Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Should I Wear? - or - A Thursday Night Phone Conversation

Dan - Hi man, I'm making a movie for that Children's Theater Company that I started and I wanted to know if you'd play bass in it.
Obsquatch - Sure thing, Dan. I'll bring it over in ten minutes or so. Sound good?
Dan - Yeah, and also bring your banjo.
Obsquatch - My banjo?
Dan - Yeah, your banjo. You can play a couple chords on the banjo, right?
Obsquatch - Sure I can. Alright, I'll bring the bass and the banjo. What should I wear?
Dan - I'm pretty sure you will be wearing a Frankenstein costume.
Obsquatch - A what?
Dan - A Frankenstein costume.
Obsquatch - **maniacal laughter**
Dan - I assume you are okay with that.
Obsquatch - **laughter continues**
Dan - I'm gonna hang up now. I'll see you in a few minutes?
Obsquatch - **Popping blood vessels in eyeballs due to hysterics**
Dan - *CLICK*

Photos to follow

Friday, October 22, 2010

Three Reasons To Lead A Boring Life, Sleep, Sleep, And Sleep - or - Insight Into My Insides

I stopped eating meat months ago. I like tofu and humus and falafel and garbanzo beans and veggie burgers. I actually didn’t stop eating meat, I stopped buying, ordering, requesting, and cooking meat. If someone puts a steak down in front of me, which actually happens quite often at my work, I will eat that god damn stake. If it’s cut and cooked and sitting there for me and only me to eat, and if I don’t eat it, it will be thrown into the garbage, I’m gonna love the hell out of that stake with a knife and fork and some bĂ©arnaise sauce, but I won’t order one off a menu and I sure as shit won’t buy a bunch of stake from a national chain grocery store where the meat comes from God know where and is injected with God knows what. Truth be told, I stopped ordering and buying meat for no good reason. If someone asks me why I’ve stopped, I tell them that eating cows isn’t exactly good for cows. I like cows; they are big and dumb and affectionate, just like me. Then again, cows, as they exist today, wouldn’t exist at all if human beings didn’t breed them to be exactly what they are: big, dumb, affectionate, and tasty. So the question becomes; is it better to exist solely to be reared, raised, and slaughtered for your delicious muscle mass or to never have existed as a species at all? Ironically and hypocritically, I’ve been wearing my leather shoes and my leather jacket a lot more since I stopped eating meat.

I didn’t drive my car for a week. I left it parked on the street blocks away from my house with my busted ass ipod sitting on the seat and my work tux in the back. I’m pretty sure it was locked; sometimes I forget. Nothing happened to my stuff, not in this neighborhood. I wanted to take a break from my car for a while. Not only was I trying to reduce my fuel consumption and save some money, I just really like riding my bike around Chicago. Instead of driving the ten miles to work in a traffic filled panic that I might be late, I left an hour early and biked my ass there. It was great. I even lost a few pounds. I got a $50 parking ticket because I didn’t move my car for the monthly street cleaning. They post signs on the street three days before street cleanings, most people see these signs for three days. It’s hard to miss them, they are brightly coloured and tied around every other tree on the street. People see them and take note while they are on their way to their cars, days and days before someone with a bright orange vest puts a $50 ticket on their windshield. I didn’t walk, or bike, down the street that my car was on all week long, so I didn’t see the signs. I didn’t see the God damn signs. I sure as shit saw the bright orange ticket on my windshield days after the fact. The street cleaner had perfectly avoided my car and there was fast food liter and piles of yellow and brown leaves under and around my car. It cost me more to not move my car for one week than it would have if I moved it all week long. I really don’t want to learn a lesson from this.

I flew back to Vermont and hiked more than eight mountains along the Long Trail. I hiked with my Pops. We shared our thoughts, our tents, our woes, our joys, our take on what was wrong with the world, out take on how things ended in the canyon, we shared jokes, coffee, ibuprofen, after dinner back rubs, and book reviews. We shared our diners on top of mountains. I carried all the food. It was a beautiful handful of days. My Pops is an amazing man. I’ve know this for a long time but it is just so damn nice to be reassured that the man that raised me is the smartest man that I know.

I started eating meat again on top of Castle Rock, which is a warming hut on the top of a mountain. It was a Vermont Summer Sausage. My mom had bought two of them and put them in the food bag. Vermont Summer Sausage is delicious. I need to spend more time in the woods. Nothing compares to time in the woods when your heart is racing and you are always a little short of breath and the sun breaks through the clouds for a few minutes and you are sweating out of every pore on your body just like you should when you hike up mountain after mountain and the wind is rushing through your hair and it feels so good that you put your arms out and you close your eyes and listen to the wind whistle through the trees and you can’t hear anything but birds and wind and the steady thump of your heart aligning with the thump of your boots on the mud and the rocks and you can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and there nothing but wild around you and you’ve got hours to go before you can take that sixty pound pack off your back at the next camp and you realize that apples have never tasted as good they do when you eat them on the alpine ridge and you are proving to yourself that there really is more to life than an alarm clock and a pay check. I need to get back there as soon as possible. Back into the woods again.

I returned to Chicago and was served a rotten stake at a fancy hotel while I worked. I threw it out myself. I promptly stopped eating meat again, kinda.

I rehearsed with the band every day, for hours, for weeks in preparation for a performance at CMJ in New York City. Every musician, secretly or openly, wants to play in New York City, is dying to play in New York City, myself included. There is a pristage that goes along with saying, “I’m flying to New York City to play a gig in Soho with my band.” Before I could justify dropping hundreds of dollars on transportation to a gig that might or might not have anyone in attendance or pay us anything, I wanted to at least make sure that the band was well rehearsed, therefore, I rehearsed with the band every day, for hours, for weeks, until we got it right. There were minced words and miffed members, feelings hurt and calluses formed, blow-ups and melt-downs, broken strings and dreams of grandeur, wrong notes and wronged musicians. The soda machine, they call soda “pop” here, in the practice space has Miller High Life cans in it for $2. That is illegal, but fucking brilliant. I made sure to bring a fist full of singles to each rehearsal. The band I play with got into the habit of passing a “speaking knife” around in a circle after rehearsals so that each of us could discuss things we liked and things we wanted to change. If you had the “speaking knife” you had the floor and everyone’s attention. I am now well versed at swearing at the top of my lungs with a large sharp object in my hand. I am also good at saying, “I love you, man” in the same context.

I flew to New York City at 6 in the morning and left the next day at 6 in the morning. I did not sleep night before this flight, or the night of the flight home. I flew to NYC to play a 45 minute set at CMJ Music Marathon. It was amazing. I don’t remember much because of the intensity. We left the knife at home, but the band went to a dinner after the venue closed at 4am and we cheersed each of ourselves and each of our songs with skunked Coors in cracked plastic dinner cups.

I flew home to Chicago and only hours after landing, started teaching a bunch of “at-risk youth” how to be better performers. Their school is on 103rd st, and if you know anything about Chicago, you should know that 103rd street is pretty much as thick as the south side gets. I’m talking about metal detectors and armed police at every entryway to the school, see-through back packs and standardized uniforms, bullet holes in every stop sign on the streets, and flowers on a lot of the corners. I asked these hard kids, and I mean hard as in these kids are dealing with problems and pressures that people like you and people like me don’t ever have to deal with, and they are dealing with these problems and pressures every minute of their life without a support group and without a network of friends or family backing them up. If they fall, they fall HARD. I asked these HARD kids to write down what is means to them to be an artist. I asked them to define them selves at artists. I asked them to convince me that they were artists. I wish I could share with you what they wrote, but I can’t. It’s not mine to share. I can only tell you that I was shocked, blown away, floored by their answers and their pride. I can only tell you that these kids, that most people from affluent neighborhoods on the north side of the city would right off as gangsters and hood rats, these kids proved to me that they were unbreakable. I can’t share what they wrote, what they said, and how they said it. I wish I could. I wish you could have seen it because it was amazing. I can only share with you what I wrote, because you know that the second I asked them to do it, they spun around and TOLD me to do it also.

What Defines Me As An Artist?

- I am a crooked tree in a forest full of straight trees and only straight trees get cut down when the lumberjacks show up.

- I am imperfect. Flawed, jaded, cracked, and damaged in obvious ways and I will show off my faults and make the world jealous

- I rise up and prove my talents to those people who doubt me.

- I can shake my butt with pride and I got moves like you’ve never seen.

- I can play Reggae on the ukulele

- I am not afraid of critique or ridicule because I know I am right, and I love being right.

This was day one. This was the first thing we did together. At the beginning of the day, I was just another white dude floating through their world, at the end of those three hours, we were sharing our inspiration. I taught the kids my little hand shake, a tiny gesture that we could share. I call it, “Fiveing the pound”. They laughed when I tried to get them to do it at first. They present a fist for a pound, and I slap it with my palm. Then we switch, they show me fives, I knuckle up and give it a bump. Fiveing the pound. Get it? Now they line up and give it to me as they walk in to take their seats. I’m on day four today and come home tired and awestruck.

So, yeah, I’ve been busy.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Vermont's Footpath In The Wilderness - or - To See What We Can See

Today is another day-before-I-fly-somewhere-cool day. No hair cut this time, no boyish nerves creeping in, but rather a new pair of boots. Waterproof boots. Hiking boots. Burly boots. I’m off to spend four days and three nights hiking through the mountains of Vermont with my father. I call him Pops. We are going to hike a rather picturesque and also quite challenging leg of the Long Trail. The Long Trail cuts the state of Vermont in half, top to bottom, and has always been a dream of mine to hike it, top to bottom. I'm going to do this first, which happens to be right in the middle, with my 65 year old father. Pops. He is a former college Dean, a current graduate degree professor, and one hell of a bread baker. Between the bread and the students, he says that the rewards of his work cover both the long and the short term. A student of his will take a few years to graduate; a loaf of bread on the other hand, comes out of the oven after an hour or so. A job well done either way. I once knit him a scarf during high school Calculus class. It is the definition of unfashionable, and without a doubt is by far the ugliest scarf I have ever seen. And he just loves it. Probably because he is color blind. Most people are blue-green or red-blue colorblind. My Pops is both. As a kid, I used to ask him to, “pass me that purple thing,” knowing full well that A) there was no purple thing anywhere near him and B) that he would grab something that he thought might be purple in hopes of being helpful. “Not that, the purple thing.” This would go on for a while, with him desperatly grabing at anything that was within arms reach until eventually he caught on and would either say to the heavens, “What did I do to deserve this cruel child?” or snap at me with a smirk across his face, “get the damn purple thing yourself.” He is the smartest man I have ever known, baring that one time, years ago, when he put his hand into the whirling blades of the family snow blower and effectively cut off his own fingers. That… wasn’t so smart. I drove him to the hospital with my mother in the back seat and his severed fingers in a bowl of snow in her lap. I drove as fast as I could, taxing the engine of the small, gray family hatchback; passing every car in front of me whether there was a passing lane or not, flying the wrong way over icy one lane bridges, and blowing through the few red lights there were in my home town. When some stoic Vermont driver honked at my obvious recklessness behind the wheel, my father held up the bloody, squirting finger stumps on his left hand, spurting three streams of blood onto the window as if to try to justify my blatant disregard for the rules of the road. The doctors put his fingers back onto his hand, reattached all the nerve endings and everything, and he can play the flute just fine. He is a well-read and convincing political activist, a fierce advocate for peace, a hard-line walker if ever there was one, and a compassionate ol’ Grizzly Bear. He’s my Pops and starting tomorrow, we are going to spend a week together, huffing up mountain after mountain during the foliage change in Vermont, eating camp stove soups and home made granola bars, catching our breath on mountain tops, and shitting in the woods. Sounds perfect.