In the documentary “The Future Is Unwritten”, an (extremely young) Joe Strummer tried to get himself renamed Woody in homage to Guthrie, which thankfully nobody really took him up on, which was good, because the name Joe Strummer is now part of the pantheon of legendary songwriters like Guthrie is.

But Gaslight Anthem once wrote a great response/ tribute song (this is going to make sense, trust me):

So tonight, I went to see a show from a wide range of musicians, but anchored by the Mekons stalwarts Jon Langford and Sally Timms. And the whole show was augmented by the great musician John Szymanski, who also plays with Langford on Four Lost Souls (who recorded their ABSOLUTELY AMAZING album Four Lost Souls at Muscle Shoals).  Also joining in for a few songs from that Four Lost Souls album was Bethany Thomas, who ripped the roof off the place.  Discovered that later this year, we would be seeing her appear on a different Milwaukee stage performing Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Here’s one of the Four Lost Souls songs they played:

I talked about this with my concert buddy, but how it amazes me that all of these masses of music all come together.  Many of my friends express surprise at how much music I love and want to experience.  But music is not a style, it is not a preference.  Music is how we express ourselves.  Like paintings. or sculpture..

But here’s the thing.  In that Gaslight Anthem song, where he sings about “I heard it like a shot from my skull to my brain
I felt my fingertips tingle and it started to rain
When the walls of my bedroom were tremblin’ around me
This ramshackle voice over attack of a blues beat”

And in a similar way, the first time I saw the Mekons did the same thing to me.

And in the early 90’s I took the strong review in the Rolling Stone for a Mekons album, “Rock ‘n’ Roll” inspired me to go see them, probably paid what, 15 bucks? at a local 300 person music club.  And they fucking killed me.  They were SO FUCKING GOOD.  They were sloppy drunks who also were amazingly on point.  They got drunk on stage and took their clothes off.  And they destroyed my brain.  AND they were immortalized by Too Much Joy in one of their songs. And the next time they visited, I told my wife she had to see them.  So we went, but unknown to us they got tossed from their label, without releasing their followup album, and in the middle of their American tour.  So when we saw them, I think they were basically abandoned in the middle of America, and I figure they had pregamed beyond the best amount, and we saw a shambolic, incoherent loss of control by a band that became repellent and they argued more than they played.  We left, and if you know me, that is rare.  So….the next time they came through, on an independent label, I said to myself I says “self, they were so good that first time, I will give them another chance” but I didn’t bring my wife because of how bad they had been the time before.  AND THEY WERE AGAIN SIMPLY AMAZING. I went the next time, and they were even better.  They got better and better every time, and now they are the most consistently amazing band I know.  I went to see them in the middle of fuck-all Wisconsin and I survived a heart attack to get there.

I used to make tapes and  put London Calling on one side, with Rock ‘n’ Roll on the other.

This was a performance from musicians I love and revere.  And they played some of my favorite songs, including “Memphis,Egypt” and “Drunk by Noon”

Opening the night was Milwaukeean and raging protest folk-rocker Deano Schlabowski, who also joins Jon Langford in the country punk outfit The Waco Brothers.  Deano was funny as hell, and he also debuted a theme song inspired by the newly revealed camouflage uniforms of the SPACE FORCE! But he opened with this:

At the end of the show, we spent much time chatting with the musicians, and sharing some absolutely incredible home made brandy sour gummies.  And I am pretty sure I arranged for Deano to play at a party this summer.  And Langford came over to say HI! before I could walk up to him; remembering my name and the last time we talked.  Got pics with him and with Deano.  Spent a LOT of time talking/flirting with Bethany Thomas.

On the merch table, in addition to the typical vinyl and CDs (all of which I already had), Jon Langford had brought along some of his art-prints, on 7″ square plywood.  They were of various artists – Patti Smith, Woody Guthrie, some more bizarre scenes.   He works with nearly-photorealistic portraits, but overlaid onto fatigued and distressed backgrounds. As the T-shirt says, “my favorite color is patina”.  But the one that caught my eye in particular was a portrait of Joe Strummer.  It was gorgeous.

I got another beer and mulled an unanticipated art purchase, discussing with my buddy the likelihood of using my acquaintance with the artist to obtain a discount.  I have a fair number of Langford/Mekons art prints and concert posters already, but only 4 of the plywood treatment, which I bought at an art gallery in town when they had a show that coincided with a Mekons concert. But when I looked again, apparently someone else jumped before I got my nerve up. So it goes.  I was philosophical.  I had just enjoyed a sublime evening of music and humor and friendship and alcoholic gummy candy; what more could I want?

My friend, who was entirely unfamiliar with almost every song played, was still very much impressed – especially with the singing of Bethany Thomas.

So when my friend dropped me at home, and he thanked me for our first show of 2020, I discovered who had purchased the Strummer portrait.  It was a thank you/holiday gift for me.

Of course I’m going to show it to you, and isn’t that gorgeous:

IMG_3372

number 11 of 25.

 

 

Afterimage

Posted: January 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

Rush wrote the song for their loss of their compatriot, whoever it may be.

I have never concealed my love for Rush.  They were one of my first all-encompassing concerts, when laser shows were still allowed, on the Permanent Waves tour.  I took my date to see the Moving Pictures tour, and it twisted her brain enough to actually agree to marry me.  On a subsequent tour, she wore the Signals shirt for years.  We went to see the reunion Vapor Trails tour, and they had fire explosions – and a string section that had to endure them – that we could feel in our not-so-bad seats.  And the year after that, we took our son who got bored and went on his phone but then after that admitted it was a fine fine show.

I have had mild disagreements with members of the Bloggerhood on this.  But hardly significant….

I have never loved drummers, nor drum solos (exception Erik the drummer for Die Kreuzen).  Always felt they were a simplistic way to allow the rest of the band to take a break and do more do drugs.

But I have always said that Neil Peart’s drum solos never bore me like almost every other drum solos.

It’s not just the amount of hardware he is able to use.  But he is also a very gifted rhythmic artist, and he uses that to be musical and venture into the jazz realm.  If you ever watch and listen to his solos, he is as inventive a percussionist as you might imagine.  He is/was sublime.  He spent his entire life making his skill better, including studying under Buddy Rich’s teacher to understand how the movement is part of the rhythm.

He had a hard life, with the death of his daughter and then his wife in short order and most people, including his bandmates, figured that was the end of the band, and not one single person blamed him if that was the way.  But…

He took the Australian ‘walkabout’ tradition, and fired up his motorcycle and rode until he felt like things were better.  He rode over almost every place he could visit by road on this hemisphere.  This was chronicled in the book “Ghost Rider”  And that was one of the most powerful songs when Rush returned to the stage.

Neil Peart died this week, and like most musicians, he shouldn’t have.  But that is what we have, and we have no choice but to give him a respectful ‘go on, and meet your ghosts and people’….

But the band are a band of brothers who have loved each other for all these years, and that is so fucking special:

 

One of my favorite bands, one that I have seen more times than I deserved and not as many time as I wanted, and now that one of them has departed, I need to mourn.  Legendary, indeed.

 

Made very famous by REM’s use of it in one of their great, great,  songs from Monster – an album that I waited in line at midnight to buy as soon as possible-  But also not noted is that one of my other favorite bands, Game Theory, used it in the proper phrasing “Kenneth, What’s the frequency?”

It was a slight amazing bit of sound and intro to one of the best of the albums from the 80s, and one of the best bands I had ever seen.  Saw them in a dive on the south side of Milwaukee, in the middle of winter, which seemed to shock the women in the band, because they wore completely inappropriate skimpy tops.

I saw Dan Rather interview the Two Mikes from REM the other night, and of course the phrase came up.  They had a clip of Dan Rather trying to sing the song during a sound check which was not amusing, it was painful.

So, let’s talk about the frequency of eye lengths.

Do you guys remember being in grade school?  Do you remember being asked to read the text on film strips?

Well, it was Second grade, I was seven, you know?  And when the teacher was going through the class asking for students to read the film strip, and got to me, I was not able to respond.  Not because I couldn’t read, but because I couldn’t SEE. After she spent a little time trying to help me because she thought I couldn’t read, she eventually understood it was an eyeball thing….How would I know?  My eyes were what I had, and what I could see was the way things were.  Had no idea I should be seeing better, because I had no comparison.

So after my teacher stopped embarrassing me, she told my parents that it was time to get an eye test.  And after that, I got some glasses for the first time in my life.  And I saw things I had never seen before.  IN fact, when I had glasses, I was weirded out by the depth perceptions.  It made walking weird, at best for a short tome of acclimatization, until i got used to the way everything seemed a bit….closer.

I have worn glasses since then.  Or contacts. For a few years, as a kid, I needed new glasses pretty much every year, because my eyes kept going south. I much prefer contacts, but it is hard because I have a weird diagonal astigmatism.  I haven’t seen my eye doctor in some time, And I need new contacts and new glasses.

I had my glasses fall apart tonight, one of the lenses fell right the hell out, and I was forced to use a bent paper clip to put them back together.  Believe me, as a guy who has worn glasses for WAY more than half my life, I have worked out any number of ways to do emergency and field repair.

And it was curious, in that I was forced to use my backup last version glasses, and that those glasses seem to serve better than the ones that lost the screw.

See now here.  As a diabetic, I am supposed to expect my eyes to go weird and degrade.  Which, I guess, is not going to be any weirder than any year before; my eyes have degraded all  my life.

Since I have been wearing glasses all my life, and my prescription is weird and changing and I have the diabetic multiplier, I have long been sensitive to the quality of the eye care I seek out, and I have a very clear preference for a for-real Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist versus an optician, and when providing lenses, I have never had a satisfactory experience from the mall shops or places like Mall-Wart.  Fortunately, one of my neighbors is an Optometrist, and a good one; and in a fine example of work going both ways, I designed his new office on the south side:

IMG_0012

What we found is that my right eye has decided to make a run for it, getting much worse over the past couple of years.  So I need new contacts, and we’ll be trying a couple of different treatment options, and my existing frames get new lenses.  There doesn’t seem to be any other degradation of my eyeballs, so other than just getting older and worser,  we seem to be in good shape.

Over the Cliff

Posted: October 8, 2019 in Uncategorized

well, before I get off into the Tall Grass,  a bit of followup.  R came back to the living after a short detox.  I am keeping in touch, trying to be more in contact for support availability.  It’s a tough road;  he has relapsed several times.

And sometimes, I have to confess I might not be the best person to rely on, especially in October. I already did not answer a couple of his calls in the lead up, and that was before October set in.

(play this loud while you listen)

yesterday started poorly, by any standard but for October?  Well, no, not typical, it still fucking sucked.  Checks had been promised last week and did not show, and then the furnace in my office was AWOL.  Admittedly, this is not the absolute worst time for it, as the weather is kind of pleasant for fall.  but the Office is a big thermal mass of air, and when it gets cold, it takes a while to reverse that. But I had promised certain things, so I had to get those accomplished, and I did.  By mid-afternoon, heat repair nor checks still had not been delivered, and while it was not terribly cold, it still had me chilled and the combination of cold and disappointment had me in a state where I couldn’t work.  So I bailed, looking for one of the two doors hinged in opposition….

and when I got home, and tried to warm up a bit, I was met by someone playing a chiding message on a phone about car insurance and demanding answers I did not have about the car (another story, maybe when I am stronger).  And the cat was demanding to be scratched, and the dog wanted walks and I still couldn’t warm up and bailed yet again and went to bed to get some quiet time and maybe a nap.  Fortunately, the bedroom was very sun-warmed and helped; was not aware how deeply the chill had penetrated over the day.

I think that might be the part that makes October the most difficult for me; that relatively mild weather still creates a chill that permeates so thoroughly.  Especially when I have all kinds of lovely pharmaceuticals making my blood thin and such as.  I miss the hotter climes at these times, and dammit if getting old makes me want to retire to hot places…

I spent the rest of the day in bed, watching the light wane.  I think I slept.  I peed a couple of times.  And I stayed there and watched some horror movies on the iPad, and then watched a couple of Star Wars movies to try and jumpstart something internal.  the Bed Time even made me miss my evening meds, which I rarely do.

I wanted to sleep late, I really did; and I had no reason to get up.  But I couldn’t get back to sleep so I still got up, there was coffee to be had.  So I split the difference and didn’t bother with a shower.  THAT’LL show ’em!  Too bad that cup of coffee was so watery….

should be noted that young Zombie gave me a subscription to a coffee roaster for Christmas, and every month I get a pound of beans.  I like strong black coffee, but the ones so far have been from Zambia, Congo and Honduras, and these are some straight up ninja coffees.  I found it best to cut them with some beans from a Chicago roaster, called Over The Cliff (name after a Jon Lsngford song). (this is also probably the best time to reveal that my wife gets wilty when she watches Rhett Miller, and I don’t think I can blame her)

 

I have said, on more than one occasion, that October is difficult for me.  Stephen King once tried to describe how it feels in a passage from the Dead Zone, and if anyone knows how it feels to watch the everything become closed and shut down for the oncoming storm, it has to be a horror writer that lives in Maine.  But it feels cold, and since my medical events,  the cold seems colder, and it penetrates deeper.

In the second season of American Horror Story, Frances Conroy did a stellar turn as the Angel of Death (augmented by the SFX of the wings at the moment of passing) and she never tried to be scary, but was always comforting and the people who she was touching welcomed the grace.

Mostly I approach October by going full gonzo on horror movies and such, and embracing the month of Samhain, because, zombie here.  But there aren’t that many stomp down good horror movies anymore (Get Out, It Follows, Let the Right One in) and the you kind of say, give me some splatter…

October has always been very difficult for me, and I am not sure why.  It was way before I had blood thinners and that crap.  But it sure does seem to happen every damn year, and it does fuck down like rain on my people.  i wish it didn’t.  But I have to do it myself first, and then it can be more soft….

But at least it’s not November.

Let There Be Peace

Posted: October 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

How much longer can all this go on?
How many more chances can one person have?
And all of the questions with no proper answers
Continue continue have to go on have to go on
Should I bend down and worship the ground
of the beautiful people who live without flaws?
Success is a virtue to share with the world
but failure’s a lesson that’s best learned alone
Respect is a virtue that strong men command
but when words become weapons
There’ll be peace in the valley of death when I rise
Peace in the valley of death when I rise

When i looked at my phone this afternoon, I saw I had missed several calls from friend R, who I mentioned in a prior post.

And when I looked at the most recent message, the VM algorithm was unable to parse his message, which was halting, mumbling and relatively incoherent.  It was pretty obvious he was drunk as fuck.  I knew he was not doing so well, but this was the worst I had heard him in some time.

He said he was checking himself in – somewhere.  He didn’t say where.  He said he had arranged for care of his animals, although he incoherently said maybe I was going to send up homing his greenwing macaw, Biko (a magnificent and violent bird, full of shit and happy to scar you up, you bastard).  The message was long and had lots of pauses.  The message made me hurt, in that I missed his previous phone calls.

As I said in the previous post, I have no idea where this story ends.  But I am concerned that it ends nowhere good.  I hope the place he checked himself into allows visitation.

As an aside, the two times I had my Exciting! encounters with Modern Medicine, and spent some time in an adjustable bed, (one time peeing into a painful tube), R did not visit.  At a recent time, he admitted how badly he felt about not visiting, because it reminded him of his parents decline and passing, and I told him I held nothing against him.  I know how people in hospital beds make people feel squicky.

R is one of my best friends ever.  I really don’t want him to go.  He has lots of health problems, most of which went undiagnosed until the ACA went into effect (He pays like 60 bucks a month.  Thanks, Obama!) but now he is behind the clock, and doesn’t help because he continues to drink and vape and whatever else.

Checking in every morning
To the sound of steam and caffeine
The sludge in the bottom of the cup
Just like the sludge in the stream
Slag heap keep growing higher
Every morning the sky, it’s on fire
And it’s only 9 AM again

Is there an upside to every downside?
Keep it inside, it’s a downward slide of broken glass
Keeps building in piles

And I don’t know
I don’t know if the sun ever smiles

It’s the black sheets of rain
Following me again
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I’ve been
Following me again

I feel the toxins fill my blood stream as I’m walking through the parking lot
Over and over and over and over and over and over
The clouds hanging over
Choking the life out of me
The motto seems to be
“We work in order to be free”

It’s the black sheets of rain
Following me again
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I’ve been
Following me again

Over and over and over and over and over and over again

Where were you in my hour of need
(I never see the sun stop shining)
The clouds roll over the sunlight
(Someone stopped the sun from shining)
And I stand here, ready to bleed
(I never see the sun stop shining)
A little rain is all we need
(Someone stopped the sun from shining)
Where will you be in my darkest hour of need?
(I never see the sun stop shining)
Where will you be in my darkest hour of need?
(Someone stopped the sun)
Here it comes again

Sons and Fascination

Posted: September 24, 2019 in it's the humanity

Doing a binge-re-watch of Scrubs, ( DO NOT JUDGE ME)  and there is an episode where one of the doctors decides he will not kiss his son.

I used to put my son to bed for any number of years.  Eventually, he said I shouldn’t kiss him goodnight anymore.  I have a grizzly face, why would I argue?

It was, of course, his decision, and I didn’t bother to argue or force.  I mean, personal autonomy starts at home, right?  We all grow up, and the arc of children launching involves disconnecting.  Circle of life and that little shit has to support me when I go insane.

But I miss it.

 

on the last post, I mentioned that today, I had a building walk-through in review for an RFP that is upcoming.  Keep in mind that I do not often respond to Requests for Proposals, which are often sent out in shotgun fashion to any architect that shows up in the first 20, or 30, or 40 Google search results.  The last couple that came in through the mojo wire I read and passed, and the last one I started considering, I abandoned when the structural engineer I called had already heard (and passed) on two other architects who had already called him.  So really, the only reason I went further on this one is that it’s in my neighborhood and Young Zombie attended a preschool that was in the building previously.  Also, it’s a progressive Episcopalian church, so I figured they wouldn’t set me on fire.

One of the things about my practice is that I get very little work from marketing kind of avenues; most of my projects come from referrals or repeat clients.  In fact, I have one client that I have designed a residence for three times (one small colonial house on the East Side, an extensive and exotic rooftop penthouse condo downtown, and a suburban estate, FWIW).

I once read that Frank Lloyd Wright sometimes said he was never the committee choice, he was usually too risky and committees are notoriously risk-averse.

So I gathered with six other groups in this complex of buildings to review the existing.  In no particular order, and with an approximate employee number:  ZDG (100); UWRS (40); Groth (30); MSI (150); PRA (75); QA (10); and me.  It is a relatively small community in the city, and I had met several of the professionals there and knew all of the companies by reputation (and interviewed at most of them at one time or another!).  And, in a turn that I fully expected, my former partner also turned up.  Am I a bad zombie for having kind of perverse satisfaction in seeing her on crutches due to a fall from her bike?

The big difference between my practice and all of theirs is that they have a marketing plan and spend some amount of money and effort on pursuing these type of cattle-call long shot proposals.  I spend my time and effort into my work and design, and my reputation is based on that, not on glad-handing.  Oh, I am perfectly congenial and can handle a professional gathering with complete equanimity, and I made small talk as appropriate and made other professional small talk during the 3 hours or so we were on site.

And I have made contact with other professionals to team up with on the project:  a structural engineer, HVAC engineer, Plumbing engineer, and Electrical engineer.  Ostensibly, the proposals are due on 9/27, which is no problem at all, at least conceptually.

But the gathering and walk through went pretty much as I expected.  The building is an older worship building, with a couple of additions and remodeling over time.  The staff involved in the building were a bit negative on it, but having been through these rodeos many times, the building’s basic elements are predominantly intact and there is nothing that amounts to a deal breaker that makes any part of the building unusable.  If anything, their biggest problem is that there is far more space than they need, and it should be reduced or sourced out to tenants.  Actually, it’s a very handsome building and I would be gratified to help the parish move into a new era and fresh life for the structure.

aerial

But that’s really neither here nor there.  As I walked home – it was a truly gorgeous fall day in Milwaukee, and like I said I live in the neighborhood, I live 6 blocks away- I thought further about the walk-through and the other people who participated.  And I started to consider Wright’s words; what is the value of the work I will need to do to compile a responsive proposal?  When there are bigger name heavy hitters in the mix?  Does it matter that I am a neighbor?  (probably not).  By the time I got home, I was ready to skip it altogether, but there was a message from the mechanical engineer….

So here’s one where I am not hoping for help from you helpful 3 or 4 faithful readers.  Mind you, I won’t mind feedback or opinions, but you lot are an opinionated bunch of fuckers. 

Because I have decided, for any number of reasons, to follow this one through.  I’ll go against these bigger more corporate firms who have ‘name recognition’ and ‘connections’.  I won’t say ‘more established’, because one of the attendees was my former partner whose firm I was a founding partner of.  Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition here’s your fucking refund.

But I will go in because this is a step up and forward, and I can use it.  Plus, I need these bigger firms to KNOW WHO I AM.  Last night, my concert going buddy asked me if I wasn’t well known by the quality of my work and I had to give him the knowledge that that is hardly ever considered in consideration for hiring of architects.

So I am in.  I am drafting, in my mind, the rudiments of the proposal and I am working out some ways of throwing shade in a backhanded way at the larger firms (for instance, with my ex-partner in the mix, my resume instantly changed to say I was a Founding Partner in Charge of Design at the firm she took control of).  My references will be stellar, because they are all personal and direct connections with people of high stature in the community.  My track list of similar projects will be impressive, but won’t be the most impressive; however based on the walk through, I can directly relate parts of them to portions of the building they would like to address; and a Marketing Person in one of these firms will not be able to see that.  I did that on site in one instance, asking a question of the rector about the character of window leaks because I had experienced similar problems with a steel lintel that leaked into the windows in a particular way.

I am in.  I would, indeed, like to expand my practice.  I think I have learned some good and bad things in my history, and think I could grow it better and be a much better leader and administrator going forward.  And even if that isn’t in the cards, being a believable competitor among the Big Boys of the local community will be worthwhile in itself; I have proven myself from a practical standpoint as well as having received several design awards.

I second guessed myself on this, and then reconsidered, then shot it down again and then talked myself back into it.  Yes, I have a very active internal life, and AT LEAST a dozen voices that will chime in to argue at a moment’s notice.  But, for now, I AM IN.

SHUT UP VOICE  # 5.