Monday, October 31, 2011

[ BtS ] Diamond Rise

I was about 16 when I wrote Diamond Rise and it’s the earliest song I still make any claim too.

It was 1992-ish give or take a few months. Silent Lucidity had inspired me to add guitar to what would soon become an ever growing list of instruments I play. I’d spent the past couple years both kinda dating a young lady and, at the same time, going through the rough process of coming out to myself and all that entails.

I remember a lot of the pain that caused both of us. In all fairness I told her before we began our month of official dating. Then year or two of unofficial dating/hanging out was an interesting symphony in … pain and confusion. I liked her, cared about her, and clearly wanted to be close to her. She wanted the closeness in a different way, however, than I was realizing I could offer.

I was tired of it all - the pain in my eyes and the pain in hers. I won’t even more than mention the brief time when I was in love with her best friend, he with her, and she with me. There was no romance in any of it. Just anguish mixed with awkward camaraderie.

I don’t think I ever read either of them the lyrics. I don’t think I even played it outside writing it by myself. And I’m not sure who the song was really written to - me or her. But there it was: the desire to be somewhere far from pain, to live in this mythical and magical world where everything was beauty and peace...

12 years later I’m living in Brooklyn, NY and I suddenly have the means for recording my music. Armed with ProTools and Reason I set about something of a mammoth task - trying to reconstruct a song I'd written over a decade prior using only a bare minimum of actual live instruments (guitar, bass, and vocals). The irony came circle - that I had gone to college to study composition to orchestrate rock songs only to end with a degree in performance of classical music. Now here I was putting Diamond Rise together at long last.

Overall I kept most of the writing I’d done back then[*]. What was once more electric did become more acoustic. Some of the lyrics got revised - still on the naive side but a little more mature. But the structure, the chord progressions and most of the guitar riffs remained - even some bits of the orchestration! (Yeah, I was already throwing in random key changes at that age! LOL)

I have yet to ever perform Diamond Rise.

  • Okay. Writer's geek moment. My favorite spot is that lone G# in the solo around 2'50". Something about it just has that extra kick of passion and always catches my ear. *heee* Yes, the whole song AND THAT.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Adventures in Buskingsitting

Fellow guitarists take note: I learned today that (in the case of an emergency), if you pop your B string, you can move your high E string over and tune down to a B. Fairly effective!

James and I have done a number of gigs with an organization here in Philly - the Community Cultural Exchange. Their recent engagement is to bring back live music and buskers on South Street which is pretty cool. Tonight he and I took our turn on the famous Village-esque street of Philadelphia.

We plopped ourselves down at 6th and South - across from a fire department (where a former student of mine works or used to work) - and got ourselves set up. After a couple moments of discussion we got to work.

Wouldn't you know it? The middle of the FIRST verse of our SECOND song - TWANG! I felt the B string go. Fortunately I know the area moderately well. So after I muddled through the rest of the song, I told James what happened and then darted off towards Bluebond Guitars at 4th and South.

Rounded the corner to see what I was most afraid of - the metal gate was down indicating they were clearly closed. Turned around and huffed my way back to the pawn shop at 8th and South. Same damned gates.


At this point I'd run the options I knew of. I ducked inside a used CD/record store figuring if they didn't sell strings then maybe they knew another alternative. The clerk was friendly but only knew of a place west of Broad street (9 blocks too many!) and thought he'd seen one on 4th St south of South[1].

At this point I figured too much more delay was just silly. Went back to our spot[2], detuned the string, and swapped the pegs it was on. Tuned it back up to a B and, after a couple seconds of strings setting, started the set back up.

It wasn't the best tone, no. And the lack of an upper E string threw some of my chords a little wonky if not outright confused me for a second. (D major or minor chord? How do I... Oh yeah.) But it was serviceable - certainly much better than just trying to play without the B string. That gap is just... completely confuddling.

And the bottom line is that we still did pretty well. The tips could have been more generous, of course. But we enjoyed ourselves and the weather was almost perfect for busking. Maybe just a *tad* cold (for me at least) but not quite so cold that our muscles, joints, and vocal cords were affected.

  1. I only remembered what place he was talking about LONG after the busking was over. But that place is open only randomly. I suppose I could have checked but...
  2. James and I did try and contact a couple other people in hopes they might have or have access to a spare but that garnered no results.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Past Revisited

Oops. It's been almost a year since I updated things here. Life has actually been pretty good - it's a shame some of the better parts haven't gotten mentioned - at least yet.

Time. In time I'll recap the past few months and point forward for a change.

In the meantime, during my evening commute to work, as the specter of my face transgressed the shadowy substance of streets, I found myself reflecting upon a very specific moment in my life.

It's a slice of that homeless stretch that I (kinda ironically) mentioned in my previous post. I had taken a trip to Boston to visit a friend and to get away from my predicament. On the ride back to NYC, I found myself poring over my thoughts and spilling them into my laptop.

It's not a terribly happy post, mind you. In fact it's rather melancholy. Later I even deleted the blog that this was on in a much worse bout of depression. But it's such a quintessential piece of thread in my own tapestry...

Missives in Motion... (Or Rambling on the Road?) (2005-01-03 15:00)

(Ed: Wrote this last night on the bus ’home’ and, while I’ve done at least one round of spellchecking ’n stuff, it’s long and there are other things I should be wasting my time on. So fellow nitpickers, you’ve been warned. *heh*)

It’s shortly past 2:45 am and the streets and buildings of Boston are passing behind me - the Citgo sign, Jillians, Microcenter. The Charles is on my left and the dark waters capture and release the late night reflections of the city lights.

First stop Providence. Then Foxwoods. Then another stop then another... Final destination: New York City.

Small patches of snow remain like dust in a poorly swept room.

The streets and houses seem to shift slowly though perceptibly. Gone are most of the taller buildings and residential units - houses, double deckers, brownstones, those three story things, churches, parks, auto shops... all signs that my 3 years are once again sliding back to the far east coast of my consciousness.

At one point I could probably have mentioned which cities I was passing through as my ex and I took route 90 back to his place.

No longer.

The overpasses and breakdown lanes look just the same as they do in New York - at least by moonlight. It’s funny how similar things seem at night...

Memories lurk just beneath the surface of my consciousness like pasta as it boils - each briefly snagging a tiny piece of my thought processes and throwing almost random imagery into my mental eye. But I decide not to dwell on them.

We reach the Mass Turnpike and pass through in a matter of moments.

A matter of moments...

I’m not on this bus to get to NYC fast. Quite the opposite. Before long I hope to sleep - a bed on the back roads of the USA, I guess. Well, maybe not the back roads but...

For a night I’m not worried about lodging - about becoming the guest who never left. My body is, in its own way, in tandem with my mind - drifting the vague stretches of existence. I find that, in the midst of my housing and domestic crisis that I do feel strangely at home.

Images of Boston and NYC blur together and somehow they become indiscrete places. New York melts into Boston as Boston slides from the urban womb of New York City.


Yes, it’s lonely. But I’ve been contemplating the loneliness my life exists in all night. It’s not the weepy, teary-eyed, I’ll-never-find-a-date-and-die-a-horrible-old-harridan kind of loneliness. Rather, it’s the singularity and disconnected from everyone yet connected to everyone kind of loneliness.

Yes, instead it’s the type of loneliness where I belong to no one by choice and by design. Yet, my heart seems to wander to everyone. My friends in both New York and Boston know of my love for them and they are part of my amorphous and wonderfully dysfunctional family. And, as I ponder the open sea of possibilities I can feel my heart strings cast out on the lines of the world wide web - reaching to touch faces and hands in other parts of the country.

There’s friends and lovers in Austin, Rochester, Toronto, Hawaii, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas, Ireland, Manitoba...

Well, maybe not Manitoba. I’m not sure these days.

But with the dawn of the ’new year’ freshly behind me the sense of ’fresh starts’ and ’recaps’ seems horribly artificial. The road stretches on and on and as houses finally begin to give way to trees and shrubs, and no distinct point of departure seems to exist. Rather I was about there 10 minutes ago and back there at least four Dunkin Donuts and one ChiChi’s ago...

Fox 25 bursts out from the blackness in a strange and alien sort of colored bubble ice cream cone with pastel colored scoops and a somehow decrepit atmosphere. Orange sorbet stares at me from the number of street signs that flash back the buses headlights - reminding me of the temperamental and transitional nature of my thoughts and existence.

Yes, there was a time when I thought that love was where it’s at. I gave my heart to someone that I thought was doing the country a wonderful service - containing some of MA’s most despicable citizens. I gave my heart to someone who had seen 15 years disappear in a moment, in the span of one heartbeat to the deafening silence of forever.

So I turn and watch as a few non-descript factory or some sort of vaguely warehouse-ish constructs pass by the window.

It all seems to connect, though. My pain to his. Or perhaps it was his to mine. But as those threads were torn and those fantasies broken. As truth was revealed to me in bits and pieces of second hand-me-down information my life was already in change.

No longer do I believe in _one_. In fact, it had been a while since I did. it was like I had forgotten ’cuz I was so taken by playing with this new toy called ’partnership’ or ’domestication’ or ’relationship’ or a number of words and phrases that protected me or hid me from the reality of my lonely existence.

Yes, the toy was broken now. just as the streets grow dark and the lights fewer, it was time to put the pieces behind me and work past the points that most people would refer to as ’normal’ or ’productive’ or various other tokens that would seem to somehow attempt to capture what it is to be human or otherwise alive.

But me?

Well, the darkness begins to abate as it always will and another city or such group of dwellings and workings begins to form out of the darkness. This one we’re not stopping at. No, it’s another series of images destined for being overlayed with my reflection.

But me? No, there’s the darkness again - both on the road and, perhaps ironically, obscuring the metaphysical and philosophical and metaphorical roads of life that are in front of me.

What next? Where’s the next stop? Will it be a piss ’n shit stop here? Or will it be an eat and drop off there?

Well strangely, as I sit here and contemplate this contemplation of contemplating; as I reach my imaginary heart strings to the threads of my friends existences; as my numbing behind glides effortlessly above the pavement; as I reflect on the travels past and the travels ahead; as I think about where music - my essence and definition - may or may not take me, has and hasn’t taken me... I find myself holding an answer.


This. At 3:33 am, in near darkness of deserted highway, this concept of my life as a transient seems more palpable than ever. And, in this sort of feedback-loop, it unfolds... Like a half-cadence music propels my life from one spot to the next, from one verse to another, from one refrain to the bridge and back again... I love no one yet love everyone. I live nowhere yet live everywhere. The lines drawn in the sand are discarded by the indifferent waves of reality.

Another city folds into being like a cloud entered while flying only to dissipate shortly thereafter into another string of walls and lights then to lights then to strangely effervescent green signs that indicate the next interruption.

It’s approaching 3:45. Lights and buildings are more consistent now. The next stop is Providence. In a way, I hope the metaphor remains and that the next point of my life will be more fulfilling than the current stretch of anxiety, desperation, despair and disillusionment.

Yes, we’re in Providence. The twisted roads, confusing scribbles of highway and streets bring back memories I haven’t danced with in ages. The bath houses we used to frequent... The one strip bar I’ve visited... Contrast that with the extremely old-world, puritanical architecture and the paradox is amusing and refreshing. My life is a sort of paradox. Old and new, baroque and experimental, acoustic and electric... again, single yet poly-affected...

I notice that the battery indicates 2 hours remaining. Yet recent sessions seem to hint that my battery is becoming unreliable. I’m tempted to shut down shortly and draw this monologue to a close.

The moment seems right. The driver may be lost, I’m running short of time, someone behind me is shouting out directions - to the driver, I suppose.

Once again my silent sophist sojourn returns to the same thing - ever changing yet constant in that change. A series of chord patterns that I improvise my life over, hoping to hit the stops together and develop some sort of timing that one might call ’tight.’

It’s nearing 4 am and, yes, I think this we’re near the bathhouse. Ironic in a way yet appropriate.

The bounce of the bus would only be so kind as to rock me to sleep but no... However I know I need to sleep so I prepare to shutdown and hope that further inspiration will somehow retain in my head... Although the lights intrude on my spiritual reflection they enhance my physical reflection.

Aye, this tune ended bars ago and now we’re far into the coda... It will be played again. But for now, the band needs a break.

Night, kids, from a life on the road - just me, my bass, a handful of dreams and ambitions, and a bunch of unknowns.