Nashville

Time it was and what a time it was, it was
a time of innocence, a time of confidences
long ago it must be, I have a photograph
preserve your memories
they’re all that’s left you

Kris Kristofferson told me once, “…If you stay in Nashville long enough, it’ll drive you crazy.” Almost twenty-two years later, I think I know what he means.

How do I begin. Where do I begin. And how do I end. This is my attempt at summing it all up. Warts and all.

I came to Nashville in July of 1990 on the advice of a good friend. We were both playing music in Philadelphia when he landed a gig with Lynyrd Skynyrd which left him in Nashville at the end of the tour. He loved the city, decided to stay and knew of a band in need of a drummer. He said it was my ideal band, a mix of Replacements, Smithereens, Beatles and well, every other incarnation you could think of. My life in Philly was miserable. I was actually living in Collingswood, NJ, playing in the most god-awful hair-metal band and dating a woman I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t get away fast enough. This is where I have to be careful so as not to give you the hour by hour, play by play details. Which is very hard to do as I’m hit with the reality that I’m to sum up my 21 plus year experience here in a Reader’s Digest amount of space. I need to do this as part of my process. Closure.

I will probably delete this and begin again several times, get angry, and sob deeply as I remember the people who are no longer around. I’ll smile in honor of the good times and then become paralyzed at the realization that it went by so incredibly fast.

A dog is said to experience life at a pace that puts it at about seven years for every one human year. I have have lived about four lifetimes here in Nashville as the grey at my temples reveals all you really need to know.

Rock’fish: The early years of moving here and playing on the local scene. The energy of creating something bombastic and traveling like gypsies with one common cause. Music. And… girls. They were synonymous. We were rude, loud and cocksure. We had long hair, big ideas and a really shitty van. We drove hundreds of miles for no money to win fans one at a time. The stories we could tell if we all got together would fill volumes and we were no different than the fifty other bands in town who believed exactly the same thing. Swing. China Black. Jet Black Factory. The Biscuits. Iodine. Geared and Primed. Walk the West. Jason and the Scorchers. Valentine Saloon. So many great bands and such an amazing period of time in the city.

Ace of Clubs. 12th & Porter. Exit-In. 328 Performance Hall. Pub of Love. Mainstreet. The End. And lets not forget the Goldrush. Legendary venues, some still here and some gone for good. I was a regular fixture at every-single one. When a dear friend passed recently, some of us gathered at a local watering hole for a gentle memorial and it was like stepping into a time machine when I crossed the threshold. We developed some very bad habits… some never got over them and paid the ultimate price but we developed some incredible life-long friendships as well. I have gotten to watch all my crazy rock n roll friends “grow up” and have kids of their own. Virtual mini-me’s who know how to play Beatles tunes before they are 10 and actually sing the lyrics to Big Star and Graham Parsons songs.

I achieved a dream of mine here in Nashville. A couple actually. Seven years and seven days from the moment I arrived as a drummer, I signed a publishing deal with a major publisher as a songwriter. All I ever wanted to be was a songwriter. I have been blessed to meet and have play on my records some of the finest musicians in the world. I mean on the entire planet. I thank each and everyone of you. Engineers, studio managers, techs… thank you. I got to travel the world on a guitar… here… in Nashville.

The Black Period: I completely lost my way and allowed people and circumstances to suck the spirit and marrow from my body. It lasted almost ten years. That’s a long time. When and if you ever let anyone take the only thing you truly possess, your soul… two things should happen:

1. You should be punched in squarely in the mouth for allowing it to happen.
2. You get a hug from a friend. Someone close who says, “it’s gonna be ok.”

The Aftermath: When you learn that what you thought was, wasn’t and who you thought was nowhere close… it does damage. Major damage and some people are perfectly fine with letting that happen. They’ll watch as you take the heat, even when you don’t deserve it. That kinda shit can do irreparable harm. My divorce aligned pretty closely with the events of September 11, 2001 and I will tell you, those were deep, dark days. I lost my music. I lost my confidence. I made some of the worst errors in judgement’s I’ve ever made. As I scrambled to regain my balance and purpose I hurt some people. For that I’ll be eternally sorry. The country was in a deep despair from the events of that Tuesday in September and I was right along side. I had been planning on going to NYC, start fresh. That wasn’t going to happen. My manager and retailers dropped me. My ex-publisher ended up with my house. A house we spent 18 months building. It all played out publicly. When you are crashing, it’s a feeding frenzy. Everybody wants their’s. When you’re on top, everyone would love to do lunch. When you fall, everyone is “in a meeting.” All of it. Gone in the blink of an eye.

An attempt at a new record came up short. Wonderful songs. Some of the strongest material I ever did sat dormant until recently. The “Songs From Before” collection is from this time frame. Trying to be hopeful when you’ve lost everything is extremely difficult. I wasn’t waving. I was drowning.

The Healing: One day… you wake up and have to decide to be happy. I started over. I started drawing, painting and reinventing myself. I spent a lot of time by myself. I went into my box. Reassessed. I started sailing. But for about 3 shows over the last ten years, my guitars sit eerily quiet in their cases waiting for the moment when I feel like I have something to say. I said my apologies and hope that any harm I may have caused or been a part of is forgiven. I took a regular J.O.B. My greatest fear. A job with an insurance plan and 401k. Albeit, this job in the film business cannot be compared on any level to a corporate job situation mind you… it was still a job. It allowed me to buy my little shack in the hood and heal. Cut my grass. Walk my dog. Remodel the kitchen. Put the studio back together. Unfortunately the cases sat closed. In the mean time, I wrote and illustrated a kids book of poetry called “Crash Landings” and featured some paintings in an art show or two. I became infatuated with the art of sailing and I met Melody. That makes my time in Nashville worth it. With Melody comes a level headed answer to my sometimes frantic, artistic interpretations. She’s got the artist in her as well. Once you see her paintings, you’ll understand what I mean. But she’s got something else… a quiet wisdom. Unassuming simple answers to the big, bad questions I have a tendency to dwell on. I tend to sit and spin on occasion and she knows where the “off” button is. To Mel add Jet. The healing is complete and it’s time to move on.

The exodus. How do you sum up so many lives in such a minimal amount of space. You don’t. There will be no big celebration. No long good-bye’s and tearful recriminations. I hardly see anyone anymore. Kids. soccer practice. Who’s moved and who’s moved on… passed on. My love affair with Nashville has been tenuous at best. Delicate and like fine china, easily broken and never well mended. I never once felt at home here. Accepted here. I can finally say that. I love my friends dearly and for a brief time it felt good to get back to Nashville from long stints on the road. But it never felt like I was going home. Why stay so long? I can’t really answer that. Maybe I just wanted to leave on my terms. Let me be clear. I’ve had some wonderful, extravagant times here in Nashville. I have learned a lot. Discovered, been witness to the births of babes and that fifteen minutes of fame bullshit we hear so much about. Many wonderful shiny moments. But as I come to this “end” or better yet, transition, different things resonate differently and I guess the metal in those hard times rings a little louder in this bell-tower than do the sweet-soft overtones of the good times. I posed the question at the beginning… How do I end? Quietly. Differently than how I began.

Kristofferson told me one other thing and it’s the most important thing I think I can ever remember. He said, “I try to live life by four basic rules; Tell the truth. Sing with passion. Work with laughter and live for love. Whenever I’ve strayed from those, I’ve usually ended up in deep shit. Oh, and… If you stay in Nashville long enough, it’ll drive you crazy.”

Good-bye Nashville. Time it was and what a time it was…

A Dog’s Life

Well, I just returned from the last official road trip down to the boat with load of clothes, pots, pans and books in preparation for the trip up the East Coast. With two major storms on Saturday and Sunday with sustained winds of 30 knots, it didn’t look good for getting off the dock and over to Bay County Boatyard for the haul-out and bottom job. I was really worried since I’ve had minimal experience handling this boat and no experience getting out of the slip. The winds were blowing from the SSE and pushing the boat up into the slip at a horrible angle and boy it was nerve wracking. But, Monday morning came and the winds shifted around and calmed to about 5 knts. Thanks universe! Whew. We got out of the slip… not without incident though… while backing out, I noticed I had horrible steerage and power. Something was dreadfully wrong but I was already underway and couldn’t correct or stop at this point. So, after a fumbled start, boat hooks and four-letter words and all my neighbors watching, then turning away, we got out of the slip and underway.

A stop at the fuel dock to fill up and then off to Watson’s Bayou. We pulled into Bay County just after 9 am and Yates and his crew were all assembled around the lift. They hooked us up and lifted her out without issue. Once in the sling, I discovered why my steerage and handling were horrible. BARNACLES! Tons of them. I was going to have the diver go clean the bottom on her usual monthly schedule. But being that she was hauled out and cleaned on April 2 for the survey, I figured, nah… I’ll just get her done when we pull her for the bottom job in May. Wow! 6 weeks later and you’d have thought she’d never been cleaned. Barnacles covered my prop, shaft and jammed themselves in between the rudder post and the rudder, which is why her steering was so difficult. Amazing. Yates said if just 10 barnacles attach themselves to your prop, it will cause you to have to use about 10% more power to achieve the same speed. So if you run at 2000 RPM and you have barnacles on the prop, you’ll need to run the engine at 2200 RPM to get the speed you had before! I was running at the optimal 1800 RPM and we were only doing 3.9 knts when in April, we were at about 5.9 knts. CRAZY!

Anyway… She’s on the hard for about two weeks getting new bottom paint, buff and wax of the hull, a new strainer and some barrier coat on the bottom of the keel where it’s been depleted since the previous owner went about 3 years between bottoms. Not so good. Cha’ Ching. So, when I pick her up on May 23, she should be beautiful, clean, sound and with a smooth, pretty bottom. And you know how we men are about smooth, pretty bottoms.

This is my last official week at work. We have to clean the apartment in preparation for moving out completely. I have to get some paper work done here at the office and finish up a few minor things. It’s been very strange realizing how quickly this moment is coming. We’ve received a lot of nice emails and notes. My crew has been so sweet with their offers of help and support and boy oh boy, Jet is in for a big surprise.

I am today doing what I have done for the last several years around here. I get in early, make some coffee, sit at my desk and just enjoy the quiet before everyone shows up. That’s becoming harder to do and I’m trying really hard to keep it together. The magnitude of the moment is upon me and I’m struggling with how to sum up the last 21 years, 9 months and 27 days. A dog is said to live about 7 years in the time span of one human year. I think I have a better sense of what that might be like right about now. I have lived four lifetimes in Nashville.

Ladies and Gentleman… The “Fat Lady”

Politically incorrect. Probably. But as they say, “the opera aint over til’ the fat lady sings” and she’s just now taken the stage. Tomorrow, May 10 is my last shoot day in this production package. “12-2” as it’s known within the world of Armed Forces Radio and Television, wraps tomorrow and with it, my tenure at Film House. Almost 11 years in one place, that’s a record for me by any stretch. After the last post glaringly missed the mark, I’ll dispense with the ambiguity here.

As you know, about a month ago I went to my boss and told him I was leaving. I told him about the need for a change and a new energy. I told him I wasn’t happy and needed to blow a hole in my current situation and seek greener pastures. He told me he admired my boldness. Said, “I’m not saying you’re not crazy as shit and I’m not saying it’s not a horrible idea. I am saying, you’ve got guts and at least you’re doing something about your situation, unlike most of us who are locked into our situations and not so free to do so.” Others weren’t so kind and most told me I was stupid for quitting a job in “this economy”. They marveled at the fact that I sold the house and with it most of my stuff. They were absolutely suspect at my coercing Melody into a “vagabond” lifestyle aboard, of all things, a freaking sailboat. I was a complete idiot!

Well, last week we all received an email from my boss… yes, that boss… all hands on deck meeting in the conference room. 11:00 am. Everyone now speculating and fearing the worst. See that’s what has been happening over the past three years over there. We receive an email and shortly thereafter, bad things happen. Pay cuts. Insurance revisions. Lay-offs. We were conditioned.

11:oo am: Everyone seated around a large, very large conference room table. Everyone quiet, worried. My boss came in and I knew right away, it was bad. He said, “I’m just going to cut to the chase. The 12 series is the last series… the DoD is pulling the contract, effective October. There’s no funding. I’m sorry.” BOOM. The breath sucked, slowly out of the entire room. Even mine. I no longer had a dog in the hunt and I knew this was coming… that’s why I was leaving. That’s why I sold the house… but it wasn’t supposed to come now. Not with me there to see it. It’s been a difficult year thus far with the loss of some dear friends. Young, vibrant friends and now I was witness to death that day too. Having to make those calls to wives, girlfriends and mothers. Telling the kids. Not telling the kids.

A couple people came to my office afterwards and said things like, “you look like the smartest man in the world right now” and “you must be happy, huh?” No. I’m not happy one bit. A lot of people I love will be hurt. Really hurt. Smart? No… lucky. For the first time in a long time, I trusted my gut and it happened to work out. Had we not sold the house a month before, I would be scrambling just like everyone else. This journey of ours would be dead. Cold and dead. I’d be wondering, why I didn’t trust my gut and see the writing on the wall. I’d be kicking myself for not doing it sooner and being caught behind the eight-ball. Oh, I’m terrified alright. But Mel and I have a deal now, we have a saying, “scratch out terrified, write in adventure.” It helps to change the dynamic and almost makes me feel a little better.

The point? Wake up tomorrow and know that you aren’t guaranteed anything. Be grateful if you’re financially secure. Be grateful if you still have your parents around. Be grateful if you have your health. Be grateful if you go to a job you like. Pay it forward. And… if you’re clicking along, gritting your teeth and wishing things were different take heed, they could be very different tomorrow… in more ways than one.

I’m feeling a bit melancholy tonight. I hesitated to write. Several “serious” blogs in a row tend to belabor the story. Bog it down in overly sentimental drivel. That’s not what I want to do. But this is a story about a journey and a large portion of one journey is ending tomorrow. That deserves inspection. Reflection. In production you spend more time with your crew than with your family. Actually… they are my family. And now, I guess we all have to push back from the table, shut up and listen. Sing fat lady. Sing.

Go With The Grain

It’s been a few weeks. I had some ideas and I even did a post about hockey. I deleted it. I feel like there must be a certain “grain” to this endeavor. That post felt a bit like a knot right in the middle of a nice piece of mahogany. So I cut it out. I’ve been at a loss for words a little bit since all of the madness has settled down. I mean, when I wake up every morning, I’m struck by temporary-ness of my surroundings. My clothes hang on a chrome and plastic rack bought from a big-box store. It barely holds what it needs too. It looked so hip and… current on the box. My shoes and jeans reside on a wooden shelf, open to the room and slammed right next to our little, double bed. Plastic totes full of socks and tee-shirts line the walls and it’s a little like living in a storage unit. After 20 + years in the music business, I know what that feels like. The hardwood floors are nice though. I’m not a carpet fan. The amount of dirt, dander and dead skin that gathers in one’s carpet makes me queasy. I like the hardwood. Jet however, feels differently. He prefers the Persian rugs. I got two rugs while I was overseas on a USO Tour in 2001 and they are beautiful. Were beautiful. We’re keeping them. One is in the living room and one in the bedroom. They aren’t very large but they mean something and I like looking at them. I like the way they feel on my bare feet. While in the middle-east, I learned about these rugs and developed a strong desire to bring a couple back. I became infatuated with the amount of skill and devotion it took to complete such an amazing work of art. Art that lasts centuries if properly cared for.

I can say honestly that mine are not properly cared for. They haven’t been cleaned since I got them and while I try desperately to keep them in good shape, it seems like whenever something gets spilled or Jet gets sick and decides to throw up at 3 am he does so on my favorite rug. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s his favorite too. This happened the other night and to add insult to injury it was raining. Pouring rain and cold. Jet was up all night making us very nervous with his licking at nothing, looking like he was choking and pacing back and forth. Up to the front door, circling, whining and back to his spot at the foot of our bed. So we got up, each taking turns rubbing his belly and asking, “do you think we should go to the emergency vet?” After a few rounds of this I said, “ok, let’s go for a walk.” I’ll take him for a walk and he’ll do his business and life will be fine. I’ll get an hour of sleep and we’ll move on. Well he didn’t do any business. He did pee on every errant bush, pole and curb along our cold, wet walk. Me? No jacket. No shoes. Jeans and a tee-shirt. Dumb. So, at 3 am me and my sick dog stroll down our temporary street in our temporary neighborhood in the pouring rain and returned home. Both of us soaking wet. Of course he waits until just inside the door to shake all that water off. Me… freezing cold, dripping wet, wide awake and not getting anymore sleep. I towel us off and crawl in bed anyway. Five minutes later… Mel is out of bed as his grumbling stomach is no better. Then he starts to circle and make that sound… It’s a horrible sound. His big shepherd ears slump out to the side instead of those proud erect ones he usually carries.

He threw up. A massive blob of undigested, very expensive food. And you know what? It was on my rug. His rug. Not on the hardwood floor. That would be too easy. Nope. We’ve had Jet for about three years and every, single time he’s gotten sick, it’s been on “our” red, silk Persian. He was fit as a fiddle after that. Tail wagging, prancing around like he won an award. And… up into one of two chairs we still own. Nite-nite.

The moral of the story? I don’t know the moral of the story but I know this. My grandmother had couches that were covered in plastic slip covers for her entire life. I remember as a kid, The plastic runners that protected her carpets from the front door to the kitchen. Tributaries of plastic meandered throughout her modest abode in South West Philadelphia. My ass never touched the fabric of those beautiful couches. My bare-feet were never allowed on those carpets. Some would say they were “properly cared for”. My grandmother died at 96. No one in my family has any of that furniture. The house sold to a complete stranger and all that “proper attention” at 54th and Gross street in Philadelphia went for naught. At least in my estimation. So, I guess I’ll enjoy my rugs in my way and Jet will enjoy his rug in his way. Either way… Someday… Someone, probably someone I don’t know, will inherit a work of art that has been walked on with the barest of feet, lived on, loved on, cried on and laughed on. And yes… puked on. And there’s nothing temporary about that.

Brokers and Agents and Surveyors, Oh My…

Well folks… I should have never stated “Monday” as my blog day. As soon as I did, the whole schedule went to crap. You know what they say about “good intentions.” That said, this was the week and what a week it’s been. With the house closing locked in and done, I readied for the trip to Panama City for the boat survey while Melody went through scores of boxes and plastic totes to decipher what we were keeping, selling, donating or storing. I drove to Panama City… again… on Sunday for the survey on Monday morning. Now… If you don’t know what a survey is, think “Home Inspection” for a boat. Same thing, only different. You have to haul the boat out of the water so the surveyor can see and check the bottom for any number of problems such as blisters (bubbles in the fiberglass), keel de-lamination (look it up), cracks, corrosion, etc… It’s nerve wracking and expensive. $350.00 bucks, plus $50.00 to pressure wash it, plus tax. All told, $454.00 for about 1/2 hr. on the 70 ton lift.

Yard worker scrapes the growth off her keel

Surveyors are like every other profession on the planet. Some are good some are crap and some are well… completely indifferent. When you want the best guy, you gotta dig. Call locals, ask questions, read reviews and, if you can, get a copy of some of the survey’s potential hires have done. I found a company that came highly recommended and when I called, I knew I had the right guy. Capt. Rick Corley from Capt. Tom Corley and Sons Marine Surveyors. Capt. Rick has to be in his early to mid-seventies. His father just past away at 93 years old and surveyed up to about six months before his death. Capt. Rick has been surveying boats for over 55 yrs. When I called him on the phone to discuss the potential survey, he kept me on the line for over an hour. He asked me more questions than I had for him. It was enlightening and put my mind at ease. But… It’s nerve wracking and expensive. $560.00 bucks. Actually that’s cheap compared to other quotes I got that were in the $650.00 area. It’s all priced by the foot. At 35 feet, my days of cheap bottom jobs, trailers and haul-outs are officially over!

Now Capt. Rick can talk. Boy can he talk. If he didn’t give me so much damn information that I needed, I would have been exhausted and frustrated. As it stands, I’m struggling to read his nineteen page survey! He is former military and very, very detailed. Well worth the money. We met at 9AM, did a quick look around, met the broker, the owner and the owners wife. We had a quick look around, fired her up, backed her out and drove her by motor to the haul out facility about 45 min. by water. This gave us the opportunity to check the auto-pilot, engine cooling, steering, etc. When we got to Bay County Boatyard, they had the lift ready and pulled her out without incident. Everything looked good with minor “issues” such as she needs new bottom paint and zinc, which I knew. Then, I paid the large sum of money to watch her descend in the sling and travel back to the marina where we broke for lunch, which I bought. After lunch, we went back to the boat and eventually, around 3PM finished up. I wrote yet another check to Capt. Rick for his services and sent him on his way. Then, I wrote another check to the broker (Who I’ll remain tight-lipped about until I have the keys in my hand… 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5… deep breath) and still another check to the owner for allowing me to keep the boat in his slip for the month of April. At which time I’ll take her back to Bay County Boatyard for the bottom job and yes… another check. That sucking sound you’re hearing? My bank account.

With the survey process done, I drove home Tuesday. I’m now at work trying desperately to do… my job. Yeah, that thing I have for two more months? They actually expect me to accomplish something during that time. I now get to deal with “that Broker,” an insurance agent and the U.S. Coast Guard. I’m going to have the vessel documented… don’t ask. More paperwork and yes… cha-ching… another check.

So this is the point at which I go against my natural inclination to second guess everything. You know, when the craziness ceases and there is calm or, relative calm. Okay, not calm but less crazy than before? The voices creep in and say, “Did I just do something really stupid?” Yeah, that voice. NOT the Clint Eastwood voice. This is more like David Spade-ish. This voice is just my “old self” questioning the “new self”, trying to upset the apple-cart. Thing is… the “old-self” doesn’t know just how sick the “new-self” is with the “old-self.” As we age, or should I put this in terms of me and me alone… as “I” age, I find that tiny sliver of self doubt gains traction and likes to sabotage my attempts at “happiness” or whatever word you’d like to insert. But this little “adventure,” our “journey” is pretty iron clad at this point. We’ve sold the house. I’ve given notice at work. We’ve spent a very large sum of money on our next dwelling and it’s PAID FOR. Our cars are paid for. Pieces of shit mind you… But PAID FOR. The dog? Jet-pack… PAID FOR. Although he’s getting a little needy… But the broader point is; this snowball is rolling. It’s growing and rolling faster and faster towards some locale way down the hillside. And “old self” take heed… You’re in the F’ing path.

100%

You know, this week I was going to title this post “The Backlash” and I was going to tell you in a funny, cynical and smart-ass sort of way, about the negative feedback we’ve been getting from some folks. I know right? I never imagined that some people out there would be down right mean and outwardly hoping for us to fail. I mean I knew some people would be utterly clueless and never in a million years understand why I’d want to just give away a perfectly good “fill in the blank here, yada yada… whicha-ma-call-it” but come on. I came up with a couple of cool categories to describe the different groups of people we’ve encountered and I gave them names like “Claymore’s” yes, after the WWII land mine. Another was the “George Costanza’s” and things like that. I was going to post a snippet from an actual email that Melody received saying, “how utterly disappointed” this person was with her for making this “rash decision” ending with “I expected more.” Huh?

But I’m not gonna do that.

After my last post, you know the one about the Lincoln running me down? I’ve decided to take a different tack. I’m going to marvel at the absolute bitch slap handed to me today.

I had two incredibly difficult conversations scheduled and I would rather have a root canal than have either one. I had a meeting with the VP of my company to inform him I’d be leaving and shortly after that, I had to call Bill (The guy who owns the boat I backed out of buying~ last post). I still hadn’t spoken to him directly. I left him a voicemail and sent an email and hadn’t heard back. I expected he was pissed but I needed to speak to him. I owed it to him and didn’t want to skulk off with having just sent an email. I needed to “take my poison” and I was dreading it. Dreading both.

Now we’ve had a really busy and some would say stressful month with this closing and trying to find a new place to rent for the next two months, etc. We’ve sold or given away most of our stuff. And the dog… Jet… is absolutely confused. We’ve fixed the kitchen sink three, no… four times and finally it no longer leaks. We’ve got boxes labeled “books” and other’s labeled “Donate” and still other’s labeled “Boat.” Where is this all leading you ask? I’m getting there.

Today, in the meeting with my boss… I struggled… I mean really struggled to hold back the sudden swell of emotion that hit me as he arranged a couple chairs for us to sit facing each other. I had been fine reading my notes and going over what I was going to say and how I was going to say it. Positive. Nothing but gratitude and appreciation. I sat down and he looked at me, leaned back and clasped his hands behind his head and said, “So… what’s going on?” Like a cowboy in an old western just before a gunfight. As I started with, “First, I’d like to just say thank you. Thank you for a great gig for the last ten years…” Tears welled up. My hand holding my coffee cup started shaking and I was now careening down a river of emotions that I hadn’t planned on. All the stress? Now! It had to come now? “Holy shit,” I’m thinking… “this can’t be happening now. Not now. Get… A… Grip!”

After a moment, I regained my composure and continued. We had a heart-felt, honest conversation about dreams, goals, expectations and the dangers of getting too comfortable. We got through the details of my exit strategy and then… as we were ending the meeting… he stood up, looked me dead in the face and said, “I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for taking control of your life and realizing that it’s not good enough. And I’m going to say the only thing I can say… I support you… 100%. I’m going to miss you. I always liked you. But I support you.” I nearly hit the floor. And then, he hugged me.

I’m not sure what I expected but I didn’t expect that. Maybe I expected to have to defend a position. A point of view. My validity. Maybe I expected a little more, “good riddance.” I don’t know… Maybe we’ve all gotten so jaded and used to confrontation and drama that it’s become the first response. Moments like these blow me away because of the natural conditioning towards anything but kindness and understanding for another’s situation. Why was I so stunned.

“Hello Bill? It’s Chris…” I braced for the onslaught of “you shady son-of-a-bitch… etc… etc…” and it didn’t happen. It was absolutely the opposite. “Hey Chris, I got your email and your voicemail and I’m sorry we couldn’t put this together.” WHAT? I agreed to buy your boat, started the survey process and pulled up short and you’re apologizing to ME? This is just bizarre.

We’ve got a place to rent now. Today… two days before we have to be out of our house. A good friend called and had a tenant unexpectedly move out on him. Really. Right when things were getting critical… we find a place. How funny. You know, from the moment Mel and I made this decision, nothing has been difficult. It’s all fallen into place. Maybe a little stressful at times but it’s worked. Every piece from the selling of the boat, the house and furniture to the new boat being available now that we have the money. And now… the apartment. Just when I think… uh, oh… here it comes. This is where things bind up and grind to a halt, I get surprised… again and again. Bitch slap.

I’ve had this piece of paper on my computer monitor for about three years now. It’s the full width of a piece of copier paper and it has a saying on it. A friend and co-worker gave it to me years ago when we were having one of our deep discussions about dreams, goals, expectations and the dangers of getting too comfortable. In plain, black courier it says, “I am abundant and the universe supports me.” Somedays I notice it and some days, I don’t. Right there in front of me. Not two-feet from my face. On a monitor that I look at every day for about eight hours. Somedays I actually miss it… Unbelievable.

 

Know what? I’m going to make a point to see it every single day for the next two months.

Compression

com·pres·sion/kəmˈpreSHən/
Noun:

The action of compressing or being compressed.
The reduction in volume

I’m late… and I know it. I’ve missed my usual Monday time-frame for my post and it’s very unbecoming. I’ll refrain from the excuses and begin with a short telling of events from the past weekend. I’ve done something I’m not proud of… I backed out of a deal.

To recap: Mel and I traveled to Naples, Florida to see another Cal 35. There are currently three on the market and we’ve now seen two. The third one is not an option. Needs too much work. And that… if you recall is how this damn blog started in the first place! I won’t go into all the technical details but after seeing the first one in Panama City, I (I stress “I”) wanted to see the one in Naples for piece of mind. In an effort to save money we found some really inexpensive (notice I didn’t say cheap) tickets on Allegiant Airlines. However they don’t fly from Nashville. In the interest of time I’ll give you the readers digest breakdown…

Friday: leave work early, drop Jet off at the “Pet Resort” (more than our hotel), go home to clean the house because the new owners wanna do their final walk-thru tomorrow… of course. Got going early on Saturday, drove 3 hrs. to Knoxville, Flew to Punta Gorda, drove to Naples, met the boat guy… Bill, had dinner and finally got to the Old Naples Pub at 9:45pm for our St. Patty’s day celebratory Guinness! Just in time cause…
they close at 10! Crap.

Saturday we woke early, had breakfast and met the owner Bill and his wife Sally. They were so incredibly gracious. They let us stay on the boat and met us the next morning with a cooler full of sandwiches and wine, the perfect set-up for a nice test sail. After settling up with the harbor master for the nights dockage, we pushed off to motor out and it couldn’t have been more beautiful. Everything was great… the weather, the company, the wind was freshening and it was almost perfect… almost.

TECHNICAL ALERT: This is where I have to regress back a bit… When I read the ad for the boat, it said the owner had Kiwi-gripped the decks. Now if you don’t know, sailboats have a rough area on the decks known as “non-skid” which is placed strategically to keep your feet from slipping when the decks are wet. Over time, it wears down and starts to become ineffective and unattractive. Most people paint the decks and that in turn creates a whole-nuther set of problems… painting the deck every couple of years… YUCK. I’ve had two boats with painted decks and I told Melody, “Don’t ever let me buy another boat with painted decks!” You see where this is going. However Kiwi-grip is a different product entirely and it’s much more reliable. Anywho… Upon walking up to the boat I noticed that they didn’t do such a great job painting the and the mast looked different than it did in the photos… It looked PAINTED! And it was… half-way up… he stopped… painting…

Now this is where my internal dialogue starts saying just be nice, stay over, do the sail, be diplomatic and go home. Another part of me says, “Go home now!” But the voice who wants to remain with my wonderful girl agrees with the first voice. So we enjoy a lovely night and I proceed to talk myself into a painted boat. “It’s really not too bad. I can repaint it in white and get rid of that nasty tan color. Ah, I can pull the mast and paint it correctly… fill in the vent in the fore-deck, fix the auto-helm, re-do the headliner.” You see where this is going. After-all there are only two Cal’s and we want the best boat for the money… This one just had a twenty-five hundred dollar bottom job, newer diesel engine, new standing rigging, new mainsail, and… painted decks. We sailed and it sailed just as it was supposed to… FREAKING INCREDIBLE. We had a lovely day, drank wine, sat at the dock and in the excitement, I tossed out a figure that was six-thousand dollars short of his asking price… annnnnd he took it. So, Mel and I told him we had to discuss it and we’d call him later.

On our way to the airport we talked. I ignored my little voice and my little voice didn’t appreciate it. The pressure of dragging my girl around the country in a fit of planes, trains and automobiles had gotten to me. I was telling myself, “you need to just make a decision and get moving. Time is running out… our escape time-table is being compressed at an ever increasing rate. My little voice began screaming… and I ignored it. I smiled through clenched teeth and we agreed to go for it. I called Bill and said we wanted to move forward with the purchase. He was over the moon. Said he and his wife had such a great feeling and really enjoyed us as a couple… I however felt very sad. Very compressed… “reduced in my volume” and Melody knew it. She said something like, “you’re not has happy as I thought you’d be…”

Monday morning 4 am:

Compression… major compression. Shortness of breath, heart pounding. My little voice now standing on my chest, a firm grasp on my throat says in a calm, “Clint Eastwood” voice… “Now you listen here bitch… I’m only going to say this one more time.”

5 am:

I’m on the couch in a full blown anxiety attack looking over photos and the survey the owner of the other boat sent me, reeling over the fact that I have to tell Melody, “…it’s not over. No deal. I gotta go back to see the other boat again.”

Melody knows me pretty well. She woke up and knew… she just knew… Jet, our dog, knew too. He left the room. I bared my soul, my fears, my reservations and said, I know you hate me but I have to go back… She cried. Balled. Big, red, swelled-up eyes. 5 am-I’m not awake-I’m hungry and I have to pee tears.

I had to call Bill. I felt sick to my stomach, like I was letting my dad down. I was going to call this nice retired couple who probably set their “next phase” into motion. I mean… why not… they sold the boat right? Ugh. I left him a message. I sent him an email. He hasn’t called me back. I feel like a total dick. I have to call him again and I’m not looking forward to the conversation.

Compression. The action of compressing. I feel it. With our house closing next week, no place to rent until we leave in June and no boat, I feel like I’m running. Running as fast as I can as a 1979 Lincoln Continental speeds behind me. My feet clip the front bumper with each stride and I feel the air suck past me into that big, chrome grill.

And I’m running out of road…

Graceful Transitions

It’s Monday and it couldn’t come soon enough. I was thinking about this post most of the weekend.  How would I transition from the last post and the emotions of the last week, to the emotions of this week and beyond?

noun:  1. movement, passage or change from one position, state, stage, concept, subject, etc…
             to another.

With that in mind, we’ll do it together.  Gracefully, respectfully… I turn the page and focus forward.

We spent the weekend packing the house.  It’s quite funny because we were done in about 3 hrs. See, we’ve donated and/or sold almost all the furniture and we’re just waiting for it to be picked up.  We’ve given or donated several loads of clothing to Goodwill and friends and yesterday we made a run to McKay’s Book Store here in Nashville. They just opened a new three-hundred thousand square foot wear house. They sell used books, cd’s, dvd’s… well, you know the type store. As we packed Saturday we loaded up our itunes with all the cd’s we could handle before tossing them in as well.  All told, we got a paltry $86.00 for our efforts and a $10.00 store credit.  BUT… that wasn’t the point was it?  We got rid of a ton of stuff and still made enough money to grab a couple bottles of wine and some dinner.  I couldn’t think of a more perfect exodus for that copy of “Men Are From Mars and Women From Venus” that I’ll never crack the spine on!

This coming weekend, March 17th… St. Patty’s Day… we’ll be heading to Naples, Florida to look at a Cal 35. That’s a sailboat.  We have pretty much decided this is the perfect boat for us at the moment.  As every sailor knows, every boat is a combination of compromises.  One has great sailing abilities but an exposed cock-pit. One has shallow draft but feels dark and cramped inside. Another will have all the creature comforts of home but sails like a dinner plate. That’s a bad thing. And the most important one for us right now… which one fits in the budget?  Money… You never want to sacrifice and buy a shitty boat just because it’s cheap. You’ll find one night, while you try to sleep in a blustery storm, drops of water caressing your forehead through that leaky hatch you saved ten grand on.  That will almost guarantee you and your lovely will be land-lubbers in no time at all.

The Cal 35 fits our criteria, and let me stress “our criteria” once again.  Everyone will have different needs or requirements when they pick their boats.  Just read a few forum’s and you’ll get mind numbing assessments of facts and figures, capsize ratios, balance to displacement, righting moment equations, comfort factors and so on. At long last, you’ll just have to know what you want.  For me… I need a boat that sails well.  She has to go to weather with a measure of confidence. She has to be well built with less than six feet of draft. She has to come from one of a handful of designers that I hold in high esteem. Sparkman & Stevens, Ted Hood, Bill Shaw, Carl Alberg and Bill Lapworth are just a few. The latter being the designer of the Cal 35. Bill Lapworth designed several Cal boats and early on changed the sailing world with the wave churning Cal 40. A legendary boat if ever there was one. So, without getting all technical on you… We searched for the last two years for our “next boat” and if you’re talking about under 50k, there are few as good with the reputation to boot.

She is sea-worthy, fast and has very nice accommodation’s down below.  She’s got a nice safe galley, navigation station, 6′-3″ of headroom and… a separate shower stall.  That was the selling point for my lovely girl Melody. Few things are more important after a day in the salty air than feeling fresh and clean. A shower, albeit not a glamorous one, makes you feel 100% human.  She’s got a lovely v-berth and quarter berth with tons of storage. Another plus for Mel, secret squirrel as I like to call her.  That girl can stow some stuff away… I’ll have to make diagram’s with “circle’s and arrows on the back of each one” (Arlo Guthrie reference there) just to be able to find the soap!  Her mast height is a little taller than I’d like at 54′ but like I said, trade-offs…

We’ve seen one in Panama City which had some nice canvas and a cool layout but had a lot more use on it.  We’re going to see this one before we pull the trigger just to have that piece of mind.  Ideally, I would like to not have a “Florida Boat” since they spend so much time getting pounded by the sun… but hey, if it’s been taken care of… with a good clean survey… it  is what it is.

So there, I think we’ve made a nice, clean and graceful transition here.  A technical, dissertation on a boat and the why-to’s and where-fore’s of our mindset.  Non-offensive. Nothing too heavy or thought provoking. No deep quotes from Emerson or Twain.  Nothing to ponder.  Just a nice, warm piece of dough that you can chew on until I wax poetic or have a momentary lapse of reason once again. Rest assured dear friends and followers… it will happen.  It will happen.

Per-spek-tiv

noun

the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship:

It’s Monday. It’s been customary that i write my blog entries on Monday’s. I’m not sure why that’s become the case. Maybe it’s because i’ve had the weekend to reflect but i think that’s a load of shit since i don’t really do much reflection here. This blog was to be an honest “on the spot” assessment of the “journey” we’ve undertaken. Stream of consciousness, drivel with moments of witty repartee. I said i’d be honest, “…warts and all” and today i guess is one of the wart days.

I’m not sure where to start. See, i’m conflicted.  Because i believe we’ve become a society of self-absorbed, ego-infested, lemmings who feel the need to incessantly post every mundane thought or action on Twitter and Facebook. We suddenly feel like it’s important to tell everyone, anyone who’ll listen that we just had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or that our head hurts or we just “struggled” through 3 loads of laundry and now we need a break. I could go on for days about this but i won’t. Needless to say, this blog also falls into that senseless, self-absorbed, crap category. But i made a deal with myself to make notes about our experience because later i wanted to look back and see a road-map of thoughts and emotions that were written in the moment, at the time they occurred and not from reflection or reminiscence. My intention was to make the next, “rest of my life” a piece of art.  For ME… not for any of you.  I stopped making music and painting because my “next project” was this experience.  And… i’ve been so shut down for the last ten years, i felt the only way to discontinue that trend was to throw open the curtains and let everyone in.  Warts and all… Take part in the exhibitionism. Foolish.

About now you’re probably asking yourself, “What the hell is he talking about?” and i completely understand. See… If I ignore my post this week, i’m turning my back on the deal i made with myself.  I become a fraud because later i’ll be resigned to recall this particular Monday from a place of reflection. I’ll be forced to pull hard the strings of emotion and loss. Because let’s face it… time changes our perception… our per-spek-tiv.  It does heal most wounds.  Most…

My per-spek-tiv is definitely different today.  A very dear friend succeeded in killing himself this weekend and the thought of writing a blog about our boat search trip makes me sick to my stomach. The “…state of my ideas” is not clear right now.  I fluctuate between anger and sadness.  This “experience” has now shifted like the tectonic plates as i mourn for my other friend who was there when he did it and is now forced to carry that image in his head for the rest of his life. Brutal and inhumane… it makes me wanna sit on the floor and cry.

Warts and all…

So… you see my dilemma. Do i post this crap and feed the monster?  Or do i lock it down, choke back the tears, cover it over with bullshit and tamp it down deep into the dark, wet dirt.

Do me a favor, if you’ve made this far, don’t post any “I’m sorry for your loss” comments. Don’t tell me “…things will get better with time.”  Respectfully… save your breath.  You wanna be sympathetic?  Do something that matters.  Take a long lunch, go outside and look around. Lay on your back for a change of ‘per-spek-tiv’ and take a deep, deep breath. Now realize that life is a gift. Selling another widget won’t make you a better father or mother. Your BMW is not fooling anyone.  At least anyone who is still paying attention. Don’t judge people because chances are, you don’t know shit about what balls they are juggling in their lives and… if you have a problem, get help. Do a better job with your life. Engage. Mend your fences. Count your blessings. That’s what you can do.

Ignorance is not bliss. It’s simply ignorance.

Now… if you’ll excuse me, i’m going to make a peanut and butter sandwich.

My What A Lovely “P Trap”

noun: humor or frivolity, esp. the treatment of a serious matter with humor or in a manner lacking due respect.

Humor or Frivolity indeed!  After the last couple of  “introspective” posts on property, security and metaphysical leaps of faith, it’s time to lighten the mood. That’s why it’s time to talk about plumbing… wait, what? Let me look at my notes here… Yup… Plumbing. I despise plumbing.

verb: feel contempt or a deep repugnance for.

Repugnance! Yes… Repugnance!  That is a damn fine word.  I have a deep repugnance for plumbing. What is all this about you ask?  The home inspection found some “issues” with some leaky supply lines to the sinks and toilet in my back-house. So, Mr. Home Inspector says I must fix or have fixed, said leaks and add a “P Trap” to the tub drain in my bathroom.  This is the point at which I felt like saying, “look, I’ll go have a colonoscopy, they’ll have a couple leaky sinks and no “P Trap (Whatever the frig that is) and we’ll call it even.”  Deal?

No deal.

This looks like a job for Mr. Sylvan Park Handyman!  I’ve seen the trucks for the last ten years driving around my neighborhood and now I am in need of rescue. DUMB LUCK! My neighbor drives one of those fancy white vans that reads something like; “No job too small! Licensed, Bonded, Insured… great dancers, who like long walks on the beach,  piña colada’s and puppies.  God fearing, atheist’s who love whales and show up on time!”  Ok, I’m reaching, that’s a lot to write on the side of a van.  I grabbed my phone, walked out into the yard, gathered my thoughts and prepared myself to… ahem, ask for help.  Something no man likes to do.  What to my wondering eyes do see? My neighbor, yes… that neighbor, enjoying a Krystal, grey meat “hamburger” on his stoop!  Dare I ask? I do.  I went over, introduced myself and asked if he had a few minutes AFTER he finishes that delicious looking, little grey cheeseburger to assess my situation.  He agrees.

A few minutes pass and a knock comes on my back door.  Gene is a strapping man.  Large, clean shaven and bald. Picture Mr. Clean, sans earrings.  He looks at my “P Trap” issue and complete lack of access to the area and begins with another thing no man wants hear, the vague and off-putting, “Hmmm.  Mmm. Hm. “Click, (draws air in through his teehth)” Mm.”  Ugh! Not the “click, draws air”  thing.  That’s expensive!  Then the damage.  “That’s really tight in there.  That could take two men about 2 hrs.  and at $115.00 for the first hour, you could be looking at $400.00.”  What?  $400.00 for something called a “P Trap?” That’s ridiculous.  Thanks Gene!  Nice to see you Mr. Sylvan Park Handyman, Son-of-bitch, rip-off jerk bag!  Put that on your van smacked-ass!

I got into my shitty little truck, drove to Home Depot, purchased said “P F’ing Trap”, glue, 90 degree this and that stuff and promptly marched home and cut a massive hole in the drywall. You want access? I got your access bitch… and in one hour, yes 1 HOUR… me… novice, no count plumbers-ass got said “P Trap” installed. $34.95!  Then, I went on to fix the two leaky sinks and the toilet and GUESS WHAT?

They still leaked.  Grrrrr.  Now Melody… my girl says, “Honey I used to be a plumber in a former life.  Why don’t you let me take a stab at this.  You did the “P Trap” and your obviously losing patience with this… so go for a run and I’ll fix it before you get home.

…Right

Repugnance leads men to do strange things.  I agreed.  Yep… I got out of the way of my penis and surrendered the wrenches and teflon tape with aplomb. I went for a lovely run and cleared my head of drywall dust and dank crawl space fungus while Melody toiled away under the sink.  When I returned I expected to find her as exasperated as I had previously been. Not so.  She went to the hardware store, bought a new hose (source of the leak) and installed it with thread sealant and then reorganized the entire under-sink area. Dry as a bone.

Now some people deduce that they were Napoleon or Gandhi in former lives.  Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalene… Not my baby.  Nope.  She was a plumber… And I have to say, that’s one “plumber’s-ass” I can handle.