It is…

I sit in an over lit café on a dark fall night surrounded by the sounds of a Juke box that has not been updated since 1988.

It’s a Time Machine that dances with my veggie burger and fries like old lovers long forgotten.

It’s moments like these when I question everything and nothing equally.

It’s moments like these when I am paralyzed in the perfection of now.

It’s moments like these when the silence is louder than love.

veggieburger32

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Trust in the ghetto

Bob Marley knew growing up in Trench Town (the ghetto) that on the street BMW stood for Break My Windows. So, when he was successful enough he said No, I think BMW stands for Bob Marley and The Wailers and he bought one. He never locked it. Everyone knew it was his car. His windows were never broken.

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Community

I was walking to the store. I walked past two homeless guys sharing a J. One yelled to me, “Great album!” I looked down at my shirt because I forgot what I was wearing and then I said back, “The world is full of kings and queens
Who blind your eyes and steal your dreams
It’s heaven and hell.”
He flashed me that METAL hand gesture.
When I got to the store, there was an unfortunately long line. The man at the counter eventually yelled, “Black Sabbath is next.” While he rang me up, he talked about his sadness regarding the passing of Chris Cornell and how his favorite song was Black Hole Sun. I talked a little about Temple of the Dog, which he had never heard of. When I walked home, I felt good. I like to talk to my people. I didn’t feel alone. I felt like a part of the community. I hope they did too.

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Airport Rhythm

The Miami airport has its own rhythm. Maybe I should say “unique,” since every airport has a rhythm. More often than not, it’s an unpleasant rhythm. LAX is at the top of the unpleasant rhythm list. It’s surprising in its awfulness, especially since Los Angeles has a decent musical history.

But Miami has a fresh rhythm… definitely a conga backbeat with a laid back rhythm that is easy to ride. It’s shy on low end, which is a little surprising, like a bra that sets off metal detectors. It might be a South American thing. Lots of high end, not enough bass.

How anyone misses this is only mildly understood. It’s the economics of electronics. Loud and bright, cheap and fast. The Caribbean is the exception: it is the world capital of low end. No one does it better. It’s a reggae thing. (By the way, the bottom needs to be big and tight, not just big. Ask a Rasta.)

I hear two people talking in Spanish. Good rhythm. No low end. N sits next to me talking in the rhythm of the South. She’s wishing her North Carolina kin a happy holiday. I feel like I am at the center of the earth… wherever I am.

AIRPLAne1197

 

 

1991 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Lestat)

Serial # 90921344

This is the fourth Les Paul I have owned.

It was the mid-90s. I’m bad with timelines, sorry. I had just left a band that had been taken out to dinner by all the major label A+R guys and girls. It was strange leaving the band because it was my band. I really thought we were going to do it. But the closer we got, the more heroin and cocaine our singer shot into his arm. He was talented, but the destruction of himself and the people around him outweighed his gifts as a singer and front man. A fact I only recognize in hindsight.

I had started a couple of other bands and was staying low-key and independent, which was actually quite fashionable at the time. One afternoon I get a call from the ex-singer. He needs to get out of town quick and need some cash. He wonders if I would like to buy his black Les Paul nicknamed Lestat for 450 dollars. I had played the guitar a couple of times and thought it was a decent instrument. It had all original parts except the tuning keys had been replaced with Sperzel tuning keys and the truss rod cover that originally said standard had been replaced with a cover that now said Lestat. I said I would buy the guitar. But he said there was a catch, which there always was.

He (ex-singer) was at a bus stop several blocks past Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, then a very bad part of town. He was in front of the pawn shop his Les Paul was in. I would have to find a way down there – I didn’t have a car at the time- give him the 450, he would then go in the pawn shop get his guitar and then give it to me. 450 for a Les Paul Standard was a pretty good deal. I wasn’t doing much else that afternoon so I said yes.

I walked to Sunset and La Brea and started to hitchhike. This was much more acceptable than it seems to be now. I was walking and hitchhiking for a couple blocks when a white jeep pulled up to the curb. In it was the sometime girlfriend of a bass player I had worked with. She was an ex-porn star now supporting herself doing “this and that”. She gave me a ride all the way past Western Avenue to the pawn shop. I was very thankful for the ride and told her so, then got out. Not too long after she gave me this ride she got into methamphetamine. One night she called my then-girlfriend and said that I was hitting on her during the ride.

The ex-singer was sitting on the bus stop. Not on the seat but on the back of the seat, so he was higher up. He was wearing his black leather trench coat that he had worn on-stage so many times after the day he stole it off the sidewalk rack in front of a store on Melrose Avenue. He also had on wrap-around sunglasses. His girlfriend was sitting on the seat below him. They had some old luggage and grocery store bags full of their belongings. They looked like people you would normally avoid.

The ex-singer jumps of the bench and says hello. We small talk a little but don’t make eye contact. I give him the cash and he goes inside the pawn shop. I sit next to his girlfriend on the bus stop. I remember when they met. She seemed so clean and straight. She really loved our band. She barley spoke a word as we sat together. Her hair was really stringy and she looked dirty and despondent. I had tried to help them a couple of times in the past. But there is really not anything you can do. I had spent a lot of times feeling helpless, angry and confused. It wasn’t that long ago we were talking to record executives. I remember realizing I had put all my hopes, dreams and hard work into the same basket as a time bomb. It was a bad joke. I tried to hold it together. You start feeling like you’re bailing water on a sinking ship and you go below and your crew is drilling holes in the bottom of the boat. I grew a little hardened and distant in those moments.  The fact that my friends were now at a bus stop, homeless with a couple of suitcases barley fazed me.

He comes out of the pawn shop with the guitar and hands it to me. We shake hands. His hands are clammy and dirty. I say goodbye, turn and walk away. I didn’t see or hear from him again for a long time. He’s a Republican now and his parents bought him a house or two. But he can’t drive because he’s had a few DUIs.  I don’t know what happened to the girl.

I played this guitar on most projects I have recorded since. Mostly a bunch of  independent stuff you would never have heard of. It has a very dark tone, never bright. Through a Marshall jcm 800 this guitar is magic.

Prague 2am

It could have been anywhere for all I cared. But it was Prague. Might as well have been Mars. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours in the last week or month, it’s difficult to say. I finally arrived at the destination I set for myself 20 years ago and that old phrase “be careful what you wish for” was ringing in my ears. Mostly the left ear, which rings constantly from all the years of playing stage right. The drummer’s crash cymbal is always in that ear.

We arrived after dark, which is how we enter most towns we have a gig in. You learn to sleep a little while sitting in the van. 5 minutes maybe, 15 when you’re lucky. But you never really get rested. In Prague, they brought us to the promoter’s flat (apartment). She had a small dog with one eye. I don’t remember his name. They had a nice spread of food waiting for us. She had chips and salsa. Being a rock and roll band from LA, chips and salsa in Eastern Europe is as rare as precious stones.

We were playing some kind of festival that night. It was 10 pm and we were not scheduled to go on for  for another 2 or 3 hours. You might think that would be a great moment to catch up on a little sleep, but the longer you go without sleep the harder it gets to find any. Like the wanting and desire for sleep push it away. I try anyway.

It’s a one-bedroom flat so I wander into the bedroom – which was supposed to be completely off limits to the guys in the bands. I open the door and my drummer and bass player are in bed. Asleep! How the drummer sleeps is a mystery because the bass player snores so loud it’s like trying to sleep in the same room as a car crash. Complete with screaming victims. I go back out into the main room to sit with the one eyed dog and watch the rest of the rock and rollers party. Alcoholics have athletic endurance.

When it’s our time to go on, two handlers from the club come and get us. We walk to the club which is a couple of blocks away. It’s 2 am and cold. My achy body tightens in the cold air. My feet slip a little on the cobblestone street. I look down and think about the people who have walked on this same cobblestone street for hundreds of years. I look up along the tall buildings and see the winter sky. I can see my breath. I hug myself tight holding my jacket closed. Over my shoulder I see the singer of the Death Rock band I am playing with. He is wearing a black cape with a hood. His face is painted like a Día de los Muertos skull. I laugh a little at the ridiculousness of it all as it freezes as a moment in time.

The club is jam packed. They walk us all directly to the stage. I grab my guitar and turn on the amp. The club is warm, dark and full of moist cigarette smoke. My hands are shaking as I play a little on my guitar. It’s the lack of sleep. The shaking has been with me the entire tour. You learn to play by muscle memory and hope for the best. The drummer counts in the first song and we are on a moving train. It’s like being pulled by your belly into a storm, your head whips back.

I look out into the audience and people are looking at us. I look back and it seems connected and completely disconnected in the same moment. I notice they are all singing the words to our songs. It’s strange. What language do they speak here? We’re playing a song we wrote on the floor of my one-room apartment in LA and a room full of people in some other part of the world are singing along. I smile for a moment which is a no-no in a death rock band, but I’m a rebel. I’m not tired. The songs are nearly playing themselves. My feet hold the stage hard and I feel the rotation of the earth. The earth seems small and large in the same moment.

Excuses for not going to band rehearsal

In the late 1980s, I played guitar in a heavy metal band. The singer was a bit of a drug addict. He almost never came to rehearsal, but he always had a good excuse.

We started keeping track of his excuses on a sheet of paper in the band’s apartment. I recently found this sheet of paper in a drawer. These are real. Maybe someday, in a pinch, you can use one.

4/24 – Really bad diarrhea

5/1 – Took shower, got on motorcycle with wet hair, caught cold halfway to rehearsal and turned back

5/21 – Hit his head on his knee

5/27 – Threw up some weird colored stuff

6/5 – Real bad athlete’s foot

6/12 – Went outside and his car was gone

6/20 – I forgot rehearsal was tonight

6/24 – Sore throat

6/28 – Was arrested

7/1 – Thinks he may have pinkeye

7/9 – Could not find microphone

7/18 – Ate some bad beef jerky

7/21 – Still can’t find microphone

7/24 – Was looking for microphone and lost track of the time

8/19 – Big zit gave him a bad headache

8/24 – Thought rehearsal was last night

8/27 – Arrested

9/2 – Slipped in the bathtub while killing a spider (but he’s okay)

9/14 – Sore throat

9/27 – Stove caught fire

10/2 – Somewhere in Bakersfield, won’t make it back in time

10/3 – Still in Bakersfield, wishes he could get back

10/20 – Watching TV, lost track of the time

11/4 – Allergic reaction to AquaFresh toothpaste

11/15 – Street blocked off, cops looking for murder suspect

11/16 – Pulled a muscle in his ass while playing with his cat (hard to walk)

11/20 – Almost drowned in a swimming pool, water in his lungs

Fear and Loathing at the Public Library

I went to the library at Detroit and Sunset to find a book. I was looking for something on the positive side. But anything that could keep my attention would be fine. I had just hit pay dirt with 50 Cent’s The 50th Law. I have no idea why I picked that book off the shelf, and why I brought it home is a complete mystery. I read that book in 3 days, which is fast for me. I was looking for that experience again but those things are rarely duplicated. I was ready to settle for “keeps my attention”.

I grabbed a book by Deepak Chopra, 10 or 20 Ways to Get or Do Something. I can’t remember the exact title now. Deepak is always a last resort for me. I’ve found some of his books to be OK. Never mind-blowing. His books always have an infomercial vibe to them and it’s always a bit of a letdown when you pick up one of his books, 7 Steps to Get or Change This, and in the first chapter he says the thing to know is that you already have the thing you are searching for, you just don’t realize you have it, or maybe you don’t really need it. Anyway, here are 10 more chapters convincing you you already have what you need or don’t really want that thing you wanted before you picked up this book telling you–supposedly–10 steps to achieve said goal.

Sometimes these books are good, sometimes just something to pass the time. I don’t know if just passing time is good. How about 10 Ways to Live Life to it’s Fullest, Not Just Passing Time. I think I’ll write that book, and in the first chapter, I’ll tell you why just passing time can be a way to live your life to it’s fullest.

So with my Deepak book in hand, I was walking to the library check-out area. A lady was arguing with one of the librarians about the size of the suitcase she had with her. The librarian was telling her the suitcase was too big to bring in the library. It’s a shame that the Los Angeles Public Libraries have turned into shelters for the homeless and insane. But where are they supposed to go? We have very few programs left in this town to help these people. If they want to be indoors, the library is the only place left. You can see it on the librarians’ tired and toughened faces. It’s really sad. Who knew they were going to have to become bouncers to the downtrodden masses? That’s a seriously fucked up job.

Anyway, the homeless lady is insisting she must keep her bag with her or someone will steal it. I don’t know who is stealing the dirty laundry of the homeless, but that is just plain horrible. The librarian–who is about 65 years old and 110 lbs.– is getting tough with the homeless woman as I walk by with my 10 Ways to Do Something book. I pull the book close to me as I cross their path and I notice a sick perfume smell. I figure its the homeless woman’s perfume. I check out the book and go home.

Sitting on my bed, I open the book and that smell is back, that terrible perfume smell. I pull the book close to my face to make sure it’s the book and not some horrible memory of that scent. As I pull the book closer to my face, I notice there is hair in the pages. I move the book quickly away from my face. Under the plastic cover and in the pages of the perfume-covered book is cat hair. I can’t read this book. I’m not even comfortable touching it. All I can think of is some dirty cat lady wearing to much perfume holding this book. It was as if she had marked her territory. The vibe was to much. I got up and put the book in a plastic bag and immediately washed my hands. I became a little obsessed with the stink, vibe and karma of this book. I truly believe objects carry the vibrations and energy of their previous owners. That is why I have never bought a brand new guitar. If I get it used, I’m getting something extra. The energy–preferably good–the emotions, and the songs of the previous owner, all in the molecules of that guitar. This is also why I rarely sell a guitar. But anyway. The energy of this book and its stink were more than I wanted in my small apartment. So I took it back to the library, carrying it in that plastic bag so I didn’t have to touch it with my bare hand.

With that book returned, I got on one of the library computers to surf the internet. Yeah, I’m sure the keyboard was filthy, but that book was something else. I’m not insane. Even though I know claiming to be sane is a sure sign you’re not, I’M NOT INSANE.

So I’m checking e-mail and a homeless guy 3 computers down is singing. He has purple socks on his hands with finger holes cut out and his clothes are mostly black (dirty), with a tiger print vest fashioned from a woman’s nightgown and furry (matted) purple leg warmers. Most of his teeth are missing and he is wearing gold rings and chains that look more like painted gold than actual gold. I am momentarily impressed by his sense of style. Especially being a guy who clearly has no home. He is singing loud. I can’t understand the words. He has old headphones on that look like they’re from someone’s trash in 1985. His articulation and pitch are bad. People begin to yell at him to “shut the fuck up.” A librarian is walking towards him and it dawns on me: he’s singing Like a Virgin.

Feel like helping out the homeless in Los Angeles? You can start here: http://www.gwhfc.org/

Feel like helping a Librarian? http://www.facebook.com/savethelibrary?v=wall

Why sing along with Dharma Gypsys?

Why should you sing along with Asato Ma (track #1 from the Dharma Gypsys Volume One: Music for Yoga Meditation and General House cleaning)? And What do the these words mean?

The fact that the words to this song are not in English is to your advantage. Knowing a word in your native language comes with a lot of baggage. Take the word God. It has a mountain of baggage attached to it, especially here in the west. So singing or saying something in a foreign language removes that mental baggage. It’s hard to pollute something consciously if we don’t know exactly what it means. But subconsciously, it is reaching us.

We want to get back in touch with the place we have forgotten but have never left. The universal mind. The collective consciousness. Where everything that has ever been or is ever going to be is available to us. Einstein talked about it. And you can have the same information Einstein had, hear the same things Beethoven—a deaf man—heard. How do you think Jimi Hendrix—an American man in his twenties—redefined the guitar forever? Sure he practiced a lot. But there is something else. The undefinable, the thing Jimi himself may not have been aware of. Like a medium, like a conduit of light and things better left unnamed.

You are part of the whole. The whole world. In fact you are the world. But our brains and ego—and the mental chatter produced by that pair—are deafening. It’s going to be easier to get into our subconscious if we can’t mentally define and label something.

So as we hear without listening, as we create without defining, as we sing along with words we do not understand because they are not in our native tongue, we can  receive the meaning in it’s purest form. No labeling. No defining. Only direct contact with the source.

So do you still want to know what the words to Asato Ma mean?

Asato Ma Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya

Memories of a 2007 tour of Europe with The Deep Eynde

Spirulina leg cramps

In Vienna lofts.

Sneezing dog hair and punk rock dust from travelers past.

Unwashed sheets.

Hiding in hoodie I wait for sleep and dreams to unravel in unkempt rooms smelling of trash and cigarettes.

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