Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ah, to be a temp. Let's examine the pros, the cons, the sad reality that is this week

I'd written a largely unfunny screed about the value of temping, about how I need more sleep, and about the fact that if you watched every episode of COPS back-to-back-to-back-to-back, you'd be in front of the TV for fourteen and a half days, which sounds about as fun as shaving with a cheese grater, mind you, but that's not the point. The point is that I've deleted all that out of shame and out of respect for the three to five minutes you spend here now and again. You'd thank me if you'd read it. I promise.

Basically, here's the score: I've depleted my savings to the point that most of the hobos on Market Street are eating better than I am and, well, I've re-entered the world of the professional temporary employee. It's a life in which you say "sure, I need money, I just don't want a job. I know! I'll pretend that I don't have an actual job by instead working a slew of short and vaguely demoralizing ones. Added bonus: no health or dental care. Let me know if you find the tooth that just fell out my head." It's a life in which any semblance of vague competence is considered lauditory. It's a life...screw it. Let's do it like this:

PRO: Temping gives you money.

CON: So does robbing old ladies in broad daylight. Plus, the hours are better.

PRO: Temping allows you to meet new and exciting people.

CON: None of them respect or will remember you. It's like being one of those guys who dries people's hands in fancy restaurants. Sure they're just doing their job, but really: go away. You're weirding me out.

PRO: Temping gets you up early.

CON: Getting up early is for farmers, stock brokers, and other squemish losers.

PRO: Temping gets you out of the house.

CON: There's nothing wrong with living in a robe, drinking coffee from the pot, and getting strangely involved in General Hospital. I think.

PRO: Temping allows you to learn new skills.

CON: In the past three days, I've put stickers on Tylenol packages, nametags in those little nametag plastic thingies, folded folders, coallated, and passed things out said folders to European doctors who treated me like one of those aforementioned bathroom hand-drying-guys. In other words, I got paid $14 an hour to do what kids in China get paid 5 cents a day to do. Actually, that might be a PRO. A depressing one, but still.

You know what? Jury's out. I keep coming back to the original point: temping gets you money and money can be exchanged for goods and services and goods and services allow me eat and sleep and have some semblance of a livlihood. So, really: not all bad. That doesn't mean that robbing old ladies is out of the question. I'm just waiting for a bling one with a Gucci clutch. She's gotta be around here somewhere.

Oh yeah: Independent tomorrow. And no job. We're all winners now.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Life after tour: a rambling post comprising sad truths, happy acheivements, and, yeah: LOST is really good again

Success, ladies and gentlemen, is all in how you define it. Success can be a six figure salary or a luxury sedan or one of those robots that vacuums your house, that is, until the robot turns on you and vacuums your children's faces while they sleep. Success is winning the World Series, or, if you're the Kansas City Royals, success is when someone can name three players on your team without looking them up in the media guide. Success is, as best I can tell, achieving your goals. So let me say that this week has been a giant success: it's 1 o'clock and I'm wearing a robe.

Which isn't to say that I've been completely unproductive. No: I've dealt with bills, made phone calls, ran errands I could run in my slippers. I even looked for a job (more on this later). But my goal this week was to attain a level of sloth known only by hyper-obese World of Warcraft junkies and, when your big achievement is not breaking the yolk on the over-easy eggs you just made, well: success.

Of course, I hyperbolize. The beginning of this week saw me trying to figure out how exactly to suppliment the often-not-so-lucrative job that is being one fourth of Birdmonster. I contacted Old Trusty the temp agency who promised to crush my soul no later than Wednesday next week. I tried to apply to be a wine country tour guide, but a three and a half hour wait at the DMV put those plans on indefinate hiatus. I even signed up to be an "actor" in scavenger hunts for corporate team building events or snobby rich kids' birthday parties. In fact, I'm really excited about the last one; hope it works out. I also hope an eyepatch or a plastic sword are involved. I let them know that I had my own, just in case that'd help.

Hell, I even caught up on LOST so that I could watch last night's live, which, come to think of it, doesn't do a whole lot for me except force me to watch ads for Chevy and those computers that look like Tonka toys and are supposedly indestrucable. I like those commercials because everyone's incredibly clumsy: girl walks into a board meeting, drops the computer on the table, spills water on it, opens baby's diaper over it, extinguishes cigarette on it. It's wonderful. It's like that commercial where the same woman keeps burning herself pouring cooked pasta into a collander and eventually is forced to purchase the pot with the collander lid. The lesson: the world is filled with bumbling asses; buy our product. Anyhow: LOST has been at it's absolute LOST-est, meaning totally manipulative, completely full of shit, and incredibly enjoyable. Keep up the good work, chums.

A few other things merit mentioning today. Firstly, I'm going to be half-sort-of-guest-DJ-ing on BAGeL Radio with Bagel Ted, who I hastle regularly on Fridays when he plays songs that I dislike. His Friday show (480 Minutes) is definately worth a listen and, if you haven't done so before, tune in tomorrow. I'll be there the second half of the day (12-5 PST) and he plays really quality music, even if he refuses to plan any soft rock. In fact, tomorrow's goal: one soft rocker. Sometimes the sun goes 'round the mooooon/ sometimes the snow falls down in juuu-uuuune.

Secondly, next Thursday finds us playing at the Independent in San Francisco. You'll be hearing that like a broken record over the next few posts, so, I won't beat it dead yet. We're playing a bunch of new songs and playing with the Cribs, so, if ever there was a time to go, hoot, holler, and be merry, the 26th is that time. Put a big red circle on your calendar.

Lastly, I'm an unabashed basketball fan and the for-oh-so-long-oh-so-hapless Golden State Warriors have made the playoffs. This is big news for the small minority of people who give a damn. You may have to put up with me talking about that from time to time in the following weeks, especially after they beat the heavily favored Mavericks, a moment that will alienate our entire Dallas fanbase but make me strangely giddy. So, sorry about that. It'll be over soon.

I'm going to try and scam some more work now. I'm like a hustler, except a really geeky, legal, office-flavored one. Wow. I'm depressed now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Things I learned on tour

Coming home from tour after forty-some-odd days and 10,371 miles is, to put it mildly, surreal. I always feel half-giddy and somehow, strangely nervous. Obviously, the world doesn't stop without you and the homefront doesn't bother either. New paintings are hung in your absence, new roommates have settled in upstairs, and there's always a hernia-inducing amount of mail to sift through. Of course, some of this is good mail (so and so is marrying what's her name), some of it trash (Guitar Center's Fifth Annual Third weekend of March Green-Tag Orange-Tag Brown-Tag Super Sale Sale SALE!), some it downright intimidating (if you do not pay this parking ticket, we will steal your children. If you do not have children, we will steal your pet. If you do not have a pet, watch your knees: we're sending Johnny Knuckles.) But really, I spend most of the first two days back just smiling. I slowly realize that I don't have to load gear four times a day, I get to sleep in the same bed twice, three times, forever, and I can eat food that hasn't been deep fried, re-fried, or three-fried. Some people call this normalcy. I feel like it's fairly novel. Either way, I'm enjoying it. If you're ever bored with where you're at, I'd recommend driving thousands of miles and sleeping in motels with mysterious, blood-colored stains on the doors and walls. You might still come home bored, but you'll definately have an appreciation for that boredom hitherto unrealized. Unless your room is already covered in blood-stains. And if it is, I'd appreciate it if you stopped reading this blog. Thanks.

Being home also allows us to take stock of what we learned while on tour and, as always, we learned plenty. In list form because, let's face it, I'm lazy:

- All borders should be abolished. I say this not because I'm some sort of NorCal anarchist (I smell too good for that---and I don't smell that good) but because the Border Patrol attracts the most frustrating flavor of humanity: petty little dictators with small physical deformities and monstrous mental abnormalities. I'm pretty sure that Nurse Ratched would've worked at the border if she hadn't found torturing Randle Patrick McMurphy oh so enjoyable. Of course, if there was no border patrol, these people would filter into other sectors of society, say, the DMV or high school sports refereeing. So maybe it's wise to keep them all quarantined where we can keep an eye on them. Either way: avoid the Canadian Border Patrol. Use parachutes.

- Somehow, no one ever told me The Kings of Leon were incredible. I was gifted their first LP early this tour (and by gifted I mean I burned it while I was waiting for the mechanic to show up to half-assedly not-quite-fix our van) and it remained on repeat the entire time. Sure, I have no idea what the guy is singing about, but when has that ever stopped anyone from enjoying a band? You heard Dylan lately? He's gargling marbles.

- Before traveling ten thousand miles, get your car checked out. It could save you at least...nine hundred and seventeen dollars.

- When possible, try new foods. After all, very few things give you a more keen insight into a particular region than cuisine. Texas, Kansas, and much of the South are famous for their barbeque, not to be confused with what Californians call "barbeque" which is really just grilling or, as the Sammies called it, "cooking out." Chicago is famous for it's particular style of pizza, which is more like lasagna, which is, frankly, goddamn delicious. And somewhere in Missouri, there is a road side diner that sells frog's legs. In a fit of spontaneity (and, perhaps, idiocy), we decided to try these. They tasted like a fried, slimy cigar. And sometimes, a cigar is not just a cigar. Whatever that means. Best part of the frog's leg experience was the menu though: "Just like you used to catch!" Really? Am I wearing overalls?

- In a similar vein: Ann Arbor is not famous for its Mexican food. In fact, any place that isn't California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas should probably avoid calling what they serve "Mexican food." It's more like a bean-pita. But in Ann Arbor, Mason Proper took us to a local "buritto" shop and, on the wall was a note from none other than Bill Walton. I quote: "Dear Josh and Jacob, Thank you for making me the best burrito in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD!" If you don't know who Bill Walton is, sorry: that probably wasn't funny. But if you do, it fits right in with his patern of egregious hyperbole. Playoffs start soon. Go Warriors.

- I'll say this: There's depressing and then there's Oklahoma City.

- Extended tours mean you get all your news from tabloids at gas station check-out stands and brief glimpses at CNN at three in the morning. In other words, I know everything that happened in the last six months: Katie Holmes is under house arrest, Don Imus is a prick, and Brad & Angela might've broke up or adopted a baby from some place I barely knew existed.

- If you have someone who's away for their birthday and you know they'll be at a bar, you should buy them a bottle of champagne across the country. It's about the best gift ever.

- And lastly, I know it sounds like a great idea, but never end a tour in Las Vegas. It's a harsh thing to not want to drink or gamble and be in the drunken gambling-est place on the planet. It's like going to Willy Wanka's Chocolate Factory the day after getting a root canal.

Friday, April 13, 2007

In which Birdmonster realizes there is but one show left and realizes that San Francisco means different things to different people

Every tour has its stupid nickname. I remember the "Respect Your Opinion Tour" of aught six, where us four Birdmonsters resolved to stop bickering over the merits of Don Henley's catalogue, the proper Waffle House ordering strategy, or the intrinsic value of Street Fighter The Movie. Other tours have been defined by exploding transmissions (the "Arizona Hates Our Face Tour") or novel experiences (the "Baby's First Tour; Hello Both of You"). This time around? It's the "'San Francisco' is Code For Gay Tour."

I've always known that, on a certain level, a lot of folks not from the Bay consider San Francisco some sort of gay Mecca. After all, we had Harvey Milk, Castro Street, some of the first gay pride parades, and a mayor who, in his typical "screw it, let's roll" style, legalized gay marriage for all of a half week until the courts reminded him that you can't just do whatever the hell you want whenever the hell you want to. (Less than a year later, Newsom would make the same sort of move again, announcing free internet for everyone without much thought to, well, how that would actually happen. Often overlooked is the "We're going to Jupiter. What the hell you gonna do about it?" press conference of 2005, but, really: probably drunk). Anyway, the odd thing is that this tour, seemingly every time we mention our home town, we're treated as if we just said "We're from Gayland." Sometimes, this exposes some sad prejudices. Sometimes, it allows closeted Southerners to hit on you on the sly. Sometimes, just hearing you're from San Francisco gives the guy you're talking to license to begin lisping and ask if you want to do some "yach" while he tells you he's a "jungle-ist" and not a "boche-boy" and you're left wondering if he's speaking English or was recently concussed. The point is, being from San Francisco doesn't mean that you're gay; it just means that you don't care if someone else is. Ess Eff always seems to have this laisez faire, "you do your thing, I'll do mine" attitude that is somehow different than the typical big city "you do your thing, I'll do mine, just get out of my goddamn way" sort of attitude. Hard to explain, really, but I'm trying. It's also the nucleus around which all jungle-ist boche-boys yach it up, but, well, that goes without saying.

Anyway, I miss home. We're on the 11 hour drives portion of the tour and the long trundles westward always make me a little antsy. Conveniently, we're back in three days, so I don't have to pine for my own bed for more than three nights. Wondrous stuff, that. Right now we're in Denver, where it snowed yesterday and I got far too excited about it. Denver always treats us right, too: the crowds, while smaller than most places, are loud and attentive, the altitude lets a man drink cheap, and Dave & I have an old friend here (not geriatric old, but since-we-was-knee-high-to-a-grasshopper old) who lets us invade his house, shows us around, and, well, it's just a bonus of every tour to be able to see your scattered acquantances and he happens to be a favorite. Plus: played this show with my old black bass, the instrument equivalent of a battered, neglected wife and she performed magnificently, despite months of neglect, rusty strings, and the fact I forgot to get her flowers on our anniversary.

We also revisited Lawrence, Kansas this time around, a show that was memorable if only for the complete lack of humanity and the one dollar shots. It was like practice, except there was a bartender watching and a couple off to the side talking over the quiet parts. In other words: success, thy name is Lawrence.

This is the time when I sheepishly check my bank account, realize I'm slightly less destitute than previously feared, then subsequently realize we're going to Vegas and then entertain fantasies of all-night craps streaks that pay for my unborn children's college education, only to have the reality be far more depressing. Odds are I lose ten five dollar blackjack hands in a row and start whining like a scolded puppy.

Alright: the rest of the Birdmonsters are waking up and we've got a long drive through roads possibly covered in ice and snow, so I'm going to throw this thing up and get packing. Until soon, perhaps home, perhaps from the mansion I buy after hitting an eight million dollar slot jackpot: au revior.

Monday, April 09, 2007

In which Birdmonster does double duty in North Carolina, muses pointlessly on video games, and, by God, begins to head home

After a steady month of zig-zagging across North America, the compass is finally pointing west and home is less than a week away. All that stands between Birdmonster and the comfortable confines of the Bay Area are Kansas, Denver, Las Vegas, 3,000 miles, and a few ill-advised a.m. visits to Taco Bell, Taco John's, Taco Mayo, Taco Tico, Taco Casa, or the illusive Del Taco, a list of restaurants which requires the following footnote: yes, we're taking vitamins. I've officially entered the Jeopardy demographic. Two years until we're playing shows in matching Rascals. I'm excited.

Since we're heading west to California, like so many toothless gold-rushers and Indian-killers before us, that means we've left the Carolinas, which is my awkward segue into talking about Wadesboro and Charlotte. Those two cities are the dual homes of the Sammies, the former being where they grew up, the latter being where the live. I asked Gymmy Thunderbird what there was to do in Wadesboro and he deadpanned "Whip-its" before adding, also, you can shoot guns. Turns out you can also rent a country club, hire a soundman and a few stoned out security guards, and have a Rock 'N' Roll show.

Apparently, the last show to travel through Wadesboro was...the last time the Sammies came through and rented out the country club. In fact, beyond the pro shop adjacent to the stage, the only bar in town is a Chinese restaurant, so it follows there wouldn't be too many bands stopping in. (When you get right down to it, your typical band is, in the view of the clubs they play, just a vehicle to get people drunk). At any rate, Wadesboro was quite the scene: we got to meet a slew of the Sammies' friends and family and play to a crowd who never sees live music. In fact, during the last song of the Sammies' set, there was a guy next to me who was spinning around like a woodland creature, hooting while throwing wadded up twenties at their singer. Later, that same man would be found on a toilet, pants on, with upchuck on his tennis shoes. And neither of those things surprised me. Such was the evening.

We skeedaddled the next afternoon to Charlotte and our show was one of the better ones in recent memory but not one that lends itself to story-time. The Sammies' set was a little more interesting as, during their last song, their drummer's (Don Yale) bass pedal broke, so I picked it up and played the kick like I was in a marching band. In retrospect, I wish I would've had one of those funny hats or something. We spent the following hour backstage ad-libbing a song about doing nefarious things to a whale in a pleasant major key.

I also had my first introduction to the Nintendo Wii during the last few days and, if I may, I'm going to add my voice to the salivating mob of addicts and say: "Holy shit." When I step back and remember I grew up shooting 8-bit mallards on a 14 inch TV and, a mere decade and a half later, was standing in front of a big screen, gesticulating madly, forcing a little man who looked like Ted Danson, via infrared, to swing a tennis racket, I get pretty happy about technology. In fact, in my lifetime, the only part of society that's improved remarkably is in fact technology. Sure, maybe we're creating an America where fatties of all genders and all races communicate, unwind, work, and date on the couch, but at least its a generation of fatties who won't start ridiculous wars. After all, we'll have really cool war video games. We can all be tyrants. The Yalies won't get to hog all the fun.

I'm going to quit while I'm behind and write some emails to temp agencies, blood banks, sperm depositories, medical studies---essentially anyone who'll pay me anything when I get back. Bring on the glamor.

Friday, April 06, 2007

In which Birdmonster traverses the South, rejoins the Sammies, and maintains a westerly route

Greetings from somewhere in North Carolina, not to be confused with South Carolina, or, as the Sammies sometimes call it, "North Carolina, Jr." The scenery is constant, like the background on one of those Road Runner cartoons where the same three rocks and shrubs pass by over and over, only here it's a never-ending succession of churches, kudzu, gas stations, deflated barns, firework stores and discount cigarette stores, often in this same building, which is a lot like putting a knife store next to a marriage counselor, which is to say: not the best idea. But the drives through here and Virginia and the rest of the "real South" are always my favorites of the tour, unless that drive happens to be between two and five in the morning and you're listening to Pat Benetar, drinking coffee a trucker made himself at a 24-hour gas station with recycled grounds on an after dinner snack of Taco Bell and Krispy Kreme. If the drive happens to be like that, you feel like there's a few dozen grnomes in your stomach having a gang fight.

It's much better today after some sleep, a homemade breakfast, and coffee that didn't remind me of a Liquid Plumber commercial. We're on our way to Wadesborough North Carolina, childhood home of our erstwhile tourmates, the abovementioned Sammies, to play at a venue they've rented out since, apparently, Wadesborough is not known for a bustling music scene. I always enjoy going to somebody's born-and-raised hometown with them: you get a good perspective on anyone that way. Plus, North Carolinian country-ness is far more interesting than, say, Fresno. No offense Fresno. You do have some amazing stucco chinese restaurants.

Since we last spoke, we've been to our nation's capital and Virginia for a total of three shows. Washington was Washington, which is to say, a perennial favorite. The crowds there are always exceedingly enthusiastic and the beer is always exceedingly free. I saw my godfather there for about three minutes, though it was late and he was sloshed so, that explains the three minutes thing, I guess. I'm always at a loss when I talk about D.C., since we never seem to have any problems with anything there (knocks fake wood on dashboard) and we always feel so happy afterwards. After all, what's more synonymous with dependable and universally lovable than Washington D.C.?


The next evening we found ourselves in Fredericksburg Virginia, not to be confused with Fredricksburg Virginia although, truth be told, I might have already confused that. It's always a strange proposition traveling to a new place for the first time, playing a venue you've never been to, praying there are at least a couple other bands there so you won't be playing only to a bartender who's chewing out her boyfriend on the phone during your set. Sometimes you get lucky; sometimes you play to that bartender. We didn't play to that bartender in Fredericksburg though. For one thing, there was no bar. For another, Fredericksburg was, quite simply, fantastic. We played in a venue built in 1790, which, if you're keeping score at home, means it's 14 years older than America itself, and we played to a room of kids who weren't afraid to dance around, have a good time, and not throw things at our faces. Plus, the local band, Rocky's Revival (great name by the way) were one of those bands where all the kids are like sixteen years old and just rock the hell out and end up making you feel like you should be eating dinner at 4:30 and giving out hard candy to the neighbor's boy. If exploding bass amps, corroded batteries, and Canadian border extortion are the unhappy surprises of the tour, Fredericksburg ranks among the happy ones.

Last night was a bit odder. Instead of an ex-antique shop built when John Quincy Adams was knee-high to a grasshopper, we played in a six-month old restaurant cum venue in Norfolk. We played for our dinner, like some old tyme tap dancer, and stomped around for the Sammies. The sound onstage was a wee bit screwball so I'm going to assume we played exceptionally and then interrupt anyone who says anything contrary.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

In which Birdmonster trades tourmates, plays fine cities, and continues spending money like a Russian Autocrat

Yesterday, April second, marked the first day of the baseball season, a swath of time that signals the end of spring, the beginning of summer, and a collection of horrendous goatees that even a Korn fan would be embarrassed by. It was also Birdmonster's first real day off since a good two weeks ago, and a day I spent half-ill before an evening of red wine and that new Will Farrell movie worked like twin panaceas. (And, full disclosure here: I really enjoyed "Blades of Glory," but it must be known I was cackling far harder than the other dozen or so people in the theatre. Of course, I'd laugh at Farrell if he was giving me a brain cancer diagnosis, so, like I said: take that recommendation with a grain of salt. Or ten).

Today we're meeting up with the wondrous foursome known as The Sammies, fine upstanding chaps from North Carolina who make me a bit jealous that I have that bland, characterless California accent and not a country flavored Wainsborough one. This means that we had to part ways with Mason Proper and, well, leaving a great tourmate is just a bittersweet thing. Not unlike a cup of coffee filled with Jolly Ranchers, in fact. We separated from those boys in New York after they, in about ten minutes, learned all the cords and changes in Ice Age and joined us on stage playing tambourines, melodicas, and a guitar part that I wish I would've written. They were fantastic guys: very down to earth, humble, helpful---they were like the anti-Aerosmith. To take the analogy further, they had great songs, which, well, Aerosmith hasn't had since "Dream On," unless you count "Janie's Got A Gun," and that's certainly up for debate. Not up for debate: "Dude Looks Like a Lady." In fact, "Dude Looks Like a Lady" is the only song they play in waiting room before you go to Hell. Point is: buy a Mason Proper album and be happy.

I also recently had the luxury of spending my birthday in Boston. Besides bowling drunk, I can't think of anything better. Actually, I did get late night French Toast,and champagne from my girl in California, so: eat your heart out inebriated bowling.

In fact, life had been oh so lovely for oh so long until we took the Donald in to have the battery cable swapped out so that Zach wouldn't have to spend every third afternoon under the hood de-corroding the positive connection and the mechanic informed us that thirty thousand miles of hard driving without a trailer had reduced our shocks to spring-loaded superballs of death and that new shocks would cost us, well, let's leave it at "ah, crap." But we fixed them, plus some other part near the front axle that had been making a disconcerting cat meow noise and now the Donald's driving like a hovercraft and we couldn't be happier or poorer. I'm pretty sure it would be cheaper to have a set of triplets than a van. In fact, if only I would've had some triplets twenty years ago and fed them the Human Growth Hormone I'd be set. Added bonus: rickshaws. Other added bonus: no oil changes. I see no downside to this.

Despite the wine and the Farrell, I'm still feeling a bit...out of sorts. I'm sure I'm forgetting worthwhile happenings, certainly ones from Boston and from New York as well, but, I'm having trouble focusing, so, if they're really worth our time, they shall resurface in the coming days. For now? I need a nap. Westward, ho. And I mean that in the "onwards!" sort of way. I'm not insinuating you get paid to sleep with men.