Saturday, March 27, 2010

Driving Music

My friend Fojammi and I were lamenting the trend toward convenience over sound quality in music.

A couple of years ago I was certain 16 bit CDs would improve to 24bit. DVDs already do it. It’s sad to me that audio quality is better for prerecorded movies than it is for music.

I mix all my music to 24bit and dither it down to 16bit just in case. My friend, and partner in Delay Tactics, Walter mixes to surround sound. I think that’s a bit much considering the current listening climate.

My girlfriend Valerie is totally unapologetic about her preference for MP3s. I have to admit MP3s are great for rollerblading and listening in the car.

When we listen to music, it’s generally from a boom box on our porch. It’s an odd turn of events that when I blast music from a real stereo I’m by myself in the living room. It’s almost a religious experience for me, immersed and swimming through sound. It’s even better when that’s a shared experience though.

There are parties these days where you can watch a crowded dance floor and there’s no sound. Everyone’s dancing to their own MP3 player. There no shared rhythm and I don’t really see how there can be an honest sense of community.

People are a social species and we’re drifting toward isolating ourselves in our private dream worlds. It’s probably a symptom of the intolerance that’s so prevalent these days. It makes me feel lonely just thinking about it.

Music in the car is what I’m really thinking about right now. It can’t be a passive experience because motion is involved. Time and motion means dance, doesn’t it?

Occasionally I hear radio DJs talk about great driving music. They always go to the lowest common denominator: Radar Love. The elitist in me sighs.

Music doesn’t have to be driving to be great driving music. I mentioned driving in the Smoky Mountains in an earlier post along side a flock of geese. We were in sync to Peter Gabriel’s Wallflower. It’s a beautifully calm piece of music in spite of the fact that it’s about the torture/interrogation of political prisoners.

I also posted about driving with my buddy Theo when a new song by REO Speedwagon came on the radio. It was Roll with The Changes. Theo turned to me and said, “You know I always kind of liked these guys.” I never did until that. That has to be one of the best driving songs ever!

I was never much for classic rock. It wasn’t until I heard Whole Lotta Love on a friend’s P.A system cranked out “full blast” that I got Led Zepplin.

Speaking of full blast I used to have a Suzuki Samurai that I abused the Hell out of. That was a fun car! I put a power amp under the driver’s seat and my speakers filled the back seats entirely. It was a two passenger vehicle when I was done with it.

I used to go four-wheeling in brush that was way over our heads. We had no fear because we had a roll bar. David Bowie’s “Stay” from Station To Station is spectacular at full blast!

I’ll never forget my girlfriend Joanie’s involuntary laughter, half from fear and half from the pure joy of the roller coaster ride, as we four wheeled narrow, muddy roads high in the mountains of New Mexico. I still can’t believe we didn’t roll that thing in light of the fact they recalled Samurais for that very reason. We were listening to Balloon Man by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians. It was a perfect sound track.

I think my favorite driving music experience of all was driving through the Arizona desert around three in the morning with Joanie, We were going 100 mile an hour and sharing a bottle of Wild Turkey. We thought we were flying through the stars. We were listening to Whole Lotta Love and Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?.

I was telling this story to my friend Rib Tip when he got a stern look on his face and asked me, “You know what they say about drinking and driving?” “No,” I answered.

“It’s a lot of fun!”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Found Money

I posted earlier about finding two fifty dollar bills when I was a kid. I snatched them up, ran home and unfolded them only to find they were political ads. That probably had a lot to do with my cynical take on money and politics. We are the sum total of our experiences.

As desperate as I’ve always been financially, I’ve found a lot of money over the years.

More than once, as a kid, I found a five dollar bill on a lower candy shelf in the check out line at a supermarket.

When I was twelve, my mother and I were walking on Lindell Avenue. We were coming down the hill from Grand Avenue to our West End apartment. I saw two dollar bills blowing up the gutter. I grabbed them. Two blocks later my mom confessed she couldn’t take her eyes off the gutter. Maybe more would blow by. I was doing the same thing.

In the 80s my girlfriend Joanie and I did a lot of traveling. We always left after work so it was late. Most of the time we had chemical help staying awake. Our friends Sue and Rib Tip had just bought a farm with a lot of acreage and we decided to camp there.

We stopped at a rest stop in the middle of Missouri. As I was coming back to the car I saw a wad of bills on the ground. It must have been several hundred dollars. My heart stopped. I grabbed it and locked myself in the car. I shoved it in my pocket only to discover all of our traveling money was gone. I must have pulled something out of my pocket in the parking lot and pulled all of our cash out. Elation had been replaced by a sudden feeling of horror and just as quickly a feeling of relief. It was too much of an emotional journey in too short a period of time.

Later that night it got foggy. We found our friends’ property. Throwing our gear over a fence we headed to the middle of a long gently sloping hill and set up our little tent by the faint light of a fog shrouded moon.

We heard what sounded like the low rumble of an earthquake. Suddenly we were surrounded by a herd of horses that came at us running and snorting. Steam came from their flaring nostrils. It was spectacular and terrifying. I don’t know how they didn’t squash our little tent but we got ourselves moved to edge of the trees faster than I thought was possible.

The money incident had completely disappeared from my mind. I’m not sure if I ever told Joanie I’d temporarily lost it all. I think I already had a bad track record having lost all our money gambling in Vegas on a previous trip.

A few years ago I was at a K-Mart in Florissant. I never enjoy the experience. At the check out I saw a hundred dollar bill on the floor near the next empty check out. It was the holidays and all I could think of was some kid’s drawer coming up short. I picked it up and gave it to the kid at my check out. Something in her eyes told me that hundred dollar bill would not get back to the store. I was struggling with the holidays that year and I felt like a chump.

I have an arrangement with my ex that I spend two days in St. Peters with my kids. We split our time right down the middle and their school routine isn’t disrupted. Kim is graciously absent.

It’s always an ordeal for me though. I have to pack a cooler with groceries and I always seem to forget something. Kim hates it when I use any of her food.

A year or two ago I was in my car making deliveries. I was already having a hard time keeping gas in my car and I didn’t know how I was going to feed the kids. I was in Earth City in the parking lot of some giant deserted industrial building.

As I was driving slowly across the lot I saw what looked like a stack of bills in my side view mirror. I jumped out and ran around the car and picked up a new $100.00 banded stack of one dollar bills. It did feel a little strange paying for movies, food and gas entirely with one dollar bills. I saw it as payback for the K-Mart experience.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More on Animals

The Sri Chinmoy link gets cut off in the comments section. Here it is again

As for John McLaughlin continuing to respect the discipline, it's like Dede said, " I would not reject the church because of the actions of these people. No one of us is perfect."

Saturday, March 13, 2010


In the mid 70s it seemed like all my music heroes were on some kind of spiritual journey.

Pete Townshend followed the teachings of Meher Baba, the “Don’t worry, be happy” guy. His teachings were the basis of Townsend's famous unfinished Lifehouse project that resulted in Who’s Next? and more importantly for me, Who Came First?. Baba reminded me of the fat “Laughing” Buddha.

Cat Stevens became a follower of Islam. He did incredible work for children during the Bosnian War. Unfortunately it was all overshadowed by Ayatollah Khomeini’s death sentence against Salman Rushdie when Stevens was forced to voice his opinion. I believe he was politically between a rock and a hard place.

Probably the greatest guitarist of all time Mahavishnu Orchestra’s John McLaughlin followed the teachings of Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy turned out to be a child molesting control freak.

Robert Fripp was a follower of G.I. Gurdjieff. For me he was, by far, the most interesting of these philosophers. There’s way too much about him to go into here but if you get a chance Google him. I almost forgot---Fripp left the music biz and lived in a Monastery for 2 years. Brian Eno finally talked him into coming out of retirement to lay the guitar tracks for David Bowie's Heroes record.

This is all an incredibly round about way to get to my subject this week, animals. One of Gurdjieff’s ideas was that children should have pets to practice love with. I absolutely agree!

Last week I mentioned love between species. We are social animals and pets’ love is unconditional. This can be almost impossible to find between humans.

I grow so close to my pets that I’ve sworn never to have another. The pain from losing them cuts too deep.

I think I already mentioned when my girlfriend Pam moved to Milwaukee, to join an acting company, she left her cat Aslan.

I guess the sudden loneliness made me grow even closer to the cat. He was kind of like a dog. We played fetch. He loved retrieving wadded up cigarette packs.

Aslan became very sick and I had to learn to give him injections. I practiced on an orange. He recovered.

I was alone with my cat when my friend Sharon suggested I move in with her ex roommate Nancy. I’ve done posts on both.

I’d never moved in with a total stranger before and I felt a little like an intruder. We became very close fast.

After about a week of living there we were sitting at the kitchen table talking. Suddenly Nancy shrieked. I turned to see Aslan walk into the room with Nancy’s parakeet dangling from his teeth. We saved the bird but a week later Aslan got sick again.

He got kitty leukemia. After doing everything possible including blood transfusions, Aslan died.

I’d gotten into the habit of waking in the morning, opening the back door and calling Aslan to come in for breakfast. The morning after he died I did that and Nancy came in. I saw a tear well up in her eye. It was one of the saddest moments of my life.

Years later when I was living in Florissant with 2 kids. My daughter, who wasn’t quite 3 yet, wanted an orange cat. That Christmas morning 2 cats appeared in the house. Her orange cat was a fully grown tabby that was about as butch as a cat could look. Chloe fell in love with him instantly. “Butterfly!” she exclaimed.

An old couple lived across the street. I saw the old man laugh as he caught me yelling, “Butterfly----- Stinky!” one morning.

This was the old guy who shot himself in the head in his back yard that year. It was big news at the time.

Anyway, after a few years it happened again. Butterfly got kitty leukemia. I should have known better than to let the cats go outside. Leukemia is very contagious between cats. I’ve since learned there’s a vaccine. We were all heartbroken.

Last week I went to my studio at my friend Fojammi’s convent home. Their mastiff Max had stopped eating. It appeared he’d had a stroke. He hadn’t eaten in a couple of days. I got him to eat a bowl of food but he was in pain. Danny decided Max was suffering too much. We tried to lift Max but his back legs hurt so much, he snapped at us. When he did finally get up he dragged his back legs.

Danny had saved Max from an abusive owner. For years Max didn’t trust people and he bit me twice as I tried to become friends with him. As the years went by Max became an old softy and eventually was great around all our kids.

As we were driving to the vet to have Max put down, I turned to Danny and said, “My heart’s become cold, I don’t feel it anymore.”

I stayed in the waiting room as Danny, his wife Laura, and their daughter Chauntasia, took him in for his last trip to the vet.

When they came out Chaunnie was in tears. I saw Danny wipe his eyes. There’s nothing that hits you like seeing a grown man cry.

Anyway, as much as I try to avoid pets I keep inheriting them. When Valerie and I got together she had 3 cats. Now we’re down to Charlie and he’s 15.

Charlie in his window, Nancy and me in the 80s, G. I. Gurdjieff.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why I Love People # 1

I love comments on these blogs. They’re far more entertaining than the posts to me. I wish I knew how to put the comments on the front page, especially with my political blog. They do if you open a particular post, but I mean in general.

I guess I use the political blog to vent why I hate people. I find it cathartic. I use this one to explain why I love people. No wonder no one reads the other one. I get so worked up I don’t even want to post on it sometimes. Why would anyone want to read a bunch of pissing and moaning?

I went on one of my anti-religion rants last week and got the expected comments from friends. I know they feel I’m missing something in my life by not recognizing the vast beauty of creation. I can only counter that so much is possible and we’re letting it all slip through our fingers if we wait for a non- existent afterlife. Life is what we make it.

The cynic in me sees it as the height of human arrogance that anything beyond our comprehension is, almost by definition, divine.

The bleeding heart in me finds it tragic that people are so easily manipulated by others with religion based fear.

There’s also the added dimension that we’re aware of our own mortality. That’s a pretty big thing to carry around with you!

The very idea of the “wrath of God” conjures up an idea of heaven that sounds like Hell to me. Withholding eternity because you don’t beliveth sounds like an omnipotent, omnipresent ego to me. Like God is kind of a big, dangerous child.

This all sounds like a post that belongs in my political blog but there’s a reason I’m saying this here.

That blog is for my gripes. This one is about why I love people. In fact I’m going to post short stories occasionally called “Why I love people”.

An example of one of these stories is the old lady in my neighborhood who walks her, obviously very happy, rottweiler that wears a bow tie. This story has all the elements. Not the least of which is love between different species.

Yesterday I was listening to Science Friday on the radio and another example of why I love people happened.

Ira Flatow was interviewing a scientist about his research with the nervous system. They were hooking up electrodes to someone’s brain and manipulating images on a computer with thought. They’re trying to give back physical function to people with nerve damage.

The scientist, in a very thick accent I didn’t recognize, was talking about the complexity of the network of nerves in the arm and hands that made it possible “to reach, to grasp, to comb the hair.”

How could you not love a species that combs its hair?