Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Winding Up

I leave for Nevada again in about sixteen hours or so. I figure a departure time of about 1am will get me to the Nugget in Sparks by mid-afternoon, and give me time to settle in to my hotel room and take a nap before setting up and sound-checking. I'm feeling anxious, getting wound up for a brief two-week run, this weekend at the Nugget, then the next at the Carson Valley Inn. Then another two weeks at home, followed by a seven-week, six-gig run that will (at least as far as I know) really wind up my schedule for the year. After September, I'll only have four gigs in Nevada for the rest of the year (one in October, during the weekend of Joy's birthday, then three weeks in mid-December, coming home on Christmas Eve). Of course, that's always subject to change.

I think that ought to be on my tombstone:

Here Lies Joe Franklin

February 7, 1969 - xxxxxxxx xx, xxxx

(dates subject to change)

I know, I'm being morbid. But at least it's a silly kind of morbid. Hey, I'm the one going through sleep deprivation while trying to come up with some deep thoughts. Well, I need to go get my set broken down and packed up for the trip. I won't let myself go to bed until around noon, so that a good rest will mean waking up around 8 or 9pm tonight. That poor old body clock of mine - it's pretty much just a puddle on the floor by now.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Goodbyes, Continuances, And The Simple Joys Of Playing By Yourself

It's been barely two weeks since my last post, but it feels like an eternity. So where the fuck have I been? Well first off, I'm home from my latest extended run to Reno with Steppen Stonz. While it's always fun, it does get to be a grind after a while. But spending time with my grandbabies - I know, they're eight and seven, and their cousins Soren and Sascha are five and three, but Cody and Ellie will always be my grandbabies, the closest I'll ever get to actually having children of my own - tends to make it all worthwhile. And a quick shout-out goes to my favorite new sit-down restaurant, Genghis Grill. There are two of them in the Reno/Sparks area - one in Spanish Springs, just east across the ridgeline from Michelle and Bill's place in Sun Valley, with the other in the far south of the Truckee Meadows, down in Damonte Ranch. Genghis Grill is Mongolian Grill, where you select your proteins, vegetables, and sauces of choice - piling the first two into a small bowl, packing as much in as you can, with the sauces going into smaller cups you take to the grillmaster, who stir-fries the lot together, working his way around the 6' wide circular grill, then piles your order into a bowl packed with a carb of your choice (rice, pasta, or tortillas) to be sent to your table. I love this stuff, and they love me right back. After my first visit, I signed up for their frequent-visit 'Khan's Klub' card, and it's rewarded me handsomely - one free meal and a second at reduced price. If only there was a Genghis Grill anywhere close to Port Angeles. The two Reno locations are the only ones west of the Colorado River. And after that, the next closest locations are are in Denver and Phoenix. I have some limits on how far I'll drive for a good dinner.

NOTE: My all-time favorite fast-food chain is Chipotle Mexican Grill, where fast food meets the Slow Food Movement in a truly unique way - I can't recommend this place enough. By all means - stop reading this and go find the nearest Chipotle and order a burrito with their carnitas - while Chipotle is vegan-freindly, their slow-braised pork would make the most hardened vegan weep with joy. It's that good - so get going, already! I can wait for you to get back. Oh, and you're welcome.

And while I was hot-and-eager to get back to Port Angeles, I couldn't stay long - which was a bit depressing. I wanted to get back into the groove with Willis, but family comes first. Last Saturday (June 23rd), we laid my grandfather to rest at the Mountain View Cemetery in Tacoma. It was a good chance to visit with family members I hadn't seen in a long time, and I was pleasantly surprised by their reactions to our arrival at the service. Y'see, while I'd made it clear on my Facebook account that I was going to be there come hell or high water, I guess that most of my family had written me off as a no-show, because let's face it - I'm a professional musician, my schedule isn't written in ink, it's written in water during a hurricane. My cousin Briana was the first to see us pull in, and while she was already tearing up for obvious reasons, she cried just a little harder - tears of joy this time (no pun intended) when she saw us emerge from my truck. Ther service was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with my father's side of my family. And it got me to thinking - I know, thinking isn't much good for me any more.

My cousins all have good lives. Of my generation of the Franklin family, I'm the only one without a good job. Uncle Dickie's sons (Brian and Jimmy) are firemen in and around Tacoma like their dad was, while his daughter Jennifer is a teacher in California. Aunt Suzie's son Josh is in the Army, stationed in Hawai'i - the lucky bastard. Aunt Anna's kids are in engineering (Briana) and tech (Michael). My sister works for the hospital here in Port Angeles, in the admittance office - I usually see her when Joy needs to go to the ER. Me? I'm still the dreamer, I guess.

I have no regrets about the path I chose, but I know that my family still looks at me in askance occasionally - as in "what the fuck is wrong with you?" I could've been an engineer myself - I was fascinated by airplanes when I was a kid, and I still am. When I was maybe nine or ten, I got the chance to take a summer-school course for gifted kids about aviation engineering, held at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. I remember loving every minute of it, but later Gifted classes back home in Port Angeles pretty much wiped that taste out of my mouth - I quit the gifted-student classes in middle school immediately after learning that while I would spend the enitre school day in these special classes, I was then expected to go back to the 'regular' home-room class I was assigned to (that I would otherwise not be a part of whatsoever) and get all my homework from that class on top of  the work in the Gifted class - some fucking gift!

I lost interest in school after that, and never really got excited about classes until I got out of high school and into college up at Peninsula College, where I got my Associate's Degree (in that old standby, Liberal Arts) in 1989. A third year at PC followed at my own expense when I wasn't accepted to any of the State Universities here in Washington, and I almost took a fourth when I wasn't accepted to any State University again, other than a provisional admittance to Central Washington University, that would've only allowed me to enroll in January 1991, when I got accepted to Washington State University (damn right I'm a Coug) at pretty much the last minute - late July of 1990, to be exact. This late date of acceptance meant that I wasn't able to get financial aid - the pool of money available to needy students like myself was already long gone. My parents arranged a bank loan for me, but in hindsight I never should've gone, and just taken that fourth year at PC and tried again when there was more financial aid available. I had some good times there, as I've mentioned in past posts, but while I'm still proud to be a Coug I just wasn't ready. Maybe I never was.

Okay, I got way off on a tangent there. As I'd said before, I was really looking forward to rehearsing with Willis, it just never really got off the ground this weekend just past. Seven weeks between rehearsals is way too long. I'm just grateful that Eddie, Tom, and John are as understanding as they are. But the usual schedule just didn't happen. Our normal Friday evening rehearsal was scrapped because Tom was going to have to work all weekend in Port Orchard, but Eddie had found a guy who could possibly be the lead singer this band could really use, and wanted to get some sort of rehearsal/audition in. He tried to arrange space for us in the garage of the RV park he lives in now, out in Carlsborg. But circumstances that I won't bother to discuss canned it, and our otherwise-normal rehearsal space is unavailable, again for reasons I won't discuss.

After this, Eddie told me that rehearsals for this weekend were scrapped, but on Sunday at about four in the afternoon, just as Joy and I were heading to Wal-Mart, Eddie called again and said that practice was on again, now at John's place. John lives with his brother, and his brother is a drummer himself, so at least I didn't have to bring my gear. Our old pal Ron DeFrang filled in for Tom, and I got to meet this new singer. And meeting this guy once again showed how small the circle of working musicians is in Puget Sound. I don't remember his last name, the first was Shane, and he knew us through my old friends Just Dirt. And yet another crazy occurrence between Eddie and myself came up in conversation. I mentioned the time I'd spent playing with Backstreet Romance, with Rocky Holbrook (who's on my shit list in perpetuity) and Loriann Davis (who Joy and I still absolutely adore), and Eddie told me he'd done a spell with them as well. What the fuck - we've been crossing paths (albeit unaware of the other) for almost two decades now, playing in the same bands at different times!

Anyhoo, this practice shouldn't have happened. Why, you ask? Well, this Shane fellow just wasn't up to it - albeit not for lack of talent. He's diabetic, it turns out. And he'd ridden his bike the ten or so miles from Port Angeles to Carlsborg. And he did so far earlier than was scheduled, so he spent most of the day riding around Carlsborg waiting for rehearsal to start. And did I mention that he's diabetic? And that he hadn't eaten all day? By the time rehearsal finally rolled around (and someone finally decided to tell me about it - at the absolute last fucking second), Shane was a mess, and nearly passed out while trying to sing. But I did notice the talent. Eddie wouldn't have even given him the time of day otherwise. But Joy seemed to notice something else - and she won't tell me what it is. And then there was Ron. And Ron is as Ron does - he doesn't know the material Willis plays, and we wound up just jamming the stuff we played together in Dirty Joe, most of which Eddie doesn't know. Ron tried to play some of our stuff, but he just doesn't know it that well. After rehearsal, Eddie, John and I talked about it for a while. We figured we could get some extra time in during the week and get back up to speed for when Tom came back. And we'll keep inviting Ron to come by for the occasional rehearsal, if only to comfort the dying. I've already been to one too many funerals this year for my tastes. But Ron only has a few more months left, and as Buddy Rich once said of his dying friend Gene Krupa, one should give flowers to the living.

But there is one advantage to this sort of slap-dash rehearsal: I don't need to bring my gear. My kit is set up in the basement, and I find myself with the chance to just..... play. Just go down to the basement, turn on my mp3 player, put my earbuds in, pick a song, and play. That's how I taught myself to play the kit, after all. I found myself playing this 80's chestnut. Or was it a 70's chestnut? Whatever decade it was, it was Jefferson Starship's "Find Your Way Back". Then I rolled into "No Way Out" from Stone Temple Pilots - a song that I think will work its way into Willis' playlist. At least if I have anything to say about it.

And I found myself actually having fun playing! I could just woodshed for a while, no pressure, no drama, no worries. No playing quietly to avoid the wrath of casino managers, no Motown. Now if only my thumb hadn't started to go numb while I was playing. Gotta go buy some new gloves when I head back down to Nevada again in a few weeks.....

Oh well. I need to go get some sleep. Get some rest, then go back down to the basement in the morning - well, morning by my standards, anyway.

Cheers, y'all.