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......