.

So after leaving the clinic, I get to practice only to find that Roger was still quite busy working on the Amigos' clubhouse - so much so that we didn't actually start playing until almost 7:30pm, and we could only play until 9pm because John had to get back to Carlsborg. And even then, we shut off at 8:30pm when a friend called us and told us that the shithead tourists at the RV park down the road were complaining again. And thus we got another visit from the Sheriff's Department, advising us that we really needed to cut down the volume. Which is something I already know, but when the lead guitar claims that he can't hear himself unless his amp is absolutely screaming inside a not-quite-fully-enclosed garage, you know trouble is only a phone call away. We did manage to start to learn a new song - a song I'd already known for years, and one that John picked up in about fifteen minutes. But Ron and Roger, jeez. It was like pulling teeth. I think we only managed about 20 minutes or so of quality learning time where there should've been three hours. It makes me quite irritated.

Add on getting yelled at by sheriff's deputies, and I was quietly cranky. Then add on being stuck in a road-construction zone for over half an hour trying to get home, and I was in full-on don't-give-a-fuck mode. Thank the deity of your choice that I have a wife who knows how to get me to calm down. But right now the only thing that will make me happy is to shut my eyes and go to sleep. I know I'm depressed right about now - I have been for a long time, I know the signs - but I guess the eternal optimist in me is what keeps me going. But this was a waste of a perfectly good day. I could've gone for a walk instead of this shit. I think I will take a walk on Dirty Joe - and soon. It's fun practicing at Mike and Sunny's garage, and I like playing with these guys. But I don't think they all understand that there's a lot of work that needs to be done to make this band what they want it to be. Or maybe they do know, but they'd rather just party instead.

A band can be a lot of fun, but it's still work. And I don't think they get that. I'd rather go for a walk than waste my time like that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dirty Joe Is Dead

Well, at least that's what the plan is......

Since I got back from Carson City, I've been trying to get the Dirty Joe guys together in one place at one time so we can rehearse. Roger's arranged a kinda/sorta gig for this coming Saturday, really nothing more than an Amigos MC party (after all, our practice space is actually in the process of becoming their chapter's clubhouse) with us providing some live music.

One problem, though: nobody wants to be there. Well, actually two of us want to be there. Roger lives there, and is helping the place's owner remodel the garage into a clubhouse. And then there's me. So where are Ron and John? It turns out that John is working pretty much six days a week doing landscaping work, and well, doing that for 50 - 60 hours a week is pretty draining. But where-oh-where the fuck is Ron? He bought a prepaid cellphone recently, but really doesn't understand that those minutes he buys have to last him the whole month. He's been bumming money off of everyone he can think of, and probably not spending it on much other than weed. It's all well-and-good that he's a legal medical-marijuana patient, but enough is enough. Not bothering to show up for practice makes me angry, and it makes Roger just as angry.

So after Ron and John no-showed for the second time in three days, Roger and I decided that enough was finally enough. To the best of my knowledge he hasn't told them yet, but we've decided that Ron has to go, and that John will most likely go with him. It just needs to be done. That way, we can get people into the group that really want to be there, that really want to learn new material. I want John to be a part of things, but his plate is already full enough that I just don't think he has time for us. He still doesn't have reliable transportation to get from Carlsborg and back, but at least he's trying to improve his own situation. But I don't think there's much hope for Ron. I like the guy, I like playing with him. But when getting him to learn Ramones songs is like pulling teeth while bashing your head against the wall, that's just too much to deal with. Really? Learning Johhny Ramone's licks - if that's what you want to call them - is that hard? I could probably do it myself in a few minutes - after being lobotomized!

Oh well. Maybe new blood is what Roger and I need. Maybe this way I can finally get my friend Jenn to front the group. Now if I can just find a shit-hot lead guitarist and a bassist to match.

And finally get rid of that damn name. I hated it from the minute I heard it, now I can fix that problem once and for all......

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Missed It By That Much

Nothing is ever easy in my world - I know that all too well. So I've learned to just roll with things, and never let things get to me that much. But I'm getting tired of the roller coaster. Here's a recap of my latest ride.

I thought that in the week leading up to my most recent trip to Nevada, Dirty Joe would have a pair of one-night gigs that would give me enough money for that trip. But then they both fell through. Desperately in need of money, I called up my father.

I need to digress here for a minute. My relationship with my father has never been all that great. He left my mother when I was ten or eleven years old (it's not really so bad that I don't remember when), scarcely paid the child-support payments the divorce demanded (walking away from it on my eighteenth birthday still owing my mother over US$30,000), then often used my sister and I to get back at our mother for whatever slights he felt had occurred - never mind that he was the one who'd done wrong in the first place. My mother still hates him. In fact, when Joy and I got married, it was the first time they'd been in the same room at the same time since the divorce. Trust me on this, the pictures they were in, the tension was so thick, a chainsaw couldn't cut it.

Well, he recently retired from a career as a bus driver - a career he took after getting fired from the job his father had gotten for him (for trying to undermine his boss) - and he took it upon himself to offer me whatever help I needed. Sometimes, it was surprising me in Reno or Las Vegas and tossing a little money my way, or offering to buy a canopy for my truck (which I declined - why buy a $850 canopy for a $200 truck?), always without asking if I actually needed it. Sometimes it was just asking for a little help on the boat he'd bought, which I'd always agreed to with vigor. But this last time, which I'll admit was a last-minute crash-job brought about by the cancelled gigs, his mood was very different. He decided to give me an addict-intervention speech!


Yes, your dear author is apparently some sort of addict - addicted to what, pray tell? Driving all night? Shitty food? No sex? Yes, driving back and forth to gigs eats up all my money, I know that full well. But I didn't necessarily move back to Washington for myself, folks. I did it for Joy - her health, her well-being. I knew that I'd have to deal with the consequences of the move as it pertained to my career, but still this wasn't quite what I expected. He told me that he felt that I 'hadn't quite hit rock-bottom yet', which almost got him punched out. Do you really want to know what 'rock-bottom' is for me? It'll be the day of Joy's funeral, that's what it'll be for me. I was deeply offended, but eventually given the money I needed. I guess Mom's still right - my dad is still an ass. The recovering alcoholic (still recovering, too - what about the beer you had with lunch with me and Cousin Eddy in Carson City? Hmmmm?) basically calling the de facto straightedge guy the addict? He can keep his fucking money, and his fucking boat, and his stupid, useless fucking AA meetings (swapping one addiction for another, IMHO), and stick them up his ass sideways. I need a father, not a father-confessor tut-tutting me from on high about my questionable career choices. I'm sure he wants what's best for me, but telling me that I can turn my life around and the whole 'I-know-you're-smart-enough-to-do-whatever-you-want' speech doesn't have the effect it used to. To the teenage me, it was 'tough love'. To the 42 year-old me, it's condescension.

Sorry about the sidetrack, back on topic. The thing is, there's just as many ups as there are downs with this roller coaster that I'm on. Now that I had the gas money, I ran Joy to Tacoma, so she could go with her mother to her family's campout on the Bumping River, about 20 miles east of Chinook Pass. More on that later. As I was driving down to Tacoma, and Joy was napping, I got a call from a friend of mine that shall remain anonymous. This friend had heard through Mike and Arthur about my situation, and called me out of the blue with an offer: since I had a few days to kill between dropping Joy off in Tacoma and my gig in Minden, and I was having such a rough time of it, this person was willing to put me up in a hotel in Carson City for the days in between, just so I could decompress - no strings attached, no questions asked. Well, Mom always told me never to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I took my friend up on the offer, and quietly decompressed for two nights at an undisclosed location in Carson City. The only people who knew where I was were people I trusted. And boy howdy, did I need that time to myself. Things were only going to get weirder from there.

After decompressing, I played my three nights at the CVI without serious incident, and from there headed back to Carson City to spend a few days with my amigo Jeremy Orris, his wife Alison, and their adorable little boy Logan. But now there were a few new guests there as well: Jeremy's sister Dream, and her two boys Aiden and Joshua. This meant that I was couch-surfing in the living room, but I was able to look on the bright side: long nights alone with Jeremy and Alison's giant-ass HDTV and equally giant-ass DVD collection. I cooked and cleaned for them when allowed to, helped take care of Logan here and there, and got to know Dream and her boys. She'd just moved to Nevada from St. Louis with her fiancee and their boys (UPDATE: that's ex-fiancee now - apparently people don't like it when you gamble their food money away when not buying meth and crack with it, get fired from two jobs in a month, and threaten to kill the people who took you in - all of this happening shortly after I left for the gig at the Fandango), and was looking for just about any kind of job. I was able to throw a little help her way - hope something comes of it. Otherwise, I just did my best to be invisible.

And then, another phone call. Mike calls me one day, tells me that I can check in at the Carson Station. I'd learned by now to just take what people give me, so I grabbed my duffel bag and said my goodbyes to the Orris clan. I had no problem with staying at the Station - hell, there I could plug in my Xbox360 to their wall-socket modems and actually get the thing online for once. Not to mention that I new damn near everyone there, and that they were all glad to see me, eager to hear what was new with Joy and I.

As it turns out, I was also kinda eager to find out. Y'see, while I was chilling with Jeremy and Alison, I'd been getting messages from some of Joy's family members as they were returning from that family campout. And they weren't exactly positive-sounding, either: one message suggested that Joy wanted to go home as soon as I got back from Nevada, rather than stay in Tacoma for a week at her mother's then go to Yakima for a memorial service for a recently-passed uncle of Joy's. Then a message came from a niece saying that I wouldn't be going to that service - not that I had a problem with that. Then Joy sent me a text-message telling me that we needed to talk about something, but only after her mother had gone to bed later that night.

It turns out that the campout had been spectacularly bad for Joy. Upon hearing the news that her kidneys were failing, the response from her family - especially from three of her four brothers - was a collective snort of derision. Things got so ugly, Joy actually got into a fight with those same brothers, then attempted to walk home from the campground in a blind rage. Given Joy's illnesses, and how they affect her mobility, it's amazing what blind rage can do - she made it the better part of a mile before realizing she didn't even have her cane with her, let alone her clothes, her wallet, etc.. And to add insult to injury, when Joy started getting sick after the campout, coughing up a lung every ten minutes or so, her mother refused - refused! - to take her to an urgent-care clinic or an ER in Tacoma, trying to tell Joy that she wasn't sick, quit pretending to be sick! At one point, I tried calling in just about every favor I had with anyone I knew to go get her from Tacoma and take her back to Port Angeles. I guess that in the end, I'm glad I missed the campout - I probably would've gone on a murder-spree had I been there to witness what my wife endured from those idiots.

And in the midst of all this, I still had a gig to play. This was our first trip to Casino Fandango in the south end of Carson City, so we had to be at our best. And we pretty much were. Our friends from Reno, Carson and Minden all came out to support us, and we didn't let them down. I have to give big kudos to Merrell, our soundman at the Fandango who also happens to be the casino's Entertainment Director. He did a great job with our sound and set-up. And did I mention that he brought us food? Two trays of sandwich-fixings, meats, cheeses, veggies and bread? Craft-service! What a nice touch!

God, this is weird. I've spent all but about two paragraphs talking about personal drama - and I'm not done yet! After getting Joy home Sunday evening (and avoiding any sort of confrontation with her mother whatsoever - I still want to kill the old bat, though), we were finally able to get her some medical attention for that nagging cough. It turns out that she has pneumonia. I have such a wonderful mother-in-law. A wonderful, caring old biddy who apparently thinks that her daughter is faking being sick to get attention. Yeah, the doctor telling her she has pneumonia, that's totally fake - just a ploy to get attention. And that chest X-ray she took yesterday, that's not a new spot on her lung, that just Joy attacking the X-ray with a Sharpie, right? I bet she'd even tell Joy to quit faking it and get out of that coffin.....

Yes, the Rage is strong with this one. And it ain't going away any time soon. Either that, or I've got to quit blogging at 5am.....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The More I Play In Port Angeles.....

The more I miss Nevada.

Case in point - just finished practice about an hour ago, and then moved our gear to our new practice space. Our new lead singer, Mark Connolly, decided not to join us. These guys aren't great with their punctuality - it's something I've been working on with them for some time now - but Mark just didn't seem to be interested in showing up. So I drove halfway out to Joyce to go check on him. Where he announced to me that he was no longer interested in the group because in his words, we were 'unreliable'. "How so?", I asked. Well, nobody told him that there was a practice scheduled for today. I told him that I'd tried on several occasions to call and text him, only for calls to not even go to voicemail, and text messages be rejected! He claimed to have 'texted us until he was blue in the face' and claimed not to even have my number - which was an outright lie, because I'd given it to him at practice last Sunday. I chose not to argue the point and walked away, rather than tear him a new asshole right then and there. I'll have my revenge on him shortly.

Y'see, Mark is a methamphetamine addict. He told me so, when he originally lobbied us for the gig. Since I was already busy refuting rumors that Dirty Joe was a 'meth band', I really didn't want to let him into the group for obvious reasons. But Ron and Roger's insistence on giving him a shot because of his ability as a singer, plus his insistent claims that his meth use wouldn't affect the band won out - for all of one practice, it turns out. Well now the whole world knows, motherfucker. Good luck ever getting another gig again. Fred Phelps Award winners like you don't deserve the charity or pity.

That said, practice went pretty good without him. Tom Swinford is settling back in to being our bassist for as long as John Eddy is unavailable due to health issues within his family. But getting the next practice scheduled made Ron a very sullen boy, not at all interested in the process. But he's got his own issues - moving again - so I guess I could give him a pass. But not when he decided not to bother helping us pile our stuff into Roger's van so we could move to the new practice space, then basically started badgering our friend (and occasional videographer) Bev to get her to cook dinner for him - which she was not interested in whatsoever.

After today, I just can't wait to get back down to Nevada and gig with Steppen Stonz. Three nights next weekend at the CVI, followed by a weekender at Casino Fandango in Carson City, with Hot August Nights at the Nugget in Sparks looming on the horizon. And I keep hearing rumors from friends that new gigs are on their way, but rumors don't pay my bills. But I can look on the bright side of all this. With rehearsals in Washington and gigs in Nevada, at least I'm not camping at my various family campouts this summer.

I fucking hate camping.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Getting Back On The Horse

In about ten hours, I'll be rolling over to Roger's garage to set up for the first Dirty Joe practice in some time. I'm nervous, as Roger has told me that they might finally have a singer to fill the void at frontman. Oh wait a minute, I'm getting ahead of myself. Did I tell you how their gig went, the one that I had to bail on because I went to Nevada instead? It didn't go all that well.

First off, I had to scramble to find replacments. Jay Reid never showed up, despite reassuring me that he would cover for me. So it's the Fred Phelps Award for ya, bucko - and ne'er to be trusted again. And Britton backed out as well, so I went 0-fer for the night's replacement's. But Roger was able to find a replacement drummer - oddly enough the same person who'd gone around spreading rumors that we were meth addicts - so let's just say that I'm glad I wasn't there. Probably would've killed the bastard right there and then. And this new singer..... all I know about him is that he's another transplant from Hawai'i, and he's more of a 60's rock guy. Well, we can adapt if he's talented enough. And I'll still be singing a lot of songs a night anyway, so why go into this without an open mind?

Here's hoping for the best. And here's hoping I can get some sleep tonight. It's been a busy weekend so far - first running out to 7 Cedars Casino in Blyn to visit my old homey Curtis Seals, who was in town playing with his band Gruvbox. Then earlier tonight Joy and I made a quick visit to what until recently was the Veela Cafe downtown - though now it was called The Caffeinated Clothier due to new owners - to see an old friend of my stepdaughter's, who was playing the bodhran (a traditional Irish frame drum) along with a fiddler, both in pirate garb. It was a nice change of pace, being in the crowd rather than in front of it, but I'd rather be playing any day of the week.

I'd rather be paid to be there than pay to be there.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Strangest Weather Is Always In June

And I'm not kidding. This last trip down to Minden was strange, and not in a good way. In fact, this last trip sucked balls. And it did so right from the very start. Y'see, Joy wanted to come with. I do love her with all my heart, but it changes the way I travel. I have to accommodate her needs, and while I'll do so happily, it costs time and money to do so, and with my money as tight as it is, Joy traveling with me makes things that much harder. So we take the detour to Bend to visit with her sister's family. That wasn't so bad, it's just out of my way. Little did I suspect that 'out of my way' was going to be the least of my problems.

First off, my truck was acting up. I may have mentioned it previously that my heater core sprung a leak a few weeks back. I put some liquid-copper sealant in my radiator to fix the problem, and while it was holding, there was still enough of a leak that I dared not use my heater for the trip. So it was a pretty cold trip. And while passing through the eastern foothills of the Sierras above Susanville, CA, it started snowing. Hard. I mean big, fat-ass flakes that covered the road in a matter of minutes. In a space of about ten minutes I went from clear skies to near-whiteout conditions. And on top of that, our freaking out was causing our windshield to fog up. Remember what I said about not using the heater? Well, since I absolutely needed to see where I was going, I made a command decision and turned on the defogger full-blast and full-hot. And within a few seconds we were moving easier, and the blizzard (yes, blizzard - I would not use that term lightly) mercifully abated as we reached the southeastern edge of Eagle Lake. Thankfully the rest of the trip went without incident, and we pulled into the CVI's motor lodge a little after midnight.

The gig itself didn't get off to a good start. Thursday was dead quiet. And it didn't help that Joy seemed a little grumpy with me going off to get my free meal in the employee's commissary in the bowels of the CVI, either. She seemed downright jealous of me because she couldn't go, so I wound up going only once in three nights - and y'all know me, I never turn down free food. Friday night was better, and Saturday more so, but friends of ours weren't coming to the shows, or at least not as many as usual. But enough people came to fill up the cabaret. And after Saturday's gig was finished, my old friends Dean and Shelly Brownell came by the CVI to get breakfast, and surprised me while I was tearing down my equipment, and invited Joy and I to join them. I had to run back over to the motor lodge to go get her, but we did eventually join them for what I will (much to my surprise) call a business meal....

Now if only the weather would've been nicer. It was cold, windy, and threatening to snow almost the whole weekend - and it did snow a few miles away up at Lake Tahoe, and snow a lot. Funny thing was, it was warmer in Port Angeles than it was in Minden, where the temperatures were running nearly 20 degrees Fahrenheit below normal for the beginning of June. I was actually looking forward to going home to warm up for once! And sure enough, by the time my poor little truck descended down Willamette Pass into Eugene, it was much warmer than when we left Minden.

But I have to look on the bright side - all the drama and travel was better than what I'd had to pass up. Y'see, Dirty Joe was already booked for that Saturday, to play for Roger's motorcycle club. Mikey called me to remind me of the previously booked gig (that I swear I didn't remember), so I made arrangements to have Jay Reid cover for me on the drums, and Britton and Roger's friend Jana to cover vocals while I was away. And to look even further on the bright side, Mikey paid me in cash - Roger told me that I was only going to get cash after he sold my share of......


Oh well. Now I'm home, and I (for the moment) have about four weeks to kill. So now it's time to get Dirty Joe up and running smoothly. We have a July 4th gig lined up, and that money will be much needed, if only so I can get back down to Minden the following week. August will have us back in Sparks for Hot August Nights, and hopefully other gigs for both bands will fill out my summer schedule.

Here's hoping I'm busy soon.....

POSTSCRIPT: I just found out earlier today that one of our regulars passed away, just after we left Minden. Nan (that's all I knew her by) passed in her sleep, Mikey called to inform me of it today. Joy was stunned, they'd just been talking about TENS units - Joy wanted to make pads for her when she got her unit. She and her grandson Josh were always at our gigs, and she will be missed. RIP

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chaos Is Not A Theory

No, it most certainly isn't. Let's just say that the last say, 36 hours have been eventful.

After finally getting things squared away with the Dirty Joe crew to renew practices, I schlepped my gear over to the garage below Roger's house...... oh, waitaminute... it's not his house, after all. Turns out that it was his parents' house, and their return from Hawai'i is our loss - and Roger's as well. Turns out that he's the one looking for a new place now. But the garage is still available for us to practice in for the time being. So we got together, and much to my surprise, my friend Britton was coming up for practice. Well, we never really did give him a proper audition, so this might as well be it. he's a good singer, but his main flaw is his range. He's a baritone, whereas I'm a tenor. In layman's terms, his voice is lower than mine. He has a good voice, but we don't play a lot of songs that suit his range. But I'm willing to make a few adjustments if necessary. He also plays a little guitar, which might eventually give him a more permanent role in the group as a front and rhythm guitarist, which could relegate Roger to the keyboards full-time. I have no problem with that.

Practice came to a rather abrupt end though, when Roger's mother came down the hill and basically ordered practice to stop. I wasn't happy about it, but Roger would later tell me that they were fine us practicing so long as we stopped by 9pm or so. Once enlightened, I didn't have a problem with that, either. I've been trying to get practices started earlier in the afternoon anyway, so I can see this as a positive reinforcement.

And we had a gig ready to go for this weekend, playing for a party held by Amigos MC, a low-key motorcycle club that Roger has been a part of for years. Two hours of music at a site just west of Lake Crescent for $100 per person. I could've used that money. But I won't be going. Y'see, the situation has kinda...... changed.

Earlier today, I logged on to my Facebook page, and I had a message waiting for me. It was from Mikey, telling me that 'I could check into the hotel on Wednesday." Huh? At first I figured that it was a misfire of sorts from Facebook, a message from long ago somehow re-sent. So I called Mikey to ask what was going on, and I got a reply that I've been hearing a lot of lately:

"I thought you knew."

Well, I'll be heading off to Minden in about thirty hours or so to play a three-nighter at the CVI. Apparently, Mikey had already told me about this. Apparently, I forgot. So it's off we go, and I do mean "we." Joy wants to go, fairly guilt-tripped me into allowing it. Last time we went she fell off a toilet seat in Sandy. But I'm not letting that happen this time around. And the pain shouldn't be so bad for her this trip, now that she has a medical-grade TENS unit for the trip (Big ups to our friends at E-Z Pawn in Port Angeles - they had three of them on sale for $150 a piece - a real bargain). And I got my satellite-radio unit turned back on for the trip.

Chaos is not a theory, my friends. It is a fact. And to be totally honest, I probably enjoy chaos. I guess that when the shit hits the fan, that's when I finally get off my ass and get shit done. Well, wish me luck getting there - my heater core sprung a leak over the weekend, and I hope the leak-sealer I poured in holds.

Later, taters!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Know Jack Squat


I Feel Like..... Branching Out

I've talked to you about my life and the events therein, but everything to date has all in the same little narrow-ass spectrum of music. I do know so much more about so many other things - or so I'd like you to think. So while I'll continue to post about my musical adventures here, I think I'll come up with a second blog about my other interests. Sports, news, politics, cooking, anything that I've been able to wrap my mind around over the course of my years. I'll give you an update when I've come up with a name and address.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

You know you're a lousy blogger when it seems that half your posts start with 'sorry I've been away so long.'

The thing that sucks the most about being a working musician is the waiting. Waiting to find out about gigs, waiting to leave for them, waiting to set up, waiting to play, waiting to tear down, waiting to leave from them. Well, I'm just waiting, period. My life has been caught in some hellish sort of limbo as of late, but let me catch you up on things.

Drugs and Slugs

When last I left you, I was mulling over the idea of drug testing the members of Dirty Joe over allegations of methamphetamine use. I eventually worked up the nerve to confront Ron and Roger over it, and they were surprisingly up-front about their drug-use histories, and confronting the rumors that have been dogging them. I proposed purchasing testing kits and having the guys test themselves on-camera with the results going on this blog for all to see. That way, my concurring course of action would be completely justified - either quitting the band, or looking for the rumor-spreaders and dealing with them (you two consider yourselves marked). I also declared the band to be an official Sam Stevens-free zone, and Ron and Roger really appreciated that idea. Nobody wants to deal with his shit. Things got even weirder when Joy bumped into the person who sparked the rumor at Wal-Mart - a daughter of her former boss at the Port Angeles DOT who'd dated Ron, then the drummer in the band at the time - who openly admitted to starting the rumor after her boyfriend got axed. I asked Joy why she didn't slap the shit out of the bitch right then and there, and where was she so I could do the job myself. Joy took the higher road and fairly dragged out of the store with her scooter.

We practiced that following Sunday, but I haven't heard from them since. It seems that Roger's parents have moved to the Peninsula from Hawai'i (why?), and we'd have to suspend practice while they stayed with him as they looked to move into their own place. It's been two weeks since, and I'm beginning to get a little nervous. Some people like taking their own sweet time getting things done. I'm not one of those people.

Because of this, I'm continuing to court the services of Jenn Smith for a band of my own, and Joy and I are budgeting some of her eventual SS/D back payment towards the purchase of a PA system. Thank the Maker for Carvin (www.carvin.com). Love their stuff, and I can get good systems from them directly and dirt-cheap. Joy wanted to budget US$5,000 for a system, and after checking the Carvin website, I told her that we could get PA and monitors from them, and have enough left over for an old van to schlep it around in.

And Then There Were Three

Things haven't been much better for Steppen Stonz. We were scheduled to play The Nugget in Sparks over Memorial Day weekend, but we suddenly found that gig cancelled, and our upcoming gig there for Hot August Nights in question. A quick check of their cabaret schedule found the slate packed with country and rock bands. Mikey isn't sure who could've done this, especially after all the good vibes the Ascuaga family gave us personally while we were there last. I have a suspect. Let's just leave it at that.

And because of the lack of gigs, we've lost Cliff. He just couldn't survive the waiting, and went and got himself a real job. I knew it was coming months ago, and now I'm in Cliff's place of hanging on by my fingernails, waiting for that next gig. Mikey told me that he can be replaced, will be replaced. But I could hear the worry in his voice when he told me about what was going on. I told him who my suspect was - we both know him, and he told me not to make such rash statements. I told him nothing else fits, and that this was the modus operandi of my suspect - I knew of others that have had the exact same thing happen to them, and that they had come to the same conclusion. I just hope I didn't make him any more depressed than he probably already is.

Right now I'm in pure survival mode, looking for temp and part-time jobs just to get some money, any money in my pockets. I just hope I can hold on long enough to get to the next gig. I guess Tom Petty was right - the waiting is the hardest part.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

.....And It Gets Worse

Well, the gig went well enough. But none of it matters any longer, because I have bigger fish to fry. Two of them to be exact. The first one came out when Sam Stevens' wife let it slip to Joy that Roger and Ron were only letting me think that I ran the band, and that they'd be hiring Sam to take over the group. This could just be Sam trying to rattle our cages, but it does fit in with his general egomania. And it could also just be a ploy to get me to quit. Which might succeed because I have no desire to work with Sam on a full-time basis whatsoever. But the second problem is far, far worse.

It started innocuously enough, when one of the guys I'd offered an audition to came up to me and told me that he wouldn't be able to take up the offer. Why? Because for one, he was probably going to be leaving town soon. The other reason was far worse. His exact words:

"Joe, people have been telling me to avoid Dirty Joe because they're a meth band."

What the fuck? I don't use drugs at all, and I never have and never will! The rest of the guys smoke weed - and I have no problem with that - but methamphetamine is a whole other kettle of fish, and one that I want nothing to do with. I may not have the greatest rep in the world, but I've worked hard, done what's required of me, and most importantly did it all stone cold sober. And that's not as in "I used to do drugs, but now I'm sober," it's as in "I never started, and I'm not about to start!" Asking a few questions around a few people who knew the guys got - for the most part - the same, rather startling response:

"I thought you knew."

After dropping off John at his place in Carlsborg, the drive home was pretty much silent. And not just because Joy had made arrangements to get another ride home so I could get John back to Carlsborg. She was just as upset as I was when I told her the news. We're already making plans to start our own band once her SSD money comes in, but I have to confront Roger and Ron on this, and soon. I want to give them the chance to come clean, admit to using meth and offer to stop using to save the group. But I have my suspicions that they won't come clean. And I have to get up to Roger's place soon anyway.

I still have a few things of mine up there, so I better go get them if I'm going to bail out on them.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dredging Up Bad Memories

Well, I'm back from my last run to Nevada for a while, so now I can turn my full attention to Dirty Joe. And I'm glad that trip is over. What I'd originally planned to be a nice trip with Joy to play and publicly celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary turned into a minor nightmare, almost before it really started.

Y'see, after a Monday trip to Seattle to take Joy to the University of Washington's Medical Center about her thyroid problems (which turned out to be almost a total waste of everyone's time), we headed south to stay with her mother in Tacoma before actually starting the trip to the CVI in Minden. On the way south we stopped in Sandy, just east of Portland, to fill the gas tank and refill my giant mug o' Coke. So while the pump chump filled the tank, I went inside with my mug while Joy excused herself to the ladies' room. And that's where all hell broke loose. Unbeknownst to us, the toilet in the ladies' room at the Mt. Hood Arco was broken - well, usable but unstable, to more precise. And when Joy sat down upon it, it lurched to one side and sent Joy to the ground, wrenching her back and leaving her bumped, bruised, contused and confused while by now I'd returned to the truck wondering what the hell was taking her so long. She flagged down the pump chump and told her what happened, and he told her to tell the clerk inside. When she did so, the clerk told her that they knew that the toilet was broken - and chose not to post any warning! She finally struggled back to the truck and told me what was going on, even saying that she'd tried to get my attention, but I'd never seen her behind me, with all the stuff in the back of the truck blocking my view. She concluded by stating that we needed to get her to a hospital because she was in a great deal of pain.

So began a very long night of driving back to Washington, where the nice folks at Vancouver's Southwest Washington Medical Center took good care of her, followed by driving all night to get to Bend, where we stayed at our niece Megan's place. Another day of driving got us to Minden, and while the gig itself went smoothly enough, Joy was scarcely present, spending most of the time in bed in pain while deciding what to do about legal action against Mt. Hood Arco. We're in the opening stages of hiring a lawyer to sue Mt. Hood Arco to recover the medical expenses, and for damages caused by their negligence and incompetence. And as part and parcel of that, I encourage all you loyal readers out there to boycott Mt. Hood Arco until they are brought to justice for their crime. The irony is that the place is temporarily closed while new gasoline tanks are installed. But in my world, boycotts are forever. I won't go there ever again, and neither should you.

On to happier news. Sort of.

On the way home from Minden, I got a call from Roger. It turns out that they've hired a temporary lead singer for our gig coming up this Friday, and wanted me to either confirm or veto their decision. And who is our singer-for-a-night? A guy we all know and don't really love named Sam Stevens. The guys played with him in a previous incarnation of DJ, back when it was called Thin Ice. I played with him further back, in a band originally called Rooster, then In Ten City. He's a good player, and does perhaps the best Bon Scott impersonation that I've ever heard. Problem is, he's got quite an ego, thinks he knows better than you, and usually isn't afraid to tell you so. Plus, he owes us money for a PA system he bought from us and never finished paying us for. Nobody in the group really likes him all that much, but he supposedly just showed up Sunday at Roger's place and jammed with the guys, and they liked it enough to ask him to sit in with us Friday night, and only afterwards did they decide to inform me of this.

While I can see the positives of this, as well as that this is only a one-night-only thing, I'm still pissed off that the guys went behind my back and did this with out my initial consent. I am in charge of this band supposedly, so I think I should have been informed of this a whole fuck of a lot sooner. But it's only one night, what's it gonna hurt?

But something is still gnawing at me. John and I have been talking a lot lately, mostly because I have to drive him from Roger's place down to the Transit Center in downtown PA so he can take the bus home to Carlsborg. He's just as frustrated with Roger and Ron as I am, upset that they won't learn new material, won't even bother to try to learn anything new to them no matter how simple it was - even Ramones songs look like Chinese algebra to them. John has all but invited me to join his original side-project, and band he describes as a cross between Rush and Megadeth. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested, but I'm really just a cover-band guy. Joy would say that I limit myself, saying something like that, but I've known my limitations for a long time now. I know what I'm capable of, and what I'm not so good at. But I look at this band, and I see a band that says that they want to go places, but doesn't really have the desire to actually put the work into it. And while I know that having an absentee drummer/bandleader doesn't help, you'd think that if they wanted to go out and learn new material and break out of playing one night a month at some bar, they'd actually put some effort into bettering themselves instead of kissing the bong, dreaming about entering talent contests, and otherwise talking a good game and not backing it up with actions.

I'm a frustrated man right about now. But I won't let it get to me. I have a gig on Friday, and I'm a professional, goddammit. So come on down to RBar (132 E. Front Street, Port Angeles, WA) this Friday night and see if I can hold myself together for the night, let alone four other guys onstage and a crowd down below. I think I'll manage. After all, I have a saying:

"I don't need therapy to work out my problems. That's what my drums are for."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

And..... The Anticlimax

After how worked up I was over what was supposed to go down today, to behonest I was relieved when Roger called me about an hour ago to inform me that John wouldn't be able to practice today. So after calling Britton, texting Jenn, and putting Pete in the dustbin of history, now I can focus on getting my shit together for the trip to Minden. I'm actually pretty happy right now.

And Apparently....

......Blogger has forgotten how to make a paragraph.......

I'm A Little Nervous Right Now......

Because I have at least two or three auditions set up for Sunday afternoon, but only the last of them matters to me. A guy named Pete is supposed to be coming in today, and he used to sing with the guys when they were playing under another name. But he's already blown off one audition, and there's no guarantee that he'll show in about thirteen hours or so.

Next up is a guy named Britton. I've heard him at karaoke shows around town, a good singer, but perhaps a bit limited in terms of vocal range - more of a baritone than a tenor. Of the three, he might actually be the easiest to fit into the band, because he seems like a pretty relaxed dude to me. But I have been proven wrong far too often to take a first impression as gospel.

But those guys are just the appetizer. Jenn will come in last tonight, around 7pm or so. And this is why I'm nervous. It turns out that Roger and Ron have had a CD of material she wanted to sing for some time, and haven't done a damn thing with it. Come to think of it, sounds familiar.... as in they haven't done a goddamned thing with the CD I gave them. I tried to run them through a few songs from it, and results were not up to snuff. The only song that we could even get through was Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition', and that took some work. Trying to get them to learn Journey's 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)' was like pulling teeth while herding cats. John was getting things rather easily, but Roger and Ron couldn't figure out anything, and then when John and I taught them their parts, they forgot them almost immediately. What I found amazing was that they'd never, ever, played 'Mony Mony' in their lives. How hard is that?

Of the fourteen songs on the CD she'd given them, I'd played ten of them in one band or another, and only one of the four I would've considered a song that I'd actually need to practice - another Journey song, 'Don't Stop Believin''. All the time, I'm thinking to myself, what the hell have I got myself into? I just hope that Ron and Roger don't fuck things up too badly when Jenn shows up. If she walks, I won't be able to forgive them for half-assing this. They're the ones that told me that they want to move up from playing one or two nights a month at one bar or another and go out onto the tribal-casino circuit. They gave me control of the group to get them to that point, and I don't think they really understand what it will take from them to actually accomplish that goal. Well, they'll know in about seventeen hours or so.

Thankfully, after Sunday I can take a break - sort of. The UW Medical Center called us Thursday and told us that the appointment Joy would have with their Endocrinology department could be moved to Monday from an original date in early May. And after a quick phone call to ParaTransit, they'll cover gas (a full tank for my pickup!) for the trip, and reimburse me for the cost of taking the ferry over from Bainbridge Island to the Colman Dock in downtown Seattle. From UWMC it's a short distance but a long drive (gotta love rush-hour) to Joy's mother's house in Tacoma. From there we can start our trip to Minden, and enjoy the company of our friends and family in Nevada while I'm gigging at the Carson Valley Inn, and doing so over our anniversary. For once, I'm beginning to think that Monday can't come fast enough......

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Auditions and Transitions

Well dear reader, back for more of my tales of musical meh? Okay, I shouldn't act like I don't care about what I do - it is my livelihood after all. But sometimes it gets a little...... tedious. But juggling two bands and two schedules, all while caring for an ailing wife, can be a pretty impressive feat of prestidigitation.

So where do I begin? Well, Steppen Stonz is struggling along, trying to find more and longer gigs to make it worth the expense of driving to Northern Nevada. But while Mike and Arthur's drives up from Las Vegas are no picnic, my travel expenses are more than theirs combined. But our good and noble steed of an agent, Stew Stewart (enough ass-kissing?), is turning stuff up for us. My last run down consisted of playing two nights midweek at the Nugget in Sparks for a dairy cattleman's convention - and the first night just happened to land on Mardi Gras. But the cattlemen didn't seem all that interested, and the hotel had no actual Mardi Gras event planned. But we still went out onstage and did our best.

That was followed by seven days off. And with not enough money to be able to drive home and back, I wound up staying in Carson City with my friends Jeremy and Alison, going to an Idekay show only a few blocks away from the Nugget with Jeremy (it's his band, after all) while pulling out some of my best recipes in the kitchen for Ali. And they'd just moved into a condo on the east side of Carson City, and actually had a guest room available for yours truly to hibernate in. Not a bad week off at all by my standards.

After that came another three nights at the Nugget, a standard Thursday/Friday/Saturday run that coincided with St. Patrick's Day, which also happened to be the birthday of the casino itself. And while we've had pleasant interactions in the past with Stephen Ascuaga, the owner's son, this time around we got to meet and greet all three Ascuagas - Stephen, Michonne, and old John Ascuaga himself. While he's getting up there in years, nothing gets past him. Seriously. He's a nice old fella, but I'm sure he'd have me wearing my balls for a bowtie if I crossed him. We talked with them backstage at the ceremony commemorating the Nugget's 56th birthday, and they were quite effusive in their praise for us both privately and on the mic for the crowd gathered in the cabaret for the birthday party itself. And it kicked off a pretty good weekend for us, with good crowds all three nights and virtually no glitches of any kind - aside from having to do an encore without my headphones because I'd accidentally pulled out the headphone cord from its socket while getting back onto my throne, and I had no time to plug them back in.

But all that has pretty much paled in comparison with what's been going on at home. I only have about a week in Port Angeles before I have to return to Nevada, this time for a three-nighter at the CVI in Minden, and this time with Joy to celebrate our 17th anniversary. Dirty Joe needs work, and I've been trying to arrange auditions for our lead-singer position, as I've mentioned previously. Well, I now have four interested candidates. I've already auditioned one, a Filipina from Sequim who's played in many of the same places I have in Nevada, though she may not be all that compatible with my guys. A karaoke buddy of mine has expressed interest in the gig, and a singer from a previous incarnation from the band as also thrown his hat into the ring. But they're all over shadowed by another karaoke friend of mine, with talent of phenomenal proportions, and nothing to hold her back. Jenn is so very talented, even with a cold her voice puts most others to shame. Ron and Roger have pursued her for some time, and she actually did sing with them for a few months, but she found their lack of professionalism and drive to be a bit disturbing back then. I was able to sit down with her at karaoke last night at the Coo Coo's Nest, and told her that I was pushing them a lot harder, and making them a more professional unit. I went to the mat to convince her to give them another chance. And talking to her and getting to know her, I came to the realization that she's too damn good for this town. She wants to sing, but doesn't want to be famous. She wants to sing in a cover band, and play the kind of gigs that I play. And while she has a healthy-enough ego regarding her ability (as well she should), her desire to pursue the same career path I chose and to avoid stardom showed her to have really not that much of an ego after all. Listening to her, I could clearly hear some of my favorite ladies on the Reno circuit in her words, good friends like Tracy Bing and Tina Fink. And I told her so. I actually told her that she needed to get off the Peninsula and come with me to Reno - or just get her own ass there herself. She's got the talent - the voice, the personality, the ability to engage the crowd - I just hope my minions will change their ways enough to make her want to actually work with us, though I told her that if they pissed her off to the point of bailing on us, that I might just go with her.

Yeah. She's that talented, folks.

But Roger, Ron, and John (Tom is out of the band for the foreseeable future due to health concerns - but we'll keep his seat open for him to come back whenever he's right) agreed to work more and kiss the bong less, and apply themselves to music more suited to Jenn's powerhouse voice. And if she sticks around, I'll finally have the three-part harmonies I've been wanting ever since I joined the band, plus a true lead singer who can peel the paint off the walls with her voice. And if it doesn't work out? Well then, I might have a passenger on a future trip to Reno......

We shall see, my friends.....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What's Old Is New Again

Remember that gig I thought I had coming up in my last post? Never happened. It turns out that the bar we were supposed to be playing was having problems. Or at least that's what I was told. They weren't alone. Remember that new drummer I was talking about? He's out, too - showing up for practice 90 minutes late - twice - and not responding to our phone calls is generally grounds for a rapid dismissal. But as usual, there's more to it than that. And because of that, I'm going back behind my drums again.

Y'see, while ol' Phife wasn't the best drummer in the world, let alone the best person, he could sing fairly well. And with his departure, there was no one left in the band to sing backing vocals behind me. And then Roger strays from the CD of new songs I wanted the band to learn and starts noodling his way through a handful of Styx songs. I advised him that we could only tackle material like that with not one singer, but three - and I didn't see anyone else stepping up to the mic. And with the new drummer not panning out, I made the decision to go from being merely a singer to being a singing drummer again, and hire a new lead vocalist.

And on top of all this, our bassist was ailing as well. I won't go into details about - it ain't pretty folks, that's all I'll say - but he was unable to play. And while we were able to drum up a replacement for Tom, this guy wasn't going to be available full-time due to family. And he also had issues with the new drummer, so it behooved me even more to get back behind the kit. But Tom's health is improving, but how much so is still somewhat of a mystery to me. So for the moment, we have two bass players, with Tom playing on the weekends, and the backup coming in to rehearse during the week.

So we got together last night for my first rehearsal as drummer/vocalist, and it went remarkably well, though getting there was quite a challenge. With the recent snowstorm, the roads can be a bit...... dicey. And Roger's place isn't on a paved road. I picked up John (the backup bassist) at the Transit Center in downtown PA and headed up to Roger's place, only to find that not only was the road impassable, but Roger and Ron weren't even there - helping a friend move at the last minute, apparently. They showed up soon enough though, and we got on to business. None of them had ever really heard me play before, and well....... let's just say they were happily surprised. At one point Ron actually got down on all fours and bowed to me. I guess their drummers had been of rather inconsistent quality as of late.

It felt good to just rock out, I must say. This was more the style of drumming I had back when I first started gigging around PA 15 or so years ago, made all the more better by years of experience and understanding. But now I've wound up leading them into an even bigger pickle - who do they call to replace me when I'm out of town? I don't even want to know any more.

And a quick side note for you. My Carson City homegirl Jazmyn posted to her Facebook page about going to see the Stonz. I almost had a heart attack thinking 'did they fire me without even bothering to tell me?' before I remembered that they were playing at the Atlantis. So I'd assume that Alan Zukor is keeping my seat warm for me until the next good gig comes along. Whenever that will be. I'm starting to get a little worried.....

Breathe Joe, breathe. Just be patient.......