Here we come

 
Here we come

 

We are at the half way point in our tour with Against Me! and finally have a day without a 400 mile drive. Okay, from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, CO wasn’t so bad most days have involved a lot of driving. We are now in Eugene, OR. We arrived last night in time for me to catch my first AA meeting of the tour. I was really looking forward to catching meeting across the country but there really hasn’t been time. This is a major tour and it’s on a majorly tight schedule. I don’t think most people understand how much work this is but it’s the work that I enjoy. The days off are actually pretty disorienting. I don’t know what to do with myself. Luckily, I’m pretty good at navigating when I don’t know which end is up.

I had really thought that I would be doing more blogging while on tour but that hasn’t happened. I think that it might take me a while to fully process all that is going on. Every moment seems more alive and vivid that so called “real life”. Moments seem more intense. Time seems to slow down. One week on tour feels like a month. It’s like living on another planet… and I haven’t ever got to Burning Man yet. I still don’t know what to expect with that.

I feel out of touch with the rest of the world but I’m still trying make updates on Facebook and Twitter. You are welcome to add me, friend me,  follow me there.  And if you happen to be in Eugene, OR, come see Venus de Mars and All The Pretty Horses opening for Against Me! tonight at W.O.W. Hall. Doors at 7pm, we go on promptly at 8.

 

 

 

 

Tales from the tundra

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I keep wondering why I live here. I seems insane but the rational answer is pretty straight forward. This is where my house is. This is where my family and friends are. This is where my band is but most importantly, this is where I am. To be someplace different would require some sort of radical change and as of this moment, it hasn’t happened. So here I am.

I hate to complain about the weather. It gets old pretty quick. Still it’s a major factor in my life and a key character in many of my stories.  It makes life pretty hard sometimes but a hard life is an interesting life. For the past week I have been unable to write anything so the stories have been piling up. I was just starting to believe that the worst of winter was over when last Thursday arrived. I did manage to write a little bit before the full reality of the situation sunk in:

We are in the midst of what may turn out to be the worst blizzard of the season. I was sitting at the bar across from our rehearsal studio waiting to find out whether we would be rehearsing tonight. Venus was freaking out  because s/he couldn’t get out of the driveway due to the neighbor’s car being stuck in the snow. S/he finally decided to cancel rehearsal. It was the right call. Sometimes the weather just gets to be too much. The roads are extremely dangerous for driving plus there would be no place to park downtown. All of the roads are snow emergency routes and our parking lot is at the bottom of a hill that we would never be able to get back up through half a foot of snow.

I decided to grab a slice of pizza and another beer. The meter was plugged for an hour so I figured I might as well get my money’s worth. I slugged through the snow back to my van. Another inch or more had fallen while I was in the bar. I could feel the effect of the two beers which is my indication that I shouldn’t be driving. I knew I was probably close to the legal limit but knowing how high strung I am in driving conditions like the I figure a little anxiety reduction might do me well. I was five miles from home and it’s pretty much a straight shot. I only had to make three turns. I fired up my van and blasted the defrost while I brushed the newly fallen snow from my windows.

It took me several attempts driving forwards and backwards to get my vehicle dislodged enough to make it onto the road. I was on my way. The first two stop lights were green and I sailed through. The third had just turned yellow. Maybe I could have stopped but under these conditions there was no guarantee. I decided to gun it. I made it through but not before the light turned red. I looked in my rear view mirror, through my half-defrosted rear window, to see the red and blue flashing lights of a squad car. I pulled over to the side of the road.

Luckily the police were not interested in me. They were on there way to something more important than a semi-intoxicated rockstar running red lights on his way home in a blizzard.

That was actually just the final story of a day filled with stories. Had I had it in me that night, I would have written another thousand or more words. Now that almost a week has passed I’m hoping I can do it in far fewer.

I awoke last Thursday a tad  hung-over and without enough sleep. After rehearsal the night before I had stopped by Transmission at Club Jager to speak with Simon about performing in one of his Singer-Songwriter showcases. It had been quite awhile since I last attended one of Jake Rudh’s dance nights and I wound up staying later than I had anticipated. Since there was a taxi sitting outside the bar when I left I opted to leave my bike locked up and get a ride home. It probably only saved me fifteen minutes but I knew that the next day was going to be a big one and I could use all the sleep I could get.

The day started out pretty smoothly. The weather service was sounding the alarms but there was no sign yet of the calamity which was about to ensue. I picked up my daughter from her cousin’s house and delivered her safely to her school in south Minneapolis. My next order of business was an appointment with my daughter’s mother and the therapist in Bloomington. It wasn’t for another hour and a half but I figured I should head in that direction just in case.

Arriving safely in Bloomington with an hour to spare I decided to stop for a leisurely breakfast and some inspirational reading to calm my nerves before the therapy appointment.  As it turned out what I really needed calm nerves for was just the drive to the therapist’s office. I rolled out of my parking spot but as soon as I hit five miles-per-hour the whole van started shaking.

“Oh great!”, I thought to myself, “Now what’s wrong?”

I found that once I hit thirty-five miles-per-hours the shaking stopped but there was still a sound that I wasn’t familiar with. I was pretty sure that it was something structural and not an engine issue so I just kept going hoping the van wouldn’t fall apart or explode. In case you haven’t figured it out already, it was just a flat tire.

The therapy session actually went pretty well… at least for me. I don’t think my ex-wife was too happy with the way things went. I’m pretty sure that she went into the session with the agenda of making me look like the bad-guy and somehow forcing me to change my wicked ways. I wish that she would learn that I don’t respond to threats or guilt-trips and that she would have a much better chance of getting what she wants if she just asked. I guess that wouldn’t be as much fun.

She did accuse me of never being willing to drive my daughter; a pretty ridiculous claim given that I had just dropped her off at school an hour and a half earlier.

I simply replied, “I don’t agree with that statement.”

My ex later brought up, “You know, I don’t even have to let you see her. You’re not her legal father. You have no right to see her. The only reason why you have a relationship with her at all is because I encourage it.”

I didn’t even know where to begin with that statement. I felt like she was looking for some gratitude but considering that I had just gone six months without seeing my daughter I wasn’t feeling very grateful. Also, law does not make someone a dad. Being a dad is in the heart and my daughter knows who her dad is. It really has nothing to do with the law or her mother. I have a relationship with my daughter because I have a relationship with my daughter.

The therapist tried to get at what I want. She suggested that I want to spend time with my daughter and have her stay at my house. I understood what she was getting at but I expressed that this isn’t about what I want. This is about what my daughter wants. I am here to help her. Yes, having her in my life helps me. It makes my life better but that is a byproduct. It is not my purpose. My purpose is to give.

Then came up the money issue. For all I know this may be at the root of everything. This may be why my ex wants me to adopt my daughter. She may believe that she will be able to get money out of me if I am the legal father. I understand the motivation. I know how hard, and at times, expensive it is to raise a child on your own. But coming after me for money is just silly. I have a little and there is nothing that I enjoy more than spending it on my kids but I’m not going to part with it through guilt or extortion. I’m not entering into a financial relationship with my ex.

I’m not entering into any kind of relationship with my ex. I did that for six years and gave it my all and it wasn’t enough. My ex’s expressed concern is how to keep our daughter from being put in the middle. My concern is that my ex is trying to put herself in the middle of my relationship with my teenage daughter. I wish that it was different. It’s pretty sad that I can’t have a relationship with my ex. It’s sad for me, it’s sad for my daughter and it’s sad for my ex. I love her and wish her nothing but the best but I simply can’t do it. I guess six years of an abusive relationship which ended in my daughter being taken away for me and being falsely accused of domestic violence has left a bad taste in my mouth.  I don’t know, maybe I’m the asshole. It’s got to suck not being able to manipulate me and control me through the systems this society has been built upon. I do really own my ex a debt of gratitude for teaching me how to not get sucked into that bullshit ever again.

Anyway, I think the therapist likes me. I asked her for her help with my flat tire and she put me in contact with the buildings maintenance person. My ex asked why I didn’t have AAA and I couldn’t even respond. The truth is that I dropped it because I couldn’t afford it. This has forced me to ask friends, neighbors and even strangers for help. AAA is awesome and I will probably get it again but having to ask people for help has actually made me a better person.

The maintenance guy was able to inflate my tire enough to get me to Discount Tire. They replaced the flat tire for free and I bought a new tire to replace one that was dangerously bald. The snow was falling pretty heavy at this point so I knew I could use all the traction I could get.

The drive back into the city was horrifying. Traffic on the freeway was moving at thirty-five miles per hour but occasional big trucks would fly by me and splash snowy mush on my van completely covering my windshield. This happened twice. I also nearly ran into a utility pole when I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting the street corner beggar who decided to walk out into the intersection. Even with new tires the road provided no traction and I just slid until I was stopped by the curb.

When I picked up my daughter from school I went to talk to the director. Through the therapy session I learned that tuition hadn’t been paid for a couple months. I wanted to find out how much it was so that I could take care of it. Apparently my ex had informed the school that I am not the “real” dad so they wouldn’t give me the information. I totally understand that. It’s a new school and I don’t want them getting into legal hot water but for the past fifteen years, I’ve never had this problem. If my ex hadn’t made a stink about it, tuition would have been paid.

After that my daughter and I went to hang out with my almost four year-old friend so his mother could go to work. His dad would return in a couple hours and I would be able to make the long trek to the northern suburbs where my daughter and her dog live. By this time most of the cars had made it off the roads but it was still treacherous driving. It took me two hours to get her home and then get back downtown Minneapolis for rehearsal. I picked up my bike at Club Jager which was a challenge to get into my van now that I have re-installed the seats in my minivan so that I can haul kids.

[Shit, I’m already at over 2,000 words and I still have five more days to write about. I should just give up. No one is going to read this but I don’t care. I’m on a roll.]

Friday, I don’t think I did anything. Even if I did I’m sure it’s not worth writing about. Saturday was a much more interesting day.

Saturday was our big gig at The Amsterdam in Saint Paul. The roads were still unsafe to drive on but I let too much of the day pass to get downtown to the studio any other way than to drive. Plus, our drummer needed a ride and he lives pretty close to me so I stopped by to pick him up. I got to the studio about fifteen minutes late which was perfect because Venus was just as late. S/he was concerned about getting the band van out of the parking lot so she had me test it out. I drove down the hill into the parking lot and then tried to get out. I made it to the top of the hill and there I was stuck… actually I started to slip backwards towards the four-wheel drive truck that was at the base of the hill.

Anyway, there was no way we could load out through the loading dock. We would need to load out through the front of the building by taking all of our equipment up in the elevator. I have long since tried figuring out why I do this and have just accepted that it is what I do. It’s stupid as shit but… so what!

We made it to the venue about an hour later than expected but everything during the show ran pretty smoothly. Hardly anyone showed up because the weather was so crappy but that also has stopped bothering me. I think it still bothers Venus and of course we didn’t make very much money but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I actually had a lot of fun at that show because I just didn’t care. From my perspective, it was one of our best shows.

Getting back to the studio was a bit of an ordeal. We made it downtown but at one stop light we found ourselves unable to move. The temprature had dropped turning packed snow into glare ice. We couldn’t move forwards or backwards. Venus came up with the brilliant idea of sticking a piece of carpet under one of the rear tires for traction. It worked but I had to grab the carpet and jump into the van while it was still moving. We didn’t stop for any lights the rest of the way.

Of course I still had to get my van up the hill and out of the parking lot. I backed up to the end of the parking lot to give myself a running start and luckily made it out of the hole. Venus on the other hand had quite an adventure getting home. She had to stop and use the carpet trick a number of times on her own to get home. I’ve been watching a number of rock-n-roll documentaries about the crazy things that rock bands go through. Venus has a good one about hi/r called, Venus of Mars. I just can’t help but think about all the crazy shit that never get’s filmed. I would have loved to see Venus in the middle of Lake Street putting a piece of carpet under the rear tire in fishnets and a corset hoping and praying that she didn’t get hit by some drunk driver. That would be good cinema.

We did both make it home alive. It’s funny to me how exciting survival can be. We humans do all sorts of crazy things to feel alive but when you play in a rock band in Minnesota, just getting home from work can be an adventure.

I woke up around noon on Sunday to find some brilliant pictures from the show the night before. This is one of my favorite.

All The Pretty Horse - Amsterdam

I’m the guy on the right, Venus is on the left and our drummer Jazz is in the middle.

I wasn’t planning on doing anything Sunday. I tried getting a hold of my daughter. I had been trying for days with no luck. This day was no different. I also was worried about a friend of mine who is struggling because of this weather but I couldn’t get a hold of her either. That is really what makes living here suck so much. It’s not just that it is hard for me. It’s also hard for all of the people I care about. Anyway, it seemed like a good day to lay in bed and watch Netflix.

I wound up falling asleep. When I woke up I had a hankering for junk food… something I don’t keep in my house. I would have to venture out into the tundra. The local convenience store is five blocks away but across the street from the convenience store is the T-Shoppe, the local dive bar. Please click on that link. I know if you have made it this far you have already read more than you wanted to today but it’s a good article about a dying breed. The T-Shoppe is one of the last two remaining 3.2 bars in Minneapolis. Anyway, I said fuck the convenience store, the bar has crappy pizza… and beer.

I only go in there once or twice a year but they still know my name. The bartender says, “Slumming it are we?”

I respond, “I don’t think of it that way. I’m just working with what I’ve got.”

The fact is I have some of the best times at the T-Shoppe. It’s always filled with of the an incredible array of the most down-to-earth people you will ever meet. I met a lovely young woman from Alaska. I nice man from Central Mexico. I also witnessed an amazing dance performance by a young woman who was at the bar with her dad. I wound up closing down the bar which isn’t such a big deal given that they usually close by midnight even though last call  in Minneapolis is two AM.

I returned home and continued drinking. Still needing human interaction I wound up making a number of drunken phone calls. I talked to a guy who is working on a computer program that will revolutionize the way we deal with programs that all of a sudden stop working. I also talked to a dear friend of mine who has been going through some pretty rough shit but for some reason hasn’t called me. I do worry sometimes that I might get overwhelmed with people asking me for help but currently that is not my problem.

I woke up Monday with two people asking me for help. I spent the evening baby-sitting my almost four year-old friend and then drove to Northfield, MN to be with my friend who was going through some pretty rough shit. I spent the night there and drove back to Minneapolis on Tuesday for my therapy appointment.

After that I decided that I would go home and do nothing. I would have been successful at the doing nothing part but I wound up watching this documentary on Netflix called “Absent“. It’s about the modern reality of a fatherless society. It really kind of messed me up. I highly recommend watching it.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Time to go to bed. Tomorrow is going to be another big day. I get to see my daughter again!

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.

Everybody loves bacon

I’m in Superior, WI after playing a show last night with Venus de Mars and All The Pretty Horses at R. T. Quinlan’s in Duluth, MN, Venus’ home town. We spent the night at her sisters house. I thought I would take a minute to try and write something while the homeowners are off checking out an estate sale and my band mates are still sleeping.

While Duluth is only a few hours from Minneapolis and even though it’s just one overnight gig, it still feels great to be on the road with the band. There is something very liberating about getting out of your element. There is also something exciting about being the foreign element injected into another community. It doesn’t much matter where we go, when the band shows up, it’s pretty obvious that we are not from around here.

RTQuinlans-by-PaulWhite

As soon as we arrived at the club we were greated by a friendly and rather drunk couple who had no problem expressing their interest and fascination with Venus.

And then comes the question, “Are you a boy or a girl?”

To which Venus replies, “I’m transgender. I’m both.”

For some reason this doesn’t seem to satisfy a lot of people. We talked with them again after we got all our gear loaded in and set up. The guy actually seemed to be quite into the whole idea but Melissa was still confused. I told her that Venus was born male but always felt female so she has been taking hormones to be her true self.

Melissa seemed to find peace in that explanation as she exclaimed, “Oh, so you’re a girl!” In Venus I sensed both reluctance and relief as she accepted this label.

We don’t all fit into the neat little boxes we are given or even the ones we have adopted for ourselves. That’s one of the reasons I love Halloween. It gives people a chance to tryout being someone else or to express their true self. I guess that’s why I decided to order bacon at the diner after the show. I just wanted to do something different.

As I said to the guy in the hunting jacket outside Perkin’s, “The one thing we all have in common is that we are all different.”

“I can’t argue with that”, he replied.

By the way, I still don’t get the big deal about bacon.

Choices

I don’t know why I decided to try writing right now. I don’t know if I have enough time but I probably do. I probably have just enough. I have two hours before leaving for Duluth but I still need to shower and get packed. I’m taking some comfort in the fact that Venus is almost always late but no matter what I’m going to be scrambling up to the last minute. Whatever I decide to do, something is going to be left by the wayside. Is this really the most important thing to do with my time?

Last night was Halloween and what was suppose to be my last pedicab shift for the season but I had a personal request from a customer to drive them after the Vikings game next Thursday so I agreed to come in one more time. It’s not so much that I have a hard time saying “no”, it’s more that I have a propensity to say “yes”. It’s how just about everything in my life has come into being, but it’s also how I wind up feeling overwhelmed.

Even working last night seemed barely worth it. It was cold and rainy and I worked my ass off. I hardly slept last night in anticipation of today but it was probably worth it if only because the alternative would have been worse. Halloween is my favorite holiday and for many years I spent it partying my ass off. I believe working my ass off is better even as I’m struck with nostalgia. Halloween last year was the best! I also remember playing a Halloween show at the old Uptown Bar… but I digress.

I’m trying to decide if I should bring my laptop to Duluth. I don’t need it. Chances are I won’t even have time to get online or write but what if something amazing happens and I really want to capture the moment? NO, I’ve never heard of pen and paper. Anyway, I probably will, just in case.

Time to hop in the shower and wash off the rest of last night’s makeup…

Not looking back

So now that my daughter is safely returned to her mother’s apartment it is time for me to look back on the past week and a half as a full time parent and reflect on what this experience has meant to me.

… Ah, fuck that! I’m moving on and looking forward. Yes, I love my daughter and it was absolutely wonderful having her here. The time actually went by really quick and I’m going to miss having her here but at the same time there is a lot going on in my life that I’m eager to getting back to.

I will say that yesterday was a nearly perfect day. The day started with my daughter and I biking to the bus stop. We placed our bikes on the rack in the front of the bus and rode downtown. From there we biked to MCTC where her summer camp is. I dropped her off and headed to Moose & Sadie’s for breakfast and to do some writing. I hadn’t been on my bike in a week and it felt so good to be riding again.

I was also meeting Venus at the cafe for one of our band strategy meetings. Venus hasn’t been feeling the most productive lately since so much energy has gone into all this tax audit bullshit and I completely understand that. Still, I think when she looks back on this year she will see it as I do; a year of great transition and re-birth. I told her that I think she is doing all the right stuff and to just keep at it. Most of what she is doing is focused on herself and her art and less on the band. Venus is really coming into her own and receiving recognition as Venus de Mars, artist not just “Venus of All The Pretty Horses”.

I also told Venus that I would be working more on my own music and my own artistic career. This does not mean that the band is breaking up or going on hiatus or anything of the sort. It simply means that time spent doing band stuff will be carved out of what we are doing with the rest of our lives rather than putting the rest of our lives on hold so that we can be available for band stuff. This isn’t really a change, it’s just an acknowledgment of current reality.

After that I got to have a drink with a friend who I haven’t seen in awhile. She’s one of my favorite crazy/beautiful people who has been going through some shit because she doesn’t fit in with this world and can’t understand why that is wrong. Neither can I.

After that I picked my daughter up from camp and we biked home along the Grand Rounds trail. It’s a fantastic and beautiful ride and so wonderful to get to share it with my daughter.

If that had been my day, it would have been perfect. But I still had to drive to Blaine so that my daughter could take care of her cats. That did me in. I fucking hate driving! By the time we got back I had just enough steam in me to stumble through cooking diner before I crashed.

I’m not letting that happen to me tonight. Yes, I spent all day delivering CityPages but now I’m getting on my bike and heading to the bar. Time to get back to my “normal” life.

Don’t worry, I’m a professional

“Wow, that show was amazing!”

“Thanks, that’s what we do. I’m glad you enjoyed it”

Venus de Mars & All The Pretty Horses at the Triple Rock

Venus de Mars & All The Pretty Horses at the Triple Rock

At issue has been whether Venus de Mars is a professional artist or a hobbyist. For anyone who was at our “Audit Hell” benefit show Saturday night at the Triple Rock Social Club there should be no doubt that we put on a professional show. For the Minnesota Department of Revenue the only issue is whether we make money. Well, we made enough money at the benefit show to continue the legal battle so I guess we’ll see whether the court can determine what it means to be a professional. Another memorable quote from the evening:

“Don’t fuck with an artist, they’ll just turn it into art.”

The irony is that this experience may turn out to be a tremendous career builder. It is certainly turning out to be a great community builder. The Triple Rock really went out of their way to make the benefit a huge success. At least 100 artists, writers and musicians have come together to do their part in support of this issue. The local press has also done it’s part in getting the word out. We had write-ups in MN Post, Vita.mn, Star Tribune, L’Etoile as well as a wonderful piece on Minnesota Public Radio. Musicians have also come together to produce at tribute album is support of the cause.

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