Friday, May 26, 2006

it's raining in baltimore...

It's 2AM and I'm sitting in the lobby of the Radisson Hotel in Baltimore. I'm not a guest but the internet as free and they don't know I'm not paying customer. The bar is close by and I'm listening a small group of middle-aged men discussing stocks and speculative politics. I'm grateful my worth isn't tied up in speculation.

I've spent the last two hours hanging around the bus with our driver Phil, watching him try and fix our generator which conveniently quit woring. The generator gives us lights, air, and all the rest that makes it possible for us to sleep when the engine's off and once the generator went, the batteries drained too. We asked the hotel we're using for showers (not the Radisson) if they had an official car or something that could give us a jump. The valet eagerly runs to lend a hand and returns with one of the guest's SUV's. This is why I don't valet. Phil then proceeds to tell us stories from the road. Take for instance the time he dumped the bus's water tank (septic tank) in front of a night club that had a line dozens deep standing in front. Or the ways he tries to circumvent the various laws that make his job irritating.

The tour has been good so far. The bus is a vast improvement over the last one which we so affectionately called Nanner Puddin. This one's a little more state of the art and the suspension works which means I don't hit my head on the top of my bunk every time the bus hits a pothole. The curtain on my bunk actually closes which is a nice improvement as well. The rest of the routine is pretty standard; sleep late (but not that late really), eat, do nothing, play, do nothing, sleep. The free time is nice but there sure is a lot of it.

The shows have been better than the last run as well with the crowds consistantly growing. The first show was a glorified coffee shop in the DC area and then the last two nights have been clubs in New York and Philadelphia respectively.

New York was a great afternoon, being my first trip into the city in ten years. We road the subway with this crazy lady who yelled at the whole car and then individually yelled at each person. Next, an immigrant woman harassed me in the East Village. She was the text-book elderly immigrant stereotype, shawl around the shoulders, scarf over the head, poor posture, no teeth. Sort of a Mother Theresa who never went to catholic school. She informs me that the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz is Turkish, which he probably isn't, and tells me that I'm Irish, which I'm not. She then asks me if I speak German, in German, and slaps me on the shoulder, laughs, and walks away! What in the world! She, no exaggeration, spoke three different languages in our exchange; it was hilarious. After eating a hotdog wrapped in bacon, we sprinted uptown, played a good show which was attended by a former Styx bassist who is also our bassist's father, and went on our way. New York is an interesting place in that it is completely impossible to grasp the scope of the city when you are inside of it. It reminded me of being in the Grand Canyon, the way that from the bottom you would never know just how large it really is. The buildings tower to the effect of disorientation, yet nothing seems quite as big as you think it is - ie, the Empire State Building.

Today has been a day off in Baltimore and as much as I hate to say it, Baltimore kind of sucks. It's dirty, the people are rude (Tiffany and baby got cornered by a man today and were rescued by an observant cop), and there's nothing much to do despite the fact we're in the middle of downtown. I did go to the aquarium today which was certainly fun. I'm kind of a sucker of attractions of the scientific kind, especially aquariums, and didn't hesitate to blow a full day's per-diem on a ticket. The only problem is that is spent another day's worth and more on dinner and erronious purchases like ice-cream. But a city is no place to spend a free day in if they tell you not to go anywhere alone and Baltimore is such a place.

Well, it's 2:30 now and my eyelids are slowly gaining dominion over my brain. I was hoping to get up in the morning for some Dunkin' Doughnuts while I'm up north and should get some rest if that's the case; I don't know why they all had to disappear down south. I hope everyone is well. Drop me a line if you get bored. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

here we go...

I'm sitting backstage at the illustrious Jammin' Java in Vienna, Virginia, getting ready to play to the first show of this next part of the tour. At the present, we trying to talk Tiffany's assistant into letting us play pranks on her fiance. And like a good fiance, she is reluctant, though you can't blame a guy for getting paranoid when his fiance is on the road with so many good looking guys like ourselves. I'm kidding. But anyway...

It's good to be traveling again. Will I do this for the rest of my life? No, but it's a great at this point in it all. I did have a great time being home though as the separation has a way of making you miss people. I have terrific friends and am grateful to be making new friends at this stage in it all.

I guess that's it for the moment, I just wanted to check in. Cheers!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

say "ahhh"

They say that every man has a limit, that no matter how tough, or in my case, stubborn, you must eventually give in. Two weeks down the road, I finally decided to do something about my cough and made my way to the Edmundson Pike Walk-in clinic this morning. Apparently doctors read a book in med-school that must be titled something like, "101 Uses for Beige". This doctor was a kind Asian man who only made me wait as long as my paper-work required. He tested me for strep and all the pleasantries, got a few "Oh, that's not terrible" comments when checking various cavities in my head, and all and all, a good report. There's been a virus going around and he said I needed an antibiotic to clear up the after affects.

I then went to the nearest Walgreens to fill my prescription and was informed that my insurance company had no record of me as a customer. I find this interesting, considering the quite active card I carry in my wallet and the bill that my parents so generously help me with every month. And speaking of my parents, I'm glad they are enjoying their continued vacation and are ignoring my phone calls. I can understand wanted to get away but avoiding your sick children!!!! Just kidding, Dad (and Mom, but I don't think you read this).

I'm dog sitting at the moment as well. Her name is Scout, named for her mother's love of Harper Lee, and she is something of a joy. She has mad frisbee skills.

Last night I watched the much debated and hyped "The Da Vinci Code". First of all, I liked the book because it was entertaining and very well researched, though I don't think Dan Brown is going to be winning the Penn-Faulkner any time soon. It was also hard to read at times, given some of the claims the book makes. The movie brought back that discomfort but failed to share the same excitement and was, quite frankly, boring.

Both the movie and the book did, however, make me realize how rarely my faith is called into question. Even though I know the story is based in fiction and unfounded research, I also realize that there are a lot of things in Christianity that require faith. Take the resurrection, for instance. I guess it's just the nature of Christianity in America. The Bible says we should meet persecution with joy but that is not something I've been able to experience. I envy the perseverance of believers in places like China or the Sudan. I would like to say that I could be faithful until my death but in all of my comfort, I have no idea.

I'm going to run now. Tonight we break in the grill and I best get some things done before we do. A good weekend to all. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

and the boredom sets in...

I'm mercilessly bored. It's not that I don't enjoy being home, but I feel like I've kind of just hit a wall of things I can do right now. I've been up since 6 this morning, which was certainly a surprise considering I didn't go to bed until 1:30 and had nothing to get up for today. Why did I get up a six, might you ask? I've been coughing enough to dispatch the health department (I've heard rumors of bubonic plague) and quite frankly, it's just not worth trying to sleep anymore. It's a cough to no means and I think that's the most irritating part. If I was at least removing mucus or pieces of my lung, I would feel like I was accomplishing something. I'd even settle for some blood, though I fear the medical ramifications of that one.

Presently, I am waiting on Ralph, our landlady's handyman of choice, to pay us a visit. Ralph is an odd bird, still sporting the Dale Earndhart mustache and shorts that just don't quite make it to the lower third of his thighs. Ralph is coming to fix the shower in the master bath which means two things. The water to the house will be turned off all day, which is fine because I've showered and topped off the Brita. Second, he has to rip a wall out of my bathroom to work on the other one. Fantastic. All my housemates are working this morning so I have to stay here all day until he finishes. Add to the boredom.

I finished the book I've been working, 1984. I loved it and am a bit disappointed it's over. This presents the new problem. I compulsively collect books and rarely read any of them; 1984 took a year between purchase and commencement. Now I must convince myself that I have a book I want to read rather than buying a new one. I must then choose one between the quarry's worth of books stacked around my room. Fiction? Non? Spiritual thought? So many choices and so much time.

And good Lord, I have never seen so many squirrels in my life! They're all over my yard and I think they're in heat! Can you tell that I'm bored yet?

OK, now I feel ungrateful. Just the other day I blogged about how nice it was to be home and to relax, blah, blah, blah. I meant that, but I guess I'm presently confused as to why I'm having such a hard time sitting still. Part of it could be that I have a lot I want to do this week, plans if you will, and I haven't been able to schedule anything because the Plumb folk have been saying we're going to have some rehearsals. My playing responsibilities are about to increase a good bit (more on this to come) but no schedule has been given, meaning I've just been sort of waiting around in a limbo. It's really not that bad, I don't want anyone to think I'm complaining.

On another note, why do I do this? The blog, that is. Is it so I can avoid telling people in person what's going on in my life? I hope not. Is it for the simple validation of knowing people are keeping up with me (who are you people anyway?)? Maybe. Is it so I wont feel like such a faker when I tell people I like to write? Probably. But even still, it's not like I'm really putting any kind of creative expression into this. No matter the reason, it's fun and I like it. So please keep reading or at least let me think you are. I appreciate you. Cheers!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

get behind the mule...

Ugh, this congestion is driving me crazy. I woke up beginning of this week to a cold and while I certainly feel better, I've got this nagging cough that is simply irritating. It's one of those deals where no matter how much you cough, that itch that's causing it never really goes way. While I've always pretty resistant to the seasonal bugs, my lungs are pushovers. I picked up this respiratory infection a few years ago while sleeping in a Haitian church and while the infection lasted about 3 months, I still feel it from time to time, making the average cold stick around a little longer than it should. I'm not complaining; I guess I'm just bored and thought you might want to know. Fun times...anyway...

The first leg of the tour came to a close on Tuesday. All is well, so far, as I'm adjusting well to the travel and am happy to be playing. I'm in town for a bit before we go out again and I'm finding the lack of responsibility refreshing. Take today, for instance. I spent the first several hours of it writing, did some laundry, practiced a bit and then had dinner with friends. I don't write much these days and I find it refreshing; it's not much but an idea I'm enjoying working through. I started this blog with the hopes of posting some of the shorter pieces I write but I've yet to do it so maybe I'll put this one up before long. Other than that, my only responsibility is a much needed haircut next week, leaving me with a lot of time to kill. My parents are currently enjoying an ocean-front penthouse in Destin that belongs to some of their friends; perhaps I can carve out a few days and join them.

I bought a Tom Waits record tonight, "Mule Variations." It's good stuff, maybe check it out. Enjoy the weekend. Cheers!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

sunfest part 2

I love Fiona Apple. There, I said it. I got to see her last night and she is every bit as good and psychotic in person as I had hoped she would be. And Ashley Simpson really does suck, in case their was any doubt on anyone's behalf. Sunfest wrapped up nicely with an exponentially larger crowd than we've seen at this point. Tonight is St. Petersberg, tomorrow Orlando and then home for what I found out is actually two weeks instead of one, which is pleasant news. I'm surprisingly tired at this point so I best get some excercise during the next few weeks. See you all soon.

Friday, May 05, 2006

sunfest part 1

Life is full of nice surprises. I'm wandering around our venue for the weekend, Sunfest, a water-front festival in West Palm Beach, Florida, just trying to pass time and realize some of my favorite artists are playing the event. Justin (keys) and Beau (bass) and I went down to the river tonight to see Bruce Hornsby play. What an amazing musician! He was a joy to watch but I only stuck around for a few songs because Duncan Sheik was playing down the way. If you've read this blog for a few months, I posted about Duncan's new record "White Limosene". He's a master songwriter with a really unique style but the real treat was that his guitarist was a guy named Gerry Leonard. For those of you who don't know, Gerry Leonard is pretty much my favorite guitarist and has probably had the biggest influence on my electric guitar playing over any other player. It was inspiring to watch him play and I am grateful to have seen him. Check his playing out on Duncan's last four records, David Bowie's "Heathen" and "Reality", and Jonatha Brooke's "Live" and "Ten Cent Wings". He's amazing.

Florida is an interesting place. No one who lives here is actually from here and everyone who lives here kind of looks the same. There's this sort of south Florida image that follows everyone around, this appearance of wealth and prosperity, and it's really unappealing. My experience with people thus far has been unappealing as well. We were getting some dinner tonight and a group of guys were ragging on Justin, who wears eye-liner. I realize he's a guy and he's wearing make-up but it really ticks me off to see people getting criticized in public for whatever reason. Next, a mere child asked me if I had any pot. We asked how old he was and he said 15, which was certainly a lie. The kid then gets testy when I inform him I'm fresh out. My friends and I weren't like that in our teens, were we?

We go to see a movie. The theater is slammed and the staff is scrambling as their computer system is down. The line moves slowly and when I finally get around the corner, I see one employee standing at the window arguing with the guy at the box office window about Mission Impossible, completely disregarding the 80 or so people in line to buy tickets. We buy our tickets and get into the movie 15 minutes late and find a group of teens talking louder than anyone I have ever heard in a theater, no exaggeration. The movie sucks anyway and the company is just grating on us when this guy asks, "would you please stop talking and maybe whispering?" One of the kids responds, and I quote (and apoligize for doing so but I want you to get the effect), "You can whisper my nuts in your mouth." Can you believe that?!? When the movie's over and the lights go up, it turns out the group of kids contains the kid who asked me for weed. It was honestly the worst experience at the movies I've ever had.

As we stood outside the theater, Tiffany and I got into this conversation about a near by bar. We talked about the loneliness of the bar scene, how the entire late night drinking game was centered around sex and false first impressions. We talked about how so many of the teens and 20 something girls near by wore too much make-up, about how so many people wont accept who they are. I like girls who don't wear make-up and don't feel like they have to validate themselves to others simply through their appearance. I'm not saying that wearing make-up or fixing your hair and all that is bad, but I think there's a lesson to be learned. Tiffany, who only wears it when she performs, put it well. She basically said, in short, that you shouldn't have to do anything to validate yourself to anyone, which is by no means an original thought, but truth never the less. To her, it's not spending all kinds of time on her appearance. Again, I'm not saying that girls shouldn't dress up. In fact, it's flattering when you take someone out and they've dressed up because it tells me they care. But at the same time, I would be devasted if she couldn't feel comfortable not dressing up. It's not an issue of cosmetics but rather accepting who you are. I've struggled with this plenty in my life and I hate to see it elsewhere and there is PLENTY of it here in South Florida.

Sorry, that was a rather long and unexpected tangent. I hope everyone has a good weekend. Cheers!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

on the road...

The first show went off with only one hitch, or a glitch really. For anyone familiar with Plumb’s music, you know that there’s a good degree of programming involved. During the tune “Sleep”, the computer somehow skipped, putting the band and the sequence in different places. Aside from that, the show was a success. Not bad for the first go.

We’re driving in this giant yellow bus we have affectionately dubbed, “Nanner Puddin”. It used to belong to Alan Jackson and has been appointed with leopard upholstery and enough paintings of lions on the walls to do Graceland’s Jungle Room proud. Why Alan, why? Sleeping on the bus is interesting too as the bunk is something of a cocoon. The ceiling is too low to even sit up and I have to climb over two others to get to it; that’s what I get for being the new guy.

I truly feel humbled right now to be earning a living doing something I love so much. The company is good, the money is good, and the music is good, which is everything you can ask for from a gig. I also love to travel and while I’ve only been gone a few days, I love this whole tour thing. You sleep on the bus, wake up in the next city, have the morning and afternoon to do whatever you want and then you play a show at night. The only awkward thing is the limited access to showers. Our bus driver gets a hotel in every city so he can sleep during the day but we can’t afford hotel rooms otherwise. This means that once the bus is packed after the show, we head down to the driver’s room and all nine of us take turns using the shower. I’ve always enjoyed using wet towels.

There’s something very exciting about stepping into a band, having had nothing but the CD’s as a reference and everything sounding exactly like the CD. I can't tell you how many times I've played shows or recitals with people and it just didn't sound like it was supposed to. Tiffany’s voice is the same live as on the record and the guys are all great musicians. It’s also humbling and a lot of fun to be playing along side someone you’ve listened to and known for many years.

I am grateful that I have been provided the opportunities in my life. I play the guitar because I feel God’s pleasure when I do. I’ve finally come into a place where I no longer stand on a stage marked with insecurity and fear. Last night I felt no anxiety or insecurities, which is a growing trend in my life. I’ve always, ever since I was ten, been nervous to play in front of anyone, in my home, at school, at church even. I used to practice for hours and hours because I wanted to reconcile myself to my peers through the guitar and earn their approval. Come college, I just got burned out and only played as much as I absolutely had to but now I have been shown freedom from such a selfish pursuit and I am loving my instrument more than I have in years. Beyond that, though, I am experiencing God in this freedom more than ever and I rejoice over the fact that I am no longer just longing for the day in which I find my way into God’s purpose but am, rather, living in it. I feel joy.
I’m in Gainesville today and spend the rest of the week in south Florida. I’ll be home in Nashville by around 10 AM on Tuesday and in town for a week before the second leg of the tour. Today is my friend Lele’s birthday so everyone drop her a line and wish her well. Cheers!