(a bit backed up here, prepare for the onslaught...)
2-19-06, 2:53 PM -
Highway 1187 doesn't get you anywhere in a hurry. The only thing that makes it a highway is having a number instead of a name, and a posted 60 mile-per-hour speed limit, though it seldom straightens out enough to keep up such a breakneck pace. Really, it's a back road, winding haphazardly through brown, dry fields fronted by wagon-wheeled gates and the occasional giant plastic cow. No, really.
Welcome to Crowley, Texas. Population: 7,467, though you wouldn't know it by driving down Main Street, the modest heart of this formerly podunk town turned exploding Fort Worth suburb. Like most modern suburbs, Crowley doesn't have a true center anymore. Most of its activity revolves around several major intersections with a grocery store, gas station, and strip mall for each of their four corners.
But I like going down Main Street. Stalwart local restaurants share parking lots with pawn shops and a few Texas chains like the estimable Chicken Express, where the drive-thru sign lets you know that their speaker works, but they'd prefer to come out and take your order in person. This they do, employing the usual assortment of small-town teenage help. The girl in braces with the overpronounced consonants. The budding careless-haired art guy, already hard at work on a plan to leave town the day after graduation. The heavyset, businesslike kid who may very well manage the place one day. The local cute girl who's just enough on the wrong side of model quality to keep her there, though don't tell her that.
However, Texas is changing, and the rapid-fire Spanish banter emanating from behind the counter at FasTaco testifies to the state's new majority population. The signs on check-cashing stores and gas stations give nearly equal weight to Espanol descriptions of their services as English ones. Passing cars with tinted glass are as likely to bass you out with reggaeton as whitey-targeted hip-hop.
It's been nearly one month since we landed back in Texas, and as you might expect, it's been pretty hectic. Not only is there a three-month-old baby to take care of, but also resumes for Wifely to send, recording clients for me to hustle up, and temp work to snag for filling in the gaps. It's a good thing we're trying to do everything at once, or we'd have time to sit around and think of how many ways it could all go wrong.
Today is largely a wash, the consequence of a very rare 28-degree day coupled with freezing rain, rendering cars useless, if not outright life-threatening. At least a quarter-inch of ice blankets the street right outside my window, and with the nearest train miles away in downtown Fort Worth, I ain't going anywhere today.
Earlier, Nathan and I watched a bit of the Noggin network, a very welcome development in the kids' TV oeuvre. Interestingly, we both have the same favorite programs. Blue's Clues is his main joint. That dog and his gay owner are a hoot. Plus, the salt and his wife, the pepper, have outrrrrageous French accents. How they gave birth to paprika and cinnamon is still not clear. Today, the cinnamon had a dirty diaper. The question of whether its poop was edible was not addressed, but was not a significant enough omission to keep Nathan from cackling throughout.
Next up is Oobi. This is one that I was convinced I would never like. A bunch of hands with eyeballs glued on has the potential to be kinda creepy, not to mention bloody awful. However, the odd little language and characters they've come up with are rather engaging. I particularly like Granpoo, whose age is signified by the hand puppeteer curling his fingers to approximate toothlessness. He's kind of a mischievious Granpoo, always having the kids do things like make art out of cheese and flowers.
In addition to these new shows, Noggin airs collections of old Sesame Street segments, a Petesend for me. Introducing Nathan to the joys of Grover's "near and far" illustration not only pleases him, but also allows me to roll on the floor laughing with glee. I recently learned that Bert & Ernie were given dual American and German citizenship, at the behest of a rabid Sesame Strasse fan base. And why not? They have pigeons and bottlecaps over there, too. By the by, I heard an interview with the CEO of Sesame Workshop, wherein Bert & Ernie's sexual orientation was questioned for the umpteenth time. His answer? "They are not gay. They are not straight. They are PUPPETS." Well played.
It would be easy to go on in this vein, observing child development and providing local color, but unfortunately, that's not the thing that prompts me to write today. Last night, I spent an incredibly enjoyable evening with three friends, who also happen to be three of the most talented musicians I've ever met. And immediately afterwards, I got depressed. Why would such a thing depress me? Because none of us have been able to make a living doing what we love.
It's one of those gripes that tends to come from a middle-classnik, the conviction that people should be able to do what they love, and if their position in society has played some role in preventing that, then some great crime has been perpetrated by some unknown force that may or may not exist in the universe, but is nonetheless evil and really cheeses me off to boot.
Look, I know people whose vision of what they want to do bears absolutely no resemblance to what their circumstances will allow. And I know the bootstrap theory, that anyone can accomplish anything they put their minds to. But I've also seen people work like dogs to achieve their dreams, and it came to naught. That's the tale no one makes a Hallmark Hall of Fame flick about, nor an E! True Hollywood Story.
But really, here's what's going on. The truth of it, unseemly and embarrassing as it may be. For the past 6 years, I've been waging a war against depression. I didn't really want to call it that, clashing as it does with my lifelong credo of "put away the hanky, Ethel, there's work to do." Up until around 2000, I carried self-righteous work ethic like a billyclub, ready to wallop the nuts of anyone who dared plead that they had tried and tried, but had still not succeeded in creating a happy life for themselves. Obviously, I thought, you didn't try hard enough. And getting depressed about it was your fault, bunch of useless maundering that it was.
Well, guess what? Turns out depression is like the guy you made friends with because you felt sorry for him. He always shows up when your'e trying to make friends with people you actually want to hang out with. And no, it doesn't help that I've occasionally been that guy.
What I'm saying is that I'm tired of not admitting that I'm fighting depression, and that it's affecting everything I do. Well, that and not having rich parents. Though to be fair, one of those musical friends I mentioned earlier does have rich parents, and he isn't any closer to the dream than I am. Seems depression knows no economic boundaries.
But here's the good news: Like alcoholism, the first step is admitting you have a problem. The rest...well, I don't know. But I'm working on it.
One thing that helps is playing with Nathan. He's a very gleeful, giggly, smile-prone child. He's also recently decided that he needs to get mobile as quickly as possible. When he's awake and flat on the floor, he is almost constantly performing the following maneuver: Eat hands, raise legs, and flip over onto his face. I don't know why those first two steps are necessary to achieve prone position, but far be it for me to criticize the ways of the little Buddha.
Getting past this stage may take a while, since he still doesn't have enough arm strength to keep his face off the ground once he flips over. I keep thinking maybe he needs some little baby barbells to get pumped up, but I haven't found anyone who sells them. His legs are plenty strong, though. I used to be okay with him lying on the end of the bed and kicking my thighs as I stood making funny faces at him, but recently a few strong shots to the pills have convinced me to put up some padding between us for Kick Daddy Time.
Yes, I know I'm giving you kind of a triple threat here--tales of rural main drags, depression, and baby antics--but that's kind of my life right now. I squeeze in bits of studio time when I can, and the new album is still cooking. Got a few musical surprises as well, which I'll try to get out soon. Once studio business is a bit more regular, work will proceed apace.
2-28-06, 5:43 PM -
I saw a cow accident today. Danged if I ain't back in Texas.
Actually, it was a truck with a trailer full of cows, and all I saw was the aftermath, wherein a new trailer was brought in to house the cows, whose old trailer was busted up beyond use. No idea what the cows thought of it. The world must seem very strange to them.
3-18-06, 3:34 PM -
Overheard in Fort Worth...
Middle Aged Woman (watching CNN in the breakroom): "See that? 40 degrees in New York and 75 in Texas? Something's not right there. All these earthquakes have knocked the Earth off its axis."
Metal Drummer Guy: "Dude, I am SO sorry I pissed you off last week."
Guitarist Guy: "What?"
MDG: "Man, I drank a whole bottle of Jack and I didn't know what the fuck was going on. You were so pissed!"
GG: "I was pissed because I broke a string, not because you were drunk. I was drunk, too."
GG: "Yeah. Blackhawk was the only one who was pissed."
MDG: "Dude, who the fuck is Blackhawk?"
GG: "You know, that long-haired Indian guy."
MDG: "What? Fuck that guy!!"
3:40 PM -
Rain, rain, bugger off. Coming down like a sumbitch today. Earlier I found myself sleepily sitting on the recliner with a sleeping baby on my lap, so I flipped on the TV. Scanning the channels, I came across Laura Prepon making out with another girl. Somehow the TV stayed on that channel until Wifely got home.
Been a few more studio calls since my last entry, so my spirits are looking up. The fact that the child credit on our IRS return was more than double what we'd expected doesn't hurt either. That Nathan, he pays off sometimes.
Doing better with the depression thing, and I have actually linked a good portion of it to paternal post-partum depression. That stuff is real, and affects many new fathers, it would seem. Stupid nature. Intelligent Design, my asscrack.
Canvassing venues for studio business has brought me back into contact with quite a few of my old FW friends and acquaintances. In one single night at the Wreck Room, I saw Reggie (violinist on my first album, and likely on my second), Ken (former FW Weekly writer and friend of my old Civilians guitarist Ron Geida), and Mike P. It would be hard to describe what Mike P is, because he's been so many things. The thing he is most often these days is a drummer/percussionist for a variety of local artists, including Sleeplab and Hank Hankshaw. He was my roommate for a brief but seminal period in 1994-95, and prior to that was in my theatre class in college, where together with my friend Shithead, we perpetrated derivative comedy sketches and hillbilly dramas upon the unsuspecting citizens of Weatherford. Damned good to know he's still alive.
What is also still alive is my live performance schedule. Yes, I had taken an awfully long break from shows since my last one at Southpaw in August. But now I've come back with a vengeance, bringing the hometown folks not one, but TWO shows in the coming weeks.
The first is on Thursday, March 30th, 8PM, at Fort Worth's best-kept musical secret, MacHenry's on Highway 80/Camp Bowie between Cherry Lane and Highway 183. I'll be doing that show with a new trio, featuring the inimitable Shithead on bass and the unsilenceable Gustavson on drums. They do some killer backing vocals as well, so you would be well-advised to come on and feel the noize. And don't worry about being late, I'm cranking it till nearly midnight. Details here.
The second show is a solo acoustic performance on Saturday, April 8th, 9PM, at the superb Panther City Coffee Company on Berry Street just east of University. I'll be opening for the estimable Darrin Kobetich, purveyor of acoustic heavy metal eastern bluegrass. Curious? You should be. I'm working on a few musical surprises for this show as well, so come out and get your caffiene on, matthew show style. More info here.
4:18 PM -
The birds in the shrub outside my window tell me that the rain has let up for the moment. Nathan sleeps soundly in his tiny crib next to that window, reminding me to go on a shopping expedition this week to find him a bigger bed. The kid is just huge, right off the charts. I made the mistake of watching a BBC documentary on Archie, the 84-pound baby the other day. Kid's got an overgrowth condition that may kill him one day. He was apparently 40 pounds at 6 months old, which is big. Nathan's already 22 pounds at 4 months, which is also big. As I watched the show a bit more, though, Archie was having a bunch of other problems all along that Nathan hasn't had at all, so I should probably stop freaking out. I've never been a hypochondriac when it comes to my own health, but it's hard not to be when studying this little bundle of biological mystery all day. If he gets to where he can bench press me at age 2, I'll start worrying.
An interesting thing happened this morning: A building imploded in downtown Fort Worth. Right before I left for NYC in 2002, there was talk of imploding the tornado-ravaged Bank One tower, which was immediately across the street from where my temp job was at the time. Regardless of how it might have complicated my commute, I desperately wanted them to blow the sucker up. Or down, rather. But no, it became Tower One, the centerpiece of the downtown renaissance.
Not so the Landmark Tower, a 30-story building not far from Tower One. It had been an abandoned eyesore for about as long, and today they gave it the boot. I kinda wish I had gotten up early enough to see the implosion in person at 8AM, but I generally don't deign to leave the house at such hours unless there's a paycheck involved.
I did leave the house, indeed the town, for a brief visit to SXSW in Austin on Thursday. My former drummer Kimberly is now in a band called Eugene who was in town for a showcase, and I must say that all folks in the NYC area should keep an eye out for them. They was rokken like Dokken, as the old folks say.
The onslaught of hyper-hip SXSW patrons roaming 6th Street is not to be underestimated. I mean, there really are that many people who think they are the shit. It was even impressive to someone who spent 4 years of tortured evenings in Village haunts among the terminally fashionable. And Deep Ellum...please. Austin will forever have your number in the tragic haircut arena. Give it up, you've been out-disdained.
Probably time to wrap this thing up. Thanks for your indulgence, and do let me know if you discover the path to universal happiness. And no, not the kind you wrap up and smoke. If there's one thing the world doesn't need, it's more stoned musicians. Though it might help me make it through Teletubbies.