A Few Days in the Life (10/21/19)

October 21, 15:54.

Home.

My first watch since my vacation has come and gone. Roll call was at 06:50. I was rolling my eyes at the nature of a “911” call by 07:10.

Yeah … time to call it a day.

The new schedule is out, and I am launching a dastardly plan. If the stars align, I just might be able to take June (as in the entire month) off. Do I come back after that? Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it? I suppose time will tell.

I’m pretty sure I lost a couple of pounds during my break. I could tell by the way my uniform fit. Then I remembered how much walking I did in Chicago. And I didn’t eat a lot of junk. There’s probably a life lesson in there, somewhere.

This has encouraged me to work a little harder at cleaning up my dietary act. I brought home baked salmon, roasted potatoes, and green beans. Breaking the soda habit is also a priority. The key (for me, anyway) is to attack this new lifestyle a day at a time, slowly and steadily. We shall see where that takes me.

Checking out a couple of the records I brought back with me. I’m starting with the Indie/Experimental albums. One of them isn’t as good as I remember. In fact, I thought I was playing it at the wrong speed. But things weren’t any better at 45 r.p.m. than they were at 33 1/3.

I’ve been mulling the danger of over-exposing myself with web page-related items on social media. On one hand, I don’t want to elicit that dreaded eye roll from people growing tired of hearing from me all the damned time. On the other hand, I have way too many CDs to review, the pile isn’t getting any smaller, and putting out one review a week isn’t gonna cut it. I search eagerly for some middle ground. I think I may have it.

Speaking of which, it’s time to dive into a few reviews, so I have something to post while I muddle through a couple of double shifts later this week.

October 22, 21:06

Home.

How can I be so exhausted on just my second day back from vacation? The answer is quite clear: job fatigue. I haven’t even done that much, yet I’m fried. After discussing it with someone close, we are in agreement. But I still have to hang on for just a bit longer.

I made my way to Alpha Tech — a stereo repair and resale shop — and found a decent replacement CD player. The brand new player I bought a few months ago crapped out (exactly like the reviews I never read said it would). I found an adequate stop-gap player for $40, but the display doesn’t completely work, even if it did play the discs. The Technics model I bought today does both functions perfectly. And it was a mere $50.

What’s infuriating is knowing the TWO players I’ve bought in the last couple of weeks still amount to $30 less than I spent on ONE crappy player at Best Buy. Lesson learned.

I like to check out a local band whenever I travel. The Chicago band to get my attention on this trip is an Indie band called Hidden Hospitals. They are a nice update to the old college rock aesthetic. I’ll be keeping my eye (and ears) on them.

Last week, I found myself wondering if anything I did professionally really mattered. I suppose you could say I got an answer when I checked my department mail basket yesterday.

There was a small envelope addressed to me there. It had probably been there for a couple of months. I had just overlooked it. Inside was a card with a note:

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It took a minute to remember who these people were. Then it came back. They were having trouble getting their much-needed car from a tow lot after hours. Long story short, I brokered a deal. That’s just what I do. The tow lot was happy, the people got their car, and I went on with my day. I had completely forgotten about it until I saw this. Nice to know someone appreciates my work now and then.

October 24, 12:00

Work.

The early stages of a long day. I didn’t get my overtime in last week, because I was in Chicago. I’d like to blow OT off for this week, but road trips aren’t free, and other bills must be paid. Yet one more reason why I look forward to the move.

We Lost the Sea is keeping me company. I published my review of their new album earlier today. It just keeps getting stronger. It’s always nice when something you already liked continues to grow on you.

I’ve had a real yen for vintage hip-hop of late. Damned if I know why. But the Golden Age (c. 1985-95) feels like something I really need to explore. To that end, I found myself here early this morning.

It’s a rock-solid album. It won’t make me forget Public Enemy any time soon, but I can see why it’s held in such high regard. Maybe there’s a classic hip-hop piece in the back of my mind, trying to surge forward. We shall see.

October 26, 10:18

Work.

A wet and clammy day. I’m only out here because I have to be.

I’d much rather be at home, coffee in hand, music in the background, reading a book. That book would be Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century, by Nate Chinen.

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I got halfway through it months ago, and then life got in the way. But Chinen is coming to town in a couple of weeks, and I want to be able to ask questions. Perhaps an interview? I’ll see what I can do.

I woke up in my Frank Zappa head. So, that’s where my musical day begins.

I put in 14 hours each of the last two days. It’s like I’m only happy when I’m exhausted. That’s dumb! So I told myself, NO overtime today and tomorrow, and I’m taking all of my days off. I need to stay rested.

It’s time to go back to the gym. I’m long overdue. I told myself I would live a more organized life, and get to the gym three times a week. Like so many others, I have a membership I’m not using. So I decided to drop by and see if there were many changes since I was there last.

It’s closed. Permanently.

There’s a long story behind it, but it’s not worth going into. The bottom line is the same: I need a new gym.

October 27, 09:05

Work.

It’s Friday at last! Well … my Friday. The weekend for me is Monday through Wednesday this time. One of the biggest adjustments to semi-retirement life May wind up being the concept of a semi-normal workweek.

Jazz Sunday is being delayed because the CD player in my patrol car (an “extra,” as my regular car is in the shop) is down. To make matters worse, the radio has a short in it, causing it to switch to “auxiliary” for no apparent reason at random moments. To be certain, this thing has seen better days.

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I’m trying to enjoy a little Classical music for the time being. I may switch to my Alternative station later, since it’s “Way Back Weekend,” and they’ll be focused on stuff from the 90’s.

It’s the fourth anniversary for my favorite local record shop, Planet Score Records. Joe Stulce and Tim Lohman have been nothing but good to me from the very first time I walked into this shop. I even wrote about it not long after that first visit.

Despite the best efforts of the music industry to convince us that physical media is dead, business at Planet Score continues to thrive, and their event days just get bigger and bigger.

They are definitely one of the things I will miss about St. Louis. I may continue to order new material from them, just to maintain the relationship.

11:18.

I changed my mind.

I had to run home for a second, so I grabbed my Bluetooth speaker while I was there. Between that and Bandcamp, Jazz Sunday is now in full swing. I’m making some interesting finds while the district collapses, one parking violation at a time.

October 28, 18:10

Off Day.

The seven-day workweek caught up to me, and I’ve spent most of the day alternating between napping and nothing. I’m still rather tired, but I need to accomplish something before the day is done. Otherwise, I’ll just spend my time bitching about getting nothing done.

Nate Chinen has a list of “The 129 Essential Albums of the Twenty-First Century (So Far) in his book.” My respect for the man and his work has led me on a quest to hear at least part of every record. I’m probably a third of the way through.

Most everything he lists is on YouTube. A few of the more recent albums are on Bandcamp, which I like even better. If I like what I hear, I can just order it and put some money in the artist’s pocket.

For the most part, the results have been solid. There is one area where Chinen and I differ just a bit. He has a taste for the avant-garde. And while I respect any musician and his quest to reach a certain goal musically, I do struggle with this particular method of bringing said vision to life.

I’m not looking to denigrate the avant-garde. Interesting things happen there, just as they do anywhere else in music. I just struggle to grasp what’s going on more in this particular realm.  When I listen to music, I’m listening for the basic key elements, like melody, harmony, and rhythm. The compositions have a form I can wrap my head around. I can follow what’s going on, even if I don’t particularly care for it. The avant-garde (or “free jazz”) can make that somewhat difficult.

I keep thinking back to an episode of Star Trek, where the crew is attempting to analyze an odd phenomenon in space. They discover that by their standards of measure, the anomaly has no discernible center or outer edge. This meant the object couldn’t be measured, despite the fact everyone could see it. Baffled, the first officer asks, “Are you saying it is and yet it isn’t there?”

That’s how I feel about a lot of avant-garde jazz. The elements that make it music — instrumentation, melody, rhythm — are present. They just don’t seem to have any sense of true sequence or direction. Nothing brings the sounds back to the center for a unified statement. There’s nothing for me to hold on to. There is no center or outer edge. It is and yet it isn’t there.

I often tell friends confused by certain kinds of music to pick an element within the composition (e.g. the beat, an instrument, or the rhythm) and hold on to it. Build the rest of your listening around that element, and see how everything comes together. But even I have trouble doing that with some avant-garde jazz. On one of my first Chicago trips, I brought him an album from the Art Ensemble of Chicago. They are legendary. I was eager to hear my treasure. But within five minutes of putting it on my turntable, I was very confused. I have similar issues with Sun Ra, or John Coltrane’s “free” jazz period, where he went completely into the musical stratosphere, leaving all semblances of conventional jazz behind him. It worked for him, but not so much for me. I need something a little more concrete, even when I’m enjoying hearing musicians stretch themselves out.

This isn’t to say I dismiss all forms of abstract music. Hardly. Miles Davis did it a lot in the 70’s. But he also gave me something to hold on to while everything else happened around us, whether it was Al Foster’s drums, Michael Henderson’s bass, or the song’s basic form. And when things went far enough out, Miles would re-center the band by playing the song’s theme.

Some of the albums Chinen likes fail to give me something to hold on to. I seemed to run into more than a couple of those records yesterday. Well, no matter … I’m finding more than enough on that list to keep me entertained for quite some time. My explorations are only getting more interesting.

Meanwhile, it’s time to write a couple more reviews.

#cirdecsongs

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Check out my book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.

Want to have your album reviewed? Contact me at cirdecsongs@gmail.com

 

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