1.31.2016

On a Boat

OK, so cruise ships are pretty cool.

Deborah and I are en route to Key West aboard  Royal Caribbean's "Vision of the Sea." We took a shuttle from the Airport Ramada Inn down to the port about noon today. The shuttle driver was a crotchety older gent who sounded just like Morgan Freeman when he spoke, same accent and everything.

Boarding the ship was very smooth and didn't take especially long. Security was much easier than at the airport (shoes off? nope...) and the security staff were super friendly and helpful. In full disclosure, due to Deborah's gimpy foot, we were directed to the fast lane and bypassed most of the throngs in line.

Some nice ladies snapped our photos and gave us all purpose "sea passes," plastic cards that serve as our stateroom keys, credit cards if we buy anything, and ID for reboarding the ship when we get off at various ports of call. Then we walked the gang plank and entered the massive floating city.

We found our stateroom and then hit the free all-you-can-eat buffet called the Windjammer for lunch. What a spread: salad bar, all manner of entres, cheeses, soups, desserts. I am probably...no...certainly going to gain weight on this trip. It is fortuitous that after lunch we found the fitness room.

"We should work off that food tomorrow," I said.

"I plan to," Deborah replied.

On the deck beneath the fitness room was a health spa where a bunch of people tried to upsell us on some sketchy health procedures "clinically proven" to trim belly fat, erase wrinkles, cure assorted incurable illnesses, and even whiten teeth. We mostly had none of it, but Deborah was intrigued by some orthopedic shoe inserts that are supposed to reduce pressure on parts of the foot by distributing weight across more area, since she has that foot thing. The fitness trainer gave her a pair to try out for a day, for free. So that was cool. If I had to wager, I'd put money on her probably buying the damn things tomorrow.

At around 3 PM, all passengers had to muster at muster stations next to the life boats for the safety presentation.

Mostly the other people on the boat aren't dicks. But there were a few difficult people at the safety drill. You know the type...rolling their eyes, looking at their phones, drinking beer, and generally not even trying to make things go smoothly. They will be the fish fodder when we ram the freak ice berg that global climate change sends to the Gulf of Mexico, or the first ones cannibalized when the rations run out on the life boats.

There's hand sanitizer everywhere on the boat to prevent the transmission and spread of noroviruses, gastrointestinal pathogens that are a persnickety problem on cruise ships, due to jamming four thousand dirty humans together in close quarters. I use it whenever I see it and especially before and after eating in the Windjammer dining hall.

We mostly dicked around after the emergency drill, exploring. The ship is so massive that I didn't realize we had left port and were churning out to sea for quite a while after that did in fact happen. It's a bit disorienting. Every so often the boat rocks from side to side but mostly, if you are not looking outside the boat, movement is undiscernable.

We saw a show in the ship's theater later in the evening, a decent albeit cliche comedian. The house band also performed and they were pretty tight. I always thought it might be cool to perform on a cruise ship. But the music is a little too milquetoast for my tastes, which are improving with age. I realize they have to appeal to the most common denominator; I'm just not in it. My former cover band, Baby Rocket, would do quite well in this environment though, me thinks.

After the show, Deborah and I hit the Windjammer again for some dessert and herbal tea, and we took the latter with us as we explored the ship some more. With little else to do, we retired to our stateroom for re-enactments of a couple of Lonely Island songs (think about it...).

I probably won't be able to post these travelogues until we get off the boat in Key West, as there is no free wifi or cell phone service on the cruise ship (a public relations error, in my opinion).

Stay tuned for more updates.

1.30.2016

Poolside

One of my Mastermind group goals over the next two weeks is to travelogue Deborah's and my Caribbean escapades daily, with short journal entries as time permits. One such opportunity is transpiring now, as we sit poolside at the Airport Ramada in in Tampa FL awaiting the shuttle but to the port where we'll board a floating city with a few thousand other people for a week upon the high seas.

I was remembering this morning, while taking a poop (clean blow, just fyi), years ago seeing old family pictures of my maternal gramma and grampa jet setting around the world in the 50s and 60s, when America was in its post WW2 economic heyday and middle class people could do that sort of thing on the cheap. They spent a lot of time in the South Pacific, probably because my mom studied abroad in New Zealand in the 50s and married my Australian dad in the 60s before giving birth to me in Melbourne in 1968.

Now here I am with the love of my life, Deborah, doing the same thing, also on the cheap (albeit by exercising a surplus of credit card points), and gathering memories by way of smart phone.

I don't plan to have any kids, much less grandkids, who will see and reflect on these special memories, captured digitally and stored permanently in the realm of social media. But I have a niece and nephew who will appreciate them and perhaps someday they will have kids, if there's still a habitable planet by then. Deborah's son Devon, a college student now building a foundation for his own future, may appreciate them. And his potential kids might look upon my travel snapshots someday and wonder about their gramma's middle years galavanting around the world with that strange, dashing, tall dark stranger...

Well, time to board the shuttle soon. Signing off for now.

Good Morning Tampa

We woke up in an economical but spacious, clean, and comfortable Ramada Inn motel room in Tampa FL this morning.

"Do you wanna go get breakfast?" I asked Deborah, after running the netty pot through both my nostrils.

"I have to get ready," she replied. "I brought cereal and bars I can eat."

"Alright. I am going to head down and see what the options are," I said. "If I don't come back, it means I ate."

Deborah takes a goodly amount of time to prep in the morning before she'll go out in public, but I am fully willing to explore the world looking and smelling like a hobo.

"If they have fruit, can you bring me back some?" She asked, as I grabbed the rectangular plastic keycard for the room and opened the door to leave. I told her I would.

So now I find myself eating solo in the motel dining room. The restaurant at the Ramada is southeast Asian themed. Deborah and I had ordered takeout Thai and Indian food, respectively, from here last night when we arrived just before they closed. My waiter this morning is a polite teenager with a thick Indian accent (my Asian omelette came with "veet" toast). The service is ridiculously slow and I am still waiting on the fruit plate "to go" for Deborah, but I am in no hurry. I have lost all hope for a coffee refill though. However, the omelette and veet toast hit the spot for fueling the day ahead, which mainly involves getting ourselves on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship (aka floating city) that will serve as our home for the next few days.

Tomorrow, we'll "sail" into Key West and if all goes well, we'll take a kayak nature tour there. Stay tuned.

Bulkhead

My GF Deborah gets early boarding on flights because of an injury that HIPAA rules prevent me from discussing. On our current flight from Detroit Rock City to Tampa FL, she asked at the gate if we could be moved to more spacious seats due to her handicap (because the sardine can that served as our last flight was ridiculous and caused her significant discomfort of an undisclosed nature), and in fact we could, the gate agent informed us. So we are now seated next to the bulkead that separates the hoi poloi from the First Class elites - so close we can smell the luxury - and my long legs have never been happier. And bulkhead is a loose term because there is still room for our bags underneath the extrawide ritzy seats in front of us. That is why I always say, "It never hurts to ask."

1.29.2016

Plane From Milwaukee to Detroit Takes Off and Lands Without Incident

A plane traveling from Milwaukee WI to Detroit MI on Friday January 29 took off and landed completely without incident, which some are calling one of the rarest things to ever be reported in the mainstream media.

"Normally, we media types only report on air disasters," said Melanie Hinckley, communications specialist with CNN. "An incident free flight rarely makes headlines, like this one did."

Feel the Sun Bern

By the time you read this, dear readers, I'll likely be on a plane to Detroit. I know that sounds thrilling, but don't be fooled. The "Rock City" is only a transient way station en route to warmer climes.

Deborah and I are escaping Wisconsin winter for a fortnight's hiatus down south, the first half of which is a Caribbean cruise.

Honestly, I'm a little terrified. I have never been on a cruise before and I never thought it would be "my thing." I am not a luxury liner kind of guy and the thought of being holed up at sea with a few thousand luxury liner types fills me with absolute dread.

Deborah says cruises are fun and awesome. I believe she believes they are...

That being said, I recently posted about the value of getting out of your comfort zone every once in a while. So, this is me doing that. I have to put my money where my mouth is (weird visual). I am going into it with an open mind. All the food is free on the boat, a major selling point. When I am driven to the brink of insanity, eating will be my solace. I know my fear of both the zika and noro viruses are irrational and overblown, but still real.


Then again...THIS. So, mission accomplished!


In any case, one of my goals for my Mastermind accountability group is to journal my daily travels on this trip, and I'll be doing so here, per usual, notwithstanding a predicted dearth of internet access (you may see nothing for days and then like 10 posts all at once).

So bon voyage or whatever, although I guess you are supposed to say that to me, not the other way around.

Morning Woe

Deborah and I are en route to Milwaukee, the first leg of the journey, a preamble, if you will.

There, we'll drop D's dog off at her son's (dog sitting) and catch a flight to Tampa FL via Detroit Rock City.

I slept poorly last night, part excitement for travel and part residual congestion from last week's cold. A couple rounds of the netty pot and some heavy OTC drugs* this morning took care of the latter.

* "Real" Sudafed, the kind they make crystal meth with, not the substandard fake stuff, which the pharmacist outright told me is nothing more than placebo. Honesty is underrated in today's highly fabricated "reality."

1.23.2016

The Bern

"Daddy, what's wrong with that man?" my daughter Caitlin asked as we made our way down the frozen food aisle of our neighborhood Safeway.

I looked where she was pointing. At the far end of the aisle, an overweight, middle aged man had opened the door of the cooler that held frozen pizzas and was attempting to climb into it. I had seen this before, though not while Caitlin had been with me.

A snap parenting decision had to be made. Did I turn around and lead Caitlin away, or was this a teachable moment? Ignorance was bliss, but I couldn't protect her from reality forever. I opted for the latter.

"It's nothing to be afraid of," I reassured my daughter. "You know how on a really hot summer day Mommy gives you ice cold lemonade to cool off, even though we don't usually drink sugary drinks?"

"Uh huh," Caitlin affirmed.

"Well, sometimes grownups get really hot summer days on the inside, and that man is trying to cool himself down by bathing in frozen pizzas." I knew how ridiculous it sounded.

"How come he's hot on the inside?" Caitlin, always inquisitive, asked.

The man was now grabbing the frozen discs of processed food and jamming them up under his t-shirt, which had an American flag on the front.

"Well, you remember who the President is, right?" I asked her.

"President Bernie," she answered.

"Right," I replied. "Well, when he got elected President, some people who didn't like him..."

A couple of teenage employees of the grocery store appeared at the far end of the aisle with mops and a large plastic tub.

"...started getting sick." I didn't know how else to explain it, since science hadn't yet been able to. "Their insides just started heating up out of control."

"How come?" Caitlin pushed. Dammit, I thought, this is the tough part.

"How do you feel when you have a tough math problem at school and no matter what you can't figure it out?" I asked her.

"Mad," she said. Close enough, I thought.

"Well that's how some people feel about President Bernie and it makes their brains overheat," I said. "Only they can't solve this problem, so they get madder and madder and hotter and hotter, until...well, just watch."

The man was now clutching two extra large frozen pizzas to either side of his head, which was jerking violently from side to side. The pizzas he had tried to stuff under his shirt were spilling out onto the floor and one of them rolled down the aisle toward us. I kicked it away.

The two employees ducked out of sight and I put my hand on Caitlin's shoulder to guide her a couple of steps back, though I thought we were a safe distance away.

The man dropped the pizzas jammed against his head and leaned into the pizza cooler. His gaze turned toward us and he had the most serene look on his face like he had had found absolute joy. Then with the telltale sound of a cartoon bubble bursting, his head simply imploded, his face appearing to pinch inward from the tip of his nose and then his entire head collapsing and vanishing. As it shrank to a point in space about 5 inches above his neck, it separated from his torso and the headless body fell to the floor, scattering pizzas everywhere. There was no blood. Forensic scientists couldn't explain that either. The head implosions of Trump supporters, and it was only Trump supporters as it turned out, seemed to seal up the skin around the neck, like the way the lava in a lava lamp breaks up.

The store employees moved in, picking up discarded pizzas and putting them into the plastic tub. Caitlin and I continued up the aisle toward the frozen vegetables.

As we passed the kids, I commented to them, "That doesn't happen much anymore..."

"I know right?" one of them responded. "We totally thought it was a Cruzer."

"Ah, that explains the mops," I said.

"I woulda never cleaned this up before Uncle Bernie made the minimum wage $15," the other kid said.

After we passed by the kids and headless corpse, Caitlin asked, "What's a Cruzer, Daddy?"

"That's what they call people who voted for Ted Cruz, the guy who almost ran for President against President Bernie instead of Donald Trump," I replied.

"Politics are dumb," Caitlin said. I smiled and patted her on the head.

"They sure are, Princess...they sure are."

1.22.2016

Happy Birthday to My Mom and Stuff


I'll start today's free write by wishing a happy birthday to my mom (Happy Birthday Mom! Keep an eye out for a care package in the mail...).

I felt the twinges of a slight cold coming on last night, notwithstanding my increased diligence over the past few weeks to avoiding human contact and meticulously disinfecting myself. I do not want to get a cold a week prior to traveling to the tropics for a fortnight of vacation. I immediately pounded the phantom cold with zinc lozenges, Tylenol, vitamin C, and warm fluids. Before bed I took two Benadryls, to prevent sinus drainage during the night and also help me sleep, and put a Ricola herbal lozenge under my tongue, which lasted most of the night.

This morning, I still feel the twinge, but it doesn't seem to have gotten any worse (knock on wood and cross my fingers). So my brute force approach to keeping the possible cold at bay might have succeeded. I took an all day allergy pill this morning and that should help prevent any further sinus drainage, usually the main cause of my blossoming cold symptoms. I am pumping fluids and keeping warm today.

I have a long weekend to rest and recover, if this is a cold, and no major responsibilities to speak of either. So that's a plus. Lack of rest is a big contributor to a weakened immune system. My Mastermind group met via Skype on Wednesday, because my "accountabil-i-buddy" (hehehe) in the group, aspiring rockstar Wendy Lynn from the band SUNSPOT, said she had a cold, so we purposefully avoided any chance of spreading her contagion to me. That being said, Deborah and I saw Wendy last night at a social hour we attended after work. However, this twinge of a cold cannot be attributed to that, because the gestation period of a cold virus is counted in days, not minutes. Other than work, I cannot think of any other exposures I may have had to sick people recently. I did go to the post office on Wednesday (to mail mom's birthday box), but I didn't encounter any outwardly ill people. I usually notice when people are publicly aerosolizing their own mucous via coughing and sneezing, and I don't remember anything like that. Anyway, hopefully it is short lived. All I can do is hammer it with every over the counter cold remedy and nutritional supplement at my disposal, and Deborah keeps quite an arsenal of the latter on hand.

I wanted to cram in some morning writing calisthenics to loosen up my brain for the day ahead. It helps to dump thoughts out in the morning and be free of them for the rest of the day. I wish it were possible to do that with cold viruses. I have been trying to get more free writing time in during the morning hours before work to see what spills forth and get a little bit of focus on things that are on my mind.

The main thing on my mind right now is preparing for the Caribbean cruise and Florida trip that Deborah and I are taking in a week. I don't like to stress on that sort of thing, so I probably won't do much prep work until the very last minute and then cram all my stress into a small window of time. That's the strategy that works best for me. Deborah likes to deal with her stressors in smaller increments. That's got advantages too. 

This Sunday, GUPPY EFFECT is the showcase band at the Sunday open stage jam at Funks Pub and we are having rehearsal beforehand to tighten up the 30-40 minute set of songs we intend to play. So most of my Sunday afternoon will be dedicated to music practice. Saturday is wide open. I have been structuring my time and my artistic achievement goals much more diligently thanks to the aforementioned Mastermind accountability group (its main purpose), but it is essential to build some flex time into the weekly grind. So I gave myself Saturday as a "free day" (Do you picture me doing air quotes every time I use quotation marks? Because I totally am...). That doesn't mean I won't work on my writing projects on Saturday, but just that I have total freedom to do what I want. That's very liberating. It might even make me MORE productive than if I had structured myself for things to accomplish on Saturday, because I won't be anxious about hitting the goals, which might slow me down (as I'll explain below when I describe "The Resistance").





The Mastermind group has provided me a lot of motivation to achieve some of my personal artistic goals. For example, I signed up for a few free online classes last fall, but I have not been very good about carving out time to watch the lectures and do the exercises, even though they are short. I have made watching these part of my weekly goals for the MM group. We have a spreadsheet in Google Docs where we enter our achievable goals for the week and then enter daily activities we do toward those goals. By making the lectures a goal, I am compelled to watch them if I want to hit the goal. My success rate is well over 80% for my MM goals, my metric for "bare minimum" success at hitting them. Sometimes it is 100%. The MM group is a fantastic driver of accomplishment because it not only helps keep you accountable to yourself, but also to the group. You don't want to let the group down or be the "weak link in the chain" (yes, I did...), and that's very empowering. Whereas, I might be inclined to procrastinate on a weekday evening, I now know I need to watch a free class lecture if I want to succeed on my goals, and the sooner I get it done, the better. So I simply DO. No more wishful thinking, only wishful DOING. While I don't technically need the MM group to achieve my goals, the "team" mentality is massively empowering for fighting laziness, procrastination, fear of failure, and the other factors that resist me achieving my artistic goals. I have also set minimum writing goals for the MM agenda and that's why I am pounding out this blog post on a Friday morning. New Year's resolutions seem within my grasp in 2016 far more than ever before, thanks to Masterminding.

In the book "The War of Art," author and motivational guru Steven Pressfield proposes that writing in the morning is a good way to tap into the "Muses," the psychological underpinning of good art.  I don't know how solid his rationale is, but he suggests that your subconscious mind is much closer to the surface of your thoughts when you wake up from a good night's sleep of solid dreaming (essentially your subconscious mind set free). Whatever. I do feel like words flow from me more creatively in the morning. By the same token, writing later in the day forces one to write under the much more commonplace "less optimal conditions" for writing, after the days stressors have pummeled your brain senseless, making it less fluid. One could argue that your writing will be stronger if you can fight through the stressors and write good stuff anyway. When you want to train as a bicycle racer, you want to climb some hills, not ride on the flat all the time.

Pressfield describes all obstacles to creating any kind of art collectively as The Resistance. Procrastination, laziness, "writer's block," unnecessary chores, and fear of failure are all examples of The Resistance.

For example, do I have fear that this blog post is going to be awful?* Yes. I am petrified. Well, actually no...I'm not. Petrified would be if I "froze" and didn't write this blog post because I feared it would suck. Petrified is what I might have been before I started writing it, if I let The Resistance scare me out of it. I admittedly had that fear before I started writing it. Even now, as I write it, I am inside a psychological "shark cage" and The Resistance, furious with gnashing teeth and sharp claws, is outside of it, rattling the steel bars. But I am in the cage, protected. I can't leave it, even if I wanted to, because then I would have to swim up to the boat and The Resistance would surely chomp through my abdomen, severing me in two. I told my shipmates, "Do not haul up the cage until I signal that I have accomplished my task." I have other tasks to accomplish today and this weekend, and each one is in a different shark cage. I will have to submerge myself in my art several times and hope The Resistance doesn't break through the bars and eat me.

The drummer in my punk rock band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, Frank (aka Dan), has an expression he uses to describe willful productivity. He calls it "plowing." For example, when he is doing back end web site development or business operations as tour manager for a musical act, he might put in a few hours "plowing admin." The visual I get is of a snow plow in a blizzard, trying to keep the roads clear so that business operations (commuter traffic) continue to flow freely. The work has to get done and you just have to apply plow to it as furiously as you can. You can't pull over and surf the Internet for a while or the roads will jam up. Once you start plowing, you keep on plowing until the job is done, or your shift is over.

Once I sit down at my desk and start writing, I am golden. I can "plow words" all day long. Thanks to the goals I set for Masterminding, I find myself far more able to resist The Resistance. I am tempted but not swayed to surf the Internet or check social media. I know I have to plow through. It's the initial energy hump of Resistance that needs to be hurdled to get me plowing art, but once I push through that, I am in the protective confines of the shark cage and the Resistance is relegated to emasculated, albeit noisy, powerlessness outside.

The air supply I have available in this particular shark cage is running dangerously low, so I have to tug on the rope and have my Muses pull me up to the surface. Mission accomplished here, I think...on to the next thing.

* Note: This post is not intended to be good. My free writes are an exercise to simply accomplish some writing of any quality on any topic. The mere fact that this post exists means I have conquered The Resistance and achieved my goal, albeit a small one.

1.21.2016

Triple Bypass (Flash Nonfiction)


Their red windbreakers were soaked through and glistening wet in the moody gray afternoon gloom as the two cyclists found respite from the rain under the gas station's front awning and dismounted their bikes. They had their windbreaker hoods pulled up, underneath their bike helmets, covering their ears.

“That was moister than expected,” the younger guy said, rubbing his bike gloved hands together and breathing into them. His legs were bare below his bike shorts. The accent sounded American.

“You're a champ,” said the older gent leaning his bike against one of the awning's support pillars. He had rain pants on over his bike shorts. “I'm highly impressed, doing the entire Triple Bypass in this weather.”

“Me too,” the younger guy said, shivering slightly. “I am in dire need of hot coffee though.”

As the younger guy began to wheel his bike toward the pillar as well, the woman next to me said, “Hang on. Let me get a picture of you two.”

“Right-o,” said the older gent, stepping gingerly over to stand beside the younger guy and flashing a wide grin. The younger guy cracked a mediocre smile as he held onto his bike awaiting the photo.

The woman fumbled with her camera.

“Did you take it yet?” The younger guy asked through clenched teeth, maintaining the increasingly rigorous smile.

“Just need to get it in focus,” the woman said.

“C'mon, mom,” the younger guy implored, the smile now mostly a grimace. “I'm freezing over here.”

“Alright, smile,” the younger guy's mother commanded.

“Already am,” said the younger guy, though any semblance to a traditional smile had now vanished from his face.

6 Word Novel


If it's yellow, take these pills.

1.17.2016

Ziggy Stardust and Sunday Night Reflections

It's 8:06 PM on a Sunday nights, so per usual, I'm at Funks Pub live streaming and performing at the open stage (aka "jam," though that is somewhat of a misnomer). It's a good way to close out the weekend...rockin' a little.

It's bitterly cold outside, though I can't say as I care. Because I am inside Funks Pub, where it's quite warm. El Nino has made people soft this year and everyone's freakin' out about -15 F windchills. Apparently they've forgotten the brutal polar vortex two years ago that kept Wisconsin in a deep freeze for months. This cold spell is really a first for this El Nino winter, which has mostly kept temps above freezing. This cold wave is closer to the norm for Wisco and it's fleeting. Temps rise back into the 30s F this week. It almost makes my fortnight of vacation in the tropics in February anti-climactic.

David Bowie died last week (if you were in a cave and didn't hear the news). So the open jam stage tonight is likely to feature some Bowie hits. In theory, I'll be guest vocalizing on a rendition of "Ziggy Stardust." There is likely to be some "Moonage Daydream" as well.

1.14.2016

A Fortnight In


It's a fortnight into 2016 and things are pretty great. I started a Mastermind group with a colleague to propel me on my artistic projects. Basically, it's a weekly motivational group to set goals and assess progress on said goals. It's going well.

Tonight I have date night with Deborah. This will mainly involve grocery shopping, making dinner at home, and watching Jessica Jones on Netflix.

In a couple weeks we will be escaping Wisconsin winter for warmer climes.

That is all.

6 Word Novel


He liked mountains. But not avalanches.

1.12.2016

Jessica Jones is a Damn Good Show

In our ongoing quest to find worthy TV shows to watch, Deborah and I scoped out the "Jessica Jones: Alias" series on Netflix.

It doesn't disappoint.

It's based on a Marvel comic series of the same name. Not being much of a comic afficianado, I can't say how the TV show stands up the the "graphic novel," but as a standalone show it's pretty rockin'. It has flawed "heroes" with shaky moral compasses and oversteps conventional TV show boundaries (rape, child abuse, alcoholism, mind control, infidelity, voyeurism, etc.), dispensing with many of the cliches oft found in superhero franchises.

There is a strong backstory driving the plot too, although it takes a good portion of the first episode to convey what it is, causing Deborah to comment that it seemed "slow moving" at first. But once the pace picks up, it is compelling.

I can't say much more about it without spoilers, so if you haven't checked it out yet, go watch Season 1 Episode 1 of "Jessica Jones" on Netflix and leave a comment below telling us what you thought.

1.11.2016

1.10.2016

What is Today?

Chronologically, I am two days into my 48th year (or as I like to think of it, my second go round of being 24 and my third go round of being 16). On the calendar, my birthday was yesterday, January 9th, but since I was born in Melbourne, Australia, across the International Dateline, I would have actually entered this world on January 8th, 1968, in Wisconsin time, strictly speaking.

On Friday night, my original rock-n-roll band GUPPY EFFECT played my birthday party celebration at the Bos Meadery in Madison WI. It was an early evening show, 6-9 PM, which was a nice time frame for people to pop down after work, not too late. The weather wasn't awesome, it being January in Wisconsin and all. It was kind of cold and rainy, but at least it wasn't bitterly cold or a blizzard. Technically I was born in the summertime, since the seasons are reversed in Australia. I am not a cold weather person.

I got rockstar parking in front of the venue when I arrived there about 5:30 PM, and rightly so. Drummer Verge arrived about then too and set up his kit while I set up my bass gear. As it turned out, the Bos had a PA system, so I didn't need to set up the GUPPY EFFECT system, even though I had brought it. That was excellent and saved time. I had pre-ordered three extra large pizzas from the Glass Nickel pizzeria, a great local establishment, for the party goers and they arrived a few minutes before 6, perfect timing for the arrival of guests. I ate a couple of slices myself and then played a solo acoustic set of songs as CACTUS JOE starting about 6:30, while we waited for GUPPY EFFECT guitarist Stefan to arrive at the venue from work. He rolled in a few songs into my set and set up while I played.

The GUPPY EFFECT set started around 7:15 or so and rocked pretty much as best I can tell. Considering Verge only joined the band a month or so ago, we were rhythmically tight. He is a solid drummer and a fast learner. The Bos Meadery was pretty much filled to capacity, standing room only for a goodly amount of the time we were rocking. It was good to see so many people, some I had not seen in a while, and that the time frame of the show was conducive to people staying the whole time. That's definitely the kind of show I prefer. Plus, Bos provided the sound system and sound guy. That pretty much makes the Bos Meadery an optimal non-sh!tty music venue for any of my bands to play at, me thinks. They don't yet pay bands anything to perform there, but in this case, the way I look at it is that I traded my rock-n-roll services to rent out a venue for three hours to host my fabulous party. They provided the booze (mead and some canned beer), I provided the food and the live music. That's a win-win-win scenario in my book. What I might do the next time my band plays there is run an Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign to raise the underwriting for food and some gas money for the band. We had two tip jars set up at the Bos show and I think the total was about $29, which paid for about half the cost of the pizzas I sprung for. 50% off great pizza is not bad. Thanks to everyone who threw us a bone or two.


After GUPPY EFFECT finished our set, my buddy Nick (who came out from Iowa to see us) jumped up on the drums to rock one tune with us, namely "For Your Love" by the YARDBIRDS. As an encore, GUPPY EFFECT reprised our rendition of "Gay Bar" by ELECTRIC 6. I'd say we probably got done rocking around 8:30 or so, which gave us a few minutes to chillax and socialize with the guests before we tore down our equipment and left. Another nice thing about early evening shows is that you are not getting done at 2 AM and then being bum rushed by the staff to clear the eff out. It was very relaxed and groovy. Of course, we still tried to get out of there as expediently as possible.

Nick and his fiancee Kristi were staying overnight in Deborah's guest room so they would not have to get a hotel or drive back to Iowa in the middle of the night. After we left the Bos, the four of us drove down the street to the Come Back In(n) (CBI), a divy little bar that sometimes hosts live music. One of my co-workers, Adam, had told me before I left work on Friday that his band was playing at the CBI that night, after 9 PM. Again, perfect timing. Adam's band was actually on set break when we arrived, so I said HI and then we got a booth and ordered some food, which we ate while Adam's band played there second set. Because it was my birthday, I indulged in a "grilled cheese burger." This is much like it sounds, a hamburger patty between two grilled cheese sandwiches. It was awful and disgusting and I ate the whole thing, along with Greek fries (French fries with salt, pepper, and malt vinegar). After that we went home and talked a while before retiring. On Saturday morning, we took Nick and Kristi to the Pancake House restaurant for breakfast before they hit the road back to Iowa. I spent a couple hours from 1 to 3 PM writing, per my Mastermind accountability group goals for this week, and then Deborah and I went to see the movie "The Big Short." It was pretty good, though I am still not entirely sure who the good guys were, if any.

When I was 24 (1992), half a lifetime ago, I would have been finishing up my last year of undergraduate college education as a biology major at the University of Akron (Ohio). I can barely remember it, but I know I was living in a crappy, roach infested house (actually they were those big black water beetles, even more disgusting than roaches in my opinion) with some roommates close to campus. If there is anything I would do differently, given a second chance, it would probably just be to study harder at school and not party as much. But I was young and you know, I am in a really good and positive place in life right now. So all my past choices and actions led me here and I cannot complain about being here. I have a beautiful awesome girlfriend, a bunch of fulfilling music projects, good health, good friends, freedom, and my humble basic needs in life are all pretty much met. Could my life be better? Not really, all things considered. Anything else would just be frosting on an already pretty tasty cake.

When I was 16 (1984), two thirds of a lifetime ago, I think my family was actually kicking off (or maybe finishing off) a year and a half living in Melbourne Australia. That was a pretty good time, in retrospect (I think I hated it then). I didn't much like going to school in Australia and I was just a dumb kid. There were a lot of bullies there, but also some good people. I don't stay in touch with most of them nowadays, but I am Facebook friends with a guy named Paul who was a good pal and still lives in Melbourne. He and I did a punk and heavy metal community radio show when I lived there and that's pretty much when I cut my teeth on punk rock, my favorite kind of music to this day. It's kind of serendipitous that both Melbourne Australia and Akron OH are known as pretty big punk rock centers of the world (SOURCE). Coincidence? Probably. I play in a punk rock band in Madison WI now called EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE. I wouldn't say Madison is a punk rock capital or anything, but it has a decent music scene. I have to quit writing this post now to go tackle another couple hours of focused writing toward my Mastermind weekly goals. Bye.

1.09.2016

GUPPY EFFECT Rocks My Birthday Party

Last night, I traded my rock-n-roll talents for a music venue to host my birthday party. My band GUPPY EFFECT performed a set of original tunes (and a couple covers) at the Bos Meadery in Madison WI.

I live streamed it. So here is the video in all its glorious and not particularly well mixed entirety.


Do You Know What Birthday Dreams Are Fueled By?

My birthday is one of those "special occasions" when I rationalize breaking from my fairly good nutritional standards and indulge a little bit. But unhealthy food fuels some wicked night terrors.

To wit, a grilled cheese burger (this is a cursed offering at a local pub - a salty hamburger sandwiched between two greasy grilled cheese sandwiches) brings forth nightmares of unbridled proportions. 

Last night I dreamed of a massive centipede infestation. But not just any centipedes. BIG old mean centipedes. That could jump. AND fly. AND lay weird sausage shaped eggs everywhere, produced parthenogenetically, that hatched within seconds, making destruction of them nigh impossible. When an adult was cornered and smashed with a blunt object, it would explode, spattering bug parts on everything, and leaving behind a mass of said eggs.

This is why I eat salads.

1.06.2016

Masterminding: Doing and the Resistance

Today (Wednesday 1/6/16) my musical colleague, Wendy of SUNSPOT, and I are having the first of what will most likely be fortnightly Mastermind group meetings to encourage accountability in achieving the 2016 artistic goals we have wholeheartedly resolved to pursue for ourselves. It is a good sign that we are having our first meeting in the first week of January, since procrastinating about it until a later date would defeat the purpose and be a very bad sign. I am hoping that we can actually meet weekly and I think we should establish that sort of aggressive timetable (with a sacrosanct block of time carved out for it), but busy rock-n-roll musicians and humanitarians that we are, a weekly schedule has a natural tendency to drift toward a fortnightly one, irrespective of good intentions (refer to THE RESISTANCE below). However, if we decided on a fortnightly schedule from the get go, this would drift as well, toward monthly meetings, which would be intolerable from a procrastinatory, wait-till-the-last-minute-then-cram standpoint. For me, weekly accomplishment of goals is essential and paramount. A week's hard labor on art is just about right (thanks Goldilocks!) to produce useful creations.

Wednesdays are my day off. Or at least substantial portions of Wednesday are. For the foreseeable future, Wednesday afternoons are earmarked for my pretty good band GUPPY EFFECT's rehearsals. All the members of the original rock-n-roll power trio have the day off, for now. Since I sold my house at the end of 2015, I no longer have the Rock Cave, the awesome band practice and house concert chamber in the finished basement of said house. So GUPPY EFFECT has moved rehearsal over to guitarist Stefan's smaller but acoustically treated den space. We have had one practice there already and I was impressed by the clarity of sound due to the acoustic sound panels he installed soon after moving there. We have to clear some of the furniture to make it work, but it works well.

I'll have to head over to Stefan's about 2 PM today for practice until about 5. We are honing a set of songs for our performance at my rock-n-roll birthday party this Friday evening at the Bos Meadery, an up and coming alternative music venue (and mead hall) that allows full band rocking (I only discovered this recently...I thought they only did semi-acoustic stuff). They make mead, which is a honey based alcoholic drink I usually associate with Vikings, medieval castles, and oversized legs of mutton for some reason. It looks like the turnout for the party is going to be pretty substantial, probably due in part or in toto to the respectable time frame of the gig (6-9 PM). Of course, I have learned not to be a blind optimist when it comes to show attendance. Rock show RSVPs can also have a sizable drift to them and the effective turnout at a show can range anywhere from 20% to 80% of the "on paper" value indicated by the social media. There are a lot of reasons for this. For example, some people work full time jobs for THE MAN during the week, and even though the thought of ending a work week with some potent mead and music at a respectable time of the day (happy hour) sounds thrilling and totally achievable on Monday morning, by Friday THE MAN has often drained a substantial amount of life force from the mind, body, and soul. So going home to curl up in a catatonic fetal ball and weep on the living room couch sounds more appealing by the time Friday afternoon rolls around. It's hard to convey to people who have never seen GUPPY EFFECT perform that our rocking has been clinically proven to restore life force to 96.4% of normal.* Another deterring factor, and a curse of having a birthday that falls in the middle of winter in Wisconsin, is weather. Winter weather is a major reason that many of my music projects go on hiatus from Halloween through St. Patrick's Day.** The exception is always my birthday, because rocking is my number one favorite thing to do and makes for a great birthday present before the winter brutality really sets in later in January and February. It looks like we are in for some good luck weather-wise for this show. It's supposed to be partly sunny on Friday, with temperatures above freezing. A deep freeze is rolling in on Sunday, so we will manage to eek out some rock-n-roll just in the nick of time. Promotion is also a limiting factor in rock show turnout. As with any "product," consumers have to know about it in order to consume it (the main purpose of advertising). If you can get them in the door, they can see what a good product it is and they will want to buy it. Rock-n-roll is no different. It's a transient product, only available for a limited time in one location (although several locations may be vending different brands of it at any given time). If people don't know when or where good rock-n-roll product is available, they miss it. I have never been very good at promoting, and that troubles me since GUPPY EFFECT's brand of rock is top notch ("Thrice the rocking power of other name bands.") and I feel ethically remiss that I don't do a better job getting the word out about it. But I do what I can. I read that the best time to post something to social media and have people actually see it is between 1 to 3 PM on Wednesdays (think about it...).

I'll probably order a couple complimentary pizzas for attendees at the show this Friday, to encourage early attendance. Once people set foot in the Bos Meadery and become instantly soaked in the foamy wetness of the show, GUPPY EFFECT's rocking will speak for itself. There is no admission fee to get in, so we are basically giving potent rock-n-roll out to people for free. I'm going to play a set of solo acoustic songs to warm up the crowd until Stefan arrives from work for the full band rocking. I can only hope THE MAN has not drained to much of his vital bodily fluids, but they will be restored readily enough with an infusion of mead.


Anyway, that was a long and torturous path to the main crux of this post. I have two big book projects to accomplish this year that will require more devotion and discipline and exertion than anything I have ever done before. Failure is not an option. That means grinding out words (like this post) even when I don't want to (like this post). I have always said, "wishful doing trumps wishful thinking every time," and it's corollary "if you want to do something, you have to do it." These statements may seem like common sense, but they are much more easily said than done. There is something called THE RESISTANCE, which has been written about by much better and more experienced writers than me. If you were a religious person, you would maybe call this THE DEVIL. It's all the things that work against you cranking out your art or whatever it is that you are trying to crank out. It's your bad conscience. It's excuses and procrastination. It's fear of failure or mental paralysis. It can even just be THE MAN sucking out your life force (a major obstacle to art, by design). Creating good art is hard, and that includes performing live rock-n-roll music. Lay people see a band play and I think a lot of them assume the band just showed up, got on stage, and started rocking spontaneously with nary a rehearsal. They view music as a hobby and just assume the music they are witnessing has to do with the innate talent of the musicians. They never see the hours of band practice, the futile attempts to contact d-bag booking managers at venues, the hauling of heavy gear all over the place, the struggle of writing and learning songs. Talent is 90% effort and 10% genetics (a totally optional 10% to be sure...). To achieve things you really want to achieve, you have to JUST DO IT (thanks Nike!). That's really all. Just burl through and throw pure muscle at THE RESISTANCE to stop it from stopping you.

That's what this post is really about, plain and simply.

I didn't want to write for two hours this morning. I willed myself to. I had planned to be at my desk writing at or before 8 AM today and go until about 10 AM (it's 10:02 right now), and then I would switch over to practicing songs in anticipation of band practice this afternoon. I did everything right, or so I thought. I got up at 7 AM and expediently handled all my morning rituals: fed the dogs and let them out, drank leftover coffee, ate a bowl of cereal with mixed berries and vanilla almond milk. Deborah normally works on Wednesdays, so I thought I would have the house to myself, but she isn't feeling well today, so she called in sick and stayed home. She had no clue that this was THE RESISTANCE at work, somehow manipulating the Cosmos to try to thwart me (because I love my girlfriend and when she is not feeling good, I want to take care of her instead of working on my art). But she's on my side. We are a great team and she supports my art 110%. She knows it is not just a hobby for me and that my "talent" is 80% "effort" (I can't lie to you, I do have some pretty decent genetics going on). She knew that I had to "work" this morning, which is how I (and she) have to view my artistic pursuits if I have any hope of bringing the artistic end products to fruition. In art, you are your own boss, and this causes a duality of personality, the slacker artist driven by THE RESISTANCE vs the DOER whipmaster. The conflict between these sides of the artist is what generates ideas. Deborah is one of the few people who understands that my writing and music are compulsive passions that I have to do to be a happy human being and work very hard at to feel accomplishment. I must do my art whenever I am able and when I am not able, I think about doing it with longing and frustration.

I am past deadline, so I am going to wrap up. I know full well this blog post pretty much sucks. It's not my best work and I can almost guarantee human eyes will never see these final words. When I got to my desk this morning, my mind was empty, with nary a useful idea in sight. It was THE RESISTANCE blasting white noise into my skull. But I punched THE RESISTANCE in the nut sack and starting hacking out words regardless. This is the end result. It's not gold. It's not even bronze. It's, I don't know, copper or quartz. But it's something, and that's better than nothing. This is the end result of DOING even when I don't want to. My DOER drags me kicking and screaming to the computer. If one is going to trample THE RESISTANCE and accomplish art (in my case writing two books in 2016), then one has to punch THE RESISTANCE in the dick a lot and focus on getting art done while the Beast is writhing on the floor, clutching its groin in agony.

This is one of my most AWESOME posts (to me) because it represents accomplishment and defeating THE RESISTANCE. I win.

Ciao.

*Based on the average Sunday afternoon day drinking or football game watching values of an average American. This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. GUPPY EFFECT's rock-n-roll is not intended as a substitute for the administration of food and/or drugs.

**GUPPY EFFECT's kickoff show of the 2016 rocking season (not including this Friday) is on Saturday March 12 at the awesome Reptile Palace rock club in Oshkosh WI. This is actually the weekend before St. Patrick's Day, but we wanted to get out ahead of the boozy crowds. GUPPY EFFECT's rocking is also clinically proven to amplify one's party spirit for up to a fortnight after experiencing it, so we thought it was our civic duty to ensure St. Patrick's Day celebrations are at an all time high.

1.03.2016

Award for Longest Distance Traveled and Akbar

My good buddy Nick and his fiancee are driving all the way from central Iowa for my rock-n-roll birthday party this Friday night. Nick's at home in Iowa with family for the holidays by way of LA, where he's an aspiring and quite talented filmmaker. We used to play in a band together in college in the 90s and he once used one of my songs in a documentary film. Naturally, he'll probably jump up and guest rock on a song or two at the party.

In any case, I think they win the award for longest distance traveled to come to this show, as far as I know. I'm honored.

Nick's also a member of my RAGBRAI bike team, Team Crazy Bird, as is my friend Sherry from Madison who will also be at the show. So they can shoot the sh!t a little bit and we can all reminisce about our biking adventures in Iowa.

I guess I'll be mandated to play "Akbar," one of our RAGBRAI anthems.

Organic Chicken and Lemmy of Motorhead


Today was a busy day so I didn't get to my 10 minutes of freestyle blog posting until now, which is technically tomorrow. It's about 12:33 AM on Sunday January 3 as I repose in bed with my smart phone to mainline some unadulterated stream of consciousness rambling into your brain.

The highlight of today was roasting an organic free range chicken from our CSA all by myself. The bird had been in the freezer for months and in the fridge the last three days or so thawing out. Deborah was tired out from an afternoon spent running errands with me (which included the hardware store, where I finally got the replacement nuts I needed to batten down the rack on my bike), so I was on my own. I recalled how at Thanksgving we had stumbled upon a failsafe turkey roasting method online that entailed cooking the turkey at 500 degrees for the first 45 minutes and then 350 for the rest of the time until the turkey was done (internal meat probe reading 165 F). This method did not necessitate covering the turkey with foil or using any water in the baking pan at all. The logic behind this cooking strategy was beyond me, but it worked like a charm - tasty, tender, juicy turkey meat. All I can surmise is that the initial high temperature blast served to sear the outside of the meat, keeping the moisture in.


So I decided to do something similar with the CSA chicken. We had gotten another frozen organic chicken from the CSA once before and cooked it the conventional way (375 the whole time until done) but it had not turned out all that great. I loaded the current chicken's carcass with stuffing and treated the outside with a hefty slathering of Pam butter spray, rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning before placing the meat probe deep within the stuffing filled body cavity (another tip from that Thanksgiving turkey cooking find...I always thought the meat probe was supposed to go into the thickest part of the breast meat, but not so). Then I cooked the chicken in a baking pan for 25 minutes at 500 (it was a smaller bird compared to a turkey so I guesstimated on a shorter duration at the higher temperature) before knocking it down to 350 for the remainder of the time. It took about an hour and sure enough, it came out really fantastically done.

After dinner, we watched the season finale of Ash vs. Evil Dead and then I actually did about three hours of clerical work on my 2016 writing and music projects.

Now I am dozing off, so I will wrap it up. I played a couple short sets at the Bos Meadery open mic on New Year's Day (yesterday) afternoon, where I found out that the Bos allows full band rocking, with no volume constraints. I am hosting my birthday party show there next Friday January 8 from 6-9 PM, so now in addition to a planned solo acoustic performance by Cactus Joe (that's me), I am adding a full band power trio rock-n-roll set by my band GUPPY EFFECT, replete with a tribute to the late great Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead. Rawk.