Thursday, February 28, 2013

An "Exhausted But Alive" check-in from Chicago!

Hey from chicago!
Very exhausted but here's a photo from the chicago open mic at Red Line Tap... Indianapolis was so cute and fun we met great friends all around... Much more to share but exhausted and cold so I am passing out!
Alive and well,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Last Day In Nashville (A redeemer)

Dear constant reader,
Tuesday debunked my theory that the weather would be consistently beautiful in Nashville! I woke up rather late, although the futon I'm sleeping on is not comfortable in the least, I find It hard to get out of it! Maybe it is because I'm trying to replace quality sleep with quantity, I don't know. Around ten thirty after much tossing and turning Alexa poked me up and asked if I wanted to the Tennessee state museum with her, and mentioned it was raining, I suggested groggily that she go ahead without me and I would meet up with her, since I didn't want to hold her back while I got ready, and I wasn't overly eager to get out into the rainy day! I woke up and stepped outside and it seems abysmal and freezing cold so I took my time getting up, had my two apples with peanut butter for breakfast and showered.

I got a text from Alexa saying the museum was a bust, overrun with obnoxious children (that I probably have more of a tolerance and appreciation for than her, oddly) and relatively bland presentation. That was all the motivation I needed to spend the day indoors catching up with people on the phone, on writing the songs I've been working on, transcribing my works into my notebook and reading these Nick Adams stories. First I thought "maybe this is absurd, but it is my last day in Nashville... I really ought to get Bolton's for late lunch after I earn it with some work). So I did. It was every bit as spicy and juicy and delicious as the 3 times before it! Certifiable addict.

I talked to Heather and to my Dad, which was encouraging and fun, so nice to hear the voices of those you love when you are away for so long! I freestyled on my walk to and from Bolton's as a means of gathering thoughts for my tentatively titled "The Story In And Of A Notebook [small-world-view]" and am making progress! Spent the afternoon reading writing ehich pleased me thoroughly!

Alexa came back to Steve's and we hopped on a bus to go to Cafe Coco's open mic, where Steve also organized a couch surfing meet up! Cafe Coco (poorly pictured from the outside below) seems to be inside a house, which was restructured as a cafe/bar/music venue/restaurant... Very charming place with all sorts of quirky rooms decor and small rooms for studying and such! We met several couch surfing hosts and travelers, all of whom were respectful and interesting, John, Sebastian a bassist from Argentina, his girlfriend Dana from Europe and several others that I had nice conversations with! I got a cookie that was the size of my face and a caramel/creamy vanilla coffee called "The Adrenaline Rush" that had four shots of espresso in it! Dangerously delicious! (Insert "Rapid Enrapture" quote For those dedicated AllOne & The Room fans!)

The open mic started up so we got in line and immediately the character in the room was different and more varies than the previous two nights! As the charitable and professional host and sound man Cody, who I later befriended read off a list of abot a dozen open mic rules and stipulations, my excitement shrunk. One rule, two songs or less, another rule, no tracks, and a third rule... NO POETRY. Alexa and Steve fought my discouragement like true friends and I agreed to split a slot with Steve (picture below) as we decided he would do some improv back ups on guitar as I decided my beatbox-Harmonica fable "It Always Pays" would take the stage!

Many of the performers were very good and original and nice people! Most notably, Aarodynamics, a very tight funky multi instrumentalist loop pedal song builder! Jennifer, with nice song writing and a beautiful voice and fun crowd interaction! Alexa played two songs from her forthcoming album, one I had never heard her perform called "Two Tusks" A song about salt in mammoths!

Steve did a risky song about a town he used to live in called "Everyone here plays acoustic electric guitar" back when John Mayer was hugely influential and he went to open mics over saturated with that, it was relevant and edgy and joked on a lot of the culture that we were surrounded by the past two nights and it was hilarious! That got increasingly awkward for him socially as more acoustic electric performers took the stage! My performance was odd and off kilter but on point (which in my best days describes my entire musical journey I suppose!) Steve backed me up interestingly and successfully by the end of it and people seemed to really dig it! Luckily Cody the host enjoyed my work and didn't find it too against the rules or disagreeable!

There was a rapper/poet who performed over a guitar player who called himself "Aspartame Kills" who was enjoyable and also a singer who really entranced me Shannon who sang a ghastly story with a haunting voice and performed guitar very intensely!

We met a lot if really supportive friends in the audience, both the couch-surfers and other musicians and spectators as well! People who had advice of where to go if we come back, while encouraging us to do so! Our performances were recorded so expect an odd video of my performance soon as I get that in my email! I met a really nice guy named Ross who tours and records with a group called Last Of The Horsemen, making what he calls "doom rap". We did a CD exchange and swapped info to help each other out on future trips!

Since Steve rode his bike from home, and we had stayed later than the buses ran, we ended up getting a ride from a really enthusiastic and jovial physicians assistant named Shaun! It was very kind of him to offer the ride and be was really supportive about our musical journey! We said goodnight and felt good and that this was what we came to Nashville Hopi g to see, the last night being a great success, we exchange stories and laughs and CDs with Steve, said good night and thanked him profusely, another great friend made! Went to sleep!

All in all, despite what might seem like some harsh critiques or opinions of my experience in Nashville I am definitely glad I came and got to experience the culture. It is always a learning experience to be in a place unfamiliar to you... and the struggle to adapt is just the necessary process of evolution as a person , thank you for challenging me Nashville!
Today we are hopping on an right hour bus ride to Indianapolis! Built largely by the Vonnegut family!
And so it goes,

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nashvill3 (A record store, a bridge, birds and an odd open mic)

My friends!
Nashville day three (Monday) confirmed a few things:
1. That I am addicted to Bolton's southern hit fried chicken.
2. That the music scene is very over-saturated with aspiring pop-country musicians.
3. There are many unique open mic formats.
4. The weather here is beautiful and there are some really pretty things to see here!
5. One should always make the best of their scenario while never compromising who they are.
As you are probably aware of, Monday is the first day of the work week so our friend and host Steve was out the door for his programming job before we were even awake! That left Alexa and I to have our peanut butter and apples breakfast and I got Bolton's again for a early lunch (pictured below, as well as photos of the charming and respectably independent little one window one room chicken and fish joint)! I sincerely have a problem! So good.
We set off to sight see and find Third Man Records, which is Jack White's (of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs fame) record store and novelty shop. After running into some cool statues and fountains, and the giant pedestrian bridge erected in 1909, perhaps my favorite thing in Nashville (as you will notice my documentation of) we found the store and boy was it quirky and interesting! If you are a Jack White fan or a fan of Vinyl records or odd things like a jukebox for films or coin operated wax mold makers or photo booths and three inch portable record players, this is the place for you! A small store with a lot of memorabilia and music and intriguing items for sale, it also doubles as a music venue! I documented quite a bit of the place below!
We had some time to spend after so we found the library but discovered lamentably that it was closed in Mondays so we sat on a park bench and I tried sharing my carrots with groups of excitable and small black capped birds!
To close our night out we went to The Bluebird Cafe for an open mic! When we arrived there was a huge line of dozens of people looking to sign up! (Reference the pic below and note there were and 20+ people behind us!). The format is rather unique, everyone on line signs up on a piece of paper and the ordered is determined randomly as all the musicians are picked out of a hat! You are only permitted to play one song, as with commodore open mic, no pre-recorded tracks allowed! Also, the open mic runs from 6 to 9 only, so if you get picked in the late thirties or early forties Somehow Alexa and I got #38 and #40 by A stroke of poor luck which we figured guaranteed we wouldn't play.
I was feeling pessimistic and admittedly self conscious after seeing yet again the 3 hours of mediocre homogenous pop country music. What bothered me primarily was that everyone seemed like they were doing what they were doing because they were obligated to or because it served some ulterior motive outside of an intrinsic personal creative need. All the writing and performing, even a itsbest seemed creepily designed to accomplish one goal: adhere to the set of musical and cultural and genre conventions that would propel them to commercial success. Please note this is only an impression I got, and not meant to be an insult to anyone, although if the diluting of a creative medium for avaricious intent is your mission statement, I find it hard to have respect for you.
Finally, Alexa went up and played "collections" which is one of my favorites of hers! I then remembered I had my harmonica with me and for the first time on tour, played it with an a Capella verse section doing the AllOne & The Room song "It Always Pays". People definitely had their ears perked and didn't seem to hate it, despite the weirdness! Steve did not get to perform, so we went home and talked ourselves to sleep!
All and all it was a nice day and exceeded our expectations, which were, I confess, rather low at some points! We were a little dejected by feeling out of place in Nashville despite our budding friendship with Steve and an affinity his hilarious band Regdar and The Fighters ( whose new album "Spoiler Alert" just came out this week! I encourage you to support this funny and kind and talented man!
For now, good night!
Lead your heart,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nashville Day 2 : A (country) music Mecca!

My dearest friends!
Woke up Sunday and Steve had gone off to church before we woke up and left us a carafe of coffee, I looked for a mug but could only find mason jars and so I started my day with peanut butter and apples and coffee in a mason jar on the run to catch the bus!
After we did a little sight seeing, Alexa and I resolved to go busking (performing on the street for tips) as it was nice out and we had a clear day of exploration! We separated and picked spots to perform...without any music to accompany me I realized I just seem like madman rambling words that rhyme (which isn't inaccurate!) people treated me sort of like guiltily apathetic people do around the homeless in New York City, I assume here with live music pouring out of every over Honky Tonk door and abundant street performers, you get disillusioned. Not to mention I was doing a very niche thing in a very genre specific city (which we learned later that day). One man all decked out like a cowboy stopped and listened to me as I was performing Trash Can Epiphanies, and I performed the whole second verse directly to him eye to eye and he was really into it and dug 75 cents out of his pocket and dropped it into my empty mason-jar-mug! That was about the extent of my success and Alexa didn't have much different luck!
We checked out some honky to is and an incredible candy store reminiscent of Mr. Wonka's factory that I fell in love with but refused on principle to buy candy when I only made 75 cents busking! After marveling at sweets we then went to the massive Nashville Public Library! Spent time reading there and I read a great short story by Ray Bradbury from his collection "One More For The Road" and then headed out to make the list six at The Commodore open mic with Steve.
The open mic was our first experience of performing and open mics in Nashville and it was admittedly disappointing. The open mic was in a bar and cafe area adjacent to a Hotel lobby and the first three and a half hours was done in four "rounds" of chosen performers, before the open mic began. The rounds function as three or four performers that sit on stage and play single songs one after another. Each performer was exclusively a country singer and, gender non withstanding, each was indistinguishable from the next and 95% of them were abysmally generic and unoriginal, which is not to say these weren't good people. Everyone just had a sense of doing writing playing and singing everything they were because that was what they were supposed to do, not because some inner creative need or outer catalyst muse prompted it out of their souls to personally make something unique and their own.
Finally Alexa (or Alesia Odeksa as the host insisted on announcing her) Steve, another man Steve and I go up as the first open mic acts. After several hours of spectating respectfully we were not given our own stage moment, we were allowed to play one song and tracks were not allowed to be played (so if you didn't have an instrument or a player with you you're screwed, aka me). Alexa performed "Nomads" acoustically really well, I performed my verse from "Will She Ever Change?" a Capella and made mention of the fact that many people had performed songs tonight about an uncompromising sense of identity and yet Alexa was the first person to do anything remotely different in nearly four hours. Steve played a distorted bass guitar like a six string and played a hilarious song parodying bands who talk about teenage love even as they age which turned into a song about time travel and looking for a partner in that time travel journey! By odd coincidence the fourth performer we shared the stage with hailed from Pennsylvania and if I could play tracks I would have played Pennsylvanian Patriarch but since I couldn't I played a verse from a song I remixed of my Pennsylvanian friend Phil Minissale's song so that was a odd and neat to me! We performed to perhaps a tenth of the audience that were there for he rounds and it was now 11pm so we headed home and fell asleep, feeling a little chagrined, so we freestyle jammed and to cheer ourselves up in five minutes we had a parody country song!
Don't dare to be different, just resolve to be yourself,

Nashville Day 1 ( Steve, food shopping, new music and a small world)

Good morning from Nashville!
After Alexa and I got off the Megabus on Saturday afternoon, and experienced the funny encounter from the last post, we the bus pulled away and we waited for the public bus. The sun was high and enjoyable, the bus finAlly arrived and stopped at a Different sign about a hundred feet before the one we were standing at, and so, confused, we figured we would wait for it to come stop at our sign. Despite us blatantly waiting and waving for the bus to pick us up, it apathetically drove past us! There are hour long increments in between each buses' arrival so we began to walk to a least kill some time.
As it turns out, there are many hills in that part of town.
A bus picks us up, but it is strangely a two piece bus with an accordion type connector, and with the bus crammed, I stood in front of the first piece while Alexa sat in the second back section and there was a weird optical illusion where the bus seemed like it was bending!
After a bit of a walk, we got to our host Steve's apartment, a hilarious guy with a Mohawk/ponytail and glasses who plays electric pop punk rock type music that parodies all sorts of things, he is a programmer for his day job and he is intelligent and fine company, he led us into his apartment which was clad with lord of the rings and periodic table of elements posters and a floor littered with musical equipment!
We ended up going shopping at Aldi and another place called Kruger, where Alexa and I bought several items since we'd be here until Wednesday. Shopping for food on tour is interesting because your budget is low, you don't want to carry a lot generally. Some big items thus far have been peanuts, apples, beans and baby carrots! I bought a cucumber for a quarter and ate it as we walked back to Steve's, lentil soup and beans, both under 75 cents for a can, were also mutual choices!
We walked home and the sun fell so it was brisk! After we had the Gus' chicken with Adam in Memphis the night before, I was craving it and Steve brought up local hoy chicken joints and so I ended up caving in and we went to a nice one window family owned place called Bolton's and I got spicy chicken and slaw and greens and beans.... Absolutely amazing! I think I now have an addiction.
We ate it at home while Alexa had eaten and we shared tour stories as Steve had been on a few trips with bands he had had and we shared laughs and got to know one another before passing out. I have been sleeping on a rather solid futon bed and it took me a while to get to sleep so I listened to Astronautalis' album Pomegranate. It is very unique and innovative and genre-less generally and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys music.
Then the wildest thing happened! As I was tossing and turning I got an email from the woman Pamela who found my lost notebook in Dallas. She wanted to share the story with me of the notebook, she is not actually a Dallas native but GREW UP ON LONG ISLAND. She lived for a time in Selden, where I grew up and has relatives that live currently in Port Jefferson Station, where my dad currently lives!! I am baffled by the serendipity of this, and went to sleep totally numb and unable to explain the beauty and weirdness of such coincidence! I have since decided to write a song about the account for my non fiction album "Water Coolers and Camp Fires".
The world is small when you travel it,
Love you,

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Hilariously Strange Nashville Encounter

Hello friends,
There are many memorable events and sights and people that have been worth noting and that I will cherish and share as life long memories on this trip. One such absurd experience happened this afternoon during our arrival in Nashville!
Around 3pm, Our Knoxville-bound Megabus pulls to the side of the road and lets all the Nashville-bound passengers pour out of the bus onto the hot sidewalk. As a piano and hiking backpack ridden Alexa and I stand next to a public transportation bus sign amid a dozen or so luggage burdened passengers who dismounted the bus we meet this individual. Peppering this crowd waiting for their rides, are several passengers who have taken the short break as an opportunity to stretch and smoke cigarettes.
One such individual, a young black girl, probably in her mid twenties,dressed in nothing gender specific, approaches us unselfconsciously. She points to the toy piano and asks a question that Alexa and I find ridiculous yet many people seem to ask it, "Hey can you play that thing?"
What makes this inquiry unique to the others is this:
This is not an exaggeration, it is irrefutably Mike Tyson's precise pitch and lisp, Evander would shudder just the same!
After Alexa sweetly replies "yes", the obligatory second question comes "Can you play me something?". Alexa is always a good sport about this and she has never denied a request as long as it was physically possible or the time allowed. She agreed as long as this girl would hold the piano up, she obliges and Alexa plays a little tune.
Not twenty seconds in this girl unapologetically exclaims,
"I'm not gon' lie that sounds like suicide music... You not gon' kill nobody is ya?"
We laugh and reply "no, of course not!", ignoring completely the rudeness or absurdity of the statement and that if it was indeed the suicide music she dubbed it then the only body Alexa would kill is herself. This is all morbid subject matter but fear not! It brightens, it gets better folks.
Our friend then starts to ask "So can you.." Then interrupts herself saying "that guy over there, the light skinned one" she points to a guy who looks like a more gritty Drake with a short Afro equipped with a pick peering out of it like a cockeyed periscope in a black wife beater and covered in tattoos including the familiar females name in script on his neck. "He wants to know if..."
At this point she looks at me then looks at Alexa and, seemingly decided she needed the answer to this before she could ask her original question, so she asks about me,
"Is this yo Daddy?"
At this point Alexa and I felt as though we were in the middle of a practical joke or some peculiar shared dream. We both laughed and denied that, although surprised it was even a real question at all!
"Oh is this yo man, you with him?"
Again, no, and no....we get onto the big question.
"That piano... Can you play that with yo booty?"
Between her Tyson impediment and southern drawl, clearly we heard her wrong...
"How could these white kids be so stupid?" Her face seems to ask, so she repeats herself more clearly,pointing to the piano.
Alexa and I stare at each other incredulous, laugh self consciously, and she says "Well no one has ever asked that, and I don't think so! *laughs* I've never tried!"
"On okay, I's just askin', he wanted to know... Yeah that's that suicide music, you ain't gonna kill no one is ya?"
She turns to me and says "I don't mean to make fun, but you look like you'd kill someone"
To which I laugh and say "Yeah we don't usually talk about it, but Alexa plays the music and I twist my mustache and tie women to railroad tracks"
Our friend says "Aww yeahh I can take a video and out it up on YouTube, we can be famous!"
Alarmed at both our fantasy crime operation and the sheer oddity of a human being we are experiencing Alexa and I say "Oh well we try to keep our crimes on the down low ya know? So we don't get in trouble!"
Our joke is either too complex or abstract or uninteresting for our company and an awkward silence blankets this triangle for a moment, then she get close to Alexa remarking
"aw your hair is so long and pretty, can I touch it?"
Bewildered, and not a little unnerved, Alexa backs up subtly and then says uneasily, "umm,I've never had that request before...sure I guess"
"Aw I didn't mean to make ya feel awkward" although she immediately pounces on the timid permission to touch her hair.
"It's so shiny and nice", she observes in her Mike Tyson admiring voice.
She looks over and I clear my throat and finally speak to her "Hello" I say.
" I'm not gonna hurt y'all I'm just askin I'm just being friendly, yall are together?"
"No, just traveling friends" I make clear for the second time in this five minute candid camera event that dragged on comedically for what felt like much longer.
"Aw then you single?" She asks Alexa, eyeing her up and down. "And you gettin off here?" She looks past us at her Afro quaffed friend as he enters the bus. "I was hoping you'd play that on the bus."
We smile and shrug, outwardly sorry we could change our plans to play suicide music on toy pianos with our booties for Drake look-a-likes and Tyson sound-a-likes to the entertainment and chagrin of the rest of the passengers headed to Knoxville. She says goodbye to us and get back on the bus.
Alexa and I just burst out laughing and texting our friends and our jaws are dropped as we mouth "What the fuck just happened!?"
Then, as if to punctuate the gloriously insane absurdity of our first experience in Nashville forever printed in my brain, a bird perched on a telephone pole starts to call incessantly that sounds exactly like a karate master saying "Hi-Yahhh!".
Welcome to Nashville.

New book, song, video, and friends! Value Time!

A en route "Hello" on way to Nashville!
After Heather and Alyssa left, there was a smile still lingering on my face and skin still tingling fresh with kisses, I had a few hours to wait outside Adam's house before he returned from work. Elated and inspired by my lovely day with the girls, I'm proud to say I used it productively! I called and caught up with family, read several of Hemingway's Nick Adam's stories, and proudly finished writing a tragic story-song titled "An Unlikely Run-In With Fate" based on a true story for a project I've begun writing called "Water Coolers and Camp Fires", a collection of non fiction tales!
Around 6:30 Adam came home, a well dressed and vivacious young man who shares a nice home with a fluffy black cat Lulu. He took us to Gus' World Famous Fried Chicken, which was delicious! It filled us with pleasant warmth to fight the cold. Next we found an abandoned machine shop where these artists Chad and Kyle were working on a commissioned mural for the next 72 hours. They were grand company and we git along famously! We helped them cut material for the mural they were working on and on their request we performed some songs that they filmed videos of ( expect a video of "Pennsylvanian Patriarch" soon). Eventually we departed, tired and despite their invites to stay and play friday night, we had no choice but to stick to our Megabus schedule! As with Gabriel the night before and Heather and Alyssa that day and so many new friends we had met, we lamented needing to leave Memphis so soon.
Brevity jostles our value of time and how we spend it and with whom,