Monday, December 17, 2018

It's never been about the Money

Since Hoss has been posting a lot of his autobiographical stuff and I'm in a real weird spot (geographically and mentally), I figured I'd write a little piece about my own pile of shit. As with the piece that will be published on my travel blog on Christmas, this is going to be a lot of me complaining and generally being grumpy.

Trying to come up with a title for this piece, one of my thoughts was "Sweet & Sour". I don't know if that's still a good title, but it might work for splitting this into two sections. My grumbling and griping followed by a bit more perspective. It's a good exercise for me to do more often, as I'm still a human reacting to what's around me rather than thinking about the arc of my life. Beware, dear reader - every sentence I type under "SOUR" needs an asterisk - I'll try to broadly address my own logical faults in the "SWEET" section.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I guess no one reads here...

Locked Library
Little Surprise
Always Disappointed


Work Harder
Work Faster
Do what I say
Your urlaub
means nothing
Don't you dare play.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Tell Me Baby

It’s November and it’s freezing outside. I hopped off the subway one block early because I’m always ahead of schedule and I need to get my mind into the game. I’m about to meet her for a legitimate date. It’s a big deal because after being casual friends I finally stepped up and suggested a date, and she accepted. My nerves are on full alert and I need to take a few minutes to calm down.

The reason I hopped off the subway at 5th Street is because Independence Mall is one of my favorite spots in Philadelphia. As I walk to a park bench I can see my office back to the northwest and Independence Hall to the south. There's no tourists out since it’s winter, so the whole block is calm and mostly vacant. I check my watch. I’ve got about ten minutes to the time we agreed to meet at the Gaslight over by Market & Front. That gives me enough time to listen to one song and then get moving.

When I go on dates there’s two songs I really like to listen to to calm me down. It can be nerve-wracking when you meet someone new. But this is the first time meeting a girl I already know in a new situation: an actual date. It’s a whole different type of nerves being wracked. I sit down on a bench facing west and pull up my favorite song on my iPod: “Soul To Squeeze” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At this moment I have no idea we will be listening to this song live in three months at the end of a Chili Peppers concert in Philly. I also have no idea that it’s her favorite jam by the Chilis. That fact won’t come out until January.

It’s five minutes to myself. The freezing weather is an afterthought. I relax and spend that time listening to John Frusciante’s incredible guitar intro and Flea’s killer bass groove. I sing the lyrics to myself while the song plays. Eventually I hear “I’m gonna keep ya for the end of time,” and realize there’s only five minutes left to go. She grabbed an Uber so I have to be there on time or I’ll have failed one of my own personal standing orders: always be early.

It’s only three blocks to go but I’m nervous as hell even though I shouldn’t be. I cue up my go-to first date hype song: "Tell Me Baby" by the Chili Peppers. The song is about going to Hollywood to chase your dreams, but there's something about that chorus that makes me think smile and wonder about all the new things you get to learn when you sit down with someone for a great conversation. Like all good songs the lyrics mean something more personal to me than the most basic interpretation. I get to the Gaslight right on time, and then maybe 20 seconds later I see a car pull up. She steps out of the car wearing a pink coat and I smile to myself because that’s always been her style - bright and outgoing on the surface. She’s about to walk to the door with a slightly confused look, as if she’s not sure if she should be waiting for me or if I’m that kind of guy who would go inside first, get a seat, and just wait for her to show.

I call her name and her entire expression changes to a bright smile that welcomes a familiar friend. We hug. We go inside...together. In the back of my head I hope that it will be a great day. And it turns out to be one for the record books. Personal stories that connect. Pop culture references and laughs as we realize we have even more in common than we thought. After brunch when I suggest we head nearby to play pool and grab some beers she accepts immediately with no hesitation. 

I have no way of knowing how this story eventually turns out. But right now, in this moment, I finally feel what other people wish for and talk about all the time: a connection. And it is absolutely magical. I'll never forget those last few minutes waiting for her to arrive while I let music calm me down and help me welcome in a new friendship.

"Tell me baby
What's your story?
Where you come from
And where you want to go this time?

Road Trippin'

Back in 2001 and 2002 during my Army days I took a lot of trips from Fort Lewis down to Oregon on the weekends with my two buddies. For legal reasons I’ll call them Bailey and Farncomb, because that’s actually their names.

My man Bailey was a curious case in the sense that we became great friends even though he was an NCO and I was a Joe. No fraternization. That’s the official Army policy. But friendship knows no bounds and we had an unspoken “fuck it” towards the fraternization policy. We had lots of pop culture connections, got each other’s jokes and had the same birthday (I was 4 years older though, even as the subordinate). One day I even ended up as the Best Man at his wedding.

And Farncomb? A son of Australia and dual citizen of the USA. One of our first interactions was him all up in my face in the barracks hallway. A year later we quashed all beefs and he was reassigned to be my roommate. No lie, dude was the best roommate I ever had. We used to drink good wine and watch kickass movies to bring a sense of culture to the barracks. We’d frequently quote Pulp Fiction: “People who know the difference between good she and bad shit? This is the room the come to.” And he made an effort to keep in touch over the years, more so than I did, so my hat’s off to the man. I had the pleasure of surprising him on his 40th birthday many years later when we lived in opposite sides of the country.

We were one hell of a trio. I’m not sure if Bailey offered or Farncomb and I demanded it, but we rolled down to Bailey’s house in Portland about 2 hours south of Fort Lewis and it became a thing. We essentially made this our own Alpha Alpha for 3-day weekends. That’s Armyspeak for “Assembly Area.” We would hop in Bailey’s Jeep and drive down rocking out to ‘90s rock, specifically the Red Hot Chili Peppers when their album “By The Way” came out in July 2002. Farncomb turned me from a casual fan into an RHCP die hard and it was because of that album and the summer of 2002 which is high in the running for the best summer of my life. We’d head down to Portland and then roll over to Bailey’s family cabin at Cannon Beach, the place we all know from The Goonies. 

We also rocked the “Californication” album quite a bit on these trips. Every time we stopped into a convenience store for gas Farncomb and I would head inside to procure logistics (logpac), and then tell Bailey “we got snacks and supplies.” It took the better part of a year before Bailey realized that’s a direct lyric quote from “Road Trippin’.”

Since I can’t pin down specifics as to which memories relate to which trips to Oregon I wanted to capture some of my favorites in one mashup. And that’s the point of what you’re reading today.

There was that one time where Bailey introduced us to his old high school sweetheart. I instigated this because he showed me a picture of this beauty when we were in the field doing Army stuff and I couldn’t believe that this girl actually talked to this awkward chump at some point. Maybe I’ll type up the longer version of that story some other time, but like I said earlier I was Bailey’s Best Man. And yeah, she was the girl. A fantastic person as it turned out. Sometimes the storybook ending actually happens.

There was the time where Bailey and I rolled down to his family’s cabin at Cannon Beach for New Year’s Eve weekend right after Farncomb left the Army. We took two other friends but I remember it wasn’t the same because he wasn’t there to join us anymore. All good things must come to an end, right?

There was the time we found ourselves as guests at Bailey’s future bride’s house. Just three American soldiers in a sea of otherwise normal people. My favorite memory of that time is when I woke up alone downstairs the next morning and Bailey walked into the room. Party was long since over but I was the sole survivor in the room by the pool. He picked up an empty bottle of Sauza tequila.

B: “Hoss, did you drink all of this?”
H: “Did you have any?”
B: “No...”
H: “Then...yes.”

Most of all, there were the times that the three of us ended up at his family cabin in Cannon Beach. The routine was always the same. Great drive down there, listening to rock songs, stopping at the store to get a weekend’s worth of beer, and setting up our Alpha Alpha for two days. We’d take a whole weekend just to enjoy being friends and enjoying the freedoms that people who never lived on a military base take for granted.

We would make a campfire on the beach at sunset and drink beers until we cleaned out the cooler. Some of the greatest conversations of my life happened in those days. There’s something magical about those moments drinking beers and talking about totally unimportant shit with my best friends. I’d go on, but those conversations are for me. Get your own.

And one of my personal favorite things about these trips didn’t involve my buddies at all. I would claim the top floor of the cabin which had a central fireplace and glass windows that faced the Pacific Ocean while they slept in the proper bedrooms downstairs. I’d use the CD player to play Pearl Jam live albums from their Binaural and Riot Act tours while I drifted off to sleep. One of these was especially awesome: Live at State College, PA which at the time was the longest show Pearl Jam had ever done. At the time there was no way I could have known I’d end up calling Pennsylvania home almost 10 years into the future. Listening to songs like Better Man, Black, and Yellow Ledbetter while I reflected on how great it was to have spent such great days with my friends.

Like all good times, they would eventually come to an end. In the short term we had to pack up and head back to Fort Lewis. In the long term we went our separate ways like the guys at the end of Stand By Me. We’ve all got our own personal baggage from our Army days. Every now and then I’ll speak with Farncomb and it’s good for both of us. We’ve got similar issues and it feels good to talk to an old friend who gets it. And Bailey? Well, by all accounts he’s doing super well. I still chuckle when I think about him realizing our “snacks and supplies” joke was actually a Red Hot Chili Peppers song and he was the last guy to get that pop culture reference.

Those were some of the best days of my life. Like I’ve told many people since then, all of my best Army stories have nothing to do with actual Army work. Nowadays I’m a 42 year old IRS agent, but I like to think my friends just consider me not as a Veteran or Government employee, but as a musician, master of comedic timing, a good listener, and an all around awesome person. And sometimes, like right now, I wax nostalgic for those times when I was fortunate enough to escape to the beach with my buddies and forget about life’s problems while we just lived it up as human beings and good friends.

“Road Trippin’ with my two favorite allies
Fully loaded, we got snacks and supplies 
It’s time to leave this town, it’s time to steal away
Let’s go get lost somewhere in the USA.”

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Great God Montagawea

"Oh Great God Montagawea, grant us your favor," the assembly implored in unison. The statue stood still as the theatrics began.

First came the swaying and chanting starting with a low rumble. Over the next minute or so the pitch climbed higher and the swaying turned to stepping then to jumping. What had been a low "ohm" was now shrill exclamations of "awhoo!"

At the sound of a whip-crack, the assembly fell to their knees, silent. The rumbling began again, slowly, gently. It again edged toward ferver, the mass of people now creating waves with their bodies as they plunged down to touch the ground with their foreheads then shot up straight to stretch their arms into the sky. At the height of the activity again a whip cracked. The assembly dove to the floor.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Top 10 Favorite Albums

The other night I was listening to a deep cut I hadn't heard in years off one of my favorite albums. I started nostalgia trippin' pretty hard and got to thinking, can I even possibly pick 10 favorites, the ones that made such a huge impact I can listen to them from start to finish at any time? Turns out I can. I quickly wrote down my favorites which took next to no effort, although I did have to trim the list a bit to get it to 10. 

Honorable mentions: Dirt (Alice In Chains), Core (Stone Temple Pilots), I Remember Clifford (Arturo Sandoval), Audioslave (self-titled), Born in the USA (Bruce Springsteen), Genesis (self-titled), Graceland (Paul Simon) and all of "Weird Al" Yankovic's first six albums.

10. Sports - Huey Lewis and the News

When I was about 8 years old or so I had a Walkman and one of my Mom’s coworkers got me two Huey Lewis cassettes for Christmas: Picture This and Sports. It was a great surprise, and since I had so few albums I used to listen to those two constantly. It started a lifelong habit of listening to music while I drifted off to sleep. Sports was the better of the two and one of the defining albums of my childhood. To this day every time I hear "If This Is It" I picture my own version of a music video that I conjured up way back then: Han Solo singing the song to Leia in Bespin’s carbon freeze chamber while the stormtroopers sing the "doo-wop" backing vocals. It’s the best video that never existed.

9. Tell Me I’m Pretty - Cage The Elephant

This album was given to me by a buddy at at SouthHouse in Philadelphia who knew I was a huge fan of Cage The Elephant. And 5 months later he got me a meet & greet with the band since he had enough industry connections to get that kind of street cred. We got smashed on IPAs and it was a killer concert. Cage is my favorite modern band and it’s probably because they kind of sound like a late 60s rock band, especially on this album. In my opinion, it’s not only the best of the bunch but the one album that feels like a solid and complete effort from start to finish. "Trouble", "Too Late To Say Goodbye" and "Cold, Cold, Cold" are just a few of the highlights. It’s so good that it beat out some classic 90s albums to earn a spot on my personal favorites list.

8. Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits

This is the first album I can remember me and my mom both loving equally, even though she was dubious when I first told her about the "chicks for free" song I’d heard sometime in second grade. Whether we were driving around town or taking road trips from Reno up to the Sierra Nevadas or over to the Bay Area to visit family, I always had the Chewbacca seat for navigation and tape deck duties in her Isuzu Trooper II. We had an ammo can as a cassette tape holder (true story) and Brothers In Arms was always on the top row, along with Genesis and The Kinks' State of Confusion to name a few. But hot damn, even today the nine tracks on this album are still a masterpiece. From the first chill notes of "So Far Away", Mark Knopfler’s incredible guitar riff on "Money For Nothing", the acoustic magic of "The Man’s Too Strong," to that funky '80s slap bass on "One World"...this album stands the test of time for me. An underrated work of genius.

7. Yield - Pearl Jam

I should get this out of the way right now: Pearl Jam is my favorite band even though I didn’t really discover them until 1998 which was about 6 years after their heyday. High school was 1990 - 1994 but I spent so much time studying jazz and classical music that the grunge era barely registered on my radar. I only heard rock songs when I was on the bus to or from DeLand High School and sadly I...missed the bus (zing!) on '90s rock for several years. When I lived in Tallahassee at the impressionable age of 21 I met some great friends who were Pearl Jam fans and we went to see them live in Fort Lauderdale on the Yield tour. I spent many hours delivering pizzas to broke college students At FSU while getting introduced to Pearl Jam via their 5th studio album. And if you’ve ever been in my house, surely you’ve noticed the huge Yield sign on the wall. My best friend in the Army recon-ed that bad boy for me off an Air Force golf course just because he knew I would love it. To this day I still consider it the best gift I’ve ever received. I went from studying music theory to a hard rocking Gen X-er because of this album. It’s evolution, baby.

6. Stadium Arcadium - Red Hot Chili Peppers

On any given day if you ask me what my favorite RHCP album is I’ll flip my 1922 silver dollar and tell you it’s either this or #2 on this list. After a really hard time in my life I moved back to Florida with my mom’s help and started to put my life on track. This album came out in 2006 and while I liked it at first, it wasn’t until several years later that I realized it was RHCP’s magnum opus and truly appreciated the album as a whole. I could talk all day about every track on this incredible double album. Everyone knows "Dani California" and "Snow (Hey Oh)", but it’s the gems like "Slow Cheetah," "Hey," "Desecration Smile" and "Wet Sand" that are the true standouts here. And Frusciante’s blistering guitar solo on "Turn It Again" is the best goodbye to old friends and fans alike that I’ve ever heard.

5. Baker’s Dozen - Larry Hosford

Yeah, you probably haven’t heard of this guy or the album. But if you have, that means you’re in a select group of fans who appreciated my old man’s tunes. I called him Dad, others called him a true Son of Salinas. He never made it big, but yet he made a big impact to the right people. This was always my favorite of his albums due in large part to the fact that I was present during the recording sessions in the summer of 1987 at MARS. Not gonna lie, I’m slightly partial to the official recorded version of "Ben Henry" with a phenomenal Fender Stratocaster guitar solo by Jeff Cruse. The musicians that worked with my dad on this recording treated me like an equal and didn’t make me feel like a kid, which is a pretty big deal when you're 11 years old. I even got backing vocals and album credit on one song. You can argue which of Lorenzo’s albums are the best, but I’ll stand by this one until the end. Sometime before he died on November 26, 2016 he managed to get this in an official CD Format re-titled as "High On Livin' " after the title track, and it also included his classic "Salinas" as a bonus. But I’ve always preferred the original "unofficial" album and track order when it was just 13 tracks - a baker’s dozen. His explanation to me was how I learned what that term meant.

4. Nothing Like the Sun - Sting

Earlier I mentioned how my mom and I used to listen to many great albums on road trips and bonded over that. In my opinion this was the best of the best. I was never a huge fan of Sting's other solo albums and didn’t know much about The Police when I was a kid, but it didn’t matter. This album is an absolute masterpiece and stands on its own. Plus it introduced me to saxophonist extraordinaire Branford Marsalis who I studied a lot when I was learning jazz sax in high school. I have fond memories of "Englishman In New York," (especially the soprano sax solo and outro) "History Will Teach Us Nothing," and the cover of "Little Wing" which was my accidental introduction to the world of Jimi Hendrix. If I ever stumble into a conversation for the best one-album-wonder contender, this takes my top spot.

3. GRP All-Star Big Band - GRP Various Artists
This album is a powerhouse of 12 classic jazz tracks arranged for big band format starring the GRP label’s biggest artists in the early '90s, hence the rather uncreative title. But don't let that fool you. This gem introduced me to names like Arturo Sandoval, Eric Marienthal, John Patitucci, Ernie Watts and Bob Mintzer. Since I was all about jazz in high school and my two best friends also played sax, we were totally into this album. And even today I can still follow along to every single magical note of each song. This was the gateway that got me into the artists' individual albums, most notably the stunning I Remember Clifford tribute album by Sandoval. And to my dying day I will attest that Eric Marienthal’s stand-up-and-shout alto sax solo on "Sister Sadie" is one of the most badass things I’ve ever heard in my life. But most importantly, this album will always remind me of good times and many great friends at DeLand High School that I won't ever see again.

2. Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Yep. Talk about influential albums. RHCP is my second favorite band (or really, tied for first) and this right here is a great example of a generation-defining album. It came on the scene in 1991 and I was introduced to it thanks to the lone baritone sax player in high school. At the time I remember thinking, yeah, this isn’t my jam. But when I was in the Army 10 years later and really discovered the Chili Peppers I came to appreciate the true genius of this album. If there’s a list of Generation X’s defining albums then I guarantee this (and my #1) are both on the list. It starts of strong with "The Power of Equality," and the next thing you know you're already grooving to "If You Have to Ask" and it's too late - you've got to listen to the entire album.  "I Could Have Lied" is one of my favorites to play on guitar. Who can’t relate to the sorrow in that song? "Under The Bridge" speaks for itself. Yes, it's overplayed and everyone knows it, but there's a reason it holds up. And "Sir Psycho Sexy?" I’ve only seen the Chili Peppers live once on February 13, 2016 and can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that jam. Once in a blue moon I’ll still bust out that song for karaoke if I’m drunk enough. "Soul To Squeeze" is somehow one of their best known songs from the recording sessions even though it didn't make the album and ended up as a B-side. Anyone who knows me nowadays knows how much meaning that song has for me.

1. Ten - Pearl Jam

It's the best album of all time. These things are subjective but you’re never gonna convince me otherwise, so don’t bother trying. Even though I missed the boat on the grunge phase I still eventually grew to love this album while driving around the streets of Tallahassee, delivering pizzas and singing "Porch" at the top of my lungs in my Nissan Sentra. This album is 11 tracks of "I'm on my own and nobody gets me" goodness, although I will admit there’s a 50/50 chance I skip "Jeremy" since it’s a pretty repetitive ("woo woo woo woo woo woo"). It’s a complete album that still rocks the house after all these years. “Even Flow” might be my favorite straight up rock song of all time. Everybody can relate to "Black" because the pain in that song is universal. I still don't know exactly what "Garden" means to me, but damn that's a great song. "Release" is not just Eddie Vedder’s unspoken message to his dad who he never met, it’s my own as well. And "Alive?" Like Eddie himself once said, the song came about because of a death (his father’s), but us Pearl Jam fans turned it into our own song. And now it’s an anthem - a celebration of life. Eddie explained that fans can take the meaning of a song and change it because it means something different to them, and now it's their song too. Mike McCready's guitar solo on the album version of "Alive" is my favorite solo of all time. And last but not least: "Yellow Ledbetter" is one of the most heartfelt songs ever from the recording sessions and everyone knows the tune, but just like "Soul To Squeeze" it was a B-side that didn’t make the album. I think the way they play it live is the best way to close out a rock concert, and it’s appropriate that in 2009 right before I moved to Philadelphia, Pearl Jam was the last band to play at the Spectrum and "Yellow Ledbetter" was the last song played before it was torn down.

In closing, these albums have had a lasting impact on my life and I've got a lot of fond memories attached to them. Not just to the music, but also to the friends and family I associate with these albums, even those folks I won't see again. I heard a quote once that music is the closest thing we have to magic, and I've always agreed with that.

“Where I go I just don’t know

I got to got to gotta take it slow

When I find my peace of mind

I’m gonna give ya some of my good time.”

Monday, November 5, 2018

Tall Tower, Little Library

[I should have taken a picture of the KOMTAR Tower - this is the library inside.]

Tiny Library
in Georgetown
Tallest Building
For Miles Around


Chicken Satay Pizza
Smallest one you've got
As filling as two full meals
Best to eat it hot


Book a ticket now
Arrive in twenty four
I hope I still have time
To get to Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"Patience" Contest Poems


Slow it Down
Cool it Kid
Use the Ego
Not the Id

Patience Waits
Patience Won
Spider’s Web
Is slow Spun

I Know that Look
Lusty Pursuit
Drives Love Away

So Take Your Time
Thineself Make Better
If You’re the “Catch”
Then You’ll Get Her



On sky-blue pond, a yellow boat
In which, a man, in denim coat
Has set his rods, some line, and bait
And comfy seat in which to wait
But his quarry, freely, swim below
Under boat and to and fro
For denim man has thoughts conflated
Patience and Idleness need separated
For the former can get you what you wish
While the latter might find you too drunk to fish!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Two Jack-o-Lanterns walk into a Bar

“Hey, Jack.”

“Yes, Jack?”

“You hear the one about the two muffins?”


“Two muffins are sitting in an oven. The first turns to the second and says ‘is it getting hot in here?’ The second screams ‘EEK! A TALKING MUFFIN!’”

(written for a contest on Steemit ~1500 words)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Very Scary Story

“I’m sorry, I can’t tell you that until you’re older.” The trio of children made their disappointment known through moans and wails. After a moment, Susie spoke up.
“Grampa, we’ve heard all sorts of monster stories! We’re not afraid of your scariest story!” Her siblings agreed with exaggerated nods of their small heads. A mischievous smile peaked out behind the older man’s gray mustache.
“I don’t know…” he teased the trio seated around the small table. A new chorus of ‘please’ just made him smile all the more. The three children made for an overwhelmingly cute sight - each with a handful of wrappers that once held Halloween candy and a mug of half-drank hot chocolate (with marshmallows - their Grandmother made sure of that!) in front of them.
When the begging died down, the older man adjusted his glasses and leaned back in his chair. The three went silent to hear his verdict.