Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

Congratulations on a Life Well-Lived… So Far

December 28, 2009
It was a good year

Looking back on this year fills me with a deep sense of satisfaction for having lived out so many dreams and seeing so many people and places all over America. For the first time in forever I am living up to my potential and doing what I love with integrity and honesty. As usual, a lot of disappointments occured, but all hurdles were overcome and led to better things eventually. Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of travelling throughout America with people that I considered to be great friends as well as awesome musicians and artists. Now I can say I’ve done that. While we unfortunately are not playing together today, my experiences in Strangefeather inspired me to continue on another path with new friends and expand the family that is such a vital part of why I make music. For all of these things I am so grateful to the fans, supporters, musicians, club owners and staff, who all play a vital role in keeping live music alive all over America. If I was ever without hope before, it is now completely restored.

 
Weddings are fun…

Just listing the accomplishments of this past year makes my head spin: Played 100 shows in 25 states accross America on three seperate tours, with as many as 52 gigs in one 65-day period, reaching thousands of people’s ears along the way. Released “Interstellar Lounge Music” and played on albums by Monsters are Not Myths and TV Mike & the Scarecrowes. I’ve also written about 60 new songs and cut some new tracks in LA with Jenni Alpert and Eric Boulanger. I held down a steady job during all of this, too, which wouldn’t be possible without my awesome, accomodating bosses. I’ve been places and seen things that I never even thought existed, and met hundreds of wonderful new people along the way. I’ve learned things about my self that I never knew before and pushed both my physical and mental limits beyond their capacities. I’m glad to say that I’m still crazy after all of this.

A lot of people admit that they would never be able to do what I do. To get things done I’ve had to rough it a time or two. Lots of sleeping on floors and in the backs of cars, waking up cold and going days without a shower. Living off of only the most basic of gas station fast food for weeks at a time. Being constantly broke for days on end and staying in sketchy situations with questionable people. Getting ripped off by bars and fixing broken buses and bass amps, playing at puppet shows and chinese food buffets, drinking other people’s beer, being asked to play “Free Bird” again, and lifting lots of heavy stuff are all part of the job description, and none of it really bothers me in the least. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learned a lot of what not to do, and I feel like I am ready to start being wise now. Because there are no financial rewards for surviving all of these hardships, there is a sense of adventure in everything I do, and it’s ultimately more satisfying than making a heap of money. Of course, I am now learning how to do both at once. I must admit that there were moments in the past year when I wanted to give up on everything and just be normal, but it was from these darkest moments that I gathered the perspective to continue onward, and am stronger because of it. For a long time I’ve thought I have what it takes to be a musician. Now I know it’s true.

 

Still rockin’ in the free world

My goals for next year are simple. Instead of playing so many shows, I want to play better venues with better sound and for more people. I want to perform and write with as many successful and talented musicians as possible and make better records. I want you to be able to turn on the television or radio and hear my songs playing. I want to tour with different bands and see what works. I want to take more airplane flights and I want more guitars and recording gear (maybe even unlimited studio time?). Most of all, I want to make a name for myself as a solo artist and continue to express how much I enjoy what I do. Again, I have all of the wonderful people in my life to thank for such a priviledge. For now, I am content with sitting back and reflecting on my accomplishments and taking it easy for a little while. Happy New Year!

 

Goodbye 2009, Hello 2010!

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Legends, the Series 2: Jesse Mosher

September 3, 2009
Jesse Mosher - on the road

Jesse Mosher - on the road

Jesse Mosher is a painter living in San Francisco. His subjects are primarily portraits of famous musicians, poets, revolutionaries, and characters that have inspired him, and nowadays most of his painting is done live on stage with musical performers. He exclusively uses all recycled material for his canvases, utilizing found pieces of plywood, Masonite, old doors, etc. He sticks to common water-based house (as opposed to traditional oil-based) paints and inexpensive synthetic brushes instead of ones made using real animal hair. He also creates stencil designs and spray paints them on temporary walls, old palettes, poster boards, sidewalks, etc, which are removable.

Hangin' in Portland

Hangin' in Portland

Jesse was born and raised near Shutesbury, Massachusetts, and was a competitive wrestler in high school and college. He attended college in Lowell, MA for a while, as well as Fresno, CA, until a career-threatening injury forced him to stop wrestling. At this point he picked up a paintbrush and has never looked back. In the early days he sold prints of his art at Dead shows and the like, but more recently he has progressed into live painting with bands, and sells them at shows and online. Early works were many-layered designs based on traces and overlays of various elements, using pen and spray paint for effect, but more recently this style has given way to direct interpretations of famous photographs of his subjects.

Jesse demonstrates a "proper" brushstroke technique

Jesse demonstrates a "proper" brushstroke technique

Jesse’s style bridges the gap between folk and modern art. Folk art elements include the use of recycled materials with inconsistent sizes,shapes and textures, high volume of productivity (he averages more than one painting a day), and simple, straightforward interpretations of his subjects. On the other hand, his work exhibits progressive signs of modern art by turning the act of painting into live performance on stage with bands, featuring contemporary pop figures like Debby Harry, Ryan Adams, Amy Winehouse, Johnny Thunders, Joan Jett, and Barack Obama as his subjects to provide political and cultural relevance to his pieces. Jesse injects an interpretive style in all of his paintings, and repeated studies of the same subject often vary wildly from one another. Each piece of art is unique in expressing a particular emotion, or time and place, that makes the painting significant.

Some selections from the man

Some selections from the man

As an artist, Jesse lives almost exclusively off of the proceeds from his paintings without the assistance of an art dealer or philanthropist (or daddy). His pieces reflect the head-down, hard-working aesthetic that has provided him with sustenance over the years and allows him to create such a great volume of work with very little capital. Driven by his art alone, Jesse is determined to create with honesty and abundance in his lifetime. His inspiration is derived from the works of the Beat poets (he actually painted the building of the Beat Museum in North Beach), the non-stop touring of the Grateful Dead (he has toured with rock band Strangefeather for months at a time), Lou Reed’s scummy street poetry (Jesse also writes poetry), and the onstage antics of Iggy Pop (his live painting persona most resembles this character). Ultimately, Jesse has become a one-0f-a-kind artist by creating his own path. There are many live painters on the scene right now, but Jesse does it his own way. It is safe to say without a doubt, Jesse is an American original.

John Lee Hooker and Pigpen, I believe

John Lee Hooker and Pigpen, I believe

I have spent an extensive amount of time with Mr. Mosher. I have met his family and slept on his couch. We’ve spent months at a time on the road together, sharing floors, futons, dinner and drinks. I’ve watched him starve and I’ve watched him prosper. I’ve seen him on his best days and I’ve watched his worst. What makes Jesse a legend is that he never gives up or doubts in what he is doing. He will not stop fighting, even when all odds are against him, and his desire to create something begins every morning when he wakes up, and doesn’t stop until he lies down to sleep at night. He isn’t interested in the flighty concepts or statements of modern art, which often overshadow the simple aesthetic value of a piece of someone’s soul. Jesse’s work can be appreciated by anyone who has an awareness of American culture and can appreciate his interpretation of that. He respects and salutes the blue collar work ethics that he was raised with through his paintings, and understands that most great artists have followed a path from humble beginnings through paying dues to become the individual persona that we revere so much.

Jesse painted this pistol for Peacemaker

Jesse painted this pistol for Peacemaker

Jesse Mosher continues to travel the country to spread his one-man message to the world. After all, it is the “Individual” that America’s ideals are based on, and Jesse has learned to rely on his two hard-working hands to create his own version of America. It’s the exact opposite of what advertisements and “purveyors of society” will tell you to do. The message is to join the crowd, step in line, and shut your mouth to keep from making waves. Jesse’s life sends a different message:  live free, do what you love, don’t be afraid, and be a part of the Revolution. Look out for him in your neighborhood!

Check out and buy Jesse’s art on Etsy – support a true artist!

West Coast Summer Tour Memoirs

August 30, 2009
The last day of the tour = good times

The last day of the tour = good times

A couple of weeks ago I was getting ready to tour with one of the bands I’m in (Strangefeather), but there were all sorts of problems. First, we had access to a beautiful 1964 International Harvest school bus, but no one in the band felt capable of driving it. So I looked for a driver, but everyone we knew that could drive a bus was unable to do it. When our friend Randy heard this, he immediately decided to take 2 weeks off of work and volunteered to drive for the tour. Then, the day before we were set to leave, two of the band members sent separate emails explaining that they weren’t going to be able to make it! This of course sent me into emergency mode. On one hand I’m thinking there is no way I can put together another band in 24 hours, on the other hand, the tour is booked and there are people who were excited to see us perform that would be let down. I couldn’t do that, so I decided to do the tour on my own with help of my friend and painter, Jesse Mosher.

Awesome ride at the Eagle Creek car show

Awesome ride at the Eagle Creek car show

Thankfully, my friend Joe from Bad Assets and Dark Skies was one of the first people I called, and he immediately hooked me up with a friend of his in Portland named Rives who plays with Power of County. Finally, another friend of mine had agreed to play drums, and I thought everything was on. At the last minute the drummer wasn’t actually able to make it, we had no ride to Chico to meet Randy, and I almost had to cancel the tour again. Another reassuring phone call from my friend Randy was all it took to convince me that we must continue onward. After countless frantic phone calls to everyone I knew, it was decided that Jesse and I would rent a U-Haul in the morning and drive to Chico to meet Randy. I would play the first 4 shows by myself, and then we would meet up in Portland with Rives for the rest of the tour.

With my mind somewhat at ease, I went to a birthday jam for my friend Pat at Different Fur Studios, and began to unwind with some whiskey and beer. Next thing I knew, we were all jamming in the studio until about 3 in the morning. I stumbled home and packed my bags and prayed that tomorrow would go smoothly. After less than 3 hours of sleep I skated about 3 miles to the U-Haul place and picked up my ride. Somehow it ended up costing over $200 for a small truck, but I ate the cost and hoped that I would get lucky somewhere down the line. I picked up Jesse and we were out of the city by 8:30am just as planned, and trucked it on up to Chico. Randy met us with our ride there – it was an ’84 Ford Centrurion with a camper shell of the back. Truly a beautiful beater, though not as elegant as the bus, it did get over 15 miles to the gallon, and was reliable.

The command center of the Centurion

The command center of the Centurion

Randy trucked it straight up to Central Point, Oregon, just beyond the border with California. We pulled into the Touvelle Lounge just in time to set up and play for 4 hours straight. It was tough because I’m not used to playing solo for more than an hour or so, but I made it through the gig with only a few hours of sleep and no money for beer. Thankfully the bar let us sleep in a covered area on the outdoor stage for the night. Rising early, we headed out to get some breakfast and relax for the first time in several days. Prior to the tour, Randy had been up in the mountains around Chico delivering supplies and reinforcements by bus to the firefighters dealing with annual outbreaks of forest fires. It’s his busiest time of year, and Randy took the time off to hang out with us. God, I was thankful, because I’m not much of a driver or a mechanic. After breakfast we headed down to the river to relax some more, and then headed to Grants Pass to get ready for our gig at the Trove. This was an all-ages show, and when we got there we met 3 other bands of younger guys from Boise, Idaho who were headed up to Washington to play a festival. There weren’t many people to see the show, but these guys were all very supportive and sounded great. We hightailed it out a little early to spend the evening in Medford, which turned out to be a big mistake. The downtown was crawling with obnoxious college drunkards that made me feel like I was back in Davis CA. It took a while to find a decent bar, but the evening turned out to be fun. I would rather have gone to Ashland, but what can you do?

Outside the Touvelle Lounge

Outside the Touvelle Lounge

We spent a second night out behind the Touvelle Lounge, and Dave the owner pulled up in his truck the next morning and said, “You could have told me first”. Well, it wasn’t like we had a plan or anything, we were just kind of rambling. I played all day Sunday there on the outdoor stage, and met a lot of great people. It was my first electric guitar solo set ever, and I worked my ass off. Luckily, a saxaphonist and harmonica player stopped by and helped me out. I must say that the Touvelle has great food and a kind staff, and I’m glad we played there. After that, we headed straight for Eugene and stayed with our friend Liz Babbs for the evening. She provided hot showers and cozy comfort for us – thanks to you!

Northeast Portland hang sesh

Northeast Portland hang sesh

Next morning we headed up to Portland to check out the downtown (not good for busking, by the way), and Randy stopped into Powell Bookstore and got him some Beat literature. We met up in Northeast Portland with our new friend Rives. He brought us to his house where we got to meet Bruno and Winky, his cat and dog. Originally, the plan was to play at Music Head in Medford that night, but the show got cancelled, because we weren’t going to make money. This is the first tour I have ever done on my own, and it was a great learning process dealing with clubs one-on-one and trying to make the best of a bad situation. I learned a lot about the subtleties of communication and how to be diplomatic. Anyway, having our first (and only) night off we hit downtown Portland to have some drinks and blow off steam. Immediately Rives hit it off with everybody, and the next thing you know we were having a great time! Jesse met up with his new friend Didi, and the rest of us headed to our new temporary home with Rives.

The Oldsmobile at Rive's house

The Oldsmobile at Rives's house

The next day was spent rehearsing and preparing with Rives, and we headed up early to Pop Culture in Vancouver, Washington. There we met Kristen and the band she manages, Love Trucker. These guys are all very young and super-talented, and have a great vibe about them. I immediately was intrigued when we pulled up to the venue and they had a school bus parked out front! They are headed out for a US tour very soon, and I wish them the best of luck. Dan, the owner of Pop Culture, and Heidi, our lovely hostess, are awesome people who truly provide a great service for young musicians and fans of music. When I was under 21 it was very difficult to get bar gigs, and none of our friends could come anyway. I feel like young people need something like this to help them develop their talents and have a great time without having to throw renegade parties that get broken up by the police too soon (like we did when I was underage).

Jesse in Eugene at Liz Babb's

Jesse in Eugene at Liz Babb's

Next, we headed back to Eugene. We got some dinner at Papa’s, an amazing sould food place with good corn bread, fried okra, collard greens, and (my favorite) pulled pork! Stuffed to the brim, we headed over to Luckey’s. Strangefeather played a successful show there on our previous tour, and some people who came back to see us were thoroughly confused (some of them also showed up late and missed the show). It was difficult to explain to everyone that I was playing without the band because a couple of the members had dropped out last minute. I just told everyone that we had a family medical emergency and they had to leave the tour early. This was just enough to keep most people happy, and we had a good show anyway. We headed back to Portland for the night, and it wasn’t until the next day that I realized I lost my sunglasses, some CD’s and mailing list there! Darn, I’m an idiot sometimes…

Rockin' at the East End (Rives on the right)

Rockin' at the East End (Rives on the right)

The next day was spent relaxing and recovering, and then we headed over to the East End in the Burnside district of Portland. This is an awesome club that Strangefeather has already played a couple of times, and Gabe (the owner) is one of the nicest, most considerate people I have met in the club business ever. He was understanding of my situation, and already was friends with Rives to boot. My friends Dave, Renee, Chelsea and Eric all showed up, and it was great to spend time with them and catch up. I only wish I had more time to give. The show went very well, the best by far of the tour up until that point, and I met so many wonderful people from the scene. Playing after me were the Hang-Ups, a group that features Charlie and Rob from Dark Skies. They are awesome, check them out!

Jesse leaves his mark

Jesse leaves his mark

Rives and I talked about the gig the next night at the Eagle Creek Inn. He introduced me to his fellow drummer named Andy Bacon from Power of County, and we decided to have him come along for the gig and just wing it. Unfortunately, the bar was empty and there never seemed to be a real crowd, even though it was Friday night in a small town. We still played our asses off, and a few people showed up at the very end to catch the best part of our set. Luckily, I was still paid my guarantee, and we headed back to our home base with a sigh of relief. The next night Rives had another gig with Power of County, so he and his drummer weren’t able to make the second show in Eagle Creek. I had to come up with something quick, so I called the owner of the club and gave him the option to cancel the show on Saturday night. He agreed, so instead I went with Rives to Forest Grove and played at the Half Moon Bar as an opener for his band. First we stopped into his band mate Matt Stark’s farm and met his family, and I saw the most amazing thing there. Loudly squawking starlings from all around the area had come to roost in a group of about 5 trees in the back yard. Along came one of the neighbors with his gun and fired multiple times into the air. When he did, the entire sky turned black with escaping birds. It looked like locusts, and as soon as they flew away, they swarmed and swirled in beautiful patterns, landing back into the trees again. This time they were all completely silent – I wish I could have caught that on camera. The gig turned out to be a great night of music, with some important lessons learned. Talking with people from the audience has been very helpful for me because I’m learning how to present my music better and appeal to a wider audience. Both criticism and praise have helped me grow so much already. Don’t be afraid to tell musicians that you like what you think and ways they could do it better – we need your input to develop!

Jesse on tambourine at the Pastime

Jesse on tambourine at the Pastime

As soon as the show was over we headed back to Portland to sleep for a couple of hours, only to rise again at 7am to pick up Jesse and drive straight to Roslyn, Washington. It was our friend Sarah Stahl’s birthday, and she had set up a show at the Pastime Tavern downtown for Strangefeather. She seemed very concerned when I told her the band couldn’t make it, but was enthusiastic nonetheless. We got into town in time to play the farmer’s market, which turned out to be a great experience and many CD’s were sold. Thanks to Jonine for organizing the market! As a surprise, Josh Cook from Strangefeather came up for the show with his new drummer, Ryan. They opened the set up with a bunch of his new songs, and I was thoroughly impressed. Sometimes when bands break up, it forces the survivors to try things that they were afraid to do before, and it’s always great to see growth come out of change. The crowd was really having a good time that night, and they danced all the way through Josh’s set and mine, too (even though I didn’t have a drummer). After this all passed, we took a break and came back united, with Jesse live painting (he sold 7 pieces that night!), Ryan on the drums, Rives on guitar, Josh on guitar and I played acoustic. Rives started playing the riff from “Bitch” by the Rolling Stones, and from there the rest is a blur. We had the greatest time jamming for hours until the bar closed, and it was by far the greatest experience of the tour. Thanks to Sarah for putting together such a great musical night together with so many wonderful people. Also thanks to Angie for the pictures, Marci on paintbrush, Dan on harp, Tammy and Stan and John and Alan, and most of all, Sonny, for showing us a good time. Sarah’s family is so awesome, we don’t know what we would do without people like you to support our music.

Our friend Dan on the harp, Ryan on the drums, and Rives on guitar

Dan on the harp, Ryan on the drums, and Rives on guitar

Left to right: Randy, Josh, Me, Ryan, Random Beauty, Rives, and Sarah Stahl

Left to right: Randy, Josh, Me, Ryan, Random Beauty, and Rives

Totally burned out, we stopped back by the Pastime around noon for breakfast, hung with Sarah’s other son Sky who is already a great guitarist at such a young age, and hopped in the truck. We drove all the way to Portland, dropped off Rives, said our goodbyes, and made it almost all the way to Grants Pass before crashing at a rest stop for the night. Keep in mind that the only driver on this tour was Randy, and the only reason I haven’t mentioned him more is that I already dedicated my first entry in “Legends, the Series” to him. The whole time he pretty much drove his ass off and was reliable, friendly, and a great person to be on the road with. Jesse had a great time, and it was also great to have him on the road. Our final day was spent driving all the way to San Francisco where Randy dropped us off at Jesse’s. I spent the night there and headed home the next day to sleep off the post-tour blues. Now I’m back on top of things and looking forward to hitting the road again soon. I love the feeling of the open highway and all the great personalities and places I get to interact with. It helps a lot to play every night and develop my solo show. I need the confidence that touring gives me to continue onward alone since it is pretty uncertain at this time whether Strangefeather is still a band. I can’t wait to get back out there and see more friends. Until then, stay tuned.

L to R: Randy, Sarah, Josh, Jesse, Stan, Alan, John, Myself, Rives, and Ryan

L to R: Randy, Sarah, Josh, Jesse, Stan, Alan, John, Myself, Rives, and Ryan

Legends, the Series 1: “Dead On” Kaptain Randy Turley

August 29, 2009

I’m going to try and pull off an idea from long ago when I decided to make profiles of all the people that were hanging out in my circle of friends. Back then, many of the descriptions were less than flattering and overall the whole thing was subjective and flawed in so many ways, so I scrapped ever releasing it on the Internet.

This time I’m starting fresh, and each person I describe will be lovingly portrayed with nothing but the best of intentions in an effort to share all that is great about them with the world. This is a celebration of positivity and a tribute to the people I meet on the road. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I do writing them.

Randy at the driver's seat

Randy at the driver's helm

Our first legend is “Dead On” Kaptain Randy Turley. More simply known as just Randy, this man is one of the most amazing characters you will ever meet. His prime focus in life is to hit the open road on adventures around the country, and do so in impossibly old vehicles that have a high probability of breaking down. In the case that anything quits working on the vehicle, Randy will usually fix the problem within a small period of time under great duress, using basic tools from his famous toolbox. To someone who doesn’t know him, it can be more simply stated that he is a McGyver of automobiles. Originally from Oklahoma, he ended up in California during the early 70’s and became owner and driver of the infamous “Dead On” bus (as well as many others). He brought passengers along on many Grateful Dead tours from the 70’s-90’s. He has also driven the Prankster’s new Further bus, and has been a great friend to many a fellow bus owner over the years, helping secure parts, perform repairs, lend rides, and generally bend over backwards to bail a brother or sister out.

I met Randy through our mutual friend Jesse Mosher (soon to be added to the Legends series), and had heard a lot about him from his close friend Scotty Don’t (also due up for a Legends entry), who had borrowed one of Randy’s vehicles to help drive us on (my rock band) Strangefeather’s ’08 Summer Tour. My first interaction with Randy was when we took the aforementioned vehicle (aptly named “Sky Beast”) on a road trip to play a couple of gigs in Phoenix, AZ. It was a precarious ’84 4-cylinder Toyota with Chinook-style camper on the back, towing a crap-colored Datsun truck trailer behind with all our gear in it. I remember the tires kept exploding as we went down the road. Randy would usually find a throwaway tire at a gas station, pull the dead tire off the rim, and remount it with the “new” one in about 30 minutes, using a jack, tire iron and screwdriver. He drove us about 12 hours straight from Phoenix to SF before finally handing over the wheel to someone else so that I could get to work on time at 8am the next morning. He was splashing himself in the face with water to try and stay awake towards the end there.

The next adventure Randy signed on for was Strangefeather’s two-month US Spring ’09 “Get on the Bus Tour” that covered 30 states and 50 gigs in about 60 days. This time, he broke out the Sunchaser, a 1964 International Harvester school bus, painted white w/ blue trim, complete with 2 beds and PanAm airline seats from the 70’s, reupholstered in 80’s neon orange, green and black. This experience was life-changing on so many levels, and Randy was there for almost all of it (more on that in a little bit). He drove us from New Orleans to New York without power steering. Most memorable moments were when we going through a snowstorm in Arizona (yes, I said snow), and the engine shut off coming around a corner and I woke up to the bus skidding around a tight corner with the power steering gone. Randy remained cool through it all (he is unflappable). I also remember it took us 4 hours to get from the Holland Tunnel to downtown Manhattan in a rainstorm. Randy had his CB radio hooked up to a loudspeaker on the outside of the bus. He was navigating downtown New York with only one windshield wiper and no power steering, and he kept telling people on the street to watch out or they would get hit!

Randy's 1964 International Harvester, being used as a dancefloor

Randy's 1964 International Harvester, being used as a dancefloor

This same tour coincided with the Dead tour that Spring, and we stopped in the parking lots at most of their shows and played in front of the bus down by Shakedown Street using generators. Randy was there for all of them except for one, the famed show at the Gorge in Washington. He usually got miracled into the Dead’s performances, and would take riders from show to show for a little gas money, and he would almost always be there when Strangefeather played a set on the tour. He left the band under Scotty Dont’s supervision once we reached Denver in order to attend the anniversary party of the Acid Test in San Francisco with the Merry Pranksters. After that he followed the Further bus up all the way to Grants Pass, OR, with plans to meet up with Strangefeather at the Gorge. Instead, the Further bus blew an engine and he stayed behind in Grants Pass to help them install a new one. He missed the Gorge show altogether and it turned out to be the best show of our tour! I know he was superbly bummed by this, but Randy is the kind of friend who will stick by you no matter what – it is a very endearing quality that is rare to find in this day and age to be sure.

Fixin' the truck - "It's nothing major, I'll just spray a little Ether on it"

Fixin' the truck - "It's nothing major, I'll just spray a little ether on it"

I just got back from another Summer tour through the Pacific Northwest, and we had a great time. It’s complicated, but Strangefeather broke apart the day before the tour, and Randy was the one who suggested I go on the road and play the shows anyway, and I’m glad I did. As soon as he pulled up in his giant Ford Centurion, rusted and falling apart with doors that didn’t lock and a hood that didn’t go down all the way, I felt like everything was going to be alright. When we ran out of gas in the middle of a busy intersection in Eugene, I watched as he pulled out his can of “ether” and popped open the hood, sprayed a little on the starter, switched over to the backup tank and got the truck rolling again in under 2 minutes without barely blocking traffic. All I could do was laugh and smile, because I know Randy is made for those kinds of situations, and everything was going to be just fine.

Randy checks out a painting of the Further Bus in Central Point, OR

Randy checks out a painting of the Further Bus in Central Point, OR

Randy is filled with nothing but generosity, empathy, kindness, and wisdom from years of experience driving trucks and buses for employment and fun. I have never seen him be anything but gentle and thoughtful towards all of the people that he meets. His spirit is very young, and his excitement for life without material comforts is both inspiring and respectful. He is usually covered in oil and grease (a by-product of being such a great mechanic), and he dresses very simply and practical. I joked with him the other day that he looks better dirty than clean, and it’s really true – he is the Real Deal. Randy represents the type of man that we see less of and need more of in this country, a dying breed if you will. He is hardworking, free-spirited, poetic, and completely down to earth. I have learned so much about how to live and treat other just by watching and conversing with him. Some might call him a Deadhead, and he is closer to what a true Grateful Dead fan is really like than what most people think of when using that term, but I hope my tribute enforces the fact that he is so much more than just a Deadhead. Others might call him a Pranskter, but that is not completely true, either. Randy is first and foremost a “Kaptain” in every sense of the word, and when he gets behind the wheel I cannot think of a more comforting and ensuring feeling in my life. When you step into one of his rides, you will enter a machine that preserves the spirit of the open road, opening possibilities to a life that most people only read about in books. Randy Turley is a legend because he has revealed a most simple equation to live by:

Velocity + Uncertainty = Freedom!

(I encourage you to befriend Randy on MySpace – http://www.myspace.com/459857430)

PG&E – Another Reason to Hate Them

August 4, 2009

PG&E is an evil company. So are Haliburton and Enron, but they don’t directly fuck me the way PG&E does, so I would have to say that I hate my gas company more. There are several reasons why I don’t approve of a company like this hording a monopoly over services as basic as electricity and gas, but today I would like to share a horror story that only recently got resolved. Prior to this, the mere thought of wasting additional breath on such a horrible subject left me sick to my stomach, but now that things are back to “normal” I think I can muster up the energy to explain what happened without nosediving into a hateful rant.

I pay the energy bill for my apartment. I collect the money from 3 other impossibly unconcerned roommates who may or may not feel like paying their bills every month. I’ve been royally screwed in the past (one ex-roommate still owes me $120), and I hate doing this. Unfortunately, I am the only person capable of actually performing such a task semi-reliably, and thus take the burden on with a grudge.

Initially, it was easy enough for me to pay the bill by credit card, because even though I would probably receive finance charges, it’s a lot simpler than hunting down my roommates for the money every month. Unfortunately, credit card companies stopped allowing people to pay their bills this way, probably because they were leaving behind bad debt. I would like to blame PG&E for this, but I guess it isn’t their fault that electricity prices are so ridiculous. Or is it?

When I was reduced to sending checks I had to use a different strategy. I began paying my bill every other month in order to buy enough time to collect the money from my roommates. This became extremely difficult to cover, because there is one in particular who is known to leave his heater and iron on then leave for work and doesn’t believe in turning off lights ever. He turns on his heater with the windows wide open from time to time. He also likes to decorate our house with hundreds of electrically-powered pieces of tchotchke. For instance, there is the Coors beer sign in the front window, the 500 christmas lights on the outside of the house, the glowing pumpkin, the glowing garden elf, and the glowing grapes, just to name but a few. Also, he has an entire light show in his room that is hooked up to about 3 remote controls. It’s ridiculous, and I tolerate this because he is a friend. Sometimes I long for better friends.

He is not the only contributor, but is definitely the prime reason why our bill tends to be about $200 a month for 4 people. Since I was only paying the bill every month, I would owe around $400 at a time, and I work part time. So you can imagine that things got cut a little close every month. I would often get late notices that said things like, “you have until tomorrow to pay your bill or your service will be shut off”. Naturally, I would always scrape the cash together at the last minute so my precious roomies wouldn’t have to go without electricity and I wouldn’t be stuck with a $40 “re-activation fee”. We all know what that is. It’s a charge so when the meter guy comes he sticks a key in the meter and turns the gas back to “on”. It takes about 1 minute.

But I digress, because I thought I could make it all work well enough so our utilities never got shut off. For three years I successfully employed this method, until this spring, when I got a letter in the mail demanding a $400 deposit because of “too many late payment notices”. I promptly ignored this for several weeks hoping it would magically disappear, until April came around and I got several calls from PG&E telling me that I had to pay up or they would shut off the energy. Of course, this occured when I happened to be on a two-month tour around the US with no money to spare. When I tried to explain that I didn’t have $400 to just give to them, they told me I could get a cosigner on the account. That  could be anyone who had a PG&E account of their own that would vouch for me in case I ran off and didn’t pay the bill. “Aha!”, I thought, “Problem solved! I’ll ask my dad to do it.” Not so fast – this turned out to be much more troublesome than expected.

First of all, they told me it was too late to get a cosigner so I still had to pay the deposit anyway. So I figured out how to borrow $400 and paid them their stupid money to buy myself time. But when my dad called to cosign, they told him that I had already paid the deposit and now he was unable to cosign! This was a blatant lie, and is the first evidence I present of PG&E being a horrible company. The second thing that happened was that I called back a day later to make sure my payment was received, obviously very stressed out by the situation. The person on the line told me not to worry, because my service wasn’t set to be shut off for another couple weeks! That’s not what they told me when they had me on the phone before. Liars! Two strikes for PG&E. The third strike came when I returned home several weeks later to request that the deposit be dropped as long as I agreed to pay every bill on time. They wouldn’t budge. They said, “I’m sorry, but this deposit cannot be reversed”. This, we all know is a lie, but not such a horrible one. The fourth lie came when I was one week late in paying my bill once. I decided not to pay and see if they would use my deposit money towards payment. Unfortunately, PG&E doesn’t do things this way. They said, “we need payment immediately or we will disconnect your service.” I coyly replied that they had my money and that they were welcome to take it and use it to pay their bills. They blankly replied that this was not possible. There it is – lie number four – if they wanted my money so bad, they could have had it. What other company does this?

Finally, I put in another call to my dad, who I don’t like to ask for things, mainly because I am 100% financially independent from my family and never ask them for money, and secondly because my dad is not a person I would ever want to owe money to. He would make my life a living hell. It took 30 minutes to convince him that I didn’t really care if he cosigned on the account with me or not. I repeatedly explained to him that I always pay my bills in a semi-timely manner, and that I wasn’t asking him for any money, and that this was a favor he could do for me if he felt like it, but was in no way obligated to do so if he had doubts. The situation forced me to grovel before my father for a simple favor. I hate them most of all for doing this to me. After finally convincing him to cosign, he called PG&E and got the paper work sent to him. He filled it out and submitted it and now my deposit has been “credited” to my account.

Credited. That one really pissed me off. I have to pay them cash up front, and now I only get “credited” the amount back to me. That’s what PG&E thinks of me as a customer. A customer that has generated around $2,500 of revenue for them anually for the past four years, and this is how I get treated? Well, I would just love to go with another company. But the thing that pisses me off is that there is no other company. If there was, PG&E could never get away with misleading their customers and bullying them into paying deposits of such astronomical proportions. They have mismanaged California’s power for years, ripped off their customers, and no one can do anything about it. But I can’t blame them. I mean, anybody who wants to can go into the utility business, I guess. I just don’t think anyone else wants to do it. Now I do know there was a ballot measure in the last election for San Francisco that stated the public should take over utilities, and I think it’s something to look forward to, but I also think that this is a recipe for disaster without severe planning and support from the community. Could you imagine if our communities tried to control such a mess? It would probably leave us all without power more often than not. Wait, PG&E already has power outages all the time. I forgot about that.

In the future I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for news regarding plans to usurp this nasty beast of a company. I hate them, I hate their policies, and I hate their business. I will support any realistic effort to create an alternative to these bastards, but the fact of the matter remains – they do the dirty work and as a result, get to stick it to everyone else. Until someone or something comes along that wants to replace it, we’ll all have to deal with PG&E.

There are now three things you can’ t avoid in life – Death, Taxes, and PG&E, but you can still spit in all their faces. It doesn’t change things, but it certainly makes one feel a bit better.

I Got Hit by a Taxi

July 27, 2009

Walking to a gig on Friday in the northern part of SOMA, I was hit by a taxi. I was legally passing through a crosswalk, and saw the taxi taking a left turn towards me. I waved at him because he wasn’t slowing down, and as he turned right into me, I jumped on the hood and he finally came to a stop. As I hopped off the hood, I could see the guy was stll text-messaging someone! He started accelerating slowly again, and said, “I’m so sorry”. All I could thing to reply with was, “Fuck you!” and let him drive off.
A friend of mine told me I could have reported the accident and gotten a settlement. I wasn’t injured, so I figured I would let it go, but it did make me wonder if I should have taken advantage of the system. At the end of the day, I decided that I did the right thing. I just wish people would stop text-messaging and talking on their phones while driving. It’s an asshole thing to do, even though I’ve done it myself and I’m sure everyone else has, too. Just food for thought.

The Wounded Hawk

July 17, 2009
The majestic Red-Tailed Hawk

The Majestic Red-Tailed Hawk

I was walking down Kearny St. in downtown SF yesterday running an errand, when all of a sudden I looked up to see a wounded red-tailed hawk falling from the sky, into the middle of traffic on Pine St. between Kearny and Montgomery. Needless to say this is not your everyday occurrence, so I stuck around to make sure the bird was alright. Below is a retelling of the story to a friend which pretty much explains it all:

Me: You’re not going to believe what just happened
You: Ha, this sounds good
Did you meet an alien?
Me: No, I was walking down and the street and huge hawk fell from the sky
it landed in the middle of the street, and I went to move it, but it had huge talons and a sharp beak!
It’s wings were sprawled out and they were about the same span as my arms
You: wow
Wait, when you say it fell…did it like fall down dead, or did it land?
Me: It was badly injured. It’s eyes were cloudy and it was twitching and writhing a little bit. It kept sticking it’s head straight up in the sky and opening it’s mouth.
At first it was pretty still, so we blocked traffic and I called animal control
You: awww, poor thing
Me: It finally got up and flew into the front window of a McDonald’s and laid there for a while. A couple of homeless guys were staring at it when I walked up.
Some idiot was walking down the street and didn’t even notice it, and almost stepped on it!
You: That’s awful
Are they going to be able to help it?
Me: Well, after the guy almost stepped on it, the hawk got up and ran a little bit, screamed, and went blindly flying into the busiest street in downtown (Montgomery)
It finally ran straight into a building and fell about four stories into an alcove
A cop finally showed up, and she took one look at it and decided she wasn’t gong to touch it. There was a coffee shop next door and I warned all the customers/employees not to go outside and disturb the bird. I had to leave as soon as Animal Control pulled up to get back to work.
You: Cool,  I’m glad animal control got there before it like got hit by a bus or something
You: Hopefully they can help it
Me: Well, I think a bullet to the head would be the best thing – but who knows, maybe a blind bird can live a healthy, productive life
You: Oh, so he’s blind…i missed that part
Me: Well, I’m not sure, but the whole cloudy eyes and flying into walls kind of made me think he was.

The after-effects of seeing such a beautiful and majestic animal in the middle of downtown (of all places) was quite profound, as you can imagine. I’m taking this as a sign to pursue the spirit of the hawk because it is wounded and blind within me. Even if that’s not what I’m supposed to get from all of this, I think the hawk’s intervention into my life at least warrants some sort of deeper questioning of myself. I feel a connection with this creature, and I wanted to stay longer and make sure it was ok. From what I could gather things were not going to be ok for this hawk and it would have simply been for my own amusement and curiosity that I stayed and watched. By calling animal control and following the bird until they showed up I felt my usefullness had reached it’s end. Plus, I just think it wanted to be left alone to die in peace, I hope the hawk found that or is at least recovering.