I'm so glad to be home. We've been back a little more than a week now. Trying to wrap our heads around what it means to be back after almost two months away. So much to do ahead. So much to remember:
Seven weeks, seven phone conferences, two broken wireless Internet links, forty-five days of rain, ninety cups of coffee, one hundred and eighty shots of espresso, thirteen guitars, two pianos, one-thousand-seven hundred & twenty-three digital tracks, fourteen songs, four-thousand miles, two cars, six hundred and twenty-five photographs, four skateparks, five car repair shops, three hotels, nine dogs, two ghosts... and God knows how many quick meals and weird pillows. This is what the past two months have been in my brain.
While I generally prefer traveling around or being in a recording studio to most things in life, I'm damn happy to be home. From Seattle-to-Portland-to-SF-to-Santa Cruz-to-Aptos-to-Salinas-to-Monterey-to-Los Angeles. While our time in Seattle was entirely productive and fun, the slow slog home was a near-total disaster. A rolling bad neighborhood. Eight days of non-stop car trouble. Maybe more? Ten days? No idea.
By day, working on my laptop wherever I could find Internet. By night, creeping down the rainy, foggy west coast. Bleeding money. Every day and in every way... gushing heaps of cash trying to get home. So fucked. Bearded. Tired. Black eyes. Heart racing. Sleepless. No laundromat blues. Days on end donning an orange neon t-shirt with a baby blue sweatshirt and crummy white socks bought at Walgreen's. Classy guy. Maximized potential. Snappy dresser.
While driving from Seattle to Portland, after 23 years and 283,000 miles of near-magical service, Wheezy the Walrus lost her heater core, thermostat, wiper motors, and... you name it. Though her engine, manual transmission, and epic stereo are strong as ever, everything else is quickly on the way out. That lil '87 BMW 535i is the finest car I've ever owned. Sigh o'clock, even the greats eventually gotta go.
So with no time to laze around, (work loomed large in SF), I stashed Wheezy at an RV & moorage joint on Hayden Island and began searching for another car. After a marathon session of research, in a fit of optimism I bought a 2002 Audi wagon.
Normally I think long and hard about buying anything over a few hundred bucks. I don't often make corny impulse purchases that I later regret. Which is to say I don't ever spazz out and sign on the dotted line. Instead, I try to learn everything I can about a thing and usually still manage to talk myself out of buying it. Why? Probably because I was raised by grandparents who drilled the horrors of The Great Depression into my head. Maybe because my dad made me wear waffle stompers and ride a girl's bike all through elementary school because we were too poor to buy sneakers and a proper bmx. Maybe because I've preferred quality over flash my whole life. Maybe because I've been too broke to "splurge" on anything, like, ever. Man, "splurge" is such a bummer word. I just completely grossed myself out. Sorry, Arlie.
Anyway (Part II), this time I signed on the dotted line like a rube. Why? Partly because I was in a rush, and partly because the dealer talked a lot of jive and offered vague, misleading answers to my questions about the health and history of the car. Like a dumb ass, for the first time in my life I didn't have a mechanic check out the car before purchasing it. The Carfax claimed it was solid. The price was good. The miles & tires were believable. I needed to get on the road to SF, so I just bit the bullet and got it.
In general, this make & model of vehicle has a good track record for reliability. [PSYCHE!] It's all-wheel drive system is great in the snow and on wet roads. Lots of storage space for amps, skateboards, guitars, logs, babies, old people, and rickety furniture. It got great reviews on cargurus, autotrader, epinions, edmunds, kelly blue book, etc.. All positive. No accidents. Heated seats. Cup holders. Cruise control. Leg room. Air bags. Moon roof. And, I was in immediate need of a "reliable" car. So... I allowed myself to believe what I was being told by the dealer. Like, I wanted to believe.
"This car's in perfect working condition. It's a one-owner vehicle, spent its whole life always maintained at Audi Mission Viejo. Needs nothing. All maintenance has been done. You'll have no problem getting home to Los Angeles and driving it for the next 3 years. This will be a perfect, problem-free car for the next 3 YEARS for you..." Blah blah blah.
Sadly, within less than 200 miles, I realized buying it was a bad move. A ruinous move. An annihilation move. Wicked burned. Small wonder, nursing a newly purchased used car from Portland to Los Angeles is not all that awesome. Sigh. WORD TO THE WISE: DO NOT buy a car from a guy named Andrew Rider at Rider European Vehicles in Portland, Oregon. Man, so dishonest. To mislead a buyer and misrepresent the health of the vehicle to this degree is just, wow. WOW. Andrew Rider is a liar to the 10th power. Total liar. And I am a moron.
About 151 miles outside of Portland the "check engine" light went on. Turns out the vacuum tubes are corroded due to deferred maintenance. All must be replaced before I can legally smog and register it here in California. Another $419 clams. Soon after the "check engine" light went on, the "Low Oil Pressure" light went on. This is what happens when the dealer fails to give it an oil change & diagnostic before selling it. Checking the dipstick on a car I'd just bought, discovering it has NO OIL IN IT sucks. As well, the engine mounts are cracked, so that when you rev the engine you can see it torque and lunge, as if wanting to leap out onto the pavement. Them little bolts are gonna cost around $500 bucks to replace. Awesome.
Rolling into San Francisco, the car began making a high-pitched screaming sound from under the hood...a few days later resulting in a snapped serpentine belt and broken tensioner. Cost? $619.37. Total loss of power steering. Strong arming the steering wheel across three lanes and down the onramp to the loneliest Shell Station in lonely Salinas, CA. Was I surprised? I was! And sad. We stayed at a Best Western resembling the White House and ate misery burgers at a miserable little diner across the parking lot. I spent the rest of the night figuring out how I was going to get the car towed to a town with a decent foreign auto repair shop. Salinas seemed like a place just as happy to take your life as take your wallet.
Let's see... what else happened?
Turns out, the entire front end needs rebuilding (torn CV boot, wrecked axle, etc...). Another $1,400 clams. And, according to the mechanic's computer diagnostic, the Climate Control system is failing. Brakes are flagging. So on and so forth. All of this is repairable, of course. Andrew Rider, however, claimed the car was in top shape. No immediate need for maintenance or repairs. SOOOOOOO MUCH LYING.
Eventually the car will be almost good as new, but at tremendous expense, which I made clear was not at all what I was looking to buy. And he knew this very well. Am I at all surprised? I am. And terribly disappointed. And, I'll say it, disgusted. And now very broke for a long while to come. If there's a hell, Andrew Rider of Rider European Vehicles in Portland, Oregon is 100% likely to burn in it.
Was there a silver lining to all this car drama and financial woe?
Well, while stranded in Monterey, CA some 337 miles from Echo Park, we stayed in the Monterey Hotel (built in 1904 during the Victorian era), which was weird/surprisingly nice. Oh, and we got to see The White Ribbon at the Osio Theater in downtown Monterey. Incredible film. Really, just a massively interesting, entertaining film. Oh, and we learned about Moffett Field and the secret beauty of blimps.
After coughing up mad cash for a serpentine belt and tensioner + two nights in a hotel + six semi-creepy meals = we were back on the road. Rough justice.
Anyway (Part III), enough of that. It is time to share photos of a few faces and places at various stops along the long journey home. Enjoy.
The 3rd dimension gazing on the 2nd dimension while the 4th dimension looks on.
Rene. Everywhere you go & everything you do looks like a 1970s Bob Rafelson film.
Marcel. Dutch vibes. Good sweater.
Fat Dawg's "art car." Harsh tokes on the weed pipe of life.
Hi Dave. Thanks for the car care advice. Sadly, you were right.
Hello Martin, always good to see you.
Which reminds me.... time out:
*[A few weeks back, I spent MLK Jr.'s birthday recording in Seattle & thinking of his legacy. I'm sure you're all like, "Yeah right." But it is true, I swear to God. No exaggeration to say the MLK Jr. Day of Service is the holiday I look forward to the most. Christmas? Never. Halloween? A distant second. Easter? Not a chance. King's birthday is my favorite holiday! Why? Because it actually counts for something tangible, something real, something culturally relevant and emotionally resonant. His life was proof that goodwill & guts trumps ingrained injustice and outmoded social conventions. Rather than a holiday that is expressed outwardly with lots of prefab bells & whistles, it is a day I feel very much on a personal, internal level.
He helped change where we live, how we live, where we go to school, and how we relate to each other on a daily basis. Thanks to Martin, many people of my generation think markedly differently from that of all preceding American generations. Matters of civil rights, human rights, race, poverty, power, education, sexuality, and social justice... are all different thanks to his vision and his sacrifice].
Back to the brog in progress...
Why did I just go on about Martin for so long? It is 2:31AM and I'm so very tired. This brog is a heap. So disjointed. A cluster of random dots... semi-connecting.
While in SF I went to Subway Guitars with Dave Fenton & Totally Tammy in hopes of finding a resonator or baritone guitar. Instead I left with a few lovely photos of those images of MLK Jr. posted on the front door of the guitar shop. Regardless of how much of an eccentric pain in the ass Fat Dog might be, he's got one thing right—he remembers King's legacy.
Speaking of Fat Dog... go to Subway Guitars in Berkeley, CA. But go prepared to be annoyed. Yeah, you'll sort of get yelled at. Yeah, you'll feel confused the entire time. Yeah, be prepared to have crass remarks lobbed your way. Yeah, you'll be told you can't buy certain guitars... trade only.
It is perhaps the most perplexing guitar shop in America. But you'll be awed by a few of the guitars in there. Excellent deals and hard to find weirdness. More than that, if you can find your way past the guitar shop banter, you'll come to see there's a lot more on Subway's agenda than simply selling second hand guitars to shredders, punkers, folkies, and jazz nerds.
Guitars just skim the surface.
For 40 years, many community-oriented cultural, political, and civil rights actions have found their genesis in this little guitar shop in Berkeley. It is a quirky institution well deserving of your time, your dollars, and your good humor. And, if Fat Dog acts like a jerk, don't be surprised. He's a jaded Berkeley hippie with left-wing political agendas and a right winger's brutal bluster. He'll confuse & bully the hell out of you if you let him. If you let it all roll off your back, you'll have a unique experience and may just walk away with a guitar you'll love for the rest of your life.
Just look for the house/guitar shop & the olde timey car painted to look like a) the sky, b) puffs of weed smoke hot off a bong rip, or c) clouds in your coffee.
Subway Guitars on Cedar Street.
If a crusty guitar shop can define the essence of old school Berkeley, then surely new school San Francisco can be summed up via this gold handbag showcased behind bulletproof glass in downtown's gigantic Union Square mall. Glamour trash to the max for five city blocks in all directions.
Hi Nic, wonderful running into you at that mega-little skatepark. Squirrely round coping on 8-inch high manual pads. Onward and upward, my friend.
Dusky coastal vibes. Y'know, when you really think about it, the ocean is a big deal.
"Wishing for life to go backwards forever"... is not my bag. Hi Tammy! Time to get on the road.
Hi Santa Cruz, California.
Lovers in love. Good move, Ally.
"It's never too late change your mind."
Hi Brett Sigur. Aptos, CA. Had no idea.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Elegant. Fun. Easy to work. Hard to find parts. Probably should have bought this.
As the car was getting worked on in Monterey, I rolled around in the town's skatepark. It is a total pile. Puddles, weird angles, bad flow, blah blah... The kids in this photo spent more time trying to ollie each other's boards than they did schralping the park. Seriously, the terrain's transitions were that lame. Despite its crap curves, it wasn't the worst skatepark I've ever pushed around in. Eventually I got to shooting the breeze with a few of the park's skaters, one of whom told me, "What's there to do in Monterey? Well, pretty much nothin'. Without this skatepark, I'd probably just be sittin' around doin' heroin. That's all there is to do in this town." As he said it, two other dudes just nodded their agreement. Mega bummer. Given that revelation, I'm deeply happy this little skatepark exists. Fellas, keep skateboarding. It's hard to skate, make cash, see the world, and get laid when you're all strung out on junk. Skateboarding, on the other hand, can show you the world. It can expand the scope of your life.
The Olympics have been happening. Luging tragedy aside, it's been fun to watch. Hockey. Giant Slalom. Ice Skating. Rifles & Cross-country skis. Curling weirdness. All a bit daft, but fun. Shaun's work in the men's halfpipe was undeniable. Still, I wish Danny Davis & Kevin Pearce had been in the mix. Rest up, fellas, your time will come.
When we finally got to Los Angeles, this is what awaited us in our home. Creepy Leigh LeDare and his creepy moustache and creepy trenchcoat harassing Mia & baby dog Beyonce. A real homecoming lurkfest.
Next day, I stopped by Arty's office in Los Feliz. Of all the Los Angeles places, meals, and faces... Arty Nelson is one of the best things this town has to offer. Perspective, jokes, knowledge, skills, hot tips on better eating experiences around town.
As I stare at this thing before posting it, I just gotta say even I know this entry is nearly unreadable. Really, it is just shamefully bad. Sorry. It's been a hell ride. Fourteen posts all brogged into one monster post. Impossibly dense. Impossibly dumb. No time for brogging. Whining about car trouble is lame, I know. My apologies for putting anyone through it. I've been busy. I've been angry.
Hopefully there's enough funny and/or halfway interesting crap in this thing to have made worth your while. The next brog will, hopefully, be a bit more focused.
Oh wow, hold on, as I type this I'm sitting here watching the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. The whole thing just went from semi-heartwarming to excruciating. Man, just when I was all waxing sentimental about The Games, it turned into a heap.
"Well now, that looks a mess, doesn't it?"
Sure does, Tammy.
Thousands of white sweaters and fake snowboards just ruined the 21st Olympic Games.
Till next post, be well. Have nice times. And, if you think it, please say a few kinds words for the folks in Chile & Haiti before you go to sleep. Unreal is here now.