Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This Girl I Know


I want to tell you about this girl I know.  Never before have I known a human of any kind to embrace complete strangers and seconds later, witness those people walk away with a deep smile on their faces, and of course... one on my own face as well.  Never have I seen anyone give her last cent to someone who’s rich and maybe even whiney but definitely love-worthy and needing just a nice meal and some wind in their sails.  The one you want to call a martyr but that’s actually how she is without working toward any kind of label.
            An adventure could happen on the couch.  An incredible story written in just a brow raised sentence smashed between an infectious laugh and an incomprehensible whisper.  The best drug is waking up next to her in a tiny bed.
            She’s a dreamer that can actually make the small and large dreams take shape and then toss them away when it’s not at all right.  She can do that shit without trying.  She believes in herself and is proud of her craft, style and intelligence.
            She extends her whole self out to her friends when she has nothing to reach with.  No rhythm on a tambourine, but plenty on the dance floor.  Musicians are selfish anyways.  Or at least enough of them are that it's not all jazz and soul.
            If you’re mean to her though, if you second guess yourself, if you interfere with her safety, compromise her sense of respect, belittle yourself, hmm.  Well you might get what was coming to you, or nothing at all as her number may have changed.
            She feels odd.  And yet I see her as human as humans should be.  And that actually is odd, because like nobody else I know, a postcard or a nice letter or maybe even a perfect gift may just come in the mail on the one day you think nobody had your back.  If you’re lucky enough to be one of her dear ones, you know there’s not enough you can do to reciprocate the pride and warmth she slips under your ribs.  She cures back problems in some people giving you the “fuck yes” you need to walk with your chin high and your slouch straightened .
She’s not on facebook.  She’s not on twitter.  Not a hipstagrammer.  Has her juggernaut opinions.  No iPhone of course.  But her “not so smart” phone has never dropped a call.  Her way makes sense though even and at first it seems she may be stubborn without reference.  Well, sometimes she is.  Funny thing is, others’ ways make sense too, yes, but those ways aren’t as interesting.  They’re usually cream filled with guilt, fear and weakness.  Not always.  Really, there’s a lot of great people out there, but after only a brief meeting with this girl you will either 1) know what you should be doing and how and/or go on with a better chance of that from then on, OR 2) you will resist.. maybe not be happy with what she has to say due to chemistry or maybe your just a close-minded dick-head.  You’ll at least have a taste of living in the here and now.
She doesn’t care to get old.  Most people fear it.  Run from it, plastic surgery it, pay to reverse it from the outside, yet inside they get dull in spirit and spend more days running the lemming maze when the beach is just over the wall.  This girl I know is maybe one I'll unfortunately have to say I "used to know".  She showed me though that I can climb over that wall.  I haven't yet, but I'm getting footholds.  As I do, I can hear her say, “Quite frankly, they wouldn’t have made it climbable if you were just meant to be a sucker.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WhiteWolf!!!

Here's a page from my sketchbook.  It started off with a drawing game Jade and I were playing.  We were drawing alien fish monsters.  I was running out of room on other pages and exploring a character for animation based on a song some friends and I wrote and recorded called WhiteWolf.

It's a groovy song about an elderly werewolf hobo.  The song is due out on our next album which is totally dragging it's heels in it's wrapping up phase.  If all goes swell, we'll have a few animated music videos done by the end of 2012.  Still need to design the art for the whole album.  Yikes!

I think I finally got the guy down, and once I get Flash up and running on my old G5 tower I can start jumping right into it.  Still working out some of the storyboards, but it's a lot easier when you have the character defined.  Thought it would be funny if he was bald on top despite his "state".

I think this year I'm going to be doing a lot of animation both at work and at home on personal projects.




Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just say no to saying yes.


I had a dream the other night that I got back together with my ex-girlfriend.  In the dream, it was unbelievable in a believable way.  You know dreams.  They're often full of horseshit.  The kind of shit that you can stand and doesn't make you puke, but you know it's still shit.  I was warm and filled with the happiness though in my unconscious state.  Then, alarm clock.  It was one of the few times in the last few months I woke up depressed and full of self-pity.  I had to get Jade to school so the "boo hoo" feeling wasn't there long.  And when those mornings involve a 5 minute pajama wrestling session on the bed, it's really hard to stay bummed.  The feeling's been creeping it's head up more and more.  It's not the feeling that I wish I was still with this girl, because now more than ever I know it wouldn't and shouldn't have worked out.  It's just this holding pattern I'm in and the exhaustion of compounded extreme patience in dealing with this lame situation.  She gave me the feeling that life could move past this divorce and be interesting with someone new...filled with new love.  I tell people yes I can do this and that, when I should be saying "like-hell".  This is my time right now and what I have to work with is this series of gears that are stripped, clunking me to the same place despite whatever effort.  I'm always wary of being an asshole, then I anally rape myself with my own passive aggression when the world moves on without me.

Getting a divorce is not as hard on my nerves in the sense you might think it is.  More of a time ticking away thing.  Over two years now since separation, it's not the definitive finality of it that's bugging me.  It's not the loss of family, the unity here and gone, the hurt, the back stabbing and lying, the worry of surviving raising a daughter as a single dad.  The cooking, cleaning, purging of old toys and the plate spinning act required in a hectic schedule.  I don't hate Tana.  In fact we get along quite well these days.  You know what it is?  The fact it's taking so fucking long.  Life doesn't stop.  Work doesn't stop.  Friends don't stop getting themselves in trouble and my daughter doesn't stop growing up.  Always a hierarchy of urgent priorities.  Time escapes me.  I'm getting older.  I'm not old, but at some point, I'm going to be past the age of possibly starting another family.  I'm still pretty sure I want to do that.  I was young and naive when I got married to Tana.  Buried in art and music, I knew a family was what I wanted and we spent so much time laughing and loving that it seemed like the right thing.  So we did it.  Tana wanted it too.  Then, bingo, we were a family.  But obviously it wasn't meant to be for so many reasons.  And like I said, that's not what is eating at me.  I want to move on.  My not being divorced is what really broke my ex-girlfriend and I up, and it's the reason I can't keep looking for Mrs. Right.  Still kinda heart-fucked on that side of things.  The marriage is over in my mind and heart, but not on paper.  And apparently, paper counts.  I can definitely see that.

So, next journey pretty fucking please.  Seems impossible when the divorce process crawls along and each step of the procedure involves me and Tana pushing a fat sack of bullshit mixed in with our lives and daughter up a ladder just to be eventually pushed off a cliff as a reward when it's all done.  Nifty prize!  Like, I bought my ticket to go, I'm at the train station, and "Lazy Joe" the train conductor is at some point most likely going to arrive at the station.  Worst part is, I can see the train stopped about a half mile down the tracks (still in metaphor here) with Joe taking in the view and happily snapping pictures of the sunset and I just have to wait for him to get his fill.  Because driving a train IS Joe's journey thus he's taking his time…and such is the way the world works.  I'm always in some queue.  And Lazy Joe isn't lazy at all.  In fact he holds the key to happiness.  A key that fits in his own personal lock and no one else's.  So I must forge my own key.

More and more as Jade grows up I see myself judging people.  And lets just say, 99 percent of the time I judge myself more than anybody else in the world.  Sounds bad, judging people, but there's really no room for assholes and idiots in my life.  I should say, there's no room for "more" assholes and idiots in my life.  The ones that are here are here and I love them…myself included of course.  I'm in a phase of phasing out crap.  A mission of omission.  I feel like I want to pick the whole house up, turn it upside down and shake it out over a dump.  Instead, I'm a hamster in a large burrow sorting this and that indefinitely.  Try getting into a relationship while still being married.  Even if they are cool with it, I'm not.  And my nerves are getting the best of me.  I find myself, wanting a dog, to go out and spend lonely days and evenings walking around aimlessly and pointlessly until I need new shoes.  Find myself hating everything and everybody on some level.  People are either too happy, or compromised against their will or too weak.  And here I am.  All of those things at once.  Absorbing hell and heaven in the same breath.

Work is great, Jade is great.  But I'm getting bitter from the inside out.  Other girls have come into my life recently whom have been funny and or beautiful and I've pushed them away for one reason or another.  Unsatisfied with this thing or that or restless with feelings of staying true to myself.  Which is what?  So I find myself mostly encumbered and shackled by how I will judge myself as the god of me given any certain circumstance.  It's this mentality that screws me and will screw me indefinitely unless I squash it.  I'm not bending as much as I need to.  My expectations are set too high.  I live with two great people.  Both currently seeing other people.  It's irritating, but I'm happy for them at the same time.  I see I have one of the most wonderful people in the world by my side, but I must share her.  And let's face it.  Jade will eventually leave home and be her own person and I'll be on my own working my way perfectly into being a sour ass man-bitch.  The days Tana has her are already a window into this reality yet in the present, given these spans by myself I look forward to catching my breath, regardless of the me-smog that pollutes the potential rest.  Only human I suppose.  Parenting is amazingly fulfilling and difficult.

It's not always like this.  When at work or in good company I hardly show signs of the hole I'm in.  Friends say, I cant understand how you can be so cool headed given the predicament you're in.  I say, I'm good and I have pride in my abilities as an artist and love for the times I create music or even just being born who I am with these gifts not wasted.  I sincerely hold my head high most hours of the day.  Love my folks and family, cut myself breaks and genuinely try to share the richness of my life with the ones who have enriched mine.  Most of my friends will tell you this.  But then comes the darkness.  It's not booze or depression that gets me.  I'm not an alcoholic or anything.  I'm just stuck and mad a certain amount of the time.  And it seems, like the fate of our environment, if a big change isn't made soon, I'll collapse.

Maybe I just need to work out.  Maybe I need to go to counseling.  Maybe I need Huey Lewis to give me a new drug.  Maybe I need to start saying no to saying yes.  Because the more I rely on the reserve tank of good fortune I've built up, the more it runs out and I'm itching with dissatisfaction.  This is not a cry for help, no no.  More an act of art.  A verbal expression of creativity most likely at my own expense but mentally needed in order for me to sleep.  Even a retarded sketch releases frustration inside me.  Oh the creative types.  We do our own thing...or try to.  And that I'm sure takes the burden off others to perpetually feel they need to entertain.  Because when we're all on our death bed and our loved ones are with us, lets hope the key we've forged for our own locks helps unlock the frustration gate into the next chapters of their lives.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Seeing is Believing


Wouldn’t it be nice to just know when somebody told you something it was absolutely true?  Always? Belief in people. 

And yet there’s a reason the info we get is so twisted and false and fluffed.  We want to believe each other.  Still?  Yes.  We don’t want to apply the filter to everything the other person is saying.  Pride and self-confidence will and often do muddle the truth, but mostly it’s word of mouth that spreads false news faster than light speed.  News spreads quicker than ever these days.  That goes for things that are actually happening like huge country crushing natural disasters, and things that aren’t happening like “no child left behind”.  So many are so left behind…and yet we trust in such things.  For some of us it’s a day job that fuels ambition.  Others, it’s that thing that pumps blood through their body.  What is that thing called again?

There are promises of a better health care system, more money for teachers and schools, creating jobs here instead of outsourcing to other countries…and I think when they are promised by a politician you trust, you still believe it.  And then, nothing happens.  America is the ever-plunging sinking ship that is taking forever to sink.  And yet more people keep hopping on board to see if they can bail this beautiful boat out.  Why?  And others hop on to raid it, abuse it and leave it still sinking and manipulated.  I guess this is my patriotic cynicism coming out.  A rare thing.

Living in Berkeley is exciting to me.  One of my best friends is tired of this place.  Tired of the snooty upright self entitled smug middle upper class that does infest more and more of the “neat” places here.  Even the dive bars have retrofitted themselves for the “elites”.  But Jade’s school has introduced me to a cross section of Berkeley that I really love.  Maybe I got lucky.  The majority of the parents I see, meet, and know, have ended up some of the most genuine, understanding and down to earth yet creative people I’ve ever met.  In other words I’m pretty happy with the general population here.  Maybe it’s the shared respect and sympathy of parenting that bond us.  Maybe it’s the fact we’re stuck with each other for the duration of our children’s education and we don’t want to piss each other off.  Personally, I know there are options for the hermit parent, but what I witness is a real blend of kids and parents that humbles the pompous and elevates the meek.  I’ll never let Jade learn to drive in this crazy city, but there’s definitely a richer environment here than say the suburbs of San Jose where I grew up.

I surely learned to be a better human from my experiences growing up in schools with kids from every ethnicity and religion.  That, I’ll never take for granted.  I wasn’t supposed to go to the high school I went to.  My uncle’s home was in the zone for a much better school than where my home was.  Recently his house burnt down to nothing.  Huge electrical fire.  He barely got out with his pants on.  When I saw him soon after, he wasn’t shaken or weak, just a bit surprised that everything was gone and everything the house held was a loss.  I told him that I was still very thankful for the education I received due to using his address.  Something that was not lost.  A little self centered, but I think it made him feel better.

Independence High school had more than 4000 students.  It was meant to be a college, but I don’t know what the fuck happened.  It ended up a high school with two Olympic sized pools, diving platform, huge campus with admin driving around in golf carts to get around, and a planetarium.  I met some of my best friends there.  They are more family at this point.  Also had some life changing teachers.  A math teacher that taught me more about life and respect and ambition than well, math.  Freshman year I was failing.  By senior year I was surely not valedictorian but surely excited about writing and reading.

All is not wrong with the world.  If shit news spreads like hot peanut butter on sandpaper, then we still have some hope.  Are we not just desperate?  Do we just hear enough so we can claim such breaking news so we each can claim the “intelligent cool king crown of current events”?  That’s a half-full/empty thing I believe.

I think people still weren’t totally sure the earth was round until the first set of human eyes saw earth from outer space and conveyed that truth to the rest of us.  Only then did we know.  We believed previously, but we didn’t know.  The validity of human experience and how we convey our journeys and lessons to each other is crucial in the success of our species.  Positive tone, negative tone, weird strange pauses in conversations, chemical imbalances, and the overall still-in-place survival of the fittest thing no human can let go of.  We can really annoy the fuck out of each other.  Now, there’s a lot of meatheaded businessmen who have changed our views of “fittest”.  We’ve evolved into desk gorillas.  It’s not how fast you can run and hunt, but how well you can thump your chest in front of others from a cubicle desk.  Even in the office environment I’ve seen the best and worst of people.  I’ve seen the best of the worst people and the worst of the best.  Dedication and loyalty.  I’ve seen such contrast and hypocrisy within all people at this point.

Marriage and the state it’s in as an idea in is serious jeopardy.  Divorce is a tangible option for many.  Nearly my whole family stayed married through thick and thin.  It’s what I knew.  I saw it work and I believed in it.  Still do.  More than a god.  Grandparents, my parents, aunts and uncles…it wasn’t a choice to fuck over your loved one. It was belief and trust and fighting for someone that always had your back.   Real love.  Not the love that was forced down my generation’s throats through Disney, John Hughes and TV sitcoms. Divorce wasn’t even on the radar with my family.  Some hippie shithead may say it’s better to get on with your life and not be monogamous for too long.  I find myself being that hippie shithead all the time.

I’ve reread some of my previous posts and yeah I know nothing I say is new.  Everything I express has been documented by someone in one way or another.  I do this for me.  I rant, I edit, I post.  In the end, Jade may want to read this and imagine who I was at this juncture in my life.  Maybe not, but mostly, I read this shit.  I know what I experience, I know my reality.  I believe in a higher power.  That higher power is us and our future.  It’s who we aren’t...yet.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Che.

Finally got around to writing this.  Many of you know my dog Che had to be put to sleep recently.  Hard.




When I first met Che, she was Tana's puppy of a couple months.  She picked her up from some trailer hick-style family in the Brentwood area if my memory is correct.  Che was the last of the litter and the story as I've heard it, is that when Tana pulled up, Che was but a tiny pup tugging on a toddler's diaper.  Only Tana knows why she named her Che.

Any of you who knew this dog, loved her.  She was the sweetest sweetest dog.  Tana and I taught her to swim as a puppy near our delta spot.  Hikes, and swims around the island, fetching for any adult and joyously jumping into the water summer after summer.  Fireside nights she heard a lot of beers and jokes cracked, lots of laughing and trips to see grandma and grandpa.  


She knew when Jade was going to be born.  Somehow sensed it almost seconds before Tana went into labor.  As a baby, Jade used her to learn to walk and as a perpetually shedding pillow.  Jade and her friends wrestled Che as babies.  I think Che made it easier for Jade to learn to swim as she was always game and made it look like so much fun.  Jade got big enough that Che finally accepted her as a fetch partner.



Che saw family dogs come and go, saw friends come and go, family feuds, thanksgiving feasts, house parties, and even in the end, her own family dissolve.  But she was a dog.  I'm being dramatic aren't I?  True to her breed, true to her kind.

This is the way I see it though.  I really see it as a big transition.  Had she died early last year this would be a whole different thing.  I needed her.  Now I'm thinking about traveling hopefully with Jade.  Nowhere far, but camping and friends far away.

I have some guilt because I feel like I never really caught on to her oldness and thus I felt like she was going to be around forever…or maybe not go downhill this fast.  I feel like I should have spent more time holding her when she was in pain.  Or should have given her more attention when I knew something was wrong.  Even in the end though, she always always seemed a bit puppyish to me.  So many nights, last year in particular it was me and her…before I met Gaby.  Then Che had a bed there as well.  But back when Tana and I split, I was so thankful at that time to be able to get comfort in someone nonjudgmental or human, really.  Dogs are awesome like that.  Dream eaters if you let them be.  

Gaby was the one that got her to the vet initially.  Thanks, you.  I was slammed at work, figured Che sprained her ankle.  Turned out to be bone cancer.  I wanted Gaby to be there with us when we took her.  It made sense to me.  I even called her and said I wanted her there but she was away.  



Gaby's dog Niko and Che got along very well.  I say this remembering us at Albany beach not so many weeks ago.  Che and Niko would fetch and retrieve at the same time a huge log Gaby threw in the water.  Che would normally despise any other animal getting in the way of her "task".  Twas not the case.  She had one of those faces that always looked worried unless she was swimming in circles biting her splashes.  Her favorite pastime.  Neurotic if you think that way, adorable if you think this way.



Eddie is still around.  Jade's chubby yellow little brother follows her around from Tana's to my place.  He's full of action and physical unpredictability making him probably one of the most humorous animals I've ever had.  It totally helps.



   This journal entry wouldn't be complete if I didn't talk about Che's shits.  Che's craps were not only unpredictable in their firmness but also in their "placement"…and they seemed almost strategically placed on the concrete path to the music studio…appropriately named "DOGRUN studio".    I won't miss being under her ass with a shovel waiting for the poos to drop.  Who's neurotic?  Even today, she's gone, but some of her craps are still dissipating into the back lawn or crabgrass if you will.  And thats if I was lucky.  Never telling when she got the squirts in the house.  And many a rug has suffered the fate.  Her craps were like little mines she would plant.  A season would go by, then wham, need a new mop and spatula.

I think the day we put her to sleep, I reflected through the last 11 plus years opening up memories and happy times we had together as a family and before with our big yellow dog.  It made me smile given where we are now.  Things move on you know.  The void is the clackety paws on the kitchen floor, the way she cleaned a floor, midnight walks…I'll miss her catching a frisbee perfectly in her chops, jumping off the back of the boat before we hit the island at the Delta.   Great running partner, horrible watchdog…devoted family member and completely beautiful.  I'll miss you bird.



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Forgiveness while falling, and to hell with luck on the way back up.

Maybe people are wondering what's up, maybe they're focusing on their own hectic exits off of, and exciting re-entrances onto the unpredictable freeway of consciousness.  But for my own sake here, I'm trying to document a very personal shift.  When stressing events occur like Satan's roller coaster, and you are buckled in every day, eventually you do learn how to drink your coffee on the free-fall.  Because after the course is defined and the surprises are over, it's just a ride.  And eventually you find time to do the things you want to do despite the ups and downs of a chaotic environment...if you have the ambition to do so.

So the anxiety I had went away during one of the most hurtful times in my life.  That's luck.  Maybe.  But I think what happened was a relaxing of my compromises in a relationship neither of us were happy in anymore.  We lost our passion.  We both still love each other, and the times we had raising Jade were filled with pride in each other, love for a growing daughter and heaps of laughter.  When Tana and I split, we found it funny how we still were hanging out so much.  We like each other.  We're really good friends.  I've had enough time to off load the hate, come down off hope, and now reap the benefit of forgiveness.  We've talked a lot.

There have been many actions Tana and her boyfriend have made that have disappointed me.  Feelings of betrayal were for sure wrapped up in that, however Jade's well being and this man's inevitable influence on her scared me shitless.  Tana has always in my eyes been not only a good mom, but a fun one, an ambitious one, and a mother that will show Jade there's life outside the box.  And like I said, this truth and my sincere belief in that is why she and I are still cool.  And thank god.  Our family counselor said Tana and I should do classes for families going through separation.  So I guess we're doing well.  Again, Jade is our main focus.  Perfect.

I'll be honest.  I got lonely and I did feel like trying to move on in the early spring.  So I went online to see who was out there.  I'm a busy guy and I sure as hell don't want to purposefully go to a bar to meet someone.  And it seemed like a good idea to not only get a bio of who I was looking at written by that person (writing shows so much character eh?), but also set some "filters" up to target in on someone that would be a good match intellectually and physically.  I went on some dates.  It was weird.  Some were good, some went awry.  What's that?  OK.  I'll tell the sweat-sock story.

I had a date with this girl a couple months back.  And we were supposed to meet after work.    I was running late for work and threw on a button up shirt followed by a fast, cool morning walk to BART.  All is good.  For some wonderful reason the weather turned hot as hell that day and the downtown Oakland air stayed relentlessly muggy even after 6 o'clock.  Nifty.  The office was hot that day and the shirt I put on was unfortunately a bit polyester.  Go figure.  My armpits were off the hook by about 3.  I had deodorant on but the sweat was interminable.  I ran over to the gym, took a shower, walked back, pits were still jumping wet.  What the hell?  And at this point of course the stress of going on a date with crazy wet pits was causing more sweat.  So I took two "clean" socks from under my desk and laid each one in each armpit like a strip of dry bacon.  Kept those things there for the rest of the day working with my elbows up, desk fan on high.  After work I walked for about half a mile and then close to the destination where I was supposed to meet her.  I then pulled the socks out like unhappy banana peels off the concrete.  We met outside by the lake, it was fine, walked around for awhile and arrived at some restaurant.  Sat outside, and the sun was of course beaming directly on to my head between two tall buildings.  And the amount of sweat that came out when I sat down was incomparable to the amount that came out after I realized it.  Neato.  Date went fine, she never called me.

And now I'm going to skip to it.  I met someone.  And I really can't describe it.  I'll give you this much.  She's about my age, amazing mother of a smart adorable 3 year old (zero parental help), artist, photographer, self employed screen printer, amazing organic cook and gardener, planet friendly, and just beautiful inside and out.  Know I'm happy.  And really really silly happy to have such an amazing person adore me as well.  Haven't felt that in so long.  I'd love to share more, but I don't want to give too much detail about her out of respect.  I mean I really doubt she'd mind, but I check my mirrors three times before I pull a legal U turn when there's people in the car with me.

The best thing is, I don't feel guilty about anything.  The large exceptions I made for Tana's happiness in her situation, my insults and badgering aside, paved a nice road for the entry of a new relationship in my life.  Ideally, we want each other to be happy.  And if something was wrong morally with a decision I was making, my emotions would surely wreck me.  Lately, I've been strong and relieved and smiling constantly.  I thought I was broken for so many years.  Now I laugh at myself sometimes and say, damn this train is crazy and how did I get so lucky to sit next to this wonderful girl?  But as time goes by, I realize it's not luck.  Or maybe the obvious amount but no credit to it you know?  I'm working for this new relationship yet it's so natural and completely reciprocated by her.  I'm constantly surprised and yet calmed by her.  Her daughter on my shoulders, holding hands to the park, walking our dogs... stroller in tow,  it's all surreal but I'm loving it.  I know who I am.  I'm the nice guy that finally didn't finish last. Or maybe finishing last isn't so bad if you've met so many great people along the way.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Hardstuff

Irony, really.  It's not been easy.  Or lets say this process of recording our first album "Prepare to Scream" was a lot harder than I thought it might be.  Because the 3 of us are not "musicians" proper at all.  We're illustrators, painters, artists.  That's the mentality that went into this album.  And when you think of the whole thing being a home job, done in our "off" time, still holding our day jobs and coordinating band nights to actually get shit done and not drink all the whisky…well we done good.

Shay, Mike and I met in Art college SF in the late Nineties.  I moved in with Mike in the SF Tenderloin from my parent's place in San Jose.  I slept in the futon mattress (like taco stuffing) on the floor with the sides ramped up the walls in the closet.  I got hit on by trannies on the way to pick up six packs and boxed "Banquet" fried chicken dinners from the liqour store.  But it was a place to crash, and I could walk to class.

  I met Shay a bit later in Illustration 1 class (I think).  Never laughed so hard talking to one person before.  I think the feeling was mutual.  And he played guitar /wrote his own retarded songs like me.  Turned out he and Mike lived on Guam at the same time around high school days.  The three of us bonded quickly, hanging out, smoking, drinking shit beer, watching Batman the animated series in the Frontenac at Hyde and O'Farrell after drawing class.

I had been in a couple bands before,  Shay had been in a fun scrappy band called Dirty No Dity.  Mike was in a couple bands singing as well.  So we had this common love for rock music and we always had the little nylon string guitar around (Nylo) at any given point after class at the apartment.  Somewhere there's a recording of Shay and I signing "Man with McFarlane hands" from those days.  Inevitably we tossed around the idea of a band.  The idea was playing one minute songs involving explosions, Godzilla screams, chainsaws and "general extremeness".  It was a joke band we called "The Hardstuff".  Music made just for us by us.  We had some funny ideas, but without a place to practice we were sort of stuck with acoustic guitars and dusty casio keyboards.

Eventually my work moved from SF to Berkeley and I was looking at graduation and working full time there.  I had the opportunity through my parents to drag some art buddies into a house they bought and so we would rent.  Problem was getting SF art students to feel cozy living on the other side of the bay bridge.  Shay accepted.  Mike accepted.  The night Mike moved in, we recorded "Army of Hamsters", "Rob Liefeld anatomy" and maybe a couple other horrible songs on Shay's hand held tape recorder.  But the issue was we needed one more roommate to make rent.  Lets just say the "art house" was never fully realized and our dwelling soon turned into "the knock off frat house".  Mike moved out of the house first, once the frattys quickly douched up the communal areas.  Shay stuck around through thick and thin and we continued to work on the art team at Scilearn and non-regularly play music.  I met Tana at Scilearn around that time and she and I ended up spending a LOT of time away from the house and the chaotic conflicts of the 1691 frat "cappa alpha dickhead".  Some time after Mike moved back to SF from Ward st., Shay started writing Lobot and The Hulk upon others that would become the core songs we'd play for the next ten years.

By that time Mike was involved not only writing but playing bass and singing.  I was spending most of my time with Tana at the Delta, but also wrapped up in my band Souls of Smoke.  We all learn from our mistakes.  And that's not saying I'd take any of those years back.  They were integral to being the "musician" I am today.  And I learned an immeasurable amount of improvisation and uh, lets say social compromise.  But I had hit a wall with that "band".  And we never wrote a song...ever.  Mike and Shay started playing what became "the line up" pretty regularly.  Lobot, The Hulk, Mo Nore, Smokin' Cali and I started playing drums to songs that actually had beginnings and ends, which was a big change from the "never ending stoney jam" keys, guitar and percussion I was bouncing between with the other guys.  The idea for Zartan came a tad later as Shay and I were driving Tana's rambler back to Scilearn from the house for lunch.  It could have been Heather's backfiring Plymouth Horizon too.  I'm surprised I remember this much man.

I concentrated on drums that broke up the overdrive jackhammer riffs that came from Shay's guitar and his hell muppet voice.  With his Cobra Commander screams and "confident comedian" persona, Mike was obvious fun and a held the bass parts well while signing.  We had some damn good times, a fun 1999 Halloween and some nice video from that era as well.  The "studio" was IN the house at that point.  Soon after when we started getting into playing the few songs we had and getting them tight, Mike had to follow a job in LA.  And for years the Hardsuff was on the backburner fizzling into nothing.

Shay and I stayed tight, playing often.  Tana moved into the house in 2001 and the guys eventually all moved out as we were planning to get married and all that.  I was laid off soon after the 9/11 nightmare and took some time to study soundproofing in interest of converting the two car detached garage into a music studio of the house Tana and I now owned.  After about a year later, the studio was complete.  We moved all the instruments in there and soon after, Shay and I put it to good use.  He and I couldn't stop obsessing on The Hardstuff though.  There was some good songs in there.  Shame to lose them.  We came up with an idea to use the songs we created as a vehicle for our illustration and animation skills/interests.  And since that discussion in the kitchen we've been steadily working toward that goal.

I was thankfully rehired at Scilearn in the beginning of 2003, my daughter Jade was born shortly thereafter.  My friend Scott who used to live one house over asked if I had met his old friend Don who'd taken over rent.  I was pretty wrapped up with Jade and work but eventually I discovered that two doors down, this guy Don had his own studio set up occupying the back of his house.  We quickly made up for lost time by relaxing over at his place playing digital beats, synth keys, percussion instruments I didn't have...he had all the stuff my studio didn't.

Mike returned from LA as well.  Whammo.  The Hardstuff was back on in full effect rehearsing once sometimes twice a week with deep interest in playing shows locally.  Whiskey, song writing, laughs and sweat.  A few shows under our belts and well, it took us a long time to be able to not only know how to create music and trouble shoot that know how continuously, but to also listen to each other and work together for the sake of well, why the hell not.
Don was a breath of sharp air adding a new component to the musical nights giving Mike Shay and I a sense of "future" and moving on from these songs we'd been playing forever.  New songs were written but Mike and Shay worked the same place, lived in the same place and were part of the same band soooo things weren't always peaches and hugs when Thursday band practice came around.  After a couple years we fell into a bit of a band lull.  We were getting better and the music was sounding tighter but it was taking forever.  Again, none of us were musicians.


Despite, and for good reasons, Shay decided to move to New York to pursue his heart and career.  Again, Don was a great guy to have around the studio for Mike and I.  And we now joke around about making shirts that say "The Hardstuff now with 20% more Don!".  Before moving out of Cali though, Shay and I scrambled to record the drums and guitar tracks for an album so once and for all we could document these "rock gems".  We finally got things set up pretty haphazardly in multi-track on Garageband using 4 mics on the set, one on the guitar amp, and recorded live into an 8 track that fed into a mac laptop I was using from Scilearn.  These tracks are what's now on the album Prepare to Scream.  Soon after Shay left, I finally moved from Garageband to Apple's Logic Pro which Scilearn bought for product related sound effects work.  See, it all comes together.  In learning the application for work, I realized Logic allowed me SO much more control over the music but I also realized I was diving into a realm of digital music I really should have gone to school for.  It was a two year crash course for me in music writing, recording, editing, producing, mastering, funding, CD package design, illustration for print and in the end...enjoyment and pride.

The album is done, and not only the band name, but the album title became so appropriate and ironic that I knew it was the right call.  Like every project, there's the checklist of things that could be better.  But I paste in Tana's saying, "it is what it is" and I like what it is.  During the recording of this album, Don, Mike, Shay and I have nearly recorded another album of completely different songs in a completely different style.  And there's left over material from the Prepare to Scream sessions that will be going on yet another album.  This last week Shay flew in from New York and we synced up our CD release party with his planned visit.  Mike, Don, Shay and I hung out, ate some BBQ, drank some Jameson, put together our CDs with Jade and celebrated 10 years of art, laughs, friendship, work and music.

And that's the story in a semi-large nut shell.  I won't tell you the stories of the ice cream sandwich fight that landed Mike in the SF general hospital, or the shroomy emperor slipper and dead puppy fetus supremes, Shay's early attempts at bum communications and his egg teeth, Estella's threats to call the cops, "the band drama"...none of that.  Leaving it out.  Ten years, we made an album.  We're moving on to the next chapter as friends, as brothers.  That ride was damn awesome guys, lets hop on another!  Hopefully the line isn't as long.

And if anyone is interested in picking up the album or hearing it, please contact me and check out The Hardstuff blog for more info.  Thanks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Some pics of Jade

So I figured since I quit facebook I should update all ya'll with some Jade pictures and tidbits.

Father's Day we went to my parent's place in Discovery Bay.  Beautiful day, brought Che (our yellow lab) and she and Jade swam for hours.  Hey dad, sorry about the pool filter which probably looked like it got a blonde tribble stuck in it after that day.





Jade hanging at Tom's Log Cabin diner after exploding her egg salad sandwich.

Those are my feet.  The hot tub works as a backyard pool for goggled dwarves.

climbing a tree...
climbing the front fence...

Done climbing.  It was Jade's wonderful idea to put the twin futon mattress from the studio into the hammock.  She's got it wired.

Cello in the backyard.

She really wanted to wear the Greedo mask to Walgreens.  Made my day...

Of course, how could a face like this not make your day?


Thursday, June 3, 2010

buh bye

anybody:
I have deactivated my facebook.  I'm done.  If anybody wants to reach me, please email me.  gregory_m_allen@hotmail.com.  For any "status updates" please check this blog...though I'm not feeling real chit chatty about my status right now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bro.

As years gather momentum or so it seems, the age gap between friends and colleagues fizzles into meaninglessness, yet there's this hierarchy between siblings that remains from childhood.  That's what I've witnessed a lot.  I have friends that are older than my brother and I see them as equals, or more so I don't acknowledge their age as a point of respect.  I acknowledge who they are as people and respect follows in tow.  In my own situation, age wasn't really the only thing that separated Gary and I.  We're nothing alike, but we did our time in the family amusement park.  We spent some moments bickering, but it was mostly kid stuff.  Looking back from who we are now and how we haven't changed, the clothing fads trickled down to the horrible affordable Mervyn's outlet and seriously horrible things we tried to do with our hair glare so embarrassing and obvious.  At some point we both fell into who we are presently and now we share a recognition of our socially humbled pride that swims in the artery our brotherly sarcasm.  I'm pretty sure that makes sense...to me...it's late.

Once I was in high school, he was out.  Sometimes I think it would have been great to have a sibling in school with me, but blazing my own trail through public education proved to be good for me ( i think) and it's all over now anyways. 


My brother is roughly 4 years older than me.  He's had some ups and downs, learned some good life lessons and is wise enough to see that time changes a lot.  I think neither of us hold our parents responsible for any of the shortcomings we've experienced thus far.  There comes a time, you know, to accept responsibility for yourself.  Well, he still has a full head of hair so maybe I'd have more to complain about to a therapist.  Outside of genetic misfortunes, there's the life prep.  Gary and I have always known what we like doing.  Never been an issue.  Neither of us were ever bored.  We were active, but we weren't the ball players my Dad had in mind apparently.  That's what happens when you make boys with a short Portuguese woman.  Next life, 6 foot Samoan lady dad!

I was drawing from age 5, and my brother was taking apart speakers and stereos since he was old enough to hold a soldering iron.  Now, he's building his own vehicles in his garage.  And he's really good at it.  By the time I met Tana he was living in Hayward and I was making weekly trips to see him there to get out of the "frat" house that really never materialized into the artist house studio I had envisioned.  After a few encounters with Tana and I Gary said to me, "Bro, I've never seen you this happy.  Tana's a really cool girl."  And without that statement, I don't think Jade would be around today.

I've had that statement bouncing in my mind recently.  Happiness and Tana.  I'm glad we got married.  I'm glad we had Jade of course, my life will forever be changed.  Sometimes I feel like Jade would be better with a sibling, however most of the time I don't even think about it and am so happy to direct my focus on her solely. 

Gary's always had friends and girlfriends and family but from my perspective he's never really integrated himself into the lives of these people.  But me, he's always had my back, supported me and made me feel like an exceptional person.  You can't put that kind of shit on a chart.  He's the uncle I imagined Jade bonding to, but because he's so busy and lives an hour away, well he doesn't really call either...  but as Jade gets older I'm sure he'll relate to her more.  He's kind of not sure around babies.  Not enough metal.  But what I'm saying is Gary has always accepted me and looked out for me, but also completely never led me in a direction that wasn't true to what I was naturally bound for.  Mainly drawing ninja turtles.  Really though, he's one of my band's favorite fans and he doesn't want anything but paintings of odd characters.  Easy and awesome.

Yes there was the time i was stuck in the "triple wheel cage" five stories up at Great America with him and some strange chubby jet trash girl as they totally just made out in front of me like crazy and long.  And the time when he was dancing on the back deck of our parent's house and his leg broke though the board, hair flying, knee on nose...other leg straight up in the air.  Aaaaaand the time he fell asleep in the truck after my father dropped the boat off at the mechanics.  Gary wakes up and about 30 minutes later realizes the boat is gone and says "Uh, Dad...Where's the boat?!!"  Or the time we got hammered in the paddle boat at 1 in the morning at our home on the dleta and had a blast laughing the whole time paddling around the island.  And when we took the family vacation, and gary's got his headphones on wicked loud, silent plane, he looks out the windows and in a huge booming voice, yells "Hey!  Clouds!"  Classic.  Or the time he "fixed" my rockem sockem robots so their heads flew off...and never went back on.  Or when he showed tuned my radio to an underground hiphop station and showed me how to listen to music while going to sleep by putting the thing under my pillow.  Thanks man.  Or the first time we hot boxed Walt's boat listening to the Beastie Boys first album on Gabe's boombox when it was first released.  Kneeboarding, wakeboarding, slalom, barefoot, sit n ski, hand painted mini trucks, the yellow civic with the crazy system, bike ramps, bad ass bike ramps, remote control cars, the forebay, staying at Grandma and grandpa's, the farty night with grandpa, the family vacations, the shared friends, cruising el camino, Mrs. Gross, the bar tab on the cruise, Anita's breakfasts, the late night delta fires, hand drums on the levy, Jeff getting his ass pulled through the skylight and beat up in the trailer by Danielle's friend, Grandma's funeral, my wedding, and damn it it's time for another adventure, man!

There's guidelines in life that one can follow, but it you get locked up in the stark and rigid definitions of categories that people and life can fall into, you've lost it.  Fruits fall in the fruit category and cars are cars but people aren't one "thing" or another.  Always more complex.  Sometimes you wish to adopt that, sometimes their drama falls on your lap while you're trying to shit.  Roundabout way of saying, siblings, no siblings...it's your life and if you share it, be fair, remember karma.  And every life is different.  There's no "what ifs" in the hindsight dictionary.

So Gar', here's my shout out to you.    May life march on in bad times and slow down for the good ones.  I love you.  Super proud, and thank you so much for being you...to me.

Most grateful,
yer bro

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finding the light switch in the infinite maze


Years ago on our anniversary, after consuming a boat load of sushi, Tana and I perused a small antique shop in Alameda.  Inside the glass case were these delicate hand crafted plaster male and female devils.  We liked the symbolism of them and bought them, relating the drummer to me and guitarist to her.  For some reason they were hanging just above the kitchen light switch.  About the same time Tana started her affair, coincidentally I knocked these keepsakes off the wall and they broke apart.  Ironic to say the least.
 
Funny thing living here in the house.  The drama, the females.  Sounds bad, but I'm totally not sexist.  If you know me, you know that.  It's like one of those parties that takes place in your house but you feel like an outcast. But this predicament I'm in, I didn't ask for it and I need it to cool off quick before I'm no longer sensitive to the heat.  I usually try and avoid drama.  I don't run away from confrontation but of all the things I can create, pointless static isn't on the list.

    To offset the rent for Tana's apartment, we have a student living at our place.  She helps the house not feel so cold and abandoned when I'm there without Jade.  She's a sweet girl, going to school in Emeryville to be an audio engineer.  No sexual attraction here, so don't start your gossip wheels spinning you drama diggers.  And if there was an "attraction" to anybody for that matter I'd have squashed it because now is no time to adopt another person's life baggage and stir it into the bitter stew we got sitting on simmer at this moment.  But everyone knows that you don't have to be attracted to someone to inherit their drama.  There's no beating positive outlooks in horrible situations you can't see your way out of.  The alternative, the water slide of negativity, is reliable and well used but always drops off into a pile of shit if you don't jump off.  I can't say living with this person has been bliss, but at the same time I think it's helping by shaking the change out of my pockets just enough to realize there's a life to live here...right now.  And quite frankly the four of us are getting along quite well in this new "progressive" environment.  It's less stale.  More social for everybody even Jade. And there's no real negative impact on Jade.  Anybody who's been around her in the last few months can attest she's a happy little girl and everybody wants to keep it that way.

    I've been recording, editing into oblivion, and driving myself batshit in the studio pushing through 20+ songs in the last two years trying to finish an album of music from my now "former" band.  And this young woman moves into the spare room and oh hey, she's a sound engineer!  So she's agreed to help out with the final production of the album which helps me out quite a lot.  Through her school, she's connected to a flock of ambitious warmhearted musicians and audio technicians.  And as more people come into the mix, there are good times, but damn if drama keeps peeping it's fucking head in through the window.
    There's a certain amount of trust I give to people that I love.  Not "sex" love or "relationship" love.  Just love for the beauty of an individual and what their positive mark on humanity is however slight and possibly even destructive.  And I see that from the inside out now.

   Some things need to be destroyed.  Quite honestly, I'm destroying shit left and right.  Walls mostly.  Fear.  There was a time when Tana moved out and I said to myself "I can't watch The Soup without Tana.  Who am I going to share these TV and movie moments with?"  My unconscious detour away from the glowing box and back towards music and art is catching me by surprise but it seems healthy and natural.   I'm able to embrace responsibilities and juggle "down time" to a T for the first time in my life.  It's like, and I've talked to Tana about this…this experience in so many ways has helped me knock down fat invisible dams that have fucked up my potential and natural flow over time.

    Our housemate is at the house enough to now be well familiarized with Tana, Jade and my social network.  So there's the mingling of acquaintances and even the clashing of personalities. 

    Recently the housemate has started a relationship with a guy from her school who's in another relationship.  Cheating is in style I suppose?  He's younger than her, I've played music with him and more importantly have noticed how fucking nice he is.  He's positive, ambitious, a sweetheart and really crudely immature.  But he's 21 for fuck's sake.  So he's living with his girlfriend and then heading over to my house to spend time with our housemate.  And so why is this behavior again coming into my life so directly?  Maybe because I needed to see it from a different angle.  There's of course no major comparison between him and Tana, but in a small room in the corner of the cubicle these two share a similar moral dilemma, yet maybe feel a "primal right" that draws a direct correlation in judgment I don't agree with.  So of course this is a touchy nerve for me because my housemate is basically facilitating the same behavior as the guy Tana is or was with (wherever that's at right now).  And there's an unexpected compassion for that mentality from a perspective of seeing our housemate with this guy, and me witnessing her genuine interest for a new and real human connection.

   I'm in a place where my marriage is leaving limbo for the way of the wind.  And everything human about me wants to fix that.  Even rebound thoughts...moving on as quick as possible.  There's something very unsettling about the energy that exists after the breakup of a comfortable companionship.  And I look around at work and the very minimal places I choose to exist outside of the house for females I think may be the next "one".  But it's just a game.  First off, I have and have never had any game.  Two?  As I wrote earlier, it's just wrong to bring another person into this situation.  Everything logical points me in the direction of celibacy for this chapter.  On one end, I feel like maybe I should join the revolution of impulse and the pursuit of "free" love.  But as Brian Wilson wrote, "that's not me".  And with time I've learned that I don't need to feel like a pussy for not being a dog.  So I channel it into the the unfulfilled "procrastinatious" categories of creativity and projects unfinished.  It works, thank fucking god.  I just have to flip that switch.  That's exactly what it is. You can look at the switch and pace around it, roll your eyes, swear at it or you can walk right up to it and flip that bitch on and get on with yourself while your eyes adjust to the the blinding light which is so necessary to see clearly what's in front of you.
    Again there's Jade.  Always and foremost Jade.  Tana and I have hit ground, bounced and ended up on our asses still holding Jade up in the air virtually unscathed and possibly better off in the midst of her ever changing needs and blossoming individuality.  It's a tricky teeter totter of what's best for her given this situation.  This is what it is, and it's comforting that despite my callous building over anger and disgust, Tana and I still have each other through it.  It's like at times we're forced to fight each other, but we're being respectful of where we're punching.

    Big thing is no matter what, we continue to make sure Jade, within this drama, is supported, loved and knows that we both love her and who her family will always be.

  One of Tana's boyfriend's friends called the house asking for him a couple weeks ago.  In anger, I turned to facebook and found the guy on her boyfriend's friend list.  She said she didn't know who he was, but somehow it got back to "boy wonder" that I was digging into his personal online rolodex.  Whatever, fuck it.  I wasn't obsessing, just wanted to back up my stance on respect.  So the next day her boyfriend sent me a "friend request" out of spite and immaturity.  Using the request to my advantage, I sent him a message saying basically two things.  We both love Tana in some way so lets keep an eye on her well being and try to calm down the emotional tug of war.  Second and foremost, I don't want anybody moving into a fathering role with my daughter.  Especially some guy that thinks splitting a family up is a good idea.  To sum up his response, he agreed and surprisingly we shared a strange vein of sympathy for each other, despite the sex and betrayal and absence of morality which seems to prevail.  And my housemate is in this situation where she's got this guy in her corner, but he's too scared to break off his commitment to this other person he shares a life with.  Or he just doesn't want to break it and this having and eating of cake seems justified.  And given anybody's individual perspective and timeline of unfortunate events, most "wrong" actions are justified somehow.

    I didn't ask for any of this.  I really don't want it and frankly it disgusts me.  The whole scene.  But in this infinite maze, I can sit, sulk, and curse the complexity, or I can walk and hit the walls and face the mistakes.  I'm walking.