Random Thoughts About Post #50

Cinquenta! Wuh Shzz! Oh Ship! Funf Sein! Fitty! That’s 50 spelled poorly in five languages. It doesn’t seem like that much until looking back and realizing I’ve been doing this since February. If you think about it, I couldn’t have just come up with fifty posts overnight and made them this awesome.

It reminds me of a sociology class I had to take in college where we had to find a newspaper article each week and write a page summarizing how it related to the class. I neglected to do this until the night before the final and then realized I had absolutely no desire to go back through ten weeks of newspapers, find articles, and write about them. After consulting the course guide, I figured with the “A” I received on the midterm, if I got another “A” on the final, I would make up for the “0” on the project side and still be able to pass the class. When I received my grades, I was disappointed to find that I instead received a “D”, despite getting an “A” of a high enough percentage to work with my calculations. I only miscalculated the professor’s disgust in my slacker underachieverness that swung me from C- to D+. Is there really any such thing as a D+? It’s all D for dumbass.

Do I regret being a bad student? No, I was just purposeless. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Not all my classes turned out that poorly, but that’s a good example of my feelings of busywork. I understand practice and preparation. And I have extreme confidence in my ability to perform. Game time. On stage. In case of Emergency. I feel the rush of a pressure situation and can keep a level head when everything around me is falling apart. It’s the slow times I apparently don’t deal with so well. But I’m dealing with the persistence of blogging and I’m proud that I made it this far.

Back in 2007 I made a three week trip to China on my own, able to speak maybe 50 words of Chinese. I intended to try and import products to start a business. Eventually I settled on buying about 100 guitars that I sold individually though ebay and other channels. The most fun part of the trip was chronicling my experiences in China as I sent group emails back to friends and family. Apparently, people were entertained by my misadventures and enjoyed the updates. One friend even told me I should be blogging. I had heard of blogging, but I didn’t really understand it. Actually, I’m not sure if I do now. But I got home and thought, yeah I’ll start blogging. And then I sat there with nothing to write about. Honestly, life in Portland was, well, boring. I had nothing to differentiate the days that I spent there. Nothing of significance. No crazy encounters with massive burn victim beggars, or Philipino tranny hookers like I had seen in China. Life was safe, vanilla, and rainy and I had nothing to write about. I would put myself more fully into the whirlwind of the past five years by heading off to Alaska, but that is a tale for another time.

My point is I have had the persistence to put up 50 posts. Definitely being in New York City has been much of the inspiration for what I have put down here. The good, the bad, the decadent, even if you only know a fraction. If anything, this blog has been a way for me to celebrate three great loves of my life. Travel, writing, and music. They have all been vehicles for inspiring and reinvigorating me. As I said earlier, I was slightly purposeless when I was younger, but it has slowly begun to come together. To steal a line from Tolkien or the back of some hippie’s VW bus, Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Not forever at least. I’ve been feeling a change in the air. Or maybe I was just listening to David Bowie.





Clubbin’ NYC 2: Electric Guitar Boogaloo

What’s this? Another post already? That’s right I’m goin’ classic rock with a Two Fer Tuesday edition posting.

First off. I would like to address the previous post and say that I am not opposed to rap music. I think there has been groundbreaking music from the hip hop genre over the last 30+ years, and I am a fan of the music of NWA, Public Enemy, Outkast, and the Wu Tang Clan. Yeah I know they aren’t cutting edge anymore, but I like some new stuff like Rocky ASAP and Shabazz Palaces too.

What I detest is the stuff that is Pop music, which is slightly hard to define. Just like New Wave, Alternative, Indie, and Classic Rock; they are stupid names invented by music journalists, or THE ENEMY if you’ve seen the movie Almost Famous. New Wave was just a new wave of rock music, because they were still playing guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards, but they had cut their hair and the sound was evolving. Alternative was an alternative to the heavier rock sounds of the ’80s and was originally bands like They Might Be Giants, New Order, The Smiths, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, until Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden showed up and they were Alternative too, but they were also Grunge because they wore sleeveless flannel and Doc Martens, had a heavy Black Sabbath influence and looked like they needed a shower. I hate the term Grunge. Anyone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest knows that you could always find used Pendleton flannels at secondhand stores. They are logger shirts. And for a poor, unsigned musician, they were cheap.

Black Sabbath were considered the Godfathers of Heavy Metal. And what’s Heavy Metal? Not only is it a funny old cartoon movie with a very un-Metal soundtrack, it’s a line from Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild. As in “Heavy Metal Thunder.” Which is in reference to racing a car or motorcycle down the road. Classic Rock was invented in 1985, right after the failure of New Coke brought about Classic Coke and suddenly music made by bands in the ’60s and ’70s had shown some staying power. Rock N’ Roll was invented by a Cleveland DJ referring to what you wanted to do with your girlfriend in the backseat of your Chevy. What’s weird is how bands who emerged in the ’80s and weren’t a part of Classic Rock are now on those stations. Do you think Ludwig Von Beethoven set out to write Classical Music? What do you think he called his music when he hit on girls at bars? And most importantly, where did teenagers of the day go to have sex since it was at least a few hundred years before the invention of the automobile?

Of course Pop music just means it’s popular and sells singles, and makes hits, and next year it’s so uncool. But at the moment the coolest of the cool is to be Indie, which started out as independently produced music that avoided major labels yet somehow became “Pop”ular and tended towards whiny songs by guys in skinny jeans with ironic facial hair.

The point of my rant is that I love music from all of these genres, and have taken different things from these different influences. The best bands and musicians in my opinion have this attitude. Nothing more boring than a band that never listened to music outside of the genre they chose to play. Much of this is the fault of the industry itself, because it’s purely about making money. If you look at much of the entertainment business today, the CEOs all have a background as accountants. It all about the bottom line. Quality and originality are secondary to finding ignorant people to buy, buy, buy. Generally its kids because they just don’t know any better through lack of exposure. And the media sells them on the attitude that you’re young and nobody’s ever done it like you before. All your parent’s music that came before was nothing. Yeah, The Beatles never really did much.

I’ve been around long enough to see bands come and go, and it’s interesting to see their legacies. Time gives an interesting perspective. Remember when Creed was popular?

Last night I dropped in on a Blues Jam in the East Village because I want to get my guitar playing chops up. I didn’t play, I felt more like scouting the competition, this being New York and all. Now when I say competition it’s in a friendly way, because I don’t want to “beat” the other musicians, but yeah, I want to look good. Guitar players especially seem to have fragile egos when it comes to their craft, and may not always be friendly. Back in college I would go to the Monday night Blues Jam at Good Times, and it was a lot of fun with a mix of old and young but as always there was a little bit of that, “I’m better than you” attitude.

Last night had a few impressive performers, Black, White, Asian, old, young. There were also more than a few dogs as well. There was the Heavy Metal guy who didn’t know how to play rhythm and his leads didn’t say much either; the white kid who was up there only to sing, but had bad pitch, sung too quiet, and had no stage presence; and the old guy who got up to sing and play and really couldn’t do much of either. He bore a striking resemblance to Skeletor from the He Man cartoons and when he stiffly sang “I’m gonna rock you baby all night long” or some sexual reference I nearly snorted beer out my nose.

But it wasn’t all bad. There was an older black guy in a fedora that sang soulfully and played some great guitar, and a few young black kids that were impressive on the guitar. One of which was paired up with Skeletor, and I later heard Fedora tell him he needed to be louder, at which point he said Skeletor told him to turn down. Which goes to show you how in the fragile world of guitar player egos, the worst skilled will always try and find a way to sabotage you. Right Ian?

In all fairness, there were some good white guitar players, and an Asian kid that was good on the drums. And this Puerto Rican guy in all leather was playing some great saxophone, I’d even seen him playing earlier in the day in the subway. In all it seemed a decent blues jam, and one I could definitely keep up with, because I’ll admit it, more than a few times I thought, “I’m waaaay better than that guy. At singing too.” And while far from the oldest, I certainly wouldn’t be the youngest person there either. The crowd was a good mix too, with NYU nearby there was also good talent from a visual standpoint. So I’ll make my way back to be a part of the music and hopefully like in college, have some Good Times.

Thanks for listening, this is Stevie Tre Pay signing off the digital airwaves with a Two Fer from the guy that first inspired me to pick up the electric guitar. James Marshall Hendrix.

I Am Not A Criminal

I don’t own a car out here. It really seems you don’t need a car until you have to move or haul musical gear around. Taking the subway is fairly convenient until it’s 2 am and its the weekend and the L train is moving half speed because of construction and you’re stuck waiting underground with the rats and drunks. My first job was located indirectly from where I lived and took 45 minutes and 2 trains to get there, but after midnight it was taking me an hour and a half or longer to get home which was not fun. I ended up buying a bike so I could make my commute time shorter. It worked out okay after the initial apprehension of riding in New York, okay Brooklyn traffic. There are a few bike lanes, but honestly, they mean nothing to these people, who are probably the worst drivers on the planet. And I’ve been to Korea and China.

First off, when New Yorkers want to stop by the side of the road, that’s exactly what they do. Just stop slightly to the side. Even if there’s a little bit of space to actually park, they just hog the bike lane forcing bicyclists back into traffic, while usually they are hanging out talking with their friends. Then there’s the car services, essentially taxis, but instead of yellow cabs, they are usually black town cars. I’m pretty sure the code of the car service driver is A) Even when you know where you’re going, pretend you don’t B) Honk your horn at least once every block C) Discourage alternative means of transportation by swerving at all bicyclists. I swear these guys act like the bike lane doesn’t exist. One day a car service left turned in front of me so blatantly in my space with no one else around that I yelled at him as he passed by. He stopped and started yelling back at me in Dominican Spanish, because this is New York, and everyone has to act tough and put up that tough guy front. So he’s yelling “La linnea, la linnea”, and I say yeah you stupid fool, you were three feet over la linnea. Anyways, there’s no making headway with these people. Like I said, New Yorkers aren’t going to reason, you’re going to puff out your chest and stick to your guns because there’s no way you’re wrong, and finally I’ve had enough and I turn to leave and this dude calls me a maricon and I’m thinking, really, you want to start this up again and I’m calling him every English version of maricon that I can think of to show him I’m not ignorant of his insult. He practically had a krypto lock in the back of his windshield at that point but I would save a run in with the cops for another day.

So a week or two later I’m riding down Broadway, the one near where I live. It’s late at night and I’m riding down an empty sidewalk and I hear a woman say, “Hey, pull over.” I don’t because I’m on my way home and I don’t care what she wants. If my previous post didn’t elaborate, Broadway isn’t always the most high class area. On previous excursions I have encountered what some people refer to as “ladies of the night”. Others might call them “crack hos”. Personally I wasn’t interested in finding out much more about this woman so I kept on riding. The next thing I know, a car is racing up behind me and a guy in a Rams jersey is running me down, saying he’s a cop. So I stop, and I ask, “What seems to be the problem officer?”,  which is the best way to patronize a cop without giving him the opportunity to immediately smash your face into the ground. He says, “Why didn’t you stop back there?”, I resisted the urge to say, “Because I thought she want fifty dolla make me holla”, and told the absolute truth – That I had no idea they were cops. Let me state the facts your honor. They were in a black, unmarked car. The woman who communicated with me never declared any affiliation with being an officer of the law. It was 3 am on a dark, lonely street in a seedy neighborhood. What would you do?

Officer Sanchez, a dirty cop name if I’ve ever heard one, says to me “We were just going to give you a warning to not ride on the sidewalk, but you ran off.” Yeah I was making a really fast getaway on my beach cruiser. So then this grown man in a football jersey takes my ID and asks if I have any warrants with such suspicion that I momentarily thought that I did. I just felt a complete lack of good community relations and more that I was living in a police state. Of course nothing showed up on my record because I’m a good law abiding citizen, but I still had to go to court thanks to officer dirty. Now you may ask why I think his name was Sanchez? Well his jersey was St Louis Rams and the name on the back was Sanchez. Now if it was New York Jets, which would make sense, I would think Sanchez on the back makes it a Mark Sanchez jersey. Instead, as I already mentioned, it was St Louis Rams, which does not have any players with that name as far as I know, so my suspicions lead me to believe he’s the type of guy that puts his own last name on a jersey to wear around.

A few weeks go by and I almost have another encounter with cops, this time on a subway train. I’m on my way to play an open mic, and I’m carrying my electric guitar and a case full of guitar pedals. One of the results of September 11th is that we don’t live in a safer world, just a more paranoid world, especially New York City. There are constant reminders on the subway that you can have your backpack searched at any time and that you should report suspicious behavior. Anyway, I recently found this cool Airway briefcase at a thrift store for $10 and turned it into a case for my guitar effects pedals. People who know me well have witnessed my obsession with collecting funky cases inspired by Pulp Fiction and Hunter S. Thompson.

I once showed up to a 4th of July celebration with two cases loaded with Indian reservation fireworks. I later turned one into a guitar accessory case that would randomly drop firecrackers out every time I opened it for another two years. It made band practice fun. The Airway had nothing with any firepower, purely guitar pedals and cables in a streamlined hard shell plastic case that makes you feel like a ’70s spy from a John Le Carre novel. So maybe that was why I felt like the two cops at the subway platform followed me onto the train. They were literally standing right across from me and I was wondering if I should ask them if they wanted to know what was in the case. But I think they preferred watching me suspiciously out of the corner of their eyes like I couldn’t tell they were sizing me up. Once again, these NYC cops love to make you feel guilty.

Dis Shit’s Da Bomb!

To top it all off, the cops got out at my stop too, and there were twenty more cops waiting there. “This is it”, I thought, “the jig is up, I’m busted, these guitar pedals are actually rigged with C4 and at the moment of my mega wanking guitar solo, I’m gonna step on the overdrive pedal and blow the whole club sky high and leave a crater bigger than 4 football fields.” But no, they were just meeting up to go to Dunkin’ Donuts.

It took me a few weeks to get around to it, but I finally figured out where to pay my biking ticket. 347 Broadway, in Manhattan, the criminal court. Once again, Broadway is involved. This time, it’s the section that runs through lower Manhattan, near city hall and the federal building. That means lots of old buildings with columns and cops and security protecting them. They even had a giant version of the mirror the dentist uses to see cavities at the back of your teeth. Of course this one is six feet long and helps spot bombs under cars. I made my way into criminal court past the metal detectors and stood in line with all of the other criminals, which appeared to be a lot of drivers with fist fulls of parking tickets. I thought of my excuses and ended up at the payment window, showed my ID, and the lady handed me a print out saying no charges were ever filed and I was free to go. It was my lucky day. I was going to honor the boys in blue with some NWA or The Strokes, but I will stay silent instead. Bonus points if you know what two songs I’m referring to.

– The Unread Blogger

Overheard on the Subway

Everybody loves people watching. Checking out people’s styles and attitudes, the way they interact. Sitting in a crowded bar on a Friday night or on a park bench on a hot summer day can provide nearly endless entertainment. How do you feel about people listening? Sure, we could call it eavesdropping, but that makes it sound so dirty, so contrived. If you’re in a public place talking loudly with your friends, or even worse on your friggin’ cell phone, then you deserve to be made fun of for the stupid shit that comes out of your mouth.

A little background for you. The Unread Blogger spent many years as a bartender, a fact that has been largely ignored by the local restaurant community.  But my unemployment will be a subject for another post. My point was when I walked up and down serving the bar, people sometimes forgot I was there. Now some people flat out told me their troubles and I listened like any good bartender should. But some of the funniest, nastiest, dirtiest, most scandalous things were said when I was not expected to be listening. And women, your stories were the best, or the worst, depending on perspective. However, I am a professional, at least I was, and I overheard your stories in confidentiality and would never sell you down the river. Just remember your bartender hears everything. Even washing glasses on the other side of the bar. Well except that hipster dude with the handle bar mustache, he’s too cool to pay attention to anything.

However, when you ride the subway and you are surrounded by people who are fare paying customers, it is on. Last night I’m coming home to my little couch on the prairie and the subway is fairly full, and two boys, because that’s the way they referred to themselves, were talking about their exploits. They apparently are enrolled in school of some sort; art, film, somewhere you can find lots of girls willing to bang you according to them. So I got to listen to all their exploits and planned exploits as they carried on as if they were the only two people on the subway. At one point it lead into a little about a grad teacher only a few years older who told him:

“Don’t come to class drunk or high”

“But I swear I don’t”

“Dude, it must be your eyes.”

“Well, we have mutual friends, she told me.”

“Maybe she wants you, do you want her?”

“The teacher, hell no. But you know who I passed by yesterday?  The lesbian that plays guitar. We passed by each other and turned to look at each other after we walked by. And I was all ‘I knew you like boys.’ Right, I mean she totally was into me, why would she check me out otherwise. She must do boys occasionally.”

And it went on and on and on. And I know I wasn’t the only one listening.

So good luck boys, with the whole banging girls thing, but really, that was pretty tacky.

And for the lesbian that plays guitar, it sounds like you’re very pretty. I don’t care whether you like boys or girls, or men for that matter, just stay away from that douche.

I’ll be listening.

-The Unread Blogger