Friday, May 25, 2007

An article I wrote a few weeks ago for my friend Emily's column in The Aquarian Weekly

A few days ago my band came home after two months of tour. Our last show was in Seattle and we charged overnight back to the Bay Area. Our drummer found his way home to San Francisco, our guitarist boarded a plane to LA, and our bass player immediately drove to a friend’s house an hour away. I transferred my clothes, guitars, books, CD’s, camera, souvenirs, sleeping bag and pillow from our van and trailer into that familiar old white Honda Accord.

Getting behind the wheel, an uncomfortable clarity came over me. That car has been with me through so much. I used to drive it to high school everyday, or across the bridge to visit my first girlfriend. There was that time it got towed outside the Fillmore at midnight when I was handing out flyers and my mom had to wake up and drive me to the impound. When I was 19, I moved to LA in it to try to “make it,” then back to Oakland again three months later. We used it to tour the west coast, the vinyl around the doors is all scraped up from loading amps in and out.

Its sobering driving the Accord up those same old winding streets to my folks place. I’m here for a bit, then going to New York per usual before heading out on the road again. Coming back home after each tour I feel filthy. Its not just my clothes and hair after night after night in clubs and bars, sleeping on strange couches and van benches, its an emotional dirt, a sort of guilt for bringing this crusty rock and roll singer into the immaculate, innocent streets of my youth.

I unload all of my bags onto the living room floor and find my parents vacuuming and straitening. They inform me that some old family friends are coming over for dinner, they had no idea I’d be back this early. So I bring my stuff into my bedroom, where posters of punk bands cover posters of snowboarders, covering posters of baseball players. I find the cat, pet the dog, I’m excited that my brother happens to be here as well between a trip to Japan and Indonesia and some sort of rock climbing excursion in southern Utah. I am polite but exhausted through dinner. The house is too small and overflowing with voices. People are here that remind me that my super-cool-nomadic-alternarock-cowboy-poet lifestyle is product of a pretty ordinary childhood. I’m reminded of how shy and sensitive and unsure I was (am). Once appropriate, I retreat to my room. Just like the old days.

At some point in the night, Emily and I were emailing back and forth and I happened to complain to her about how useless I feel when I’m off the road. In the morning she responded with an offer to write her column this week. In hopes that it was a gesture of sympathy and not just a purchase of time for her to watch one more tivo-ed episode of Entourage, I accepted.

Now, since then I’ve mostly spent my time bitching about being home, running errands, taking care of the things that I cant accomplish in Random Town, USA, but mostly just bitching. Every conversation I have turns into some sort of venting session about my band, about the music world, about the Capitol-Virgin merger that we’ve been caught in all year. I know that they say the worst thing an artist can be is satisfied so we’re all bound to complain, but I’m also trying to remind myself that you cant take things for granted.

Last night, I drove an old friend to SoundWave, a giant warehouse full of practice spaces for musicians in West Oakland. When I’m in town I usually stop by there to visit local friend’s bands or to rehearse for tour, but this time I was just doing a favor, taking him to check out an amp that he found on craigslist, an Orange combo that he’d been wanting for a while.

The amp was brand new, and the guy making the sale clearly wasn’t happy about parting with it. He’d dropped a lot of cash, and only a few weeks ago. We asked some questions and discovered that he was from Puerto Rico, his sister was sick and he couldn’t afford to fly back to see her. It was a steal for my friend, barely used for a used price, but it broke our hearts. A musician selling off a beloved piece of equipment is always a sign of desperation, but family should be more important, he had to trade in a loud little Orange in order to be with his sister.

Standing in the room, discussing the tone of the amp with my friend, I felt like such a little prick. Here I am blessed with the recourses to tour professionally, getting paid to play my own songs for people. I get to tell people about my cool record deal, get to see the country, even get to write this completely indulgent article. The people I love are healthy and my band is actually doing really well, but I insist on burdening those around me with complaints about little rips and tears in the fabric of my little existence when I should really be listening to them about their real life problems in the real world. The situation rarely calls for me to make a sacrifice like I saw that man make last night.

Its good to have these realizations. You only get so much time on the planet and if you are able to spend it being creative and doing something that brings you happiness, well, there really isn’t much to complain about.