On the Road, The Latest TV

On the road today with Shinyribs.  Posting will be slow.  Started watching the new season of House of Cards last night.  It left me wanting.  I felt like it was a little too melodramatic,  lacking a kind of overreaching theme to give it deeper meaning.  Granted it was one episode, so I will plow on.  Really enjoyed this week’s The Walking Dead.  The show was able to create an unbelievable amount of tension with just character development and story.  Zombies and violence were background for most of the show.  I think an episode like that shows the strength of the show.  I enjoy the episodes of the show that are more typical of its genre, but it is not confined to its genre and hasn’t been for a long time.  The show is strong because it studies human behavior in a society stripped of behavioral norms.  These could be people in war or any survival situation.  The guise of the zombies allows the writers to push the envelope towards things that might be too horrible to ponder if it took place in a real world situation. 

Fun In the South

Day 3 in Louisiana – Headed towards New Orleans.  Due to the weather that has been going down, the countryside looks like West Virginia in winter, without the allure of the mountains.  “Slate grey Victorian skies” hang over leafless trees.  Cigarette butts and plastic bags dot the landscape all too frequently.   I have been reading Dante’s Inferno and listening to Lou Reed’s Sally Can’t Dance.  The soul is a flexible thing.  Mine is mirroring the landscape, slithering to the rhythm of the haunted South.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Oliver Stone’s Nixon.  “Nixon is the darkness reaching out for the darkness.”  Another is when Lou Reed said after making Berlin, an album many deem the most depressing of all time, that he was, “just having fun.”  That is the key and secret code to unlock it all: fun…

More Scenes From Touring

If you want a good many laughs, and a view into temporary insanity, I can’t recommend Henry Rollins Get in the Van enough.  Although the early 80’s hardcore scene is far crazier than anything I have ever witnessed, there is something in the dark fatalistic humor of the book that captures touring better than anything I have ever seen or read.  I know I have mentioned it before, but I am thinking about it on my way to Oklahoma city. 

When you tour it is like living in dog years.  Time slows to a crawl.  I am not trying to romanticize touring, quite the opposite.   There may be some that love every moment of it, but to me my passion for music makes it something that I tolerate.  I am not saying that there aren’t great moments, nor am I complaining.  It simply is a mountain that needs to be climbed to reach the golden city of music.  It is mostly my ability to disconnect,  to float away into books and records, that allows me to keep climbing. 

I am an introvert by nature.  Being in a crowd, even if I am having a great time, diminishes my energy instead of restoring it.  I purposely need to retreat into an autistic cave of solitude at times to make it through the day.  (Hat pulled down over eyes and headphones on.)

But lord I love being creative, playing with great musicians, and diving into the world of music.  I can never hear enough of the stuff.  I live with headphones on.  I could play a two hour set and the first thing I want to do after is listen to a record.  I love the world of recorded sound.  I have ever since I was a kid.  While some friends obsessed over sports stats, I was up in my room reading music magazines and listening to albums. 

When some people tell me that I am bold to follow my dreams, I thank them, but I know the truth:  My passion for music borders on obsession, and I have no other choice.  It isn’t much different than an alcoholic slithering over to a bar as soon as it is open.  Reason and courage play no part.  I give into my addiction and follow it down the rabbit hole. 

Scenes From Before and After a Show

I just watched a documentary about Quiet Riot in the hotel.  It was like watching Spinal Tap, without the laughs.  People that had no clue doing things that had no point.  Watching it with a severe hangover made me think of razor blades and a tub.  “Should I even go to the gig tonight”, I thought,  “or should I do some angel dust and float away into a delusional dream?”  When they put a character in a straight jacket on their debut album, they probably didn’t realize they would be creating this kind of insanity in 2015. 

It did prompt me to read about other over-the-hill 80’s hair bands.  Drug addictions, colostomy bags, fading fortunes, and diminishing returns were all accounted for.  It was like a musical version of the movie The Wrestler

It is time to take the stage here in Fort Worth.  Let me play well, and dear Lord let me have some sense of things if the deal ever goes down.  Onward and upward, for awhile…

After

Young girls dance in an Indian summer.  Despite my brain feeling like a bleach soaked sponge from last night’s revelry, I play a flawless set.  Rock n roll doesn’t seem quite as absurd.  People tell me I am living the American dream, despite an extremely light wallet that I am all too aware of.  It was a good night all in all.  I am not the kind of person that feels validated by the applause of a crowd, though it beats crickets chirping.  I will sleep the sleep of the dead and arise like Jesus from the tomb tomorrow.  24 hours from now I will be on the tail end of a show in Oklahoma City.  Who knows what the future will bring.  I have learned to live a couple hours at a time.  In the moment pure mutant animalistic survival is achieved.  And in this world, to ask for anything more, would just be greedy…

Tour Poetry Day 10: Shitcanned in So and So

Whenever I return home from a trip
And people ask me how it was
I tell them if it was good or not
Then I convey one or two humorous stories
And leave it at that
Most people are asking out of politeness
And don’t actually care how your trip was
As the character Kenny Powers once said:
“I went to space and back like Neil Armstrong
And no one gives a shit.”
If someone wants to know more
I let them lead me there
But even if they do indeed genuinely care
How do you tell them that the world
Is both bigger and smaller
More beautiful and insane
Then could possibly be described anyway?
You can drive from Canada to Texas in one day
Yet each home along the way
Possesses its own secret universe
The likes of which
We will mostly never know
There are junkyard artists and opera buffs
People full of humility, kindness, and intelligence
And others that seem to be channeling
Unique, one of a kind, supernatural information
That they obtained through head injuries, acid flashbacks
Or best of all
That old-timey religion
It takes all kinds
To make the world spin, spin, spin!

Back on the home front
When I do meet that rare curious individual
I will happily find myself
In an meaningful conversation
About what a strange, wonderful, frustrating, mysterious
World we live in
But most of the time at a party or bar
I just tell someone
About how I got shitcanned in so and so
While I tilt my drink back to a 90 degree angle
And await the oncoming blackout 

Denver, Colorado 8/9/14

Today is the last day of the Shinyribs tour.  We play in Amarillo tonight and then tomorrow we head back home.  I’ve enjoyed doing this little experiment, where I tried to write a poem for each day of the tour.  If it is something you like message me and please let me know.  I haven’t decided yet if this is going to be a regular feature or not when I’m touring.  It is both fun to challenge myself to come up with something every day, and convenient as it allows me to post more when I don’t have the time to write longer pieces.  However, one should always be careful of running an idea into the ground…

 

Being Treated Like a Human Being

One of the things that surprised me in Japan was how kind people were to foreign strangers.  I’ve previously read enough to know that Japan has been a completely closed society in the past, and is still closed off in some ways to outsiders.  I also know that it is a culture that can be hard on the individual, which can favor group think at times, and as a result can be casually cruel to those that don’t fit neatly into observed norms.  I’m also not blind to the fact that I have a completely superficial understanding of their culture.  I was there for a week.  For the flight home I downloaded several books on the Japanese and their culture so that I might better understand what I saw.   

However, none of this obscures the fact that on a surface level the Japanese are unbelievably courteous.  You are greeted with smiles and kindness around every turn.  If you need help it is there in spades.  If you pull out a map and look lost, someone approaches you to find your way.  If you drop something, someone will pick it up for you.  If you are sick, like I was when I was there, their medical care is efficient, affordable, and the treatment is on a very human level.  At hotels, stores, restaurants, and even just out on the street, they go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. 

With only having a basic understanding of their culture, surely I am missing something.  I am sure I am not picking up on basic signs that the Japanese would see.  I was reading a book written by Japanese students and their professor called The Japanese Mind.  It talks about how communication in Japan can be very ambiguous and that it is often in the subtlest of ways that their true intentions are communicated. 

None of what I might be missing obscures the fact that the way they behave makes for a seemingly better everyday life.  If someone smiles at you or says thank you here in America, even if it is just part of a professional courtesy, it can go a long way in improving your mood.  If someone smiles at you, you often find yourself smiling back.

Often it is not the big problems in life that defeat us, but the small everyday indignities that make us suffer.  I come from the North East where casual indifference seems to be the norm.  When I moved to Austin I was amazed that strangers would wave to me as I went on a bike ride.  I was astounded when I went to restaurants and people asked me how my day was with what seemed like actual interest.  My first reaction was, “what the fuck do these people want to know about my day for?!!!”  I was surprised at how quickly people were to hug me when I saw them, even people of whom I was only an acquaintance.  All of these minor things added up over time though and led to a sunnier lifestyle.  Austin is becoming more urban in attitudes and behavior as it grows, but it is still different than many places I have been in the US. 

The Japanese don’t seem much for hugging, but aside from this they display this casual kindness in spades.  Everywhere I went I was treated like what I am, a human being.  Even if it is nothing but politeness, this behavior pays off.  You feel your soul more relaxed and at ease.  Even in the airport yesterday I felt a calmness in the air that I don’t feel when I am home.  There at least feels like there is less anxiety in their way of life.  I wasn’t alone in that everyone who I traveled with or met that was an outsider felt this way.  I want to read and learn and get to the bottom of this, as it was simply an extraordinary experience.  However, no matter what I dig up, I can say that there is something to be learned from these people.  Being treated like a human being really is as nice as it sounds.