Monday, November 30, 2009

No Wonder I Can't Hear Anything - or - A List Of Sound

These are the bands that I’ve seen live. At least these are the ones I remember seeing. My first concert was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. My latest was The Pixies. I wish I hadn’t ever seen Phish.

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Public Enemy
Maceo Parker (x2)
Primus (x6)
Blink 182
Holy Fuck
John Spencers Blues Explosion
Toots and the Maytalls
Spin Doctors
Don Byron
Mr. Bungle
Man or Astroman
The Walkmen
The French Kicks
Modest Mouse (x3)
Tortoise (x2)
Trans Am
Screaming Trees
Medeski, Martin and Wood (x3)
The Physics of Meaning
De La Soul
The Flaming Lips
Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (x3)
Fast Ball
Soul Aslyum
Screeming Trees
Blues Traveler (x2)
Ben Folds Five
Ben Harper
Neil Young with Crazy Horse
Soul Coughing
DeYarmond Edison
Clem Snide
Cold War Kids
Tapes N’ Tapes
Alman Brothers
Grateful Dead
Bob Dylan
Andrew Bird
They Might Be Giants
Inter Pol
Elvis Costello
Tony Bennett
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Artic Monkeys
The Black Diamond Heavies ( > 8 )
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The Pixies

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fill In The Gaps - or - You Can Have This Part, I'm Done Using It

It is never purely “out of the blue”. It is always inspired by someone else’s stories of mistakes made, lessons ignored, and consequences doled out by the bushel. That’s when I really start looking back at where I’ve been.

I think of my past. The endless winter hiking trips, a good mix of under and over prepared friends meeting at the base of a snow covered mountain range, seven days on snowshoes, climbing mountains during blizzards, dragging supplies on sleds up and down peak after peak, eating only Dinty Moore Beef Stew and loving every bite of it, drinking moonshine and piping hot lemonade on the tip top of White Owl, getting hypothermia at the very end of the trail, huddling around an almost empty sputtering camp stove at the end of a dark logging road helplessly waiting for someone’s girlfriend to drive up the impassible access road in the dead of winter in the endless dark of night to take us home. I remember being so cold that I lost all sensation in my body and stopped caring about the pain in my fingers and feet enough that it seemed like a good idea for my friends and I to start slapping and punching each other in the face to keep warm yet also to experience a punch to the face when our nerve endings and mind were so numb that you can’t feel anything and don’t care either. Eventually, a little black Jetta bobbed up the icy logging road and us boys stopped mindlessly beating each other and piled into the car. We were completely quite for the duration of the long ride home. The slow silent thaw of our stiff fingers by the heating vents sent ripples of pain from frostbite through our re-emerging minds as our bodies started reminding us what kind of pointless adventure we had just finished. We all deserved trophies.

I think of my past. The steamy summer days spent jumping off of bridges and cliffs into water that is way too shallow for any sane person to jump into from forty feet above. “You gotta keep to the right. Other wise you’re gonna break your legs on those rocks. Andrew Clack jumped to far left a month ago, and he dived, so now he’s got thirteen stitches in his head and can’t move his neck. He’s gotta heal up fast before the Marines ship him out in a few months to soak up bullets on the other side of the world. You know what, it’s best just to jump right through that little tree over there. You gotta jump from that ledge way above it. Make sure to jump out far enough to clear the cliff wall. Jake didn’t jump far enough and pin-wheeled off the cliff last year. He’s fine, but he won’t come out here anymore. Don’t worry about the tree, we’ve all jumped through it a bunch of times, it only scrapes you up a little. Not like those rocks on the left. Just don’t think about it when you’re up there or you’re gonna psyche yourself out and fuck it all up. Or we can go to Huntington Gorge if you like, but three more people died there last summer so now there are way too many concerned moms running around taking people’s beers away.”

I think about my past. I remember Hell. Hell was the name of the bomb shelter in the basement of my High School. At least that is what someone spray-painted on the walls down there. “HELL”. There was this little three-foot tall green metal door underneath one of the school stairwells that opened up to a steel rung ladder leading down to an unlit basement. There was a lock on the door, but it was never locked because if bombs were falling and you needed to get into the bomb shelter and the little door leading to the bomb shelter was locked, you’d be pretty pissed off. Even though it was unlocked, there was no handle on the door so you needed someone with fingernails to pry it open. Five minutes after classes started, the halls would be empty and we would meet up in Hell and smoke down. The ground was gravel, the air was stagnant and full of mildew and asbestos, and the ceilings were so low you couldn’t stand up. When we first found Hell, everyone brought flashlights to school. That eventually stopped. After a few trips to hell, you just knew where to go and when to duck. There was also a rule among us about flashlights, you never shined them in someone’s face when you were coming into Hell, because no one would know who you were and would assume that you were the Dean of Students coming down to bust everyone for getting stoned in the basement. We had set up a circle of old broken desks chairs down there, the kind where the seats are attached to little right-handed desks that are too small for a piece of full piece of paper to fit on. Some of the desks we found had ancient tags on them, Metallica or AC/DC or ZOHO or some senior’s initials from 1973 or “Amber Lucier is a SLUT!” scratched on them. My buddy J.G. once spent a whole day down there tripping his face off. You never brought someone down there that didn’t know about it. Hell was a secret that only the bad boys and girls knew about.

I think about my past. I remember Downtown Dave. Downtown Dave was a genius. That mother fucker hooked up his beat up old knock off Stratocaster guitar and a duct-taped shitty little Dictaphone microphone to a handheld radio transmitter powered by a car battery strapped to his back and would play for hours while walking around town. Any time we would see him, we would tune the car radio to 97.3, crack down the windows, crank up the volume, and listen to him jam. No shit. He was his own radio station. Everyone had it tuned to their one of their radio presets in their parents car. “There’s Davy! Switch it to WDAV, dude!” That’s what we called it when he was on the air, WDAV. He would play Dream On and Four Dead In Ohio and Tangled Up In Blue and Rockin’ In Your Free World and Add It Up and Sweet Child Of Mine and Born On A Bayou and Sweet Jane and any and every song that we could think up. Everyone knew him as Downtown Dave but no one ever called him that to his face. His parents lived in a big old beat up green van, which was always parked behind City Hall. His dad was named Big Bear and his mother only had a few teeth. Davy was always around, always invited, always welcome, and was never expected to chip in for beer money because, well, he didn’t have any money, and because he was always the best person to have around while drinking around a campfire. He had stringy black hair, dirty fingernails, crocked yellow teeth, and the world in the palm of his hand.

I think of my past. A fire burned my neighbor and best friend, JB’s house to the ground days before Christmas. He lived with me and my family for a year after that while his mom and step dad lived in a different house with his five year old sister and three year old brother, on top of a hill, miles away from where they used to live while the charred old house was ripped down and rebuilt with insurance money. He stayed in the room across from mine in the renovated attic of my folk house. It was basically the same room as there was no door between us, but we put up a curtain and some book shelves to make a pseudo wall between us; the room was the length and width of the whole house with a half a wall in the middle where the chimney was. JB had the east half, I had the west. He became my brother that winter. We went to school in the mornings together, came home late on weekends together, went to parties together, got drunk together, chased girls together, broke rules together, ran from cops together, and innocently smiled at our parents when we didn’t get caught. He once told me that his family wasn’t his any more. JB’s real dad left his mom before he was born. After raising him on her own, his mother had started a new family with his new dad and together they had made a new life with a new daughter and a new son. With the burned out house still visible out every window of my house, JB and I braved a long Vermont year together, side by side, as best friends, as brothers. And as that house was rebuilt, we had some of the best times of our lives. We had a serious falling out in 2001 as roommates in Boston and haven’t spoken a word to each other since.

I remember these things and feel good inside. I can crack a smile at the memories. I can think about my past and marvel at what an unrecognizable path it has lead me so far. All the way to this chair, this apartment, this job, this city, this life that I live now. Most of the time I see myself as a different person when I look back into my past, a young punk oblivious to the world outside of himself, full of spirit and spit, vigor and venom, chaos and compassion. Once in a while, in my head, it’s the right-now me, the thrity-one year old guy with the headband and the beard in the basement of the High School, or underneath Cook Down Bridge, it’s the immediate me with the job in the Greenhouse getting high with my old buddies, it’s the present tense version of me with my indelible and overwhelming yet totally justifiable fear of Hippopotamus jumping off rocks into frigid streams full of rocks and mud, it’s the $1800-a-month-in-bills me with my short salt-and-pepper hair and scratched-up designer eye glasses chopping down a ice coated tree on top of a mountain so that the wood stove would burn all night long. It’s me right now watching my neighbors house burn and telling him, “It’s okay. You’re gonna live with me now, and some how we’ll find some way to cram as much elation and madness into every second that we are alive.”

This path isn’t done yet and I smile when I wonder where it continues to lead me. I smile when I wonder how I’ll see myself now once I’ve gotten a little further down the line. I smile at the beautiful mystery that is forever unfolding before my eyes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pssst, Wanna See Something Cool? - or - Great, Now How The Hell Am I Gonna Beat That!

Do you see that big guy on the right of the President of the United States Of America? Yeah, the one with the green pants and the shiny gold name tag. That's my brother. When he sent me this photo, the quote that went along with it was, "I've been told when you have one of these, you show everyone." I can help that cause. My bro is bigger than Obama.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Where Is My...

Beautiful – Adj. Pleasing to the senses or mind ascetically.

Mystery – N – Something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm Faceless - or - Hey Bro, David Byrne Is My Friend

A friend of mine, in an effort to get me to join, sent a message to my brother, who she doesn't know at all, asking for advice on how to get me hooked into Facebook.

This is the message my brother sent back...

Subject: [Obsquatch] and his issues.

Good luck trying to get him on FB. I'm pretty sure he still thinks he's cool because he has David Byrne from Talking Heads as a 'Friend' on Friendster.

I canceled my friendster account last year, but I did have a few conversations with Mr. Byrne about the nature of the wind in his heart. Screw facebook, I prefer sunshine.

This photo of my brother and I was taken on the top of Bath Rock on day one of his rock climbing bachelor party. He took his closest friends from his two totally contrasting lifetimes (one which was lived in a basement popping pimples and playing D&D, and one which is currently being lived on top of glaciers, mountains, and rock faces) and spent a week in the middle of Rock City, Idaho (read: the most intense rock climbing park this side of the Himalayas, but seriously the middle of nowhere). We climbed for three days and drank over 300 cans of beer. I love this guy more than I could ever love facebook.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Button Button - or - Maize And Ravens

There was this game I used to play as a child called Button Button. I'm pretty sure that I made it up, but I also thought that I invented breathing though your nose, so I might be mistaken about being Button Button's inventor. It was easy enough to play, and everyone was good at it because there is only one rule. When someone yells "Button Button!" you have to press every button, twist every knob, and change the settings on anything that has changeable settings on it within eyesight. I'd play this game by myself while waiting in the car for my folks to drive me somewhere. When they would start the car, they would get a dusty blast from the car vents being set to full, the blinkers would start flashing, the windshield wipers would start thrashing around, the radio would blast out deafening static from some AM station, and I would laugh my little butt off.

My friends and I would play in the elevators of office buildings. Right as we were getting off a crowded elevator, someone would yell "Button Button!" and who ever was closest to the panel would hit the call button for every floor and then dart out the elevator and down the hallway, much to the chagrin of the businessmen and women who were already pissed for having to share an elevator with the likes of me and my punkass friends and who would now have to stop at every floor in the building on the way back to their dreary lives working in a crowded and sterile State Office building.

To this day, I play Button Button when I can't figure out how to turn on a friends stereo system. It never quite has the outcome I originally intend when I pick up the remote, but it is definitely is worth it when somehow the TV pops on and, lo and behold, midget porn. Who doesn't love midget porn?

Try it someday (Button Button, not midget porn. Screw it, try midget porn also. Why not?). Button Button is a lot more fun than you might think, especially with all the buttons that are around us these days.

The reason I bring up Button Button is because there are a lot of buttons on the internet, many of which also lead to midget porn. Withing seconds of playing Button Button online, you can go from a list of signers of the Constitution, to a shop that sells some of the crassest tee-shirts I've ever seen. If you can't see the connection betwixt these two sites, then you need to broaden your e-horizons. I'm sure every one of our founding fathers would have looked great in a "Thousands of my potential children died on your daughters face last night" shirt. If that isn't human progress, than I don't know what is.

I pressed a button yesterday. I pressed a button at the top of this screen right here. A button I've never pressed before. I pressed the "Next Blog" button and found this site. It's some college student's photography page. His name is Swikar Patel. This is my favorite photo of his.

He is good, but not nearly as good as my buddy at Here's a link to his blog, which is a constant stop my online Button Button game.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Oh Crap - or - What Is The Color Of Nonsurprise

I just found out that I am going to be laid off from the Greenhouse after the Christmas rush is over. That means that I have to stop spending money, because I'm effectively going to stop making money in a month and a half. The Greenhouse is not my main source of income, running weddings for rich people is my main source of income, but rich people don't want to get married in the middle of winter in Chicago. If rich people want to get married in the middle of winter, they go to where it isn't winter, you know, the other side of the world, and get married in flip flops and bikinis. You can't wear flip flops in February in Chicago.

On a totally different note, the event I ran tonight was a black tie dance party for... yep, you guessed it. Rich people. As we were setting up, the manager of the facility said to us, "There is a noise ordinance here and you have to keep the volume below one thousand decibels." My assistant and I did the coffee spit take. I'll explain why for those of you who are not audiophiles, gear-heads, or sound techs like me (read basement dwelling losers whose only lines of communication are with fellow sound techies utilizing vernacular strictly referring to catalog numbers of high end discontinued microphones, preamps, and audio rack gear). A decibel is a logarithmic scale of loudness. A difference of 1 decibel is the minimum perceptible change in volume; a change of 10 decibels is a doubling of the volume. The average face melting rock concert is about 120 db. The human threshold for pain is at 130 db. 1000 db is 870 times louder than that threshold. My assistant turned to me and said, "That is louder than the sun."

Louder than the sun.

It sparked a big debate betwixt us over whether the sun generates sound. Here are the two camps.

My assistant said yes. The sun is made up of gases, mostly hydrogen and helium, which in their unexcited state (not on fire) both allow for rapid compressions and expansions of the gas particles, or sound waves, to transmit "audio" from one location to the next. The sound of hydrogen being turned into helium within the sun has a similar sound to millions and millions of Nuclear warheads going off inside your next door neighbors studio apartment with paper thin walls. Therefor, the sun is loud. Damn loud.

I said no. Any hydrogen within the sun that is being transformed into helium does so at millions of degrees Fahrenheit, and no material known within the universe can withstand that heat. In order for sound to exist, a surface must sympathetically vibrate with the compressions and expansions of the gas particles. There is no substance that can tolerate the conditions within the sun long enough to sympathetically respond to the sound waves being emitted by the separation of the electrons from their respective particles of a hydrogen. Further more, if the perceiving object, or the "sun ear" to coin a term, is not withing the flaming gas cloud that is the sun, then it is in the vacuum of space, which is totally silent due to the lace of medium for sound waves. Therefor, the sun is silent. Totally silent.

My assistant then asked, "So if a tree falls in the woods and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound?"

I reply with, "Yes it does. But if a tree falls into the sun and someone IS there to hear it, I hope that that someone is you and your are instantly turned to sun-chared-assistant-sound-man dust. Then I hope that the dust-you will be pissed because you started this whole stupid argument."

"Whatever, I still think that being louder than the sun is bad ass."

"Agreed, let's start a band and name it that."

"Fuck yeah."

So, does anyone want to sublet my apartment in Jan and Feb? I can tell my neighbor with the H-bombs to keep it down.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Halloween - or - How The Fuck Did I End Up There?

I was dressed at Richie Tenenbaum for Halloween this year. Only a few people got it, and I got to do shots with most of them.
I almost got in a fight with a guy dressed as Patrick Sweazy dressed as Ronald Reagan because I complimented him on implementing trickle-down-economics and deepening the proverbial moats betwixt those with money and those without. The guy in the mask told me to fuck off, so I told him to get a drink and chill fuck out. Maybe I told him a little to strongly cause his buddies had to hold him back.

The one thing I learned was that when you wear a Speedo Track Suit, everyone wants their picture taken with you.
I went to three parties, but by the end of the night, ended up with hanging out with these jokers...

... at a gay bar.