So, the Oscars have come and gone, and all that's really different is that one more boring awards show is in the bag. I admit that I was fooled and thought that Chris Rock might just be zany enough to make it an entertaining show this year, but of course I was wrong. Dull, dull, dull.
My suggestion for livening up the awards is to include the category "best film made by stir crazy idiots stuck inside during a snowstorm and hopped up on diet coke". I would have had a legitimate shot at that award this year with my tour de force performance in "Man-child in pajamas lights his fart on fire".
I know this may rub some people the wrong way, but isn't this whole Pope situation a little ridiculous? He is obviously a very frail and sick man and is no longer fit to carry out his Popely duties. I mean, I don't want him to die, in the same way that I don't want anyone to die who truly wants to live, but I do want him to step down and call it a day for PJPII. I mean, he's getting a little wacky in his final days. Did you all catch the "gay marriage is evil" speech the other night? Don't even get me started.
I'm not a religious person, but I recognize how important the position of Pope is in the world. I may not think that he's God's instrument, but I acknowledge that his thoughts and actions affect literally billions of people. And so I'm hopeful that Pope John Paul will step down, Pope George Ringo will step up and that he'll help bring people together.
How cool would it be if Ringo really was the Pope? Damn.
This morning I had the pleasure of the little man that lives in my head waking me up at 6 AM. He didn't have anything important to talk about, but that didn't stop him from nagging my ass until I got out of bed. And he was nagging my ass about things like whether I'm doing well enough at the job I hate and how I'm going to have any money when Sarah and I get married. Thanks, pal.
There's nothing worse than being awake when you should be (and want to be) asleep, especially if you spend your waking moments worrying about dumb shit you have no control over.
Tonight that guy is going to keep his trap shut or he'll have Tylenol PM to answer to.
This weekend the rockmobile heads back down to NYC for more work on the new record, which we are calling Sophomore Slump. Ok, we're not calling it that...yet.
Anywho, making a record is fun and all, but I have to admit I'll be happy when this one is in the can. We've been doing it all in short bursts, mostly on weekends, and I am bone tired of the goddamn Boston - NYC commute. I mean, 95 is gorgeous and all, but come on.
On a recent drive we postulated that a really sweet thing would be an exit off the FDR that suddenly put you on 93 in Quincy.
There is a daily rag in Boston called the Metro. It's owned by a huge media conglomerate and publishes in dozens of cities around the world as a condensed free alternative to a bulky and not-free regular newspaper.
Now, I have no gripe with the Metro on principle. It's a good way to get a 15 minute dose of completely dumbed down news, and fills the time of my subway ride quite nicely. My only real problem with it is the "man on the street" question area where they ask three Boston yahoos ridiculous questions and get their ridiculously non-expert expert opinions.
Example - today they asked three people this question "Do anti-depressant medications cause violent behavior in youths?" WHAT!!?!?!? Do I really think Doug the electrician is going to say "Well, according to recent clinical trials I've been conducting, it does appear that..."
Nevertheless, all three gave their very informed opinions on the subject. Thank god, because now I fully understand the complexity of this issue. In recent weeks I've also used this section of the paper to get a good grasp on how we should rebuild Iraq and whether or not North Korea currently has nuclear weapons.
Man, I love me some kids. They are just funny people.
Case in point. Today, as I made my way to the T on the bike path, I came up on two four or five year old kids. About 20 feet in front of them a beagle was taking a MASSIVE dump. Now, whenever I see a dog grumping on out on the bike path I avert my eyes, turn up the iPod and think about burning MIT to the ground. But not today.
The kids saw the beagle and immediately started screaming and laughing. They couldn't control themselves. "Aaaaaaaaaaa, grooooooooossssssssssssss!" giggle giggle giggle "He's pooooooing."
By the time I passed them they were literally jumping up and down, holding their noses and loving every goddamn second of it.
I wish I could still get so much enjoyment out of a dog dropping trout.
Have you seen all these commercials and print ads featuring Common? The ones with the tagline "Knowing is beautiful"? These ads drive me mental for a couple reasons.
1) The ads are highly stylized to look like a hip hop video and feature beautiful people with cute flower shaped band aids on their arms where blood was drawn. They're dancing and hugging and having a hell of a time. It makes AIDS seem like a lot of fun. I want AIDS!
2) "Knowing is beautiful" as a slogan. You know what, the tag should be "Knowing can be beautiful". For instance, in my case, knowing is beautiful. I went through the agony of the HIV test and the nerves of waiting for my results to come back and I was negative. Kick-ass. It's beautiful. Of course, had I come back positive, knowing would have sucked ass.
So, I guess my suggestion for the campaign is for Common to come on and say "Knowing can be beautiful, unless you're positive, in which case it sucks ass. But you should get tested anyway, and don't let them give you one of those stupid ass band-aids."
So, I woke up the next morning feeling goooooood. I was still in the place of thinking I was KSOFM and I had put a dickhead TV writer in his place the night before. Perhaps, just perhaps, the universe was finally coming into alignment for me.
I felt so good that when I got to the airport I ordered myself a McGriddle with bacon. On my current "get skinny for the wedding diet" such a meal is strictly forbidden, but I felt like I deserved it. Sure, it tasted a little funny, but I chalked that up to having not eaten any fast food for the previous month. Plus, I was going to be a huge rock star and at that point the cocaine would keep me skinny.
Anyway, they say pride goeth before a fall, and good god damn are they right.
The flight home was pretty uneventful, but I started to feel a little ill with about a half hour left. I have a nervous stomach, so I really thought nothing of it, especially since I was feeling fine by the time I got to the car. Then, about twenty minutes from home I really started to feel kind of gross. Oh well, nervous stomach again, right? Wrong.
By the time I reached my house I had a full blown fever and chills. My vision got blurry and I couldn't talk to anyone. I tried to take a shower and couldn't even stand up. After twenty minutes of this I gave up and hit the sack, where I lay wide awake and hallucinating for the next couple of hours before the PCP-laced-rotten-bacon-handled-by-unwashed-bathroom-hands McGriddle finally decided to violently leave my system, and not by the usual route.
I was in hell. Food poisoning hell.
Anyway, after copious amounts of vomiting I finally fell asleep, tossing fitfully for about five hours before my phone rang.
OKGO Tim: Joe? Me: Yeah OKGO Tim: You sound terrible. Me: Yeah, I got food poisoning at LAX. OKGO Tim: Damn. ME: It's OK. What's up? OKGO Tim: Well, we were impressed with your audition and really happy you came out, but we're going to go with someone local.
At this point the King fell off the top of Fuck Mountain and landed on the jagged rocks twenty stories below. And my sweet insecurity alter ego started taunting me, pointing out that I suck and never should have wasted their time by flying out there just to suck. Combined with all this was the knowledge that I had to have explosive diarrhea.
Me: Oh...I completely understand. Hey, good luck with the tour. OKGO Tim: Thanks. We'll see you when we come to Boston. Me: Great.
I then hung up, realized that I couldn't quit my job and wasn't going to be going on the cocaine diet anytime soon, spiked my phone and hobbled to the bathroom to have the aforementioned explosive diarrhea. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty damn disappointing.
Now I look back at it as a good experience and a good example of how I should live my life (i.e. not being so afraid of everything that I end up doing nothing), but at the time all I could keep repeating to myself was Homer Simpson's nugget of knowledge:
So, as the title of this post implies, there is some failure to talk about. But not yet. First I have to finish my story about conquering L.A.
OK, I left the OKGo audition and I'm not going to lie to you - I felt like, in the words of Bob Odenkirk, King Shit of Fuck Mountain. I mean, I knew that I had played guitar really well, and even though I hadn't exactly killed it on keyboards I knew I had done well enough to show them that I could do the job. All I wanted them to see was that I could be totally ready by the time tour rolled around and I knew I had done that.
Anywho, Bill and I headed out of OKGo-ville and hit the town. First we had a little dinner and then headed out to see the comedy show of a friend of his.
Now, let me go on record here, comedians are the worst people in the world. I know this because I once was one. They are hateful people whose funnyness is primarily derived from their own rage and insecurities. Needless to say, this makes them hard to be around for extended periods of time. In conversation they are always either doing a bit or trying to make you feel small. Fun.
I mention how much I hate comedians because before the show we had to hang out with a roomful of them. You see, the theater is connected to a bar and all the scenesters congregate there before and after performances.
So I ended up in "conversations" with lots of comedians, including a few of the lowest forms of life - TV comedy writers. There is nothing worse than a guy who's already a jerk getting a job that gives him an actual perch to look down on people from. (These observations are all obviously generalizations, but pretty true. Bill's roommate is a tv writer and a nice guy, but he's the exception that proves the rule). Anyway, here's an actual conversation I had which ranks up there in my life's top five moments of me not getting fucked with (remember that at this point I am feeling like King Shit of Fuck Mountain).
Asshole TV Writer: (with a smirk) So, what are you doing out here? Me: Well, I came out to audition for a tour with a band. ATVW: Wow, did you go dressed like that?
Ok, let's stop for a moment. I was wearing nice black pants, and an AC/DC t-shirt over a long underwear shirt. I may not have looked like Keith Richards, but I looked appropriately rock. I was pissed. Add to this that he and all his ass-kissing wannabe buddies were snickering like little schoolgirls and I was very pissed. And when I'm pissed and my internal fury switch is thrown I'll be the first to admit that the best I can do for a comeback is usually "um...fuck you, jerk" But being KSOFM at this point, I had something better. I took a preganant pause, looked down at my clothes and, I kid you not, said:
Me: You know what? I don't come down to where you work and slap the dick out of your mouth. So why don't you fuck off?
He looked at me blankly, said nothing and walked away.
We finished recording and destroying all the nerves in my arms in hands at about 11 PM on Sunday. After that Gordo and I hit the road.
We got home at about 3 and I hit the sack. I got up at 7 with Ladybetrothed Sarah to spend a few quality minutes with her and to congratulate her on her acceptance to medical school. That's right, folks, my lovely lady has decided to buck the trend I've established in our relationship and is set to go out and make something of herself. She rules.
Anyway, after she left the house I went into full blown busybody/panic mode. I packed a bag, practiced guitar, got a haircut, nervously went to the bathroom 749 times and ate three powerbars.
Finally, I got it together and went to the airport to get my flight to L.A. the flight was uneventful, except that I ended up breaking my diet by accepting the flight-attendant proffered white oreos. Have you had these things? They are Deee-licious. Life is really too short not to eat trans-fat.
Anywho, I got to L.A. without incident and met up with Bad Ass Bill Watterson. We got some hookers and blow and headed back to his place. Ok, actually, we just headed back to his place, where I was confronted with four cats in about a 150 square foot apartment. This would be fine if I weren't deathly allergic to cats, especially cats in an apartment where two not so cleanly dudes live. Oh well, I popped a couple benadryl and retired into a drug induced coma.
The next day was audition day. I got up early, drank about 94 liters of Diet Coke, took a nervous poop and went to Guitar Center to practice keyboards. I'm. Not. Kidding.
Following the practice session, Bill and I rode around LA and marveled at all the desperate people until we realized we were in fact the very people we were marveling condescendingly at. I solved this moral quandry by having a diet coke.
Finally, I headed over to the OKGo rock headquarters. Once I got there I really wasn't nervous anymore. They are all really nice, non-intimidating guys, they just happen to have the very success I've been busting my nuts for fifteen years for. Anyway, we hit the practice space and played for a while. I played well, we had fun and that's really all I could have asked for. Ok, well, that's not true, I could have asked for a million dollars and a hand job from a label executive, but that seemed unlikely.
Afterwards, we hung out for a bit and then I left. It was no big deal really. I left the house with the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. Unfortunately, this relief and happiness morphed into the sense that I had definitely gotten the gig which, as we will see later, was a bad assumption to make.
So, there I was, in NYC trying to learn how to play the piano and lay down down all the rhythm guitar tracks for the new record in two days. This was, in a word, stressful.
It worked out fairly well, however. You see, when I was practicing the keys, I was really distracted by worrying about the record, and when I was working on the record I was really distracted by the need to learn to play keyboard. The end result was that I ended up in this weird stress limbo where I couldn't really give my full attention to either.
I know this sounds like it wouldn't be helpful, but it was. When you're under that kind of pressure you can't be too precious about anything. And so you don't spend nine years on one solo, you bash a few takes out and take the best one. Not being in the moment also keeps you from pushing for what I call "hero moments". Hero moments are when you mistake yourself for Jimmy Page and try to play beyond your ability. Of course, you end up taking too much time for the eventual result, which is that you sound like a jackass. No, it's actually best to not care when you record, that way you get a performance this is most similar to how you play, i.e. more human (and sucky).
Anyway, every minute I was away from recording, I was hunched over my guitar and keyboard. The end result of this was that I hardly slept, split two of my fingers open from the amount of guitar I was playing and developed this weird tennis elbow thing in my right arm from playing the keys with horrible technique.
So, all of day one happened on a Friday, as I related. However, it was not a normal Friday, as Gordon and I were on our way to NYC to keep recording our album. And so Gordon became my de facto chauffeur on the ride down as I booked a plane, arranged to stay with my friend Bad Ass Billy Watterson, talked to Ladybetrothed Sarah, informed work that I wouldn't be in until the following Thursday, called Tim to tell him I was coming and then generally just pooped my pants with nerves.
Anyway, after much finagling we arrived in NYC and I called Tim again. You see, I hadn't been able to reach him on the phone earlier and I wanted to get the details of the audition down. This time he picked up:
Me: Tim, I'm psyched to come out. What songs in particular do you want me to know. I've worked through most of the new record so I'm cool with whatever (I'm a sycophantic piece of crap)
Tim: Cool. I'm glad you're coming out. You should learn these songs - (runs off four tunes)
Me: Cool. I'll have them down.
Time: Great. Also, do you play keys?
My Brain: Hey asshole, the correct answer to this question is yes.
My Brain 2: But we don't know the first thing about playing keyboards.
My Brain: So what? He's obviously asking because they need a keyboardist too.
My Brain 2: But I'll never be able to learn the parts!
My Brain: Shut up, you goddamn pussy! Do you want this or not?
Tim: Um, Joe? You there.
Me: Oh, yeah, sorry.
Tim: So, do you play keys?
Tim (paraphrased): OK, learn the insanely complicated organ solo on this song and the weird Jamaican offbeat thing on this one.
Me: No problem.
Brain 2: Problem. Big fucking problem.
So there I was in NYC, with two and a half days to learn OKGo's songs on guitar, learn to play keyboards at a professional level, learn OKGo's songs on the keyboard and, oh yeah, record guitar for about ten hours a day.
So, according to my crazy doctor, the reason I'm frequently afraid to try new things is that I'm insecure and fear failure immensely. And so, she says, it's easier to pretend not to care about something instead of actually pursuing it - that way I can stay safely in my comfort area and avoid the pain of failing, the pain of my insecurities being confirmed.
It may be a bunch of psychohooey, but I think she's right and I've decided to do something about it.
Flash back to Friday, January 28th. I get a message from my friend Tim, the bass player for the rock and roll outfit OKGo. Apparently their guitar player quit and they need someone new to do a six week tour. Do I know anyone? Well, Tim, I said, I know myself. FXA is recording and recharging, so I have a little time to hit the road. He says great, I'll send you the new record and we'll talk about audition times. Sweet.
Now, already this was a big step for me. Normal Joe would most likely have begged off of this opportunity because he was afraid and then would have rationalized it like "Oh, I could have done it, too bad I had to be here for Brendo's arbor day celebration. Nuts." But this time I took the plunge and decided that I wanted to get this tour, quit my job and go be a successful musician.
Tomorrow, tales of bleeding fingers and tennis elbow....
I'm back. And good god lord almighty did I have a weird week. I'm going to try to do a good write up of it and start posting that tomorrow. It was definitely weird enough to merit some extra consideration.
Until then you will have to content yourselves with the fact that it's going to snow another foot tomorrow night. I say: