Thursday, September 22, 2011


I've spent a lot of the last few weeks wrestling with a knotty problem and, even after wresting myself loose from it, it's been difficult -- for understandable if frustrating reasons -- to get out of my own head. It's one thing to know that every thing is going to work out, to be confident in difficult decisions you have made, to be aware that time you give over to thinking about negative energy around you is time stolen, but it's not always easy to do in practice. Yoga, hiking, the company of friends, an ice pack to the back of the neck, all do it for me...usually. But I couldn't quite get there until I read something I wrote elsewhere, a few weeks ago:

"Beauty is all around us. It's a cliche but it's true. I'm a busy guy and sometimes I have my head up my ass...but all you or I have to do to get out of that place is to stop, take a deep breath, and look around. Once you're out of your head, there's so much better stuff to be a part of. There's always bad stuff to look at and dwell on. But there's always good stuff too. Given the choice, why not look at the good stuff? And be THAT guy, or that girl? Everyone around you has something to offer. If they're a drag to be around, cut them loose, of course. But don't be disappointed in them because they didn't offer you the specific gift you wanted them to give. They still bear gifts. Be grateful for that!

This is part of what I've learned. So thank you...even the people who were kind of jerky. I learned from you all."

I'm glad I found that little note, because my advice to myself was what I needed to find the right place again. I need to write more of this shit down.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Pretty Good Day

For some reason, I've been the beneficiary of tremendous insight in the last three much that it's hard to keep track of it all. But it's helped me change my way of thinking and attitude so much that I'm starting to think I may have finally gotten the hang of this "life" thing.

It would take a very long blog to get through it all, and some secrets I don't want to give away, but this one piece of it I want to share.

When I think back on days I like to remember, one of the ones I come back to was quite a few years ago...a trip to San Clemente with a free-spirited young woman I knew casually from touring who blew into town and wanted to go see a musician I'd never seen before. I went along for the ride, had a wonderful time walking on the beach, dallying over Mexican food, then had my mind totally blown by the concert, so much so that it changed the course of my musical life. Then, at the end of the day, unexpectedly (but happily), we made love, and it was fantastic.

When I think back on that day, one thing I tend not to remember is that I was sick as a dog the whole time. I nearly passed out during the show, and it was all I could do to muster the energy to get through it all. I was physically miserable for every moment of it. And yet it was an awesome day, though as uncomfortable as I was, I probably wasn't totally aware of it while I was having it.

Yesterday I played Universal Citywalk with Norm Kelsey. On the way in, my cart hung up on the uneven pavement and sent all my gear flying. 7 keys were broken on my digital piano, which may or may not be reparable. I was also preoccupied with some unpleasant negotiations pertaining to a project I'm working on. And, I was suffering from abdominal pain that increased during the day. I had begun to feel feverish, and had to kill five hours between soundcheck and the show while I was feeling worse and worse.

Now, is that a bad day or a good day?

Let's look at the good things. I got to spend some good hang time with Norm's guitar player, Bryan, who's a great guy and real easy to talk to. We had a nice dressing room with a big couch where I could lay down and watch the ending of "School of Rock." There were many hot girls to look at, and a few looked back. And, of course, I got to play on a nice, big stage backing up a phenomenal performer to a very appreciative crowd.

Years from now, what am I more likely to remember? I'm thinking the show and the hang time, not the broken piano keys and the sore gut. What do you think?

Every time something bad happens to us, it's just as temporary as a good thing...and bad things nearly always have good consequences. In my entire fairly long life, I can only think of one unequivocally bad event that had absolutely no upsides whatsoever, and that was when my sister-in-law was murdered. As horrible and destructive as that was, that's one event in 40 years. Every other bad thing I can think of had a silver lining somewhere. A new skill I was forced to acquire; a path that introduced me to a new person that became important to me; experience that made me tougher and wiser and strengthened me for the long haul.

This may sound all very Pollyanna-ish. But when I was moaning on the dressing room couch contemplating not just playing a show but unloading all my gear and schlepping it back to my house with severe abdominal pain, and wondering if I was going to have to buy an entirely new piano...I still thought I was having, on the balance, a pretty good day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why I Hate Everybody's Politics

Last year, I was quite the political firebreather. I had what I thought were good moral reasons for this -- namely, the idea that "all that it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." As I recently said to somebody (who initiated a political debate), as I took apart their arguments piece by piece, logically and I hope objectively: "so why does it fall to an itinerant musician to point this stuff out? Shouldn't our media be doing that?"

But I finally got to the point where I realized two things: one is that there's a law of diminishing returns with this stuff. And another is that, basically I had no constituency. People move in groups, people tend to congregate around ideas and belief systems that make them comfortable. And by speaking up, I wasn't building a following for certain ideas. I was pissing EVERYBODY off, one demographic at a time. And the basic fact is, those ideas are out there. People just decide whether or not they want to entertain them. When people are scared crapless, they don't usually sit down and think of how to get out of the situation they're in. They react. That might be the wrong move's human nature. Whatcha gonna do?

But the biggest reason I shut up? Because I think nearly everybody -- everybody -- in this country is a sucker and a moron -- and that includes other people that think everybody in this country is a sucker and a moron. And that's not a way to win any friends. So why am I posting this blog? I dunno. Maybe I feel guilty for detaching from political discussions when I took a stand earlier. Since I don't plan to call attention to it, and since I haven't posted in ages, I expect no one will see it.

So if any of the following offends you -- well, duh. Of course the large percentage of you won't agree with me. But it's cool. I'm still a good guy and guess what! I don't have any power! All of you are free to mass in any way you like and you are far more likely to realize your own vision of the country than I ever will. And I will just have to deal with it. So I think you can take it. Don't get mad at ME. I'm just one dude shaking his fist at windmill.

Basically the country is separated into three groups. All of whom I think, as I said, are in their own way, sending us right down the tubes, though not in equal measures.

Conservatives -- Good God, where do I start? Did anyone watch the Republican debates last night? All of these people are falling all over themselves to out-crazy one another. If you saw these people walking down the street and talked to them for ten seconds, you would run. And yet these are the only people the right wing of our country can entertain as presidential candidates.

My dad was a conservative. Like, a real conservative, an intellectually consistent conservative, someone who wasn't hooked on dogma as a replacement for real thinking. I know the tenets of the philosophy. I was raised on them. I internalized the concepts of personal responsibility, the perils of the "nanny state" (there's a bogus euphemism for ya), the struggles businesses face with regulations and labor costs. I get it. Modern day conservatism has taken these concepts, slapped it together with religious fervor and a large dollop of fear, and made it into a crazy quilt of a religion that punishes severely for the slightest deviation from the Ten Commandments -- Thou Shalt Not Raise Taxes. Thou Shalt Blame Liberals For Everything. Thou Shalt Ignore Every Bit of Information That Does Not Come From a Conservative Because It Is Biased. Shall I go on?

Conservatism is not a political movement. It is a cult. There is a tautology of circular logic that prevents any doctrinaire conservative from reconsidering any portion of their beliefs. And unfortunately, this is the largest and most intractable minority voting block in our country, thanks in part to the vagaries of the Constitution. But I think what I loathe about conservatives most of all is their absolute inability to take any responsibility for any part of the problems that they whine about incessantly, even though you can draw a direct line from people and policies most of them support to the things they complain about.

Phew. OK, next!

Liberals -- people assume I am one because I take a liberal position in an argument more often than not. But that's just so someone can HEAR it...since liberals are the most demonized, and yet the most politically powerless (I can hear conservatives chuckling at this right now...hey bozos...YOU do not get define what a "liberal" is. People still get to choose their own labels in this country. A real "liberal" does not mean ANYONE TO THE LEFT OF YOU. The reason you do not know what a real liberal is is true lefties have been systematically excluded from having any real voice in anything that is said or debated...with the exception of a few crazies that get trumped up to the skies anytime someone on Fox wants to make an example of how nutty those socialists are).

A country that demeans and ridicules what 25% of the population believes is in trouble. Yes, maybe a lot of lefties are nuts but guess what? Michelle Bachman is nuts too, and her face is plastered all over my computer screen. She gets to have her insane ideas listened to. Noam Chomsky (Who? Exactly?)? Not so much.

So why do I have the knife into liberals too, when I obviously have a great deal of sympathy for their plight? Simple. You look at the 2010 elections, how we got in this insane position. The Tea Party turned out en masse to put right wing dudes into office right? Wrong. The loonies got in because liberals stayed home. They were mad at Obama because of his messaging failures, because of his not pulling out of Afghanistan, because of not having a public option in the health care reform bill...etc., etc.

Those are all fair criticisms, up to a point. But dude, Obama is not God. He's got a whole bunch of people that are on his ass trying to take him down. Secondly, the fact that you projected him to be a liberal shining knight is not his fault. Most of the things he's done are exactly what he's campaigned on. I was there and I remember. And because you guys all sat on your hands and bitched about how disappointed you are, we got this bunch of loons. Thanks a lot, guys.

Yeah, it sucks that liberal ideas are not properly articulated in our media, and you guys are totally demonized. It sucks that lefties are out-messaged and that Obama hasn't been able to give you everything you want. But the fact remains there's still a lot more of Them than there are of You. And if you want a bigger seat at the table, you need to do what the right wing loonies -- who when I was a kid were a punch line, a total joke -- have been doing for 30 years. Get organized and start taking over, one school board at a time. Sitting around and whining because you got half a loaf from President Obama is not a good start to that goal.

Centrists -- Ah yes. That's most of us, right? We're not one of those crazy right wing wide eyes, and we're not one of the loonie left. WE'RE normal. You won't catch us taking a side, getting caught up in all this Washington nonsense. WE'RE the cool ones. WE'RE above it all. We know the whole thing is a scam, a joke.

I think I'm more pissed at the Centrists than anybody else. Because the Centrists smugly thing it has nothing to do with Them. They know it's all fucked up, and the only thing to do is wash your hands of it. It's all corrupt. It's all Those Politicians in Washington screwing everything up. Throw 'em all out. They are not listening to Us.

Except this fake notion of equality, "both sides do it", this bias towards not getting one's hand's dirty, is exactly the reason we have a situation now where one party is flawed and corrupt, and the other party is flat-out, batshit insane and may drive the country over the edge. Oh my, did I just say that? That must make me a LIBERAL! Must cover ears! La la la!

But that, if anyone has any ounce of perspective and looks at the situation fairly, is WHAT'S HAPPENING. And we've gotten to the point where no one in the media can actually just look at something and, even though they KNOW that's what's going on, they can't SAY it. And so the media just says "Democrats say this, and Republicans say that." And the disconnected masses watch it, and just see a mess they don't like. And walk away from it. And so in a situation where one side is just your normal gang of semi-corrupt fuck ups, and another side is completely trashing 100 years of political traditions, abusing the process and, of yeah, denying objective reality, and it's reported as being the same thing, guess which side triumphs? And guess whose fault it is? It's not the fault of the people doing the damage. They're getting away with it, why shouldn't they keep right on truckin'? After all, we're letting them. It's like saying "Johnny, you didn't take out the trash. Jimmy, you strangled the cat. You both go to bed without any supper." How is that going to work out, hmm?

50% of the country doesn't vote. We think that it doesn't matter, that our voices don't count. But think about it. If we REALLY didn't matter, why the enormous amount of money to obfuscate every issue, to keep us confused and disconnected and mad at each other? To get us so completely disgusted with the process that we just walk away from it, throw up our hands, say it doesn't matter, it ain't me?

Well, of course it's you. Who the heck is gonna listen to you, when you just shit on the people breaking things, and the people trying (however imperfectly) to fix things, equally? And you're not kicking down any money, or standing for anything, to boot?

In the end, here's what's going to happen: the country is going to be a place that none of us recognize. Hell, in many ways, it already is. Every single one of us is going to see it. And instead of being united in our unhappiness and coming together and thinking about a way to proceed that we can all live with, we're going to point fingers at each other, saying it's so and so's fault, fighting over smaller and smaller scraps, while the small cadre of people who engineered this entire shell game laugh at us and count their money. And who can blame them? They had an idea, they made a plan, and they followed through. The rest of us just fell for it.

And I'm one of them. Because this blog aside, I have decided to keep my mouth shut.

Yay! Now I belong.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flash Forward

I've always been one of those people that's had trouble living in the moment. I guess that's something everyone struggles with, but for someone whose life has been as rich in experiences and people as mine has been, I've found those moments surprisingly hard to hold on to and call back to mind, because I'm not sure I ever was fully inside them when they were happening.

While I was in the desert over the weekend, turning these thoughts over in my head before sleep, I had one of those flashes that changes the way you look at everything.

Everything around you, everyone you are with, everything that you are doing right now, one day will be gone, and you will wish you could be in this moment right now again.

Something about that idea shifted my whole environment into focus. We spend our lives thinking of contingencies that will protect us from loss, recoiling from love through fear, or perhaps embracing the wrong kind of love in a desperate play for security.

But it's futile. Everything in your life now will one day be gone. Either that, or you will. And at some point, on this side of the grave or the other, you will miss something about the place and time and people around you, right now.

Something about that thought put me, perhaps for the first time, squarely in the here and now. It made my hugs a little longer and tighter, and my breaths a little deeper. And sleep came easier.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

National Unity Party

Watching the disheartening reaction to the events in Arizona, most of it sadly predictable except for the lengths people (some in particular) will go to to avoid introspection about the overall mental state of the U.S., and how just maybe we should stop subtly encouraging the lizard parts of our brain in our discourse, irrespective of party, I had a thought.

If we really, really want to get this country together, all we need to do is form a party whose platform is "everything is somebody else's fault. At no point can my own beliefs or politics be challenged or called into question. At no point should I be required to weigh two opposing ideas fairly and rationally."

We'd be singing kumbaya in no time.

Keep being 6, America.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


It's irrelevant where you stand politically. If I could predict what happened in Arizona yesterday...and a lot of us did, some time ago...anyone could.

People busy pointing fingers, or ducking them, miss the point. Of course the dude was a loon, and of course there have always been loons. Sarah Palin did not pull the trigger. What's different in this day and age is we live in an environment where extreme rhetoric is everywhere. It used to be condemned. Now it's encouraged, it's accepted, it's what we hear everywhere around us. We can't have sane conversations anymore about differences of belief or policy. Our responsibility lies where we elevate the crazy talk over the sane. We're all culpable for going along with it....our media, first and foremost.

We have become a nation of people nursing our own grievances, talking past one another, ignoring any information we don't like, and avoiding introspection at all costs. And our media has been right there, milking it all the way to the bank, ready to cater to the worst in all of us, giving us all plenty of ammunition for our own pet belief systems. And we're all dumb enough to buy into it.

Whose fault is this event? The shooter's of course (or, if you like, whoever didn't get the guy some help or the mental heath system or whatever axe you wish to grind). But has the country become a place that gives the most radical, unreasonable and unbalanced people a bigger platform than everybody else? And will that result in more unstable people being encouraged to get their loony rocks off?

You betcha. And as we deplore the decline in our discourse, we'll all be busy blaming that on someone else...whoever isn't "us." And be mortally offended when that finger gets cast in our own direction.

This is gonna work out great, America. Keep right on being 6.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ooh Shiny!

I don't think I'm alone (and welcome back to the blog, btw) in wanting to have a certain amount of positive social energy in my life...people that I think are really attractive, sexy, who inspire me, give me new perspectives, who I relate to, make me feel good about my place in the world, and make me feel a little less alone. I think we all want and need that.

For me, I always look for people that are a little out of the box. Nothing against people with normal 9-to-5 lives, it's just not what stimulates me.

Lately though, I've started to draw a line in my head between people that really have a degree of depth and character that underlies the surface attractiveness, and people that are just very good at being attractive. For lack of a better word, I've been calling these latter folks "shiny" people.

This is kind of an abstract concept, so let me try out a pretty obvious example. You're at a party. There's a beautiful girl there. She's put together well, smiles, and is friendly. You have a nice conversation. Maybe you exchange phone numbers and go out another time. But it becomes obvious after awhile that though the person is attractive on the surface, to misparaphrase Gertrude Stein, there's really no "there" there. There wasn't really anything in between the two of you in the way of a connection, and in the end, the person winds up being a waste of time and resources (particularly if you picked up the tab for dinner, you cheap bastard).

The thing is, I find that if you think it through -- or at least if I do -- take a step back from the physical reality in front of you and draw in the whole of the person, you can often take a good guess at who is really going to be worth pursuing a relationship (I mean that in the elastic way, including friendships and things like that) with, and who isn't. Or, if you can't, that at least it's really good to withhold yourself a little bit until you get a better sense of the person.

This has been a really great thing to figure out for me. It's always so great for me to meet people that I think are intriguing that it's easy to go overboard and ascribe things to them that aren't really there. That's not fair to me, and it's also not fair to doesn't allow people to be who they are and be appreciate for that. And you also wind up overlooking people that aren't as glittery on the surface, but have a lot more to offer as friends.