Monday, September 26, 2005

Chapter 9: Lake Casitas

A great RV trip to Lake Casitas..Joined by my friends. Composer/Contrabassist Jim Connolly is above.

I was looking for a nice quiet place to compose and was thrilled with Lake Casitas Thursday night...but oh crap...after that, all the NASCAR and boating fans showed up....loud AND noisy. But I had a great time anyway, hanging with friends, going to a pirate festival, boating...and even wrote a little. This place is perfect during the week, quiet and peaceful. The coyotes get going around 11 pm or so...beautifully chilling oratorios in canis lingua...antiphonally performed between hills.

Here, my brilliant friend film writer/director/producer and arts critic writer, Ted Mills is about to get a duck to sit on his finger...

Lesley and I rented a boat a cruised the lake for an afternoon.

I ran into Jazz Critic Rex Butters (with his wife and son) at a, ahem, pirate festival. Which was a quite entertaining variant of a renaissance fair.

All good trips end with a campfire.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Chapter 8: From Faria Beach...about an epic gig.

I have been lucky enough to participate in many, many interesting gigs, but this was one of the best. In the words of the inimitable New Zealander, Andrew Pask, “This event has been brought to you by the word ‘EPIC.’” Of course, that is what he said afterwards. An hour into setting up for the gig, he phoned me (telephones were required for us to talk, even though playing together, more on this later) and said, “I just realized how #*@(&$ insane this is!” But let me give you a little background first.

A little over a year ago Paul Linhard, Ventura resident of Art City fame, had a dream one night, and called me the next day. “I want to do an art festival in Ventura, but one that is different. I want it to be focused on fire, light, and sound. And I want you to play from the top of the Holiday Inn at the beach for it.” Of course, I agreed, but didn’t want it to be just me, so I called my fellow members of the LA Trumpet Quartet (Kris Tiner, John Fumo, Lorenzo Trujillo filled in for Larry Williams, and myself) and arranged to do an antiphonal composition I wrote for the occasion with a lot of improvisation. Fumo on the 11th floor, me on the other end on the 6th floor and and Kris and Lorenzo on the opposite side of the California Street Promenade on top of a parking structure. The auditory swirl that was created between the two buildings was wonderful…and made me think of what else I wanted to do…The Choir Boys came immediately to mind, with vocalists as well. Which is what we did last night.

So, jump into the present, Paul had two meetings with the head brass at the Holiday Inn (I will use pseudonyms, as it did not end pretty) and then I had a meeting with them along with Paul. Three meetings explaining exactly what we wanted to do. Large sound system, wild music, from their balconies. And we were given the go-ahead, AND comped two rooms at the hotel for two days. Please pay attention: they knew, and comped us.

I set-up my sound system on two adjoining balconies on the fourth story of the Holiday Inn, and Andrew set his up across the Promenade on the top of the parking structure, hence the need for phones. His vocalist of choice was Debbie Kim and my choice was Elizabeth Stuart. We would electronically process their voices along with our horns. A lovely set of antiphonal duos across a reverberant open space. It was whilst setting up that Andrew called me and said it was “insane.”

We got all our gear set up, and had a lovely pre-show gathering in the rooms, friends, members of my family…a nice relaxing time.

At sunset, the show began, and went quite well. We had a blast, mixing it up with acoustic, then walls of sound, then just the singers, the horns, just a great variety of music, the audience was very appreciative, though a few people yelled expletives at us... We played for the fully allotted time of 45 minutes and had a blast! At the end, while announcing the names of the band members, the management broke into my room with security and started yelling at me and Liz! (Thinking that we did not want to be disturbed while playing, I dead-bolted and latched the doors, and disconnected the phones. Knowing that the management knew what was going on.) They had a big Swiss/German security guy yelling at us, making cutting signs at the throat and big hand gestures telling us to stop it now! At about 6'4" with his strong German accent, it was quite interesting. At this point, I thought it was the perfect time to announce our grateful thanks to the Holiday Inn to the large crowd below at the Promenade. Which we were: grateful. I put down the mic and had a less than lovely conversation with the management, but all was well, so I thought, and they left. So much for them being into what we were doing, I guess they didn’t understand what we told them about the big, loud, sound system. But it was over, we could hang out and visit, and the comped rooms would be used by out-of-town musicians and friends. So we thought. (Big lesson: get things in writing.) A half hour later, the big manager came up and informed us that we needed to vacate the rooms. Wow. So we agreed to be out by 11 that night (it was about 9 pm). 15 minutes later, his boss, the lovely Yennifer came up and told us that we had to be out immediately, and if didn’t leave right away, they would call the police. That is SO Ventura. I couldn’t believe it. They were so incredibly wonderful to let us use the space, so we can’t complain, but then to threaten us with police action for doing what we said we would do, that they agreed to: It was bizarre, surreal even, but hey, we were in Ventura. They were incredibly rude and disrespectful. So I called Yennifer and had her do a walk-through with me, she said, “don’t worry, I trust you.” At which point I told her, I don’t trust you, you have been rude and disrespectful and gone back on an agreement we had.” So she came up and in front of everyone did a walk-through with me to prove that the room was left un-damaged by my middle-aged supposed rock star antics. I felt more punk rock than I did in my twenties.

A couple of thoughts:

It is really nice to know art that is free of programmatic material still has the power to offend. We didn’t say anything political, social, obscene, nothing that could be construed as being offensive by culturally referenced points of meaning. Yet, they were sorely offended. I call it the shadow test. People seem to project the shadow aspects of their inner world onto the abstract art. In the case of hotel management people, it seems the more banal the persons life is, the more darkness they see in the art.

And, I also wonder if they will let us use the rooms next year. I have this new idea for a giant 5.1 surround sound installation involving the Holiday Inn, Parking garage, Surfer’s Point, the Pier, and a very large boat…

Andrew from my location....

me, from Andrew's location...

Debbie and Andrew preparing....

Shots of Elizabeth and myself...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Chapter 7. 9.9.05, Yosemite, CA

Maybe it is the malingering headache or the persistent dehydration from the evening with Dav and Tim, but some got me up in the morning, so I make myself a soy slice sandwich, fill a bottle with water and head to Urnal Falls (wait, was that Vernal???) blissfully unaware of what Yosemite calls a “strenuous” hike. The ungodly hour of 7:30 am is here…

Part of the reason, as I said, is that I just woke up early…but what got me going was the Yosemite guide saying the best time to hike these trails were off-peak times of early morning and late afternoon. Being that I got there too late in the late afternoon yesterday, I went for it. Amazing. The trail was empty except for a few hikers. Wait! What is that! The aliens have come again…then I remember the reassuring words of my neighbor, oh yeah, it is only the sun. I hiked for a while with a delightful lady about my age, but, she outpaced me on the level stuff (I later passed her on the climb, restoring my masculine sense of self). The hike was glorious, but more than I expected, towards the top I stopped frequently out of paranoia fueled by family history of heart attacks! BUT, I made it fairly easily and hung out with my sandwich on the top. Strange, after telling Chongo and Cedar about my fear of heights, up there, I felt no fear. This might sound cheesy, but the beauty was so overwhelming that I forgot all about heights…there is even a pic of me hanging over the edge.

It was nice to be up there when it was just me and a couple of folks at first, and then by myself. Made me think of this:

“Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
Embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.”
Tao Te Ching, excerpt Chapter 42, translated by Stephen Mitchell

I tend to like quiet, but not necessarily being in solitude. I’m going to try that more often. But not on the hike down.

On the way down, I ran into a zillion hikers, I am so glad my hangover inspired early rise led me to an early start. The nice thing, I got to see their faces on the ascent, the looking upward in awe at the beauty of it. That was nice.

Doubly glad at the early ascent, it clouded up and rained in the afternoon. Then came my new neighbors. Ouch. Loud yuppies, playing loud music. Too damn chipper, dancing and singing. Let me enjoy nature, I yell! Hoping the fear of the madman in the RV will put the fear on them...Between them and the thugs two sites away (somebody graffiti’d the bathroom while I was on my hike…I wonder who?) I have my hands full training new neighbors.

I head for the coffeehouse to write. Chongo is here, working away. I met Chongo and Cedar Wright yesterday while collecting my 800 pieces of email from the wifi hookup at Yosemite Lodge. Cedar, a professional climber, it turns out, was working on mixing and recording music. Very cool. There in Yosemite, with his Oxy8 (same keyboard I use) adding lines of music to a mix. From what I’ve been told, Chongo is homeless, but that doesn’t matter, he lives a way more productive life than many, has written several books, recorded a CD, spends time climbing and camping. Intelligent and well-spoken. Recorded and mixed in GarageBand on a 12 inch PowerBook using the built in microphone and midi. Pretty slick, Apple is making some cool stuff happen just by making this available with every laptop they sell. You can peruse Chongo and Cedar’s CD here, and eventually purchase it at the same place. I hooked up Cedar with my manufacturing contact, it is a unique musical work. I hope his CD does well.

Anyway, back to thinking about my new neighbors. Here in the midst of the glorious Yosemite National Park (submerged 500 million years ago under the sea, magma rose cooled, and over the next millions of years was carved by glaciers, rivers, then sedimentation made the meadows…and on and on). Now, here I am at lovely spot 509 in North Pines and besides being thankful for the years of geologic work making this land, I am grateful for my RV. For many reasons. Not the least being: refrigerator, kitchen, bed, bathroom, et cetera. Another not-too-often stated advantage of an RV is that it can be used as a barrier between you and idiots. I have a rule of thumb that I operate on that I think should become law in all national and state parks. Here is the law: No sound you make should be above the ambient level of nature surrounding you, or better yet, a few decibels below that of nature. Why don’t people know that intuitively? (Has the human level of consciousness not evolved far enough that people aren’t able to see outside themselves and see how their actions affect others? This is a base level, noise disturbance, I think if we get a handle on this we can get a handle, on, well, let’s see, war? I would say yes, it has NOT evolved. Yosemite has evolved, and it is gorgeous, but humanity has not.) I think that should go for any noise (including campfire folk singing, a rowdy game of pinochle, and more) but particularly: generators and what they bring. My neighbors in their tent trailer have a generator that sounds like a WWII era motorcycle. You think if they liked it so much, they would position inside their tent trailer. But no, of course, they position it as far from their site as possible…this makes no sense to me, until they fire up their television, Now I understand, they are hearing impaired, or, maybe not hearing impaired, just their low IQ makes it easier to understand the sporting event they are watching (listening) to it if is loud. SO, back to my initial observation: unlike the delightful older couple tent camping between me and the idiots, I am able to position my motor home as a sound barrier, for which it works well, and I am grateful for that. But when their 1943 Harley powered generator revs up really loud, I just walk to the Merced River, which drowns it all out. I feel sad for those people, that they can’t enjoy the sounds of nature. I feel worse for their neighbors, who aren’t allowed to enjoy the sounds by their auditorily bullying generator and television. Thomas Bernard has some beautiful things to say about sound pollution, me, I’m thinking about the John Muir quote in the parks guide:

“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of the flood, storm and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”

I’m also thinking about leaving some exploding firewood in the idiots’ firewood stack.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Chapter 6. 9.8.05, Yosemite, CA

The bright light coming out of the sky…what the…? Aliens seem to have spotted the glimmering metal roof of my rv and are heading for it…a much worse threat than bats and bears, I know that my precious Ratty and his friend Ratty cannot protect me, I reach for my gun, but, alas I don’t have a gun, I scream a loud unearthly guttural cry at the light, giving it fair warning that I will NOT go gently into that good sky, no abductions for me, I’ve heard what they do to people…while screaming brashly, loudly and clear, my neighbor comes over, he calmly reassures me that it is only the sun. Nice. I should try this morning thing more often. Nah.

After a quiet day around the campsite and the river, I head out for Mirror Lake. An easy hike, in fact, the trail is paved. So does it really qualify as a hike? More of a stroll. Beauty is everywhere. On the way back, I see a sign for a trail, a REAL trail that goes to Happy Isles, I decide to go that way…but get lost! Now, I knew that I wasn’t far from the paved path, but still nervous as the sun is going down, imagining myself becoming the prey of large, wild animals unfettered with the common decency NOT to eat someone.

Two skinhead looking guys moved in next to me today…very quiet, which is way nicer than than the loud yuppies on the other side…I was wondering what their story was…English accents, but drinking Jack on the rocks and chasing it with Bud…I went over and offered them so decent beer (Sierra Nevad Pale Ale) and started chatting. Great guys! Dav Thomas and his pal Tim, both graphic artists working in the gaming industry. They live in Sheffield, England, came here and rented a behemoth of an RV, looked about 30 ft…they had it for about two weeks and were just driving around…I totally confused them (not on purpose) by suggesting different routes. I just imagined them cursing my name the next day. I’ll email Dav and find what route they took.