catching

Once again it’s January and once again I’m thinking about putting together a tour, this time for the Rock Show. Of course I say that like you knew this was a regular thing for me — I never mention it online because I know that nobody wants to hear about something that’s only an idea unless they’re part of the process. And yet like some kind of flagrant idiot, here I am doing just that. Well there’s more than just an idea here, this is bigger than all of us — this happens to be a quest! I bet you feel foolish now!

If you listened to Side A of Jak Is A Four Letter Word (and of course you did, because it costs you zero dollars to stream and download), you heard a track that consisted entirely of someone talking about flipping the tape when it stops at the end. That was a recording of my friend Amanda from twelve years ago, and I hadn’t talked to her much in about ten years.

When people start talking to someone again after a very long time of falling out of touch, they usually use the term “catch up”. I’ve never liked that, even when I’ve used it myself. The semantics really do make a difference here because to “catch up” with someone requires that there be a finite end to the process, and I think that’s why the term has always bothered me: once you’re caught up, you’re done. In most cases it’s maybe a few weeks of small talk and eventually you’re “catching up” again another span of years later. And really, social media has kind of obsoleted “catching up” anyway. Thanks to Facebook, I didn’t have to talk to her to already know she owns a place called Zog’s in Chapel Hill, NC and that she’s just ordered herself a lime green melodica from Amazon. Thanks to Facebook, she didn’t have to talk to me to know whatever it is I’ve been up to that I post or that gets posted about me and linked on my wall there.

When I emailed her to let her know “Hey, I made this really noisy album and, oh hey, you’re on it, here’s the track” she took that as a good reason to pick up where we left off rather than “catch up”. And yeah, it pretty much is. Here is the email she sent me back:

“What’s been going on with you lately? In an effort to bring that question away from the mire of small talk, please list three bulleted points about your life. Thank you.”

24 hours of bullet points and chat later we have a co-authored weblog thing called Three Bullet Pointz (I swear we’re not 14, it’s only because Three Bullet Points with an S was already taken on WordPress) where we write three related bullet points(z) per post on whatever topic we feel like to each other as if the internet’s not looking and then let the internet look at it. Theoretically, anyway — how much of the internet would want to look at something like that is a mystery to me. On the other hand, the internet looks at some really bizarre things sometimes so I have no idea. I just put things on it.

Though honestly, no, you really should look at it. How else will you learn about the dangerous game of Breadsy? You didn’t even know you were curious about Breadsy until just now. Just think of what else you might be missing out on…!…?… .

It was around this time that I put together an ambient drone track called “Fever Dream” for a Flaccid Plastic floppy disk split release with Spacings (coming soon). I based it off when I had pneumonia a couple of years ago and I’d get stuck in these horrible repeating dreams where I was sitting in a chair at a table playing chess with the personification of Mathematics who insisted on discussing philosophy with me instead of ever making his move. We were submerged in some murky fluid, floating about lazily. I could never follow a word of what he was saying, and he was relentless. For a few days until my fever broke, whenever I would start to sleep, it was always the same progression: a few moments of blissful rest and golden warmth, followed soon by forceful philosophy with that jerk Mathematics, and it would drag on mercilessly until I’d inevitably wake up with a pounding headache.

A couple days after writing “Fever Dream”, I got a fever that would reach a high of 102.8. My next song is going to be called “One Billion Tax Free Dollars In My Bank Account (And I’ll Stay Young And Healthy Until I get Tired Of It)”. Let me know if you want in on this action, I think I’m magical.

Anyway

I’m chatting with Amanda, and at this point I’ve only hit 100.6 degrees and trying desperately to convince myself that I don’t have a temperature that’s rising one degree per hour, that it’s all just some fluke with the air conditioning, the way I’m sitting, what I ate most recently, and my imagination, in that order. It makes perfect sense at the time, and don’t expect me to remember any aspect of why anymore. I hate being sick so much that I’ll do some serious gymnastics of logic to convince myself that I’m not really sick. At some point in talking to her, the melodica gets brought up. It’s funny to me because whenever I’m talking to somebody who I’m friended to on Facebook and something comes up that I already know about via their feed, it reminds me of when I watch a movie based on a book I’ve read and see something straight from the book on the movie screen. It’s a very 21st century feeling.

Anyway, the melodica comes up and I remember that I’ve forgotten I wanted a melodica twice now — once in 2008 when Adam Rouse brought his over to a practice to see if it could sub for the accordion part in “Battle Hymn” for the acoustic tour we ended up taking in December (it totally could! He didn’t end up coming with us on that tour though); and again last September when Dr. Sick played all of three notes on one at a Freaksheaux To Geaux revue (there’s no follow-up parenthetical anecdote here — I just put them here to balance it with the other one). I tell her this.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” she says.

“I’m listening.”

“I will purchase another melodica and have it mailed to you.”

“The lime green melodica.”

“The same.”

“That isn’t ‘a deal’. There’s more to this.”

“Yes. I will purchase the melodica and have it mailed to you if you promise to play Zog’s at some point in 2013. No show, no melodica.” She’s sent this all as one block of text, and for some reason I insist on reading it in my head with dramatic pauses and imagining sinister music swelling underneath it all. It’s the fever. I try to ignore it — I’m having a conversation here! I fail: the music I’m hearing in my head is just too good at creating the mood. For a moment, I keep reading it over and over again with various villainous deliveries, completely forgetting that someone’s actually waiting for a response from me.

Finally I snap out of it and read it properly. I decide I don’t like it. It feels too much like getting paid in advance for a job — the effort-to-reward flow is all backwards and wrong. “Here is an amended proposal,” I say.

“Okay.”

“Go ahead and get the melodica.”

“Okay.”

“And have it delivered to YOUR house.”

“O…kay?”

“And I will come to pick it up when I play Zog’s this summer.”

“Done. And if you never, ever come play Zog’s, I will burn the melodica on a funeral pyre and post pictures of its lime green guts on your Facebook page every day.” And knowing her like I do, I absolutely do not doubt for a second that this would happen.

“Now *that* is a deal,” I say.

I’m right, and I’m also wrong. It’s a deal and it’s so much more than a deal. We call it “MELODICA QUEST: It Probably Resembles An Adventure” and it’s going to be around seven or eight days in July or August. Exciting! It could be your town we play in! It will more likely be your town that we drive right past the exit of. It will most likely be that we won’t even be in the vicinity of your town!

***

There are days when nothing seems to go right. In no-budget filmmaking, those days are called “every shooting day”.

In October we did the first shoot for the Targeted project, the brothel scene. Angelle and I got to the set at 6:30 in the morning with a list of tasks and how long they should take. The list was adorable in how wrong it was. The wall construction was estimated at thirty minutes; it took an hour and a half. The light setup was figured at five minutes — HA, closer to twenty-five, courtesy of not threading the bulbs into the sockets properly because I’m trying to make up lost time and being too hasty. I don’t think there was a single item on the list that didn’t take at least three times as long as the estimate, and each delay just made us prone to making more mistakes and more delays.

I’d call crew members to see if they were close to arriving only to have them tell me they were just now waking up. One of our actresses dropped out and another one went to the emergency room that morning so we had to find two willing replacements within a couple of hours — it didn’t help recruiting efforts that the roles were “Whore #2” and “Whore #3”. Somehow our casting wizard Melia was able to find two who were willing and available.

Even with the cast and crew all there, diner customers kept wandering onto the set in the middle of shots. Every time a truck would pass on the highway next to the building, the walls would rumble and ruin the audio of any takes in progress. Video poker machines and sink faucets added anachronistic sounds that we had to wait out.

“There’s this image I have in my head for situations like this,” I say to Angelle while we’re waiting for the camera battery to recharge for the second time.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve never tried to verbalize it to anyone before, so bear with me.”

“Okay.”

“There’s these four walls all in front of each other, each with small square holes cut in them. All four of these walls are moving left-to-right and right-to-left against each other at different speeds, so VERY rarely, the four square holes will be lined up. On one side of these walls is a man with a bow and arrow and on the other side is a target. Each take is the man shooting an arrow and trying to hit the target.”

“Trying to get it through all four holes when they’re lined up,” she nods.

“Except he’s blindfolded.”

Somehow we got enough good takes to finish the scene. I remember being completely drained and wondering if I was cut out for this kind of thing at the end of the day. This was nothing like the short subject films and music videos I was accustomed to putting together up to this point.

“It’s no wonder most of my filmmaker friends are going bald,” I said.

“This is just the first day,” Angelle reminded me.

“Just, wow.”

3 months and a number of shoots later was the Pinkerton Agency scene that we did this Sunday. I wake up at 6:45 in the morning to day six of being sick. I check my phone, thinking “Okay, let’s see what crises happened overnight.” Sure enough, the actor playing the reporter in this scene dislocated his shoulder and is still in the emergency room — he won’t be able to make it.

“The guy playing the photographer is now playing the reporter,” I text to Melia. “And the backup actor who was on standby is now the photographer.” I go find something to eat. Later, on set, we find out the actor playing the photographer decided not to show up.

“How about our backup?” I ask.

“He’s not answering his phone either,” because of course he’s not, why would he?

“For the next ten minutes, everyone contact anyone you know that wants to be in an ultra low budget underground western with us for a couple of hours.” I then get back to screwing light bulbs into the softboxes and figuring out what wardrobe would look best on me as the photographer, glancing at the storyboard to determine if we can shoot the angles that character is in without catching his face since I’m already playing one of the main characters too (we can). I stop for a moment because I realize that the sudden vacancies of two important roles in today’s shoot elicits the same reaction from me as having to screw in light bulb #8. “Well, that needs to be done next, then. Okay.” The contrast of how we handled October’s shoot comes to mind and I smile, even in the midst of all this chaos with my head and lungs full of virus. This must be progress of some sort.

This is good.

We did find two fine replacement actors and the shoot ended up going great. Somehow it always does. Pictures from it are up at the Targeted project’s Images page, with more to come soon.

***

Two days prior to that was my performance as Jareth the Goblin King with Kali for the Dirty Dime Peep Show. If you want to hear me sing with one-sixteenth of a voice and a fever while Kali spins fire inches from my face, you’ll probably want to click on this video link, you sadist.

all words are old ideas

On Monday I worked as an extra in a movie called Boulevard H which is supposed to come out next year. The most official synopsis I’ve been able to find is “a group of wannabe actors who collectively follow an eccentric and volatile acting coach. The students are held back by autism, old age, dwarfism, paralysis, egotism, and delusions of grandeur.”

I got the email confirming my booking five hours before the call time so I only slept three hours. If I hadn’t been getting three hours or less of sleep the last three nights, that wouldn’t have been a memorable detail for me.

The email only told men to wear “semi-formal” which is the most vague wardrobe description possible. I threw on the suit I wore at my show last Saturday, shoved a tie in my pocket (just in case) and went to the shoot.

We’re playing audience members at the play the characters put on. I’m sitting in the third row at the far right. The actors are running their lines on the stage and it’s legitimately a very funny scene, leading me to believe that the movie must not have a very large budget (it doesn’t). One of the lead actors is also the director / writer. A mammoth headache begins to roll in as I realize I should have eaten a lot more for breakfast than a handful of pretzel sticks. The director’s assistant is pointing at me and telling me to move to the front row, rightmost seat, then later moves me again two seats to the left. He later thanks the front row extras for dressing properly. Okay, so that’s what “semi-formal” means.

After three hours of positioning and rehearsal, the crew is finally ready to start rolling cameras. Loud booming chords of music play from the other side of the ballroom doors. We’re all confused, nobody mentioned this.

“Mood, you think?” the girl to my left asks me. She’s a very pretty college student who told me earlier this is her sixth film she’s done background work on and that she’s excited because it’s the first project that she hasn’t been cast as “student” in.

“That, or maybe the fanfare before the play?” I say.

“Doesn’t the old lady play the fanfares on the trumpet?” she says. And she’s right, that’s one of the funniest parts of the whole scene.

“That’s true — say, why do the director and crew look as confused as the rest of us?” I ask.

“You think there’s something else going on out there?” she asks.

It was a conversation of questions, one of many going on between the cast, crew and 100 extras. Finally I hear the assistant director, a big important looking man with a white beard, talking over the radio and relaying it to the director who is currently wearing chainmail.

“It’s a children’s Christmas concert. The hotel said it’s been planned for a long time. We’ll have to wait until they’re done.” It feels kind of good to know that it doesn’t just happen to my movie, it happens to the bigger deals too.

After an hour of slightly off-key Christmas songs, shooting begins and we’ve all memorized every characters’ lines by the time lunch comes. Five hours later the girl on my left will find out she’s been asked to come back tomorrow to play one of “ten youthful classroom extras” in a different scene.

“So you’re a stu-”

“Shut up. I’m a youthful classroom extra.”

Much later I’m home and looking up articles about background work to see if the experience on this set was an average one or not. I find a particularly lively one and start reading.

It’s an article so long that I end up glancing at the scrollbar to see if I’m as far down as I think I should be by this point. (I’m not. I’m only halfway through.) It’s a phenomenon you may be familiar with. I scroll up to see the post date and I begin to wonder if the author wrote this in one sitting and if not, how many sittings it took. I start thinking about the way I look at articles and realize it extends to any collection of words and, really, anything at all that’s published in any kind of way.

“That Frog Dell’s Junkyard book was certainly a book,” someone says about my book. “When did it come out?”

“It came out in November 2010,” someone else will answer them. And suddenly that book is now locked into that very specific reference point, even though I wrote it in little shreds and giant marathons at various points of time between 1999 and its release in 2010.

“So, this is a November 2010 kind of book then, huh?” said nobody ever. Even still, that’s the kind of referential tint that’s thrown on those sorts of things, at least in my mind. And it’s incorrect.

You are reading this whenever right now is, and you can glance at the header to see that it was published on December 11th 2012 at 4:01 in the afternoon.

This part of this post is being written in a restroom which is in a restaurant I’m really not supposed to be in right now because it’s closed. It’s December 8th 2012 at 1:14 in the morning right now, and I just finished playing a Jak Locke Rock Show at The Boxer & The Barrel next door. I may have drank — a LOT — leading up to the point of me clumsily typing this on an iPhone that doesn’t register half of my keypresses because my fingertips are too calloused.

It is dark in here, and I can hear cymbal crashes, snare drums and throbbing bass guitar notes coming through two walls. Every now and then I can hear Don Puebla saying things, probably mean things, on the microphone to the audience, because that’s what he does. I can’t hear what he’s saying. Mostly I’m waiting to see what my stomach’s next move is going to be after the abuse I’ve put it through today between bad food, cheap beer and twisting my body around for forty-five minutes.

So far I’ve just been standing and leaning against the stall wall, wishing I could peek ahead to see how this ends, because right now there’s definitely a war going on somewhere between my esophagus and my lower intestine, and I’m having a hard time figuring out which direction the front line is advancing.

Almost every nightclub and bar I’ve been to has bathrooms with no doors on the stalls. In situations like this, I like a bathroom that has doors. Just in case.

The pain and nausea eventually pass with no incident. It’s cool and dark in here though and so I spend a few more minutes just enjoying the relative quiet.

After the show’s over, I go to Pepper’s to get some pizza with Israel and find out that everyone else in town apparently had the same idea. It’s getting really late now and I wonder if they’re really going to be able to serve all these people before they have to close in like fifteen minutes.

“Excuse me, are you taking orders?” I ask a girl wearing a black Pepper’s shirt.

“No,” she says. Israel and I notice that there are a couple of people with menus, some even in the process of ordering. The girl keeps staring at us like we just asked her to drive us to the moon.

“Can I take your order?” another girl wearing a red Pepper’s shirt says.

I’m hesitant to answer that. Israel looks at me as if I’d have any explanation. I’m not sure why that annoys me, just that it does.

“She just said you aren’t taking orders,” I tell her, pointing to the first girl.

“*I’m* not taking orders because *I* don’t work *here*,” the first girl says with a proud and disdainful sneer, in a way that suggested working at Pepper’s were the tenth circle of hell Dante couldn’t bear to write about. The second girl, Israel and I all look at her shirt at the same time. She looks down and her face turns red so quick it’s almost creepy. “…oh.”

“I work here,” the second girl beamed. “Can I take your order?”

“Let’s get a pizza,” Israel started to say.

She sucks in some air between her teeth and cringes slightly. “Ooh,” she says. I don’t like the sound of this. “Yeah, we’re going to close in fifteen minutes so we won’t have time to make that.”

I’m looking at the menu and wondering just what can be made and consumed in fifteen minutes. I’m not seeing any candidates.

“Breadsticks?” Israel asks.

“Sorry,” she says, and I really believe her. She really does look sorry about it.

“Ravioli?”

“Sorry,” she says just like before, and I realize it’s just a very very well rehearsed sorry.

Israel just starts going down the menu listing foods he’s heard of. The “sorry” gets more and more humorous to hear as the situation becomes more and more like an early draft of a Monty Python sketch.

We end up getting a bowl of cold banana peppers, a fantastic idea after what my stomach’s been through already. I notice for the first time that except for a handful of tables, everyone else is eating the same thing we are. We’re able to finish three each before they start kicking people out to close.

Did you notice the point where I stopped typing and just pasted the bottom half of a Livejournal entry of mine from 2001?

Anyway

Good stuff coming, like the EP that I’m totally working on right now instead of typing this. Next time, a post that doesn’t mention pizza at all, which means that only pizza-related things will probably happen to me over the next week or so.