Listen to me

Well that was freaking weird!

We had a lovely drive back from the Twin Ports (Duluth/Superior), talking the whole way and enjoying fall colors. The sun was shining and the air temperature was pleasant. I was eager to get home so I could get on my bike and enjoy what may be one of the last nice days of the season. I even had a great excuse. My cat needs food and litter so at the very least I thought I would bike to the pet store.

But that’s not what happened.

Once home, my energy level dropped. I had a bowl of cereal and cracked a beer but I had no motivation to do anything else. Well, almost nothing else. I did have an erection that needed tending to but I knew if I did that I would just fall asleep; which is what I did.

That’s where it got weird.

Over the next five hours I would have some of the most vivid and terrifying dreams of my life. At times I was aware that I was dreaming but I never tried to control them. As scared as I was I felt that there was a deeper message within. The dreams were a warning and even as the details fade, the message is clear.

I can’t do it all and if I try it will kill me. As I am preparing to embark on the greatest challenge of my life I have to stay focused. I can’t let anything or anyone distract me. But at the same time I can’t do it alone. Those distractions are my guide posts and my life-lines. I need to pay attention to them.

That is my conflict. In a way it has always been my conflict. I have always struggled with how to balance my future plans with the present moment. I have always struggled to balanced my inner desires with external influences.

I realize that dreams are just a way for my subconcious to talk to my conscious. I realize that it is all me. I am every character in my dreams. I realize that it is me scaring the shit out of me. But I think I have a point. I need to listen to myself and I’m telling myself to listen to you.

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The pursuit of happiness

Tuesday evening I met up with a friend for a beer. He had been going through some tough times. He had recently lost his job and needed to get out of the house. At one point I asked him something about how he was doing or what his plans were and he responded, “I’m trying to have a good time.”

I just recall thinking to my self, “This is one of the most miserably people I know. Having a good time sounds like a pretty lofty goal.” Of course I was really thinking about myself. Of course I wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to have a good time. I just know that from my experience, pursuing happiness as a goal is bound to end in disappointment. Happiness happens, but not when I’m expecting it.

Rethinking what motivates me has been on my mind a lot over the past week. I’ve been called a hedonist before and for the longest time I took no objection to that term. Hedonism is the devotion to pleasure. How can that be a bad thing? Especial when understanding that my pleasure is dependent on the circumstances of the people around me. Devoting one’s life to bringing pleasure to the world sounds like a beautiful thing to do.

As an entertainer I hope that I bring pleasure, happiness, good times and amusement to the world. But is that what entertainment means to me?

I was discussing this subject with my son Sunday evening. He is an actor and musician. We had just seen Propeller’s production of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” at the Guthrie Theater. I felt impressed, inspired, intrigued, incompetent, moved, changed, at times aroused, but not anything that I would associate with being entertained. My son and I had shared a meaningful experience. We felt connected to one another and to the playwright and actors. To my son, this is what art is meant to do; create a shared, meaningful experience.

But for many, music, dance, theater, comedy, television, movies, literature and other arts are just entertainment. That’s fine. There is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that people are entertained by what I do, but that’s not why I do it. I don’t think that most artists would do what they do if they only viewed it as entertainment. The act of creating art is hard work, it’s frustrating, painful and wrought with failure and disappointment. We do it because we have to; because it is who we are. We do it to give our lives meaning and purpose. We do it to feel connected to the world around us.

Yet, there are those occasions where it brings us great joy. Creating something that we conciser absolutely brilliant or putting on an amazing show that connects us with the audience can put a smile on our face.

My bff was relating her favorite Venus story to me this past weekend. We had just put on an incredible performance to a packed house at First Avenue for the David Bowie tribute show, Rebel Rebel (Rock for Pussy) and Venus was on cloud nine. S/he was simple glowing and dancing and having the time of hir life.

Yes, happiness can be found in this life but as an artist, it is not my pursuit. As a person who’s life is filled with adversity, having a good time is not my goal. I am not seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. I’m just trying to keep going in the pursuit of meaning and purpose. If along the way I find happiness, joy and entertainment, I’ll take that too… as long as I can share it with you.

El Dorado – Part 2

So I’m finally back home after a week on the road. I’m feeling sick as hell; don’t know why. I felt pretty good the whole time I was away from here. I hope it wasn’t the egg salad sandwich I grabbed during our last stop for gas. My band mates got me feeling kind of nervous by discussing their bad food experiences in graphic detail – WHILE I WAS EATING. Anyway, I need to get to bed so that I can get up early tomorrow and go do my delivery job so I want to hammer this out and finish my tour entries.

I actually got a good night’s sleep at Jule’s in Albuquerque. We wanted to get on the road early. It’s a long drive and the last stretch through Kansas is a real bitch in the dark. There are no lights what-so-ever and the lane dividers aren’t even reflective so it’s really hard to see. I hate to say this because the people I’ve met in Kansas are wonderful but for a while now, Kansas has been my least favorite state in the union.

We pulled into the horse ranch in El Dorado, KS around 8:30 at night. By the way, Dorado rhymes with potato not with the Eagles song Desperado like I always thought. Not that it matters; it’s just always bugged me. Another reason why Kansas rubs me the wrong way. But like I said, it’s not the people. Peter and Liz are absolutely amazing. Their generosity and hospitality is unbelievable. Not everyone would let a crazy rock band crash at their house, but they do so much more than that. They feed us, probably the best food we have the entire trip. They always have beer, a big plus for me. Seriously, the way they take care of us I would take over any five star hotel in the world. Peter even took the night of work so that he could be there when we arrived.

I’ve done the “crashing at punk house” touring. I’ve done the “staying in hotel” touring but the kind of touring I am able to do with Venus de Mars, where we stay with friends who just want to make sure that we get something to eat and get a good nights sleep is something new. I like it. I need it. I just want to make sure that the people who are caring for us are getting something out of it. I hate feeling like a pariah (sorry, I’m sure there are racist implications of that term but I can’t address everything in one post), but my bigger concern is that people aren’t feeling taken advantage of. I believe that our band is doing something good, really good; and I believe that we are all in this together. I’m just wish that I took more time to understand why people help us. It’s really and incredible thing.

Liz came out early this morning and checked on me sleeping on the couch. She was concerned that I might be cold. I was fine. I was in my footie pajamas so all was good but I did half wake up. You know that feeling where you wake up from an intense dream and you’re not sure if it’s a dream or reality. It was kind of like that, but kind of a lot worse. When I woke up I didn’t know where I was, how I got there or what was going on in my life. It was shear terror. I felt completely lost. Things like this can happen when you are sleeping in a different bed every night but this was beyond anything like that. I seriously felt like I was loosing my mind. I chalk it up to my crazy brain rebelling on the last night on the road. Luckily when I woke up for good a little while later I was feeling like myself again.

I had stayed up later than everyone else, writing and researching Venus’ IRS situation. I was still up and about before anyone else. To clarify, I think they all woke up before me but I was the first to be moving about. It was around 8 in the morning and my understanding of the plan was that we were leaving at 10 am so we could get home at 8pm. I was really looking to get some writing done this morning given that we didn’t have to get on the road quite so early.

Apparently I was wrong; or more accurately, I wasn’t the only person loosing their mind today. Venus came out apologizing that we would be waiting on her today. Confused, I let her know that we still had a couple hours before we needed to leave. She insisted that we needed to leave by 8 am to get home by 10 pm. Now I’m frustrated, “No, it’s a ten hour drive we leave at 10 am and get home at 8 pm”. This didn’t go over well. She still wanted to leave as soon as possible. My hope of getting writing done was dashed and I was annoyed. I felt cheated. I could feel my heart rate rise and knew I was beginning to loose it.

I voiced my emotions. I said I was upset and really stressed. Venus said that she didn’t mean to stress me out and that she though she had made herself clear the night before. Yeah, communication is a bitch. I never heard anything like that and in fact the last conversation I had with her about it was quite different. The conversation she was referring to I wasn’t even present for; not that it mattered. I just said, “I’m just putting it out there, not putting it on you.” These were my emotions to deal with. I just wanted the people around me to know what I was dealing with.

And I knew Venus was under a lot of stress too. I knew that she was worried about the weather, heading back into the snowy Midwest  I knew she was worried about driving at night. I knew that her biggest worry was about this tax audit that could end the band. We spent much of the trip home in silence separated by periodic discussions of what it means to be an artist and how this is not a hobby. It has really got me thinking and I hope that I can write an essay about this distinction. I’m trying to figure out if I have any hobbies  The only thing that I can think of that might fit that description is masturbation.

We got back to Minneapolis and dropped Jazz off just as the tenth and final disc of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was concluding. This is seriously and amazing book and the reading performance by Martin Jarvis is absolutely phenomenal. Accept for a little David Bowie, Le Tigre and Rasputina plus This American Life and Radiolab podcasts, this was our main form of entertainment during the nearly 70 hours we spent together in that Toyota Corolla.

 

Fetish Revolution – Part 2

Saturday, February 9th, 2013 was the day I had spent the previous three days in anticipating, the day of our full band performance at Fetish Revolution. I woke up feeling relaxed and confident that everything would go well. I also woke up a little drunk from the night before. That didn’t concern me. That I knew I could handle that. I also knew that it would be temporary. I made myself some coffee and got to work on my blog. This was actually the first opportunity on the tour where I had an extended period of time to sit down and really write. Venus and Jazz took off to get food and hit the music store. I stayed back to write.

After the coffee was gone I dipped back into the beer. I think Jazz was a little concerned when he got back to the hotel room and saw me with a beer in my hand. I’m sure I would be concerned if the tables were turned. But I was fine, just a little self-medication to stave off the nerves and keep me focused. I finished my blog, took a shower, shaved, painted my nails, did my make-up, got in costume and packed up my gear. This is all the stuff I do for every show; no big deal.

We arrived to the venue, 910 Live in Tempe, at 5 pm to pickup to the drum set which was being delivered. Big thanks to Patti for helping us out here. We wouldn’t be performing until 10 that night and even sound check wouldn’t happen for a couple more hours. None of this is a complaint. This is just the way it goes. If you really want to know what the rock-n-roll lifestyle is all about; it’s a whole lot of hurry up and wait! So, with the alcohol finally dissipated from by bloodstream and nothing to do the nerves kicked it.

There is always something to be nervous about before a show. Will we have a crowd? Will all the equipment work? Will the sound be good? Will I be able to hear myself and my band-mates? And the biggest one of all, will I choke and forget what I’m playing? All of these thoughts went through my head but the one thing I never thought I would have to worry about in Phoenix was the weather. The main stage was outside and it was getting mighty cold out. Obviously, not as cold as Minneapolis but it was colder than what I had planned for. I probably would have brought a different outfit had I known I was going to be playing outdoors in February.

We spent most of our time standing by the fire.

We spent most of our time standing by the fire

Sound check went great and the promoter wanted to buy me a drink. As we were standing at the bar chatting and enjoying our cocktails a gorgeous woman stopped by to say “hi” to James.  After she left he turns to me and says, “Yeah, she’s beautiful but she’s a bit much for me.” I was perplexed  What in damnation could someone who produces fetish events consider “too much”. Apparently she is into yoga, has placenta in her freezer and is into holistic love. I guess we all have our limits! I found this pretty funny though. I went on to tell him about how into yoga I am and how at one time I too had placenta in my freezer. Upon reflection I do think the later is kind of weird but whatever. I don’t know what holistic love is but it sounded like something I might be into.

After performing, these two kids came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the show. They were both really drunk but they were having fun. I thanked them and gave each a big hug. Then they started asking me why I was dressed they way I was. Clearly they were out of their element and probably had no idea what they had got themselves into. One guy said to me “You’re not gay are you?  I know you’re not gay”. I’m always a little unsure how to answer those questions. There is not really a simple answer. I could tell that he was hoping I would say “no”. I’m sure that would have made him more comfortable but it wasn’t going to happen. It’s pretty obvious that I am gay. Still, unless you want to fuck me it’s really none of your business what my sexual orientation is. Even then, the only question should be, do I want to fuck you? In the end I just said, “I could be, some people are gay you know.” Perhaps not the answer they wanted but it took the focus off something that was of no consequence to them and put it back where it belonged, on what a fucking amazing rock band we are. But don’t take my word for it, here’s a video from the show

Speaking of great bands, the headliner of the night was Assemblage 23. These guys are legends in the Industrial scene; super nice guys too. We had to stick around to see them play.

Assemblage 23 at Fetish Revolution 2013

Assemblage 23 at Fetish Revolution 2013

Oh, and I totally have a new crush. DJ Con is such an absolute sweetie. I feel like he is my long lost twin separated at birth, well… um… 16 years apart. His birthday is actually the day after mine. Aquarians unite!

Battle of the bulges. Photo by: Angel Collins

Battle of the bulges. Photo by Angel Collins

Back at the hotel I was finally able to remove the boots I had been wearing for the past 9 hours. Fuck, what a relief that was! My feet had been killing me.   What I hadn’t been aware of because my feet were hurting so much was how much pain the rest of my body was in. Upon releasing my feet from their silver patent leather bondage, sensation returned to every other part of my body and it was not a pleasant sensation. Luckily, there was still beer in the fridge and half a bottle of whiskey. Jazz and I stayed up for a few more hours talking but he offered no help in drinking the booze. I was on my own for that.

On the road again

The band is packed in like sardines; three musicians, three guitars, two amps, snare, cymbals and all our personal effects in a ’97 Toyota Corolla. We call it the T.A.R.D.I.S. because it’s bigger on the inside.

Packed in - Jazz

In typical All The Pretty Horses form we left town under snow filled skies  I think we would freak out if it was any other way. Now the sun has come out as we approach the Iowa border.

First gas stop - Jazz & Venus

The secret of success

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo

I agree, and my aim is high, and I rarely hit my mark, but sometimes I need that feeling of success. Some days I just need obtainable goals. I have found that life is a lot easier when I don’t try so hard. I know that much of what makes my life hard is my own doing, my drive, my ambition, my need to be more, and I’m okay with that. I am not driven by a quest for success. I realize that success is not a destination. Success is a feeling, a moment, and it is fleeting.

So yesterday was a day of realistic goals. It wasn’t suppose to be. My plan was to enter the drunken alley-cat bike race known as Stupor Bowl, held each year in Minneapolis on the Saturday before Superbowl Sunday. This is typically one of the coldest, harshest weekends of the season, so it’s not for the faint of heart.  After that I was planning on going to The Crooked Pint where my friends Viva Knievel (not to be confused with the riot grrrl band from the 90’s) were performing and another friend was celebrating her birthday. We were going to make it a joint celebration given that my birthday is on Monday. That would have been a crazy day!

Instead, against my request, my band leader scheduled a studio performance at our rehearsal space/recording studio. Well, things being what they are and as much as I enjoy getting drunk and riding through the wintery streets of Minneapolis with a bunch of crazy bike messengers, I enjoy playing music more. On performance days, if at all possible, I don’t focus on anything but the show. I know that the key for me is to stay relaxed. There is usually a lot of work to do but no matter how prepared I am something unexpected will still go wrong and when it does probably no one will notice and even if they do, who cares? It’s rock-n-roll and it always works out in the end… or you die.

I spent the afternoon just getting ready, dying my hair, trimming my beard, painting my nails, doing my makeup, picking out my stage clothes and running through the set. I used to worry a lot about promotion. These studio parties are private invite-only events so I would spend all day txting my friends encouraging them to come out but it never seemed to pay off. It’s a different crowd that goes to these things. And I don’t care how many people are there. I’m going to do what I do no matter what. I’m there to put on a good show for anyone who wants to be part of it. I’m there to have fun with whoever shows up, not worry about who didn’t. Still, I had some time so I decided to take a minute and make a post on Facebook reminding my Minneapolis friends about the event.

Turns out it was a really good thing I did. Moments after posting I get a call from our drummer, Jazz. He asks, “What are you doing?” I say, “I’m about to head down to the studio.” Apparently he had no idea we were having a studio party because he asked if we were rehearsing.  Anyway, he says he’s going hop on the bus and meet me at the studio. I thought to myself, “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea!” I got off the phone feeling annoyed. I didn’t know whether I was more annoyed with Venus for not communicating better or with Jazz for being a dumb-ass.  It only took me a few minutes to realize that it didn’t matter. These things happen. My only question was what could I do to make it better. I called Jazz back and suggested that I pick him up on my way. I figured I could do more good helping Jazz get there than I could getting to the studio earlier. Plus I needed coffee and the co-op I go to is in his neighborhood.

On the way to get Jazz I stopped in at the Wedge co-op. I’m wearing high heal shoes, thin silver sparkly socks, tight black pants with slits up the side, a long lime green trench coat, a black glitter eye-patch and a black sequined cap. It’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s snowing. Yeah, kind of crazy but at least I wasn’t biking. A woman in line at the check-out asked if I was warm enough in what I was wearing. I said, “Hell no! This is a fashion before comfort situation!” To which the cashier chimed in relaying her story of getting caught under-dressed when the temperature  dropped 40 degrees recently. Yes, Minnesotans are a hearty stock but we love bitching about the weather while simultaneously bragging about how tough we are.

Get Real

Okay. This is where this blog takes form. It would be really fucking boring if I only wrote about my good days. Yesterday was awesome. Well, it was up until my last post which I wrote at the Bad Waitress, a cafe restaurant where my best friend works. They have wi-fi, really good food and beer. I expect many posts will be written from there. Oh, and when I checked in there I became mayor on Foursquare! So yeah, really good day up until that point. My BFF even bought me a beer so totally fucking kick ass!

Except it’s Minneapolis and fucking cold as hell and nothing stays kick-ass for long. My BFF got off work while I was there so I offered to drive her home. I don’t drive often and love to help out a friend when I can. Did I mention it was fucking cold as hell out? Driving is no big deal, right? If you keep reading this blog you will learn about my philosophy on helping and how I think it’s easy and makes the world a better place and that if you are a selfish mother fucker like me you should do it every chance you get.

Turns out my BFF needs cat food too. She doesn’t drive so we have a great opportunity for her to make use of my generosity and have me drive out to Chuck and Don’s in St. Louis Park. All went well for a total of about 10 blocks. Then we ran into a power outage. Not my van. It is thankfully running just fine. No, the goddamn city was in the black. I really have no idea what caused it. I’m sure I will find out. I figure it has something to do with the weather. It dropped 800 degrees in one day. But yeah, a huge swath of the city was without power. No street lights, no stop lights, backed up traffic and no power at the pet store. We spent an hour driving in the dark to accomplish nothing.

Well, once we got back to civilization we did stop by the liquor store and my BFF stocked up on beer so I guess I made some use of the drive. And after all that I figured it would be appropriate to stop in for a quick one. So for the record, this paragraph goes in the good column.

[Got coffee so hopefully I can keep writing]

So now I’m running late for rehearsal. My band leader is always running late so that probably means I’m right on time. Which I am. I get to the studio and Venus is unloading her car. Perfect timing. A good quality in a bass player I say. We get in and get everything set up but still no drummer. We were actually suppose to rehearse the day before but our drummer had apparently got assaulted and slipped on the ice and broke his rib and couldn’t make it. I don’t know exactly what happened. I’m hearing it second hand but I think he should have a blog. Sounds like his life is way more exciting than mine. Anyway, he’s in pain and totally spaced that we are rehearsing. Venus tells him to skip it and we rehearse without him. We are the ones who need it anyway. I don’t understand it. Our drummer always seems to do fine but I suck if I don’t rehearse. Venus sucks without rehearsal. The drummer has just got it but he has other issues. Just saying.

I kind of like rehearsing without a drummer. I wouldn’t say I prefer it. I really prefer having a drummer. Drums are important but there are benefits to not having him there. For starters, I can hear myself. Drums are fucking loud! With a drummer you have to turn up so loud that it’s hard to hear anything. Okay, that is the only benefit. Other that being able to play at a lower volume and hear myself it really sucked not having him there. But rehearsal went fine and we got a kick-ass set put together for our show in Scottsdale, AZ. I guess our studio party on Saturday will be our full band live rehearsal. Damn I’m glad we are professionals. Don’t know how we pull this shit off.

So yesterday was a long day. The kind of day that does me in. The kind of day that doesn’t end. And it didn’t. It kept going. Oh yeah, there is more excitement to come. I left rehearsal wanting nothing more that to get home, have a beer and curl up in my nice warm bed with my kitty cat. Well, that’s not what happened. I get in my van and drive home. I’m listening to Minnesota Public Radio as I often do. I’m a sustaining member. I’m listening to As It Happens and they have a story about this guy, Aiman Youssef of Staton Island, NY who lost everything in Super Storm Sandy. Now he has a tent set up in front of what used to be his house and has spent every day since the storm helping his neighbors. It choked me up. It’s sad, but the best of humanity seems to come out of the worst of situations.

So I’m driving, I’m emotionally engaged, I’m tired and basically on auto-pilot. I pull up to a stop sign before making a left-hand turn not noticing the cop car I just cut off until the lights start flashing in my rear-view mirror. I pull over wondering, “What the fuck did I do?”. And I bet you are wondering, “OMG, how drunk is he?”. Nope, two beers at the restaurant, one at my friends, all many hours ago – I’m sober, just tired and distracted. I take drinking and driving very seriously. I lost an eye that way when I was 21. I consider myself lucky. It’s nothing to fuck around with. I got lucky this time too. The cop just ran my license and let me go after I apologized profusely. I’ve actually had really good experiences with the Minneapolis Police department. Probably helps that I’m a white guy but who knows? Maybe it’s the mini-van with LEFREAK plates.

I get home and it’s time for a beer. Well, a beer and a whiskey. I’ve discovered that I can drink cheap beer if it’s coupled with cheap whiskey. I crawl into bed. It’s been a good day. I watch the Daily Show, make a post on Facebook, comment on a friends post and I’m ready to be done. But no, my friend realizing I’m awake sends me a text, “Can I call u?”. I respond, “No” because I’m a dick like that. Then I called her. We talk from 2am until 4am. I had more beers and more whiskey. I don’t remember everything we talked about but I do remember telling her about how she hurt me years back when we first met. We bonded instantly. I guess it’s one of those things that happens when a real, genuine, honest person meets one of their own. And there was attraction. There was chemistry. To put it bluntly, I wanted to bang her. I wanted to be her friend and I wanted to have sex with her and I even considered being her boyfriend. But that’s not me and she knew it and she moved on leaving me in the dust. Yeah, it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing for her and the time and it was probably the right thing for me but it still hurt. In this life you don’t meet that many people with whom who can really connect on that level and they are not to be taken for granted. But hey, she’s back in my life and all is good. In fact I just got a call from her reminding me that I agreed to meet her and that she has chowder for me. Awesome! I have no food so this is really good.

But my big fuck up of the day was over-sleeping. I left my phone downstairs so I didn’t wake up when Home Service Plus called at 7:44am. They were coming out to fix my washing machine which is leaking and my stove which won’t light. Yup, totally missed that. I’ve been dealing with these problems for a while because I just can’t get my shit together to remedy them. Guess I’m going to be dealing with them a little while longer. It’s all about time. Time fucking fascinates me.

And now it’s time for me to go get me some chowder!

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