December 10, 15:27
The waiting room.
Ever have one of those days when you’re really busy but not actually doing anything? Yeah, that. Today.
Today is the living embodiment of why I need to get on to the next chapter ASAP. Regardless of what I try to do, I keep tripping over my day job. It comes down to both time management and a boatload of crap that’s out of my control.
My one and only resolution for the New Year will be to improve my time management. There’s so much I need to get done between now and May. So many questions that need to be answered. And then there’s the pile of stuff on my desk. So much musical work I want to dive into, with not nearly enough energy. I’ve been promising the same stuff to the same people for weeks, and I struggle to get anywhere near it.
I’m giving serious thought to chucking plans to work a ton on my scheduled off days from here out. I have too many other things to do, and it’s too exhausting. If I’m at work, I’ll stay there. If I’m supposed to be at home, I’ll be there. It just makes sense.
This particular feature is being tweaked every day. Since the primary purpose of my page is music, it only makes sense to offer you a Song of the Day. So here it is, from pianist/keyboardist Brad Mehldau. I’ll be discussing this album more in the near future.
In trying to find a way to improve my time management, I realized that I needed to find a balance between much-needed overtime and much-needed off-time. Seemingly out of nowhere, the first answer revealed itself:
Stop working on my day off.
It seems simple, but you have no idea how much I’ve struggled with it. Work long days as needed. But when you’re off, be off. Tomorrow is my Friday, followed by a four-day break. Let’s see how it goes.
December 12, 12:43
The only thing better than freeing yourself from body armor at the end of the watch is knowing you don’t have to put on said body armor again until Monday. I have four days off. And in a rare show of restraint, I’m actually going to take every one of them. I truly, desperately need the break.
Today is usually the day I do nothing. But instead, I have found a way to do something without expending a lot of physical energy. Which is to say, I’ve been listening to new music and making notes for reviews. I’m also looking to make my way into a gig on Saturday, and making a couple of interview inquiries. For the moment, things seem to be flowing nicely.
Here’s something I’ll be scribing about in the very near future.
Meanwhile, I continue to sort through the (real) pile of discs and the (virtual) pile of downloads that have been awaiting my attention for God-only knows how long now. There is more than a little good stuff being released these days. I wish people would make more of an effort to sort it all out.
And now it’s time to do the one thing I said I wasn’t going to do this year: assemble a “Favorites of 2019” list. Twice. Oh, well …
December 14, 15:56
It’s grey and chilly outside. It’s not much better inside my head.
The gloomy cloud that is moderate depression has once again descended and made a home atop my head. This happens once a month or so. Just bad brain chemistry. I’m quite used to it. That doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. More than anything, it just makes me want to curl up at home and avoid all human contact. With today being a day off, that isn’t such a hard thing to do, with one exception: I have a ticket to see Foxing tonight.
I’m 75/25 on going as I write these words. But that 25 percent is a powerful beast. Even though I’m going alone and I was never able to get around to exploring the “journalist” aspect of this gig, I know at some point I will be required to “people,” which I truly do not feel like doing right now. It’s a miracle I’m typing these words, in all honesty. But forcing myself to “keyboard” may be the stick in the ribs I need to get me out the door. That and the desire to not simply toss $28 out the door for no apparent reason.
Most people don’t have to go through this. They don’t realize how lucky they are. But many, many creative types — and yes, I see myself that way — have to endure this more frequently than we would like. I’ve told people it’s the price for making art. And I believe it is. How many well-adjusted people are making really great music, or painting and sculpting at the highest level? Probably a lot fewer than the “normal” person believes. “Normal” people are shocked when a brilliant comedian like Robin Williams takes his own life. To people like me, this makes perfect sense. He was the “sad clown.” He hid his pain behind his comedy. I only wish I could’ve been there for him.
Not to worry … my downer days don’t go that deep. I get bummed out, I brood, it passes, I feel better, and life goes on. That’s where I am now. I know I’m not alone, I find comfort in the things I love, and I wait for the cloud to pass. By Monday, I’ll be just fine. That I recognize this pattern is no doubt a testament to the work I have been doing over the past several years to understand just what goes on in my brain. “Normal” people would do themselves good to study these things, which will aid in future recognition and understanding in the issues of others.
It’s been a rather tough week for the day job. There were two police-involved shootings on consecutive nights in my department. For the moment, both appear to be justified. Nevertheless, there will be protests and rancor (however subtle) over these incidents. I wasn’t a witness to either incident, so I choose to let the facts come to light, and the appropriate action will be taken when the time comes. That’s all I have to say about that.
Additionally, two of my fellow officers were fired this week for comments they made on social media. The comments in question were deemed racist, homophobic, anti-Islamic, or some other kind of detrimental. I know both of the officers involved. And while I have had no personal issues with either of them, I can’t say I was shocked.
I have vowed to keep my musical pages as politics- and religion-free as humanly possible. But this is one of those times I have to get it out of my system. So here goes:
From the day we walk into the Police Academy, we are reminded that we are being held to a higher standard than the people we protect and serve. This never changes, regardless of what you do within the confines of the department, or for how long you do it. You are being held to a higher standard.
The officers in question (and their supporters) have cried “foul” at their dismissal, because they believe their First Amendment rights (i.e. freedom of speech) have been violated. I cringe at that statement for a couple of reasons. First of all, I am reminded of what Gene Hackman’s submarine commander character said to his Executive Officer, played by Denzel Washington, in the movie Crimson Tide after the XO felt the need to speak freely and detrimentally to the captain on the bridge, in front of others. “We are here to protect democracy,” the captain said. “Not to practice it!” Any time I disagree with the decision making of my superiors, I keep that phrase in mind, and keep my trap shut.
Second — and perhaps more troubling — is the officer’s willingness to stand behind beliefs best not expressed by those who took an oath to exercise “fairness to all.” I have no doubt a lot of this controversy could have been quelled with a simple, “I didn’t think my comments all the way through. I didn’t realize they could be offensive if I expressed them publicly.” No, these men said what they said, and they stood by it. In a different context, this might even be deemed admirable. In this particular case … let’s just say I won’t be contributing to any benefits held on their behalf.
We all have our prejudices. Myself included. We all have had bad experiences that have led us to certain (often baseless) beliefs. As far as I’m concerned, what you say behind your own doors to your own friends and family is your business. But when you post those views (or even this one) on social media or otherwise publicly, the standard changes. Do you, as an American citizen, have the freedom to express yourself? You most certainly do! But here’s the kicker: freedom of speech DOES NOT free you from reprisal. Say whatever you want. But be prepared to accept the consequences.
I would also have less of a problem with the “pro-speech” supporters if these very same people had supported Colin Kaepernick’s freedom of speech when he was essentially fired from his job as a quarterback in the National Football League after expressing his opinions on law enforcement and kneeling during the National Anthem. But because his message was anti-police, my blue brethren celebrated when he was essentially blackballed from the league.
Do I agree with what Kaep said? Not entirely. Although he did have a couple of valid points, which made me work that much harder to ensure I was being fair to everyone, regardless of their appearance, beliefs or the circumstances at hand. I teach my probationary officers to do the same. Believe me, it’s not always easy. But even if I completely disagreed with what Kaep said, I support his right to say it and I don’t think he should have been fired. But he was. If we truly have the freedom to express ourselves, then it should apply in both directions. If you support one, then you should support the other. Particularly if you disagree! And that is what trips up my former brother officers and their friends. Admittedly, that is a pretty easy issue to trip over.
Of course neither they nor their supporters will see it that way. And there’s nothing I can do about that.
I am stupid early. Everything is happening an hour later than I thought it was. I could swear I saw that doors were at 6, and the bands start at 7. Guess I’m an hour ahead. Oops.
On the plus side, I should be able to get a prime spot up front, which gives me a place to lean. I hope. This is my last gig of the year, most likely. Hopefully, it won’t be too painful come tomorrow.
The two people behind me are saying good things about the opening acts. That’s a good sign. My luck with openers has been pretty good, for the most part. There’s nothing worse than a lousy warmup band.
It happened again. Apparently, the possibility of a 50-something black man coming to a Foxing gig didn’t compute for other fans.
I was first in line to get through the door. The next two people to walk up were all set to queue up right in front of me. The security guy pointed out that I was there first. “Oh,” said the bemused attendee, “I thought you were the ticket taker.”
I chuckle out of mild annoyance.
It’s something I have to live with. It doesn’t happen very often, but it never ceases to fascinate me. I keep thinking about what Vernon Reid said to me (which can be found in my book), “Music isn’t a color. Music is a sound!” Seems simple, but many still struggle with it.
But it remains a relatively small price to pay. And so I remain seated on the floor outside the door, some 20 minutes from being allowed in.
One of the bands (I think it’s Jr Clooney) is putting on a very impressive sound check. Blues fusion, similar to Marbin. I could listen to them for quite awhile.
I’m right up front, with a rail to lean on. That’s the good news. The bad news: it takes an average of about three of these kids around me to equal my age. Yeesh.
I’d start a conversation, but that feels really creepy.
Jr Clooney was quite solid, offering us half an hour of fusion that reminded me of the stuff I loved in the 80’s. It’s a trip to hear that sound coming from kids so young. Gives me hope for the future.
They’ve made my Bandcamp cue for further study.
Tonina proved most interesting as well. She seemed to be trying to fit into that little spot between Esperanza Spaulding and Me’Shell Ndegeocello. Jazzy, soulful, with just a hint of pop. I’m gonna have to dig a little deeper into her sound.
December 16, 10:49
Snow Day (I wish).
It’s Winter Wonderland outside. The kids are home from school. The adults are being told to stay off the roads. Alas, I have an afternoon shift to look forward to. I see a small boatload of accident reports in my future. Such is cop life.
I’m a couple of days removed from my Foxing experience. I can sum it up thusly: a great gig nearly undermined by my age and position.
Mosh pits are RUDE. This phenomenon very nearly ruined my Foxing experience last Saturday. I suppose it was my own fault. I was so happy to be up front for the gig, I forgot to factor in the age of the audience around me. I should have known something was amiss when the twenty-something kid asked me if I would be moshing with them later. I just gave him a firm (but good-natured) glare and went on with my evening. I heard what he said to me. It just didn’t sink all the way in. It never occurred to me to worry about such a thing. Before I knew it, the band had taken the stage, and all hell had broken loose.
I was at the very front, against the rail (an absolute godsend in any other situation). This meant all of the chaos was spilling forward, into me! I had to push more than a couple of people back, at times a little harder than I would have preferred. I gave one young man a particularly precise earful, letting him know exactly what would happen if he pushed me again. He seemed ready to fight for his right to mosh. And for a brief moment, I was ready to oblige him. But I guess he saw how pissed I really was, and he disappeared.
Another guy wound up pushing against me shortly after. But he could see how annoyed I was, and — to his credit — did his best to minimize his actions. It was far from a perfect experience, but I got through it. I even managed to get a few good photos, which was MUCH more challenging than it should have been. And while I blame no one for this but myself, I find myself asking the same question: WHY are mosh pits still a thing?!?
Before you go all “ok, Boomer” on me, keep two things in mind: First, I’m Gen X; Second, I didn’t like pits when I was in my twenties! The difference being I think we called it “slam dancing” back then.
What does running into and falling all over one another add to the concert experience? How does one focus on enjoying the music when trying to avoid being crushed becomes the priority? I’ve never been able to grasp it.
It’s stupid. It’s pointless. It’s dangerous. Most of all, it’s RUDE.
I love being up front to see my favorite bands on stage. But it’s clear I must now consider my age and (increasingly grumpy) disposition, and choose my gigs more wisely from here on out. Clearly, this trend is going nowhere. The generation gap, it seems, is quite real.
I have to give credit and a sincere “thank you” to Foxing guitarist Eric Hudson, who could see how annoyed I was at what was going on around me. We never actually spoke, but we made direct eye contact, and I could read his face. He raised an eyebrow that said to me, “Are you okay?” I nodded that I was, and I got a two-eyebrowed look like, “You’re sure? You’re having fun, right? This is great, isn’t it?” My face said I was still wrestling with it (pardon the expression). He gave me one more look that said (in a sly, kid-like way), “Come on! You love this!” I didn’t, really, but it struck me funny. I couldn’t help but grin a little. He saw that, and we both laughed.
The whole exchange probably took 10-15 seconds. But we connected. When the gig was over, Eric reached out into the crowd to shake a few hands. When he came to mine, he held eye contact and said, “Thank you for coming!” I thanked him in return, but didn’t drop my hand right away. Eric lingered for an extra second or two, then smiled and nodded before moving on. The message was received.
The Evening Watch.
“Winter Wonderland,” my tuckus.
Everyone else gets a snow day. We’re out here, neck deep in it, waiting for the next accident call. Such is cop life. As if this moment, it could be a lot worse. But the night is young.
Quite the mosh pit discussion going on my Facebook page. There are a couple of interesting takes. They’re not going to change my personal feelings, but I have reached a certain level of understanding. I get why people do it, I just don’t particularly care for it. I just want to enjoy the show. I can do a little air guitar and head banging without putting my hands on another human at the gig. I guess that’s just me.
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Too posh to mosh? That’s why I stick to the mixing desk these days. Made that mistake a couple of years ago, down front at an Opeth gig – peaceable for the first half and then the maelstrom opened up and I found myself teetering on the edge of it, about to be sucked into a black hole. Took the whole of a song to negotiate my way out of that one. Lesson learned.
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Really enjoyed this post. Brad Mehldau I know a little, Marbin added to the list of bands to explore. Thanks, Ced.
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